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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
For various reasons (none of which was the new “thou shalt be in the office three days a week” rule), I ended up going in to the office three days this week, for the first time since early 2020. To be fair, it’s nice to be in there now and then, but having avoided it for so long the hour or so spent cycling there and back, getting changed etc, plus the faff of having to lug everything I need in with me, feels more annoying. Also it rained a fair bit, although I managed to miss most of it.
A pretty unbalanced week on the running front, with not much in the way of easy miles. After racing on Sunday, I did the normal club session on Tuesday, plus the monthly track evening on Friday, and a hardish parkrun effort on Saturday. I’m ashamed to admit that all the other days were rest days (I was going to go out on Thursday evening, but we had a downpour that would have sent Noah scuttling off to fetch his hammer and saw).
My parkrun result wasn’t anything spectacular in itself, but numerically speaking I was pleased to end up with 22nd place, in a time of 22:22. Sadly it was my 232nd parkrun rather than 222nd.
Ninja has finally decided that she likes the new cat tower – or at least she likes sleeping all day on the top-but-one platform.
I had a ticket to see Jim Bob (out of Carter USM, for those old enough to remember) in Islington on Saturday night, which I’d bought before it transpired that it would coincide with a train strike. I ended up driving to Epping (where I was pleased to easily find a side road with free parking – and by easily I mean when I missed the turn for the £6 carpark and drove down the side road to turn round). The Central Line was in utter chaos thanks to someone apparently having decided to step off a train between stations on the other side of London (we were later told that they were both alive and in police custody), so it took forever to get to Stratford to catch the overground. Despite having left home at 4pm, I didn’t get to the Assembly Hall until after 7.30, but I was still just in time to catch the support band (BERRIES). The journey home was less eventful (my car even started first time!), but it was still 2am by the time I got home. The gig was good, but possibly not quite worth all that palaver.
Sunday was very lazy after that, starting by getting up at about 11, and not getting much more active from there. I made a pizza in the rain for dinner, having decided that eating lunch would be an extravagance after only finishing breakfast around noon. That makes two days in a row of only having two meals, after failing to allow time to eat on Saturday night. My scales claimed I was 5lb lighter on Sunday than Saturday, which must have mostly been dehydration from not drinking anything between about 7pm and midnight.
It feels like the Christmas commercialism’s starting to ramp up (now we’re mostly done with the ridiculous doesn’t-make-any-sense-in-the-UK Black Friday idiocy). Bah humbug.
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.
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.
Not much happening during the week, but on Friday I went to Norwich to see the always-excellent Half Man Half Biscuit. They were on at the Waterfront, which is much more convenient than UEA because it’s about five minutes’ walk from the train station. I saw them for the first time there 14 years ago (almost to the day, coincidentally), although I first heard them about 21 years before that. In 2008 I remember having to rush to the station the minute the encore ended to catch the last train, but this time we had an hour to kill, which meant we were forced to pop back into a pub for another pint.
Saturday saw a very gentle parkrun on the slightly dull Kesgrave course, as Chantry Park had been taken over by the “MoRun”, which seems to be an rather expensive race trading on the Movember brand while not actually directing any of people’s entry fees their way. Then Sunday was the Scenic 7: always a pleasant event, and used to be the only local seven mile event until Martlesham muscled in with the redesigned 10k. I managed to go a little bit quicker than I’d expected, but still 30s or so slower than my best. My ankle, which had stopped hurting, started hurting again – both times it was after wearing the Hoka trainers that I bought semi-randomly when I couldn’t get hold of the New Balance ones I usually wear, so I don’t think they suit my feet. The Saucony ones I got at the same time are fine, as are the lighter Asics that I wore today.
I finally got round to taking the shelf unit that I set up as a standing desk in the corner of the lounge at the beginning of lockdown out to the garage (I only used it for the first few months of working at home), and replacing it with a giant cat scratcher/climbing thing. So far none of the cats have shown any interest in either the thing itself or, more surprisingly, the box it came in.