The week that started 2nd December

Learning about the natural world

I’ve been listening to the Overheard at the National Geographic podcast, which led me to check out their website. I read Why do ocean animals eat plastic? and watched a video on how we can keep plastics out of the oceans.

In addition to trees, I’m interested in soil and oceans. Also, birds – especially identifying them by sound.

Reading National Geographic articles was starting to get me down, so I sought out some David Attenborough. And that’s how I learned that he’ll be presenting a new film he’s made in London, in April. I found out the day before tickets went out on general release. (But forget to act before they sold out.)

And then I heard about the series Seven Worlds, One Planet on BBC. Can’t wait to watch it on iPlayer. (Resisted the urge to watch during the week, since I limit my use of screens in the evenings. Ironically, I’m drafting this on my Chromebook laptop on a weekday evening, but hey.)

Thanks to BirdNote Presents, I learned about a new boardgame about birds. And now Wingspan is on my wishlist.

Identifying trees in winter

I went on a 2.5 hour tree identification walk with Wild in the City. Went from the intense outpouring of tree facts of a 2 day residential course to a few focused hours looking closely at a dozen of the most common trees in Britain. Learned so much, and I retained a lot of it too. It was great.

And then when I got home I watched videos about rewilding Britain.

Visual facilitation training

Method: Instruction, followed by practice

Marcus broke everything down into simple & small chunks. I started to feel in my bones that drawing is a skill, rather than an innate talent. Intellectually I knew this before, but it didn’t feel true. Now I know it is.

Participants worked alone, in pairs and in groups. For example, AJ interviewed me about trees and captured highlights, generating the poster below. Which made it possible for us to learn from each other as well as from Marcus. Everyone does things differently and has their own style, and this helped me work out what ways work better for me.

What I learned

  • Repetition turns slow and stilted into smooth and skilful. All things are possible with practice, practice, practice!
  • How to improve my handwriting
    • Something I’ve yearned for for ages, but not pursued because it felt like it would be a humongous effort
  • Thinking fast to turn abstract ideas into concrete images
    • I find some types of thinking on my feet difficult, and it was amazing to see that with a tiny amount of practice I significantly improved, as we all did.
    • I didn’t know I could draw ‘inclusion & exclusion’ and ‘equality & hierarchy’ in 30 seconds or so. But I can!

Practice propelled stubborn vestiges of fixed mindset into growth mindset for me, which is so useful. The usefulness of which goes far beyond even the value of better visual communication.

Digging around on the internet, I see I’m not the first to connect practice makes better with growth mindset. Love patterns.

Thinking about icons and symbols I’m seeing a link between this training course on visual communication and the meetup I went to recently on clean language, which includes metaphor usage. Practising coming up with metaphors will help me depict concepts visually.

What's agile all about? Responsiveness: Adapting to change. Value: Delivering stuff people need. Collaborate: Work together. People: Invest in relationships.
Poster I made that describes core elements of agile ways of working. Based on outputs from the Deconstructing Agile workshop I participated in, facilitated by Tobias Mayer earlier in the year.

What next?

Incredibly, the areas of improvement I see in this poster are mainly using my strengths, such as editing skills to change the words used, and adding a speech bubble or caption.

Even better, visualising this distillation of agile helped me get much clearer about why I do what I do, and what that is. Hat tip to Tobias Mayer for his Deconstructing Agile workshop, and the other participants of it, which made this poster possible.

Stuff I read this week

I read about attention economy. Chilling, but ultimately offers a glimmer of hope, as well as strengthening my resolve to resist these fraudsters and charlatans.

When users are not paying for services up front, the publisher must extract a “cost” somewhere. Online, this cost is our attention, our time. We pay for social media with pieces of our lives—whether it’s because a blog baits us into reading something or a game tricks us into sticking around long after we should have left—and these bits of life are sold to advertisers, literally, for pennies.

Right now, the purveyors of these tactics are riding high. Like Facebook, they admit that this is the game and say, in effect, what of it? Pay us or leave.

Thankfully, we know where this short term mindset gets us. Remember Myspace? […]

Publishers who follow in its footsteps may soon join MySpace in the dustbin of history.

Broken on Purpose: Why Getting It Wrong Pays More Than Getting It Right
by Ryan Holiday

Superior fruit & nut plate…

decadent cheese plate of luxury and dreams
Dairy-free nut cheeses, fruit (apple, pear, dates) and dark rye bread. Artichokes and pesto houmous included too.

Ordered a box of vegan nut cheeses from dairy-free cheese deli La Fauxmagerie last week, and it arrived this week. So I’ve been dining on glorious platters of

La Fauxmagerie has 12 brands of vegan cheeses, each of which has up to 10 varieties each. That’s a lot of choice!

I bought Kinda Co: White Cheddar & Cranberry, Farmhouse, Spring Special and I Am Nut OK: C’E Dairy. The cranberry one is my favourite, and tastes great straight out of the fridge. All of the others need a little time at room temperature to be at their best, in my opinion. They’re all so different, which is astonishing, given they’re all made of cashews. But why not? Dairy cheeses seem to achieve variety with the same old dairy milk, after all.

I went to order more cheeses and learned that the online shop is temporarily closed due to so many Cheesemas orders, lol. Glad it’ll be open soon so I can get mine!

Spending Sunday evening perusing dairy-free cheeses is pretty great.

This week in audio

Well, Spotify Wrapped came out this week, and I learned my most played songs of the year were:

  1. How Long Will I Love You – Ellie Golding
  2. Broken & Beautiful – Kelly Clarkson
  3. Only You – Emmy the Great
  4. Paper Forest (In the Afterglow of Rapture) – Emmy the Great
  5. Sixteen – Ellie Golding

And the podcast I listened to most was, no surprise, Tales from a Black Universe (my fave).

Now listening to even more podcasts about sleep.

Interesting to learn about different aspects of sleep, namely:

  • Regularity (going to sleep at different hours?)
  • Continuity (fragmented sleep?)
  • Quantity (getting enough sleep?)
  • Quality (impact of alcohol, caffeine etc)

Social jetlag – misalignment of biological time and social time – is what’s putting me through the ringer at the moment.

“If you have accrued a sleep debt, it needs to be paid back,” says Phillips. “However, a much healthier alternative is to try to maintain a regular sleep pattern throughout the week and get more sleep each day.”

One way of achieving this would be to allow greater flexibility in people’s working hours, so that owls could start work later and therefore get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If he were an employer, Roenneberg says, he would ban the use of alarm clocks and instruct employees to start work only once they had had adequate sleep. “The majority of employees would still be in the office by 10am or 11am, but this would increase productivity, sick days would go down, and I would get your best time as an employer,” he says. “It’s a win-win situation.”

However, there may be a simpler solution: light. Although people’s chronotype is genetically determined, environment also influences sleep timing. Studies have shown that when people are sent camping – removing them from the influence of artificial light and exposing them to more daylight – they become more lark-like and fall asleep about two hours earlier.


“We found that these large inter-individual differences in sleep timing only manifest themselves in the presence of electric light,” says Phillips. “This is what’s causing a lot of individuals to become very delayed in their sleep timing and hence experience social jetlag.”

He suggests turning off overhead lights two hours before bed, and switching to dimmer table lamps. And if you do use a computer or smartphone in the evening, install an app that automatically dims the screen and filters out the blue light.

We evolved on a planet where day was day, and night was night. For the sake of our health, it is time to reacquaint ourselves with those extremes.

Social jetlag – are late nights and chaotic sleep patterns making you ill? by Linda Geddes

“instruct employees to start work only once they had had adequate sleep”

A couple of weeks ago, I started delaying when I go to work if/when I stay out late for work socials and not staying late. It’s made a huge difference for me getting enough sleep and getting back to my regular bedtime faster, rather than getting into a vicious cycle of late nights as I try to catch up, which has made me much more effective in my work.

“removing [folks] from the influence of artificial light and exposing them to more daylight – they become more lark-like and fall asleep about two hours earlier.”

Timely reminder to get back to reducing electric light when it gets dark.

Oh, and I realise that I’ve seen Linda Geddes speak at the Wellcome Centre earlier this year. Synchronicity. Excited to finally get the book and read it.

What next?

Last week in review

I wanted to focus on improving physical activity and food this week. And I did!

  • Went to my yin yoga and dance classes at work, as planned
  • Walked at the weekend (with trees!)
  • Ate beans and fruit daily

So, here’s what’s next

  • Continue looking for zumba and pilates classes near work
  • Continue eating beans and fruit, increasing to at least 2 portions of fruit daily
  • Make a learning plan (minimum viable plan, LiLi, nothing huge)
  • Sleep! (but when)

That’s all, folks

At a friend’s birthday dinner, I saw this poem stuck on the front door. And I love it. Here’s an extract:

I want all production of capital and labour
To come to a devastating halt
And collapse of the threshold of your bedroom

Where we are sitting around
doing nothing
caring for each other.

Collective Care as Protest by Annie Wong, in Tell Stories of a Girlhood
'You can rest' big and bold on a wall
Timely reminder for myself
Bare trees: Fan-shaped canopy on the left, Tall and skinny canopy on the right
Maple on the left, poplar on the right