New Year 2024

1 January 2024 by Jennifer

A mix of things and thoughts, for the coming year.

Happy new year, everyone.

Overall I don’t feel optimistic about where the human race is headed.  So it doesn’t feel like a year that’s going to be happy.

But I don’t want to put a 100% negative thing out into the world, so I’ve listed some cool stuff too!  Let’s do “sources of dread” first, and then go on to that :-)

Looming concerns

The NHS is in a precarious state.  There are staff shortages, ambulance waiting times are bad, and anyone who has to go to hospital is quite likely to catch covid there if they didn’t already have it.  Even the richest people in the UK are only a couple of unlucky moments away from a health disaster.

Bigger scale, the climate forecasts suggest more floods and more heat waves.  Over the next few years, there are likely to be more and more people across the world whose home becomes uninhabitable:  through human-incompatible levels of heat, through famine, or through sea encroaching on land.

I saw a post the other day alluding to a connection between climate change and Israel’s devastating bombing in Gaza.  I thought about it, and I think the connection (or part of it) is land for people to live on.  As more land gets eaten by the sea and/or ruined, I think it’s likely there’ll be more humans killing humans as well.

Careless choices

When I look at the state of the UK, to me the weird thing is how little of the bad stuff was actually practically necessary.  Life is always uncertain, but we didn’t have to make it more so!

We didn’t have to lose so many NHS staff and care workers to Long Covid or death or burnout.  We didn’t have to push away so many migrant NHS staff and care workers, via Brexit’s combination of new rules and making them unwelcome.  Those were the results of choices by our government.

Another choice was government people using the covid crisis as an opportunity to channel money to their mates – even when their mates were really not the people best placed to be doing the work.

And going back a bit:  I don’t remember the details, but I remember that Margaret Thatcher’s government had some role in removing encouragements for renewable energy.

Of course, lots of us didn’t vote for the Tories.  And quite a lot of us are still trying not to be part of helping the covid virus get around.  But we still end up at the pointy end of these poor decisions.

Going back even further, we’ve got the invention of companies as conscience-less entities whose only responsibility is to make money, fossil fuel companies trying to maintain their profits by deceiving us, and so on.

There are always good things happening too!  Let’s cruise around a few of those.

Climate/energy good things

  • It looks as though 2023 was the first year when over 50% of the UK’s electricity came from renewables.  (Not officially confirmed yet, but it must’ve been very close if not quite.)
  • In the Netherlands, they’re even further along that path:  sometimes they’ve got more renewable power available than they need to power the whole country!  They’re exporting it!
  • People are experimenting with combining solar power with agriculture:  the solar panels are up high, giving shade to the crops or animals.
  • Electric bikes are becoming more and more common.  They need only a teeny weeny bit of power compared to cars, and for some disabled people they’re the best way of transport there is.
  • Working from home is increasingly possible for some kinds of job these days.  It suits some people, and reduces the amount of unnecessary travel.
  • People-in-general are becoming more aware of climate upheavals as an important thing to be planning for & trying to reduce – though there’s still a long way to go on that front, and I think most people are unaware of how bad it’s likely to get.

Covid-related good things

  • There’s been some highly useful research into 222nm ultraviolet light as a way to zap viruses indoors.  High-frequency UV was already in use for anti-viral purposes, for example in sterilising medical equipment.  But most frequencies in that range aren’t safe for shining where there are humans – you’d get sunburn to your skin and eyes.  222nm is an exception:  researchers are reporting that a level of it which can kill viruses is also okay for humans’ skin and eyes.  Progress!
  • There’s been promising research into tech which can detect covid virus in the air in real time.  So far, this only exists in, like, one chonky experimental machine in a lab – but what if, in a few years’ time, we could have covid breathalysers, or flu breathalysers?  Or at least, there could be machines in hospitals which report in real time when there’s a virus floating in the air.
  • Masks like the 3M Aura or iMask 3 are already good enough to cut the covid risk way down low, if you’re in a practical/ social/ financial position to be able to wear them.  (Doesn’t solve going to the dentist, or needing to eat in hospital.)
  • There are lots of places now where you can buy good air filters, if you can afford them.
  • Some people already have access to on-the-spot home covid testing which, unlike the little “lateral flow tests”, is almost as reliable as the lab testing – although I’ve not found anywhere in the UK which is selling those units yet, and they’re expensive.

Vaccine tech

There’s also a prediction that we might have better covid vaccines via a different method in a few years’ time.

Unlike the current ones, which do reduce the risk of dying but still let you catch it, these would supposedly be able to completely stop you catching it.

I must admit I’m fairly sceptical about that particular forecast.  “I’ll believe it when it happens”.  That’s not just because the first vaccines were hyped up along those lines and then didn’t, but because I’ve seen reputable science people talking about how difficult a fully-ending-it vaccine would be for that kind of a virus.  (I don’t know the full ins & outs of why – maybe something to do with how easily it mutates.)

However, I think it’s likely there’ll be some advances in vaccine tech, which might help to knock covid back down if the political will were there.


2023 was a good year for me personally in terms of writing and music – two things which can still happen even when you’re not feeling well or can’t be out of bed for long, which I also had a lot of.

I finished & uploaded a recording of the song All of us, which I’d written in 2022:

In the autumn, I played on the main stage at Nottingham Green Fest.  I’d been wanting to do that for a while, because it’s so “my audience”!

I didn’t feel I played very well, and worryingly, I couldn’t tell how much of that was being out of practice versus how much of it might’ve been my brain glitching from covid damage.  A lot of people have reported memory problems after covid.

But as usual, the mistakes which were obvious to me did not necessarily loom large for the audience, and I had some lovely appreciative comments afterwards.

This gig was the first outing for my latest Single Bass song, “Can’t bullshit a virus”, written in the summer.  I’m part way through a recording of that at the moment.

In 2023 I also finished & arranged a classical-music mashup of winter tunes like Jingle Bells or Silent Night, which was then played by the adult learners’ orchestra I sometimes write for.

Covid-careful orchestra plans

I didn’t manage to get the new Nottingham orchestra going, despite my enthusiasm for that.  There was quite a lot of interest, but not quite enough people available in the same time-slot to cover the cost of the venue.  It still exists as a sort of blueprint:  a covid-careful, beginner-friendly string orchestra for Nottingham.

Back in early 2022 when I first started connecting with people over plans for this orchestra, I had originally been thinking of it as something which would complement the local classical music scene.  But now that covid awareness has been crushed back down out of the common view, I think the idea of a covid-careful orchestra looks to most people much more like a niche thing for weirdos.

So when & if I have some energy for it, I’m thinking now I’ll come at it more from the other side:  network with the other covid-careful people in Nottingham, and maybe do some non-music events first to build momentum.  And maybe the orchestra itself will come to fruition eventually, or maybe it won’t.

Systemic Modelling / writing crossover

I wrote a little while ago about learning Systemic Modelling.  I’m now slowly working towards Professional level, and it’s still proving enjoyable and satisfying.

In parallel with that, I’m currently part way through a fairly big writing project:  editing and rewriting the new Systemic Modelling Manual.

This work is right up my street!  I really like the kind of writing where it’s explaining things so people can learn how to do something.  In this case, being on the same learning journey myself, I feel I’m in a good position to identify the kinds of things people need to know to succeed.  And by working on it, I’m clarifying my own understanding of how to do SysMod.

I also collaborated with Caitlin to co-run a couple of online courses, handling the practical side and some of the communications.  That too felt very up my street.  I love creating spaces where people can learn and have a good time.

Bi community contributions

It’s currently looking like there won’t be a BiCon next year.  I don’t mind, because I think it had got into a bad feedback loop of people scrambling to make it happen and burning out, and I don’t want any more people to burn out on it.

The good part is there’s now a small group of people thinking more long-term about what needs to be in place to support potential teams, including access to the collected wisdom of past teams.  If BiCon is to survive, I think this is the kind of thing which needs to happen.  And at some point I do want to send some more writing/organising energy in that direction.

Fediverse connections

Late 2022, I’d got onto the Fediverse – social media a bit like Twitter.  Overall I’m still liking that.

There’s fewer people on there than on Twitter – but that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer interactions, because Twitter mucks about with the visibility of your posts, whereas that doesn’t happen on Fedi.  I ended the year with about the same number of people following me as I had on Twitter.

Interestingly, it seems to be working better than Twitter for people to discover my music – I suspect mainly because Single Bass has been getting radio play on Radio Free Fedi!

Thanks & wishes

Thanks to everyone who supported me in 2023 in one way or another!  Let’s wish for peace and justice and a sustainable world.  And let’s wish for at least some lovely things & lovely connections in 2024, even amidst all the other stuff.

Appreciation, criticism & new ideas all welcome...

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