Weeknotes 2022-36

I’ll try to be a bit positive this week, or at least less negative. Things are resolved, even if not in the way I’d have liked. Fortunately I’m not a monarchist, so events of the week haven’t conspired to darken my mood any further. As usual I’m mildly surprised by a lot of people’s reaction to a royal death – not saying there’s a right or wrong way to feel, but personally I don’t find it any sadder than the death of anyone else I don’t know.

Most of this week feels like it was taken up with preparation for the next edition of our modern software development practices “bootcamp” (it’s not a bootcamp) for more of our Indian colleagues, which started on Friday (half a day a week for a month or so). Despite the fact that we’ve been running variants of the event for the best part of a decade (well I have – other people have been and gone), we kept up the tradition of making substantial changes at the lest minute – this time by creating an example Java project to use for demos and (hopefully, with a bit more work) some of the practical exercises. Have I mentioned that I hate Java? I realise I’m being unfair, and it’s improved massively since I last used it in anger (around the time when Java 7 came out), but I’ve never really used any of the new stuff so there’s a lot of looking up to do. Everything feels ten times more complicated than it should be, coming from the dynamically typed worlds of Ruby and Elixir.

As of Wednesday, I’ve been working at BT for 30 years, and without (touch wood) having taken any time off sick. I got a very pro forma recognition note, which is a bit ironic given that personal is one of the company’s three core values, but also £500, which makes it churlish to complain. Unfortunately it’s not cash, so I have to turn it into a voucher for one of a choice of retailers to be able to spend it. First world problems.

A fairly busy weekend (apart from this afternoon). Started Saturday with parkrun as usual, then popped round to Jane’s to lift up the slabs that used to be under the greenhouse I dismantled earlier. To be honest it wasn’t a hugely useful job, as all I’ve done is move them to the edge of the garden where they’re still slightly in the way, and I still need to pick them up again when I eventually sort out transport to bring them and the greenhouse parts from there to here. At least we established that they were just laid on a layer of sand (which Sky immediately went and lay in) rather than concrete, which will make turning it back into lawn much easier. Then after waiting for a gap in the rain to ride home (and a chat with her mum, who’d turned up to visit and whom I hadn’t seen for ages) I headed back out to Caroline’s 40th birthday party, which was enjoyable although I’m not really a party person. I even had a quick go on a bouncy castle. I was very restrained and left before 10pm after only a couple of beers (cans mind, not pints), on the basis that I was racing in the morning.

Well done Sky

I’d entered the Langham 5k/10k, even though most other people were doing the Ipswich Half, and ended up only knowing one person there (they’d have made a killing if they’d reopened entries after the announcement that Ipswich was being postponed). I thought it would be amusing to enter both distances, with the 5k starting at 9am (actually ended up being 9.10, which cut heavily into my recovery time!) and the 10k at 10. The plan was to hit the 5k hard, then see what I had left for the 10, and it didn’t go too badly (20:23 and 44:25 respectively). Despite being Billy-no-mates I hung around afterwards for a burger and just in case I’d got the age group prize in the sparsely-attended 5k, but I missed out by one place.

My Beer52 delivery arrived today, so that’s another month when I’ve failed to cancel it. If you want me not to do something, make it involve phoning up a human.

I’ve fired up the pizza oven for dinner, and decided that not only was it too cold outside this evening for shorts, but that I needed to put a jumper on too. Nearly Christmas.


Weeknotes 2022-35

Not sure there’s much to report this week. Went into work a couple of times to do some interviews, which isn’t my favourite activity. Everyone passed, which is nice except there are two positions and three people, and also a sudden recruitment freeze. Glad I only had to worry about the interviewing itself, and not any of the admin or politics.

Fram 10k today, which I didn’t really enjoy. That was entirely due to my mental state though, rather than the race itself. Having personal issues (mostly in my head) that are making me pretty miserable at the moment, but hopefully that’ll pass. I have at least spoken (well texted) about it to a couple of people, rather than keeping it bottled up, so there’s progress. Now all I need to do is speak to the person the issues relate to, but one thing at a time. Oh, and 45:33 in case you wondered, which isn’t great, although it’s better than last year and it was pretty warm (but not as warm as last year). Well done to FRR for winning both male and female team prizes though.

Trying to put together some good code/bad code examples for training, and I really hate Java. I know it’s a lot better than it was when I last used it in anger, but that just means I don’t know how the good bits work and have to look everything up. I’m teetering on the fine line between having no motivation to do it and needing to keep my mind off other things, and the latter is winning for now.

Hopefully I’ll return in a more cheerful mood next week.


Weeknotes 2022-34

A year or so ago I finally reregistered with a dentist, returning to the practice handily located at the end of my road. Last time I had a hygienist appointment they moved it to their other branch, in town, and now to make things even more inconvenient they’ve merged with another practice three miles away.

Anyway, I had a checkup in my calendar on Tuesday, so I dutifully cycled out there, only to find that the appointment was actually on Monday. So I’ve now been slapped with a £15 non-attendance fee, and have a new appointment in a month’s time.

After over two years of having to turn the kitchen hot tap on via the isolation valve under the sink every time I wanted to use it, because otherwise it leaked prodigiously, I finally managed to get the tap housings undone yesterday to replace the cartridges (spurred on by the fact that the cold was starting to drip too). It was, as YouTube had originally told me, “just” a case of unscrewing the bits below the taps, but as they were ludicrously tight and helpfully have no flats on them, it took a lot of force with slip joint pliers protected by some cut off bits of inner tube, and a strong conviction that despite appearances they were actually a separate part from the base. Then after only a short time figuring out where I’d put the new inserts when I finally got fed up with them sitting on the side in the kitchen, it all went back together nice and easily and now I finally have normal working taps again! I was beginning to think I’d have to call a plumber.

On Wednesday I noticed a strange-looking straggly thing on the patio behind the house, then was slightly shocked to realise that it was actually an animal skeleton. I can’t say for sure that it was a cat, but it seems likely that it was, which means it was probably Shadow, who’s been missing for a couple of months. I can only assume she had some kind of fatal injury from a fight or a car, crawled into the undergrowth out of sight, and some animal or other pulled the remains out last night.

Anyway, she’s now been buried, and at least it’s some kind of closure, if not as pleasant as the “found another home” story I’d been half-heartedly telling myself.

Tuesday was the final Summer Series 5k, and fortunately no-one old and quick turned up so I completed my clean sweep of MV50 trophies. I managed to scrape under 21 minutes too, which is my fastest time on that course (which has a nasty steep hill which you have to go up twice, although obviously that implies a lot of downhill too). Then on Thursday there was a brief reappearance of the Thursday Tempo Ten, a training run that a bunch of friends usually do in the autumn and winter months. It’s basically five miles out and five back, at what’s supposed to be tempo pace, but for me is pretty much flat out (the target’s generally 70 minutes). This time they only aimed for 75, which meant I felt obliged to keep up with them, and it was as horrible as it always is.

I took my blood pressure again a couple of times, and it was much more normal. Although it turns out the ZOE thing was a one-off reading, so I guess they’ll have me down as hypertensive now.


Weeknotes 2022-33

Firstly, and technically belonging to last week, a couple of photos from the SVP that show (a) how parched the landscape is at the moment, and (b) how pleased I apparently was to finish.

The lesser known East Anglian desert
The finish line at last!

After that extended hot dry spell, I suppose it was inevitable that when we had our planned work get-together in the park on Tuesday afternoon, it clouded over and actually rained a little. Not enough to really do any good though. We sat around for a bit, got visited by various friendly dogs, had an ice cream, and played Faye’s Viking stick-throwing game again.

Somewhat surprisingly, my legs survived both Tuesday evening’s club training and Wednesday’s “Two Rivers” race – a social club handicap race with runners setting off at various times from Landguard Fort, choosing our own routes and converging on the Ferryboat Inn for a few beers, around five miles later. Admittedly I was a couple of minutes slower than last time it happened (pre-pandemic), but there was a tailwind that day, and it was very much against us this time. Excuses excuses …

More boring running stuff: Run for Coffee first thing Friday, what turned out to be my course best at Chantry Park parkrun (where my boss turned up to take part for the first time), and a long slow one out to Martlesham today to grab this month’s hollow tree photo (I need to find four more trees now, to finish the year). It’s also nice to be able to describe 14 miles as “long” again!

I’m genuinely trying to smile, but it seems I can only do that after running 50km

I bought a cheap blood pressure monitor so I could take part in the ZOE blood pressure study. My three readings came in at 131/86, 134/87 and 121/85, which I just assumed was normal, but now I’ve looked it up might be slightly on the high side. Probably not to the point of worrying about it though.

At the pub on Friday lunchtime someone complimented my bike, which apparently they remember seeing “outside Crown Pools” (which is technically true, although I was in the pub next door rather than swimming). Seemed odd, as it’s not really anything special other than being fairly purple.


Weeknotes 2022-32

A pretty uneventful week, for the most part. Although there was the small matter of the SVP50 on Saturday, which I’d entered a couple of weeks ago for reasons best known to myself, despite the distance being well out of my comfort zone, and before it turned out it would be taking place in a 32°C heatwave.

The race is the relatively new little brother of the SVP100, and covers 50km of the Stour Valley Path, from Sudbury to Brantham. Definitely not an event to treat as a race, especially in this weather, and I ran it with Emma, who’s done a few ultras before. I left her in charge of setting the pace (including walking the uphill bits, and deciding to switch to 25 min run/5 min walk by about halfway), which meant all I had to worry about was keeping up. Both of us have something of a reputation for poor navigational skills, but somehow we managed to cancel each other out, never both missing a turn at the same time. I managed to trip over 2½ times, but without doing any damage to either my body or my Garmin.

The heat was definitely the main feature of the day, and the excellent volunteers on the three aid stations with food, drink and hosepipes were very welcome, as were the occasional churchyard taps which gave extra opportunities to soak caps and flexible sports head pipes1 in cold water. We finished in about 6 hours 37 (oddly the tracker shows a two minute difference between our times, despite crossing the start and finish lines together. Not sure whether the actual results will be more accurate when they come out, but anyway it definitely wasn’t a day to worry about times).

Overall it was much less unpleasant than I thought it might have been, and there wasn’t really any point where I’d have said I definitely wasn’t enjoying it (or maybe I’ve already blocked the memories out). To be honest I don’t really think I felt much worse than the last time I was at Brantham Leisure Centre, after finishing the Friday 5 there a couple of weeks ago. Maybe there’s something in this long distance malarkey after all, but I’m definitely not going to start calling myself an ultra runner yet!


1Robin’s name for the generic version of a Buff™


Weeknotes 2022-31

Another half day of greyhound-sitting this week. Apart from occasional bursts of manic activity, she seems admirably lazy (I see why people compare them to cats). Here she is relaxing (?) after having refused to go for a walk:

The trail camera I ordered finally arrived, and the first night I put it out it picked up a pair of badgers passing through the garden. And some impressive weeds.

On Thursday evening I got a phone call from someone up the road who’d found a friendly hungry cat wandering round and thought it might be Shadow, but when I went to check it wasn’t her. They seemed pretty convinced it was a stray, but couldn’t take her in as they had several cats and a dog and nowhere to shut her away, so I said I’d take her for the night and find out whether she had a microchip. I went home and got a cat carrier, at which point she suddenly became a whole lot less friendly, and shut her in the utility room (which she also wasn’t too happy about) with some food and water and a litter tray.

I took her to the vet on Friday morning and it turned out she did have a chip, so they contacted the owner to go and collect her. Apparently she only lives just round the corner from where she was “found”, so clearly not a stray at all. Hopefully she’s not too emotionally scarred from an unexpected night of incarceration!

A bit of a bike-run-bike type weekend. Ipswich parkrun was cancelled yesterday because of travellers on Chantry Park, so a few of us rode out to Alton Water to give that event a try. It made a nice change, although I didn’t do a great job of saving my legs for today’s race, finishing in 21:36. Then today we got back on our bikes to head out to Woodbridge for the post-covid return of the Ekiden Relay. This is a great event in which teams of six run a marathon as a relay on a 2.5km loop (the legs are 7.2km, 5km, 10km, 5km, 10km and 5km). About 150 teams take part, from pretty much all the running clubs in the area (our club had ten teams across the various categories).

This year was the first time I got to run the 7.2km leg, which meant (a) it wasn’t quite as hot as later in the day (but still boiling, as is traditional), (b) I didn’t have to stress about being ready at the right time to take the baton from the previous runner, and most importantly (c) half an hour after the event started I was free to indulge in ice cream, beer (an extra incentive to cycle there instead of driving!) and the mountain of cakes etc that people had brought along.


Weeknotes 2022-30

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

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

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

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

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

Uncategorized Weeknotes

Weeknotes 2022-29

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

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

FRR Social
Run for Beer
Run for Coffee
Trolley Dash

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

Lying down but pretending to be standing up

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

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


Weeknotes 2022-28

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

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

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

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

What are we looking at?

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

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


Weeknotes 2022-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, um, I think that’s about it.