I'm covering the late shift today, it started at 10:30am. Without the commute there was no rush, no strict timescale to follow for getting up and out of the house but I still set my alarm at a similar time. This gave me a couple of hours to myself at home rather than the couple of hours it would take to commute; a couple of hours in which I finally returned to my morning pages.

There was nothing special, just some thoughts about easing back in to the routine and how I'm not yet used to working from home; that working from home still feels weird and awful and isolating. But then everyone is still getting used to the new normal.

I wrote about how the sparrows that congregate outside the bedroom window of a morning were on good form but that their chirping was displaced by an hour. They know nothing of daylight savings so continue their normal routine based on the rising of the sun rather than some arbitrary measure of time. Oh to being a sparrow in these troubled times.

At least I picked up the pen and wrote something.

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It's frustrating that email clients have varying degrees of support for embedded video in HTML emails, this is why the daily email currently replaces the video with a link - it's done in a very hacky way but at least it works.

I've tried replacing the iframe with embed, object and video tags with little success so think I'll just leave things as they are. Unless I have some kind of brain wave.

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I had forgotten that I had modified the output for the daily emails to show a link to YouTube videos so last night's test was null and void. At least it confirmed that everything is okay with the daily RSS feed.

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Over the past few days I've been repeatedly listening to Brian and Roger Eno's new collaboration "Mixing Colours" - an ambient/tranquil album of 18 relatively short pieces (between 2 and a half and 5 minutes) that the two have apparently been working on for years via Roger sending MIDI files to Brian, initial ideas for that latter to experiment with and develop.

This is a great interview from NPR with the two of them in which they discuss the making of the record.

(You can also hear extracts from the full album at that link.)

The best way I can describe the album is part neo-classical, part soundscape, part lullaby and somewhat surprisingly, to me at least, it has received mixed reviews, from:

"This kaleidoscope of colors, minimalistic sounds, and levitating textures result in a kind of imaginative synaesthesia constituting a deep feeling of oneness"

to:

"there's simply not enough variety, curiosity or sense of adventure here to dub it as a must-listen"

"Elegant and haunting as the individual tracks may be, it's difficult to remain engaged throughout 75 minutes of music with such a uniform mood"

"The album is too inoffensive to leave much lasting impression"

Having long been a devotee of the elder Eno's work, and more recently his younger brother, I am deeply invested in the notion that ambient music "must be as ignorable as it is interesting" so the idea that the album doesn't engage the listener is bordering on anathema.

One of Roger's descriptions of the process that I found quite delightful was him saying he was producing black and white sketches which Brian would fill with colour.

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I save items from my RSS feeds to read later. Sometimes I will return and re-read them, write about them, use them as the basis for something. Sometimes I will save them with an intention that never gets fulfilled.

Even after I have revisiting something I will, for some reason, often leave it in my "Read Later" pile. I don't know why.

I've got items going back several months so thought it might be interesting to go back over these posts to see if they still grab me in the way they must have done at the time.

Perhaps some were only flagged to clear the list and reach "feed zero" as I didn't have the time to read them. Perhaps some were supposed to be a spark that, on reflection, no longer burned with the intensity I had imagined.

It could be a waste of effort: some may be languishing there for good reason or I might have already said my piece and got nothing further to add. But, maybe, I might rediscover some forgotten gems or find threads running between different posts on different blogs, something to get the grey matter working.

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I didn't write this morning as I overslept, well, technically I slept for the right about of time but forgot that the clocks were going forward. The UK is now in British Summer Time but it couldn't feel much further from reality: there's a cold wind blowing, literally as well as figuratively.

It got me wondering whether time borrows an hour from us and won't pay it back until October or if we borrow an hour for the winter and have to pay it back in the spring.

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I've been seeing a trend develop among those whose posts flow through my RSS reader. I see people struggling to write, to coalesce their thoughts into something coherent. Not only is this affecting any writing for public consumption but also that for their own private journals.

I mentioned last week that I didn't feel the need to write my morning pages while on leave as not going to work was therapeutic enough on its own. This week, however, that lack of need has morphed into a lack of ability - there have been blog posts but nothing of any real consequence.

As I mentioned in yesterday's letter our normal routines have been stolen from us. An ever-present worry hangs over us, mentally weighing us down, preventing us from functioning as we usually would. Even if we aren't watching the news it's always there in the back of our minds, continually reinforced by the position we find ourselves in: the new normal.

How long will it take to adjust?

I also wrote that my non-news related reading had dried up. I think this is partly because I now don't have a commute beyond walking from one room to another (again, the loss of routine) but also because of the nagging uncertainty.

Last night I made a deliberate point of sitting down with a book and reading a chapter, I wanted to remind myself that I could escape for a little while, isolate myself within the confines of the pages rather than the walls of the house - voluntary rather than enforced. I wanted to remind myself that the things I enjoy didn't have to stop just because the world had become a crazy, scary place.

It felt good!

I also intend to write my morning pages again tomorrow, to try to get those early thoughts, those almost unconscious words, flowing again. We are allowed to leave the house for exercise and for the good of our mental health but writing and reading is just as important for me in this regard.

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Today marks the 4th anniversary of my return to the blog after what was a two year gap. There have been more breaks since and things have changed a lot, even since then.

I seem to spend a lot of time writing about taking breaks and rebooting things but this one was different, this was the big reboot, the return to blogging after deciding to completely change what I would write about and how I would go about it.

I spent a while doing what I called "social blogging" on Google+, using the network as my only writing platform. It was an escape from the self-enforced perfectionism I equated with the blog, I was too critical of everything I wrote which meant I wrote far less than I should have done over the years.

There are times I regret stepping away from the blog so often and for so long, for writing elsewhere or not writing at all, wonder what the blog might have become had I stuck it out. But then I consider that I needed those breaks, needed to step away or I would have ended up resenting it.

It has taken going cold turkey for me to appreciate what the blog is and what it still can be. While it might have been nice to have a continuous body of work, being happy with what's actually there is more important.

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These little beauties arrived today - claimed for free after getting the S20 Ultra.

I'd read the reviews beforehand and agree that it's best if you set the audio to Dynamic in the Galaxy Wearables app as they sound a bit flat on default settings.

Are they worth £150? Probably not if you just think of them as earbuds but you're also paying (if you actually buy them) for the tighter integration with other Samsung devices.

I'm happy with how they sound and fit, I've not had to change from the default buds and "wings" attached, but will need to see how they perform under more "normal" circumstances.

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Robin Sloane writes that:

"The thing about blogging is, you can just write about the things you love."

It always has been. Blogs are inherently labours of love - they frustrate and infuriate but we stick with them because they bring something out in us.

Remember the early days when bloggers used to be lambasted for writing about their cats? People didn't take this new-fangled thing seriously, thought it was a fad. Well, those bloggers wrote about their cats because they loved them and wanted to share that with the world no matter how silly it may have seemed.

It was an excuse to connect.

We need every excuse to connect that we can get right now. Many of us are self-isolating or under some form of lockdown, artificially distanced and separated from the rest of the world. We watch from our windows (both the ones in our walls and electronic) but it is no substitute for real human contact. At least we can share our thoughts, feelings, fears with those who might happen upon our sites; we can engage in these personal spaces in a more intimate way than any social network could ever provide.

Blogs don't need to be perfect or prize-winning, they just need to be. Written and read, but most importantly written. About anything! Whether that's what you love or not. They are windows into our own worlds allowing others insight, opportunities to reach out so that, perhaps, someone will acknowledge and respond.

That's something to be cherished at any time.

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Liked: Uncertainty - Patrick Rhone...

"The only comfort I believe one can take in times like these is the solace and the comfort in knowing and seeing the truth of our existence — that there is and only ever has been the right-here and the right-now. That uncertainly is an ever present part of our existence. That, in many ways, the only certainty is uncertainty. The only way to truly get comfortable with that is to sit with it, to accept it, and adjust our expectations accordingly."

Wise words.

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The doctor confirmed that the issue with my eye is scleritis, even though an optician and a supposed specialist didn't think so before.

Why I've got it, and why it should have come back, is another matter. It can apparently be linked to rheumatoid arthritis and certain inflammatory bowel conditions. The latter would seem the more likely, considering my long term struggle with IBS and previous check for Crohn's disease, so she was asking plenty of questions in that regard.

I've been prescribed a plethora of drops and creams and got to go back in a week. If it keeps recurring then further exploration will need to be done to isolate the cause.

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Today is the first day of working from home and, I have to say, it feels a bit weird. Almost all of my team now are WFH (some are in actual self-isolation because relatives are showing symptoms) but all keeping in touch via Skype chat as we have this rolled out across the company.

There have been things to do, normal work as well as some project related things that I've now got more time more bit it's definitely quieter than normal. Yesterday was apparently quite busy (I was still on leave) but that was likely due to a lot of the people we support getting set up properly and now that's all done.

It's early days but I fully expect the novelty to wear off. When I tore the medial collateral ligament in my left knee a number of years back I had to work from home for a while but it wasn't organised properly and there was actually very little I could do remotely. It was one of the most soul destroying things I've ever done. At least things are a bit more organised now and we've got better technology to keep in touch.

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Over the past week my eye has started having problems again. I had been on specific eye drops recommended by a pharmacist but it's gotten bad enough again that I had to call the doctor this morning.

It took 116 attempts to actually get through - that's obviously how hard the coronavirus is hitting the NHS at the moment.

Fortunately, I've got an appointment tomorrow and, because it relates to my eye, am actually allowed to visit the GP surgery - most physical consultations have been stopped. No family members are allowed to attend with me in order to keep the risk to a minimum but that's the way it has to be in these difficult times.

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I'm going to be collecting my daughter from university today and she'll be home indefinitely until this all passes and uni re-opens. It'll be good to have her home so we know she's as safe as the rest of us - as safe as we can be.

We've given a few supplies to our neighbours and told them to let us know if they need anything, especially one side who are elderly and trying to stay inside as much as possible. They have my wife's number so can text us if they need to.

Our neighbour on the other side is a mental health nurse and is currently still conducting visits to patients. Some of them have delusions and paranoia and constantly think they've got the virus, whenever they see something on the news it tips them over the edge. It's really bad that these key staff still haven't got the core equipment they need: hand gel, masks, etc. Our neighbour thinks they may have to stop the visits soon and just provide a telephone counselling service but will obviously have to attend if someone takes a turn for the worse.

My father-in-law is is a part time traffic warden/parking enforcement officer and this week, out of a team of 14, only two of them have gone in to work. They decided to forget their job (no parking tickets given out) and have become a community service running errands, delivering prescriptions, and anything else needed by those who are unable to get out. How awesome is that?

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Liked: Learn to meditate – Rebecca Toh...

"If there’s a good time to learn to meditate it would be now, thick in the woods of a global pandemic. This is THE moment to start noticing your monkey brain and the misadventures it can get up to."

Amen to that!

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A little calm in a crazy world.

The above is a "Daily Mix" auto-generated Spotify playlist that pretty accurately reflects what I listen to most of the time. There's a lot of minimal ambient, modern classical, sometimes things get a little weird, but it's ideal to chill out to.

I know the Zen masters would say that anything you do should be done with your full focus but I like to have this kind of stuff playing on shuffle (in at least one ear) while I'm doing jobs around the house - it gets me out of my head.

It includes some of my favourite artists:

  • Ludovico Einaudi
  • Stars of the Lid
  • Roger Eno
  • Hakobune
  • Max Richter
  • Robert Rich

The one thing I don't like about these playlists is that they break up albums where tracks flow into each other leaving an inelegant juxtaposition. I sometimes experiment with Spotify's cross-fade but it never really seems to cut it.

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Day 2 of our enforced staycation has been very much a doing day. We still had a few bits of shopping that we needed so, as my wife is on the Covid-19 at risk list, made an early trip to the local supermarket during the session supposedly reserved for those at risk. One doesn't like to judge, and not every health issue or disability is obvious or visible, but there were definitely people there who shouldn't have been at that time.

We recently bought a new wardrobe for our bedroom which I assembled and installed a while back but had not yet fitted all of the shelves and actually, you know, put clothes in! The shelves are now all fitted but I needed to completely sort out and rearrange the room before I could really get to grips with the clothes. That bit comes tomorrow.

It's crazy how much old rubbish we had tucked away in just that one room and it was therapeutic to have a good sort out. I imagine there's more I could get rid of but one step at a time.

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