[16:15] Erm. Nothing really happened today. In a complete antithesis to
yesterday I've had nothing really to do and nothing much to say. Went for a
run at lunch (slower again, I think I'm tired, even after a day off
yesterday), had a pleasant text-only chat with Kris and sent the final draft
of the project plan (now "business case") to the operations manager. Gym
tonight, erging tomorrow and Sunday due to lack of coxes for outings. Oh, and
I bought another Christmas present for Kris. Thursday was quiet, only Cormac
came over. Odd considering we could see Cat in her home office but she didn't
answer her phone or respond to knocks at the door.
Time to go to the gym.
[16:45] Going to the gym last night was supposed to be a way to wind down
after a busy day of work and a rather tiring 6km run at lunch. It was, but I
was more unwound than wound down by the end. As in pile of string on the
floor. I also didn't sleep very well either. I definitely think I've been
overtraining. This is amusing on one level as the men's squad captain for my
rowing club is claiming that lots of guys aren't doing enough exercise
(specifically: following the training routine he's worked out). I'd like to
think I'm doing enough erg sessions, running, gym and cycling to keep or
improve my fitness level alongside some of the better people in the club. Of
course, this doesn't help much when a newbie from this year's intake has
managed to post a 2km/6min43sec time on his first attempt. I think the
requirement is for me to train smarter not harder. Or at least not train for
any more time but just do more/push harder in the time available.
Today I've managed to brick and then unbrick our horrible MGE UPS Network
Management Card through skill, expertise and low animal cunning involving a
serial connection and me cycling all the way into town with a laptop. It's OK
though as I needed to be there to get a form to apply for closure of my
National Savings (Post Office) account (the account book for which I found
while doing refiling a few nights ago). Anyway, the firmware is updated on
the card thingy and I've spent the rest of the day installing updates for
other people, doing workstation installs and about nineteen other things
almost all constantly and simultaneously since 08:40 this morning. I think
the last time I was this busy was just before I went to China. I'm seriously
glad that I haven't had any exercise today. I'm looking forward to a relaxing
evening eating Domino's Premiere pizza and chatting with people while watching
something dire on television.
I wish I'd had more time to talk to Kris. I miss her and today was
Thanksgiving and I wanted to tell her how thankful I am that I know her as I
do and that she's a part of my life. Getting a Christmas package for us both
from her parents today brought that home to me a bit more too. Her parents
are very pleased that she's going to be spending her Christmas with someone
she cares for, which is me apparently.
[17:05] I think last night was the best ever rowing outing I've ever had. I
and another person from my normal crew were subbing in to a slightly better
boat for the evening. Everyone arrived on time, there was plenty of laughter
and joking on the bank but once we pushed off it was all business. We paddled
down to the straight part of the river and proceeded to do four 1km race-pace
pieces back to back with a short rest at the end of each. So hard did we push
that at the end of the last one one of the crew ended up vomiting over the
side (and onto his oar a little). I still subscribe to the "if you throw up
you're trying too hard" school of thought but I have to admit I was as close
as I've ever been to doing the same thing. The boat was so set the whole time
though, it was a pleasure to be there. Happily, everyone else thought so, so
there's a good chance they'll remember that I and my crew mate were in the
boat when it happened. Dinner was huge, when I got home.
This morning (after another moderately poo night's sleep, I wonder if it's
still a case of overtraining?) I ached a little bit, which was good. However
the ache has only retreated so much throughout the day such that my forearms
still do. This has precluded me going climbing this evening so I'm going to
pop to the gym (if my membership's still valid) and do some light work there.
Then it's home for some more pasta or rice and something meaty. I'm probably
overloading on carbohydrates at the moment but I do have a freezer to empty.
Who knew I had so much food in there?
Today's work (I should mention that I guess) was mainly a meeting about my
business plan, rewriting the business plan and running updates on a few
servers (including emailing people to make sure that I was allowed given the
paranoia about a few systems we have here at the moment). Oh, I went for a
run at lunch time and found it pretty tough, but I'm blaming that on last
night's efforts. As a result it was over 1 minute down on my best time of
Kris is suffering from tendonitis again (an old complaint which put paid to
her running a while ago) so we're hoping the efforts she's taking to nip it in
the bud will work. In the meantime we're still chatting, smiling and counting
down the remaining 579 hours until she arrives home again.
[16:55] Mostly today I have been recreating metadevices on a few Sun V490
servers which were missing mirrors of certain partitions, proactively
rewriting boot blocks on servers built around about the same time as the box
we revived yesterday and enjoying rather huge chicken burritos before chatting
to a happy and smiling Kris.
Last night was an epic 40min erg session with some of the senior rowers in the
club. As a result I was positively inspired to put in a rather excellent
distance (for me) of 10301m. This put me in the middle of the pack. The good
think is that even though I was hot and perspiring by the end... I could have
pushed harder. There's no reason why I couldn't have been pulling 1:50/500m
with just a little more effort like some of the people further down the line.
Happily (perhaps, depends on the weather) I'm in a crew tonight with some
really experienced people so that should provide some fun, well-set boat time
for me to work on my stroke. That and give me a raging appetite for when I
get home. Unfortunately there's been another spate of bike thefts from
outside the boat house this last few evenings so I'm rather worried about
taking mine there this evening.
[16:25] It was an exciting weekend, it was. Friday I was so tired I very
nearly didn't go to the gym. Making a few mistakes online was probably the
start of things. Luckily those were resolved before I got home and then again
on Saturday afternoon in consultation with someone much smarter than me in one
or two areas. Anyway, I went to the gym and enjoyed it (hurrah for
endorphins) and then went home and got all warm as the temperature was
dropping quite a bit.
Saturday I was out in a boat with a coach on the bank for the duration. This
meant we were on a super-long (2.5 hour) outing which took us over a lock (we
got out and carried the boat) and back. The weather was freezing, windy and
perfectly clear. Nice, if you'd been wearing a big thick coat and gloves. We
weren't. At home I thawed and chatted to Kris about stuff. Happily we ended
the conversation on a high because we're both brilliant people who'd much
rather be smiling than not. She's pretty great, that girl. I'm very lucky to
have her and her forbearance sometimes. Anyway, rather than stay indoors for
the rest of what was still a beautiful autumn/winter's day I cycled into town
and got a few more Christmas presents and things as well as some new shorts
for exercising in to replace the ones I've worn right through. While out
Keith and Cormac SMSed me with dinner plans so I headed home, unpacked,
redefrosted and then cycled out unencumbered by panniers and things to have a
smashing Chinese meal with Keith, Cormac and Steph. Rather than move on to a
pub I headed home for sleep.
The reason being that it was the rowing club's monthly 2km rows on the Sunday
morning. Of course, by the time I cycled down there it was snow/sleeting and
bitterly, bitterly cold. We ended up getting ten boats in a mixture of VIIIs,
IVs, pairs and sculls out on the water and did two 2km pieces while slowly
succumbing to hypothermia. Back at the boathouse we defrosted with bacon
sandwiches and cake. That pretty much did for me for the day (or so I
thought) and I was looking forward to an afternoon of slobbing on the sofa
until, while thinking about a doze post-Kris chat I found some energy to cycle
to Tesco and back for the week's groceries. I have no idea how. Suffice it
to say that once home again I wasn't going anywhere. Steak for dinner with
some chocolate for pudding (I made myself have something savoury with
vegetables before I allowed myself something sweet (I blame my mother))
and then it was time for bed.
Today the weather has been slightly colder (so just above freezing) and I've
unpacked and installed a Sun 2540 disk array, been for my 6km run (in more
nice but cold weather), chatted to Kris and tried to get my mortgage company
to put my payments back up to the amount I was overpaying before (somehow
dropped because of the interest rate drop here). Unfortunately they can't do
that five days before or on the day of payment (which is today, which is how I
noticed). I wonder if its been dropped to keep in line with the maximum over
paying I can do. I'll find out tomorrow I guess.
Coached erg session tonight with some of the senior rowers. I think I may be
a little wasted by the time I get home. As it is I'm missing a climbing wall
meeting, which is a little peeveworthy.
[15:35] Happily the UPS completely recharged overnight. So that's good.
While it was doing that I was hosting a rather good Thursday evening with six
people and me. We obtained pizza, as is traditional and also watched one very
bad film (The Lost Boys 2) and one good one (The Lost Boys). Only one Corey
survived intact. Don't ask why we watched them in reverse order. Suffice it
to say the sequel is terrible. Really, really terrible. Seriously,
don't watch it. Ever. We spent some time chatting afterwards (not about it)
before everyone left some time around midnight.
In a perfect world I'd have slept like a log all the way through but I didn't.
Possibly due to the massive amount of pizza I ate, or something else, I woke
at 05:00 and had real issues getting comfortable and back to sleep again.
Groggy was I when I got up at 07:00 to do my morning exercises.
Happily, today has been a relaxed day of ordering new UPS Network Management
Card kit, considering firmware upgrades and writing emails. I also went for
my 6km run at lunch and will be going to the gym this evening. This weekend
are the (rowing) club 2km pieces on Sunday, with a training session on
Saturday. Only I'm not sure the boat the organiser thinks we'll be using is
actually in rowable order at the moment...
[17:15] Well, I went to the gym and it was good. I went home and relaxed and
that was good too. I watched Blade: Trinity and it... wasn't so good. But I
knew that was going to be the case. Getting up this morning was pretty nice
though. No aches, no pains and no problems getting to work. I even enjoyed
catching and overtaking the 'semi-pro' cyclist who insisted on undertaking me
when I was waiting at traffic lights, going off during the pedestrian phase
and sitting in advance of the advanced stop line for cyclists. He just wasn't
as good a cyclist as me. Even if he had all the gear.
Today we plumbed the UPS back in in its new location in the corner of the new
part of the machine room. The batteries seem to have completely discharged
though, which is a bit worrying. They've been reconnected for about half an
hour now and we have 10% capacity and 6 minutes of runtime on a 100kVA unit,
which shouldn't be right. Everyone thinks it's lying. I just hope we don't
have a power cut before tomorrow morning.
Kris was in fine fettle today when we chatted. That boosted me out of the
minor worries I'm having today with regard to the back of my right hand which
seems to be developing an ache similar to the RSI I had about a decade ago.
Another issue I'll deal with elsewise.
I should head home; we're watching both Lost Boys films this evening
over pizza. This could be 'epic'.
[17:05] I went running at lunch again today. Only forty seconds slower than
Monday, which isn't bad considering I was rowing last night. Although it it
was a short outing (dead front light) we did some power work which was quite
Work today has been quiet. Nothing of note to report and I'm considering not
going to the gym this evening as I feel quite tired. I should go though,
really. Had a nice long chat with Kris before my run. She's tired at the
moment too but still working damned hard on her teaching, research and all the
other stuff that she has on her plate over there. I don't say this enough
publicly (and probably not enough to her personally either) but I'm really
proud of her. I know things are going to get harder over the next few months
so I just hope I can be what she needs if she needs it.
Anyway, enough of that. Let me tell you about the fact that we're off UPS at
the moment as they're moving it through to the new area of the server room
(did I tell you we're extending the server room into our old office?) and
plumbing it back in again. Obviously we have nothing to do with it but let's
just not mention anything about anything to do with electricity for the next
24 hours, eh?
I should go. We'll see which way my bike turns at the last set of traffic
lights before home as to whether I gym or not...
[16:00] Had a builder over this morning who's also Corgi certified. He said
my oven was safe to use and that the cracks and soforth in the house were all
simply cosmetic rather than anything else. Which was nice. Came into work
without gloves or lights because I was in a rush. Had lunch with Kate in town
which was even nicer, before chatting with a very tired Kris. I'll be off to
row this evening in the dark with a good crew (the one above me) and then
home with a pannier full of presents for me and Kris for Christmas!
[17:25] We raced on Saturday morning. Well, I say morning we didn't actually
get all the way up the river until well past the time we were due to race
owing to the marshalling being curious. Imagine thirty plus boats all sitting
on the river over 3km from the start of the race (on the wrong side of the
finish line). We'll just gloss over the fact we managed to run up the bank a
little too. What we will cheer about is the 42nd place out of 246 crews
(although some of those were 4x, 4+ and 4- as well as 8+). Not too shabby for
a mostly scratch crew in the S4 category (rather than Novice). After coming
home I went to Tesco and then settled in to relax for the rest of the day as
I felt like I'd put rather a lot into the morning.
Sunday was fun. After being told that we'd had a replacement engineer because
the first was still attending a call begun the previous evening I was also
told by Sun that as the mainboard and ILOM had been delivered to his house we
were missing those parts. Apparently more were being sourced from London and
would arrive at 10:30. However, as I was preparing to leave at 08:00 a DHL
person rang and said he was lost in town with parts and could I meet him on
a road I knew. I cycled out and had him follow me to the server room. En
route I was called by the replacement engineer who followed the DHL guy to
where I was. This one had come from London.
After ten minutes in the server room waiting for Richard to finish shutting
down the Oracle databases another DHL person called with "the parts". After
guiding him in I collected a second mainboard and ILOM. This from Ipswich
(who'd told Sun Dispatch they didn't have the parts, then found them and sent
them even though Dispatch had told them they'd get them from elsewhere.
London, in fact). The engineer and I attempted a boot from SUE CD to perform
an SP/BIOS update. The version of Solaris 10 on there segmentation faulted
each time but the /SYS area within the SP session reappeared, which was
helpful. We brought the box down and reseated the ILOM (for unconnected
reasons) and then tried a TFTP load and then a "-force" TFTP load. Both
appeared to work without error but then on SP reboot the BIOS was unaffected.
Oh yes, and we had a power cut in the middle of one of the flash attempts.
Thank goodness the UPS actually worked.
At that point a DHL person rang and I took collection of a third mainboard and
ILOM. This one had apparently come from Belgium. The engineer rang Sun
Support for advice on getting the BIOS flash to take, but while we were
waiting we brought the box down, fashioned a jumper from the clip of his
anti-static strap and shorted across jumper P19. On powering up the box no
BIOS boot screen appeared on console or on the VGA monitor we'd brought in
from next door so we powered it down, removed the 'jumper' and powered it up
again. On boot the BIOS announced it was at the newer, correct version. A
few errors (including a CMOS checksum error) flew by before we could see them
(one was possibly a "DKS error"?). Going into the BIOS, verifying settings
and making one trivial change to update the CMOS checksum and then warmbooting
the box resulted in all errors vanishing.
We then tried a series of warm and cold boots and reboots including going all
the way into the OS. Once satisfied I brought up the Oracle instances (but
needed to call someone to start the TNS listener), the Process Scheduler,
Application Servers and Web Servers.
As far as I can see the box is now stable, happy and running up-to-date BIOS,
SP and RAID firmware. That took the whole morning so I went Christmas
shopping a little and then cycled wearily home reflecting on the fact that I
haven't done any Christmas shopping offline in about five years. Lunch and a
chat to Kris followed before I cycled out to meet Keith to see Quantum of
Solace. Coming home and snacking for dinner (late lunch) lead to me staying
up not terribly late.
This morning was mostly about reporting on the weekend's work, looking at new
firmwares for other servers and the UPS and taking receipt of a large number
of parcels from various places (mostly not for me but for Kris). I went for a
rather lovely run at lunch (just a short 6km in 26min) and have spent the
afternoon working on emails, project plans and reading news. Home this
evening is either going to be company and TV or cleaning the bathroom and TV.
I guess I'll find out shortly.
[16:05] Preparations for this weekend's work is what today has been all about.
I'm meeting a Sun engineer at 09:00 on Sunday morning and will be attempting
another BIOS flashing operation. Currently the machine is spooling its two
main fans up and down repeatedly in a way very akin to a man stumbling or
coughing repeatedly. Most disconcerting. If that update fails (which we're
all pretty sure it will, but Sun are adamant we try once more) we'll be
swapping out the mainboard (while keeping the ilom GRASP board and then hoping
that the onboard RAID controller on the new mainboard finds the current RAID 1
configuration it should be in by reading it from the metadata on the drives in
the chassis) and either calling it a day then or attempting a firmware upgrade
on that instead.
That's basically taken most of the day to organise. Don't ask me why.
The rest of my weekend will be taken up variously with: rowing (race), Tesco
shopping, a ceilidh, seeing Quantum of Solace, a run, updating my Amazon wish
list, a Skype call with Kris, washing, cleaning the bathroom and hopefully
some sleep. If it is at all possible I'd also like to rewatch Casino Royale
too, before Quantum of Solace, but I'm not so sure there's going to be time.
As for the rest of the day, I'm going to the gym for a short session, then
home to shower, over to Cormac and Steph's to collect some downloads and then
out to a local Chinese restaurant for Shaun's birthday.
[17:10] You'll never guess what I did last night. I mean aside from rowing
20km in a reasonable time on an erg. Yes, that's right, I strained my
gluteals. AKA pulling my arse. Silly boy. I don't know what happened as I
got off the machine feeling pretty happy and did some other exercises. I must
have held myself strangely when I was doing those and that plus the cold air
coming in from the balcony must have caused the muscles to contract and then I
pulled them somehow. Cycling home was agony, as was showering and raising my
legs. Lying in the "reclining Buddha" pose when I got home helped, as did
plenty of light stretching. By the time I'd eaten and gone to bed things
were an awful lot better and I was fine by this morning, thankfully. I won't
be doing that again in a hurry.
Today has been mainly about polishing project plans, working out what's
happening with the machine that's going to be (hopefully) getting fixed on
Sunday (day off in lieu ahoy) and writing lots and lots of emails about
things. I'm glad its been pretty quiet, really. I'm off home now to do some
washing up and then relax with friends while eating pizza. I may even have a
[16:45] Sorry! Forgot to mention that I put my China photos up at the
beginning of the week. They're at http://gallery.bofhcam.org/china-2008
if you're interested in checking them out. I've managed to cull them down to
a nice small number but there are masses more I've chosen not to
publish. I hope you like them.
Otherwise today I've done very little here. Elsewhere I've rewired a machine
and been to an IT Vendor Exhibition day where I managed to snag a few, poor,
freebies. Enough to make the journey worthwhile if nothing else though. This
afternoon I've done barely anything at all! Whee! As punishment I'm not
going to sit at home instead of climbing (which would have upset my hip), but
am going to go and do some erging instead. I think straight leg movement will
be a lot better for me than stretching and bending and all kinds of dynamic
body tensioning. At least this week, anyway.
[16:25] I went home worrying about my hip last night but seem to be improving
massively as each hour passes. This morning there was barely a twinge from it
as I jumped (kinda) out of bed. Morning exercises went well and with no lunch
to make (it's burrito day) I was in nice and early. After doing some final
configuration on the two bixes I PXE booted yesterday the networks guy (who's
applied for another job...) and I taxied them down into town and got them
plumbed in in record time before getting a taxi back again (by dint of
bringing a trolley with us, no trolley means making your own way back).
Minutes later it was time for a burrito, this week badly packed by a trainee
who caused me to almost spill rather spicy salsa all over my desk. I hope
they've improved by next week. Not that I may be going next week as Kate's
coming back into town for a job interview and would like to meet for lunch,
which is nice.
This afternoon I hand-rolled another RHEL5 desktop install for someone,
replacing their aging RHEL3 installation with something a little more...
modern. Not that they care, particularly. All I have to do now is stop them
from restoring their entire old home directory onto their new one and causing
all kinds of harm with dotfile mismatches. Not to mention what they'll do to
their Firefox profile...
Gym shortly, with no leg work. Then more consuming of freezer food, so I can
defrost it for the first time since I bought it.
[18:00] I crammed an awful lot of things into the weekend. I mean, I didn't
go to the gym on Friday - which was probably a very good idea all things
considered - but I did do a first winnowing of my China photos before
collapsing for the evening. Also from Saturday morning I was all
about the achieving. First off was rowing, in a 4+ with one of our favourite
coxes. That went quite well all things considered.
Then I came home and without missing a beat, dashed out to get some marigold
gloves and then vanished up into the loft to do two and a half hours of loft
insulation. I only needed the gloves for the first two rolls (left over from
the original lot I bought many years ago) and then I was basically unrolling
recycled plastic bottle stuffing, clambering under eaves and lying across
beams and laying it down. Completing it and putting the boarding down didn't
really sink in as an achievement that had been almost four years in the making
until I was back down in the house again climbing out of my paper suit and
finding my entire body was soaking with sweat and my gloves were full of
water. At that point I remembered how I'd felt when I'd done the first half
those years ago. Hurrah for me and my glacial efforts at making my house
better! I reckon the place felt a little warmer even eight hours later
(before the heating had come on for the evening). Good job too, seeing as how
heating costs have gone up.
After that I put some washing on and settled in to chat to Kris for an hour or
so. I didn't really move much from the sofa after that. Sunday was supposed
to have started with more rowing, only it was cancelled due to lack of cox.
Instead I got up early and did the washing up before pulling on running stuff
and doing my 12.7km run. I thought this was going fairly well until about ten
minutes from the end when a pain I first got when walking the Great Wall
started up in my left hip (basically around the tensor fasciae latae). It
wasn't anything too bad so I finished my run in a reasonable time. However,
after coming home, vacuuming the entirel house, attacking the bathroom tiling
grout with bleach and a toothbrush (successfully, I might add) and chatting to
Kris the discomfort in my hip had increased past the usual post-run tightening
up I usually get. I decided to confine myself to the sofa rather than
exacerbating it any further.
This morning it was no better so I made the decision not to pack for a lunch
time erg session and it's possible I may not be in a boat tomorrow (which is
good), we'll see. I will go to the gym in that case, but do no leg exercises
in the hope that it'll help the inflammation (or whatever's wrong) go down a
bit. I'm racing this Saturday coming so it'd be a good idea to be fit and
happy for that.
Work today was all about PXE booting two servers which I've had to tear all
hard Xen work I did and reinstall them as standard 'flat' OS configurations.
This isn't upsetting me as much as it could because I'm past the point at
which I care, really. It wasn't my decision and while I don't agree with it I
guess that it's what will keep the service and the management happy. We'll
probably revisit it all at some point in the future. I've redirected what
frustrations I have into writing a project plan for the upgrade of the
now-oldest linux boxes in the organisation. They're some RHEL 3 boxes I
installed as my second job here when I arrived at the beginning of 2004.
April, in fact. I wasn't looking forward to it (the writing or the project
itself) but now I see that having something to concentrate on, get my teeth
into and really make mine (in a way which no-one else has any say over) could
be the best thing right now.
[17:00] I'm a bit fed up with the RHEL5 box I've been playing with and the
1680x1050 monitor I have. This setup used to be completely stable video-wise
and now it just won't display X unless you jump through hoops every time the
box is rebooted. This is annoying. Still, I've reinstalled one person's
desktop and have the promise of another's before the end of next week so that
is something of an achievement. I've also been helping someone get a PXE boot
setup working so that theoretically once a machine's racked and its LOM is
networked we never need to go and see it again. No more heading down to the
machine room with a USB stick (which I kind of liked, actually).
Erg session at lunchtime wasn't bad; I'm getting back into the swing of things
there. Gym this evening, if I can muster up the energy. I should really, but
most of me just wants to go home and slob. I think I may do that rather than
push myself this close to getting home. Especially as I have an 08:00 row
tomorrow morning and Sunday morning. Couple that with an attempt at a Sunday
run as well as probably doing the loft insulation at some point this weekend
(well, I'd like to) and I think giving the gym a miss until next week sounds
like a definite plan. I have to wash up anyway. And I have a headache.
So yes this weekend will have: rowing, loft insulating, house cleaning
(especially the bathroom) and vacuuming, running, sorting China photos,
chatting with Kris and quite possibly finding some time to just sit and read a
book. Those last two would be nice. I guess this means I didn't need to
leave at 16:30 after all. Thank goodness; it's 17:00.
[17:10] I almost didn't go out to see the fireworks last night. Once I'd come
home I really just wanted to relax for the evening and chill out a bit. As I
had to deliver a torch to someone and ten pounds to Cormac so he could buy
some food I ended up going out. It was a pleasant evening and for the first
time ever I had the choice of either standing on the balcony of the boat house
or onboard a narrowboat on the river right under the fireworks. I chose the
latter and not just because of the free mulled wine. Standing on the roof of
the boat my group had a great view with no crowding whatsoever.
I stayed up late again and although I'm semi-sure I woke when it was lightish
I didn't wake properly until about 07:00, which is helpful. I'm really sure I
should be able to lick this eventually. As it's a Thursday tonight I'll try
and see if I can make it a later than usual one to make sure I go to bed at a
time that'll see me sleeping later. At least I hope so.
Today I've been installing RHEL5 on more workstations here as I gradually move
all the people still using RHEL3 up to something a little more modern. I've
got five more machines to go so I think it shouldn't take too long to have
everyone up to date. Then all I need to do is start dealing with the older
servers which are still on that marque.
Feeling pretty stable, normal and featureless (in an emotional sense) today,
even with the news that I'm going to have to embark on a fairly major upgrade
project anyway in the next few weeks. It's all good.
[17:35] I should mention more about how much of the trip Kris organised. How
her grasp of Chinese made the whole thing a joy to experience and how smoothly
she handled the few and far between problems we had with things as well as how
much legwork she did in making sure we had things to do, places to
eat/hide/sleep/relax. I can't thank her enough for making China (an
extraordinary and incredible place) so accessible and easy to experience.
As for today, I woke up at 06:30 (and possibly 05:30, I forget) after a late
night up waiting for the first US Presidential Election results to come in.
I'm glad Obama won, we just have to see if he does what he's supposed to now.
I've been mostly battling with Optiplex 745 video woes and writing emails for
much of my time. However I did manage to tear myself away to get to the gym
and start my ergo training again. Not a great distance for the 30 minutes I
do and I was pretty tired by the end of it too. I'm sure my cardio fitness
will return in time.
There're fireworks this evening, I should go home and get ready for them soon.
[16:40] Back again. Hello everyone (who's reading, which isn't many I think).
All is well and I'm here and in one piece. China was brilliant and I
only got one cold. The photos are coming (as soon as I have time, maybe this
weekend) but in the meantime here's a quick rundown on what happened:
The journey to the airport was fine. Coach was on time and all was well. I
had no checked baggage so was able to do the electronic check-in thing and go
straight to my gate to wait and read (after that incident with missing a
flight to America last year I never hang around when I can go to my gate now).
The flight over was nice even with a window seat. I had two Chinese people
beside me who I had to get by every time I wanted to get out but otherwise the
flight was uneventful.
Kris met me at the airport, which was lovely of her. The metro ride to the
city was a good opportunity to catch up (even though we talk most days on
Skype). Finding the hotel was midly difficult but the place (down a quiet
hutong in the middle of Beijing) was a hidden gem. A shower and some food
later and I felt quite human again, even though very tired.
The next few days saw us doing a lot of walking, seeing the sights and eating
nice food here and there. A trip to see where Kris lives at the moment and a
visit with some of her students to see the Forbidden City took up another day.
The place is fascinating even if after a while you get sick of red walls with
green, blue and gold highlights elsewhere.
After Beijing was Xi'an (pronounced "She-an") and the Terracotta Warriors,
among other things. The car to the hotel was huge and made me feel a little
inadequate but then the room fabulous with precisely the type I'd
hoped we'd get (a corner room that was mostly window). Truth be told I
can't remember much about our time there suffice it to say there was more in
the way of people spitting, more amazing things to see, masses of Chinese
people everywhere and more good food. Oh, also a free aromatherapy massage,
some swimming and a bed the size of Spain. For the other things we did there
I'd have to ask Kris.
After Xi'an was Shanghai and the ultra-stylishness of the hotel there, also
free wine and cake in the afternoons. Really, my overriding memory of
Shanghai is style, T-shirt shopping and wonderful food when it was really
needed. Oh, and a long walk around town as well as a bit of the Bund. It was
nice to see the place the Qui Xiaolong books are set.
Shanghai transitioned to Guilin and a longish car ride to Yangshuo and a
longer stay in a more basic (but lovely) hotel. Two opportunities for day
lohng cycles in high heat and blazing sun (as opposed to the smoggy weather of
Beijing every day except the day we left) which left our bums numb as well as
a lot of walking up and down Moon Hill. In the end a day off was required.
We spent this sitting in a cafe for most of the day playing chess and reading
before relaxing out of the sun in our room, coming out only in the cool of the
early evening to explore the overly Westernised streets again. Kris being
most saddened to see that a KFC had now opened there. The scenery was truly
amazing though, as was the opportunity to see original Maoist slogans on the
walls of old village dwellings. Likewise amazing was the opportunity to
experience Chinese traffic first hand (and survive). I know now why Chinese
students here are so dangerous on bicycles.
We journeyed back to Beijing and the cool of the north of China and had the
opportunity to walk around the Summer Palace in high winds (less pollution,
clear skies) before moving rooms within our Kempinski hotel due to flooding
issues which I won't bore you with. Suffice it to say we loved the first room
and then hated the second after having seen the first. The next day we did
get to move back into the first again, which was nice. There was also
opportunity to get close to the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube at the Olympic
Park but by then the temperature had really started to drop and the wind
increase in ferocity. The following day we walked the Great Wall, or at least
20km of it. Aside from tripping slightly twice and being very very tired at
the end of it it was probably one of the best hikes I've ever done over some
breathtaking scenery and architecture. Joeseph Needham was right, China has a
lot to be proud of, in terms of invention, pioneering and initial development
of many astounding things. Why didn't it continue?
Coming home was a sad affair for both of us. Having spent so much time
together being apart again (and for 47 days now) was upsetting. Stiff upper
lips were (and will be) required, although by the time I got home I was so
tired that all I could think of was warming up the house again and getting to
bed. Everything ran to time, there were no major delays or mishaps and it
wasn't raining too hard when I got back. I went to bed at about
21:00 and was wide awake and raring to go at 03:00 this morning. Ironically,
the sleep issues I was having before China vanished while I was there but
judging from last night are back again. Perhaps my body clock was
sympathetically linked with Kris this whole time. We'll see what the next few
Today I've been catching up on email, fixing the few small things that people
did that I'd normally have done had I not been away and buying lunch before
realising it was Burrito Day. Rather than rowing this evening (which would
probably kill me) I'm going to Tesco to restock my fridge and then home to
watch lots of downloaded television in an effort to stay awake until about
23:00 in the hope it'll mean I sleep the whole night through.
I've chosen not to make this entry too detailed or talk about the amazingly,
tremendously fabulous time I had with Kris but you're more than welcome to ask
me about specific bits/places/durations of time and I'll go into
excruciatingly mind-numbing detail then. Also, photos coming soon.