Weeknotes 2023-04

Nearly a month in already.

I took Thursday and Friday off, in an attempt to start chipping away at the four weeks I still have left to take by 1 April (I’m also relying on the usual arrangements of being able to carry one week over, and stretch another into April). I didn’t really get a lot done, as is my wont, although I did make the first batch of this year’s marmalade. It got a bit burnt (sorry, “caramelised”) on the bottom of the pan and over-set a bit, so it’s sticky and dark, but still tastes fine.

Double double toil and trouble
Marmalade, batch 1

I also got a bit carried away with my lunch on Friday, and instead of just throwing together a sandwich as usual I assembled a couple of eggs, two sausages, a bit of bread, and an ounce each of flour and butter, and turned them into a surprisingly effective impression of a scotch egg and a sausage roll.

Over-complicated lunch

I rewatched season one of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I say rewatched, as I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but I literally couldn’t remember a single scene of it. I definitely haven’t seen season two yet, so that’ll be a genuinely new experience when the Blu-Rays arrive (yes, I’m an old person), rather than just one rendered new by my apparently poor memory.

I hadn’t really been enjoying my decision to start my #12in23 challenge with Cobol (most of the documentation and tutorials online seem annoyingly unhelpful by modern standards), but I persevered and completed the requisite five exercises. Then I did another five in vimscript to put myself a month ahead. I’d never really looked at the latter any more than necessary to configure stuff in my .vimrc, and I was surprised to find it much less unpleasant than I’d been led to believe.

vimscript, looking surprisingly readable

Sceptical as I am of all the ChatGPT hype, I reluctantly asked it for help writing a complex SQL query to replace some “n + 1” code that had been sitting under a todo tag on my work project for a while, and after a bit of back and forth it provided a much simpler approach than the one I’d been taking, which was mildly disconcerting. It was even happy to convert the SQL into an Ecto query for me when I asked, although I’d already done that bit myself before it occurred to me to ask, and I preferred my version.

Plenty (nearly 55 miles) of running again this week, and having done reasonably quick stuff four days out of five (club interval training, TTT, a track session and parkrun) I opted to avoid the speedy group I did last week’s long run with, and tagged along with some of the Run for Coffee/Beer crowd instead, at a much more leisurely pace and with more walking up hills and stopping (but still covering 20 miles).

Six miles in

I finally got round to fitting some half-hearted mudguards (Ass Saver and Speed Mullet) to my bike after getting road spray up my back one too many times, so we can presumably rely on a drought from now on.


Weeknotes 2023-03

My car continues to campaign for its own replacement, this time with a new trick of occasionally cutting out for a second or so, sometimes accompanied by a brief appearance of the engine warning light. Maybe a bad connection or water in the SAM unit under the dashboard?

When I bought The Blues Brothers on DVD donkeys’ years ago, it came bundled with The Blues Brothers 2000, which I’ve always refused to watch on principle. I finally gave in this week, and it turned out to be much less awful than I’d feared (though not a patch on the original). I’d somehow got it into my head that John Goodman was replacing John Belushi as Jake Blues, but this isn’t actually the case. I do occasionally consume media from the past decade, by the way (just not that often).

I started the Exercism #12in23 Challenge earlier this month, and for some bizarre reason picked COBOL as January’s language. It’s interesting trying to accomplish simple tasks in such an old and unfamiliar environment, but not particularly enjoyable.

One of the apprentices at work, having finished a few months of intensively learning Ruby, Rails, TDD, git etc, chose to spend the next nine months (between uni and study days) working with me on an Elixir/Phoenix application that I’ve been the sole developer/designer/support person on for five years. He seems extremely competent though, and has already hit the ground running.

Another Thursday Tempo Ten this week, and I also got up early today and braved the frost to tag along with some of the same gang for their first Sunday long run of their marathon training, despite the fact that (a) they’re significantly quicker than me and (b) I’m not doing a marathon. The pace was a fair bit brisker than I’d normally do on a long slow run on my own (nearly 17 miles in around 2 hours 20), but I survived pretty much intact, and being in a group was definitely more motivating. I didn’t quite hit the 50 mile mark for the week, but it’s still my highest weekly total since August.

I finally got round to buying a proper “learn to drum” book and started following the exercises, rather than just trying to learn by playing along to songs. It remains to see whether it’ll help!

I remembered to buy seville oranges to make marmalade, but haven’t actually made any yet. I can only do one batch at the moment anyway, because there was hardly any preserving sugar left in the supermarket.

I might start adding bullet points to these paragraphs, to make their disconnected nature and lack of narrative structure look deliberate.


Weeknotes 2023-02

Took the cats to the vet on Monday for their annual vaccinations and health checks. They’ve all been healthy recently so weren’t on high alert for being stuffed into boxes, which was handy. Fitting three cat carriers in a Smart Roadster is … interesting (but just about possible). Clean bills of health all round.

Like many people I woke up on Friday to discover that Twitter no longer worked (I use[d] Tweetbot on my Macs and Fenix on my phone). I can’t face all the ads, promoted tweets, algorithmic timelines and whatever other nonsense is apparently rife on the official app/site, so haven’t checked since, and I’m not really missing it (it feels like a majority of the most vocal people I follow have already migrated to Mastodon anyway.

I had another go at bleeding my brakes on Saturday. They’re still not quite right, but then they never were. I keep intending to ask the garage to have a proper look along with the MOT test, but it always passes and I’ve never got round to it. Maybe this time. I spent a while looking for an 8mm ring spanner, then gave up and used an open-ended one. Moving onto the second rear calliper I was puzzled as to why I didn’t seem to be able to get to the flats of the bleed nipple, leading to the discovery of the missing combination spanner, still hanging in there after enjoying a trip to Felixstowe and back.

Back to “normal” cross country this weekend (Suffolk Winter League). A bit of a chilly wind at Haughley Park (Stowmarket), but at least not raining. A great course too, with some nice zig-zag up-and-down bits through the woods. Also a very strange grassy field where it was dry underfoot at the bottom of the hill, but wet and boggy at the top.We got a bit lost in the woods on the warmup (I know I have a reputation for such things, but I’m claiming this one wasn’t entirely my fault as there were three of us!), and only barely made it to the start line in time.

Photo by Phil Donlan


Weeknotes 2023-01

Following last year’s pattern, I decided week one was the first complete week, not the week containing New Year’s Day.

Back to work this week, but only on Thursday so a fairly gentle reintroduction. And most people have been off too, so nothing’s been piling up while I was away, which is nice.

I got round to setting up Pushover for remote notifications. Often when I’m running a command that takes a while, I’ll use macOS’s say command (which speaks the text you give it out loud) so I can switch to working in a different window without having to keep checking whether it’s finished (or forgetting it’s running):

foo && say 'foo completed' || say 'foo failed'
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

This is mainly useful when I run a build that I expect to take a few minutes, but it fails very early and I come back to find it’s been sitting idle for ages and I have to fix my obvious mistake and run it again (of course it doesn’t help with the classic case where something prompts for a password immediately after you look away). Pushover lets me do the same thing, but the notification pops up on my mobile, so it’s more useful if I feel like stretching my legs or taking a rest from the screen. I just have a bash script in my path that I use exactly the same as the say command above:

#!/usr/bin/env bash curl -s \ --form-string "token=$PUSHOVER_TOKEN" \ --form-string "user=$PUSHOVER_KEY" \ --form-string "message=$*" \
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

It turned out the brake issue on my car was (as predicted by someone in a search result) a detached brake shoe lining. That’s what happens when you make them with glue instead of rivets. I replaced all the rear shoes, with suitable application of violence and a lot of fighting with springs, but the brakes are now even spongier than they used to be, so either the adjusters aren’t working or they need bleeding too. Sigh.

This week saw the return of the dreaded TTT (Thursday Tempo Ten), which mostly involves people faster than me who are training for marathons, but I get talked into joining in. Basically five miles out through Kesgrave, turn round and five miles back, with the nominal target generally being 70 minutes (so in theory I could turn round at 35, but I usually feel too close to the turnaround to stop early. This week they decided on a marginally more gentle 75 minute target, which meant I managed to hang on all the way out, then slowly dropped of the back on the return. It felt like I was miles behind, but as it turned out others had sped up so I was only a few seconds outside the 75. Still my slowest ever according to Strava though, so definitely work to do! Unfortunately I still have a lot of Christmas cake to eat, which probably isn’t helping.

Sunday was the Suffolk County cross country championship, which sounds impressive but is actually open to all abilities. It was at Holbrook School this year, which is nice and close but not the most exciting of courses (a bit of mud at one end, but lots of grass and hard tracks). As the start time approached people were frantically switching from spikes to trail (or even road) shoes.

More of a grimace than a smile

I was looking for something on iPlayer the other day and noticed the films section, which actually has a half-decent selection, and wondered why it had never occurred to me that it was a potential source of the occasional film to watch for those of us too stingy to pay for streaming services. The next day I heard someone suggest the same thing on a podcast, so at least I’m not the only one.


Weeknotes 2022-52

I couldn’t quite work out what the week number should be. Most of the week was in 2022, but I’m writing this in 2023 [edit: last year I called the week spanning the two years week zero, so I’m calling this one week 52, and the first whole week will be week one). Happy New Year!

I had a cold all week, as invariably happens when I take time off work (and also sometimes when I don’t, to be fair). I used up another of my leftover LFTs, which (unsurprisingly) was negative. Mostly going through the annoying cough phase now, having put a serious dent in my supply of tissues.

I still needed one more hollow tree photo for the 2022 monthly challenge. A bit of googling revealed a (relatively) local celebrity tree, “Old Knobbley”, which has its own website, Facebook page and even a book. This seemed like a good one to finish with, assuming running to Manningtree with a cold wasn’t a really bad idea, and I picked Thursday thanks to a combination of a decent weather forecast, empty days before and after, and a non-striking train service to get me back to Ipswich. I took it nice and easy (walking the uphills) and still felt surprisingly OK once I got there, so I ended up opting for the run home (via a different route) rather than waiting an hour for the next train in my shorts and T-shirt (although I believe Manningtree station still has a pub on the platform). It ended up being 28 miles altogether.

Here’s the full collection:

An idiot in twelve trees

I tried to drive to the supermarket on Friday, but as I turned round in the drive the brakes locked on and the car steadfastly refused to move. Better here than anywhere else, I guess. I initially thought it was related to the daft thing it does of holding the brakes on for a second when you’re stationary and switch your foot to the accelerator (seems pointless – I know it doesn’t have a clutch pedal, but it still has a handbrake!), but maybe it’s something more traditionally mechanical with the rear drums. Another job to do, and another nudge towards replacing it.

New Year’s Eve saw the traditional “triathlon” where a few of us usually cycle to Felixstowe, run along the prom for 40 minutes, get in the sea very briefly (the rules are shoulders under and at least one stroke), then dry off and head to the pub. This year it was a Saturday, so Ipswich parkrun took on the role of the run, and the swim was immediately we got to Felixstowe (just as the rain started). I’m not sure whether the mild air temperature made the sea feel colder than it was, but it felt freezing! We were then faced with an extremely damp ride back to Ipswich in the rain – I dread to think what the next people to attempt to sit where we’d been in the Cricketers thought of the damp seats.

With the celebration taken care of nice and early, I followed my usual new year routine of having an early night and being woken at midnight (or thereabouts – you’d think now everyone has precision clocks on their phones they’d get the time right) by a cacophony of fireworks that sounded more like an armed invasion.

Back to parkrun on New Year’s Day, then an unofficial extra one on Justin’s Whitton route from lockdown (now that they no longer allow parkruns to shift their start time at new year to allow a double). Four official parkruns in nine days, and 39 miles of running in four days (plus 45 on the bike this weekend). I think I’ve earned a lazy bank holiday Monday.

As predicted, the Firefly rewatch that I started in February ended up with me also watching all of Buffy, Angel and Dollhouse, plus the DVD extras and commentary tracks (pretty sure I hadn’t actually listened to those before). Maybe I should reactivate my Netflix subscription and actually find something new to watch this year (I’ve heard good things about Breaking Bad and The Wire …)

New Year’s resolution is still 2560 × 1600, although my old Macbook Air seems to be trying to join in with the car in the “please upgrade me” stakes by wilfully running slowly now and again. A 10-core M2 does sound nice, although I bet I’d find that there was some random bit of software that I currently rely on that only works on Intel. Seems funny that the x86 Macs are now the old-fashioned ones – I’m old enough to remember the 680×0 to PowerPC transition (although the first one I actually owned was a PowerPC model).

Still got another three days before I’m back at work, so there’s still a theoretical chance that I might do something useful in my two weeks off, but I’m not holding my breath.


Weeknotes 2022-51

Thought for a minute I must have messed up my week numbers at some point, but week 52 rolls over into 2023, so all is good.

Obviously the key fact this week is that it’s (as Noddy Holder would say) CHRIIISTMAAAAAS! Bah Humbug, etc.

I finally took a decent chunk of time off work, finishing on the 20th and not going back until a couple of days into the new year. The first few days were largely spent relaxing (also cake marzipanning and icing, and mince pie making), and realistically I can’t see huge amounts of domestic productivity happening during the rest of it either.

I gave blood for the 59th time on Wednesday, and scored a mince pie rather than the usual biscuits. I somehow also avoided hearing Last Christmas on the radio that they always have playing. Once again my finger blood was reluctant to drop in the copper sulphate solution, but recorded a solid pass on the fancy machine (or possibly I have more haemoglobin in my index finger than the one next to it).

A double parkrun weekend, with Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday and the traditional extra Christmas Day extra one on Sunday. Also the annual Stutton & Holbrook charity fun run (it’s definitely a race) to fit in between, on Saturday lunchtime. Didn’t go too badly considering the red blood cell depletion.

Cycling home from parkrun on Christmas morning (when the roads were delightfully empty – Christmas or a pandemic every day please!) I encountered a lady who’d just collapsed on the pavement. There was a chap who’d seen it happen and was trying to help her, but she was kneeling face down and apparently refusing or unable to sit up. He called an ambulance, but that didn’t seem to be going well (I ended up speaking to them because it seemed they were having trouble with his English or accent), and eventually we got her up and into the car of another passer-by who offered to take her to the hospital instead (and who in a weird coincidence happened to be someone I know, but hadn’t seen for ages). I think she was probably just shaken, and once she’d got up was more concerned about being a nuisance and not turning up to sing in the choir at her church than anything else.

My Christmas festivities were once again limited to cooking a far-too-large roast for one, which barely fitted on my plate, despite having an Alan Partridge style scam going. Managed to squeeze in a tiny Christmas pudding and a mince pie in the evening, but it was a struggle!


Weeknotes 2022-50

A cold week. We only got a tiny flurry of snow here, but it never really got above freezing, so wherever there was a dusting (or just frost) it hung around all week. Looks like temperatures are set to rocket back up into double figures tomorrow though.

Because I’m a grumpy old bah humbug Scrooge McGrinch I don’t really do anything much for actual Christmas (other than cook myself a massive dinner), but all the action ends up in the week or two before. This was certainly the case in the past few days, with the usual monthly Run for Beer on Wednesday, a curry on Thursday, the FRR running pub crawl in Felixstowe on Friday, then on Saturday what’s now becoming the traditional ten pub/ten mile Christmas run (which actually included 13 pubs, but fortunately we stuck to halves in all but the first and last).

I got talked into running a quiz for our team meeting on Friday, which seemed to go OK, despite requiring me to coordinate three windows at once to show the questions on Teams, operate the buzzer system and keep score.

My fox-chasing-the-cats reel on Facebook has now apparently been watched three million times. I don’t really understand why.

Must remember to book some time off work.


Weeknotes 2022-49

Well it’s definitely properly cold now. Much as I liked to moan about it being too hot all through the summer, since the clocks went back and it got cold and damp I seem to have become mysteriously averse to leaving the house unnecessarily. I’d only been out for a “normal” run (ie just heading out on my own rather than an organised event) three times, and two of those were end-of-month panics to get a photo for my monthly hollow tree challenge. I also hadn’t run more than ten miles in one go since September. Friday was sunny though, and I had the day off, so I dragged myself out for a gentle 13 miles in the countryside.

See, sunny!

The social running’s still going on though, and becoming more alcohol-focussed as we approach Christmas, starting with the TTT (Thursday Tempo Ten) Christmas special on … er … Wednesday. Rather than the usual ten mile time trial, this one basically involved running to the Fat Cat for a pint, then to the Duke of York for another, then the Dove, the Last Anchor, St Judes and finally the Cricketers for a final beer and a burger. I even added an extra loop on my way home to round up to the nominal ten miles.

TTT loons

I posted the video of a fox chasing the cats to Instagram last week, which these days means it’s a “reel”, and ticked the box to share it to FaceBook. For some reason the algorithms decided to start showing it to lots of people, and I kept getting notifications that more and more people had watched it (last time it told me it was 100k). More annoyingly, I get a notification every time someone likes it (800+ at time of writing), which for someone who doesn’t like leaving those little unread message badges sitting on apps/tabs is quite annoying.

I’m still just about still doing Advent of Code (albeit a day or two behind). Usually by now I hit one where my naive solution that works for the sample data looks set to take until the death of the universe to run against the bigger real input, get bored and give up – I expect that to happen any time now. My solutions (in Elixir, although for some reason they always end up looking more like Haskell) are on GitHub.

The other night the camera caught two badgers in the garden at once:


Weeknotes 2022-48

Work Christmas meal this week, which I guess means the festive season must have started. It was on Thursday, which was the first day of December, making it borderline acceptable. We began with a few games of Lazer [sic] Tag at the place over the road from the office, which was good harmless fun. I didn’t come particularly close to the top of any leaderboards, but for some strange reason my accuracy rate was way above everyone else’s (like two or three times higher). If only we’d been paying for each imaginary bullet I’d have got a bargain.

That was followed (via the Dove for a couple of pints) by dinner at The Forge. The meal was good, but that has to be the most hipster place I’ve ever been in. People were ordering drinks that came in wooden boxes and massive lanterns, or were on fire. We then popped into the Nelson for a couple more pints (well I think two or three of us might have had pushed the boat out and had a couple, while most were apparently more restrained). As usual, I wore my Bah Humbug T-shirt, which is older than a lot of my colleagues.

It was the second cross country fixture of the season on Sunday, at Sutton Heath near Woodbridge. After resetting the calibration on my watch to stop the distance from my foot pod reading too high, it now seems to be reading low, so I spent the whole race thinking I was running slower than I was and wondering why 7:15 pace felt so tough. Turned out I actually finished two minutes quicker than last year, although it was a lot less muddy this time round. As at Framlingham, I caught Robin about three miles in, but this time didn’t manage to stay in front and finished a couple of yards behind him. One all.

Couldn’t quite get past (Photo by Phil Donlan)

I’m still regularly getting foxes and badgers in the garden. The other night I caught a video of a fox chasing Ninja cat, which doesn’t usually happen (they mostly completely ignore each other) I was in the kitchen at the time, and both cats who were out came flying in through the flap at great speed.

I reached the end of the Angel boxset this week, which means I’ve now watched all of Firefly, seven seasons of Buffy and five of Angel, plus all the special features and commentaries for the latter two, since the beginning of the year. No, you’re a saddo with no social life.


Weeknotes 2022-46

The starter motor in the Roadster refused to move again as I attempted to come home from Felixstowe in the pouring rain on Tuesday night. So far, it only ever does that when I’m at least ten miles away from home. Fortunately I’m now armed with the “stick it in gear and rock the car forward or back slightly” trick, which worked again. On balance, I think that all left me both more and less confident in my ability to return from anywhere I may have driven to.

At least one of the cats has now spent a bit of time climbing on the new contraption, although not before all three of them had played in the cardboard box it was delivered in.

Badger looking mildly deranged

Another double “Run For” Wednesday, with coffee in the morning (missing the rain) and beer in the evening (not so lucky, and completely soaked, especially on the run home from the pub).

It was my birthday on Thursday, which I largely ignored. I had the day off work though, and popped to the supermarket. In doing so I remembered to take my stack of “£12 off when you spend £80” coupons with me. Uncharacteristically, I did actually spend £80. I even remembered to scan a coupon at the checkout.

Naturally they’d all expired four days ago.

On a more positive note, I’d been contemplating a Pixel 6a after cracking the screen on my 4a on Tuesday (the battery life has also getting progressively worse, to the point that it barely lasted half a day on a charge). I hadn’t quite made the decision by Thursday though, at which point Google made it much easier by dropping the price from £400 to £300. It arrived on Saturday, and the process of transferring everything over was pretty painless.

Phil came up for his traditional annual birthday beer & curry visit on Saturday (we’re fairly sure this tradition is unbroken since 1992, apart from 2020 when the world temporarily stopped). This time I’d managed to persuade him to enter the Hadleigh 5 on Sunday (I was running the 10), and then had to break the news to him that it was five miles, not km. He got round OK though, especially considering he hadn’t previously run further than 5k, which he last did over a year ago. I think he even kind of enjoyed it! I did better than last year in the 10, but not as well as in 2019. When we got back I made the also traditional fry-up, despite it being by now past lunchtime. I cobbled together some hash browns from a couple of potatoes I had left, an onion and an egg, and despite relying on vague memories of how hash browns work rather than consulting any kind of recipe they came out OK. Also notable for being one of the extremely rare occasions when I’ve used all six burners of the hob at once.