2019: a year of notes in review

6 min readDec 19, 2019

2019 man. There was a lot of it. Like this note. It is comprehensive.

I drank a lot of coffee in Brew in Oxford. They have a little record player in the corner and the disc that is regularly spinning is Transformer, so let’s soundtrack this with that.


I’ve worked on two big projects this year. The first was three months of consultancy for the ODI looking at Data Trusts.

Since July I’ve been at Cabinet Office looking at how we can use machine learning to support subject categorisation of emails and documents.

Both of these have been challenging. They’ve raised the problem with contracting for me: you can’t fix fucking anything in 6 months. I think next year I’d like to find something permanent to do.

Next year, I want to work out what comes after doing contracts for Grade 6 jobs for three and a half years. Where next. How next. Why next? If you want to offer coaching, I really need a hand working out how to do it.


I spent a lot of this year writing research notes (captured in this collection on medium and gradually transitioning to github pages). The problem with this was I found it made me think I’d blogged, where as in fact I had just journaled. I’d had 10 minutes with an idea rather than two days of writing something (hopefully) incisive and complete. I haven’t written anything actually good this year and it has really bothered me. To be fair, I’ve been ill for six months, but I wish I’d written something. Next year there will be less journaling, more bowdlerising my research work for blogs.


The DPhil is hard work. I like to think I have an advantage of having professional experience of working in research and project management. But it is still hard. So much reading to do that is never achievable. The flow between what I “know” because of work and what I know for the purposes of research is a really tricky balance.

Anyway, I need to do some more re-writing, which I believe is a phrase I will be repeating ad nauseam for the next few years.

I’m enjoying what I’m learning, and I am glad to be in the middle of difficult work at the right time but it is exhausting.


Jesus Shitting Christ.

I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This involved two colonoscopies, two trips to a&e, and almost two weeks in hospital as an inpatient. No fun whatsoever. The drugs to calm the flare up left me confused and exhausted and honestly I’m only just coming out the other side of it. The hospital stay gave me some time to replay Breath of the Wild in Master Mode, but I wouldn’t recommend the trade off.

This came after a trapped nerve/sciatica/piriformis syndrome (no real idea what it was), but I couldn’t stand, sit, lie on my side or back for about a month. It was horrible. I’ve still got a partially numb foot and am a bit stiff and am worried about how to properly recover and do exercise that doesn’t worsen it.

Next year: I want to get a looping insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (I already use flash monitoring, so it’s only a small amount more things sticking into my skin). I am planning to really try and get a system in place for my blood sugar. I would also like to not gain any more illnesses.

I stopped therapy at the end of last year and I have, so far, been very much fine without it. I have rough days, but learning to be ok with yourself is a huge time saver. Cutting back on alcohol to almost a quarter of what I was drinking has also massively helped.


Baby on the way. Bought a house. Walked a lot of the jurassic coast path.

Two of those are better achievements than the other, but one was very much more photogenic, so let’s go with that.


Bought a Pixel 3a and dropped it. It still works.

I switched to github pages for most of my text heavy blogging in an attempt to give up the addiction to the little dinging bell of notifications, applause or lack of.


The stats don’t lie. I listened to a lot of Death Cab this year. It was accidental. I got an earworm for 2003 and that just destroyed the first three months of the year. It is a wonder that it isn’t full of Modest Mouse too. Anyway, here is my most listened this year.

There were a few other playlists I made this year that I quite like. This one is from 7 days into the hospital stay and a bit of cabin fever.

This one is from one of the intense DPhil writing sessions.

This one is about a lot of things being about to happen and the kind of back and forth jittering nervousness that comes with that.


Some crackers here. I will turn up with a slideshow on request. I got a Fuji XT20 last year and it is a bloody delight. I appreciate the camera doesn’t make the photographer, but it has been a lot easier with equipment that feels intuitive and supportive. I also started using a refurbished Olympus Trip as my main film camera. It is an absolute joy. I haven’t got it quite right on portrait work, mostly because you are slightly guessing at focus, but the long shots are proper chef’s kiss emoji.


He’s fine.

Strength to strength this year. Calm, kind, still eats all sorts of weird crap. Comes to the pub. Comes to the beer festival. Walks anywhere with you. Keeps your feet warm by lying on you when you work from home. A wonderful companion. He had to have a lump out from his face this year but he’s recovered fully.

Next year

This is the last year of it being like this. I don’t know what’s next, but it probably isn’t like this exactly. I’m really unsure about how to do all the things that need to be done, whether that’s parental, professional, personal health or academic, but I’m really hopeful that I can make next year something special.




Public sector specialist. Anthropologist on the internet.