Favourite albums of the year – the long list

Every year at work, the music lovers in our little team share our ten favourite albums of the year. I thought I would share my long list which I am working my way through in the next couple of weeks. I probably know 6 that are deffo in the 10 but they seem to be from the start of the year so I need to make sure its not just because I have listened to them more!

  • Anderson.Paak – Malibu
  • Angel Olsen – My Woman
  • ANHONI – Hopelessness
  • Anna Meredith – Varmints
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
  • Blood Orange – Freetown sound
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  • Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  • Christian Kjellvander – A Village: Natural Light
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Escapsim II – Sam
  • Hamilton Leithuaser & Rostram – I had a Dream that you were mine
  • Ian William Craig – Centres
  • Illum Sphere – Glass
  • Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
  • Johann Johannsson – Orphee
  • KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
  • Kedr Livanskiy – January Sun
  • Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini
  • LNZNDRF – LNZNDRF
  • Max Cooper – Emergence
  • Mitski – Puberty 2
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
  • Radiohead – Moon Shaped Pool
  • Solange – A Seat at the Table
  • Sturgil Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
  • Tribe Called Quest – We  Got it from Here
  • Tristian Perch – Noise Patterns
  • Various – Late Night Tales: Olafur Arnalds
  • Various – The Quietened Bunker
  • Yak – Alas Salvation
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Belbin Team Role Feedback: Is it Me You’re Looking For?

Next week, we (PHIT) as a mini-team are undertaking some training. Part of our pre-training homework was to undertake & share a Belbin Questionnaire This is an extract from my report – the Team Role Feedback. I have been sceptical of things like this, but on the whole it does seem to nail me pretty good.  The whole report is a lot more positive than I would expect, and there our a couple of things I would disagree with but I think the most negative view someone has of you is often the one in your head (sociopaths aside) and the people closest to you often have the most honest perception of you as an individually – either personally or professionally. A funny thing to note was that the 2 people I asked to do this whom I managed (Mike & Amy) had almost completely opposite perceptions of me. maybe I managed them differently?

Team Role Feedback (Based upon Self Perception and 6 Feedback from Others)

You seem to gain intrinsic satisfaction from the nature of the work in which you are engaged.

For you, work is like a hobby, offering you a chance to exercise your creative disposition and to utilise your expertise simultaneously. As far as the outside world is concerned, you will be known and respected for your knowledge and special skills and for the fact that you are at the forefront of most new developments.

You are likely to feel least comfortable when work falls outside your area of professional competence and expertise, so build up your personal reputation in your own special area and carve out your own job within it.

Whatever your chosen career path, you will achieve most success if you can secure the respect of those who work in different subject areas. Others will need to know how you are progressing and what you have to offer. If you are to make your mark, ensure that you do not overwhelm people with science or flood them with technical details that carry no real interest for them. Cultivate the skill of knowing how much information to offer. As a manager, you are likely to work best with those who can translate your ideas and expertise into definite plans.

Your operating style is that of a pioneering professional. Colleagues will respect you for what you know and what you have achieved. Beyond that circle, you may find difficulty in reaching out to others, unless you are able to cultivate a means of communicating in a way that people outside your area of expertise can understand. Make a point of presenting a concise overview when clarity is required.

You also seem to have a propensity for taking an interest in, and caring for, others. Focus on cultivating a good atmosphere in the team by developing good relationships with others and offer to take on work which seems to have fallen through the gaps. Your efforts should earn you not only popularity but also a reputation as a considerate, diplomatic individual who can be relied upon to keep things running smoothly.

On a final note, you need to take account of the role for which you are least suited. You do not appear to have the characteristics of someone who obtains results by driving others forward. If you can work in harmony with someone who has these complementary qualities, your performance is likely to improve.

I would be interested to hear from:

  • People who have worked with me – does it represent me?
  • People in similar positions (library folk or PHI folk) who see themselves in this

 

#nowreading The Chimp Paradox – The Mind Management Programme to Help You … by Dr Steve Peters #chimpparadox

I have just finished reading ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr Steve Peters and I thought I would share some brief thoughts. I borrowed this from Bury Public Library. You can borrow it from your local library! Though I have now bought my own copy. That may give you a clue into how this blog post will be framed…

Unlike ‘Quiet‘, The Chimp Paradox, as you can imagine, is very upfront about its goals (dreams?). It is a self-help book. It has no ulterior motive. I am not going to go into the contents of the books and its ideas, because A) I wouldn’t do it justice; B) I may put you off reading it yourself!

I have read self-help books in the past – mainly CBT ones to try and help with my social anxiety and shyness, and The Chimp Paradox is unlike any I have read before – it actually made sense. Not because others were written or structured in to abstract or complicated way (more on that shortly), but rather – the concepts laid out made sense and made me believe that they could work for me. I believe myself to be a well rounded individual, who is on the whole happy. I know I could be doing better in certain aspects of my life both physically and emotionally (I am very shy and need to lose some serious weight) but I am not struggling in any meaningful way. I felt that The Chimp Paradox was written for me. By that I mean it seems to be pitched (in my view) at those of us who need the extra motivation and belief to improve by 5 or 10 or 20% rather than someone who perhaps is in need of low level intervention. I took from it, those there areas where I can fine tune or slightly alter my approach and other areas of my life I need to work a bit harder at. The first 2/3 of the book seem to be about getting you to think about asking yourself the right questions rather than giving you the answers. The final 1/3, whilst not outwardly saying – ‘do this, do that, the leader is good, the leader is great’ does start to solidify the help and advice. But by then, you are ready for it.

One issue with the book which takes some getting used to or may even put people off is the style of writing, narrative and concepts used to convey the ideas. It seemed very basic, and in a polite way, quite condescending (Think the Stephen Fry-Alan Davies relationship on QI). But after a couple of chapters, when the ideas began to fall into place and you see the entire ‘universe’ of the book laid out, you forget about it. It simply works. Having read it through once, I am spending a couple of days reflecting on what it means to me, before beginning to run through the exercises as laid out throughout the text. I truly believe that they will help me be me, better as “the person you want to be is the person you really are”.

So in summary – read the book. I loved it. It is a serious game changer.

Wordle: Blog Post

#nowreading Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain

I have recently finished reading Quiet… by Susan Cain, and I thought I would share a few thoughts on it.

The first thing to say is that I really enjoyed the book, which I borrowed from Bury Public Library. I consider myself quite introverted and shy person (different things as explained in the book) that has to put on an ‘extrovert mask’ sometimes. I thought it was brilliantly written and thoroughly researched. From reading it you get the sense that not only is the topic a passion of the author, but that they are an exceedingly clever person (both of these come out vividly both in the theories and personal anecdotes presented throughout the book). The research/evidence presented throughout the book is often complex and from different fields (psychology, biology, philosophy etc.) but is laid out in such a way that it is easy to understand without ever speaking down to the reader – just because something is complex it doesn’t need to complicated. I felt drawn into themes, seeing myself in similar situations and using personal experience to consider points such as introverts often ending conversations with small-talk after the main issue rather than starting a conversation with it.

One of the strongest points of the book was, by explaining and dissecting situations that many ‘introverts’ fear, dread or worry about, it made me realise actually what I feel before presenting, after a sharp words with someone, after ‘group-thinks’ is actually quite a normal way to feel and I am not alone in thinking that way. Quiet, quite frankly is a self-help book in disguise. This is not a bad thing, it is a wonderful thing. Anyone who knows me and has been around me before (or immediately after) I have to give a presentation knows I am agitated, nervous and often quite sweary. I hate it. I recently presented to a potential new workstream at their annual ‘CPD conference’ and I was shitting myself for days beforehand. I know all the techniques: I know my topic; I breathe properly beforehand; I visualise; plenty of water; not too much caffeine. Quiet doesn’t say ‘try technique X or Y’ it says ‘Yep. Sucks doesn’t it. Know exactly what you mean’.

The final chapters I would describe as ‘how to cope not conquer’ showing insight into how to ‘play extrovert’ and how to still stay true to yourself. You may find this grinds with the main body of the book, which looks at the validity of being introverted (I especially like the dismissal of ‘group-think’ and the promotion of working alone). As someone who works with evidence on a daily basis I also began to notice how the evidence used seemed to have been cherry-picked, which is a hallmark of a self-help book. I haven’t critically appraised any of the research weaved into the book but it all suited (as you would expect, but I am used to systematic reviews etc.) some of the anecdotes used (which I classified into 2 categories: ‘I have heard of them’ and ‘That could be me’) began to slightly chide. Steve Wozniak was one such example. He may, like me be introverted, but it wasn’t his alone-working that guided his successes. It is that he is an extremely gifted and clever person with a serious level of drive. Many of the ‘That could be me’ examples were still outstanding in their field, such as students from Harvard Business School or the author herself, Princeton and Harvard educated successful lawyer, consultant etc. The argument could be made, that these people didn’t get to where they were because they were introverted or not, but because cream rises to the top and they were very smart and individuals. But these are minor quibbles, and the book as a whole is an engaging read, that covers are multitude of topics that surround ‘introverted’.

Overall I would recommend reading this book. I could not possibly do it justice. Read it yourself. Although I describe it as a ‘self-help book in disguise’ it is not going to change your life dramatically and unlike the Dale Carnegie’s of the world, it won’t ever claim to. It won’t solve your problems or even present a road map on how to. However, It may help you understand why you are how you are, and how other people are just like you too. And why that isn’t a bad thing at all.

Esme The Old Lady Cat c1998 or 2000 or 2002 or 2004 -2012

This is a biography/obituary of one of our cats, Esme (officially Esmeralda) who died on Thursday 13th September 2012. If you don’t like cats, I would recommend not reading this. Even if you are cat crazy; most of this post will only be of interest to my wife or I being as it is a collection of memories and events. We are hoping to use it as a type of permanent record of her Esme’s life with us, though of course there are pictures! I may even get Laura to write something down here as well. I have also written about Esme a couple of times before which you can read here and here

The Beginning

I had, at that time – 1 cat (Besi – also a rescue cat) and wanted company for him whilst I was out. I collected her on the 26th January 2008, from a RSPCA ‘foster home’ in Little Lever, Bolton. On the phone, the RSPCA said she was four and called ‘Sparky’ due to her being found on an electrical field close-by. When I picked her up, she was recovering from: seemingly a lifetime of being under-fed: (before being rescued by the RSPCA) had most of her teeth knocked out; and was suffering from a skin condition on her face that made her go bald and bleed. This did not matter, she was perfect! She purred instantly and I was smitten. So I took her and home she came. She was renamed as ‘Sparky’ was a stupid name. I called her Esmeralda after Granny Weatherwax I soon came to realise a few things:

  1. Cats don’t really need company, especially other cat company.
  2. Esme was not 4 as I had been told on the phone. She probably wasn’t even 8 as they had mentioned in the paperwork. At best 10, could be over 12 was how the vet described her.
  3. Esme was the perfect example of ‘suitable for a home without other pets or children’

She settled in almost perfectly with me, and a few boundary issues aside, with Besi. She also once swiped at my face when I moved her whilst she was sleeping which resulted in a nice deep cut across the bridge of my nose almost clawing my eyes, but that aside…

Esme Highlights

I thought I should share some of Esme’s more pleasant traits, facts and life-events rather than present her life in true chronological form. So…:

  • Sitting on the neighbours fence and winding their dog up so much, that EVERY time it ended up being dragged inside by its owner
  • Refuse to get down from the fence unless it was by me picking her up and bringing her in.
  • Had the brightest eyes I have even seen on a cat. Probably the most intelligent cat I knew.
  • Once stealing bacon from a pan as it was being cooked
  • She hated Laura’s laugh. She bit her face once for making too much noise. It was pretty funny
  • Once stealing chicken out of curry that was being cooled
  • On Laura’s first evening round to watch a film (Monster House I think), Esme was giving out such negative and hateful vibes that Laura was afraid to sit on the couch with Esme behind her (lay out the top of the couch). We swapped places and ever since then I have sat (and slept) on the left and Laura on the right.
  • Would try to eat and beg for anything food related. Often the cry could be heard ‘Esme its fucking Kidney Beans!’
  • Some of her more infamous foods have been: raw broccoli; flamin’ hot Monster Munch; gherkins from a burger; pizza-slice taken from the box; sweetcorn; Doritos; sweet and sour duck;
  • Having a trick of ‘bear cat’ where to sneak in a stroke she would stand on her hind legs and head-butt our hand.
  • Purring just by being sat near one of us
  • Once knocked the remains of a roast chicken (that was on a plate covered by a microwaveable bowl) off the side and was happily gnawing on it when we rushed into the kitchen wondering what the noise was about.
  • Having to ‘tell me’ every time she went outside for more than a minute. Often whilst I was trying to play PS3
  • ‘Koala –ing’ – where in held in a ‘cradle’ position she would hook on to my arm with her front paws. She did this for the first time after about a week of being here. The last time she did it (the last time I held her) she looked at me and I broke.
  • For the first six months after Laura moved in, without fail, Esme (who use to sleep at the foot of the bed) would suddenly get really grumpy. This would last about 30 minutes and then she would be back to normal
  • Once turned up with a mini-sausage. No idea where it came from, I thought it was a thumb initially!
  • Went through a phase of licking eye-lids when she wanted to wake us.

The End

Sadly, age and her life prior to us began to catch up. The vet thought she may have had cancer at one point, but that turned out to be a case of moron from the vet. She did have hyperthyroidism and her movement began to get very limited. She began to stop going out, and then in the past few weeks, not to even attempt the stairs or pretty much leave her basket. A once vibrant, mischievous, and far-too-smart-for-my-liking cat began to fade until we decided that whatever had happened was untreatable and her time had come. To keep her going for any longer would have been the cruellest and most selfish thing we could have done, and putting her to sleep was simply a kindness to her and the only responsible course of action. This was the hardest decision had ever come to, and was grateful Laura was there to support me. Esme is at peace, and once the initial grief and shock had passed, we knew we had done the right thing.

Her age was never an issue for me. I was annoyed at being lied to, but once I saw her, I was never going to return her. She enriched mine, and subsequently our lives and hopefully we did the same to her. To paraphrase something Mike, my friend and work colleague, said we gave her a great retirement and considering how bad shape she was in I got her, the best years of her life. And that is the most important thing.

Good night chick.

From Laura (AKA Mrs Cook)

Our little Esme (aka Esmeroopoo/Moop/Old Lady Es) and I may not have got off to the best of starts but we were soon getting on famously. She was, without doubt, the most intelligent cat I’ve ever met. If she’d wanted to she could have ruled the world, but she chose instead to fill her days contentedly sitting on fleecey blankets, sleeping, eating, self-purring, lounging in sunbeams, and occasionally lashing out at the other cats to reaffirm that she was the boss. Which she definitely was – I wasn’t allowed to laugh too loud for too long before she came over and gave me a warning and then a bloody good telling off!

She was also very, very loving, enjoying a nice long sit on a lap and demanding attention (and food) every chance she could. It was horrible seeing her deteriorate, but she became very weak and started to let us know that she was ready to go. By the end she kept only to her little “granny flat” under the kitchen table, and that just wasn’t like our little Es at all. We miss her. She was one in a million. We’re so glad we did the right thing by her and I stroked her right up until the end. She loved strokes J.

So long chick, love you.

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Tips for a Cooler House in Warmer Weather

Not stylistically, but temperature wise. Some cheaper housing often is too cold in the winter without central heating, yet too warm in the summer and sans air conditioning. I have lived (& do currently live) in such accommodation. If you do live such ‘luxury’ housing often they are within areas that it is not possible, and very much NOT recommended to leave windows open especially when not in the property. Over the years I have built up some tips on how to keep a cooler house, or more often than not cool a house down. Here are a few: Continue reading “Tips for a Cooler House in Warmer Weather”

Chartership Meeting 6th March 2012

On the 6th March 2012, I had my latest meeting with my Chartership mentor Gil. The focus of this meeting was the ‘beginning of the end’ as we start to move in to the home straight of the Chartership process.

The main discussion surrounded my 1st draft of the personal statement. The general consensus was that whilst not great, it was a start and was not expected to be the finished product. Reflection – or at least the act of writing it down is not something that comes naturally to me. Honestly, I struggle with it – or at least perceive that I do. It is quite surprising as I felt quite confident about my reflective practice prior to starting the Chartership process! Continue reading “Chartership Meeting 6th March 2012”