Week 31

Monday: the Queen’s Speech. Lots of the media suddenly using the word “flummery”, as if that’s a normal word people use. There’s some evidence that that usage isn’t completely new, including a 1998 letter about Her Maj’s Gracious Address, so fair enough I suppose. Wikipedia is mostly concerned with various kinds of stodgy pudding called flummery, but also asserts boldly: “The word has also been used […] as a minced oath in certain online social groups.” Which social groups?

The shower head had become clogged, such that the jets of water jetted out of it in all different directions. Taking it apart and just rinsing it in water got rid of a surprising amount of deposits, and now, after a soak in distilled malt vinegar, the spurts all go in one direction – brilliant – but they also seem a bit wimpy and flaccid. Is this because the holes are bigger? Is that how water pressure works? Hmm.

Some work. I deployed all of the big and grand new stuff I’ve written so far. Last week, I finished my stuff that converts timetable data from ATCO-CIF and TransXChange formats (for Northern Ireland and Great Britain respectively) into a nice consistent GTFS-ish structure in the database. Now, I have some timetables, all lists of departures, and other things using that database – previously, they used all different weird shit. I was slightly concerned that the new departure lists were much slower, but that was solved by fiddling until the Django database-abstraction API produced some SQL more closely resembling what I’d write if I were writing the SQL myself. Cool story.

Richard Osman’s House of Games is an entertaining television programme. Perhaps having seen or heard some contestant or other mention being tired after recording a week of programmes, I imagined some gruelling physical challenges, but the titular games are in fact all cerebral. Lots of the back catalogue has been uploaded to YouTube (in a high quality fashion) by a pirate, which is nice.

I also caught up with Osman’s The Birthday Game podcast, another gentle parlour game where three mostly comedians guess the ages of names from the week’s “today’s birthdays” lists. I’m slightly concerned that a contestant could cheat (in the way that revising for anything is cheating) by consulting something like Wikipedia’s days of the year category beforehand, but perhaps the producers prevent this by recording weeks in advance and not telling contestants which week their episode will be released (i.e. which week of celebrity birthdays to memorise).

Week 30

One day this week, I received a free pair of socks. The next day, I received another, completely unrelated free pair of socks. Quite remarkable, and to think I’ve always had to buy socks before now. Is this what it’s like to be an influencer? Everything else that happened this week seems rather dull by comparison.

I did some work. Got down to fewer than 200 pending vehicle edits. And then I spent a little time focusing on my big and grand rewriting of some stuff, and then suddenly there were hundreds more edits waiting for me to check. Which is a wonderful problem to have, and I’m very grateful to the enthusiastic fellows. It’s just that there are so many buses and coaches.

The approval process is necessary, because some joker keeps marking some buses as ice cream vans, and I don’t always agree with the punctuation choices of even well-meaning enthusiastic fellows. I could make my job easier by letting people log in, or recording people’s IP addresses, allowing me to identify trustworthy people’s user accounts or IP addresses, but … GDPR.

The big and grand project is all bleeding coming together. I’ve deployed a bit of the new stuff, which caused just the right amount of brokenness (enough to provide me with some learnings, but no more than my users are accustomed to), and helped me to fix a problem involving certain places (e.g. Whitley Bay) where, like the Bermuda Triangle (actually more like the Mapimí Silent Zone) buses would vanish from the map.

Against all advice, I installed macOS Catalina, which is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯:

Still watching The Simpsons, which is still great. Managed only a bit of Danny Dyer gameshow The Wall – Dyer is, of course, tremendous, but, ugh, the contestants are all members of the public, and aren’t the public dire? With their dowdy faces and skin and hair and clothes. Ugh.

Week 29

What happened this week?

I did some work. Sorry if this is overly technical, but I’m changing some stuff to make it less shit, which feels like a rather big and grand job. It’s necessary to force myself not to make it too much better in one go, so that I can replace the old shit with the new shit more gradually. If I get ahead of myself, it could become too much like replacing the engines of an aeroplane in midflight. (It’s nothing like that. It’s just a website.)

Some bicycling around. Took some poor photographs of buses, which were made up for by the chance to record some benches, and the pleasantness of bicycling around. Today it has rained prolongedly, and roads have flooded in several places, and what fun it was to splash through puddles ten or so centimetres deep. I saw some ducks.

I’ve been watching The Simpsons, which is terrific fun. The first three series, which I guess were the start of the golden age, are on the likes of iTunes. When Walter Disney’s streaming service launches, apparently it will have every episode ever, so maybe I’ll be persuaded to pay Walter Disney some money for that. (Also this week, I enjoyed this bit of Winnie-the-Pooh, but amazing as it is I’m not sure one would want to sit through a whole film or programme.)

Stewart Lee appeared on the Book Shambles podcast, which is my cultural highlight of the week. They mention the William Blake exhibition, which constitutes a helpful reminder to go and see it. We have until the start of February.

Week 28

1 Second Everyday is a nice thing. You record one second of video every day – to be precise, usually a longer length, which you then trim to a second – and stitch the everyday seconds together to make a video. I feel like the egg, bacon, chips and beans dude is to blame for my finding out about it, several years ago – aren’t blogs great?

I’m sure I’ve posted these videos here before. The app allows up to two “seconds” per day, each second being up to three seconds long, which must have traditionalists spinning in their graves, but still there are days (like Friday) when you’ll point a camera at some cows, a tractor and some dramatic weather (I’m effectively a small child) all in one day, and how are you supposed to choose just two of those?

“Aren’t blogs great?” reminds me: NetNewsWire 5 is good for reading RSS feeds on Apple Macintoshes – so good that I’ve abandoned NewsBlur in favour of Feedbin (which for the time being is the only supported sync service). I unsubscribed from a few feeds when I made the switch (not sure I should be encouraging this trend), and wasted whole minutes of my life by not realising how much much easier it is to unsubscribe via NetNewsWire (just select the feed(s) that no longer spark joy and press the backspace key) than using the Feedbin web interface (which is a lovely web interface, but still a web interface).

But what happened this week? It was a gusty and wet, such that an an electrical cable became detached from our roof – miraculously, the electricity continued to flow – and some men from the distribution network operator (truly the fifth emergency service) used a series of increasingly big machines (eventually a Unimog) to effect a repair. The weather-enforced indoorsness didn’t make me more productive, but that’s OK – what am I going to to do, fire me?

Week 27

We rejoin the action in Cardiff. I was at a conference, which was lovely in spirit but boring in practice so I absconded at lunchtime and explored a bit. Didn’t see any of the the recognisable buildings from Doctor Who, but I bought some athletes foot ointment from a big Asda and popped into an Ikea that had sold out of meatballs.

Part of the modern condition is collecting apps for all the different bike hire schemes in different places. In Cardiff, it’s nextbike, which I found exceptionally difficult to sign up for. Despite this, it’s seems popular, with frustratingly many empty docking stations – or maybe vandals have vandalised the bikes in frustration at the suboptimal “onboarding” (ugh) process. Anyway, I managed to ride some bicycles, and they were fine.

An unnecessary overnight in London on my way back, where I sampled a Jump electric bicycle. Much easier to get involved with, and I imagine it’s even easier for plutocrats who already have the Uber app on their telephones. Compared to a Lime electric bicycle, the gears are rather low, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The problem came at the end of my journey, when the app told me I was in a “no-parking zone” and might be fined. There was a map of different zones, and I could see I was at the edge of one, so I diligently headed east. I interacted with some tired and emotional (harmless) locals, and then I was still in a no-parking zone, so I gave up and parked the bike and walked back (west) to my bed.

Now I see there’s a much clearer map of zones, and it turns out I’d gone to all that effort to park in a £25 no-parking zone instead of the more conveniently located £5 no-parking zone. Cool story.

I finally rode on the dangleway. Smugly passed the little queue of tourists outside the ticket office – as I’m sure diamond geezer has observed, it’s cheaper to use an Oyster card or contactless payment, although this isn’t really advertised on any signs – then got egg on my face as my card was rejected by the barrier. It was OK.

I enjoyed Criminal: UK, which stars among others the actor Kevin Eldon and the woman from the Leerdammer advert.

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.