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What I’ve Been Up To – April 2020

A snap I took when running one morning in the park

I'm not an active user of social media, so instead, I thought I'd collate what I've been up to each month to here on my blog – things I've done, thought about, haven't done but wish I had etc. I guess I was a bit inspired by Derek Sivers' now page but wanted this to be a regular thing I post on the last Thursday of every month. It's nothing more than a little personal update for anyone interested.

Doing

Coronavirus looks to have hit its peak, but it's not over yet, not by a long way. I'm lucky in that my employer has allowed many of us who aren't key workers to continue to work from home, and as a web developer, I can pretty much do my job from anywhere. Surprisingly, I haven't felt the pinch of isolation like I thought I would. I have friends and family who I miss spending time with of course, but we're managing well via chat or video calls. As for my creative aspirations, while some rely on being in physical proximity to other people (plays and films), writing is an isolated person's dream. I haven't increased my workload at all during this time, I'm just lucky my progress hasn't been delayed by the pandemic.

I've been keeping on top of exercise and eating well over lockdown. I normally run 5k around 2-3 times a week (the picture above I took in the park), and I do some home weights to keep my body in check, but mainly to keep my back in check after herniating a disc last year. The first couple of weeks were a bit of a struggle, where I found myself drawn towards the alluring dopamine hits of alcohol and chocolate. Thankfully, I'm back on track now and in a good routine.

Thanks to the beautiful weather we've had, I've been gardening a lot too. Yep, I really like gardening. I think it's quite meditative, and while my wife concentrates on the flowery side of things, I like to grow vegetables. I've got a couple of raised beds in the back garden, and have recently set up a small lean-to greenhouse to grow some chillies and tomatoes. I'm hoping I'll have a much better crop this year because last year's sucked.

Writing

Novel: I've been continuing with my new book. It's been well over a year since I started work on it (research and outlining), and close to a year since I started the actual writing process. It's the first book of a planned trilogy, which feels like a bit of a tall order, especially when I go through moments of deflation and doubts. But I really like the story I've planned, so I just need to crack on.

Play: Two years ago I wrote a feature script that got a little attention but nothing has come of it (very common). I have since adapted it into a stage play, and have submitted it to a few places. For anyone with a stage play raring to go, why not try submitting it too?

Reading

Fiction: I got about halfway through a huuuuuuge collection of HP Lovecraft short stories. Boy, some of the prose in that was like reading complex mathematical algorithms. It took a lot of concentration, but some of the stories were excellent; a special mention goes out to one called The Colour out of Space, which was recently turned into a film starring Nicholas Cage.

I read The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks. Very dark… depressingly so in places, but I really liked it. I've started reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, which I'm liking that so far, and I'm not surprised it was adapted into a stage play, because many of the chapters are essentially huge swathes of dialogue between people in a room. Very little action, but the dialogue and characters are spot-on.

Non-Fiction: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Impressive title, huh? I heard these authors on a podcast discussing exponential technologies and figured I'd give this book a go. The first half had me hooked, deep-diving into some pretty radical stuff. The second half was more of a ‘how-to' in setting up and gathering momentum for a business, which would have been excellent were I doing that. But I'm not. I probably should have stopped at that point, but the completist in me wanted to finish it.

Watching

Theatre: The One Man Two Guvnors play online at the National Theatre YouTube channel. I was due to see a couple of comedians and a musical this month too, but they've been cancelled and rescheduled for later in the year. Hopefully, things will have settled down a bit by then.

Film: Room, Stan & Ollie, and the most recent The Invisible Man. Room I'd missed when it came out in 2015, but it was really great. Invisible Man, while I thought the first half was very atmospheric and creepy, it then crumbled under the weight of illogical and overly convenient plot points.

TV: Tiger King documentary, of course (what a sheep I am). I find it very hard to watch anything involving animal abuse or captivity. The documentary had its moments but it was perhaps a bit overhyped for me. I'm not a fan of overhyped things, which is why I tend to watch stuff that is out of the limelight… but after a recent deep-dive into the effects of dopamine (cued by my lockdown obsession for chocolate), I came across something called the ‘reward prediction error', which basically explains why the overhyping of anything often has a negative effect.

Modern Family. Think we're up to season 6 now. It has its moments, but the first couple of seasons were the best and it's been slowly dwindling since then. Typical for every sitcom, really, as they often outstay their welcome. At 22 mins an episode though, it's perfect to throw on for a quick laugh.

Playing

Games: I played games religiously until I hit my 30s, and now I only dip in and out when I've got 20 minutes to kill. I've been playing the latest Modern Warfare. It's a good game, but I only play online multiplayer, specifically Free-for-All… for about 2-3 games before I've had enough and my brain has gone to mush (probably due to losing and getting pissed off).

Board Games: My wife and I completed a jigsaw puzzle the other day. Not done that for years. It was frustrating at first, and bad for my back crouching over a table, but we both really enjoyed it by the end. I'm on the lookout for a new one.

Golf: I was supposed to be playing golf this week, but it's been cancelled due to you-know-who.

Listening

Podcasts: I listen to a lot of entrepreneurial/self-improvement ones like Tim Ferriss or James Altuchar. I've also been listening to a lot about future technologies. I'm becoming more and more fascinated by topics such as AI and quantum computing, as both technologies will play a major role in our future lives. Right now, AI is being used in a multitude of applications in the fight against Coronavirus. And someday, quantum computing will be able to model and solve ultra-complex problems that will lead to cures for these deadly diseases. Unfortunately, the technology just isn't quite there yet, but if Moore's Law has anything to go by, it'll be here before we know it.

Music: The same old stuff really. I don't really seek out new music and I should probably listen to more random stuff. Lately, because I've been working from home and need to concentrate when programming, I've been listening to a lot of ambient music. Nothing with lyrics. One of my favourites has actually been the Minecraft soundtrack. That was a game I loved when it came out, but the soundtrack is very soothing and great background music.

Next update will be Thursday 28th May. Until then, stay safe.

If you have any comments or questions, please post them in the box below.

3 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Up To – April 2020”

      1. Nigel Fairservice

        I must confess, I have. Lockdown be damned. Surrey is just so delightful this time of year.

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