It continued to be windy, and, unexpectedly, it snowed a bit.
Some men came to extract the bath, shower, tiles, basin, cupboards, peeling paint, etc (I think that’s about the size of it) from our bathroom, and now work is underway to replace them, and insulate the walls too. The bath was cut in half to effect an easier removal, and carted away by a man with what looked from afar like a toothbrush moustache – if he hadn’t been so faraway, I’d’ve congratulated him for his efforts to reclaim that style of facial hair from Richard Herring.
So we’ve been washing in the kitchen – whatever next, standing in the sitting room? – and, unfortunately, I’m not very good at washing with a bowl of water without getting all water on the floor and everywhere.
The weekend. Spent a night in Peterborough, which I used to think was a town not a city, and where a man brought me a poor value breakfast on a tray on his shoulder.1
Then ended the week in York, which I already knew was a city. There via the vestibule of a delayed, overcrowded train, operated by the state owned “operator of last resort”. I had a seat reservation, and plucked up the courage to confront its occupier, who told me seat reservations weren’t being enforced – possibly something to do with the weather-related disruption, possibly an epic lie. Then I found another free seat, but moments later an oldish lady claimed it was hers, and who was I to argue with someone who probably died in the war for all our freedoms. So the vestibule it was. Arrived 29 minutes late (one minute too early for a delay repay claim).
I let my Netflix subscription lapse. I had enjoyed The Stranger, and was starting to continue enjoying Better Call Saul, but time to read some books or something for a bit.
The sort of hotel terrible ponces stay at. Strangely, a 2018 article just happened to appear on Twitter, about how badly Marriott International treats its workers, while making money hand over fist. ↩
Back from Nottingham, a journey beset by some bungling that I did – missed a train, because I walked the wrong way to the station, although it turns out the train was late and I might still have caught it if I’d jogged, although I still needed to find a working machine (among all the broken ones) to retrieve a ticket from. One of the upshots was that, for the next leg of the journey, it was expedient to finally try one of the super new trains which was fine – I sat inexplicably near the central “power” coach, which actually made a bit of a racket (which is to be expected), but it was fine. Cool story.
(Content warning: oral health.) Not sure if I’ve a curry-induced ulcer, or a wisdom tooth coming through (which I suppose would signal that I’ve become wise). Well, it was a bit of a pain for a few days, but it’s really OK now.
Spent some time printing out PDFs and writing on paper and using a scanner, which is definitely the most efficient way to fill in forms. One thing about letting agents is that, I suppose, if you tell them you’re not in a particular rush they’ll prioritise other people who are in a rush, and things will take longer. Which is fine.
Some work. Wrote some automated tests on the train, which feels impressive in at least two ways – the professionalism of automated tests, and the productivity godliness of doing them with the big laptop on the surprisingly adequate fold-out seat-back tray on the East Midlands Railway regional train (I don’t know anything about trains). Also, made some things look better on devices with non-rectangular displays, e.g. the iPhone X landscape mode, which is a thing to do.
It’s been windy (not curry-induced). To give you an idea of how windy it’s been, an empty box of apple pies blew into the garden. Be safe.
Spent some of the week in the East Midlands, and why not.
Saw Stewart Lee’s Tornado/Snowflake.
It looks increasingly like Lee, the large comedian, has simply eaten the other comedians.
Anyway, I recommend it.
Lee said something about fellow comedian Josh Widdecombe,
which reminded me about Widdecombe claiming Argos Extra is a smaller version of an Argos shop,
“the rare definition of ‘extra’”.
(Of course, Argos Extra is a larger version of an Argos shop, exactly as the name suggests.)
A couple of years after reading that blog post, I saw Widdecombe live repeating the lie,
and I’m afraid I was too shocked to yell out to challenge it.
And it was nice to see some of the East Midlands in some detail. Impressed by the cleanliness and efficiency of the Nottingham City Transport buses. Impressed by the stylishness of the Trent Barton buses.
Spent some time standing in some brambles to photograph a diverted bus – could
have been much less time, if it wasn’t for various bunglings on my part, but
it was a lovely sunny morning, and bucolic surroundings for listening to some
podcasts and doing a life insurance medical interview (mostly saying “no” to
each serious disease, extreme sport and war zone holiday destination listed)
– which I actually did while bicycling along, which reminds me of inspirational
time management exuberance Randy Pausch wearing a goofy headset to similarly multitask (in an era before AirPods Pro).
Some work. A dreadful long outage, which I dealt with not very sensibly – to
my credit, sleeping through such things is probably quite healthy, but I perish
the thought of how many nines I’ve lost.
There was a poorly database server, which I did some stuff to try to fix.
Then, while I was waiting for a backup that turned out to be incomplete
to restore, I deleted the most recent and only complete backup. None of it
makes any sense, but it shouldn’t happen again, and there are some upshots:
Here’s a handy query for killing rogue long-running queries:
SELECT pg_cancel_backend(pid) FROM pg_stat_activity WHERE state = 'active' AND (now() - pg_stat_activity.query_start) > interval '1 minutes';
I once heard of somewhere where they had a cron job running a query like that every so often.
If you needed a query to run for longer, you could include a comment
(like “do not kill” or something) that prevented it being killed. But “the Russians used a pencil”.
Better to set per-user timeouts, like:
ALTER USER frontend SET statement_timeout = 5000;
I’d been meaning to set this up for some time, but I was too lazy to look up the incantations
for setting up users and granting them permissions. And look what happened.
Upgraded to PostgreSQL 11. It’s probably faster.
I’m now storing historic vehicle locations in Redis, rather than Postgres.
It’s probably more suitable, isn’t it – old data will disappear automatically.
And I know how to use Redis now.
Started watching Happy Valley, which as you must know is not
about a magical elf leaping merrily, but rather the police. It’s really
Another week cometh. Big week for coin/transition period fans. I’ve some fun
and different things to do, which I suppose will serve as a distraction,
and was going to say how looking forward to them I
am, but I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong end of the stick and think I’m a
I went to look at some flats. Doing these sorts of things at the start of a new year feels a bit naff, but they take long enough to sort out that, before you know it, it’s no longer the start of the year.
One of the flats, which I didn’t really fancy, was in a former Norwich Union office building. It was quite something to imagine all the insurance claims that must have been assessed in there. Amazing.
Canadians of a certain age, apparently, will be familiar with Norwich Union from a long-running, maybe even iconic, television ad, “it’s Patrick, he took out life insurance”. It depicts an unrealistic telephone conversation, but was, one assumes, cheap and effective without any CGI mongooses or talking geckos. Incidentally, this week a nice man sold me some income protection insurance, and I hope I wasn’t fleeced.
Now, flats – there’s a mild undercurrent of angst about the process of referencing and stuff. But I was listening to the Fake Heiress documentary series (which features some slightly dodgy acting – but I was disappointed when it ended), about how Anna Sorokin larcened grandly by writing cheques to herself, pretending to be her bank, etc. I’m actually not a fraudster, and intend to pay for things with my own money that I have, so it ought to go fabulously smoothly.
Back to gathering empty cans from the sides of some roads – an unusual amount of Special Brew ones recently, as if the Royal Danish Court have been been al fresco drinking here. Cycled past some folks doing the same sort of thing (gathering, not drinking), and felt like high-fiving them.
After seeing Jon Ronson, who had an entertaining column in the Guardian Weekend magazine when I was younger,
question the feasibility of the construction of a big acrylic box
(“The slot for the sandwiches alone would cost a fortune”),
I started to watch You.
The first weird points for me were a bookshopkeeper wearing an apron and wrapping a book in a paper bag like a prescription, but maybe those things are normal in America, which is a foreign country.
Also, I was confused by the phrase “hostel goose”, but it turned out to be “hostile goose”, which made much more sense.
It’s a bit preposterous, but I intend to watch it to the end.
Didn’t feel any admiration, or anything like that, for the murderer/stalker character’s deft murdering, stalking, body disposal, or acrylic box fabrication.
I actually made a laser-cut acrylic bookshelf once (GCSE woodwork/metalwork), but no plans to dust of my skills and make a slot for sandwiches.
The Trashfuture podcast (I’m not
sure which episode) mentioned OYO, the largest hotel chain you’ve never heard
of. Their innovative business model consists of being quite impressively cheap,
to such an extent that they, and the independent hotels they daub their logo
onto, lose money hand over fist. Also:
For instance, we found that portraits of Marilyn Monroe increased revPAR [revenue per available room] of a property by 10% to 11% on average. Consumers classify hotels like this as “boutique.” It began when one of our hotels in Wichita Falls, Texas, saw revPAR improve by 25% after we put Marilyn Monroe portraits on the walls. Then we started copy-pasting this.
As an occasional hotel user, and never one to look a gift dockless bike in the
mouth (for example), I’m a bit tempted to sample their offer, but would I be
complicit in the downfall of salt-of-the-earth independent hotel owners and
workers? And, like with Airbnb, there are some concerns about safety and
quality control and things – yes, maybe hostels infested with hostile hostel
I went to the seaside, and made a decision, which are both fun things to make
and do. Have a good week.
We ate some pheasant and some potatoes and things, and we hosted a good doggo.
More recently, I spent an afternoon feeling like how I imagine a chicken feels
after greedily eating a frog. Then I was a bit disappointed that, upon feeling
normal again, I didn’t feel tremendously uplifted by the recovery.
I clicked on an toenail fungus related programmatic advert on Andrew
Collings’s blog. This might justify a content warning, but the phrase
“toenail fungus” is the worst of the content, so how would that help? – like
lots of the content warnings I see on Twitter where a fast reader has read the
rest of the tweet or seen the picture almost as soon as they’ve read the
It led to an engrossing video – just a disembodied voice speaking over some
stark typography. The disembodied voice tells their story, of which there are a
few different versions – My Wife’s Nail Fungus Almost Killed Her,
My Father’s Nail Fungus Nearly Killed Him – culminating in a plea
to buy some expensive and dodgy pills, ideally six bottles full. I reckon they
do multivariate testing with different videos and different pill names (Clear
Nails Plus, Pure Nails Pro) and so on, which is probably more rigorous than the
science behind the pills themselves.
Anyway, I quite admire the plucky entrepreneurialism. I do have a benign
fungus, like Cousin Greg from Succession, but “this product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease” is quite a disclaimer.
Of course I dislike Jere-May Hammond’s The Grand Tour and
everything it stands for, but it’s sometimes entertaining, especially if you
think the characters – characters, not presenters – are parodies of offensive
dickheads. And you can enjoy the high production values, and learn about all
different parts of the world.
There’s a bit in the fourteenth episode of the third serie where a character
recounts a scene from his childhood, seeing his father’s new Ford Cortina for
the first time, which is illustrated by him standing on a street where some
relevant cars are parked. And in the background a double-decker bus drives past
– I’m quite sure it’s First South Yorkshire’s 37231/YN08 LCL, a Wright bodied
Volvo B9TL painted in Rotherham Corporation “heritage” livery (part of the
odd trend of private companies drumming up nostalgia for their state owned
forebears), and I’ve added a picture to the Internet Movie Cars Database
(content warning: Clarkson’s face). But did the programme’s producers go to the
trouble of getting a bus in a historically accurate livery to drive past, or is
it happy accident? I wonder.
Also, there’s a chilling bit where the characters say how great police
brutality – specifically, the practice of pigs using their motor cars to maim
motorcycling motorcyclists, in case they are mobile phone thieves – is, and the
studio audience cheer along with the sentiment.
Finally sat down to test my forthcoming integration with the forthcoming Transport for the North disruption information API, only to find that the test disruption information had already been removed – there are some learnings for me there about the folly of leaving things till the last minute.
Reworked some maps to use Mapbox GL JS instead of Leaflet. Then decided the reworked maps weren’t as good, so back to the old maps. Cool story.
Experimented with some more form fields to let enthusiastic fellows record which buses have special features like USB charging sockets and bicycle storage.
Also, what depot a bus is based at – which some people seem interested in, but I quickly decided is a terrible boondoggle.
There was a little outage, the fault of Digital Ocean and not me, for a change. And now I’ve fiddled with some settings to make things more resilient the next time there’s such a networking issue, so that’s good.
And some other stuff too. Big week.
Happy winter solstice, fellow northern hemisphersons. I went to the nearest city, and stood in some queues to buy some last-minute general merchandise I didn’t need to travel all that way to buy.
I also passed some time with a jolly Christmastime ride on a preserved Bristol RE – apart from the grand roar of the engine, and curious looks from pedestrians, a highlight was the comfort of the seats, compared to what I’d sat on on the modern bus to get there. Anyway, it’s much recommended – good to feel nostalgic for an era years before one’s time.
I’m afraid Giles Coren (and Mark Dolan)’s programme on the dreadful Talk Radio has become a Sunday evening favourite. Actually, a Monday morning one – one can download past broadcasts in half hourly chunks, e.g. this is the URL for 19:00–19:30 on the 22nd of December:
Heston Blumenthal was a recent guest, promoting his and Coren’s weak new television programme Hestons Marvellous Menu: Back to the Noughties. I watched a bit:
Cheese twit Alex James, peering out from under all his hair, was one of the luminaries who appeared to talk about how great the early 2000s were.
Blumenthal’s head chef is named Ed Cooke, ha ha ha.
Blumenthal, who looks really like a Lego figure, wears a selection of tee shirts with his coat of arms on them, which maybe is a bit of a dick move – but I suppose it takes some courage not to worry about people thinking you’re a dick for wearing tee shirts with your coat of arms on them.
One of the things I forgot to mention last week was Fawlty at Large, about an episode of 1971’s Doctor at Large written by John Cleese and involving a hotel. I suppose it’s the sort of thing that could have been an asinine “buckle up” Twitter thread, but I’m so glad it isn’t – instead, it’s four posts on a beautifully typeset blog. Blogging isn’t dead.
Some super new trains have been being introduced here in East Anglia this year. Super though they are, such an introduction inevitably features some whooshing sounds as deadlines fly by – that trains have computers in them tells you all you need to know – although in this case, they weren’t introduced that late. But all is not well. The Eastern Daily Press reports:
Greater Anglia brought in the new Stadler trains, called Class 755s, earlier this year, but they have been hit with a barrage of problems and are nicknamed “Basils” by staff because they have so many faults.
Which is an amusingly poor misexplanation of the nickname.
The details of the latest problems are actually quite interesting, and it’s unfairly simplistic to say the trains are faulty. Maybe the new trains’ flange greasers are guilty of depositing grease on some track equipment, causing “signalling problems”. Maybe the trains’ unusually small wheels are a factor. Maybe the winter weather is too, which could explain why the problems weren’t detected during the extensive testing earlier.
I see Network Rail Kent & Sussex have been tweeting some terrific explanations of different problems in their neck of the woods. Somehow, having a good, unpatronising explanation makes the inconvenience of delays and cancellations more bearable.
The LONAP traffic graphs, which indicate the amount of internet traffic in the London area over time, can be interesting.
I wondered if the democratic process on Thursday would have any visible effect – the answer is no. (I watched some of a Novara Media stream. Part of their studio has a shelf lined with tins of Tyskie and bottles of Club-Mate – cool.)
However, a definite Premier League football on Amazon Prime Video spike on the evening of Wednesday last week.
Watched The Death of Stalin, which is worthwhile if only for the spectacle of the impressive cast of big beasts.
Finished watching Flowers, which has been described as deeply imaginative, and which is really something – I agree with Pete Sinclair.
Now Succession – one episode in, the highlight so far is the phrase “protein spill”, which I can believe really is a term of art in the the amusement park industry.
In the process of trying to obtain some disposable cutlery with which to eat a cupful of hot gravy, mashed potatoes and sausages,
I bought a sachet of descaler, with which I later descaled the kettle. And now the inside of the kettle is wonderfully shiny – highly recommended.