Weeknotes 2023-10

Some wacky weather this week, with snow on Friday, then double-digit [celsius] temperatures on Sunday.

Two consecutive nights out (apparently they’re like buses). On Wednesday I was dragged in as a last-minute replacement for a pub quiz team. It was a new-fangled affair with answers submitted individually on a tablet, with more points for quicker tapping. I’m generally pretty good at quick reactions on the buzzer, but also terrible at most general knowledge categories, so I was of limited help, but not entirely useless (and the point was a fun night out rather than winning, anyway). Then on Thursday we had a work meal at Mr Wing’s, which is an odd combination of a “normal” Chinese restaurant and a buffet, in that they bring you dishes to order but you only pay a single price. Naturally this resulted in me eating far too much, especially as I hate seeing food go to waste. The quality was very good though, even if the quantity was a bit much.

No racing this weekend, but once again I ended up tagging along with a marathon training 20 mile run on Sunday. I’m sure it must be good for me, although I did feel slightly broken by the time I got home.

That’s about it I think. Anyway, there’s clearly nothing much happening in the world when the main news story is an apparently free-speech-loving and cancel-culture-hating government getting an ex-footballer kicked off the telly for daring to express an opinion they didn’t like.


Weeknotes 2023-09

March already! I’d noticed that I hadn’t practiced the drums much recently, but when I finally got round to it was surprised to realise (I’m doing what I’m told by the book, and noting down which exercises I do when, and at what tempo) that the previous time had been in January. Oops.

Also published the first draft of this having subtracted one from the week number, rather than adding one. And I’m not even editing this in vim, so I can’t use the usual “I hit ctrl-a, but it interpreted the number as negative because of the hyphen before it, so incremented it the wrong way” excuse.

I had a day and a half off work this week, but the only vaguely useful thing I managed to do with it was some very belated and half-hearted vacuuming. I spent far too much of Friday adding an extra feature to my Strava YTD app, so you can see a list of activities as well as just the year and month summary info. Then half of Saturday figuring out how I’d broken the release/deployment when I switched from webpack to esbuild. Basically just like work, except on a different Phoenix LiveView app and I don’t get paid for it.

A new tab

It’s still cold, but I’ve been trying to use the heating as little as possible (not because I can’t afford it, but because I begrudge it), and can mostly be found sitting around in two jumpers and a hat like a mad cat lady. I do have it come on for an hour first thing though, except for Wednesday when the boiler didn’t start and it was a struggle to leave the warmth of the duvet.

I dog sat for Sky again on Thursday, and took her for a walk on her standard route rather than trying to be original, which meant she didn’t stop halfway round and refuse to move like last time. She does seem to be a creature of habit, even down to changing which side she walked on at a predictable point.

Worn out after her walk (or just lazy)

Another cross country on Sunday, on a new course in Southwold. It had looked like it might be a bit dull, but was actually not bad, with a bit of mud (but not a ridiculous amount like Framlingham), and a nice steep downhill where it was possible to make up a few places with a lax attitude to self-preservation (photos by Phil Donlan).

The FRR warmup gang – apparently I didn’t get the jacket memo
A bit of mud


Weeknotes 2023-08

A trip on the train to Colchester on Tuesday to see Beans on Toast with support from Ann Liu Cannon) at the lovely Colchester Arts Centre. I discovered via Instagram the next day that Frank Turner was standing somewhere not far behind me, and apparently Pet Needs were there too, nicely linking up the three artists/bands I’ve seen most recently.

My photo
Frank Turner’s photo (I think one of those backs of heads belongs to me)

I hadn’t seen him live before, but it was great, and (for me at least) the kind of show where you just go along and listen to songs you mostly haven’t heard before, rather than knowing all the words and (badly) singing along. Also notable for the first song I’ve heard about ChatGPT, including the inevitable AI-generated chorus.

Tarpley 20 on Sunday – that day of the year when I wonder what I’m doing racing that far when – unlike seemingly everyone else – I’m not training for a marathon. I managed to shave another couple of minutes off my PB though, coming in at 2:33:13. I suspect I’ll be glad of the fact I’m working at home tomorrow.

Various miscreants before the race

It feels like something else must have happened at some point during the week, but nothing springs to mind.


Weeknotes 2023-07

It’s unseasonably warm again. I keep hearing rumours of another “Beast from the East” on its way, but there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly noteworthy in the forecast, so it’s probably just tabloid nonsense.

The roadster is now MOTed for another year (or until I buy another car and sell it). It initially failed – for the first time since I bought it – not unexpectedly given the iffy brakes (the failure was actually on handbrake lever travel). As I suspected, I’d not quite got the self-adjusting widgets reinstalled properly, but £84 later they’ve corrected my error. The brakes may actually feel better than ever – I think me bleeding them after replacing the shoes may have sorted the sponginess that I’ve expected to fail the past seven MOTs but never did. Total mileage since the previous year’s test: 1,882 (which is only 69 more than I ran in the same period).

I went for a meal at Trong’s on Thursday, which was a thank you for Anders and me from our boss for organising some software good practices training for our Indian colleagues. Great food, but probably not helpful in my quest to be less of a Massive Fat Man (especially as it also meant missing another TTT).

On the other hand, I did run 60 miles over the course of the week, including three Runs for Coffee and one for Beer, and finishing with a steady 18 on Sunday morning (although that culminated in a pre-lunchtime three pints in the local Wetherspoon’s). Next week I’ll be taking it easy in preparation for the Tarpley 20, so it’ll be much less strenuous (apart from Tarpley itself, obviously).

I finished James Acaster’s Guide to Quitting Social Media, which was most amusing, although I’d be interested to know how he managed to text Clancy Delahue to ask for money for more spy stuff, given that his phone was in a storage unit in Rhyll with the screen covered in tar. This may make limited sense if you haven’t read the book. I’m now reading Randall “XKCD” Munroe’s What If?, and it feels very odd not being able to click the images to read the alt text.


Weeknotes 2023-06

This week seems to have flown by (maybe because I posted last week’s notes in Wednesday), but nothing very interesting to report.

My car’s malfunctioning seems to have settled into a rhythm now. Every Tuesday it briefly cuts out as I join the A14 at the Seven Hills roundabout, then seems to reset, bump start itself, have a quick think about which gear it wants to be in, then carry on its way. On the journey home it does something similar, but with the addition of showing a battery warning for a minute or two afterwards. It’s booked in for an MOT on Wednesday – I’m still vaguely intending to replace it soon, but if it passes it would hopefully mean I could get a bit more for it.

We seem to have got back into the habit of Friday Pub at work, after an accidental winter hiatus, which is nice. Obviously we’re eating indoors now, after mostly restricting ourselves to beer gardens for a couple of years.

I made my third (and final) batch of marmalade on Saturday, which came out the best (I now have three open jars so I could sample them all). That should last me through to next year’s Seville oranges (I get through a surprising amount of marmalade – Paddington is an amateur, to be honest).


I finally managed to upgrade my work app to Elixir 1.14. Every time I tried before I’d been hit with a race condition in some code which set up named pipes to talk to shell scripts (so as to stop sensitive arguments appearing in the ps output). I thought I’d “solved” it by putting a short sleep in the asynchronous task that read from the pipe so that it was always reading before the writer started writing, but to no-one’s great surprise the dirty feeling that gave me was justified, and it wasn’t 100% reliable. I finally solved it properly by scrapping the fifo nonsense and launching the scripts with Rambo.

On a roll, I also upgraded to Phoenix 1.7, even though it’s only at release candidate status at the moment. I decided to migrate everything to the new verified routes, which was a very tedious process (I couldn’t think of a way to automate any more than the simplest routes, or at least not one that would justify the time spent). Nice to be back on the cutting edge again though.

Fairly standard running stuff this week, including a run for coffee, a club session, a parkrun and cross country. The latter went better than expected, with another victory in my ongoing series battle against Robin (who I never come close to beating on the road). To be fair he’s deep into marathon training, although as usual I seem to be also doing a lot of the training, just without the intent to actually enter one.

We also did a club run to donate some food to the local Salvation Army food bank, as part of the runr Food Bank Run initiative. As well as the warm feeling of helping the community, the sensation of suddenly not having a rucksack full of tins on your back for the run back was a nice bonus.

Food bank run


Weeknotes 2023-05

A few days late again this week, but I finally remembered.

The week began well. In the early hours of Monday morning I heard a cat being sick, but was too lazy to get up and deal with it. Having gone back to sleep I forgot about it altogether, until I got up and walked over to open the curtains in my bare feet, without paying attention to where I was stepping.

I actually went to two gigs this week, and both were in Ipswich, meaning I could cycle. Thursday was Pet Needs (plus Ecto Beach and Ben Brown) at the Smokehouse, an excellent small venue that I’d not been to before, and Saturday was Frank Turner (plus Wilswood Buoys and Lottery Winners) at the Corn Exchange. Both were most enjoyable.

Pet Needs
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

A couple of hours in a mosh pit on Saturday night was possibly not the best preparation for the Great Bentley half on Sunday, but it went better than I’d expected. Still a minute or two outside my PB, but a semi-respectable 1:34:29. Much nicer weather than is traditional for that race probably helped.

I managed to summon up enough energy on Sunday afternoon to make my second batch of marmalade – just one to go now!


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'

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=$*" \

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.