Sparks, Dark sides and Musings on Sight

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The sparks have quite literally been flying, not for reasons of passion but for the more mundane fact that winter and the very low humidity have resulted in fairly significant amounts of static electricity build up on everything. More times than I care to remember over the past few weeks, I have had the sometimes unexpected displeasure of a substantial shock. I am much more careful now, taking the time to touch walls and other non-metallic objects to dissipate some of the build up. S insists that my refusal to moisturise often, and liberally, is a contributor to this – a google search seems to suggest she is right in some way. The jury is still out on that one I think, but I am leaning towards getting a humidifier, if and when I can sort out travel to the city next door.

I came face to face with my inner dark side this week, no thanks to what looks like a Bitcoin scam. Some website purporting to be associated with Chamath Palihapitiyia, claimed to be 10x-ing deposited Bitcoin. It seemed too good to be true, as quick google search proves (it was just another iteration of a long running scam) but in the moment all I saw was the potential to quickly turn around a small deposit into something substantial. In my head, it was the perfect opportunity to kick-off dollar cost averaging into Bitcoin. Thankfully, the exchange/wallet I ended up signing up for had a 24 hour cooling off period before one could transfer coins out, by which time the website was down and I had managed to do the google search I should have done at the onset. The silver lining is that I am left with about 1,000 GBP worth of Bitcoin which I suppose is as good as any starting point. The downside is that it puts my inner greed into perspective. There is much to shudder at there, I must admit.

On a slightly less troubling note, I found myself stepping into the shower several times this week with my glasses on. Whilst I am not sure what it means for my long term sight, I am willing to speculate. I am taking it as a sign to enjoy the things I still can see now. That, and learning to keep my greed in check, are perhaps the life lessons for this week.

Recent Finds

What It means when I step into the shower with my glasses on…

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash. For The Poetic Asides prompt #554

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Sometimes I think
that my sight is leaving me,
the common, quotidian comfort
of seeing the world that touches me
slowly slipping away, taking flight
but not yet gone; only a little less close
the next time morning rolls my way.

Maybe it is my mind forgetting
where the thin discs
of shimmering glass
that bring the light end,
and where my rods and cones
ravaged by time begin.

Maybe it is the world reminding me
to cherish the moments of sight
whilst as yet they still linger.

COVID Days

The other country both enthrals and frustrates me in equal measure, which I’m sure is no news to most others who like me have a foot in both worlds. The events of the past few weeks have left that tension in sharp relief for me in the form of two members of my extended family coming to terms with COVID. That they were in two very different parts of the country only served to underscore how dire the situation could be, the influence and contacts with people of authority in the medical establishments – nay death traps – they spent most of their with time in counting for very little in the overall scheme of things. They are out of the woods now, for which we are all thankful, though the bitter after taste – and light pockets – lingers. One wonders how much hope the common man still has in the event of a medical emergency back there.

Smarter people than I say, the tide is turning back in Blighty, in spite of the efforts of partiers and revellers it must be said. The surge in numbers put paid to my plan to pop back in for a few weeks to clear my head, so I am glad at this direction. One hopes it continues. Out here I have been offered the chance to take the vaccine, which I have accepted with both hands. As someone who has had to show vaccinations for work travel in the past, it is a small price to pay for the possibility of near trouble free travel I hope.

Recent Finds (x5)

  • The BBC’s Desert Island Discs is a series I have returned to from time to time, though I now mainly consume the abridged version via the podcast. Most recently enjoyed was David Olusoga’s debut, not least for the selection of an apt and timely Fela song, and an endearing anecdote about Paul Gascoigne.
  • David Epstein’s Range is all the rage it seems, popping up several times on my twitter feed and some of the podcasts I listen to. For a fascinating conversation on its subject (success, specialists and generalists), this Intelligence Squared podcast is a good one to listen to. Of course it earns bonus points for name checking John Urschel who ditched American football for a Maths PhD.

On A Return to the Reassurance of Routine

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

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In the early hours of the holiday season, it looked like I would spend the bulk of it virtually, the hours a blur of Zoom and WhatsApp video calls. Sometime on the 26th though, my luck changed. I woke up to the persistent sound of my door buzzer. I was half minded to not answer it, given multiple experiences with the gardening folk looking for more work. The door ringer wouldn’t leave and I needed to return to sleep so I dragged myself downstairs to the door. A pleasant surprise greeted me there; the neighbour from a street over stood there with a tub of fried rice and a bottle of wine – of the non-alcoholic kind of course. As it turns out, he remembered there was a lone Nigerian dude across the road with no family nearby and thought to extend some Christmas cheer my way. The rice and meat were wolfed down over the course of the day, saving me the hassle of wondering what to have on the day. Two more invites came my way over the next few days, resulting in my wolfing down some pounded yam and afang soup (the first time since my Eket days) and some pepper soup and snails on the other day. For all my quibbles with being a prodigal Nigerian, and being around Nigerians, moments like these remind me that redemption lurks in there somewhere. My experiences of fellow prodigals have been overwhelmingly positive. I wonder though, if they are a self-selecting group.

The three or so days of downtime ensured my year in reading has gotten off to a steady start. Last year was the first time since 2011 that I cracked the 20 book barrier, most definitely an upside to being out of work for three months, and the lock down. Adam Gopnik’s A Thousand Small Sanities, a stirring defence of big L Liberalism is done whilst I have David Olusoga’s Black &British, A Forgotten History and Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Big Country on the go.

**

Nothing jolts one back to reality like a 4.30am alarm on the day you return to work though. As I scrambled through my morning routine – a quick 5k, setting up my day in Notion, morning ablutions and then jumping on to the bus, it seemed like I was another person watching me go through the motion. Only when I had reset my password, downed two cups of tea and properly positioned my bag of wipes did it feel like I was properly at home at my own desk again. Who knew that the familiarity or routine could soothe the mind?

Recent Finds

  • Talking to yourself is not half bad. I knew I was on to something!
  • I’ve been catching up on my Desert Island Disc backlog. I found Cliff Richard’s one particularly interesting
  • The dearth of British Asian footballers in English football is a recurring motif which I suppose prompted the BBC to research the story of Jimmy Carter. This resonated particularly, I suspect, because I have reading David Olusoga’s book which includes stories of the Black British Victorians such as Francis Barber whose descendants may or may not know of their Black heritage. The accompanying BBC Series is on iPlayer for another 5 months it seems.

The Sunday Muse: Times and Season

For The Sunday Muse prompt #141:

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Each whirl of the earth
around the Sun’s well
of power and of light
brings us back here.

Like a boat
dragged inexorably
by the rising tide to shore,
the swell of the sea
brings us peace,
to a season of reflecting,
of contemplating and of pause.

Time’s rhythm
like the faint echo
of a distant drumbeat
is welcome whisper
in our ear. Yesterday
left the things
we held dear cracked.
Today is a reminder
to rebuild better.

2021: Rebuild, Better

Back in May of 2020, Nassim Nicholas Taleb tweeted about the pandemic – and the disruptive forces it brought to bear on the world we knew – being a trigger for one to do a total reset and adapt. For better or for worse, we all have had to reset through 2020. When I started thinking about 2021, the sense of evolving past the reset into something new was hard to shake. As such for me, 2021 feels like a year in which I need to focus on Rebuilding, but doing it Better.

The Rebuilding part is self explanatory I think. 2020 was a wrecking ball let free to swing at many of our lives. My 2020 retrospective was a sea of RED with a few AMBERS and GREENs, most assuredly not my best year by any measure. Recovering from that requires finding the useful bits hiding amongst all the broken, scattered bits and using them to fashion a new structure, a new normal. It is a point made by E when I responded to her Instagram prompt about what our word for the year would be. It is something to be thankful for, that one is not beginning from level zero. The lessons, experiences and opportunities in 2020 are there to be leveraged into rebuilding in 2021 and beyond.

The Better bit is a little less clear-cut. What is clear though is that inherent in the word is a sense of comparison between two or more states against an ideal standard. The standard in this case is the overarching life plan which has existed in some shape or form since 2011 and has evolved to meet my requirements as my world has changed. Its three interaction spaces and seven life dimensions remain a useful lens through which to look at the world and ask the what and where questions.

Two things come to mind about what Better means for me in 2021. First is resilience, or to use the Taleb word anti-fragility. Work & Career and Financially are two life domains where resilience seems particularly required at the moment with the head winds the oil industry is facing and thus the uncertainty it bleeds into my career prospects. Getting data literate is one such objective I intend to pursue fully this year to address this, as well as leveraging my connections in Nigeria to see if some consultancy work could come my way to boost my revenue streams.

The second sense of better for me is alignment. An integrated life is one that I’ve seen as an ideal for a long time. The idea this year is to ensure that my daily activities feed into that overarching plan, helping me work towards the lifetime goals I have previously identified. For this I have a Notion set up to capture data on a daily basis that should help me, by means of weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews, stay on target and focused.

Bring on the year, The Year of Rebuilding Better.