Week 21

This week, I have been mostly on holiday. Not really off-grid, but when I saw the “30–50 feral hogs” phenomenon on Twitter I was confusedly wondering what it all meant for possibly longer than I would normally have been.

One highlight – surely the proudest moment – was screwing a cork onto a saucepan lid that had lost its handle. There’s never the right screw to hand – first I used one with too small a head, requiring me to fashion a makeshift washer from a piece of metal that had previously nestled against a different cork atop a bottle of sparkling wine, and then I replaced it with a screw whose head was just big enough, but which was needlessly long and had only a partial thread.

Another highlight was experiencing the famous Carrefour Crackers Goût Pizza. I wouldn’t say they’re really goût pizza – they resemble cheese flavoured crackers, and while the topping does do a great job of making them look like tiny pizzas, it’s almost entirely decorative. But they’re fine.

I did some work. Enthusiastic fellows have been editing vehicle details with great enthusiasm, and their edits sitting in the queue for too long would wrack me with guilt.

Good week.

Week 20

What happened this week?

There were some flies. It turns out there’s a point at which the novelty of squashing big, slow ones wears off and it actually becomes disgusting. Shepherding them out of the window is a better idea. Anyway, now there are fewer flies.

My bicycle toppled over – without me on it, don’t worry. All seemed fine, but then I rode it a short distance until there was a terrible sound and the rear derailleur snapped in half. I managed to source a replacement part, and fit it, all while foolishly eschewing the services of any of the friendly local bike repair shops (making the most of the last few days of an Amazon Prime free trial), which feels disloyal but now I’ve learnt a new skill.

The snapping-in-half debacle sapped my confidence a bit, but I recovered it enough to ride a good distance and see an obelisk.

I did some work. Now enthusiastic fellows can update details of vehicles – colours etc – in an example of what is called “crowdsourcing”. In true agile, “minimum viable product” fashion, I started by making a simple form that would send me an email from which I’d copy and paste information, but this was used so enthusiastically that I was quickly inundated with emails, so now it just plops something into a database. Still, I have some involvement in the process – I have to sort of “approve” each “edit” – and it’s a bit overwhelming, especially as I’m supposed to be about to go off on my holidays, but the main thing to say is I’m delighted by all the enthusiasm.

Now I’m off on my holidays. Good week.

Week 19

This week, it was warm. I bicycled towards the Norfolk Broads, where I mismanaged the temperature of a Magnum like some kind of child. On a related note, there were some strongly held opinions on the internet site Twitter this week about whether a choc ice on a stick is a type of “ice lolly” – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

It was a nice ride, but marred by the bumpiness of the cycle track – I’ve endured shorter rides along such a surface, but this time I discovered the limit. What a relief it was to rejoin a proper road, despite the presence of motor cars (and, this week, combine harvesters and associated tractors and lorries thundering about), until the tarmac began to melt and adhere to the tyres forming a noisy if puncture-resistant coating.

Now it’s been grey and damp for two days, and the heat is all forgotten. I’ve cut my hair. Good week.

Week 18

What happened this week?

I finished watching all of Friends for the first time, which lots of us (for whom it’s slightly before our time) were doing at the start of last year when it first appeared on the internet site Netflix. According to media reports, we were all outraged and offended by some of the outrageous and offensive old-fashioned attitudes present, but should I be concerned that that passed me by? Either I’m a dinosaur, or I was able to appreciate it in the context of the less enlightened late 90s.

It’s been an entertaining journey, with some demonstrations of the Baader–Meinhof effect along the way. Now I feel a bit out of sorts, like there’s no television left. Perhaps I’ll read a book.

I woke bleary-eyed on Saturday morning to an outage that was all my fault. It’s not very interesting.

The evening before, I’d decided to delete some old data to make room, because who needs to know historic locations of buses further back than a month or so? But the first database query I tried to do so was suboptimal – it was still running in the morning, to the detriment of everything else, even preventing me from logging in to halt the query‽ It was all OK by lunchtime, because I am such a talented problem solver, but now I feel a bit grumpy about Digital Ocean’s managed database product which I use, although I didn’t deign to ask their probably excellent support staff for help, and I still fully intend to keep paying them what feels like a lot of money.

The main thing is: oh drat these computers, they’re so naughty and so complex, I could pinch them.

Week 17

What happened this week?

I did some work, some of which was deep and meaningful.

I tackled a problem I’d been putting off tackling for three years (!), according to the age of the relevant GitHub issue. Now, finally, for example, passengers between Bristol and Nailsea can consult a single timetable, whereas previously the information was thoughtlessly divided among three different ones. Maybe I should be embarrassed that fixing this felt like such an epic task, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Now I simply need to identify automatically all the other similarly split timetables.

I did some other work too, but it’s probably all a bit boring, isn’t it? The main changes that went noticed were some more buses suddenly materialising on the live map, which like the best kind of changes required between no and hardly any effort from me.

I bought a jacket, the colour of which felt a tiny bit thrillingly ill-advised but for all I know might just as well have been perfectly respectable, which I wore at a lovely function, where I ate a quantity of strawberries that was closer to being thrilling.

For the past day or so I’ve been all “Michael, Michael and his slipper tree, slipper tree, slipper tree, brand new shoes for you and me.” Interestingly, the etymology of “earworm” is not very simple, possibly involving earwigs, ears of corn, worms, and human ears. I was a bit concerned that, for evolutionary reasons, you might not enjoy any mention of creepy insects – I’m sorry if this is the case.

Week 16

Writing about last week, inevitably I forgot to write about something or other. L’esprit de l’escalier, sort of.

Writing about the industrial designer Sir Jony Ive, who had been in the news, John Gruber wrote:

Fuck this “sir” shit. We don’t have titles in the United States.

John O’Nolan wrote:

“Fuck all cultures that aren’t like ours” is such a quintessentially American trope, to the point where even @gruber is only 2 steps removed from chanting “USA” and crushing a Budweiser can on his forehead.

PS. Jony Ive, the person with the title, is from the United Kingdom.

Which rankled a bit, because not everyone in this kingdom is all deferential and obsessed with orders of chivalry and stuff, you know. Some people turn down honours. Sir Jony is a “Knight Commander or the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” – the nonexistent British Empire. So I don’t say “fuck this ‘fuck this “sir” shit’ shit”.

Some weeks have passed since the first fly of the summer. I have been successful in squashing, with my bare hands, a lot of them so far this year – am I getting quicker, or are the flies getting dopier?

On Sunday, some happy time was spent passenging on some classic/heritage/vintage buses and coaches. Only three – if only I’d woken earlier and braved the damp conditions on the Saturday as well – but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Reassuringly, all were older than me, although one came close.

Week 15

What happened this week?

I did some bicycling – 112 miles over the course of the week, ooh. As I must have explained before, finite battery life and sometimes forgetting to use the app mean the real figure is higher, but sometimes accidentally leaving the app running means the real figure is also a bit lower.

In a tale as old as time, I set off to photograph some buses diverted along an unusually narrow and scenic road, only to find that the diversion had finished thanks to some especially efficient workers. Never mind – it was an intrinsically pleasant bicycle ride there and back.

On the way, half of the bicycle’s kickstand fell off, leaving a dangerous obstacle on the road somewhere. I had only fitted the spindly accessory weeks ago, but I’m not surprised it didn’t last long. There is no suggestion that my own screwdriving skills are inadequate.

On Sunday, I saw some professional bicyclists racing in the the British National Road Race Championships. Spectators stood in their front gardens and on grassy knolls to spectate, and it was nice to get some insincere cheers as I cycled along the route to a vantage point. My silly-looking silhouette was captured on a blurry bit of the live coverage of the men’s race. I’m leery of the sport of cycling – it’s at odds with “utility cycling”, which is probably part of why car manufacturers sponsor it1 – but it passed the time.

Now, many of the local Strava segment leaderboards are polluted with the athletes’ upsettingly quick times, but I don’t care.

  1. See “Save the planet – ban cycle helments” 

Week 14

What happened this week?

On Monday, writing about the previous week, I missed a gaping oppunity to fabiricate an “and then the whole bus clapped” ending to a story. I apologise.

I did some work. In what’s fast becoming a tale as old as time, something broke on Tuesday morning but I didn’t notice until in the evening, after a day of which some sweaty hours were spent bicycling frivolously, and only by seeing someone moaning (in the nicest possible way) on an internet forum. There are some opportunities there for me to improve the “monitoring” situation, maybe use the internet of things to administer an electric shock – actually, the excellent Sentry had sent me an automatic email about the error, but it got lost among all the similar-looking ones I can safely ignore.

On Sunday, I renewed my Browserstack subscription and got all interested in whether things work OK with old web browsers that hardly anyone uses any more. The answer is they mostly do – and even a little bit better now. I have a habit of writing old-fashioned JavaScript without using any modern conveniences, which is a bit like writing a lipogram or in C, and which a part of me thinks I ought to grow out of. This website looks surprisingly good even in the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 of my youth, which is not that surprising as there’s not that much to go wrong.

Week 13

What happened this week?

It was a bit rainy. Riding on a slightly leaky bus, I witnessed a war of attrition: a passenger closed the windows, then shortly later the driver leapt from his cab and reopened them, then another passenger upon boarding re-closed at least one window. I feel like the saga was more interesting at the time – maybe the cycle repeated more times? – hmm.

The rain also contributed to my doing some work – well, I had a burst of productivity on Monday. How can I put this? I changed some things. Only one or two people have complained about the differentness, which has to count as a resounding success.

An email arrived from a scumbag recruitment consultant – probably in breach of data protection regulations, but am no a grass. Recently, some of these emails have been actually interesting, or at least entertaining insights into the crazy world of blockchain snake oil, but this one wasn’t. An extract:

Skills/Experience Required

(Love the random uppercase letters. Sometimes it’s endearing, like when Winnie-the-Pooh does it, but sometimes it isn’t.)

“CLITORIS”? The spotted hyena has a particularly large one, but there’s no relevant buzzword by that name. Perhaps the job advert was a bit like the “get me off your fucking mailing list” academic paper – but designed to expose lazy recruiters, not academic journals.

Returning to the email later, I found the last item in the list had changed to “ITIL” (a real soul-destroying–looking thing I’d had the good fortune never to have heard of before). But that’s impossible – emails are immutable.

It turns out that just before the first reading I’d read an email written in Polish, with the help of the machine translation feature of my favourite web browser. The translation switch had remained switched on, and had translated that word from Indonesian. Apparently, information technology service management boffins are well aware of the phenomenon, and it impedes searching Twitter for tweets about it.

I passed a – by which I mean my – driving test. Which is nice. But cars are Tory.

A photograph I took appeared in Coach & Bus Week, which has to be the highlight of both my week and career. I crouched in a provincial branch of WHSmith, but couldn’t find a copy. On the way home, I saw another steam train – I may have looked at a PDF timetable beforehand, although I didn’t quite understand it. Two men who like trains were perched precariously some way away either side of me, and no doubt they saw many more trains that day – I was just interested in obtaining content for my vacuous 1 Second Everyday video diary – I am not like those men.

Week 12

This week, I most enjoyed the plosive sound of lifting an AeroPress coffee plunger from off of a wet granite surface.

I did some work. Colouring in – by which I mean data entry, to make all the oblongs on the map the same colours as the actual vehicles they represent – continues to be a strong absorber of time, a Sisyphian task, so I’m so grateful to the salt-of-the-earth correspondents who notice when their local omnibuses have been repainted. I also made some automated tests faster – “almost twice as fast” as before – which is always nice.

I wheeled my bicycle across a heath at what just happened to be the right time to see a steam train. I only saw it from afar because some men who like trains were standing in wait, and one dislikes what one most resembles.

We saw Chernobyl. It was good fun identifying Finchy from off of The Office and Lane Pryce from off of Mad Men and DI Brandyce from off of Line of Duty. I was reminded of the weak, peurile sixth form joke punchline “Chernobyl fall off”, which is actually funnier than the correct “fall out”.