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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-18

Hmm, another week, you say? Not sure where they’re all disappearing so fast, to be honest.

I went to a friend’s 60th birthday party on Saturday. I’m not really a party person – I hate the idea of trying to make small talk with strangers – but there were enough people there that I knew to allow me to mostly lurk in corners talking to them, and had a generally OK time. I was slightly surprised that out of what must have been a hundred-odd people there, it seemed like only four of us had cycled there, but I guess a lot of them had come from further afield (or close enough to walk).

Fortunately we were all kicked out of the venue at 10.30 (that was the plan – there wasn’t a riot or anything), so I wasn’t completely wrecked for the Woodbridge 10k today. I hadn’t run it since 2016, and had forgotten quite how hilly it is, and it also felt boiling hot, although I’m pretty sure the actual temperature was only in the mid-teens. A great atmosphere as always, with half the town apparently turning out to watch (I suspect the fact that the route passes multiple decent pubs helps).

My Buffy rewatch has now reached season four, which is where (a) they go to college, (b) they started filming in what at the time we called “widescreen”, but I guess now we just call “normal”, and (c) the DVD producers got me again with their horrible UX trick of switching from a menu where four episodes are laid out like this:

12
34

… to one where they’re laid out like this:

13
24

I’ve also almost caught up with the Buffering podcast to the point where it matches the episode I just watched. Those are from a few years ago (coincidentally I think in real time they’re about to finally reach the show finale), and I’m mainly interested in what happens when Joss Whedon’s me too fall from grace hits their timeline.

I had another go at getting the ADC for my weather station working after abandoning it for a while, and despite swapping in a different IC it still resolutely failed to read anything other than zero. I suspect it might be a software error (no doubt on my part), so I think I might have to temporarily switch from Nerves to a more traditional python image just to check that the hardware’s all wired up right.

That’s about it I think. Maybe I’ll do something interesting next week, but I’d advise against holding your breath (assuming anyone’s still reading at this point!)

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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-17

Another lazy/uneventful week, I’m afraid. Part of the reason I started writing these was to encourage me to occasionally do something worthy of writing about, which appears to have only been partially successful. Also I forgot that yesterday was Sunday, so it’s actually been slightly over a week.

I thought I was going to get a hole-in-one on Wordle this morning, but sadly only the first four letters were correct, and it took me two more goes to get the fifth.

An image, because apparently my blog doesn’t support those unicode blocks.

That does finally move my stats back to a mode of three though, which is nice, if slightly spoiled by that one time it defeated me after a streak of just over a hundred.

We had DevCon14 at work on Friday – the latest incarnation of a one-day informal developer conference that I set up in 2009, and which we’ve run irregularly ever since. The last few have been remote, which is better in some ways (not restricted to people based at Adastral Park; easy recording of talks) but does lose the random inter-session chatting and precludes heading to the pub afterwards. I had very little involvement in the actual organisation this time, but did keep up my record of talking at all of them. This time I did 15 minutes (mostly a live-coding demo) on Kent Beck’s TCR (test && commit || revert), which I’d prepared almost entirely the night before, but seemed to go OK.

Earlier in the week I’d had a chance to earn a few extra brownie points from my internal customers/users after a customer migration to a new cloud platform had had to be postponed because some component was failing in a way that wasn’t causing any alarms. Fortunately “my” monitoring platform can talk to the kit in question, and I managed to add the extra monitoring they needed in a few hours – I suspect it might have taken somewhat longer to get a change deployed by a vendor, or even by most of our more “strategic” systems.

The long weekend seemed to be all about 5ks for some reason – parkrun as usual on Saturday, then the Kesgrave Fun Run (actually more like 4.85k) on Saturday, which I made less fun by pushing pretty hard as a trial run for the Twilight 5k in a couple of weeks, then a bank holiday special return for the own-brand parkrun which a friend used to organise for a small group during the lockdown-easing period before the real events came back.

I watched Back to the Future the other night. It’s hard to believe that it’s now seven years since we couldn’t believe that we’d reached the future that they head back to at the end. Or that I have friends who weren’t even born when the film came out.

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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-16

Hmm, seems to be a bit of a shortage of things to write about this week.

I cancelled my Netflix subscription yesterday, as seems to be the fashion. To be fair, I only signed up a few months ago, and after binging my way through a couple of shows I found there wasn’t really anything new or old that I desperately wanted to start watching (I’m sure there’s loads of good stuff hidden away, plus the obvious “must see” programmes that I’ve never watched). I had been working through the US version of The Office, which was increasingly feeling like a chore, and the appearance of Catherine Tate was enough to tip the balance from soldiering on to giving up.

Still on the TV front, but mercifully Tate-free these days, I remembered to watch the latest Doctor Who (the news of its broadcast almost passed me by – I’m not sure whether it’s generally less hyped or whether the bubbles have just shifted around a bit). To be honest, it felt like missing it might have been the better option.

No racing this Sunday, so no excuse for not giving parkrun a decent effort on Saturday. Well not that excuse, anyway – by way of variety I tagged along with a few friends who were doing a 13-odd mile social run around Felixstowe, with the parkrun making up miles four to six or thereabouts. Ironically (is it? Ever since Alanis Morissette we’ve all been so paranoid) I ended up with my fastest time since before the pandemic (if you ignore a few virtual parkruns during lockdown). That’s largely down to Felixstowe prom being rather flatter than Chantry Park, but I’ll take it. Still a fair way to go to get back to where I was a few years ago, although I may have to just admit to getting old.

I seem to have spent a fair amount of time this week researching espresso machines and grinders, as I consider replacing the manual lever Europiccola that’s served me well (if not always consistently) for the past decade. As always with these things, the process of reading reviews and forums results in the budget creeping slowly upwards until the idea of spending roughly the same as I paid for my (admittedly very cheap old) car for a coffee maker seems almost rational.

I always feel like these posts just peter out, with no proper conclusion, so I’ll let this paragraph perform that function this week.

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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-15

A day late this week, because today feels like a Sunday. Although to be fair so did yesterday, after two consecutive Saturdays. And I believe there’s another nonsense holiday coming up soon, on a Thursday and Friday of all things. Madness.

As usual, Easter pretty much passed me by, other than making my traditional bad hot cross bun joke. I took them along to parkrun on Saturday and they seemed to go down well. Better still, there were some left, so now I have a small stash in the freezer. I’d definitely recommend the recipe – much better than when I used to make the dough in my bread machine.

Hot cross buns

I thought I’d had another fairly low mileage running week, but turns out I actually did a reasonably acceptable 35.5 miles. That may explain why my legs felt tired for the second half of the Little Bromley 10k (I ended up finishing a few seconds slower than Bungay last week). It’s a shame that Covid precautions have changed the route and precluded the traditional finish into the churchyard for the past two years, but at least the tradition of getting a mug at the finish line instead of a medal is still alive.

Bromley 10k memento mug

It’s been a while since I made any progress on the weather station – I’d been procrastinating because the next step was connecting up the wind vane. I’ve already written the basic software to talk to it, but it’s the most complicated bit, hardware-wise, needing an external ADC to convert the resistance-based sensor output to something the Raspberry Pi can handle. Still pretty straightforward in the grand scheme of things, but anything involving a jumble of jumper wires on a breadboard ends up being a bit of a challenge for my clumsy fingers. I finally got round to it today, and it turned out my apprehension was justified. The value that comes out is sticking persistently to zero, even though I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve checked the wiring. It’s tempting to jump straight to getting a PCB made and soldering everything together permanently, but that would probably be asking for trouble.

Better news on the unicycle front – I wouldn’t claim to actually be able to ride it yet, but I can occasionally stay on for a few yards, which is definitely progress.

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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-14

Is it really Sunday already?

Another uneventful week. Even more uneventful than last week, when at least we had a bit of snow for variety. I do, however, appear to have what UB40 would describe as a rat in mi kitchen. For ages I’ve noticed the cats occasionally taking a deep interest in the kitchen units where the sink and dishwasher live, then the other day when it happened I thought I heard a quiet scuffling noise too. When I pulled one of the kickboards out to look underneath I saw a whiskery face staring back at me, before he dived into the drain and disappeared, like some kind of miniature Buffyverse ne’er–do–well. There’s no sign that any members of the rodent community are actually living under there, and I’m not sure there’s even any way for them to get out into the kitchen – maybe they just pop up every now and again for a bit of warmth. I’m minded to leave them to it, to be honest.

Speaking of the Buffyverse, as predicted the (very short) Firefly rewatch has segued into another run through the Buffy DVDs. Currently nearing the end of season two, and this time I’m being especially sad and also listening to the director/writer commentaries for the episodes that have them. I’ve even started listening to Buffering the Vampire Slayer podcast from the beginning, although I haven’t caught up with that sufficiently to get the two in sync yet. I’m also watching old episodes of Taskmaster, and the two theme tunes have started to melt together in my head. I really ought to seek out more new stuff to watch, but to be honest the amount of choice seems a bit overwhelming these days.

This Sunday was the Bungay Festival of Running, and although various people’s attempts to persuade me to enter the marathon were as unsuccessful as you’d imagine, I did at least do the 10k. It felt like hard work (which I suppose is kind of the point), but I dragged myself round in my fastest time for a while. We hung around for the other races, and it was nice to see a friend win the half, and our club pick up the men’s team prize in the marathon.

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Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-13

Now with added SSL. Although I’d still prefer to dump WordPress and switch to a static site – I just need to summon up the enthusiasm for the migration.

It’s been a pretty uneventful week as far as I can remember. I had a couple of days off work but didn’t really do much with them other than lazing about. I made a bit more progress with the weather station, but most of it seemed to involve yak-shaving around trying to decide the best way to time and/or count the anemometer pulses to give a wind speed that’s real time but not too real time.

We had a bit of snow on Thursday and Friday mornings. It didn’t amount to much, but I was glad not to be out in it. Fortunately the weather was far more pleasant on Saturday (marshalling at parkrun) and Sunday (running the Harwich Half). Especially so for the latter, as there was no bag drop and the start line was a fair walk from the car park, which would have been horrendous if it had been freezing. I ended up with my fastest half marathon time for a few years, but nowhere near a PB (despite what Strava may claim – I assume the one in 2019 which was a couple of minutes quicker must have come up short on the GPS).

I still can’t ride my unicycle, but have graduated from following along the garage wall and using it for balance to pushing off, pedalling a few times (I think my record so far is about 2½ whole revolutions) then falling off. At least the falling bit now generally involves just stepping off and (usually) grabbing it before it hits the ground.

On Friday I dialled into (do we still say that? How many people these days even remember phones with dials? I do actually have a nice black bakelite one plugged in, but it no longer seems to work – not sure whether it’s the phone or my landline, but either way it stops people ringing me, which is nice. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes …) James Shore’s Art of Agile book club, with J. B. Rainsberger and Geepaw Hill, for a discussion on TDD. It was interesting overall, but the main specific tip I picked up was a simple one that seems like it might come in handy. The idea was that when you have a test that occasionally fails because of a race condition, it turns out that it is OK to add a sleep, but you should add it to the production code, not the test. That way you end up with a test that fails reliably, which makes it much easier to debug, and once you’ve fixed the synchronisation problem you obviously remove the sleep.

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Weeknotes 2022-12

Well I still haven’t caught Covid, as far as I know. Despite spending time sitting next to someone in a pub last week who tested positive the next day, then spending ten minutes talking to someone before the Stowmarket Half on Sunday, who was moaning about his cold that “definitely wasn’t Covid”, which it turned out was just an opinion, which the test he belatedly took when he went home disagreed with.

I went to see New Model Army in Bury St Edmunds (an incongruous combination perhaps) on Tuesday, and wore a mask while I was there, partly just in case the LFT I took that day was a false negative, and partly because statistically there must have been a fair few infected people there. This seemed an unpopular point of view though, as I only saw a couple of other mask wearers there. It kind of feels like everyone’s decided to just give up and catch it anyway, but I’d rather avoid it as long as I can on the basis that even if it’s mild most people I know haven’t enjoyed it, and it would almost certainly mess up my running for a while (especially if I ended up with “long Covid”, which is my main worry).

Anyway, NMA were good, even if the crowd was slightly sparse and a bit less boisterous than usual (I started listening to them in the early 90s, but tales of insane mosh pits had put me off seeing them live until a few years ago, when it turned out to be fine, although possibly because we’ve all got old in the meantime).

On Wednesday morning one of the cats proudly came in through the cat flap with a mouse dangling from his mouth by its tail. He released it, and it immediately ran behind the fridge, where as far as I could tell it stayed until Thursday night, when I was woken up by the sounds of it being chased round the lounge. This time I managed to grab it and put it out of the front door, hoping they wouldn’t figure out where it had gone in time to track it down. I got woken again on Saturday night by one of the other cats growling in the bedroom, with either another mouse or the same very unlucky one. Either way, I caught it and put it outside again, and hopefully it’s either learned its lesson or been quietly finished off outside.

At work, the monitoring system I’ve built and supported pretty much solo over the past three years is apparently on the point of being considered one of EE’s core network management tools. I can’t help thinking they’re getting it pretty cheap for my salary compared to some of the other big ol’ enterprisey systems it’s sitting alongside. We went to the pub on Friday to celebrate yet another person leaving the company for a sizeable pay rise and a mostly-remote job, and amongst the people there from our long-standing Friday Pub crew, those of us still with BT were in the minority. Who knows, after 30 years maybe it’s not too late for me to look elsewhere! Or at least threaten to, and see if they offer me anything to stay.

I decided that the reason I still haven’t managed to ride my unicycle is that I stupidly bought one with a 24″ wheel, not realising that they’re harder to ride. Obviously the solution to that was to buy a cheap 20″ one too, and it arrived on Saturday.

So now I can’t ride two unicycles. Although it feels like I’m a bit closer to getting somewhere with this one.

I’ve got Monday and Tuesday off, so hopefully I’ll escape any of those annoying biannual failing tests after the clock change. Fingers crossed for a similar lack of production issues.

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Weeknotes 2022-11

With a slight sense of trepidation I went to fill up my car with petrol for the first time this year. It turned out it wasn’t actually much more expensive, but that might have been partly due to going to Sainsbury’s instead of my local BP. Anyway, on balance I’m all for higher fuel prices if they give the human race a few extra years before the seemingly inevitable climate apocalypse.

Another plumbing success story this week. Having tried seemingly everything to sort out the blocked drain from the kitchen sink, I finally twigged that the gunked-up bit of pipe was the short section between the plughole and the U-bend. Obviously having realised that, it was pretty trivial to clean it out, and now the water runs away at a more traditional speed. There’s a lesson in there about stopping to properly diagnose a problem before diving in headfirst to solve it.

The monthly Run for Beer came round again on Wednesday, and once again the weather was far nicer than everyone else’s dire predictions. We only stopped in the pub long enough for a bit of food and one pint, although I managed to fit in two (pints, not meals) after only realising after having one bought for me that they had a Burger-and-beer meal deal going. Well it would have been a shame not to take advantage to save money by … er … spending slightly more money.

It was also the Stowmarket Half on Sunday, which went OK-ish but not spectacularly. The weather was great – a bit warm if anything, but less wind than of late, but the last few miles were a struggle. Last time the event was held we were in that weird couple of weeks in 2020 where everything was still just about happening as normal but we all new it was about to come to a grinding halt for what we assumed would be a few weeks. It’s nice to feel like things are relatively normal again, albeit with infection levels some 5,000 times higher than they were two years ago. It was also nice to get a negative LFT result this morning, after the person I’d been sitting next to in the pub came down with Covid the following day.

The correct connectors for the weather sensors finally arrived, and although I haven’t made any actual progress as such I did at least confirm that the code I’d already written to interface with the anemometer works as expected. Just need to sort out the wind vane and rain sensor now, then come the no doubt long-running tasks of moving the electronics from a breadboard to a more permanent form, getting it all mounted outside (fortunately I have a handy bracket where the TV aerial used to be) and adding a web UI or whatever other kind of display I can come up with.

Somewhat against character, I actually washed the outside of the downstairs windows (well it’s a start) at the weekend. Partly triggered by the Sahara desert sand that was raining down recently, although to be honest it’s so long since I cleaned them that the sand didn’t make that much difference. A even gave the car a quick going over too, after I’d left it out overnight and one of the cats had left muddy paw prints all over it.

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Weeknotes 2022-10

Well, apparently I’ve made it to the tenth instalment of my weeknotes experiment. Today also marks two years since my last day working in the office, before everything went a bit weird. I’ve been back briefly a couple of times since, but – at least in theory – I should be starting to go in for three days a week soon. I was always a big fan of colocated teams, but if I’m honest I think now I’d prefer to stay here like a hermit, only going in when there’s a specific reason for it to make sense. On the plus side, at least it would start pushing my cycling mileage back up a bit: that’s dropped from around 2,600 miles a year down to about 600.

I’ve started playing around with building a weather station using a Raspberry Pi Zero W and Nerves (the Elixir embedded platform), after the sensors I ordered from AliExpress arrived (postage from China almost doubled the price, but was still cheaper than buying them from a UK supplier). I put together a first stab at reading the anemometer, but was thwarted by the so-called RJ11 sockets I ordered from Amazon turning out not to actually be RJ11, but actually some other standard that’s even narrower. I also ordered a humidity/pressure/temperature sensor, which I now have wired in and working.

Please excuse the horribly bodged double header on the Pi, which I did in a rush to prototype a previous project when I only had male–male jumper cables

PragProg do actually have a book specifically about building a weather station using Nerves, but I thought it would be more fun not to buy that (it sometimes feels like that’s one of the few books in their catalogue I don’t have) and muddle through on my own. Maybe when (if) I finish it I’ll get the book and compare our approaches.

My ankle/tendon still seems to be on the mend, fortunately. Sunday was the final event in the Suffolk Winter League cross country series, which was actually in Norfolk. A long way to go for a fairly unexceptional course round some fields (although there were some cool rare breed pigs on the farm). I managed to keep up with Robin, who’s generally much faster than me, and finished right behind him, but that was pretty much entirely down to him having a slow day rather than anything exceptional on my part. That also took me over the 400 mile mark for the year (much more than on the bike!), so I’m still on track to repeat my “run the number of miles in the year” challenge from two years ago. I might not be quite so pedantic about it this time as I was then, when I finished on New Year’s Eve with a total of exactly 2020.0 miles.

My fridge has decided to repay the effort I put into defrosting it last week by suddenly refusing to dispense chilled water (or any water – I suppose for a fridge, chilled is the easy part), which I realise is the very definition of a first world problem, especially with everything going on at the moment. It’s weird how much nicer fridge water tastes than it does from the tap, even unfiltered. In other domestic news I actually looked at my gas & electricity bill this month, which was a bit of a shock and prompted me to reduce the times the heating’s on (one disadvantage of working at home). It’s probably also a hint to think about replacing my boiler and improving the house insulation. Annoyingly, it doesn’t feel like there’s a feasible alternative to gas yet, but at the same time I suspect a new gas boiler now would become obsolete before serving out its natural life. I suppose once WW3 kicks off properly it won’t really matter either way.

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Weeknotes 2022-08

Another instalment in my long-running quest to keep my combi boiler running until there’s a decent economical green alternative this week (although I suspect just getting a new, more efficient gas one when the service guy suggested in 2014 that it didn’t have long to live would probably have paid for itself by now). This time it was a fairly prodigious drip that was easily cured by replacing the O rings and fibre washer on the heat exchanger, although it also took a bit of blowing with a fan heater to dry out the control board and make the flame sensor work again afterwards (longer and more boring version on Facebook).

Boiler maintenance

Sunday saw my second attempt at the Tarpley 20 [mile] race, and once again I was seriously questioning my life choices beforehand, especially as there was a perfectly good ten mile option available. Around halfway through I was thinking “this isn’t too bad – maybe I should do a marathon after all”, but the last few miles were pretty tough and reminded me why I don’t intend to. Managed to knock 4½ minutes off my 2020 time though, to finish in 2:35:30.

Pretending not to be half-dead going up a hill in the latter stages of the Tarpley 20