What I've been up to every week

Jan 4th - Jan 10th

  • Last week in Barcelona. For the first time in forever, I’m feeling a little bit homesick, but it might be the good weather more than anything else.
  • During my last week in Barcelona I have played my dad’s piano a lot and I’ve learned a few chords. I’ve gone from not being able to play a single chord to learning a couple of harmonic scales, learning to transpose and learning to invert chords. I’d say it’s not a bad start!
  • My mood has been a little bit on the lower side due to everything that’s been going on with – well – everything, but I guess that’s pretty normal.
  • I’ve watched a couple of movies but they are not worth mentioning, and I’m still reading The The Mermaids Singing and The Righteous Mind.
  • I have discovered the Headway App, where you can read summaries of popular non-fiction books. So far I’m only using their free service, which consists of a free book every day (of their choice). Unfortunately I was not impressed by the first three, but I’m not losing hope yet.
  • My English students (and family members) got me a Mi Smart Band 5 and so far it’s pretty nice! I mean, it’s not incredible, but – for the price – it does what it says on the tin pretty well.
  • I have started cutting down on hyper-caloric and fatty food and doing a bit more exercise (from 0 to 1, shouldn’t be that hard) because I’m trying to lose the few pounds I’ve gained throughout the pandemic. I will update my progress on here :)

Dec 28th - Jan 3rd

  • Second week of Christmas holidays and end of the year celebrations, this time with my parents in Barcelona. 2020 has been quite the year for everyone, so I’m not going to repeat what everyone else has already said. We celebrated at home, which for us is pretty normal anyway, and ate 12 grapes as it’s the tradition in Spain.
  • We went on our traditional yearly walk on the little hill behind my parents house. As always, it was wonderfully warm for winter time – Barcelona weather tends to be mild – and very sunny.
  • I completed my Goodreads challenge of 50 books to read this year, and in fact went over the target and completed 51. And I know it’s silly, but it makes me proud.
  • We finished watching The Queen’s Gambit, which in my opinion was alright. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I really do not understand the hype behind it – I don’t think it’s that good.
  • The good thing about watching The Queen’s Gambit has been going back to playing, which my partner – who plays regularly online – is excited about. He’d really like to play with me more often, but we’re currently at different levels in terms of ability.
  • I have finally finished reading Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, which I might write a whole blog post about. So I won’t say anything about it here.
  • I’m currently reading The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid, which I attempted to read many years ago and couldn’t due to the nature of the content, which is gore and grotesque. I seem to tolerate it better this time around, and the writing is good, so I might be able to finish it.
  • We also watched Pixar’s latest release, Soul, which is absolutely wonderful and I strongly recommend it, especially to an adult audience.

Dec 21st - Dec 27th

  • We are now in Barcelona, staying with my parents. Because of the whole COVID-19 situation I’m not seeing any of my friends (except for one, masks on), so that means we’re staying at home for the most part.
  • My dad has bought a new piano, one of those hybrid ones, and I’m learning to play some chords. I have a naturally good ear for music, so it’s quite easy for me to intuitively ‘find’ a song with my right hand and learn new things on the piano. The guitar and ukulele are harder to learn on because they require dexterity and finger strength and flexibility, which I do not have.
  • We have started watching The Queen’s Gambit alongside my mom. So far it looks promising! I did read the novel about two years ago, back when nobody knew about it. I think I have it four stars.
  • I have completed my Goodreads challenge this year, which is possibly a first: 50 books! I did finish two shorter (and easier) novels in the last week: Red at the bone and Elearnor & Park. Both of them I had been meaning to read for a while, neither of them impressed me.
  • I’m still reading Antifragile and The righteous mind, and at this point I doubt I’ll be able to finish either of them by the end of the year. And that’s ok.

Dec 14th - Dec 20th

  • I’ve been practicing with the guitar and can now kind-of-sort-of play Moon River, which sounds beautiful! Now I want a guitar.
  • I’ve been on holiday since Friday 18th, and I’ve welcomed the break.
  • I’ve binged on the new seasons of This is us and Grey’s Anatomy (I know, still); both shows have introduced the pandemic into their plot lines, Grey’s Anatomy in particular are focusing a lot on the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals, medical practitioners, etc.
  • Reading-wise, I have (finally!) finished I capture the castle by Dodie Smith. It’s an interesting take on the role of women in England in the 1930s and how marrwas still - even then - a perfectly fine option to guarantee your own survival and that of your family.
  • Still reading Antifragile and The righteous mind. In terms of fiction, I have started Red at the bone, by Jacqueline Woodson.

Dec 7th - Dec 13th

  • We arrived in Madrid on Thursday 10th – we’re working from home from my partner’s childhood home!
  • I sadly had to leave my ukulele behind, but luckily on of my sisters-in-law lend me her guitar. I’d never played a guitar before, so I’m unsurprisingly terrible at it. At the moment I’m just working on transitioning between four chords fast enough that it sounds like a song.
  • We celebrated a few birthdays on Saturday and several people in the family came over for lunch and board games – it was super fun!
  • Travelling in the times of Coronavirus is a little bit odd – we took an evening flight and there were only two other flights scheduled that night, which is so strange!

Still reading (and very much enjoying):

Nov 30th - Dec 6th

  • This week hasn’t felt that productive in terms of things outside work. I have been focusing a lot on design work for Poplar Studio, which has left deflated after 7pm and with no much time for reading. I have also felt more tired than usual and more lethargic, which might be a seasonal thing for me (as it is for many others), so I sleep longer hours and haven’t been reading in the mornings.
  • Ukulele-wise, I have been playing A million dreams, which is a beautiful song I adore.
  • We watched Billy Wilder’s Double indemnity, which in my view was not as amazing as I thought it’d be, and we also watched Spanish director Javier Fesser’s Historias Lamentables, which was very funny.

And, finally, you wouldn’t believe it: I’m still reading the same really long books!

Nov 23rd - Nov 29th

  • I don’t have much to update on this week; I feel like I haven’t done much that’s interesting
  • I have discovered a wonderful singer called Laufey and she’s just brilliant
  • Barre chords on the ukulele are getting slightly easier, but still struggling with barre chords on the first fret. My index finger and thumb start cramping pretty quickly, and so does my forearm. It’s a sign I’m not strong enough!
  • I’m still reading the same really long books:
  • We have watched a Spanish TV series that was phenomenal; it’s about a group of riot policemen and the aftermath of an eviction gone awry. It feels more like a documentary than fiction, especially in its first episode, and all the actors do an incredible job. Highly recommend!
  • We have also watched Hitchcock Dial M for Murder, which was also really good

Nov 15th - Nov 22nd

  • Our previous neighbour gifted us with her old stationary bike (thanks, Alexandra!), which is one of those folding ones. It’s quite basic, but I have started creating a habit around that. The trick (for me) is to watch a TV show only while I cycle – that generates the incentive to continue cycling for longer and to be eager to get back to it the next day.
  • I’ve been playing a few new songs on the ukulele and working a bit on barre chords, but still finding them really hard! Yesterday I took a tour down memory lane and started playing songs I used to listen to when I was a teenager.
  • I haven’t finished any new books this week as I’m reading three really long ones:
  • This weekend we re-watched Chazelle’s Whiplash, which still mesmerizes and terrifies me in equal measure, and we watched Niagara, a 1953 suspense movie starring Marilyn Monroe (although, really, she’s not the protagonist).
  • We finished one of the best TV shows I have ever watched: Catch and Halt Fire. What a marvelous discovery, and what a shame it’s so underrated! If you have a chance, please go see it; I suspect you’ll be amazed.
  • A couple of interesting articles I read this week:
    • James Clear discusses how you can (not) change someone else’s beliefs with facts, because as soon as you start criticizing their ideas they will put all their energy into proving you wrong. It’s more effective (and kinder) to spend time developing and explaining your ideas than investing energy in proving others wrong. Also interesting is the point he makes about how you don’t want to discuss bad ideas, not even in order to criticize them, as that will just give them continuity. You want bad ideas to die, and they won’t die if you keep bringing them up.
    • Shane Parrish writes about how complexity does not disappear, but rather moves across systems. The simpler something looks on the outside, the more complex it has to be on the inside. Very interesting from the point of view of software design.

Nov 9th - Nov 15th

  • This week has also been quite good; I have started a new project at work I’m really excited about!
  • I have learned a new song on the ukulele, Taylor Swift’s Lover . I had to learn the song by heart first so that I could then sing along while playing. Some of the transitions are still tricky to do quickly enough, but I’m getting there!
  • Yesterday we watched It happened one night by Frank Capra, a 1934 film about a millionaire’s daughter who decides to escape and the journalist she meets along the way. It’s a screwball comedy.
  • I have finished reading I’ve been meaning to tell you, David Chariandy’s letter to his thirteen-year-old daughter. He mostly discusses his experiences with racism as a black man in modern Canada.
  • I’m also reading Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile. It’s going to take me a long while to finish it, but so far I’m really enjoying it and it’s making me re-consider a lot of my ideas and views.
  • Two interesting articles I’ve come across this week are The spiral of silence and Make Design System right.
  • As a bonus, there’s this article by Tim Urban (Wait but why) on family trees and ancestry. I don’t know how to describe this, but it’s interesting, funny and humbling.
  • We have also been playing Wilmot’s Warehouse, which is a really fun puzzle game involving a little squared character and warehouse where you have to organise a series of items that keep being added to it. It’s very interesting as an information architecture exercise, and also kind of peaceful as you get breaks during which you can reorganise items at your own pace. Very fun to play with someone else as well!
  • I wrote a short think piece (my first, kind of) about how sometimes we believe we are in the right and are tempted to think that those with a different opinion are therefore wrong. The more I listen to other people having different opinions, the more I think there is more value in trying to understand those who think differently than listening to those who agree with you. I know it’s hard, but it’s also doable.

Nov 2nd - Nov 8th

  • This week has been really good, especially since we were on a staycation. We didn’t do much, but we slept a lot, read a lot and watched many movies.
  • I’m still playing the ukulele, and have been learning to play Camila Cabello’s Havana, but the strumming is really hard to get right, at least for a newbie like me!
  • Among the movies we have watched, it’s worth highlighting The Endless Trench by Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and Jose Mari Goenaga, a film about a man who hides in his own house for 30 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, and Amadeus by Miloš Forman, a brilliant study on envy loosely based on the friendship between Mozart and Salieri.
  • In terms of reading, I have finished Persuasion by Jane Austen and also written a blog post about why everyone should read (at least) one novel by her.