Thinking Points – 11/10

Ok – I have a slightly negative slant this week I’m afraid. And yes I know there is a pandemic going on. But is it just me or is there an air of incompetence flooding the administrative facilities of the UK?

I’m struggling to get physiotherapy for my arm. After two weeks since my last consultation, I’ve been referred to my GP (1 week) who referred it to a central health facility which I’m unable to contact easily (1 further week). When I search the NHS site for somewhere to go, it suggests Romford Queen’s which is the place that has referred me to my GP. Meanwhile, I don’t have full movement in my arm. People are very quick to say “It’s not our department”. Once you get to the doctors and nurses, you actually get good treatment. Cut out the administrative nonsense and allow people to get treated where they want.

Similarly having completed my tax returns on time (hooray) and paid any excess to the tax service (boo), I discovered I was owed some money for a previous year. They’ve paid it back (hooray) and then they paid back the money I owed for 2019-2020 (er, boo, or hooray) which makes no sense at all. So now I have to spend an hour figuring out what to do. Yet more administrative failure, or perhaps I’m the one who is incompetent!

1. Quote of the week

In 2018, more people applied to be on Love Island than applied to Oxford & Cambridge Universities combined. It’s not that surprising I guess. Social media has objectively quantified social status.

Chris Williamson

2. What I’m reading

It’s been an active reading week with at least 2 hours a day reading. I  finished Google SRE which I’ve been reading on and off since New Year. It’s a good book teeming full of advice and approaches to systems development and operations. I got stuck in part III and for some reason, I couldn’t get past chapter 23 on managing critical state. I have finished the book by tackling parts IV and V, then going back to the last chapters on part III. Ironically chapter 23 was very interesting once I’d got into it.

Most of the chapters can be tackled in a short daily reading session, but I think I got stuck because part III is a little involved and my concentration isn’t always there after a day of work. Fortunately, it has been designed to be read in chapters. I’m glad I’ve finished it – it is a good book. It is obviously “how Google does it” and the approaches will need to be adapted to your environment, but it is a great reference book for site reliability engineering.

I also read The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Bradberry and Greaves. This book draws on the research of half a million people on the topic of EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Throughout your life your IQ doesn’t particularly change, your personality doesn’t particularly change but your EQ is something that you can control. And it is EQ that plays a large part in getting on with others, getting jobs and getting chosen. It is a fascinating read and it is a phenomenally easy book to read. The font is nice and large, and the language is to the point and simple. It includes a free EQ test at talentsmart.com which is worth the price of the book. I highly recommend it.

I retrieved two books from my parents by Roald Dahl. He was a popular children’s author and I read most of his books when I was growing up except as I recall I didn’t get into Going Solo. Time to make amends for this. It’s a children’s book so it is easier to read, but I paced through Boy (his first autobiography volume). It tells his story of an innocent childhood, split between Wales, Norway and boarding school. He used to sign his letters to his mother as Boy, hence the title. Many of the stories refer to the beatings given by the school teachers, stories that affected Dahl quite deeply. This is my second reading of Boy making it one of three books I’ve read twice (the others being the Hobbit and 1984).

Then I paced through Going Solo in under 14 hours, reading half of it on Wednesday evening and the remainder in the morning before work on Thursday. I’m not sure I’ve read a book so quickly. I suspect Dahl intended this for a slightly older audience than Boy and the language shows. It gives a great insight into World War II in Greece and Syria. I did not realise the army of the Vichy French was such a threat to the allies. Dahl talks about a Jewish settlement in Palestine (on which a makeshift airstrip is placed) but writes no view about it in the book. He has been subsequently criticised for his views.

Next, I intend to pick up Thatcher’s Downing Street diaries and finish them (which will take 2 weeks). This is the last book in my backlog that I have that isn’t a daily read or a textbook and I need to clear the decks.

3. What I’m doing in my free time/enjoying

I’ve mostly been reading in my free time. I haven’t watched much television at all. When I haven’t been working on my day job, I’ve been writing. I’m trying to get my next paper out of the door. Which leads me to the next section:

4. What I’m learning more about

I’m very close to finishing a paper on Barley Wine that I’m writing with one of my homebrewing colleagues. In 2019, we brewed a barley wine and separated it into six batches. Each batch had a different yeast. We tasted them a year later in March (just before the lockdown) with some Guild and BJCP judges. Last weekend, we tasted them again, almost 18 months later. They have improved considerably. We are in the process of the final touches to the paper and hopefully, we will publish it soon.

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