Amit Gawande has launched his new newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. He describes it as a "writer's toolkit of inspiring posts and helpful tools" which definitely sounds like something I need.

The first edition is a look at the history of writing, from pictographs and cuneiform symbols through to more modern language and the development of the tools used. Very interesting stuff.

I look forward to future editions and for how it will develop.


Leo Babauta of Zen Habits writes about the "not knowing" of confronting racism:

Many of us want a simple solution to the systemic racism we’ve allowed to happen — but there isn’t one. When we don’t have a simple solution, our first reaction is to get discouraged and frustrated and give up.

But we can’t just give up. We have to let ourselves stay in the place of not knowing. We have to stay with the questions, and explore with curiosity.

We have to listen. Listen to those who are most impacted, listen to their stories, listen to their anger and exhaustion and pain. Listen as if we don’t know anything, because we really don’t.

As he says, it's okay to not know and we have to realise and accept that we dont know. No one knows, not entirely, and thats why we all need to listen to, and work with, one another.

There's one thing he wrote that reads like a slap in the face, a wake-up call, you can claim you're not racist or bigoted but there is still always a sense of otherness:

There’s me, and there’s Other. Not the same, not connected, not unified as one. Other.

Otherness manifests in the tiniest of ways, ways that we may not pay attention to, not even give a second thought to because they are so small. The tiniest of assumptions or behaviours couldn't possibly make a difference, could they? The smallest of things couldn't possibly cause offence, could they? Maybe not individually, or at least not that is immediately noticeable, but when combined, when added up, when they become a consistent pattern, then absolutely.

What I may see as normal might be offensive to someone else. What I consider okay because it's coming from a place of humour could well be rooted in someone else's pain and suffering despite seeming innocuous, despite assuming it's okay.

Otherness is everywhere, it's natural and unavoidable, and will always exist on some level due to the very nature of "me" and "not me". We can, however, control our responses to it.

No one has all the answers and that scares us no matter what side of the issue we are coming from; to say we do is an incredibly self-centred view which only serves to further reinforce the otherness. Imposing our answers assumes they are correct and denies the position of others.

Assumption is dangerous.

Assuming that you are not racist (you couldn't be, right?) is dangerous. Assuming that you are not bigoted is dangerous. Assuming there's nothing you need to do differently is dangerous.

The only assumption we can make, the only thing we can know, is that we don't know how to fix this, not on our own, not even in a specialised, handpicked, select group. We all have a part to play.


Not currently being an iPhone user (that was always my primary focus) I had completely forgotten it was WWDC so had to catch up after the event.

The "Big Sur" installation went cleanly and I'm liking the look and feel but the changes to the iOS home screen are what have really intrigued me. Yes, Android has had widgets since forever and the app drawers on some devices auto-classify apps but, you have to admit, when Apple decides to implement something they go about it with a certain aplomb.

iOS14's widgets look better, are more consistent and, no doubt once developers start building their own widgets, the design guidelines will keep that consistency regardless of where they come from.

I've never really been a user, or even a lover, of widgets on Android beyond the clock and, sometimes, weather and I think that's because of the inconsistency. Although widgets have been an integral part of the user experience they have always looked and felt like an afterthought, they are often quite ugly and I like to keep a tidy homescreen. Apple's approach to widget design makes them feel like part of the home screen in a way Android has never managed.


I got my code for HEY yesterday and have been having a play with the Android app. I have to say that it is very slick and we'll designed.

Will I be switching to HEY myself? Most likely not, I just couldn't justify the cost and would need them to implement custom domains first, but it's still good to have a look at what they're doing.

Saying that, my host seems to be having issues with their mail servers today so you never know 😉

23/06/2020, 11:41

I noticed some screwy behaviour with the daily emails and feed generation (also for On This Day) and wondered if it was the host having issues running cron jobs. Then it dawned on me: having changed the default view the code to generate all of this wasn't being triggered unless the Today page (rather than the ephemeral Daily page) actually received a visit. I've copied that all over so, fingers crossed, as of tonight normality should be restored.


Our car is an automatic, my wife only has an automatic licence, but the courtesy car we have been given while ours is in for repair is a manual. I've not driven a manual car for about 12 years so it's been an experience re-learning, if that's the right word, or maybe reminding myself of the process.

I cant help but feel that, in a sense, it's a metaphor for life.

We get used to particular ways of doing things, adopt patterns of behaviour, and fall into a groove - not necessarily a rut - which serves us on a day-to-day basis.

When change occurs we are forced to do new things, or maybe things that we haven't done in a while, and have to familiarise ourselves with the processes involved.

New car, new house, new job, new people, whatever it is we have to reassess, to find the "new normal" to borrow that horrid term from the current zeitgeist. It can make us nervous, unsure, scared even - feelings that we tend to avoid in our normal routines.

But, maybe this is what we need, maybe that uncertainty is what fuels us, keeps us alive in the metaphorical sense, just as the uncertainty of knowing where the next meal came from forced our ancestors to find solutions which kept them alive, literally.

I am painfully aware that I don't embrace change too well, don't seek it out as often as I should, don't put myself in positions where I need to adapt and learn those new processes. Part of it is my own insecurities, my lack of self-confidence, and fear of the unknown.

the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance - Franklin D Roosevelt

In the absence of anything genuinely fear-inducing, the small, the petty, the unknown become overinflated, sources of fear of my own design: nameless, unreasoning, unjustified. That fear stops me from taking a leap, but when forced I realise that there wasn't really anything to worry about - just fear itself.


I'm really grateful for my Father's Day presents today which included:

  • How to Think by Alan Jacobs
  • You, Only Better by Nicholas Bate
  • some new notebooks with a nice leather cover to protect them
  • and a full leather strap for my Skagen watch to replace the mixed leather/silicone one that comes with it

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, and the mums, uncles, grandparents or anyone else doing a dad's job.


"No posts yet today."

Four words I see every morning. Four words that bring a sense of comfort and excitement. Four words that have a wealth of meaning.

First, they are an explanation, a statement of fact; they point out to the observer that nothing has been missed.

Next, they are a reminder that each day is its own thing, self contained, and need not be encumbered by what has come before or worried by what is yet to happen. We start again and anything is possible.

They are permission to not replace them. If nothing gets posted they will not disappear, they will resolutely do their job, for 24 hours if they must. They are equally valid at 23:59 as at 00:01: "it's okay, we're here, we've got you covered."

But they are also an invitation, an opportunity to say something. "No posts today" would be too literal, too finite, while the inclusion of "yet" indicates that this can change at any moment, all it takes is for the right words to replace them. "Yet" denotes a world of potential.

Those "right words" can be anything, there are no rules, it's just what is right at the time, what works on that day. It may sometimes seem a big responsibility - those four words can only be replaced once a day - but it doesn't really matter, just as it doesn't really matter if they are not replaced at all.


Friday, the end of a pretty shitty week.

We had the car accident on Sunday night (the car is being taken in to get the work done today) but then our daughter's husband was sent home from work on Monday with a high temperature and feeling dizzy. By Tuesday this had gotten worse and was accompanied by a nasty rash on his lower leg.

We ended up having to call an ambulance as his temperature was escalating; he was taken in to hospital on Tuesday evening and is still there. It has been diagnosed as a bad case of cellulitis but they are still conducting tests to ascertain the cause of the infection.

He has been tested, and is fortunately negative, for both coronavirus and MRSA so that's good but we still don't know why this has flared up and how long he will have to stay in hospital. Not being able to visit (coronavirus restrictions) is frustrating but at least we have video calls so are able to keep in touch face-to-face of a fashion.


Google have now released a new "Link to Text Fragment" extension for Chrome that generates links for the "ScrollToTextFragment" proposal discussed before. This just puts the link on your clipboard rather than saving the snippet to Chrome local storage.

It'll be good if this becomes a web standard supported by all browsers but, for now, it's still Chrome only. Brave has a flag to enable linking to text fragments but this doesn't seem to work, at least on mobile.


I don't write about World of Warcraft very often. I was surprised to find that it has actually been mentioned (if sometimes only in passing) 14 times before now but, considering how much I play, it's quite an overlooked part of my life as far as the blog is concerned.

While we play as a family as a way of doing things together I also spend a significant amount of time playing alone. The world of Azeroth is like a second home, as familiar as the real one, maybe even more so, but infinitely more predictable.

This virtual world becomes somewhere to hide, to escape, to not have to think about things and avoid real world problems. Playing the game is a default fallback activity. My wife says that my solo play - grinding through the basics of the game, doing the same world quests day in day out - is like an autistic behaviour. She's probably right.

I won't deny, it is absolutely a coping mechanism, a little bit of consistency in an ever changing tumultuous world, bolstered by rewards for completing each little task slowly building towards something larger.

But I think there is another side to it: while playing the game can be an act of avoidance it is also a retreat to a safe space using the repetitive gameplay as a means to clear the mind, maybe even a form of meditation. I don't have to think about what I'm doing, just drop into an automatous state and let muscle memory (if you want to call it that) take over.

Some might see it as time wasted, perhaps it is considering the amount I play, but I would rather that and be able to spend half an hour away from my thoughts than constantly fretting over them.


I completely forgot that last Friday, 12th June, was the 17th anniversary of my first registering the randomelements domain: 12th June 2003.

17 years of blogging.

Okay so there have been breaks, sometimes long ones, but blogging is always something I've come back to and always will.

17/06/2020, 22:02

Liked: A Body of Work – Steven Pressfield...

"Then believe this:

You too have a body of work.

It exists inside you … and has existed from the moment you were born, and possibly even before that.

Your body of work, like Springsteen’s or Joni Mitchell’s or George Gershwin’s, is unique to you. No other individual, living or dead, can produce or could have produced it.

It is yours alone, and it is real.


In a brief exchange with my manager's manager I made some enquiries as to other roles within his wider world in the organisation. There were no immediate vacancies but he replied that I could look into other opportunities, it would just help if he knew what I wanted to do.

Therein lies the rub.

The corporate world is design for everything to have a function - a place for everything and everything in its place - you have to be something and get paid according to what that something actually is. Everyone is a cog in the well oiled machine.

Part of me wants to scream "anything but this" but I doubt that would go down too well as you must demonstrate passion and commitment. It's easier to know what you don't want than what you do want but that's also a very negative way of framing the whole question.

At times I wonder what I could achieve if I didn't have to work. How much could I get done? How far could I develop? Past experience would suggest not much, not far, but I'm likely being unfair: my only period of unemployment was forced upon me by redundancy and accompanied by the existential crises of who am I, what can I do, and how can I pay the bills. What if I was in a position where I didnt need to work, or only needed to do something simple and part time? What could I do then?

I suppose this is why some religiously buy lottery tickets, not necessarily for the money itself but for what having that money allows you to do, what it means you don't have to do. They say money can't buy you happiness but it can remove certain sources of unhappiness. What you do then is up to you.

And then part of me says "just start doing it, whatever it is you want to do - don't waste the time you have got, make good use of it!" Good advice which I should really heed. I get caught up in meaningless stuff, filler activities, when I could be doing something more worthwhile. There's always "something else" or that something else needs to be done soon so why start if I'm just going to be interrupted. The perfect procrastinator's mindset. One I need to escape from.


Julian writes that he is "missing the silence of early lockdown" - I know exactly how he feels.

Shops selling non-essential items are allowed to re-open from today (subject to meeting health and safety criteria such as plastic screens and enforcing social distancing) but people have already been acting as though nothing has happened.

Households can create "social bubbles" with an adult who lives on their own but groups are frequently seen together without respecting the 2 metre rule.

Seeing the large queues forming outside shops this morning is quite disheartening. Yes, some people will have specific needs but to queue for hours for something that is, by definition, non-essential indicates that some will only ever have viewed the pandemic as an inconvenience and not an opportunity to take stock.


The evening didn't turn out as expected. My wife and I, as we often do, went for a drive so we could be alone to talk or just be together in that way two people can who are comfortable in each other's company without necessarily needing to speak.

We love small, quiet country roads but, because of roadworks on my chosen route, were driving on a reasonably main road through the Kentish countryside. The sun had set but the sky was not yet completely dark.

We both saw something in the road ahead and, in the darkening twilight, didn't have a true sense of scale and assumed it was a fox. As we approached we realised it was a deer, uncertain of which way to run, so I immediately braked to avoid it only for a second to crash through the hedgerow straight in front of the car.

Time did that surreal slow-motion thing which happens when the senses are suddenly, forcibly heightened, where you achieve instant, absolute clarity and perceive everything in minute detail: the thud as the deer hit the front of the car; the pressure of your foot on the brake pedal; pieces of the headlight unit flying off, briefly caught in the beam from the light they had been covering only milliseconds before; the look of panic in the deer's eyes as it bounced up on to the car bonnet, threatening to hit the windscreen, before dropping back to the road and skidding across the tarmac as though on ice; your heart hammering in your veins.

Much to our relief the deer got up and ran off albeit favouring its right rear leg - I hope it wasn't broken. I stopped at the first opportunity to assess the damage: the headlight unit smashed, front grill and bumper cracked and twisted, and the bonnet bent out of shape. What I was drawn to in my adrenaline fuelled state, however, was the deer's hairs caught in the bodywork. I couldn't see any blood so it had presumably just been pinched between joins in the metal and plastic and pulled out as momentum moved the animal away from us.

Then, as the adrenaline wore off and a degree of shock was no doubt kicking in, those same hairs were all I could see in my head - a not so subtle reminder, a finger of blame and trigger for self-imposed guilt despite it being a genuine accident.

It could have been so much worse.

For both us and the deer.

And now I can't sleep so am typing this in the hope that getting it out of my system will allow the nerves to settle and slumber to take me. I'll check the car properly in daylight tomorrow morning but, for now, there's nothing else I can do except hope the poor creature is okay.

Colin Walker
Colophon. Content: CC NY-BC 2.0 UK, Code: GPLv3