Week 26

What happened this week?

I’ve been to Oxford town (toll the bell, pay the private eye) and had a jolly time and not exploded with rage over the concentration of wealth, power, gold ceilings etc in South England.

Mainly I have some observations about transport. The Great Western Railway’s new Hitachi trains are very pretty, although their seats – both their alignment with the windows and their paddedness – could, as others have observed, be better. At least they’ve fixed the problem where the ventilation system showered passengers with water. The Oxford Bus Company’s Wright StreetDecks are also pretty but slightly rattly, if not so bad that I’ll be pleased by the Ballymena coachbuilder’s imminent demise.

Now I’m in Cardiff for some reason. Spilled a bit of olive oil on the carpet of the “ZIP by Premier Inn” hotel (inn?) room, which I’ve made a fist of mopping up with a copy of the Financial Times – what a story! The room is as advertised – no tiny kettle, bath or view, but I’ve know far less cheap places without the last two features. (Curious that, in my limited experience, only the cheaper hotels have baths. I know “are baths Tory?” is the greatest thread in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated debate. Perhaps it’s because posher places charge extra for the option.)

I did some work. Splashed out on a “CPU-Optimised” Digital Ocean instance, which has made some CPU-bound things faster – the cheap “Standard” ones are really a bit weak, so I ought to have done this much sooner. But my database indexes keep getting slow and bloated. Cool.

Week 25

What happened this week?

I did some work. There was a bit more performance crapness. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the website or the internet connection is at fault – BT Openreach engineers are a near-constant presence here at the moment, spraypainting interrobangs on the road and sitting on their little fold-up stools, and can they be trusted not to break things?

Jeremy Clarkshole’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire continues to be strangely compelling. It’s a shame the obsolescence of cheques means he never gets to say “but we don’t want to give you that!”, and it’s disappointing that none of the contestants seem to have accidentally called him Chris, but

I broke another pair of wired in-ear headphones. Meanwhile, I have an odd number of the plutocrats’ favourite wireless AirPods, and I’m struggling to tell whether both left ones are slightly quiet, or one of my ears is waxier. It’s disgusting what audiophiles do to audio.

Week 24

What happened this week?

I did some work. Had another little outage which was my fault again. Made some maps fall less easily to hand – because maps are fiddly to scroll past and consume mobile data allowances and all that, it’s an improvement for people not interested in maps, and so few map fans have complained that I think it was the right thing to do.

The “get ready for [breakfast]” public information campaign has started. I filled in the government’s download tool setup wizard–style1 questionnaire, and it made me start to question what words even mean and things:

I enjoyed Uncle. Then I started Spy, whose first episode was some jolly fun but it seems to get worse from there.

  1. Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve set up download tools. From Soho down to Brighton, I must have set up them all. […] That deaf dumb and bind kid sure sets up a mean download tool. 

Week 23

What happened this week?

I enjoyed the BBC plastic window based comedy drama White Gold – enough to pay money to watch the second series, as only the first was on the internet site Netflix. And now again I’m a bit bereft, like there’s nothing else to watch.

I had some more bits of bicycle replaced – by professionals, for a change. What need is there for Strava and all of that quantified self stuff, when you can just look at how knackered a chain and other metal things are? (They were very knackered.) Well, actually, it’s slightly useful to know how many miles the cheap components have lasted.

By riding a spare bicycle a bit too slowly, I missed a bus, which meant I missed a rare open top bus ride opportunity. Cool story.

I did some work. Made everything use Python 3.7 – it turns out to be available from the ordinary Ubuntu 18.04 LTS package repositories now – which made stuff a bit faster and cheaper. But what everyone noticed was a couple of days of embarrassing slowness and brokenness, caused by my fiddling about with some database indexes – not very professional. Well, now everything is back to normal, except that I’m paying Digital Ocean more money. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Week 22

A wonderful multimodal journey home from being on holiday.

A boat, on which I was allowed because I agreed with the security staff that I didn’t have a knife. (If you get too accustomed to certain airports, you start pre-emptively taking your shoes off at all sorts of occasions, which is unnecessary.)

If we’re stickling for detail, there were some shuttle buses (an Agora and a Citaro) at the ports.

Then a National Express coach, where my at-seat electrical socket didn’t work and I rushed to dispatch last week’s week notes in a thrilling race against time as my laptop battery – depleted from doing serious work on the boat – petered out.

Some trains to and from an overnight stop on a sofa, blah blah. Strolling through Liverpool Street station in the morning, I remembered in the nick of time that the politically important “Norwich in 90” train existed and would get me home brilliantly faster than planned.

Finally, a bus, where the cheese in my bag was beginning to smell, not swaddled in enough dirty clothes. By making my fellow passengers wrinkle their noses, was I countermanding all the work I’ve tried to do to promote public transport? Although the driver happened to be the same chap who was so keen on open windows in the pouring rain that time, this time the windows were firmly shut. As if by way of distraction, there was a tense moment where the bus was squeezed alongside a delivery van, and when it cleared without any shattered wing mirrors the whole bus clapped – really.

The cheese was very tasty.

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.