Illuminated Fragments (by )

Currently it is the Gloucester History Festival - happening very differently to previous year in the restrictions on numbers and the shift to more outside pre booked things and mostly online talks and interactive virtual tours. Even if I'd been well enough there is no way Cuddly Science/History could have done it's normal activities with sand pit digs and cloth puppets 0.o

I am seeing past events popping up on Facebook memories and they are awesome but do you know what? So is this year... there is a festival that had to completely start from scratch and reorganise some great stuff and they managed it and on their big year too! 10yrs of the Festival and 25yrs for the Heritage Open Days!

And it's not like I am completely devoid of involvement - back in the spring an art and archaeology project that I was very excited to be a part of obviously had to go on hold but now the exhibition is there for anyone who wanders over to see! They are asking people to pre book free tickets and wear face masks when in the building as well as doing track and trace.

It's at Llanthony Secunda Priory and called Illuminated Fragments. There were 15 of us lead by Jacqui Grange of Creative Solutions with access to the archaeological finds from the area thanks to Cotswold Archaeology, and tutorials on calligraphy as well as researching the history and stories of the area.

I really enjoyed the parts of it I managed to get to and the work produced is truly spectacular - it is only up until the 14th of Sept 2020. Including the Heritage Open Day.

So Many Things (by )

There is so much I want to write, some of it I have been sketching out but mainly I have been unable - this year has been wiped out by illness and I lost weeks to seizures and fevers and now have graves disease - I posted on Facebook and social media when I felt up to it - maybe I'll get around to rounding all that stuff up and maybe I won't. Once I started to feel better and started doing things again it rapidly became apparent that I was intact not well and resulted in an ambulance ride - to cut a long story short my immune system has gotten over excited and attacked among other things my thyroid leaving me with Greaves Disease, eye issues including five years premature ageing and so much medicine I rattle when I walk from all the pills - I am a prescription junky and it is going to take one or two years of treatment. Also I may have become diabetic in the same process.

I have wibbly wobbly nails showing in a similar way of tree rings when and just how sick I was - in times of extreme stress the amount of nail grown differs drastically. My skin is cracking and dry from all the hand washing - the kids have gone back too school for the first time in half a year but we are all just waiting for it to all be closed down again as we watch infection rates rise knowing that antibodies only last for about 3 months with cold type viruses which Carona is. I am not sure I can survive what I went through again but all we can do is make sure each of us is well rested and well fed - and yes that is at the exclusion of homework.

I am also feeling ashamed as I am simultaneously relieved to not be trying to educate or entertain the kids and missing them and worried that this time it will be one of them that comes down just so very sick - and that's before I add in my 70+ mum's health.

Adaption has been the key to my existence these last few months as I was well enough to really feel the bite of what had happened. I have new glasses and I can now see enough to do some work but my vision is still awful and I think that is it now - there is nothing that can make it better - I am worried about how long its taking to sort some of the medical stuff out as I don't want to make eye sight stuff even worse. My bones hurt and feel... fragile, my muscles cramp and it feels like someone is actively trying to push my eyes out, my heart hearts as in a physical pain. Time is seesawing around me being fast and slow at the same time and little blood fleck spots keep erupting on my skin as I've had some sort of reaction to one of the medicines and so on.

Once again I have almost died, but this time the world stopped with me, this time there are so many many others ill and dying and the drs just do not have capacity and yet they have gone out of their way to treat me and to see if Alaric could help others with his blood and to get physio to Jean and give me advice on Mary. Al's hair now sparkles with silver and is as thin as mine in places - oh yeah my hair is falling out - A; is just thinning/going bald but probably due to the stress - they say they had to watch me being carted off to hospital once again unsure of what the hell was going to happen.

I feel that last chance of having a child is vanishing over the hill not helped by people repeatedly telling me I am old enough for menopause and even suggesting that is what is wrong with me - Graves disease is often misdiagnosed as menopause as it can and in my case did shut down periods.

We have had financial ups and downs with jobs coming and going and furlough and redundancy and people not paying when they should and events being canceled and then all the jobs and offers of help until we find ourselves with just a few weeks in-between the lowest financial ebb and a peak so good we have bought a thing we have wanted for our entire adult lives and never managed - once we had enough before but we went to South Africa to see family and that was always going to be the important thing to do and it is awesome that we could do that and we have a house and we are so lucky but there was a point in all of this were once again we had an empty fridge and it was friends dropping food parcels... and thoughts of this financial security or mirage of it float and haunt us but we are in a good position that many of my friends can only dream of and that makes me angry and bizarrely feel guilty. Soon hopefully we can give back again - we should have done that before buying our shiny but I know how it goes - if we waited there would have been a crisis and then the money would have had to be spent on that.... Al has a fantastic job but we maybe using it to pay for health care and yay we can do that but grrr and what if of those who can't?

I spent money I didn't have on stuff from my dead friends Etsy shop for multiple reasons and all the stuff I ordered in Feb and March to make our garden good arrived in dribs and drabs and the garden now has nice things on beds of rubble including the table that arrived the last week of August but was still somehow worth it because I know not how many suns I will get to feel on my skin - especially as it decided to be allergic to sunlight for the beginning of the summer - and another friend died and I have now lost track of how much death there has been and how is still with us and I get scared to ask how people I've not seen for a while are.

Everything seems on a knife edge and I have friends and family on the front lines dealing with the general public trying to make people well and keep us all safe and worry about them.

So many things but were do I even begin?

I begin here and hope I can continue to tell of the muddle in thoughts and medicines and art and science and sunsets I love.

Protected: Llanthony Remains (by )

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A keyboard design (by )

Ok, so a friend of mine is making himself a custom keyboard - there's a whole hobbyist community of people who design their own, often based on a published design like the Ergodox.

This is related to something I've long wanted to do, which is to obtain myself a chorded keyboard. So I thought I'd write up my current thoughts on the matter, given that they've been brought to the forefront of my mind again!

Read more »

Time for a new job! (by )

So, this happened:

It is with great regret that I announce that Dotscience is shutting down with immediate effect. The global economic situation has caused our source of funding to cease and, as we have been unable to secure alternative funding we are now closing all our operations.

...which means I'm out of a job!

This isn't an urgent problem, as we have resources enough to get by for a few months. And I'm not actually free from my contract for a while yet (notice periods and all) so I can't start a new job yet anyway.

Which is a relief, because I'm still a bit burnt out and, right now, I'd much rather curl up and tidy my workshop and fix my roof and do some long-overdue maintenance on my infrastructure (you may notice that web sites I look after are starting to support https lately, for instance) than be thinking about another job. Right now, I am motivated to think about this from a "We're going to run out of money if I don't" perspective, which isn't great and probably won't look great in interviews. I need to get back to "I'm going to do something awesome and rewarding, that lets me apply my skills to doing good in the world" being my reason to work!

I liked the people I worked with at Dotscience, and I was impressed with how we managed to investigate a totally unfamiliar market (statisticians, or "data scientists" as they're called these days) and work out how to make a product they actually really wanted. I learnt a lot about product-market fit and how to find it, and learnt a lot about modern data science tooling. But, in a small team I didn't get to do much leadership, and the technical challenges were more "fighting third-party components that didn't quite do what we wanted" and "refactoring permission checking logic out of seventy-five different API call handlers" than the kinds of things I like doing.

So I definitely need to find myself something where I get to do some mix of the things I've enjoyed most in my career:

  1. Solving really hard technical problems, ideally ones with complicated and conflicting requirements. I love conflicting requirements. I'm in my element finding elegant compromises between them.
  2. Looking after a team. I joined a startup in the hope that it would grow until I could lead a team again... I like looking after people, helping them become their best, working out with them to form a plan everyone is happy with (ideally involving solving some conflicting requirements!), and then mucking in to get it done.
  3. Communicating with people. I really like talking to customers to understand their needs, talking to developers to understand their work, integrating the two to figure out a way the developers can meet the customers' needs, then communicating that back to the customers and developers (who, of course, both require quite different kinds of explanation) to see if it's right. I worked for a year in a role that was purely this with no coding at all, and it was pretty good; Dotscience was just starting to get customers when it was plucked from my grasp!

So, given that I can't start a new job for a while yet, I'm going to do my best to work on some personal projects for the time being. This will be a mixture of:

  1. Infrastructure maintenance/expansion, so I can feel the pride and security of operating on a solid base, rather than feeling the combined guilt/fear that everything I'm responsible for is about to fall apart. I've been too busy to look after the Snell-Pym Mainframe properly for years, and my work area is a mess.
  2. Exploring my curiosities. Network protocol design, for instance. I've spent too long suppressing my urge to explore interesting challenges because there's no time!
  3. Sheer fun stuff. I've a small list of computer games I'd really like to play, things I'd like to watch, and so on!

I'm tempted to avoid going back to my previous routine, though. Should I work part-time, say 3 or 4 days a week? Can we afford that? Or should I start my own business (I'm not short of ideas) so I can make my own choices?

Either way, definite requirements for my future career are:

  1. I've got to work from home (so it must be remote work), with flexible hours so I can fit in medical appointments and school pick-up. My wife has ongoing health issues due to a brain injury, which includes seizures; if I'm away, she's either on her own, or our eldest daughter has to look after her, which isn't a burden I want to regularly place on a 14 year old. I need the kind of workplace that's making a policy of being accessible to single parents, effectively!
  2. I need to earn enough to feed myself and my family.

So, it remains to be seen just how idealistic I can be about having a fun job where I get to make a difference, versus working in the code mines closing issues to pay the bills. I can do the latter, but I'll need enough time away from work to do something more appealing to remain sane!

I'm starting to feel tingles of excitement about interesting jobs I might do next... Suggestions for places that need somebody to guide a team to solve really hard technical problems are welcome, so I can start job-hunting with gusto in a few weeks' time 😉

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