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August's Journal
October's Journal


30/09/2009
[17:05] Unless you know what you're looking for actually exists it is pretty much impossible to find what you want on Adaptec's site. Especially if your kit is Sun badged but Adaptec under the covers. A case in point would be the Adaptec Storage Manager software for RHEL(5, if we're being specific). I had a hard enough time tracking down the 32 bit version. The 64 bit one a few months later (today) was just as hard, if not harder). Anyway, I have it now and I'm ready to rebuilt two machines from 32 bit to 64 bit RHEL5 tomorrow which should be a nice morning's work. The reason being that Oracle/PeopleSoft's software (the new version we're going for) now only comes in a 64 bit flavour. I don't mind. It means two more machines I can get fully patched and up to date. That's always nice.

I went to a meeting where this was decided, as well as the decision to buy another eight servers (which is actually annoying more than anything else). It was good to be a little more part of how things go here. I even got to make a Contribution or two, which actually felt quite good. Don't get me wrong here; I still dislike and despise meetings utterly, but it was good to understand the whys of the things which came out of it which affect me and my job/workload.

I erged again last night at the boathouse. Having arrived nice and early I was finished with my UT1 before most people even turned up. As a result I did the run and a little bit of the weights I was 'supposed' to be doing before heading over to Cormac's as a pitstop to get some food before the cinema. Not that I ended up going to the cinema on account of realising just how tired I was, how I could really do with saving the money (especially after nomming down some Chinese food) and how late it would be when I got out of the film. Considering I'm doing my UT2 erg tonight (or getting in a boat as it turns out that the coach actually thought I'd be in the crew which was getting organised; he just left it to other crew to organise it and they didn't choose to ask me, which I actually don't mind as much as the coach not thinking I'm good enough) I figured an early night would be best so I left after food and a bit of PlayStation gaming action.

As the song goes "what a difference a day makes". I mean, Kris and I still have the loomingness of her job future to consider with all the potential life changes that might require, but otherwise things are fairly improved over a day or so ago. Having talked to my immediate co-worker it turns out that we're both suffering a little bit from "grass is greener" syndrome. Given that, how work has picked up a little and some of the related things we talked about I'm feeling a lot better about work too.

Right, time to head off, get a snack and then pootle on down to the boat house again and 'show face' a bit more.

29/09/2009
[16:20] 19 hours later and I think I'm chilled out enough to talk about last night. It wasn't a great day yesterday, what with Kris being turned down for the job we really hoped she'd get. I went down to the boat house to do some erging and generally, you know, show that I'm keen on training hard (hence all my running, gym work and turning up for outings). After doing the AT erg (which I found rather fun, to be honest) I noticed that one of the other guys (who's a bit better than me as he's rowed for longer, even if my 2K time was faster than his) was wandering around with a list asking people if they were free for an outing on Wednesday evening. It turns out the coach we have now (which is all kinds of good thing) is putting together a men's crew consisting of people I'd consider my peers in terms of skill and power. Only I'm not on the list. This frustrated me somewhat. I hung around after my erg to try and talk to the coach, only to accidently listen in on someone from way above me in the men's rankings remonstrating with the coach about why he was being tapped for the same crew (rather than the one above it). Apparently it comes down to showing your face, being seen to be putting in effort (both in training and on the outings) and stuff like that. Now I'm damned sure I'm putting in as much if not more training as other people with my running, cycling, erging and such. I just want to have a life (and keep hold of my lovely girlfriend) so I don't always do it in the evenings, at the boat house. I'm worried that I'm now going to be placed in a boat with the other people who apparently aren't giving 100% and therefore I'm not going to be able to demonstrate how much I'm improving, etc. on account of how a bad crew can cause better rowers to have difficulties. I honestly thought that I was doing pretty well during last weekend's two outings and was quite peeved to be moved half way through one of them. The coach did say to the other guy that the crews weren't static, so I guess what I need to do is show that I deserve to be in the crew I want to be in by training in the right places and being positive. I guess I can do the former as climbing seems to just have gone out of the window for the moment. The latter I'll just have to work on. Learning I wasn't in the crew I felt I should be peeved me something rotten last night when all I could think of was how badly the day had gone for both Kris and I and how I was (and still am to some degree) feeling like pretty much everyone thinks I'm basically mediocre to average when it comes to most aspects of my life. I guess all I can do is just try harder at the things I want to be better appreciated for.

Speaking of which this means that today I've been busy installing machines and doing the patching and rebooting that had been planned for today. Obviously it didn't go quite according to plan but for the life of me I have no idea why RHEL4 would want to try doing an RPC call for an NFS mount before even trying to bring the NIC up. Suffice it to say after a reset the machine booted happily. After that I installed RHEL5.4 on those three machines I've been stressing about the RAID cards on. The suspect machine exhibited some very strange behaviour with regard to one of its NICs too, which could indicate that the motherboard is indeed at fault. More on that if and when it goes furtherly wrong. I'm erging again tonight in the hope that the coach actually notices that I actually do train.

For now I'm just going to try and stay positive in as many areas and aspects as I can. Accept that those people who know more than me are going to be in charge both at work, at the boat house and elsewhere. When it comes to rowing I'll just do my best and try to remember that I'm rowing for fun, enjoyment and fitness and definitely not because I want to be the world's best rower. Workwise, I just want to be better at my job, learn and know more and stand a chance of achieving more and getting more responsibility.

Achieveable, if modest, goals I think?

28/09/2009
[17:10] I think the weekend was one of those ones where I do too much exercise in an effort to take my mind off other things. Those things being missing Kris a lot and wondering if she was going to be offered the job in London. I got a Skype call from her just a few minutes ago to say she hadn't, which is a bit of a blow if I'm honest. Still, as they say "as one door closes another opens" and we've found that Edinburgh University are asking for four lecturers in Chinese Art. Obviously she'll be applying for one of the posts. Of course if she gets it, or even gets something else it's going to necessitate quite a bit of change in our lives and almost certainly see me moving cities (countries?) for the first time in ten years. There's no other sane way to remain in each other's lives that I can think of that wouldn't drive us both crazy in a few months. Obviously right now she hasn't even applied for, let alone been offered, a job in Edinburgh but if she doesn't get an offer there'll be post-doctoral positions around the place (more than likely in America) which would also require some Hard Thinking from both of us with regard to how we deal with... well, everything. I feel angry at the world for it not having jobs for her in this city, where I and where I've made my home. A home I want to share with Kris.

That lack of jobs really doesn't look like it's going to change and so (like Kris does pretty much on a weekly basis) I'm going to have to face Change (my ever-present arch-nemesis) and start at least getting my head around the posibility of upping sticks. As we say to each other as an analogy to not getting ahead of ourselves I'm trying not to "go to Hollywood" (which is alternately easy and hard as for the most part my mind skitters away from something as big as moving to somewhere like Edinburgh, New York or Oregon) but basically A Change Is Gonna Come. I just hope I can do it with as much blase-ness as my move to this location elicited ten years ago. Only I guess now I have a job, a house and mortgage, friends, activities and other things all of which I would have to change and for the most part start from scratch wherever Kris may be able to find gainful employ. When it comes down to it, IT sysadmin is a little easier to find a position for than Chinese Art historian. Anyway, there you go.

I should probably tell you about my weekend. Lots of rowing (like 12km on Saturday in a coxless four with some very good rowers) and then 33km in an eight (where I was moved from the 7 seat to the 3 seat for what I thought were bad reasons, even though I corrected my stroke after that). Coaching the juniors after that (Sunday) while low on food/energy wasn't a mistake but by the time I got home I'd gone through hunger and out the other side, leading to my eating for the rest of the day being off. Couple that with some very broken sleep Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and the important news today and I'm only just managing to fight a holding action against being a bit down right now.

I will win though. I have to for more than just me.

I'll shortly decide if I go and erg this evening at the boat house (I should to work off some of this stress) and then stay up just a little too late watching bad television so I drop off as quickly as possible when I eventually go to bed.

If all this sounds a little negative then I apologise. It's going to be OK and unless something unknown happens Kris and I are going to be together and happy. The road there is just going to involve more corners and bumps than I was naively hoping would be the case!

25/09/2009
[16:30] After assuming that no-one was actually going to come over last night it ended up being a rather pleasant evening with four people filling up the lounge and making good conversation. Surprisingly the film for the evening also turned out to be rather cool too. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel was something of a mini gem. I'm very pleased I saw it.

I had an email from the Sun engineer dealing with my strange RAID card/motherboard issue when I got in this morning. The current thinking is that upgrading the RAID card's firmware might stop all the strange behaviour. Of course, all the ways to do this procedure require an OS to be installed on the box. Cue an entire morning of me trying to get a USB stick to boot some kind of DOS shell so I could run the Microsoft version.

I have to say that unless I was doing something consistently dumb (very possible) getting a USB stick to boot any kind of DOS from linux is a major faff of no small work. I eventually found something called the "HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool" which I installed on a co-worker's Windows box. Two minutes and one floppy disk later (to give the OS something to initially put the DOS boot disk files on before the HP application snarfed them) and I had a 128MB DOS boot floppy onto which I could (and in the future can) put all the .exe flash utilities and data files I like, safe in the knowledge that it'll boot and give me a nice basic shell to work from. Bonus points for the Adaptec flash utility not noticing that disks 1 to 7 were all the same USB stick and therefore reading each part of the update in triple-quick time.

By the time that was done it was time for a run so I strapped on the old trainers and headed out for a 6km dash. A dash it turned out to be with me getting what I'm sure is one of my better times of 24:45 for the distance. I will be rowing in some boat or other on Saturday and Sunday mornings and perhaps even climbing on Saturday afternoon. I think I'll be coaching after my rowing on Sunday but might have time to squeeze in a 5K test at some point too. I'm a little peeved at the crew I've been put into. I'd much rather be rowing with some of the other guys in the men's squad but I guess the new coach knows something I don't, or is going off size, etc. Or he just doesn't know what kind of a rower I am so doesn't know where to place me and others. Either way, I hope I get shifted around as I'm currently placed with people who have a real mismatch of skills and abilities.

I've had enough of this week. I'm going to start the newly flashed RAID cards doing another 8 disk RAID5 array build and leave. Over the weekend I hope I'll be able to have some Skype time with Kris and catch up on the half week we've been apart. It's very strange not having her around and I don't expect (or hope) that feeling improves. I want her back here, with me. I myself will be back on Monday.

24/09/2009
[16:35] After heading home late and going straight out to the boathouse to get a 30 minute UT1 erg in I just had time to make some food before I completely crashed. This was good as it meant I could head straight to bed when I was done (even later) and fall asleep within minutes (only to wake up after a few minutes to find the note Kris had left in the bed which I'd forgotten about, read it and then go back to sleep).

I got up nice and early this morning so I could get into work well in advance of everyone else. This allowed me to blaze through about forty machines checking their UPS client settings and making a note of all the machines which were either inaccessible or wrongly configured. This threw up a surprising number of issues which we'd just never noticed before. I class this as a big win against yesterday's mistake on my part. Some moderately important firewall rule changes and a lot of very useful UPS client tweaks later and it was close on midday and time for me to finally raise a call with Sun about the RAID card/backplane/motherboard issue which has been plaguing me and at least one SunFire X4240 since it was turned on and had a RAID card fitted. This stopped me having lunch with Shaun and Cormac but frankly doing a full day's work has made me feel better than I have in weeks about this place. It's just a shame that I've had to inflict a whole raft of annoyances with regard to procedural changes that're being clamoured for in the wake of my mistake on the management above me. Sorry, that sentence does run on a bit.

Anyway, since I've spent the whole day actually working quite hard I'm going to go home, do some washing up and see if anyone turns up this evening. Seeing that Kris had arrived safely by text this morning and then later on Skype means I don't really care what else happens today other than I get some food to eat at some point and relax.

22/09/2009
[18:10] Damnit I'm tired. Here's why.

Yesterday I took the day off so that Kris and I could have a decent amount of time to ourselves before she took herself back to the States for a good month of Ph.D work, weddings, research, supervisor-pinning-down and familial stuff. We had an absolutely lovely time paying for my bathroom (which we managed to get some more money taken off the final for by pointing out that I wasn't having 9 square metres of tiling done when the walls in question were less than 6 square metres of space) and then wandering the town having drinks and fabulous lunches and visiting local botanical gardens. We cycled everywhere at a wonderfully relaxed pace and arrived home towards the end of the afternoon feeling very pleased with the day. I even decided not to volunteer to fill a place in a veterans 4+ boat in the evening because being with Kris was more important. She means that much to me. Seriously.

Anyway, after a truly delightful dinner we headed to bed to be ready for her very early departure this morning. Unfortunately we didn't sleep in even to that time and ended up waking at some time close to 04:20, which wasn't great. We made the best of it though and we had her ready and out of the door at the right time (taxi arrived). The last I heard she was boarding her plane for Merkia. I should hear from her some time in the early hours of tomorrow morning when she finishes her journey and second flight.

My day, unfortunately, went down hill fast after she left. I got into work and did some quick catchup on the RAID card woes I've been having. Only to find that the machine/card I'd been fighting with on Monday is now behaving perfectly. Obviously this doesn't fill me with confidence or joy considering I now can't trust it to behave in a predictable manner. Leaving it to soaktest/rebuild a 1TB array again I went into town to watch over the engineers taking a server room UPS off the mains (leaving the room on live, bypassed mains) to replace its capacitors and batteries. Unfortunately no-one had told the receptionist that there'd be a delivery so when it arrived she refused to accept it and sent it off somewhere else. As of this evening we still don't know where it is. Luckily the capacitors in place are actually new (just a little damaged around some of the fittings) so they can stay in place until the next planned maintenance period. The old batteries came out and the new ones went in. The problems really began when we were ready to move the UPS back into the power circuit again. I'd forgotten to unplug the UPS network card from the network so when the UPS was powered up again it sent lots of messages about the UPS's status to all the servers' client software. Of the numerous machines in the server room three decided that something about one of the messages meant they had to shut down. So they did. Obviously it was three machines from the most important service we provide and one of them was the back end live database server. It wouldn't have mattered about the other two as they were in a resiliant/failover configuration with other machines. Losing the DB box meant a lengthy fsck of its large array on reboot which also meant rebooting about nine other machines to refresh NFS mounts which had gone stale. Total downtime was an hour and some serious embarrassment for me.

The remainder of the day has been spent writing up the incident report and checking to see if I can find out why those three machines did what they did. Also checking every single server I have control over to make sure the UPS client on it is configured correctly in every respect. I hate that damned MGE UPS network card. Its a shonky piece of kit that has never completely worked as it should. That doesn't excuse the fact I knew to remove the network cable before any work was done to the UPS and only put it back once I was sure everything was finished. Mea maxima culpa.

I'm not sure I want to go to rowing training this evening, especially as my run at lunch time today was more tiring that I thought it would be. I'll let you know whether or not I actually make it when I fill you in on how tomorrow has gone.

21/09/2009
[15:15] Today has proven to already be more annoying than Friday with regard to these X4240 servers. I worked my way through a decreasing number of drives installed trying to pinpoint which drive, slot or other thing was causing any amount of them to flag up a problem when creating a RAID array. In the end I ascertained that any two drives in any two slots would flag up at least one inaccessible drive when creating a RAID1 mirror. This meant that it almost certainly wasn't bad disks. It did leave either a bad RAID card or some kind of backplane (or some motherboard logic anyway) issue. Swapping the card to a working server and initialising and building an 8 disk RAID5 array seemed to work perfectly. Using the swapped out card in the problematic server initially worked perfectly on a similar configuration but when I came back from lunch the machine seemed to have spontaneously rebooted and was trying to boot from its NICs. Rebooting it again cycled through a number of different scenarios from not seeing the RAID card to not seeing the disks on it to the RAID setup stuff randomly freezing while in use. A couple of resets and power cycles later and I'm 6 percent into another test RAID5 build/verify... and just noticed that the RAID setup has frozen, again. It really does seem like a card problem but the card worked perfectly in its previous location!

I'm off work tomorrow taking a vacation day so I don't lose it (two more still to book and use before the end of the month) so I'll pick it up again on Wednesday even though I've sent an email about it to my line manager already. Hopefully he'll get some action from the people we bought the servers and cards from by then.

The weekend was lovely, by the way. On Saturday Kris and I headed out to see the local food fair which was... fair in terms of fare, but not particularly big. Once we'd done there it was all about free coffee-based drinks in a coffee shop with books until we decided to go home and have some serious sofa time together. Pretty perfect really. On Sunday I did that relay race thingy where I think I did almost exactly as well as I did this time last year. That annoys me a little as I thought I'd be a little fitter running-wise by now. Still, at least I didn't embarrass myself. The remainder of the day was spent relaxing, being happy and making fabulous steak wraps. If I've learned nothing else from Kris in the kitchen it's how to make the best wraps in the world, ever.

I'm helping set a Hash trail this evening and then running it obviously. As a result I'll be leaving work at about 16:10 or so. Hopefully I'll be able to get home and drop off my stuff before coming out again. Otherwise I'll be leaving stuff I'd rather not in the pub while we do the run.

On the home front I'll be paying the remainder of the cost of my bathroom tomorrow (hopefully less the 20 percent which may or may not have been factored into the total) after the fitter came over on Friday evening to take a look at the place. Hopefully he'll be starting either the first or the second Monday in November (I've got it written down but I can't remember now) and it's scheduled to take two weeks. With the best of luck Kris'll be around to be able to let him and his team in and provide tea/coffee and deal with any issues which need to be passed onto me. Between now and then there's a lot of hopes, excitement, worry, Disney-themed holidays and travel to negotiate.

It's going to be an interesting few weeks.

18/09/2009
[16:40] Today I'm am mostly displeased with the bits of hardware which go inside Sun x4240 servers. I don't think it's the RAID cards (SGXPCIESAS-R-INT-Z parts) although I had to specifically tell the BIOS in two of the three boxes I attached batteries to and installed these cards into before the machines would even show the card as registering and able to be booted from. After negotiating that on those two boxes one card now refuses to build a RAID5 set saying almost immediately after BUILD/VERIFY starts that the array is degraded and one of the disks is inaccessible. I think I've been able to ascertain which disk it is by labeling them with a marker and moving them around inside the chassis but I can't be certain until Monday as a) I didn't start doing that until late in the day and, b) I obviously don't work on a weekend. Its been a frustrating day to say the least considering I unpacked the cards at 09:30 this morning.

Kris came back from her interview pretty happy with how it went (including the long talk/lunch she had with her potential boss afterwards). We celebrated with delivery sushi and a film.

I need to leave shortly to get home in time to make the bathroom semi-presentable for the bathroom fitter who's coming over at around 17:00 or so to take a look and give a final pricing estimate to the place I'm going to be paying the balance to tomorrow (if the money's made it into my account from my savings account... I should check that). After that it's the weekend with Saturday morning rowing, afternoon Tesco and reading (possibly in a book shop with coffee) and Sunday relay racing (1.7 miles through town each over six legs).

I'll be back on Monday to troubleshoot this machine and its hard disk(s) and try to get some operating systems installed. Oh, I also need to take three days off before the end of this month or I lose them. One of them'll have to be next week so I can share it with Kris before she leaves for the States.

17/09/2009
[16:35] Kris left for her interview this morning in good spirits. I spent my time trying not to think about what was happening to her as the trains were problematic and she had to get a different line there and then take a longer Tube ride. 'Luckily' there were a number of problems here which kept my brain occupied and even meant I didn't get to go for my lunch time run as I'd hoped. I mean, as time went by I was more and more inclined to wait for Kris to call before I went out but I also had a machine with SCSI hangs to troubleshoot and reboot and then another machine with a runaway tomcat process to begin to troubleshoot, have a coworker lock up the box, find that all the web team people were either away, on compassionate leave or have no idea what the hell was going on, be unable to even powercycle the box from the service processor and then have to resort to going downstairs to the machine room (thank goodness it was located here) and manally yank the power cords out of the back.

*sigh*

It's not all fixed now either. One of the database servers that interfaces with it is having a bit of an Oracle moment right now too. Luckily it's not something anything I know about so definitely not in my court. I have been able to get the upgrade of all the RHEL5 servers to 5.4 onto the table. At least I think so. I may have to be the person who forwards the helpdesk call on to the change management board coordinator. I guess that's the kind of thing I should be doing more of these days. Especially if I want to "progress".

Anyway, turns out Kris had a pretty good interview and then spent about two hours having lunch with her potential boss after the fact which is why she didn't call me until well past when I thought she would (bit of a worry there). They're going to be interviewing other people over the next two weeks so she/we won't find out until Kris is back in the US (where she goes in less than a week from now). Fingers crossed for then. As soon as I get the email from her I'll let you know. Especially if it's good news.

I should head home and congratulate Kris on her interview now and then see if we can piece together something for this evening which current seems to be in tatters in some ways right now. Maybe I should shift to doing it only once every few weeks, or on an occasional basis. With Kris being away for three or four of the next few Thursdays there's scope for us going back to so-bad-they're-good films for a while. Maybe, if people can be bothered to turn up. Anyway, time to go home, hug my girl and do some washing up.

16/09/2009
[16:15] Fairly busy today with all kinds of firewall issues needing to be troubleshot to ensure that the financials/suppliers list application (and its developer) can get through to the databases required to make things work. Not an easy task when trying to juggle the web team's new and old servers and all the VLANs they're on now.

I spent the post-work time last night and the pre-work time this morning (i.e. from when I woke up properly until it was time to go to leave the house) helping Kris with a few worries she had and working through her presentation for tomorrow. It's no overstatement to say that what happens tomorrow could have a huge impact on us both. Obviously as soon as I know something and it's releasable to the journal you will. Just cross your fingers for her tomorrow morning please.

In other news, home made prawn pad thai is awesome.

We're off in about 30 minutes to talk about why the potential cost of the new bathroom has gone up by over £1200 since our last conversation with the person who's dealing with it for us. As a result I should sign off and get on with finishing up my rule changes for this firewall thingy.

15/09/2009
[17:15] I'm happy to report that I wasn't very achesome when I got up this morning. In fact I was so unachesome that I did my morning exercises and felt great at the end of them. Still managed to only get in to work for 09:00. I should see if I can do something about that.

Today I've been reading more about exim. It's very interesting and means that I'll have much more of an idea as to what we're doing here with the various weird rules we have in place to catch internal test emails which could go out to thousands of users if we got things wrong.

I also went for a short 6km run today and was only 20 or so seconds of my usual time. Pretty good for being on the tail end of recovery. I'll run again once more this week on Thursday so I'm ready for the 1.7 mile leg of the relay race I'm running this Sunday coming. After that... I don't think I have any races of any description planned. Definitely not for the whole of October anyway.

I should a) rejoin the gym soon (like tonight) and, b) do a whole heap of washing up when I get home. It's strange that I'd rather do the washing up than go to the gym at the moment. Maybe I'm tireder than I think and my body wants me to take a break. Either that or I just want to spend more time with Kris.

14/09/2009
[17:00] I ache somewhat today and, when I think about it, I'm not 100% happy with the reason why. I was at the EnduranceLife RAID8 this weekend in Dorset. Obviously the race itself was cool and the scenery (including watching the sun rise over the water at 06:30 on a Sunday morning was rather beautiful) but our navigation totally sucked and cost us about 1.5 hours worth of wasted time which translated into missed checkpoints and a placing of absolutely nowhere in the final rankings. We did brilliantly on the kayak stage, even if our sit-on-top kayak felt like it was full of water. But we took a number of wrong turnings right at the beginning of our running section (after making a school boy error with a check point out in a section of mud flats) and ended up off the edge of the map and completely turned around. After getting back on track we had to curtail our run with some high-value checkpoints un-dibbed and head back to consider our cycle route. In the end we had another good chunk of time lost due to hard to find checkpoints and ended up with a rather mediocre score all things considered. A good few people including our friend Tom (who won overall with the fastest time too) managed to clear all three parts of the course making me feel even worse. Still, as I said it was a good race that we did quite badly at. The next one will be better. I also learned about having more kit than I think I should need and that my Torq Bars are as good as they say. As for saying more, I probably won't. It was a race, in lovely countryside. Hopefully I'll improve.

I ache a lot today. Sitting in a car for 3.5 hours last night after 8 hours of exercise leads to all kinds of muscle aches and pains. I reckon tomorrow morning is going to be even worse if we follow the two day rule. Still, I've a nice short 6km run/jog scheduled for tomorrow lunch time so that should work out some of the kinks. Kris was on hand to help with some of my more noticable stiffness this morning, which was good.

She had a wonderful time up in St Andrews while I was at home and then in Purbeck. I was so confident her presentation would go well I even bought her some celebratory chocolate before she did it. Naturally it did go very well and she got lots of compliments, so I'm very proud.

However, now that today and its various excitments are coming to an end it's time to go to Tesco and refill the empty fridge, freezer and cupboards.

11/09/2009
[17:15] I've been fighting with a RHEL5.3 workstation which seems to have got itself in a real snit about what RPMs it does and doesn't have and will and won't upgrade. I'm not entirely sure what the problem is but I'm damned if I'm not going to get to the bottom of it before I go home today. With no Kris there waiting to welcome me (she's brilliant at that) I don't feel much of an inclination to rush away.

There wasn't a Thursday last night after all on account of extremely slim attendance. This allowed me to watch a really terrible film, on my own, with a cheap pizza and then go to bed exactly when I wanted to. Happily I didn't feel lonely as I worked my way through a mountain of dirty dishes and put a load of clothes on to wash. Maybe I really do need a good bit of time to myself now and then.

However, I'm off to see Whiteout this evening with a group of people, some of whom already have or will spend time in the Antarctic. Just like Carpenter's The Thing and The Day After Tomorrow, Whiteout could be another of the necessary pre-South films listed as 'required' watching for newbies.

It turns out I won't be leaving for Dorset before about 18:30 tomorrow which means I can go rowing tomorrow morning (crew selection permitting...) and even have a proper evening meal at home before I go. I guess this is a good thing but I'm certain we're therefore going to arrive in the pitch dark and need head torches to put the tent up. Couple this with the fact that we haven't actually booked a tent location and there's a moderately good chance that Saturday night is either going to be slightly stressful/annoying or require me to sleep uncomfortably in a car. Perfect preparation for an eight hour race. I'll let you know how it all goes on Monday when Kris is returned to me.

Oh, I fixed the RHEL issue over the course of writing this post. It was RHN's fault. Again. It'd unsubscribed the system in question from one of the supplementary channels which is why there were broken dependencies. Nice. I really do think that RHN could do with a bit of a going over. The timeout's far too short, there are random outages, without precaching at Akamai the download speed can be atrocious and now these spurious DB issues.

10/09/2009
[17:00] I just had a call from Kris to tell me that she's arrived safely at her postgraduate-style accommo-hovel for the next three nights in St Andrews. I was on MSN with my mother at lunch time discovering that she and my father arrived in Toronto safe and sound yesterday. It seems like everyone but me is away from home at the moment. I have to wait until the tail end of Saturday before I head down to the Dorset coast for the EnduranceLife RAID8 event near Cleavel Point. I'll be coming back at the end of Sunday (probably mud-spattered and shattered but hopefully in one piece along with my bike) to have a cheap deal Dominos pizza and await Kris' return.

In the meantime I managed to solve my issue with Firefox/Mplayerplug-in not showing Apple Quicktime trailers any more thanks to the cleverness of the Firefox plugin User Agent Switcher. I hadn't thought moving to Firefox 3.5 would help but I did that too. I think I've found a nice compact theme for it too which is nice after losing Modern Pinball with the advent of Firefox 3.0.

Lunchtime was run time again. In keeping vaguely with the concept of 'tapering' I again only did 6km today. It felt good. Unfortunately, after Monday's thorough drubbing by some of the younger/stronger rowers at the boat house during the 2K test and just not feeling enthusiasm for masses of exercise at the moment I'm feeling a little... stymied when it comes to any kind of outlet for my energy when it comes in bursty, guilt-laden moments.

Annoying, huh?

I think I'll just go home, demolish the masses of washing up that needs doing and change the tyres on my bike. People probably aren't going to come over this evening on account of drinking like it was going out of fashion last night all the way through until 05:30 this morning, apparently.

09/09/2009
[17:15] A nose bleed and some head pain over the last few days have had me a little worried that I did something silly to myself during the 2K test on Monday evening. After some consultation with NHS Direct and a lessening of all of the symptoms I was experiencing I think everything's actually fine. I am a wee bit peeved that I don't seem to be doing much but running at the moment, especially as theoretically I should be getting back into rowing training now and it has seriously been far too long since I went climbing inside or out. I would also like to rejoin the gym too. Maybe soon once I know how much the bathroom is going to cost. Apparently we'll find out on Thursday next week. That's an auspicious day for a reason I'll detail shortly.

My parents departed for almost a month's holiday in Canada this morning. I spoke to them on the phone for a few minutes twice this morning to make sure everything was OK and to give them some news (again, more on that in a moment). I think they're going to have an amazing time. I can't wait to see the photos.

Right, yes, the news. It seems like Kris has had her first interview offer for a job she's applied for. It's doubly excellent because she only did her application two days ago and the offer came in yesterday evening. She's doing her interview/presentation thingy this Thursday in London. We're obviously both very excited and hopeful. If they offer the job and she wants it after hearing/learning more about it it will mean some important decisions have to be made... but I really do think they won't be that hard to decide.

Embarrassingly most of today has been spent trying to work out why Firefox and the mplayerplug-in won't work with Apple's Quicktime trailers any more. It seems odd that this coincided with my upgrade and reboot into RHEL5.4... but maybe it's something else considering they still work with other Quicktime and mplayer things. Oh well.

I should head home now and recongratulate Kris on her interview offer and go for a nice long cycle ride with her while the weather's lovely. Then it's lamb curry for dinner!

08/09/2009
[12:30] More desktop and inconsequential server RHEL5.3->5.4 updates today. Also a huge amount of Release Notes and Technical Notes reading done. I'm pretty sure I know know everything that's changed between the two releases (or am at least aware of where I can find information on anything weird which crops up).

People are moving desks (again) in the office today). Not my group, the Windows guys. The trick is just to stay out of the way and concentrate on work rather than listening to the bangs and thuds and loud conversations as lots of stuff passes back and forth in front of me.

I'm doing another half day today. I have to use up a fair amount of my holiday (3.5 days) before the end of the month so that I only have the maximum amount of carry over (5 days) left. As a result Kris and I are off to see District 9 this afternoon after I've finished here.

I'm going for a run now, then lunch while I work, then I'm out of here.

07/09/2009
[17:15] All kinds of things done this weekend! From the off Kris and I were out cycling the long way to a nearbyish mill to collect some honest-to-goodness stone-milled flour. Unfortunately the mill was closed for refurbishments so we were forced to use our free access with National Trust membership to eat a lovely picnic out on the grass of the grounds of an abbey which hold the mill. Darn it. It's a real shame the weather was so absolutely lovely for the whole time we were there. It was only after we were thinking about leaving that we a) got a call inviting us to a barbeque and, b) the weather started getting a little overcast. As it was we cycled home by a more direct route than the way we'd come out, had showers, relaxed and generally recouperated a little (Kris still being a little under the weather) before heading out. We stayed at the barbeque for a few hours, chatting, eating other people's food and generally relaxing until Kris began to fade and then headed on home.

Sunday morning was bathroom planning morning. We headed out to the shop and had a good 1.5 to 2 hours worth of chat with the nice lady called Sue who'd come over on Friday to measure up. After working our way through sinks and vanity units, toilets, flooring, tiling, other bits and talking about boxing the only thing I have any real problem with (and even that is beginning to seem like a good idea) is the bath. I'm pretty sure it's going to be great though.

After that all we really wanted to do was go to Tesco and get home so we could relax. This we duly did, rushing together a delicious lunch once we were home before we both became very tired or very snappish from low blood sugar. The rest of the afternoon was wonderful with Kris taking a nap and me reading and watching television and generally kicking back. The evening meal of roast lamb and squash mash was truly scrumptious and with brownie for dessert it just couldn't be beaten. Tiredness and other issues dogged the end of the day and left us feeling both a little down and a little stressed but Kris was able to fix everything just before bed. She's brilliant like that.

Today I decided not to run at lunch time to make sure I stand the best possible chance of not embarrassing myself at the Men's 2K test session at the boat house this evening. I'll let you know how that goes tomorrow. In the mean time I think the new version of Skype for linux I just installed might have a slightly better video and audio implementation. We'll have to see when Kris and I have a chance to test it.

04/09/2009
[16:30] We had someone come over this morning to measure up the bathroom. They didn't seem to think the place was a lost cause and the rough estimate on how much it would all cost was at least£500 under my absolute top limit. Of course, the chances are it might be more than that, but I really hope not. Kris and I will be going in to look at some mock up plans on Sunday as well as looking at flooring and things like that before and after the appointment.

After the hour or so the woman was round at the house I cycled into town to have lunch with Kate. We caught up, chatted and generally had nice cheap pizza from Pizza Express. Unfortunately we only had an hour before I needed to be at work for the afternoon so it all felt a little rushed. What also put a real downer on the day was cycling head on into a bee or wasp which vanished down my T-shirt only to sting me at the top of my right set of abdominal muscles while I was still moving. I got the stinger out fairly quickly but "Ow!".

The afternoon's work has been mainly doing firewall frobbing for some people in Finance and making sure some of those web servers I mentioned which should have been decommissioned a few years ago are actually done next week! I'm as astonished as you are (probably more so, if we're honest).

This weekend is all about relaxing, training (running), Tesco shopping and the bathroom. Apparently on Monday evening I've got to do a 2K test at the boat house, which'll be interesting, to say the least.

03/09/2009
[16:55] Somewhat of a more productive day today than yesterday. After making sure Kris was all tucked up at home for the day (she's still fighting off a throat lurgy) I headed into town to a server room to wait for the MGE UPS engineer to come and replace some capacitors (as big as my wrist as a long as two tins of beans). He didn't arrive until after 10:00 so I spent the time tidying a cabinet's cables a bit. Always a good distraction activity for someone with mild OCD. Once he'd arrived we quickly discovered that at least one of the batteries had leaked at some time in the last three or four months so we're going to need to replace it. Which means replacing them all so they're all the same age and can be trusted to give the same response. This is a bit annoying as we're coming up to a period when any vulnerable periods are a no-no. Anyway, I left him to it and came into work.

Since then I've been working on a fairly tricky problem of getting a version of RMagick (a Ruby gem) to install on RHEL5. Suffice it to say it required using an older version which worked with the version of ImageMagick RHEL5 ships with as well as downloading some utilities to allow me to build an RPM containing some Microsoft TrueType fonts which needed to be in place before any version of RMagick would install. It's all done now and the error the developer who brought the issue surrounding this was seeing has gone away. So I win again!

Speaking of winning, I took 20 seconds off my 8km (actually 8.27km according to mapmyrun.com) time today. I'm down to 35:34 which makes me quite happy. Of course it's not running for 8 hours with a Camelbak on my back and cross-country shoes, but still.

Off home shortly to look after my girl a bit more. Someone else can host Thursday this week. There's always next week.

02/09/2009
[17:05] Kris came home a little bedraggled from London last night. As the weather had been rather lovely the previous day and the morning of yesterday she went in without a waterproof. This proved to be a minor problem. Still, after some hugs and a hot shower and my presenting her with some duck fajitas I think she was well on the way to recovery.

I've been working on getting a whole slew of machines patched recently which has been somewhat of a labour of love. Just as I managed to do it Red Hat have only gone and released RHEL 5.4 today. This is going to necessitate a whole round of new testing, downtime requests, negotiations, patching and reboots. I mean, it's my job but still, can't they just wait? I'm joking obviously, it's time for another update.

Some more frustration from me with regard to how I'm being treated by someone else in the office today. Its been going on for a while now and then. I have to imagine that it's partially my fault for saying ill-informed or simply ill-considered things, but I really wish the other person would be a little less... belittling about how they refute or otherwise contradict me. I know I'm not the most highly skilled of sysadmins in the company I keep, but I'm not a complete tool, and I'd really like to learn a lot more.

I'm trying to decide whether or not I go to a rowing meeting this evening. I should really but I also want to look after Kris who's come down with a sore throat and associated tiredness after breathing in London all day yesterday and then getting cold and wet on the cycle home. I've cancelled a dinner date too (rearranged, I hope, for a lunch date) just so I can spend a little more time doing helpful and nice things.

I think I'll do another 8km run tomorrow. I was quite pleased with the time I did on Tuesday and I'd like to see if the anticipated cooler weather tomorrow helps at all. My next AR event is the EnduranceLife RAID 8 in Dorset so I've no idea what the weather will be like. It will be an opportunity to use my Nuun tablets for the first time and also the new shoes I've just ordered for my bike (by which I mean tyres for it, not shoes for me to use while riding it).

And finally, a hurrah for finding a version of linkchecker which doesn't need Python 2.5 (2.4 comes with RHEL5). We like Dag's Repository.

01/09/2009
[17:05] And now, into September. Back into the academic year. When people's minds turn to thoughts of study, and jobs and things like that. September... and indeed the rest of this year are going to be interesting on all kinds of fronts I think. Currently I have zero idea quite how things are going to turn out and I'm actually not looking forward to pretty much all of it barring a few prearranged and acknowledged bright spots. Speaking of bright spots...

The week Kris and I had away in Scotland was absolutely awesome. The train journey up to Edinburgh was pretty flawless aside from a bit of hassle getting seats on the main East Coast line section. The cycle from Edinburgh out of the city and south to Peebles was, for the most part, rather lovely. Some quite exposed bits of countryside did leave us feeling a little wind-blown as there isn't much protection from the wind or from the rather large trucks we were sharing the A roads with. Still, we arrived in great time and found the tower with absolutely no problems whatsoever.

Barns Tower is totally wonderful. Four floors of thick stone walls with great decor (cracked plaster in places notwithstanding), open fires and all the modern conveniences you need without being more than you would want. We spent our few days there relaxing, reading, making meals together and doing more reading and relaxing and napping (Kris, not me) on the odd occasions we wanted to avoid the rain.

It actually didn't rain all that much while we were there. This was smashing considering we were averaging about 25 miles of cycling a day both west and east of Peebles. Lots of lovely scenery whererever you looked, plenty of opportunities for eating packed lunches on benches or just on a handy piece of grass by the side of the road and sheep always within earshot! I even had the opportunity to indulge in a little bit of mountain bike sprint training on a short little 9.5 mile dash around a cycle loop on one of our maps. Lots of painful uphills, exciting downhills and bits of flat to really push my average speed up. Kris did yoga and wrote, which is what she loves too so everyone was happy. We even had delivery food (right to the tower's door!) on Thursday in the shape of Indian curry and naans. Never let it be said that Scotland is stingy with its portion sizes!

We seemed to judge the amount of food we bought from our one big trip to the local Tesco pretty well with only a little bit too much to eat for Friday breakfast. Having borrowed a set of panniers from Cat, Kris was able to carry (more than, I'm embarrassed to say, especially considering the weight of her bike!) her fair share of things so we brought home those things we felt were too expensive to bin or leave for the next occupants.

After all the cycling we'd done during the week, the 27 or so miles back to Edinburgh were pretty easy to do even with the gradual uphill all the way back. Stopping at Rosslyn Chapel on the way back was a nice way to break up the journey too. Even if it was a bit more expensive to get into than we were planning on. Still, with home-made cereal bars (our best version yet) to keep us happy we were able to make it back to the train station in time to get changed into none-stinky clothing, have a nice reviving hot chocolate and still get onto the train and get seats with very little fuss, muss and bother.

Unfortunately I made the wrong choice in where we should change trains for various connections and ended up having to wait at one station for an hour or so longer than we should have. It wasn't my fault, there was vandalism up the line from us. Still, we got home only an hour after we'd thought we would, unpacked our dirty washing and fell into bed.

Having a bank holiday weekend to recover was extremely useful and enabled us to get some food back in, catch up on email and other things and face up to a few things we'd been putting off almost successfully for the week away. There are some hard decisions coming up. Possibly some of the hardest I'll ever have to make and I don't even know exactly what they are, let alone what my choices will be once I know.

Still, on the plus side I have managed to get some replacement bins for the bathroom and bedroom, bought another pair of AR running/cycling/getting wet and thoroughly muddy and sweaty in shorts, read an entire book in a Borders Starbucks with a lunch paid for with £2 and a Starbucks card bought for me by Kris. And of special note is the fact that I arranged for someone to come out and look at my bathroom professionally on Friday, give me a stack of up to date brochures and an in-store appointment on Sunday. There's a very good chance I may end up having a new bathroom in the nearish future.

Please don't all faint at once.