Weeknotes 2022-30

I learnt a lesson I’ve already learnt many times at work, spending most of a day trying to implement something in too big a chunk, driven only be tests at the boundary of the module I was working on. It felt like it was just about simple enough to get away with doing that, but then I realised I’d misunderstood the requirement, and it was actually even more complex. At least at that point I had enough sense to stash my changes, start again, and build it up in smaller chunks, with more focussed unit tests. As you’d expect, the resulting code was simpler, more modular and easier to understand. Don’t do as I do etc.

A mostly low-mileage running week, with a 5k race on Tuesday, a 5 miler on Friday, parkrun on Saturday and very little else … until today, when I decided to make up for it with a long run. I did a loop of Alton Water, but also ran there and back, and after a few route tweaks (some intentional; others less so) I ended up doing just over a marathon distance. Oops.

On Thursday I got to dog-sit for Sky the greyhound, who was very well-behaved (mostly she just lazed around, which I think is pretty much par for the course for greyhounds). I also took her for a walk in the evening, and I’ve never known a dog so good at walking to heel. She pretty much spent the whole time with her head level with me, and the lead hanging loosely. Very impressive.

I very rarely watch any sport, but decided on a whim to stick the telly on for the England/Germany game. As far as I could tell the standard was extremely high (but then I used to get subjected to watching the occasional Ipswich Town match, so I might just be easily impressed). I’d just about got to the point of assuming England would lose on penalties (I thought that was the rule when playing Germany), so that third goal was a nice surprise. Well done group of people who happen to live on the same side of arbitrary historical map lines as me, I guess.

The fox has been back again, but I haven’t seen the badgers again yet. I was hoping to have cameras set up by now, but I made the mistake of ordering them from somewhere cheap on the internet, and they seem to have sent me a random battery pack instead.

Uncategorized Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-29

Like a lot of people, I spent the beginning of the week hiding indoors with the curtains closed trying to avoid the ridiculous heat (and it was only mid-30s here, so we had it easy). The cats seemed to enjoy being out in it though.

Another race-free week, and despite the weather I managed to get a reasonable mileage in again. A few social runs – running round Paul’s field in lieu of Tuesday’s club session before relaxing in the finally tolerable evening temperature with beer and chilli, a Run for Beer in Felixstowe on Wednesday evening, a Run for Coffee on Friday morning, and another of Justin’s “trolley dash” five mile informal races today – plus a couple of slow solo trail outings (13 miles on Thursday and 17 yesterday, with the latter including parkrun in the middle). My, that was a long sentence.

FRR Social
Run for Beer
Run for Coffee
Trolley Dash

Jane’s just got a retired greyhound, and I offered to dog-sit next week when she (Jane) has to go into the office for a day, in case she (the dog) doesn’t like being left alone. I went round to see them yesterday, to check she (the dog again) didn’t take a dislike to me, but when I arrived she greeted me excitedly like a long-lost friend, and was quite happy just lying around when Jane popped out for a while as an experiment.

Lying down but pretending to be standing up

I’ve now made my way through all seven series of Buffy. I almost timed it perfectly for the Buffering podcast, which I’ve been listening to in parallel, but having experienced that as a fast-forwarded journey through all the travails of 2016 to the present day, I need to wait for the last five episodes to be released. I guess it’s time for Angel/Angel on Top in the mean time!

I got home today to discover that a large branch on my apple tree had apparently decided to take on a more ground-based role. The number of living branches is slowly reducing – I don’t know how long the tree’s been alive (or how long apple trees generally live) but it looks pretty old.


Weeknotes 2022-28

Every time I come to my blog to post a new set of weeknotes it asks me to log in, and every time I tick the “remember me” box in forlorn hope that it actually will. Thanks to lethargy this is all still the same self-hosted WordPress installation on Dreamhost that it’s been since 2006, so presumably I could fix that, but … yeah, lethargy.

On Monday I actually had to do a scheduled upgrade to the EE network monitoring application that I’m responsible for (ie design, develop, test and support. I know, single point of failure and all that, but I haven’t failed yet). Normally I just deploy changes as soon as they’re ready (usually at least once a day), but this one involved a fairly major change to the main dashboard, switching over to the reworked version we’ve been building up as a beta for a while, so they went through the official change process so the network operations people weren’t taken by surprise. Naturally an hour beforehand my broadband went down, but fortunately it returned in time (and actually tethering to my phone would have been fine), so all went well. Also, no-one complained about the change, and one person said they liked it, so I’ll count that as a win. Still a few performance kinks to iron out, but the GenServer actor model makes it relatively easy to reason about and benchmark the way messages sometimes backup.

Also two rare trips to the office, both for completely separate interview/assessment processes (I was on the assessing side of the table). One was for a group of applicants for a new cohort of women developers in conjunction with Code First Girls, and the other for an internal promotion. Thankfully these things are generally pretty informal these days, as I used to find interviewing almost as stressful as being interviewed.

Friday evening saw one of the big Ipswich races – the Twilight 10k – with the temperature already starting to ramp up (though nowhere near as bad as it could have been). It didn’t feel great, but it turned out I’d got my fastest time yet for that event (though a way off my PB time). We went for a couple of beers (literally just two, mainly thanks to the rather glacial service in Wetherspoons) afterwards, but it felt like I’d had far more when I woke up on Saturday, which I guess was probably dehydration.

What are we looking at?

I got woken in the night by some loud scuffling outside, which didn’t quite sound right for the fox or the cats, and when I shone a torch out of the window there was a badger on the patio. I went down to have a proper look, and it turned out there were two or three cubs running around, which was pretty cool. They didn’t hang around for long as I couldn’t see them in the dark and they didn’t like it when I turned a torch on (hence no photos), but I’ve ordered an infrared trail cam to see what else it detects in the garden.

Not looking forward to the heatwave, and glad it’s not going to be quite as bad here as in other parts of the UK. It’s funny how when you say you don’t like the heat people tell you you shouldn’t complain, as though they somehow haven’t grasped the concept of not liking something.


Weeknotes 2022-27

Oops, completely forgot to write up any notes on Sunday. Or Monday. It must be because my life’s so eventful and busy …

So, um, what did I do last week? Hmm.

We’ve started running an agile development primer thing for some colleagues in India, based on the one we used to (and may soon again) do for new graduates. We cover the basics of clean code, refactoring, automated testing, test-driven development and so on, with a mix of talking, demos and hands-on exercises. We’re using Java because that’s what people are familiar with, although “people” doesn’t really include me (last used the language in anger around 15 years ago) or Anders (who had to learn it specially). It’s harder to do this kind of thing remotely, but unavoidable, at least for now. At least doing it one morning a week is less intensive than three or four days straight.

With no racing this week I managed to run 57 (slower) miles, which is my highest weekly total since last October. I also added graphs to, so I can see my cumulative mileage starting to move towards the target line again rather than away.

Some of those miles were a massive group run round the Big Hoot Trail owls in Ipswich (and then to the pub). I took my usual “hiding at the back” position for the group photo, but as we were on the town hall steps I ended up less well-hidden than usual, on the apex of a pyramid.

I made some ginger nuts for the first time in ages. In a remarkable display of restraint, I still haven’t finished them.

And, um, I think that’s about it.


Weeknotes 2022-26

Well I successfully made it into the office on Monday and Tuesday, for the first two full days since March 2020. I remembered how to get there, I eventually found the old lock I’d left in the bike shed, and I forgot neither my laptop nor its power supply (although a 15″ Macbook is a bit less wieldy than the 13″ one I had two years ago, especially as I had panniers then and only a rucksack now). What I did forget though, at least on Monday, was my pass card. Particularly annoying given that security on my building has been tightened up even more, so I couldn’t even escape without someone letting me out. Also, thanks to some bizarre design decision, the toilets are outside a door that needs a card to get back in.

The office itself has been “upgraded” in the intervening time, so now instead of having our own desks where we can leave whatever possessions we see fit, it’s now first come, first served for any of a whole roomful of identical sterile desks, all lined up in neat rows, with stupidly wide monitors that block your view of whoever’s on the other side. Anyway, it was a nice change to see people, and at least I got a few games of table football in.

A surprisingly successful week on the running front, starting with the second of the Ipswich Summer Series 5k races in Christchurch Park. These seem to be getting less and less popular (probably thanks to a combination of the price creeping up and them no longer handing out bottles of wine as prizes), but I’d already paid for all four in one go, and with only 50 entrants I finished in a frankly ridiculous fifth place, picking up another age group trophy.

Then we had the last of the Friday 5 [mile] races, and despite it being on a fairly flat course at Great Bentley, and not too hot for once, I didn’t feel particularly optimistic. I was quite surprised, then, to still see a 33 on the clock as I turned the last corner to the finish line, and just about managed to sprint to a 33:59, which I then realised was a PB. Maybe I’m not quite getting irredeemably old and slow quite yet!

For some reason I then decided not to take it easy at parkrun, and managed a half-reasonable time, then ignored my original intention to skip today’s planned 13 slow miles, instead accidentally extending it to 18 (well mostly accidentally – some of that was a slight detour at the far end to a pub to refuel with a pint and some crisps). The main purpose was to get this month’s hollow tree photo – it’s an excellent tree that you can actually climb up the inside of, but that doesn’t really come across in the picture.

An idiot in a tree
This is how the elite athletes refuel mid-run, right?


Weeknotes 2022-25

Nearly forgot to post something this week. It feels stubbornly like a Saturday for some reason, which doesn’t bode well for me remembering that tomorrow I’m actually supposed to be going into the office for the first time in ages. It’s not that I’ve particularly avoided it up to now, but I’ve got into such a routine that it doesn’t usually cross my mind that I could go in until I’ve already made a coffee and started work. Anyway, my boss’s boss is in the country at the moment and in our office tomorrow (and Tuesday I think), so it’s probably a good idea for us to actually be there to meet him.

I’m not really sure much has happened since last time. I spent a couple of hours working out how to make Chartkick.js play nicely with Phoenix LiveView, and because I was feeling public-spirited and there wasn’t much detail around of how to do it (I think it’s one of those things that’s just simple enough that if you look on forums you see people asking, being given a hint then coming back saying “thanks, that made sense” without explaining exactly what they did) I decided to write it up.

Other than that, I think everything’s just running. We’ve got a trail of giant painted owls in Ipswich at the moment, so I went out to run round them on Wednesday. I missed a few, and still managed to go a couple of miles further than the planned 10. Then Stowmarket Friday 5 (much less roasting this week, but ended up slower than it felt), parkrun yesterday, and a nice chatty 14 mile trail run today on the Stour Valley Path, including a few wrong turns and a stop for an ice cream and a little paddle in the river. My Garmin is now recommending 3.5 days’ rest, which seems a bit excessive (especially as I have another 5k race on Tuesday).


Weeknotes 2022-24

This week’s main news is that Shadow cat has gone missing again. She didn’t turn up for any food on Wednesday, and I haven’t seen her since. She did disappear for a week a year ago, and turned out to have been hiding in my garage the whole time, but I’ve checked several times and she’s definitely not there this time. Still holding out hope that she might reappear again, but obvious the longer she’s missing the less likely it gets.

I put together a cryptic crossword for the first time in a while, and people seemed to largely enjoy it (the kind of people that have any interest in such things anyway), so I should probably do this more often. This one had a theme, which I usually seem to end up doing – you’d think it would be easier without, but it feels a bit weird for some reason.

I spent Monday afternoon grappling with a failing build caused by race conditions as some tests tore down database sessions after doing things which published messages to a queue, which caused things listening to those messages to terminate unexpectedly. There’s probably a lesson there about decoupling unit tests from the database, but in the meantime I tried all sorts of tweaks without any success. Then just after I’d given up for the day José Valim retweeted a tweet from German Velasco linking to his blog post about how Wojtek Mach had fixed a similar issue in LiveView. It wasn’t exactly the same situation as I had, but it was enough of a nudge in the right direction for me to finally fix the issue the next morning.

I did a quick TDD demo for some colleagues. It’s always hard to pitch this kind of thing so it’s neither too simplistic nor so complex as to be impenetrable or boring – this time I prepared a simple to-do web app, then test-drove a made-up feature involving a button which popped up a random item out of all those with the highest priority which weren’t yet marked as done. This meant I could throw in a bit of UI-based acceptance testing, then drive the domain layer with unit tests, including injecting the “random” algorithm to make the tests repeatable. Seemed to go OK, but it’s always hard to tell with these things. As usual, my main aim was to at least show people what a short “red-green-refactor” loop actually looks like, to dispel any misconceptions that TDD means “write all the acceptance tests to match the spec, then keep coding until they all pass”.

I marked Friday’s heatwave by running the Bury Friday 5. Not altogether the most pleasant experience, especially on top of a 40 minute delay getting there thanks to the A14 being closed because apparently it had melted. My slowest time of the series so far, but it turns out each of them has been slower than the last. Surely I can buck that trend at Stowmarket next week?

I failed to finish the hedge cutting that I started last weekend, blaming a combination of heat and lack of brown bin space (although it was mostly laziness), but I did at least spend a bit of time trying to pull up of cut down the worst of the brambles in what I’m stubbornly referring to as my “wildlife lawn”.

I encountered this chap on my long run today. Fortunately he seemed quite chilled and didn’t decide to charge at me, but just being stared at as I passed through his field was a little unnerving.


Weeknotes 2022-23

The fox has continued to hang around a fair bit, and I’m starting to think it is the same one after all.

A fox …

On Wednesday I finally got round to replacing the rat-chewed rubber seal between the sink waste pipe and the drain. But not before the rat made an escape through the gap under the open dishwasher, and spent Tuesday afternoon alternately hiding under things and chasing/being chased by the cats (I’m not really sure who had the upper hand). I had to take the (fitted) dishwasher out to get to the pipe, which was a pain, but at least when I put it back I managed to do a better job of lining it up than when I originally fitted it, so after five years the door’s finally no longer wonky!

… and a rat

A fairly uneventful running week, apart from a warm Framlingham Friday 5, and some mild embarassment at Tuesday’s club session involving losing the rest of the group, assuming they’d finished, heading back to the sports centre where we meet, then discovering that they’d actually just gone round the corner for a time trial. At least there were three of us, so I don’t have to shoulder all the blame!

My Buffy rewatch has now gone past S5E16, The Body – a strong candidate for the most emotionally battering 40 minutes of TV ever made. And because I’ve been listening to the Buffering podcast at a much-accelerated rate compared to their original release schedule, it feels like they’re in a whirlwind of coping with that episode, the beginning of lockdown, Black Lives Matter and various accusations against Joss Whedon.

I’ve been waiting for the final series of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to appear in the UK, thinking I might reactivate my Netflix account for a month to watch it when it arrived. I just discovered that (a) it’s moved to E4, and (b) as far as I can tell they’ve already removed the first few episodes from All 4. Harumph.

Today I actually managed to do a bit of gardening, strimming down the weeds in the driveway and making a start on cutting the hedges (I’d been putting it off mainly due to laziness, but also because I didn’t want to accidentally disturb any nesting birds. I did find an old nest, but fortunately nothing current). To be honest, this is still only a small subset of the bare minimum that needs doing, but at least it’s a start!


Weeknotes 2022-22

Well that’s the four day weekend pretty much over, and I still didn’t manage to summon up enough enthusiasm to cut my hedges (or hack down the weeds in the driveway, or any of the myriad other jobs that need doing). And because of the weird Thursday/Friday nonsense, we now get tipped straight back into a full week of work! Incidentally, can anyone [he writes in the pretence that more than one or two people are actually reading this] explain why the Jubilee celebrations were in the year that’s 70 years after the accession (which happened in January), but around the date of the coronation (which happened in 1953)? I guess it’s just about getting decent weather.

As you would expect, I largely paid no notice at all to the various celebrations and the like, although I did go to what was technically a jubilee garden party on Saturday (but was really just a bunch of friends drinking beer in someone’s garden). I also dug out some clippings of when seven-year-old me won a local radio competition for the silver jubilee. I didn’t look particularly happy about it, or more likely I just hated having my photo taken.

Fame at last (1977)

On Friday I ran in the long-delayed Run for A Rose 10k, on the flat but windy (and not terribly exciting) RAF Woodbridge runway. This was a charity event in memory of Angela Rose (hence the capitalisation of the name), a friend and local runner who died of cancer at a tragically young age, and was originally supposed to happen in early 2020. Ironically, it was originally postponed because of Storm Dennis, but that pushed it into the void of 2020–21. It was a shame it hadn’t been publicised a bit more, as it felt a bit sparse (I finished in 44 minutes something, and the people in front of and behind me were on 43 something and 45 something respectively. Ozzy, who won it, was miles clear of second place).

In rat-up-a-drainpipe news, I noticed a bit of a smell returning to the kitchen today, and discovered that the tea-towel I’d wedged in the pipe gap has mysteriously vanished. Not sure whether it was removed by reprobate rodents or just got washed away, but hopefully it hasn’t caused a blockage elsewhere (I guess I should poke around under the inspection cover and try to find it).

My new coffee grinder, to complement my new espresso machine, unexpectedly arrived earlier in the week. I say unexpectedly because the manufacturer’s website that orders placed when mine was would be delivered in July (which had just changed from June while I was procrastinating). Not sure why they’d say that then ship it out in May, but I’m not complaining.

I chose today’s run route to go through a massive local field of poppies – apparently they’re there every year, but this year will be the last because the field is about to be turned into a housing estate. Progress, eh?


Finally, I found a fox sleeping in my garden again. I don’t think it’s the same one that has visited on and off for the past few years, or if it is it’s got a lot more nervous all of a sudden (apart from the whole casually sleeping in people’s gardens thing).

Fox (not sleeping)

Weeknotes 2022-21

No more sightings of my under-sink rat lately, but I did end up blocking the hole he was coming up through (incidentally, I’m not sure why I tend to assume any animals I encounter are male). Not because I’ve got anything against the rat – I quite like the rat – but because it turns out having an open gap under your sink that leads out to the drains means that sometimes unpleasant smells find their way into the kitchen. Who knew? I need to get a replacement for the rubber pipe coupling that’s been chewed through, but for now I’ve just stuffed it up with an old tea towel.

I finally took the plunge this week and ordered the fancy new espresso machine I’d been drooling over on the internet for ages, along with a couple of extra accoutrements. I’m also upgrading my grinder, but there’s a bit of a waiting list for that so I’m stuck with the old one for now. Still, after a bit of practice I feel like I’m reliably turning out decent coffee. Which I sometimes did with the old lever machine, but it was always a bit of a lottery with so many variables. I was expecting to take a while to learn to froth milk with the more powerful steam wand, but surprised myself by making a pretty decent flat white the first time I tried it. To be honest it felt a bit odd spending so much money on a luxury item when half the country is struggling to make ends meet, but I don’t treat myself often, and I sent some money to the Trussel Trust to assuage a bit of my middle class guilt. Plus there’s the fact that I didn’t vote for the Tories, of course.

Old and new

Thursday got off to a good start when I dropped my phone in the loo. I’d put it on the cistern, and as I flushed it slid off. It would probably have been fine because the toilet lid was in the process of closing, but I instinctively tried to catch it to avoid it hitting the tiled floor, and after a brief amount of half-awake fumbling heard a splash as it bounced through the now-tiny gap between the almost fully-down seat and the bowl. Soft-close seats have their drawbacks, I guess. Fortunately it didn’t immediately die, and after leaving it in a 40° oven for a few hours the only remaining issue was condensation in the camera lens. Since then I’ve been leaving it in a zip-lock bag with some silica gel when I got a chance, and it seems more or less back to normal. I’m glad I’m not going to have to put up with all my photos from now on having a cheesy soft-focus dream effect.

Running-wise, the Week of Doom is finally over, having completed the Ipswich Summer 5k Series opener (Tuesday) and Sudbury Friday 5 (Friday, duh, but miles not km) hot on the heels of last week’s Kirton Friday 5 and the Stephen Williams 10k on Sunday. I even managed a half-decent parkrun yesterday, but I’m finally having a proper rest day today (also it’s raining). Somewhat amusingly, thanks to a lot of speedy old people not being there on Tuesday (turnout was sparse in general – I think they may be charging a bit much this year for what’s basically a parkrun with chip timing and jaffa cakes), I ended up winning my age category!

Never had one of these before!

I finally finished reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. It’s an interesting view of the kind of low-wage, zero contract, high wealth gap, corruptly governed economy that was keeping working people in poverty a century ago (but which they kept voting to perpetuate). Or it might have been Jacob Rees-Mogg’s manifesto, I’m not sure. It’s an extremely long book though, which is less obvious when you start reading something on a Kindle rather than in physical form.