Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 1999.

red strap

red strap

This is everything I have to say about watches (or time pieces, or chronometers, if you prefer: I don't).

I've always worn a watch, and still do; but I've never really understood the appeal of the kind of luxury watches you see advertise here there and everywhere, with their chunky cases, over-complicated faces and enormous price-tags. So the world of watch-appreciation was closed to me, until my 30th birthday (a while ago) when my wife bought me a Mondaine Evo "Big Date" quartz watch.

It's not an analogue watch nor an "heirloom timepiece", neither of which are properties that matter to me. The large face has almost nothing extraneous on it, although my model includes day-of-the-month. I like it very much.

And so I cracked open the door a little onto the world of watches and watch fashion and had a short spell of interest in some other styles, types, and the like. This drew to a close with buying a selection of cheap, coloured nylon fabric "nato"-style straps. Now whenever I feel the itch for a change, I just change the strap.

Smart Watches have never appealed to me. I can see some of their advantages, but the last thing I need is another gadget to regularly charge, or another avenue to check my email.

I appreciate that wearing a wrist watch at all is anachronistic (sorry), and I did wonder whether it's a habit I could get out of. A few weeks ago, during our endless Lockdown, my watch battery ran out, so I spent a couple of weeks un-learning my reliance on a wristwatch to orient myself. I've managed to get it replaced now (some watch repair places being considered Essential Services) and I'm comfortably back in my default mode of wearing and relying upon it.

Cover for Susanna Clarke's Piranesi
Cover for Emily St. John Mandel's Station 11

I managed to read 31 "books" in 2020. I'm happy with that. I thought the Pandemic would prevent me reaching my goal (30), since I did most of my reading on the commute to the Newcastle office, pre-pandemic. Somehow I've managed to compensate.

I started setting a goal for books read per year in 2012 when I started to use goodreads. Doing so started to influence the type of reading I do (which is the reason I stopped my Interzone subscription in 2014, although I resumed it again sometime afterwards). Once I realised that I've been a bit more careful to ensure setting a goal was a worthwhile thing to do and not just another source of stress in my life.

Two books I read were published in 2020. The first was Robert Galbraith's (a.k.a. J K Rowling's) Troubled Blood, the fifth (and largest) in the series of crime novels featuring Cormoran Strike (and the equally important Robin Ellacott). Nowadays Rowling is a controversial figure, but I'm not writing about that today, or the book itself, in much detail: briefly, it exceeded expectations, and my wife and I really enjoyed it.

The other was Susanna Clarke's Piranesi: an utterly fantastic modern-fantasy story, quite short, completely different to her successful debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I really loved this book, partly because it appeals to my love of fantasy geography, but also because it is very well put together, with a strong sense of the value of people's lives.

A couple of the other books I read were quite Pandemic-appropriate. I tore through Josh Malerman's Bird Box, a fast-paced post-apocalyptic style horror/suspense story. The appeal was mostly in the construction and delivery: the story itself was strong enough to support the book at the length that it is, but I don't really feel it could have lasted much longer, and so I've no idea how the new sequel (Malorie) will work.

The other was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This was a story about a group of travelling musicians in a post-apocalyptic (post-pandemic) North America. A cast of characters all revolve around their relationship (or six degrees of separation) to an actor who died just prior to the Pandemic. The world-building in this book was really strong, and I felt sufficiently invested in the characters that I would love to read more about them in another book. However, I think that (although I'm largely just guessing here), in common with Bird Box, the setting was there to support the novel and the ideas that the author wanted to get across, and so I (sadly) doubt she will return to it.

Finally I read a lot of short fiction. I'll write more about that in a separate blog post.

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My PaperWM desktop, as I write this post.

My PaperWM desktop, as I write this post.

Just before Christmas I decided to try out a GNOME extension I'd read about, PaperWM. It looked promising, but I was a little nervous about breaking my existing workflow, which was heavily reliant on the Put Windows extension.

It's great! I have had to carefully un-train some of my muscle memory but it seems to be worth it. It seems to strike a great balance between the rigidity of a tile-based window manager and a more traditional floating-windows one.

I'm always wary of coming to rely upon large extensions or plugins. The parent software is often quite hands-off about caring about supporting users of them, or breaking them by making API changes. Certainly those Firefox users who were heavily dependent on plugins prior to the Quantum fire-break are still very, very angry. (I actually returned to Firefox at that point, so I avoided the pain, and enjoy the advantages of the re-architecture). PaperWM hopefully is large enough and popular enough to avoid that fate.

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picture of a vinyl record
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picture of a vinyl record
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Older posts are available on the all posts page.


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