2020xii30, Wednesday: Soul food.

Without the sustenance of something we do for our souls – even if we’re bad at it – we lose something vital to being human.

Short thought: Everyone needs a hinterland. Something (or indeed somewhere) they can retreat into: as an escape, or for solace, or simply for the sake of sanity. It feeds a soul which can otherwise wither and die.

My soul food? Music. Always has been. I’m a (poor) piano player, helped somewhat over the past year by my 2019 birthday present to myself: a subscription to a wonderful jazz and improvisation teacher called Willie Myette (his site, Jazzedge, has been a haven).

(And I’m getting better. Very slowly. And re-learning the essential lesson: to get good at anything, you have to accept being pretty bad for a while.)

But honestly, I’ve realised it doesn’t matter what you do. Play something. Write. Build. Make. Walk, or run, or ride, whether with music/podcast/audiobook or in blissful silence. Just something that’s not passive consumption or work. Something that can become a habit of self-nurture.

(I’m not including reading in the above. Because – call me an elitist; please, go ahead – I regard reading long-form things, by which I mean anything long enough to have some structure and thought behind it, as something as fundamental as breathing. Not so much soul food as a basic necessity.)

If the past year of strange days that seem to stretch for weeks, and months that have fled by like days, has taught me anything, it’s that without regular intakes of soul food we lose something critical to being human.

So find your sustenance. Treasure it. Be bad at it for as long as it takes. Your soul will thank you.

Nothing wrong with a re-read: I’ve never understood those who say books aren’t worth reading twice. I love a good series, and there’s something special about re-reading the last one (or, for TV, re-watching it) before getting into something new. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin is on my Kindle maybe-next-up list, and I’ve nearly finished a re-run through its predecessor, Children of Time. It’s awe-inspiring; a consideration of genuinely alien thought and culture in the grand tradition of CJ Cherryh’s Chanur and Foreigner books. (Again with the series…) It doesn’t hurt that its non-human species reminds me of my favourite gaming alien race of all time, Traveller’s Hivers. They were always such fun to play…

Someone is right on the internet: With thanks to Anne Helen Peterson, Anne Applebaum writes about collaborators in The Atlantic. A long read, talking about the US GOP and dealing with the use of strategic and voluminous lies. But worthwhile.

Things I wrote: some time ago I looked at bundling apps for barristers. A good one would be the holy grail. So no surprise there isn’t one. Not yet. I’d favoured one; but now I’m reconsidering. And I’ve committed hard cash too.

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2020xii29, Tuesday: Day One.

Short thought: I can’t say much about Dame Elizabeth Gloster’s report on the FCA’s handling of London Capital & Finance. The FCA is a client. But suffice it to say that the grey area that is currently the perimeter – the boundary between what’s regulated financial services activity and what isn’t – is going to be a point of serious contention for the foreseeable future. Even the FCA acknowledges (perhaps implicitly, but still) that it isn’t always clear what falls on either side of the line; it now publishes an annual perimeter report setting out the current state of play. If I wanted to be optimistic, I’d say that one of the very few dividends of Brexit might be to grasp the nettle and define it more clearly, or at least make a better stab at dealing with those who deliberately blur the distinction. But my optimism only goes so far.

I really need to get round to readingBeing Mortal, by Atul Gawande. Given it several years ago, after my dad died. Haven’t yet been able to read it. (I’m not sure if that’s causative or not.) Gawande is just marvellous; I really owe it to myself to get on with this. And it’s a sign of some basic competence in the incoming Biden administration that he’s been co-opted into the US’s coronavirus taskforce.

Someone is right on the internet (with apologies to the stone-cold classic XKCD): Ars Technica with the history of the ARM architecture whose use by Apple is now overturning several decades of microprocessor orthodoxy. (I’m using an M1-powered MacBook Pro. It’s revelatory. Honestly.) Recall that this is arguably the most influential and game-changing UK tech company of the past several decades. So when you hear UK government spokespeople bloviating about national champions, or tech mastery, just recall that ARM was bought by Softbank in 2016, and Softbank agreed to sell it to Nvidia earlier this year.

Things I wrote: The Brexit deal is (nearly) done. What’s it mean for legal services, and data protection? Mostly a case of Watch This Space.

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