Tennis but not as you know it

A couple of weeks ago, BTSport’s tennis coverage switched to the latest rounds of the Fed Cup – the self-styled World Cup of tennis wherein players team up according to their country and battle it out to win the tournament and be best across the globe.

The British team were playing on British soil for the first time in several years, and were doing pretty well, so it was some constant and slightly one-sided broadcasts that we watched but even so, it was brilliant! I’ve not really paid this tournament any attention before but now I’m hooked!

Three things to love about Fed Cup tennis:

  • The team nature. It’s not very often you see tennis players working as a team. Sure, there’s doubles but here we had players sitting on the sidelines roaring for their teammates as they all tried to do their best for their country. It’s such an individual sport, and one that relies so heavily on the mental side of things, that to see the impact having a consistent level of support does is really interesting.
  • The team captain. I’m fascinated by this team captain business, wherein all the pressure rests on your shoulders but you can’t really do anything except decide who plays when and then have a quick word with them each time they sit down. It must be pretty frustrating and nail biting, but equally must deliver a great sense of pride when/if it all comes together.
  • Great tennis. For whatever reason, most of the people playing said it all meant so much more when playing for your country, and that means we got to see some really great tennis.

Three things not to love about Fed Cup tennis:

  • Trying to figure out how it works. I have studied this calendar for plenty long enough and not gotten anywhere, it makes no sense to me. Also, were Britain playing in a sort of pre-qualifying match whereas Romania were already in the next round but playing at the same time?
  • Lack of Hawkeye. I think because Britain were playing a prior round (maybe?) they were in Bath, which was a decent location but perhaps lacks some of the conveniences of the more high profile tennis destinations. Everyone involved seemed to be complaining about poor line calls and there is no recourse without Hawkeye. In this day and age, it’s so frustrating to return to places that don’t have the technology because you know that it could just solve the problems so much easier.
  • Tie breaks. It felt like every set that Britain played ended up going to a tie break and oof, those things are stressful at the best of times let alone when everyone involved wants it SO BADLY.

Still, none of those things has put me off and I am intrigued to know what happens in the next round. If only I could figure out when it actually is.

Speaking my language

My Swift journey so far has been stop/start in nature, but recently it has become one of those hobbies that occupies a significant portion of my mind, one that I think about a solid 90% of the day. That’s good, really, because it’s a useful skill, coding, and one I am still very much at the early stages of grappling with.

I’m never quite sure how much detail to go into here, really, because is it interesting to read about someone else learning how to code? I don’t know. What I am confident in, though, is sharing the resources that are helping me along the way.

My current focus is on the really quite excellent 100 Days of Swift from Paul Hudson over at Hacking with Swift. Each day there’s some new stuff to learn or try out, with reviews and tests and even a bonus wordsearch to reinforce what you’ve learned. The structure of the course really helps to give you something to grab on to and stick with, and that’s what I’m aiming to do. 18 days and counting! I really recommend checking it out if you’ve ever wondered about diving into Swift.

If you’re still not convinced, then Paul has previously created the best video I’ve seen about programming – combining both my relatively new loves of Star Wars and Swift to convey what is actually a really good message for programmers and non-programmers alike. Sure, there’s a bit of nerdy stuff in the middle, but the first third about change and the final third about community really applies to everyone.

I hadn’t realised the diversity issue at the top of the Swift org chart, but it’s definitely something that could do with being addressed. The more people coding, the better, and the more people coding, the more representation and diverse opinions we’re going to need and hopefully going to get.

I’m under no illusions that I can influence anyone in the Swift world or get anywhere even near the org chart, certainly not at the slow pace I’m going. But hey, it’s about spreading the word and championing those that are doing the same, and I hope to learn and share a lot more about the people doing good in this arena.

Here’s to life-long learning!

Gonna fly now

So I’ve just binge watched all six Rocky films in a row, not all in one day, I’m not a maniac, but without watching other films in between. Somehow despite having the least interest in, and probably actively disliking boxing, these films grabbed my attention and became something of an obsession.

The drama is brilliant. The dialogue nutty. The training montages legendary. What I loved most of all, though, was how inspirational Rocky is as a character. A simple guy who just wants to do right and do what he loves. He likes people, he respects people, he sticks up for people and he thinks the best of everyone.

After finishing the sixth Rocky film, I said to Mr C: “If these weren’t about boxing, they’d be one of the greatest film series.” I get that the sport is inextricably linked with the drama and you couldn’t just switch it up for something like tennis instead. There’s something about the primal nature of this sport, the potential for getting hurt, that ups the ante and increases the drama. I love a good sports movie, I just prefer my sports to be less bloody.

Anyway, regardless of my tortured feelings over whether I actually liked these films or not, you can’t argue with the wisdom of Rocky and his friends, so I thought I’d gather some of the best inspo quotes from the Balboa series.

Going one more round when you don’t think you can. That’s what makes all the difference in your life.

Nobody owe nobody nothing. You owe yourself.

It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be where you want to be and do what you want to do!

I stopped thinking the way other people think a long time ago. You gotta think like you think.

Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

No pain. NO PAIN.


Everything is alive

I can’t remember how I stumbled upon the podcast Everything is Alive but I know I listened to the first episode about a can of cola and found myself oddly moved and disturbed at the same time. It’s not often something has that effect on you. The premise of the show is simple but weird. Our host interviews inanimate objects, except they are not as inanimate as you might think. They have voices, thoughts, past histories and philosophies, insights into the human condition as seen from a point of view I can guarantee you won’t have thought of.

So it’s brilliant and bonkers in equal measure and I recommend giving one or two a listen to see if they’re your kind of thing.

One other part of the show is that there’s often a little aside, a phone call to a human, that adds some history, some information or some other story that is tangentially related to the subject at hand. In the episode about a grain of sand, somehow the topic of the phone call was the voices that record the announcements at train stations.

Eleanor and her husband Phil are the voices of several London Underground stations, and Eleanor shared an insight that I would never have thought of:

They deliberately chose my voice and Phil’s voice because we’re very clear, very neutral and very easy to understand. And the other thing is, the way that we’ve done it, is we’ve always used the same studio, the same microphone, obviously the same voices and for consistency reasons we kind of find a contract to say that we would be available for ten years, you know, unless obviously anything happened. And actually, God bless him, Phil died about, you know, three weeks after that ten years expired. So, he did his time, but fortunately we’ve got enough of his voice on record that it’s never been an issue.

He was a good guy. You know, very lovely guy and I feel very privileged as a widow to have his voice. I don’t say that lightly because I know a lot of people who would give anything to hear their husband’s voice again. And mine won’t shut up. (Laughs) He never did and I’m hoping he never will.

I frequently travel to London for meetings and work and recordings and what have you and yeah, I hear him a lot. And it’s always lovely to hear him. And I actually quite like the fact that obviously nobody else would know that this is so special for me. And I just love the fact that he’s still there just getting on with life and, you know, directing people to where they need to go and just being part of the furniture of London.

But actually, hearing that he’s been taken off of certain platforms I know that he used to be the main voice at Waterloo until about a year and a bit ago and when somebody told me that he’d gone from Waterloo I grieved again as if I’d lost him. You know, it affected me that much knowing that his voice was just slowly being taken away.

Like I said, a range of emotions in this show. Intriguing, moving, disturbing all at the same time. I love it.

It’s no great mystery

Mr C and I don’t go much in for the Valentine’s Day thing but something happened this week that it’s important to document. After years of searching (more than a decade), I have finally found OUR SONG.

It turns out, this On the Record thing that I’ve been studiously documenting for the last 3+ years has finally been worth it. This week, Mr C selected Huey Lewis & the News (he doesn’t always get his picks from Carpool Karaoke, honest), who of course I only know from Back to the Future.

Except there was one other song I knew and loved, although I have no idea how or where I’d have heard it.

We’ve had our doubts, we never took them seriously
And we’ve had our ins and outs, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be
We thought about giving up, but we could never stay away
Thought about breaking up, but now we know it’s much too late
And it’s no great mystery
If we change our minds
Eventually, it’s back to you and me

Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I am happy to be stuck with you
Yes, it’s true, (yes it’s true) I’m so happy to be stuck with you
‘Cause I can see, (I can see) that you’re happy to be stuck with me

Ahhh, romance.

Attention seeking

I’ll be honest with you, this year has not gotten off to the fabulous start I was hoping for when I made those resolutions. Instead, I’ve had not one but two bouts of illness, with a work trip crammed in between, and suddenly we’re in the middle of February and I’m just about ready to start the year. Whilst I have been under the weather, however, streaming TV has been my saviour. Netflix released the new series of One Day at a Time just in time to save my sanity, whilst also giving me a motto to live by. One day at a time and eventually you’ll feel healthy again.

Under recommendation from a friend, I’ve been watching Seal Team on Sky which is both brutal and brilliant. And I managed to clear down a lot of the stuff I’d been saving up over Christmas. (Although I still haven’t watched the New Year Doctor Who yet. Why is that? Do I not want to? Or am I saving it because there’s so long to the next one?)

But you know what’s really been the surprise of the season? The Playstation. Sure, we knew we’d get obsessed with Tomb Raider but then Spider-Man followed and we’ve already been discussing what could possibly be next. Since when has gaming taken up such precedence in our lives? A while back, we went to watch a film and realised it had been ages since the previous one because of that cheeky little webbed superhero swinging his way through the city. There’s something addictive about finding the right game, that sweet spot that hits your talents – be they puzzles or shooting or chasing pigeons around New York.

Earlier this year, Netflix pegged Fortnite as their biggest rival. Forget the cinema, forget regular TV or box office movies, forget the incoming Disney streaming channel or Amazon’s impressive efforts to take on the content behemoth (although I’m sure they’re all up there), it’s a game that they are most afraid of.

Now, I don’t have any experience of Fortnite, and I’ve already admitted that gaming as a whole is not my forte, but I can wholeheartedly agree that when you go to reach for the remote, the choices are ever-growing and ever-expanding. An interesting paragraph in the Games Radar piece linked to above:

However, it is fascinating to see Netflix shift slightly towards more game-oriented experiences. the choose-your-own-adventure style path towards the various Black Mirror: Bandersnatch endings could easily have been something fired up and played on a home console…

I tried that Bandersnatch thing and did not enjoy it, but that’s not to say the concept of interactive streams isn’t going to expand and be something to watch out for going forward. The one thing Netflix have to watch for is trying to expand too far. You have to face your competition head on, of course, and you have to try and rival their efforts but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything that they do. It just means you have to do what you do better.

I don’t particularly want to play games on Netflix, I want them to keep making The Crown and One Day at a Time. I don’t really want to head to Netflix to play through a Spiderman story, but I do want good, reliable content from them, that is kept fresh. Not that that seems to be a problem either, Netflix is reportedly making 293 different projects this year alone, so we’re not likely to run short anytime soon. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if Netflix’s biggest competition isn’t Netflix itself?

On the record 2019, Part 1: The disco numbers are untouchable

Before you know it, another year begins and it’s time to start listening to more albums. As an annual tradition to kick off the year, let me just run through the rules of the game:

Each week, I listen to two albums. One is selected by me and must have been released this year or last. I usually pick something that has been released that very Friday. The other album is selected by Mr C and he gets all of the rest of musical history to choose from.

The point of this challenge started way back when, and although I’ve now resolved the issue, I’m still keen to keep on listening. This is the fourth year and it turns out there’s still a never-ending list of albums to get through. So we should begin!

Week 1

  • beerbongs & bentleys, Post Malone
    An alright album, this one. I’m a bit surprised by how massive Post Malone is, everyone seems to be talking about him. The album didn’t blow me away, a couple of good songs on there and generally a solid listen, but not a huge deal in my eyes.
  • Reputation, Taylor Swift
    I had such a rollercoaster with this album, was looking forward to it, then was mad that it wasn’t available, then avoided it for as long as possible. Actually, I liked it. First listen through, by the end I was like “enough angst already TayTay” but on the second listen it started to grow on me. Some of those songs do get stuck in my head though.

Week 2

  • Love Monster, Amy Shark
    Great album, this one. I sort of lost track of Amy Shark after she was featured as a Beats 1 Up Next artist, but realised I hadn’t listened to the album. It was brilliant and I’m now annoyed that I didn’t listen to it last year as it might have appeared in my top five somewhere. Great songs, lovely music, and it’s quite an unusual, offbeat and unique sound in the current climate.
  • C’est Chic…, Chic
    Well this is just a great classic band, and the disco numbers on this album are untouchable. I wasn’t quite so keen on the instrumental stuff but that’s just me, really, and not a reflection on them. I’m interested to hear more of Chic and find out if it’s all quite a lot of the same stuff, or if they progress in any way.

Week 3

  • Honey, Robyn
    This was an okay album, listenable, but I didn’t really rate it as much as I had been hoping to. Missing U is a great song, but the rest of it kinda pales into comparison. Not memorable but worth a go if you’re a Robyn fan.
  • Every Picture Tells a Story, Rod Stewart
    I was kinda hoping to really like this album, what with Rod Stewart being a legend and all. I like the songs that I already knew, the classics, but the rest of it wasn’t that interesting. It’s a shame but I’m glad I gave it a go.

Week 4

  • Delta, Mumford & Sons
    The thing about Mumford & Sons, to me, is that they make good albums, they’re just not at all memorable. They’re great background music, steady, folky, and all really nice. But it doesn’t stand out and it doesn’t make me want to seek out any more. Nothing wrong with it at all but not my favourite.
  • Laundry Service, Shakira
    Lovely Shakira, this is a great album. It starts with three classics, and has great latin rhythms from there. The only downside to it is the same thing I complained about on Enrique’s album – putting the same songs at the end only in Spanish is cheating a little bit. Somehow I forgive Shakira more though, because they’re such good bops.

Week 5

  • DNA, Backstreet Boys
    My Backstreet Boys fandom sort of took a dip in the middle there, the last few albums I’ve not really paid too much attention to. But now I’m back on it, and thankfully, so are they! I really enjoyed this one, there are some great tunes on here and yea, they have grown up and are more reflective and thoughtful, but that’s no bad thing.
  • Daydream, Mariah Carey
    Mariah Carey’s diva reputation means I haven’t always wanted to pay attention to her, but you can’t argue that when she put her mind to it, she made a lot of good music. This album is stacked with some great tunes, although I was surprised at the cover of Open Arms – how did I miss that Mariah did this Journey cover? Anyway, all good, I enjoyed the listen.

Amy Shark was the real hit of the bunch and I was annoyed at how much, in the end, Taylor’s album grew on me. Now, at least, having heard the album, I can watch the concert that’s also available on Apple Music. Five weeks down, forty-five to go!