Weeknotes 2024-14

Leftover item that I forgot to include last week: a return visit to the dentist for a replacement filling. All very straightforward and painless, despite the lack of injection. Well, apart from the price, I suppose.

I took advantage of the second extra day of weekend to get a longish slow run in, even managing to find a couple of miles of trails I’d never run before (including a slightly hairy crossing of the A12). The route back through the Fynn Valley took me past the tyre swing over the river (well, stream really), that I’m pretty sure I’ve never passed without having a quick go. This time I found that both the rope and the tyre had been replaced by beefier versions, although it now hangs a bit lower, increasing the risk of wet feet. It later transpired that it had been replaced by someone I know, after someone cut the old one down.

Back to work, and the usual procedure of trying to work out what on earth I’d been doing before taking a week off. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to leave a long commit message to my future self explaining what I’d left half-done.

I managed to make a coffee run on Wednesday, for the first time in a while. There were only three of us, one of whom was rushing off afterwards, so we didn’t actually stop for coffee (which is fine, as I can make a better cup at home than I can buy from Ian Greggs).

My [so-called] Mini had its MOT test on Friday (the first one since I bought it nearly a year (and a massive 2126 miles) ago. Fortunately it sailed through, with only a couple of tyre-related advisories (which was, surprisingly, three fewer than the previous year). Surprisingly, the cost of an MOT test (with a discount code) seems to be 25% cheaper than it was 20 years ago. And 20 years ago it definitely wasn’t possible to check the test status and advisory list on your phone while walking to the garage to collect the car.

Hopefully another year’s cheap (and more reliable than the Roadster!) motoring awaits.

Another long run on Sunday, on a slightly longer variation of Monday’s route, and this time with Holly. Obviously we both had to have a go on the swing, and both ended up with slightly wet feet (but didn’t actually fall in). The weather’s suddenly started getting warm again, with very little pause in the Goldilocks zone of running temperature. Thanks to last week’s long run technically being this week, it’s been my first 50+ mile week of the year.

We’re now 25% through #48in24, and I’m still keeping up. I definitely haven’t ever written code (albeit not much code) in so many languages in such a short time before.

Exercism #48in24

Weeknotes 2024-13

End of the leave year, so I had this week off to use up the last of my allocation of days. Which was nice.

My new TV arrived on Monday. Fortunately the template I’d made to check for fit was accurate, and it just squeezes onto the corner wall (with about 10mm total clearance).
As is my wont, I ignored the safety instructions’ insistence that (a) the wall mount should be installed by a professional, and (b) the TV needed three people to lift it, and with a bit of ingenuity, planning and some minor jeopardy I managed to successfully get it up on the wall on my own. I’ll probably stick to one of the other instructions though, namely “do not throw anything at the TV set”. Which is why I don’t watch Question Time.

Once I’d removed the old (home-made by me) media tower, the (likewise) MDF projector screen, the projector shelf, the projector, the old TV, various bits of obsolete kit like a Sky box and a TiVo (!) and a phenomenal pile of now-unused cables, and filled and painted over some holes, the room now looks much tidier (or might once I sort out the piles of random stuff in the other corner!)

Incredible cable mess
Nearly there
Much simpler!
And it’s up! Obviously important to choose the most up-to-date high-quality content to show off the 4k resolution!

My new Mac arrived too. Apart from it being many times times faster than the old one, the switch was almost anticlimactic. A couple of hours for the migration assistant to do its thing, and everything from apps to preferences to command line tools was set up and running pretty much exactly as before, which isn’t bad considering the new one’s running a whole different processor architecture. The first Macs I used were 680×0-based, so over the years I’ve now migrated from there to PowerPC to Intel to Apple Silicon.

Another month’s Run for Beer has rolled round already (actually it should have been last week, but hardly anyone could make it then). Before we know it spring will be here and we’ll be out in beer gardens again. This week we headed to the Three Wise Monkeys. That made the route slightly shorter, which fitted in nicely with it being in a fairly short gap between last weekend’s 15 mile race and a five mile one this Friday.

Run for Beer (everyone else thought to have an extra layer available at the finish, but then none of them ran home afterwards either)

Friday was the Sudbury “fun run”, which despite the name is very much a proper race. I did it last year too, but had completely forgotten that the second half is pretty much all uphill. They’d had to move the finish line at the last minute thanks to some emergency roadworks, so it was 4.75 miles instead of five, but the missing bit would have all been downhill! My pace was pretty much identical to last year, and it was nice to average under 7 minutes a mile again.

Saturday’s parkrun was another story altogether – just dragging myself round at 9 minute+ pace was a real struggle. The heart rate monitor on my watch backed this up, with the average value being weirdly almost as high as the maximum I’d hit on Friday. At least I’d taken along the batch of hot cross buns I’d made on Friday to hand round, so I got to refuel before cycling home.

Another Easter; same old joke

On Sunday I headed back to the same park to run the parkrun course again, this time as part of the annual Beat the Bunny unofficial handicap race (start times are based on your fastest 5k so far this year, and the fastest runner is chasing you all down wearing a bunny suit). There seem to be fewer quick people at these events every year, to the extent that I was the last non-leporine runner to depart. Fortunately my best 2024 parkrun time was slow enough to give me a four minute head start, so the bunny didn’t catch me and I wasn’t quite last. In fact I even improved on my handicap time!

The bunny

Weeknotes 2024-12

I took the day off on Thursday, and finally dismantled the chicken run (a mere eight years since I last had any chickens). It was surprisingly difficult to get apart, despite me having removed most of the screws last weekend. Still a lot of clearing to do before I can get the greenhouse up in its place though.

Going …
… gone

I tried to finally watch Everything Everywhere All At Once, but the Blu-Ray turned out not to be from whatever region the UK is in (it’s so long since I thought about region codes that I didn’t even realise they were still a thing). I braced myself for a complicated return/refund process, but they just issued an immediate refund and don’t even want me to bother sending the disc back, which feels like a strange way of doing business. Yay Amazon, I guess?

After what surprisingly turns out to be 17 years, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and ordered a massive TV to replace my projector (and the marginally less old small TV). I don’t think when I knocked up a 72″ screen out of MDF even longer ago, for the projector before that, that I expected to ever be able to replace it with an actual telly with an extra diagonal foot of picture. It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow, then we’ll find out whether the piece of board I cut to match the cross-section of the TV to confirm that it (barely) fits in the room was in fact the correct size (it’ll go on the wall that cuts across the corner at 45?, so the taper at the edges was a critical enough part of the measurement that a tape measure didn’t really cut it).

Incidentally, I assume everyone types the ? symbol by holding down option and mashing the keyboard until the right glyph appears, then deleting the rest?

I ordered a new laptop too, as my 2018 Air is struggling these days (eg right this minute, when the load average has mysteriously jumped into the 600s), so it’s been a tough week for my credit card.

I ran the Colchester 15 today (actually in Langham, which is even closer than Colchester). It was much hillier than I expected, but I survived and even technically got a PB, though there’s not much competition at that distance and the only other 15 I’ve done were Benfleet, which is largely off road and full of mud. Getting there in the first place was less straightforward than expected – I’d offered to drive, but minutes before Rob and Dave arrived I discovered that the long-standing slow puncture in my offside front tyre had turned overnight into a complete flat. Fortunately after pumping it up it retained its inflation for the day, but getting that replaced will be a task for this week (along with the battery, which also chose today to go from “only lasts a day or so after being charged” to “doesn’t retain any charge at all” (fortunately I have one of those amazing little jump-start booster battery things).


Weeknotes 2024-11

After spending all of Monday cobbling my second AgileFest talk together (by which I mostly mean scouring the web for CC-licensed images to put on slides, along with a few less generic ones from my photo history), I think I more or less got away with it. This one was an experience report of 20 years of doing agile development in (and often despite) a company that’s spent most of that time repeatedly attempting Agile Transformations™. I do seem to have a weird knack of being able to spend a few hours throwing slides together and ending up with them forming an outline of a talk of approximately the required length.

With the end of the leave year rapidly approaching, I finally got round to taking a couple of days off this week. I didn’t do a huge amount with them, although I did make a start on dismantling the old chicken run to give me space to put the greenhouse up. I’ve basically removed all the screws holding the sections of mesh panelling together (apart from a couple that were rounded off and seized in place), but it’s still doggedly retaining structural integrity.

Stowmarket half on Sunday. A new course this year, with a few hills and a second half into a headwind, but I managed more or less the same OK-but-not-great time as I did at Great Bentley.

Before …
… and in the pub afterwards (waiting for entries to open for the Woodbridge 10k)

Weeknotes 2024-10

Oh dear, nearly a week late.

A Bangla curry on Wednesday, with three of us retiring to the pub afterwards for another few pints, for my first “mid week half dozen” for a while. That didn’t bode well for the Thursday Tempo Ten (no racing this weekend, so no excuses) – especially as I was reminded when I said “see you tomorrow for TTT” as we parted ways that it was technically today. As predicted, TTT wasn’t a pleasant experience (is it ever?), but I more-or-less managed to hit my 75 minute target. I blame having to negotiate cars turning in and out of side roads for the extra three seconds.

It was Badger and Ninja cats’ fourth birthdays on Friday, but I forgot, so no cake for them. They’re more-or-less getting along with the new addition (who’s still going by Cosmo, the name he was given by his previous owners, as I haven’t had any inspiration for a better name). I wouldn’t say they’re exactly friends yet, but they’re happy to eat together without any growling.

Four hungry cats

I finally got round to registering my YTD app with the Strava developer programme, under vague threats that they might disable API access for unregistered apps, which would be annoying for the literally dozens of users.

In “will he ever learn?” news, I spent a reasonable proportion of the weekend preparing a demo for TDD talk I’m doing an agile event at work on Tuesday. Now I just need to put some slides together, then also write the second talk I’m doing at the same event.


Weeknotes 2024-09

I’ve been having an absolute nightmare with our slowest integration test at work. It basically runs a whole load of tasks against simulated remote nodes, which involves making lots of ssh connections to a fake external system running as a docker container. It recently started randomly failing to connect, or the connection would freeze partway through a command, and because I’d ignored my better judgement and changed too many things before getting back to green, I spent ages trying to narrow down the problem. The trouble is I don’t think it’s actually deterministic, so I kept going down blind alleys thinking I was getting somewhere. Despite trying everything I can think of, including reinstalling docker, it still doesn’t reliably work on my Mac. Fortunately it still seems to be OK on CI, so at least there’s that. Still, grr.

I was slightly dreading Tuesday night training after Tarpley, but my legs surprised me by mostly still working. There was a track session on Wednesday too, which might have been a bit much, but fortunately I had an excuse in the form of a clashing Run for Beer. We’re trying to mix up the destinations a bit this year, and for February we picked the Greyhound. It’s an excellent pub, and I should go there more often.

Run for Beer

On Thursday we had one of our irregular developer events at work. Amazingly we’re now up to DevCon17 (I came up with the idea for the first one back in 2009), and apparently I’m now not just the only person to have presented at all 17, but no-one else has even attended them all! This time I talked about time, and a few of the ways it can bite programmers (seemed apt for February 29th).

I dropped a container full of sugar on the kitchen floor yesterday, and it somehow landed and remained upright, the base almost but not quite detached (that clear plastic bit is open at the bottom), and almost all the sugar stayed inside. I’ll take that as a win.

Lucky escape

The long-delayed Framlingham cross country happened today – it should have been the first race of the season, but had to be postponed because of massive flooding last year. Some parts of the normal course were still underwater, but the Flyers did a sterling job of adapting the route and also coping with reduced car parking capacity. I don’t think most of the course was really much muddier than in previous years, but there were a few points where it was a bit deep (including in the iconic section through the [dry] castle moat.

At the bottom of Ed Sheeran’s castle on the hill
Gratuitous cat photo

Weeknotes 2024-08

My usual Tuesday routine of heading to Felixstowe for club training was foiled by a complete inability to find my car key. I tried all the obvious (and less obvious) places like pockets, bags, in the ignition, in the fridge etc, but eventually found it several hours too late next to the bed.

What had actually happened was that earlier, while looking for a ruler (which I never found), I stumbled across a very old Android tablet that I hadn’t been able to find for years. I plugged it in to charge (doesn’t seem to have worked) and put it down next … apparently on top of the key. There’s clearly some law of conservation of finding things going on.

Wednesday was time for the every-ten-weeks visit to the pub quiz – due to someone else dropping out I seem to have been promoted to full-time team member. Unfortunately when we got to the pub they’d lost our reservation, and it was full up, but we decamped to the Nelson for beer and food instead, so it wasn’t a wasted evening. They’ve offered us 50% off our bill next time to make up for the mistake, so that’ll be a bonus.

Friday was the day when Pet Needs discovered how successful their “bottom of the pops” campaign had been. Thanks to some great ideas on their part to sell multiple versions of the album, they exceeded expectations by entering the album chart at number 17. Glad to have played my part by sponsoring the album in the first place, then buying – er – 16 different variants!

Sunday saw the Tarpley 20 roll round again – the closest I get every year to a road marathon. The weather was almost ideal, but it’s still a tough event. I managed to finish only two seconds slower than last year, and one place higher, which I’m happy enough with. We hung around afterwards for the presentations from last year’s Suffolk GP series, where I’d got third place in my age category (which sounds far more impressive than it is, and is largely down to turning up to the right events!)


Weeknotes 2024-07

I hadn’t spotted pancake day looming in the calendar, and happened to have made pancakes on Saturday. I’m not as greedy as I used to be, so one portion of batter is too much for one meal, which meant I made a second batch on Sunday. Then of course I had to have them on Tuesday, as it’s tradition. And on Wednesday, even thought that makes a mockery of the original point of the tradition, and probably means I’m no longer shriven.

I finally got round to drilling out the tiny ventilation hole in the Sudbury Fun Run water bottle that I keep at work. Now I can drink from it without sounding like someone trying to suck up the dregs of a McDonald’s milkshake. That also seems to have significantly increased the amount of water I drink while I’m in the office.

That was the smallest drill bit I could find

I did my bit to help Pet Needs achieve their goal of exploiting the album chart rules to try to get their new album to “Bottom of the Pops”, by buying the 12 CD bundle (and the signed normal CD … er, and also the release day special edition). After a lot of faffing with a mount cutter, they’ve been transformed to a piece of ‘art’ on my wall.

People I’ve seen in The A-Team this week: the “You gonna look pretty funny trying to eat corn on the cob” bloke from the Good Ol’ Boys in The Blues Brothers, and Sgt. Taggart off of Beverley Hills Cop. Also some weird goings on where Col Decker was played by a completely different actor, then came back two weeks later as the original (then an episode without BA, followed by one without Face).

I’m still keeping up with #48in24. Last week was Roman numerals in Elixir (kind of used to that one), Pharo (Everyone always raves about Smalltalk, but despite how much ruby et al owe to it I always find it hard to get my head round coming from a career using boring normal languages) and Julia. This week is protein translation in Crystal (rubyish), C? (javaish) and F? (surprisingly elixirish, in a way).

Another Saturday night downpour saw an even muddier Sunday cross country than last week (without the unseasonably mild weather). This time I fell over twice – the first time on some mud-covered concrete and gravel, which left me with a nice collection of grazes.

Approaching the finish

Lost my 95-day Wordle streak this week.


Weeknotes 2024-06

Had an unusual issue at work where the Erlang VM (yes, the app’s still a single-server monolith) suddenly attempted to allocate 50GB of heap memory, then crashed in a huff. This is the first time in half a dozen years I can remember the VM actually crashing, which isn’t too shabby a record. I never got to the root cause, but did at least switch the systemd config from simple to update, so it’ll be automatically restarted if it ever crashes or stops responding in future. Updating the Elixir app to send the necessary heartbeat signals only required a couple of lines of code, thanks to the erlang-systemd library.

On Wednesday I decided to treat myself to a small can of beer, despite it being a weekday. It was a bit lively when I opened it, and foamed over the top, so I put the can on the floor while I wiped off what had spilt on the table. Then settled down, reclined my seat, hit play, reached out for my beer, and remembered it was still on the floor. Where, as I’m sure you’ve already predicted, it had been knocked over by the settee footrest popping out. So I only treated myself to half a small can of beer, as it turned out.

I’m still working my way through the A-Team box set. It’s still largely harmless entertainment, despite some of the acting being almost as wooden as the box the DVDs came in. Obviously the old trope of no-one ever getting hit by a bullet despite everyone spraying automatic weapons everywhere at the drop of a hat still holds true, but I was surprised how few times (so far) they’ve been locked in a building with tools and welding equipment. I don’t think it happened at all in the first series, and only once in the second. Twice so far in series three, but there may be more to come.

I also decided to give the BBC’s Domino Day a try, on the basis of at least one review describing it as “Buffy for a new generation”. It’s no Buffy (the series has virtually no sense humour, for a start), but then again I’m very much not a new generation.

I decided to try to do something useful with my post-parkrun Saturday for once, and hacked out most of the two wheelie-bin-loads of ivy that had colonised the corner (and the apple tree) at the bottom of the garden behind the garage. It’s still a mess, but it’s slightly less of a mess. Just the other 99% of overdue garden jobs to do now!

OK, maybe should have cut it back a bit earlier

Sunday’s cross country at Pakenham was made more interesting by torrential rain the night before (even the road to get there was flooded). The weather on the day was positively spring-like though, and I had a better race than I was expecting. doing anything useful for a second afternoon in a row would have been too much to hope for though, especially after stopping for lunch and a couple of pints on the way home.

Before the mud

Weeknotes 2024-05

As is somewhat traditional before a longish race, I made some flapjack on Saturday. It wasn’t my best effort (a bit too crumbly), but I turned it out onto a chopping board, and cut it more or less successfully into rectangles. I then put a cooling rack on top, flipped the whole assembly over onto the worktop, and lifted the chopping board off. A moment of confusion ensued as it dawned on me that most of it was still stuck to the board, then after hanging there for a second, Wile-E-Coyote style, gravity won out and most of it went tumbling onto the floor.

Yet another Pet Needs gig on Saturday, this time at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket (surprisingly my first visit, despite it being a handy 10 minute train journey away). They were excellent as usual, as were the two support bands, Ecto Peach (who I’d seen before) and especially Zombie Nation (who I hadn’t).

Ecto Peach
Voodoo Radio
Pet Needs

The toilets at the John Peel Centre had a classic case of having to use signage to compensate for a lack of design affordance:

Every sign tells a story

Sunday saw the first proper race of 2024, in the shape of the Great Bentley Half. I hadn’t exactly had the ideal lead-in week, what with a fairly high-mileage club training night on Tuesday, then daftly also going along to the monthly track session on Wednesday. Not to mention several hours standing (and occasionally jumping) on Saturday night. I dragged myself round in my worst time since 2020 (when I had some kind of chest infection which I assume was slightly early to have been Covid), but still better than the 1:40 that Stryd was predicting. That pretty much wiped me out for the day though.