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Weeknotes 2022.20

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The twentieth post of a series.


I’ve been reading Simon Kuper’s Chums this week. He writes, “Britain does have world-class scientists, engineers and quants, but they are stuck in the engine room while the rhetoricians drive the train.”

That feels familiar.


There is a remarkable, powerful article in the latest Prospect (originally published in Die Zeit) bringing together a victim of torture at Guantánamo Bay and his torturer. There are so many layers to it that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I read it.


I mentioned in February that I had a preference for paper notebooks as I’d found nothing quite as “glanceable.” One suggestion in response was to try OneNote with a window either docked or “pinned” on top of all other windows, and actually that seems to work pretty well. I haven’t used my paper notebook for a month or so.


This post was filed under: Weeknotes.

Weeknotes 2022.19

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The nineteenth post of a series.


I’ve been irritated over the past couple of years by the emergence of the phrase “at pace” to mean “quickly” (e.g. “we are working at pace”). It’s clearly nonsensical as the pace isn’t specified. I was irritated afresh this week by seeing it appear in a reputable newspaper for the first time.

It’s clearly a new coinage, having not yet been picked up by any of the major dictionaries. I’ve convinced myself that it must be a mishearing of the word “apace” which is a perfectly fine synonym for “quickly”. I’m making it my mission to use “apace” in documents more often, before it’s outpaced by “at pace”.


If I’d been doing weeknotes a few years ago, you’d have been subject to a similar rant about the different between “auspices” and “aegis”, but I’ll spare you. Just know that if you write “under the auspices of…” then you almost always mean “under the aegis of…”. Or, even better, reword whatever you’re trying to say with altogether less ridiculous phrasing.


And don’t get me started on “while” versus “whilst”. My strong preference is to only ever use the latter if you also plan to use “whence” in whatever you’re writing.



I’ve been reading James Bridle’s excellent New Dark Age this week. Chapter nine, which is about YouTube, opened my eyes. I’m also listening to the New York Times podcast Rabbit Hole at the moment, which is mostly about YouTube, and the two make a startling combination.

I’m not a particularly regular user of YouTube, but thought I had a reasonable idea of what it was all about. It turns out, I didn’t have a clue. It’s deeper, darker and altogether less savoury that I ever imagined.


This post was filed under: Weeknotes.

Weeknotes 2022.18

A few things I’ve been thinking about this week. The eighteenth post of a series.



Wendy and I had a fantastic meal at Newcastle favourite 21 this week. We were trying to work out how long it had been since we’d last eaten there: we quickly realised it was before the 2015 name change, and eventually worked out that it must have been 2013. Hopefully, we’ll be back sooner!


I’m probably the last to say it, but Charlotte Ivers’s column in The Sunday Times last week gives a brilliantly clear account of the constant background nature of culture of Westminster sexual harassment. By-the-by, Charlotte also writes a Substack I really enjoy, in which she gives podcast recommendations.


According to this website, this bank opened in 1894 as part of the North East Banking Company and became part of the Bank of Liverpool twenty years later. In 1918, it first became part of Martins Bank, and this ghost sign was covered by that of Barclays in 1969. The branch closed a couple of months ago, just shy of its 128th birthday.

The branches of Santander, NatWest and Nationwide on the same stretch of road are also post-pandemic victims of branch closures, though Lloyds, HSBC, Halifax, Virgin Money and the Newcastle Building Society remain.

I’ve been racking my brain to recall when I last ventured into a bank. I withdrew £20 of pound coins for parking meters in rural areas about a year ago, but I did that at the Post Office and I think it may have been the last time I used either cash or a physical bank card, let alone a branch.


I thought I had a fairly good grasp of the general issues affecting online news and digital advertising, but Donald MacKenzie’s article in The LRB made me realise the superficiality of my understanding. I had no idea, for example, that “a plausible rough estimate is that UK news publishers lost £50 million in the early months of the pandemic because of ad-blocking of their stories about it.”

This post was filed under: Weeknotes.




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