Tag Archives: writing

Share Something Every Day

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Community

Today I learned that there are (at least) two model railway societies in Guildford. The one that most people seem to know about is the Guildford Model Engineering Society who have a base in Stoke Park. They have 3½, 5 and 7¼ inch gauge passenger railways and have open days throughout the year. I didn’t know this level of detail, but now, of course, I’m going to have to plan a trip. Anyway, I met someone today from the other group, the lesser-known Astolat Model Railway Circle. I understand there was a break between the groups about fifty-years ago based on whether to work on fixed layouts (GMES) or portable ones (AMRC). So now you know too (though I’m open to being put right on details by anyone who knows better).

We heard that the church garden got a Gold medal from Guildford In Bloom. Ian, who does the garden, is justifiably proud.

I also got a list of films that we might be able to show at our Film Club. It’s tricky because of the Netflix problem of (near) infinite choice but also because we don’t really know who’s going to be interested, so we’re just going to have to plump for one and see how it goes.

We did make some progress on Panto planning today too, although again it will be interesting to see how our plan fares in contact with the people hereabouts.

I spent a brain-numbing hour on reviewing the new website layout too. At least I now know the things I need to do next and it’s not a terribly long list.

Podcast/Writing

I’ve been experimenting today with talking to otter. Otter.ai that is, the transcription service. So when I’ve had a walk (to work and back and into town for something) I’ve chatted away to my phone, which is recording what I say, sending it to otter for transcription and then at the end of the day I’ve been able to download some long rambling monologues in text and audio form. That helps me identify the (potentially) interesting bits and now I can use them either as the basis of a written piece or perhaps dropped into a podcast. In any case, it’s a good exercise for me in opening my mouth, rather than just thinking things over and over – stuff moves in me when I’ve said it out loud and I just look like an average idiot talking on their phone, whereas when I was doing this sort of thing in 2005, people thought I was proper odd.

Oh and I’m making progress using logseq.com as a general note-taker and knowledge-organiser, getting my head around syncing between all my machines and thinking about tagging and workflow. Baby steps.

I have to have an early night though because I’ve got to be up for a gig first thing in the morning and I need to polish my ukulele!

Make Something Every Day – Coding 001

04102008325

Today, I was more gentle with myself. I pulled “coding”. Now I definitely don’t have any coding projects all set up and ready to go. But I am interested in how to automate my workflow for blogging on Hive. The process for wordpress is straightforward and handled by lots of different clients. I currently post straight to a draft post on my wordpress.com having given draftsapp my credentials a long time ago. I’d like to be able to compose in one place and then click one button to send it to wordpress and another to send it to hive. I don’t want to be copying and pasting or doing something so automatic that it reduces my flexibility.

So today, I’ve poked around in the developers documentation for Hive. That makes it sound very efficient. Of course what I’ve actually done is googled stuff and then decided I needed to set up my own testnet and then realised I didn’t and wondered what I did need to install and then started going through the examples on the development portal and realised I’d forgotten how node.js works exactly and you know, it dawned on me that I’d started in the middle with the bit about posting rather than starting at the beginning and working my way through methodically, so no wonder…! Once I did that, I found the example for Hivesigner and by that time, either because this did what I wanted, or just because I’d looked at so much that wasn’t and so was getting my javascript-reading-eyes back, I understood mostly how it works and felt able to have a go.

Anyway, long story short, because yesterday what I really learned was that I don’t have to present something here for approval or be thinking of the audience at all, I’m writing for myself… long story short, I posted a little test post on the tuttleclub blog which I haven’t really used since I used it as an experiment in setting up a second account.

Notes on yesterday…

It wasn’t really a fail, because I did make something. I think I need to spend some time, not only reviewing what I’ve done, but also planning what I might do next. I’ve got lots of ideas in my head, but if I’m going to continue with this approach, they really need to be committed somewhere so that I can pick them up when I need them. So that I’d have something to start with yesterday morning (or today for that matter) without having to think almost from first principles.

In the case of podcasting, what’s notable is that I don’t have lots of audio clips stashed away, in the way that I have bits of writing, film or photography all ready to pick apart and put back together in a new form. Or if I do have a stash, it feels old and stale and a lot of work to breathe new life into it. I also feel like I’ve done the mumbling, bumbling improvised ramble character to death. It was so 2005 for me and, man, that was sixteen years ago – a different world and definitely a different me. And I’m not really interested in two-hander interviews either. There’s a new form of podcast out there that will excite me but I don’t quite know what it is yet. And making it will take more than a day’s sprint.

Make Something Every Day – Writing 002

Today I rebelled. Slightly. Or perhaps I just tweaked the rules based on learning what works. I’ve been thinking for a couple of days that Sunday needs to be a review day rather than a full “production” day.

Writing

And then I pulled “Writing” again. The first repeat. And while I have done some writing and thinking about writing today (and I’m writing this) I gave myself permission to do some of the things I’ve been wanting to do, remembering that the important thing here is that I make something everyday and don’t get pulled into chores and duty all day long.

I think what I learned from the other day’s Writing assignment is that I need a longer term project. It might only be a short essay, but I need a goal for a series of writing sessions, rather than starting from scratch each time. What do I want to write? Well, the things that came out onto the page last time were the tweet storm about what I’m doing and the beginnings of a “What were the eighties like?” piece. Also the tweet storm about my dream the other day (though that was the day after – I am drawn to this form for writing short stories with a twist).

Perhaps another way of coming at the 80s would be to write some short stories and then try to tie them together, rather than starting top down to express the feeling of being there for me without explaining what I was doing.

Fire

I’ve been meaning to make a fire in the back garden for a while. It’s good for me to build it properly and see it burn well. I have plenty of earth and water and air in my life, I miss fire. So I put it together from the dried grass and weeds pile and some of the weedier rosemary twigs for kindling and then built it up with bits of a pallet that was broken and I’d chopped up into reasonable chunks.

I had a go at making drawing charcoal from some of the larger rosemary twigs in a little tin. I punched a tiny hole in the lid of an old vaseline tin (like a shoe polish tin only more like an inch and a half in diameter). The lid goes on very tightly, which isn’t ideal for this, it turns out, because heat and metal. I’ll look out for other more suitable vessels.

Then just as the fire was nice and hot and settling down to embers and I’d popped the tin on the top to cook, it started to rain. Of course, it’s the Bank Holiday weekend, obviously it’s going to rain as soon as you start burning anything.

Anyway, I left it, the rain went off quite quickly and the embers were still hot enough. When I couldn’t see any gas or smoke coming out of the hole in the tin, I lifted it out to cool.

When I opened it, I was pleased to see that it had cooked – I’d been worried that the rain would have spoiled it. It wasn’t perfect – I’m not sure that rosemary is the best material for drawing with, but it’s what I had immediately to hand and it was dry. I might go down to the river tomorrow and see what I can find in terms of hazel and willow. Anyway I made some carbonised wood, I tried a new process and it worked – and it’s pretty in it’s own way.

I should have taken photographs throughout the process, but all I got was the final result.

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rosemary charcoal

35mm film

The other distraction is that I now have all the bits I need to process black and white film, so I can’t see me resisting the impulse to use that tomorrow as well as reviewing the progress to date.

make something every day – writing 001

Today, I pulled “Writing”. Yet again, I probably spent more time thinking about what sort of writing I mean and what I wanted to do with today than on actually typing (or scrawling) anything.

I can’t see me ever being the sort of professional writer who gets up every day, has a cup of tea, dashes off 5,000 words no matter what and then gets on with whatever else it is that they do. I mean, I might make it there before I die, but it would be by accident rather than design at this stage.

But I do enjoy writing. I enjoy putting together an argument or a story, working out what’s really important in what I want to say and getting rid of the bits that get in the way of that (usually).

And it does deserve to be on the list, because writing something more substantial than diary-like blog posts and a few tweets is something I want to be able to do, I think I’ve got some substantial things to say and actually, now I think about it, I remember that the whole idea for this “make something every day” thing came out of an idea of focusing on writing – I thought I might try to turn out a short essay every week – but the prospect of doing that and only that was too triggering for my ADHD brain (mainly because it would mean I wouldn’t have time for any of the other things on the list).

So today I did two things, I suppose. I tested out the Tweet Storm action in Drafts with a little 9 tweet thread.

Before posting it looked like this:

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And then, after lunch, I wrote about 500 words draft on “What were the 1980s really like?”

I got sidetracked again by thinking about writing tools and blogging software – it’s a curse! – but it’s OK, the project isn’t about doing the thing all day, no matter what and not thinking about anything outside of your subject area. So I cut myself some slack and had a nakd bar.

Oh and I suppose I wrote this post as well, but that doesn’t count, does it?

Blog Club: Thirty blog posts I’ll (probably) never write

Bridlington Leisure Centre.jpg
Bridlington Leisure Centre By Martin Dawes, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

At today’s Blog Club we did an exercise to kick off with. We had ten minutes to write twenty-five titles of blog posts we’d like to write. I ignored the “like to” bit and just wrote as many off the top of my head titles I could think of. I came up with thirty-five. The thing is, when you let go of actually having to do anything with them, you can come up with a lot more than you’d imagine.

The next bit of the exercise was to choose five to actually write (one of which was “Ten blog posts I’ll never write” which I’ve turned into this one).

So that leaves the other thirty, which I didn’t want to throw away, so here they are:

  1. Eating dinner with Chris Brogan
  2. How to play the violin if you’ve never done it before
  3. The hypocrisy of babies
  4. Jelly – my part in it’s downfall
  5. How to have hope
  6. Using household objects to make a movie
  7. How huge is this artichoke?
  8. The three types of people you meet at an unconference
  9. Is there anything bigger than this experience?
  10. The view from Clee Hill
  11. Eating out in Rhyl
  12. How I turned my bedroom into a cinema in 2 weeks
  13. On the bus
  14. Calamari
  15. How much coffee is too much?
  16. When caring goes bad
  17. The dark side of Jaffa cakes
  18. Dear Lazyweb, please recreate Posterous.com
  19. A man on a train in West Texas
  20. Apricots: what’s the point?
  21. Fifteen amazing people in Bridlington
  22. How corned beef saved my life
  23. Twenty-two things to do with a bottle opener
  24. Crazy golf without the crazy
  25. When did you last see your Aunty Beryl
  26. Eating shellfish: a primer
  27. If you can’t do this thing, you’ll never do anything
  28. Don’t wait, keep it moving
  29. Primary School Blues

On second thoughts, I probably will write some of these.

But what were the other five?

  1. Great tube journeys in Zone 3
  2. Ten (thirty) blog posts I’ll never write.
  3. Stop thinking!!
  4. Today I shot a gun for the first time
  5. The devil makes work for idle hands

Watch this space.

 

On Renewal(s)

C4CC index cards

This post is intended as a starting point for online collaboration – let it be a launchpad for something you make yourself.

I think the first time I heard the word renewal it was in relation to library books. If you wanted to keep a book longer than the standard amount of time, past the date due that was stamped on a sheet inside the front cover, you needed to ask for that date to be extended and this was called ‘renewing’ or ‘a renewal’ otherwise, if you kept the book too long you’d be fined. You’d have to pay money to the library as a punishment for withholding the book from other borrowers.

However if you renewed it, the librarian could check that no-one else desperately needed that book right now and give you a further borrowing period. It was the loan then that was renewed. It was re-new-ed, made new again. The book was the same book, I was the same small child, but there was a new date to remember in the front of the book, the date that must not be forgotten or ignored or else it will cost you pennies.

Library tickets in my town were brown for children and white for adults. You could take and borrow as many books as you had tickets, because you had to hand them in when you had chosen your books and had them stamped.

A new set of books for the week was so exciting. I was renewed. My collection was renewed. My imagination was renewed.

Thanks Libraries and Librarians.

You might make something that fits together with what I have here or it might stand alone. You might make something in another form or medium – a poem, a picture, a movie, a song.

Take the picture, take the words and augment them, allowing them to augment you.

You can join in wherever works best for you – I’m publishing this on my blog, on the Tuttle Moonthly publication on Medium and on Steemit. I will endeavour to pull strands together and play them back in each of these places.

Blogging about blogging, chapter 479

I don’t like it.  I don’t like writing about blogging, but sometimes it needs to be done to be cleared out of the way.  If I write on paper about writing on paper that seems OK because it’s only here on my table and it might just go in the bin or in that file of many ideas not quite finished enough.

I’m angry about it.  I’m angry about the way we, me too, I have let it slip away, have let others take the form and make it more like what they wanted to do in the first place.   And then decided that I needed to fit in with that.  We’ve made our newspapers into gigantic blog-like content machines, but none of them have much of the spirit of the people who write them, they’re just self-serving self-obsessed web-borgs.

A real person is in here, behind this screen, behind these words you’re reading.  With all the ups and downs and back and forth and painfully, oh jesus, p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow learning about life and how to do it and who I might be and how not to be who I’m not.

But even I’ve forgotten that and started to believe that what I write here needs to be a certain way, needs to deliver “my message” to “my audience”, get more hits, trigger more likes, avoid feelings, avoid criticism.  It doesn’t.  And it seems I need reminding of that every now and then.  Maybe you do too.

All right, thanks for listening, go back to what you were doing.

Backstory: The Audit Commission – Part I

Interestingly, as I’m thinking about what you say and what you don’t and considering how to flesh out the story of me online, this weekend it was announced that the Audit Commission is to be abolished.

The Audit Commission was a big part of my working life. Did you know that? Probably not, there might be fleeting references to it, but to an extent, when I left in 2002 I drew a line under it as an experience and moved on. So as an interesting exercise in backstory writing (ie creating panels before the first panel – and of course a gutter between) what did I do there?

I arrived at the Commission’s Vincent Square headquarters on 1 August 1994. It was coincidentally the day that Commission staff were all moving back into VSQ after refurbishment, so it was a more laid back introduction than I’d expected and everyone else had a little air of being new themselves. I was there as a placement student for a year as part of my degree in Computing & IT at Surrey University.

My role as a student was to provide data analysis support to study teams in the directorate of Local Government Studies. I found myself allocated to a number of studies, but primarily a team just starting to look at the education of children under five. In the course of the year I got more and more excited by the prospect of understanding public services by collecting data and going out and talking to people.

The classic commission study contained a comprehensive and thorough narrative exploring the area of interest coupled with facts and analyses to support the argument. In addition there was usually an audit tool of some sort which would allow local auditors to carry out a value for money audit in the services affected.

So much of my time was spent following the study team around, carrying bags and getting to understand what they were doing and seeing where I could spot things that could be measured and interesting stories that might be told based on thbe data. It wasn’t up to me to come up with the stories, more to spot interesting avenues of investigation and then, if the study team agreed then to look further.

A running joke was that study teams always found there to be “significant variation between councils’ performance in X” for a number of Xs. Spotting variation was only the beginning. Explaining why variation occurred and what managers could do to improve their performance was much more important.

Not much was expected of us as students, but I loved bringing large sets of data together and seeing what you could tell from it. So I set about recording all of the data we were collecting, right down to attendance patterns in nursery schools into one big database that I could play around with.

The key output of this was a spreadsheet that allowed an auditor to compare the data they collected in an individual educational setting, or across a local authority, with national averages. My innovation was to present this data in the form of a “cost tree” for cost per child per hour.

A figure for cost per anything is usually one big number divided by some other big number, so in this case the total cost of provision divided by the number of child hours provided. Now this might vary for a wide range of reasons but by laying out the factors that go to make up the costs and those that might vary in the calculation of the total number of child hours (a policy decision, for example, to limit the number of hours 3-year-olds might get) it was much easier to see where differences arose.

It was very simple in the end but effective. It gave people something to think about, something to discuss and help them put a local picture into a national context. As well as helping the study team understand the dynamics of costs and differences between the costs of types of setting, it would help auditors to show councils where they might make improvements.

I went back to university for my final year, but was very pleased when the people in the study team lobbied for me to be recruited following graduation. But that’s a story for another day.

OK – what does this tell you about me? How does it help explain what happens next? Does it explain anything at all? Or is the gulf between this and what you know of me today too wide for you to suspend your disbelief that they’re the same people (*I* struggle..!). Do you want to give up, or carry on? Have I jumped too far from yesterdays post for you to understand what I’m trying to do here?

Reading & Writing

25/09/2009I remember reading, somewhere, something like: “As a blogger, if you’re not writing enough, it’s probably because you’re not reading enough” I don’t believe that’s true, I think it probably only applies if you’re the type of blogger who only writes about what other people have written, but somehow it got stuck, wedged into the part of my brain that somehow doesn’t like me sitting and writing and publishing stuff on the web and so it gets in the way every time I go anywhere near the “New Post” button.

The same bit of my brain that lures me into Google Reader and Twitter far too often. “I need to read a little bit more and then I’ll get down to writing.”

No. The only thing that gets me writing (and I love writing, I really enjoy it and I always feel good when I’ve done some) is sitting down and writing. Reading just takes up time, gives me little ideas that get squirrelled away in my head and rattle around like acorns. They rarely get out where they were supposed to go (here, on the blog) and just add to my levels of anxiety, depression and occasional psychotic delusion – which tend, to be honest, to get in the way of writing too.

Gaaah.

Oh that’s better.