Home improvement

We went to Ikea today, ostensibly for a new desk for my study. Evernote tells me I did the measurements for this desk over two years ago, so it’s probably about time. As well as a desk, we also picked up a new kitchen table (replacing one that’s probably 15 years old) and a new coffee/gaming table for the living room (replacing one that’s nearly as old as I am). We also picked up some stools and a couple of iPad holders each to make it easier to use what are fast becoming our primary computers in a number of different ways. Everything smells new and wooden, and I love it all.

I now need to work out how I want my new desk set up. I long ago accepted that my IT needs are less than they were when I actually worked in IT, and as a result I probably don’t need to have quite so many computers in circulation. How that is going to work with a larger desk I’m not sure, but I’m hoping I can at least be a little sensible when I’m deciding what actually needs to be reassembled tonight.

I’m also hoping this new setup will mean I can dismantle the standing desk I built on the living room fridge a year or so ago. It only houses a Raspberry Pi now, and it’s not really a useful workstation because the dog hates me using it to the point where she barks incessantly and/or tries to jump on my (non-existent) lap.

I like new things, and I suspect this is only phase one of a fairly major decluttering and renovation exercise that is long overdue.

For science!

Yesterday we visited the town of La Laguna, home of two museums, but also a lot of other impressive things to look at (architecture, graffiti, churches etc.). For me this was the highlight of the week so far, and it allowed me to see how the area I’ve been staying in developed over the centuries, and how history touched it and shaped it to be what it is today.

The first museum was a museum of history, which reminded me a little of the Museum of London in that it laid out the history of Tenerife chronologically so as to take visitors through the same journey the island has undertaken over the centuries. Thankfully there was commentary in English (I don’t normally bother with these, but my Spanish is bad enough that it was worth it). I saw a lot of impressive paintings and old books, and also took around 100 photographs which I’ll do something with when I get home.

After lunch we took a short tram ride to the science museum, which was basically a large concrete bunker full of all the usual sorts of things you see in a science museum. It wasn’t particularly innovative, but it was fun, and we ended up staying there a couple of hours and interacting with pretty much everything. Again, I photographed everything, and between the two museums and the town itself I probably have close to 300 pictures.

It’s our last day here today, and we leave very early tomorrow, so I suspect we will be having a lazy day today. It’s been a good holiday though, and this is a place I will definitely come back to at some point in the future.

Travelling further afield

I woke up yesterday feeling less than well, but soon made the decision that it was not going to stop me from interacting fully in the activities of the day. After breakfast we caught a tram, and then a bus, which took us through some fairly impressive scenery including cloud-shrouded mountains and the bluest of seas. The journey did not take too long (nothing does here – it’s just over an hour from one end of the island to the other), and we soon found ourselves in Puerto de la Cruz, which is in the north of Tenerife and is significantly more tourist focused than Santa Cruz. The differences could not have been more obvious – from the English translations on menus and street signs, to the amount of merchandise for sale in the shops and stalls that are everywhere. The day largely consisted of walking around and taking photographs (mainly of lizards– there were many lizards), and also getting coffee and snacks in a couple of places (where again the slightly inflated prices suggested a focus towards temporary visitors).

Last night’s film was Moana. I may have interacted with my iPad a fair bit during that one.

Festivals and illness

At some point I’m sure I’ll manage a week away from work without coming down with some sort of illness – this is not that week though. Yesterday started with a visit to see the festivities associated with the local holiday to celebrate the Canary Islands. There were stalls, singing and dancing, and far more people than I’m usually comfortable with. It was OK, but by the end I was starting to feel like I was coming down with some sort of head cold (although I did manage to wander around and take some photographs). This feeling continued throughout the day, and the evening ended up involving little more than watching a film (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – which I actually found quite entertaining) and then going to bed fairly early. I then woke up in the middle of the night with a really sore throat, and this morning I’ve got most of the symptoms of a heavy cold, although my energy levels suggest I’ll be fine to do something today so I’m not going to let it stop me.

I’ve been here a few days now, and I’m really enjoying the weather, the pace of life, and the fact that it’s possible to spend a whole day moving between different cafes and bars, drinking reasonably priced coffee and wine in a visually impressive environment. I don’t think I could live like this, but I certainly plan on coming back here in the future to see all the things I’m not going to get round to on this trip (not least the volcano, which I really would like to stand at the top of at some point). It looks like we’re going to have family here for the foreseeable future, so I don’t mind too much if illness or the relatively short duration of the trip leads me to not doing everything that there is to do. There will be time, and I do not plan on knocking myself out on this trip as I’ve got another week of (business) travel straight afterwards.

Settling in

The second day in any new place is generally when I start to settle in. Yesterday was no exception, and included a trip to two supermarkets and several shops, an evening in a lovely outside bar, and then the first film of the holiday (Dr Strange, which I actually enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would). Everything here seems reasonably priced, with even quite decent wine significantly cheaper than the U.K.

I also did a little research into some of the interesting sights from yesterday, and found that the odd juxtaposition of iconography I noted in yesterday’s blog was actually due to the monument being created long after any of the historical periods it referenced. There are a lot of older things here (including churches and a ruined castle), but there certainly don’t seem to be any historical or mythological treasure maps that I can find at present.

It’s a holiday here today (Día de Canarias), so shops will be shut and the streets will be full of celebrations. I suspect we may go and join them at some point later, before planning further excursions for the rest of the week.

First impressions of Tenerife

Getting up at 3am was a bit of a culture shock. I usually get up at 6, so early mornings are a thing I’m used to, but even so I found it quite hard. We got to the airport just after 4, and grabbed breakfast at the airport. The food was slow to arrive, and slightly cold by the time it did, but was still very welcome. Coffee was also achieved, following which there was a painfully slow crawl from the gate to the plane, which ended up taking off about 20 minutes late due to what was described as “carnage” at the airport, but which just looked like mild disorganisation.

I’ve never flown with Monarch before, and I was pleasantly surprised. the seats were comfortable, there was a handy slot for my iPad in the back of the seat in front, and I largely managed to escape into four hours of familiar music (Belle & Sebastian and Cardiacs), as well as taking a few photographs through the window as we were landing. The landing was quite bumpy, but it wasn’t long before we were out of the plane, had collected our baggage, and were standing in the Tenerife sunshine waiting to get a bus to Santa Cruz.

We drove along a coastal road for around 50 minutes, with the sea to our right and a series of impressive looking scenery to our left. One day I will come back to this island for a waking and climbing holiday, but this is not that trip. As we headed north the scenery changed from arid and water starved earth to something lush and greener, and soon we were pulling into Santa Cruz, which I later learned was the capital of Tenerife.

Staying with family always makes for a different sort of holiday, with the differences in this case being reliable internet, a large black cat, and having people around who can show us the sights from the perspective of a local. That quite useful for me, as I usually treat holidays as an opportunity to try and live in a new place for a week, and to make a judgement as to whether it is a place I would want to live for a longer period of time at some point in the future. The jury is still out on Tenerife, but it’s good to know I’m getting better quality data than I manage in a lot of places.

Our first wander around Santa Cruz involved looking at a couple of interesting old buildings, and some statues and sculptures that seemed to combine standard Catholic iconography with something more nautical (as I would expect for an island). There is more history on display here that I had expected, and plenty of things I want to read up on either while I am here or once I get back home. There are also plenty of small cafes and bars to grab a relatively inexpensive coffee or glass of wine, and we grabbed one of each before calling it a night relatively early (getting up at 3am will do that).

I was awake before dawn, and have in fact learned that dawn happens much later than in the U.K. at this time of year. if this is the pattern the week is going to follow then I should have chance to sit and write for an hour or so before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, which should be plenty of time to keep my blog up to date rather than posting a big long essay at the end of the holiday as I’ve done on previous trips abroad.

Why I like being centre stage

I’d rather be on the stage than in the crowd.

But why?

People often assume I’d much rather be in a crowd (at the back, where no-one can see me) than on a stage (at the front, with everyone looking). It’s not the case though, and never has been for as long as I can remember.

If I’m centre stage then I’m there because I’ve been asked to be, or because I’ve assumed a role that needs doing and that no-one else has stepped up to do. In both cases it suggests I’m there to do something I’m probably quite good at, and doing things that I know I’m good at gives me confidence and relaxes me. Also, if I’m on a stage then I have control over what I’m there to do – I can start when I’m ready and influence how long I’m up there.

I dislike crowds because they are full of people I don’t know; with indiscriminate connections to each other that I don’t always understand. Crowds are best encountered from a position slightly to the outside (like on the stage), and they are quite hard to escape from once I’m in the middle of one. I find unexpected physical contact quite jarring, and the thought of there being people in between me and my escape route is one of my main anxiety triggers, which makes situations where I’m surrounded by people quite hard sometimes.

Crowds are scary. Give me a stage any day.

Losing the battle to win the war

There is a lot of talk of politics right now. I think it’s inevitable, and it’s a good thing that people are talking (and thinking) about ways to make the world a better place.

It’s not that easy though, is it? Scrolling through my social media feeds over the last few weeks it’s becoming clear that there are a number of different opinions, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t. That’s not a problem either though, because it’s good that I know people that have opinions sufficiently different to my own to make me think about what I believe in, and consider alternatives before making decisions. That’s the world I want to live in, and long may it prevail.

What I’m less keen on is when opinions are presented as facts, and anyone who doesn’t share those opinions is denounced as being wrong (or stupid, or any other negative word). That’s what I don’t want any part in, and why I don’t engage in politics to a greater degree. For every strong opinion there is (by the very nature of opinions) and equally strong counter-opinion, which is believed (at least as) passionately by another group of people. It doesn’t make them wrong, or make them bad people, it just means there is more than one viewpoint to consider (which to me is what makes them opinions, rather than facts).

Personally I’m all for trying to judge people on the intent of their words and actions rather than the unwitting impact they may have had on others (which is hard sometimes). And what comes out loud and clear about pretty much everyone I know is that they care about this world and want to make it a better place. How that manifests itself might be different, but the core motivation seems the same. And what’s more, I don’t think that core motivation is too different from most politicians and other public figures who speak out about these things.

Strong opinions and strong words are required to enact change, but not at the cost of our relationships with those closest to us. That’s where I draw the line, and if I walk away from something it’s generally because I’m prepared to lose the argument to save the relationship, or lose the battle to win the war.

2017 plans

It’s 2017. It’s been 2017 for a while, but as I was ill for most of the Christmas holidays, today is the first time I’ve really thought about the fact that it’s a new year, and that I’m back at work tomorrow.

I don’t really make resolutions, but I think I may be kicking off some new projects in 2017.

Towards the end of December we bought year-long Cineworld unlimited cards, which means we need to see two films per month (at least), or something like 22 or 23 over the year. We have seen three so far (in three days). Seeing films as they come out gives me something new to blog about, so I’ll likely be writing about some of them, especially if I feel I’ve got something to add that I’ve not read elsewhere.

I started using my iPad more (and my computer less) a couple of months ago, and I’m finding that to be sufficiently liberating that I might want to blog about it. I feel slightly less enthusiastic about the Surface Pro 4 I use for work now, but I may also find that there are Windows 10/Surface Pro specific things I want to blog about as well.

I plan on buying a lot less music this year, and using Spotify for pretty much everything to do with discovering and playing new music. I have my existing collection available on all my devices anyway, but this year I want Spotify to be the default way I consume music (unless it’s vinyl of course). I don’t plan on buying much more than what I get with my Rough Trade subscription (11 records, plus whatever freebies I get), although I will be putting things I really like on my wish list around birthday and Christmas time (so June and December). My hope is that I’ll spend a lot less on music, and will also get to spend more time with things I do buy. As a. result of this I won’t be posting monthly lists of things I’ve listened to, but might start writing about specific things in more depth. Today I bought a new perspex box that will fit around 20 records in it, and that should be all my music-related storage needs sorted for this year (which is just as well as I’m running out of space).

I didn’t do a great deal of socialising for most of 2016, for a variety of reasons. I don’t really have a plan to fix this, although starting a new job a month ago has already shaken things up a little in that respect and it’s quite possible that it will sort itself out organically. If nothing else, I’m going to be going to the cinema a lot more this year, which is a step in the right direction.

I might of course do none of these things and do something else instead, but I thought it was worth a statement of intent at the start of the year.

New job, new biographies

I start a new job on Thursday. I’ll still be working for the University, but for a different department and on a different project. I’m currently at home using up the holiday I carried over from last year, and I’ve set aside today to update all publicly available biographies and blurbs to reflect this change, and also to try and ensure that Linkedin and Facebook represent my updated professional and personal networks.

As part of this I’ve updated the about me section of this blog, plus the pages I maintain on what I’m currently working on and what hardware and software I’m using. I suspect all of these will see further revision once I’ve started, but they are at least more accurate than they were.