Weeknote – 12/03/2021

Quite a lot of the people I pay attention to online – often, the Open Education / tech ethics crowd – use Weeknotes to keep track of their many projects, links and creations. I find the weeknote structure appealing, so I’m going to test it out as a way to a) keep a better track of the (many) things I start and don’t finish, b) talk about some of the interesting articles I read or games I play that wouldn’t ever make it into a full blog post or review. (I won’t be doing predominantly work-focused weeknotes – they’ll mostly be a reading list/link roundup – but I’ll mention work if there’s something interesting to include.)


A few days ago, I read this article about how smartphones are helping illiterate women in India by giving them a way to socialise with people outside of their household, run businesses, take part in activism and report information to journalists, all through voice commands and sharing images. This really made me think, because I’m someone who needs to write things down to make sense of them, and who learns everything by reading it, so I cannot comprehend what not having that option must feel like. The article describes how one of the women, Mallika, can now use WhatsApp to talk to a friend – before smartphones and data plans, she had to climb a mountain to communicate with them.

Now, on to ice cream trucks. I found this article interesting, because its a really good example of how one person being in the right place at the right time (and knowing the right person) can change an entire industry or movement. Finding out that the company which makes the music boxes inside 97% of all ice-cream trucks consists of just 2 people really reminded me that so many of the things we’re familiar with are the results of decisions made by a handful of people.


Clutching at Random Straws — This is a talk given by stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, to a school in England. It’s a great discussion, with practical and funny demonstrations, of how easily we can be misled when it comes to data. For example, Parker shows the students how collecting large amounts of data can fool us into finding “impossible” co-incidences easily, and how we can easily be influenced into hearing patterns such as messages in music played backwards. All of this is done in a way that doesn’t require high-level maths knowledge, and its a really clear introduction to some of the ways that we can be misled by data.


While the main thing I’ve been playing is Rocket League, I tried out a puzzle game called The Gardens Between that I saw on Game Pass. I really wanted to like the game, but was only lukewarm on it. Its art style and atmosphere are lovely, but the puzzles weren’t quite my thing, and its wordless narrative didn’t appeal to me very much.


The only book I’ve spent any time reading the past week is Toksvig’s Almanac, which is a collection of notes about a different woman in history for each day of the year. This book was inspired by Sandi Toskvig’s YouTube project, Vox Tox, which ran from April-June 2020. So far I can comfortably say that people who like the Vox Tox videos will enjoy the Alamanc, as it is presented in a similar style but with stories that will be new to most readers.


This XKCD comic sums up the way I function most of the time! (Which explains the many started-but-not-finished things and the rather scattered reading list…).

Over the last few days I’ve been gradually moving over everything that’s held on Google Drive/Gmail over to non-Google sources, as I’d like to reduce my google-connections wherever possible. I think I’ve now moved every account/subscription on my Gmail account away, so I should be able to ignore that email address from now on. Currently, some of the images and shared links on this site are currently in a Google Drive, so I’m going to try turning my old Dropbox account into my WordPress media storage. (I just need to test whether images from Dropbox can be embedded into a post, rather than merely linked).


Most of my work week was slightly frustrating, as a project that rolled out last week, that will eventually make recruiting volunteers more secure, wasn’t as ready or as polished as we expected. I was supposed to be getting back to focusing on our registered volunteers and getting them fully signed up, DBS-checked, and ready to go. But instead I spent a lot of time in meetings where my group had to explain the current limitations of the new project, come up with workarounds, and do damage control. Meetings are my least favourite part of any job, so last week felt like it contained more talking than working!.

However, we did hear some great news on Thursday – a few months ago the council I work for, (specifically, the volunteer recruitment part) was shortlisted for an Innovation in Politics award for our response to Covid-19. This makes us one of the 10 “best political innovations in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis across Europe”, according to the award-givers.

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