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31/10/2012
[17:35] And just in under the wire, here is a selection of photos from my trip to Bhutan (and Nepal). I hope you enjoy them.

Today has been busy as hell. As soon as I got in this morning I've been battling with things. Nothing specific, just annoying bits and bobs. What was annoying is that my cold seemed to come back full force for a good part of the day, leaving me sniffing, sneezing and blowing for a good chunk of time. I beat it out of myself by going for a good hard run with Hazel at lunch time and was very pleased at how much stronger she is at running since we last ran together. The time of 37ish minutes for 8K wasn't too shabby for me and was really rather excellent for her, even if I pulled away somewhat in the sprint finish.

The aftenoon and up until a few minutes ago was spent fighting with the new SKUs that we have for RHN subscriptions/entitlements. It's all a bit confusing and even a call to the US (solicited on a RH mailing list) hasn't completely cleared the fog away, especially when it comes to adding up what we're using and need in terms of new subscriptions given RHN's numerical inadequacy when it comes to showing you how much you're using of certain things, taking into account free subscriptions due to virtualisation hosts. Yeah, I don't really know what I'm talking about either.

Time to go and row, in the dark. I think my hands are going to be a bit of a mess after this. I can't remember if I said, but three weeks away from a blade handle and many of my callouses have soften. Still, such is life. Half day tomorrow and Friday off! It's going to be great!

30/10/2012
[17:35] A weights session (sort of) and a semi-hard UT2 erg last night finished me off utterly. Having done the 2K test at lunch time I was told not to do anything harder than that. I was happy to go along with the instructions. Dinner was the remains of the lamb, curried, with coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, curry paste and onion. And tons and tons of rice. It's like I can't eat enough at the moment. I think so long as I keep exercising it should be fine. My body just wants to rebuild itself.

I tried to get a reasonably early night of it as I had to be up and at work for 06:00 this morning. Given I slept terribly and woke up every hour or so from 03:00 onwards it wasn't too hard to be awake at 05:00 and out of bed, exercised, showered and breakfasted in time to get across town in the dark to open up the server room for the electricians. The work seemed to go fairly well and I was in my office chair by about 08:30, which was good. Midmorning snack from the sandwich van was a bit more substantial than usual, as was the lunch time burrito with Cormac and Shaun. But there you go. My delivery arrived just after lunch, which was good. It's just what I was hoping for, I think. At least this time around. We'll have to see how it looks later on in the week.

Mostly today I've been discovering that the new RHEL subscriptions we've got don't actually cover running the client/workstation/desktop versions of RHEL, so that's a bit of a bummer for all of the installations we actually have right now. I'll have to see what can be done about dealing with that. Also, I've been running around tracking down project and service heads to get dates for the patching of all of the linux servers I am (and in a way, they are) responsible for. Hopefully it'll all pan out and there won't be too many really early mornings or weirdnesses when I do the updates.

Weights time at the boat house, then it's home and mystery pot luck selection from whatever I already have open in the fridge that needs eating.

29/10/2012
[17:05] Well, I'm back. And I'm still alive. I've got a whole mess of hand written journal entries to type up and insert into this page at some point (hopefully over the next few days or so), and a bucketload of photos to get into Picassa shortly, too. Chances are I won't get the former done before we roll over to a new journal page, but once they're up I'll remind you in an entry in November to go back and read them, if you actually care.

So, I got back just after midnight on Saturday morning due to a delayed flight and my bag coming out practically last on the conveyor belt. This meant I missed my coach home by three minutes, so therefore had to wait another 57 minutes for the next one. Frustrating, considering every other flight, even the ones in slightly less than first world countries had been on time and my luggage was handled with alacrity. Anyway, back in the house I had time to throw everything out of my bag to air and get my head down as seven hours later I was in a boat, rowing. The outing didn't go too badly, but my hands didn't enjoy the experience having softened a little in the mountains. Hopefully they'll remember what they're useful for before too long. What's really frustrating is that I appear to have lost about 1.5kg of weight, and it can't all have been fat, which means I'm a good bit weaker than I was before I went away. More on that below. Saturday afternoon was Tesco shopping, washing lots of clothes and making a first pass at dealing with all the photos I took. I've already got down below 500, which is pretty good. From there I may try to either split into a few collections or just say sod it and upload everything I've got left. It's not like anyone's going to look through them all anyway, no matter how many I might do.

I was let off the Sunday morning outing on account of there being spare people and me looking like I was a bit jet lagged. So once I was up and about I went for a nice long run instead and was amazed to feel like my legs were made of steel springs. Breathing didn't get laboured for a lot longer into a run of the pace I was going at than usual and I think I knocked about 4-5 minutes off my personal best for that distance (about 13.3K). Also, my right achilles issue appears to be in complete remission for the moment, which is brilliant. Lots more running to come! The remainder of Sunday was spent making a fabulous roast lamb dinner with Kate, drinking a bit too much wine and then going to bed really, really early.

Unfortunately, when I did my morning exercises this morning and went to do my delayed-due-to-being-away 2K test at lunch time today I discovered where the missing strength/muscle mass had gone from. My upper body and abdomen. I had a very hard time getting a decent time (considering how much I've improved my strength and technique in the two or so years since I last did a 2K test) even with my legs being potentially stronger than they were before I went away. I really need to start having some big meals with lots of protein in and getting some weight and erging sessions in to build myself back up again.

Work today has mainly been about catching up with everything that's gone on while I've been away. A fair bit has happened, from server builds that weren't supposed to take place, to unplanned total power failures to the UPS which took down everything instantly, rather than in a controlled manner. This last item is why I'm going to be in work for 06:00 tomorrow morning over at the other server room watching contractors fix this slight wiring snafu.

I'm almost back on top of my email (down from 6000+ emails to 16) and only have a few ones which require serious consideration and time left to respond to. If I get done at the boat house fairly quickly this evening I can probably knock them out before bed.

Oh, and I've booked my train tickets to my parents' for Christmas, had something hopefully awesome notified as shipped (should arrive tomorrow), and booked Thursday afternoon and all of Friday off to do some more catching up and maybe even go climbing in London.

Anyway, all that's still to come. For now I'm back off to the boat house for a gentle erg and some weights, maybe some core work too, then home for some lamb (curry?), left over parsnips and roast potatoes, a mass of washing up and maybe a bit of downloaded television. Tomorrow's going to be a very early start!

04/10/2012
[16:20] OK, so seeing as my holiday actually sort of starts tomorrow (and I won't be here to write this then) I should probably tell you what the deal is, as I won't be back in front of a computer much before the 29th of October.

I'm going to Bhutan.

(I know! Awesome, right?)


I'll be high(ish) altitude trekking the whole time except for a bit of stuff at the beginning and end. The beginning and end bits are also pretty big deals in their own right, but for more reasons that I was hoping for...

The thing is, I'll be flying in to Paro in Bhutan via Kathmandu in Nepal. You remember the airport; it was in the news last week as it's where that plane crashed last Friday, killing everyone on board. That's where I'll be flying into and out of at each end of the trip. You may also know that the seven British people on board were traveling with a company called Explore Worldwide. That's who I'm traveling with. What has been baking my noodle somewhat is that the trip they were on? That was the one I was going to do, except that logistically it didn't make sense for a variety of reasons. So, yes, I could be dead now if not for new server hardware planning at work. The icing on the cake is that there was someone with the same first name as me on the passenger list, too. All of which has made me feel a bit odd, on and off, for a few days... I've been thinking about how suddenly life can be over, and that you should pack into each day just as much as you can comfortably manage, just in case it's your last. Which is probably why my day in London tomorrow is utterly rammed with fun things to do and people I'm meeting.

Y'know, statistically Kathmandu airport and the planes that fly out of there are currently the safest places to be right now if you're involved in air travel. Statistically... (isn't there something about damned lies and statistics?) Either way, as my wonderful parents themselves said immediately after we discovered all of the above, it's better to go out doing something awesome that you enjoyed, rather than crossing the street in the place you live and being hit by a car. Which is why I'm still going, obviously. Or obviously still going. Either. Both. You get it. Or me. Whatever.

Anyway, I chose Bhutan for a number of reasons. The primary one being that I really wanted to see the Himalayas and the cultures of the mountain kingdoms like Bhutan and Nepal. Then, once I'd settled on the approximate area of the world and worked out when I could actually get time off (those blessed logistics) I was thinking about how this trip would probably take me as far away from St. Louis as it's possible to be (currently where I live is about 4200 miles from there) without leaving the planet. So I looked on a map and at latitudes and longditudes:
St. Louis, USA: 38° 38' North, 90° 12' West (aprox.)
Paro, Bhutan: 27° 26' North, 89° 25' East (aprox.)

Amazingly, while Paro is not really the antipode of St. Louis (that's in the middle of the Indian Ocean), it's pretty damned close to the opposite side of the world latitudinally. Which was good enough for me. Previously I've done a sea voyage to reward myself for surviving a breakup (long-time readers may remember my trip to the South Pacific), so looking for something in the Indian Ocean wasn't necessary this time. This trip will be cold, low comfort, high effort, high altitude (Morocco was an altitude acclimatisation and training run), and too great an opportunity to ignore. Amusingly, I seem to remember that Kris will actually be in China on research while I'm in Bhutan. So the chances are we'll actually be geographically closer than usual as she could be as few as 1767 (but likely less if she's not in Beijing) miles away. Not that it matters, but it's another fact to add to the story I'll tell my children years from now.

I'll be trekking most days, above 3000m for the most part, but over 5000m now and then for a few days. There'll be dzongs, other temples, tons of culture, local people, yaks a'plenty, a stay at Chomolhari Base Camp and the mountain village of Laya, pine forests and yak pastures, and breathtaking mountain views of Chomolhari, Jichu Drake and Takaphu. It's going to be fabulous. And something I've been looking forward to since the beginning of the year when everything in my life went sideways.

How do I think I've done since the beginning of February? How would I rate my rebuiding of my life? I think I've done pretty bloody well, thank you. From being a happily (I thought so) married man, to a completely shattered shell of a divorcee, to where I am now. All in eight months. Not the worst I could have done, I think. I'm by no means fixed (good gracious no), but I'm also not utterly unhappy with me and my life as it stands right now. I've so very much more room for improvement, and a terribly large amount of work before I feel like I could even consider entering another relationship again. But while I'm allowing myself to heal mentally and emotionally I feel fitter and physically stronger than I have in a long time. I've some tentative plans for the future, I'm able to attend a job interview and be offered the job, and it turns out I'm apparently not completely unattractive to the opposite sex.

If I make it back alive from Bhutan, who knows what I'll accomplish next?

So, the mundanities of life (in comparison): last night's erg session was pretty good. A chance to burn off a bit of tiredness and logeyheadedness in two 30 minute steady state (changing rate every 5 minutes) pieces, with a 5 minute break in between. Then it was food and bed as I got home pretty late. Work today has been mainly about clearing the decks (and my desk) for my trip. If I don't come back (don't worry, I will), I don't want people having to sort through a lot of crap in and around my work area, and stuff does build up after a while! I'm at the cinema with Kate this evening, which'll be a nice way to start my vacation time off. I'm told the film's very funny, which is just what I need. Food afterwards.

I'm off down to Heathrow on Monday. Before then I've a day in London seeing friends and having just a ton of fun, as well as using the free ticket prize of an evening at the Royal Geographical Society-hosted "Travel Photography Live!" event (yes, I'll be taking photos and posting them online when I get back) before I come back horribly late at night. Saturday morning is rowing, Saturday afternoon is when I do my last minute checks on my packing list. Sunday morning is rowing, Sunday afternoon and evening should be a lot of fun here and there, and I'll be packing my bags. Then on Monday I do a few bits of administravia, clean up my inbox and amble on over to the coach station for the horribly long ride down to Heathrow and points very much East.

I'll fill you all in on the highlights of this trip of a lifetime when I get back. In the meantime, be safe, well, and happy. And make sure you do something fun every day.

03/10/2012
[17:30] Woke up this morning feeling really quite awesome. I don't know if it was the interval erg session, the weights after that or the fact that I knew I only had two more working days left before my big trip (more on that tomorrow, including a rather interesting fact about the trip that I nearly took). Well, not really, as I leave on Monday, but I've got Friday off to head down to London to have a great time doing all kinds of fun things before the weekend (which should also be really rather excellent too). In fact, starting tomorrow evening when I go to the cinema, it's all systems go for things being All Good. Of course, based on what I tell you tomorrow, Life could also be Short. But that's something we've all known for years. Like I said, more on all of that stuff tomorrow. There'll even be a map.

Given my truncated week and the fact that I won't be around for a bit I had a good go at clearing the decks somewhat of things I've been needing to do for a while. This included wiring in a new switch in a rack (involving getting under the raised floor to run both a copper and fibre patch from one of the main/core switches), configuring service processors on two of the same marque of server but with different firmware revisions, so certain things had to be on on one and off on the other to get the same functionality, which was nice. Oh, and all kinds of little, tiny, niggly tasks that really irritate you when you're trying to get something big done.

Still, all ready for my last day of work in a while tomorrow. It should be a nice one... But you never know. For now, I'm off to the boat house for my last erg in a while too. I hope I don't lose too much fitness while I'm away. There's a chance I won't, and may even come back with a bit more stamina (you'll understand why tomorrow), but again, I don't really know. Oh, and I probably need to buy another pair of trekking trousers and a rucksack, but I'll fill you in on everything tomorrow.

02/10/2012
[14:35] So, this person has it right about running. It's basically what I think about the shorter, half-marathon plus distances I do. Given I intend to move up to the shorter ultras just as soon as I trust my achilles tendons again I have to agree with the "why?" of it that she espouses. I just think it might be nice to meet someone of the opposite sex who also enjoyed long runs. Not necessarily at the same speed as me, but someone who could join me now and then, or at least be content to be my support team once in a blue moon (I'd return the favour, of course!).

Anyway, I didn't go and erg last night on account of feeling really, really tired. So instead I caught up on washing up, which'd been pending for a day or so. That and some television (downloaded) which I haven't really watched since early last week. It was quite nice, actually. I'm feeling much better today, even with a 06:45 work start this morning over at the other server room where I was moving a disk array from one server to another and getting multipath set up correctly. That all seemed to go 100% perfectly, which was nice, so I've had very little else to do today other than get a few things monitored on our Big Brother setup and fiddle with this and that. I'm about to head into town to work out why a switch isn't switching (or indeed flashing its blinky lights at all) any more, then as I was in early I'll be off to do some gym/weights stuff, go home for a shower and then see a friend for a drink before a nice early night.

01/10/2012
[17:10] I just got a call with a job offer. I don't think I'll be taking it though, for a variety of reasons. I think right now staying here is the best thing for me to be doing. Especially considering the rather large pay cut I would have to take. The opportunity is most excellent, but things are changing for me and I think some stability of employment makes the most sense for me right now. Still, it's nice to know I aced the interview. I guess not really minding if you don't get the job does wonders for your relaxation.

I had a truly fabulous weekend. Starting on Friday evening, which was fun, through Saturday's rowing and painless Tesco shopping and whatever it was I did on Saturday evening (I really can't remember, other than Skyping with my parents), and on into Sunday morning's rowing in a coxless 4 for the first time and then a gentle 10K job as bank party for two of my crew in a coxless pair. And then things got really cool as Kate and I cooked a roast dinner and caught up on the week, which was great. Definitely a good way to round off the weekend, even if I felt really tired this morning owing to actually drinking some wine last night (I'm such a lightweight, apparently).

Still, today's 6K run at lunch time, coupled with having to reconstruct all that I could remember of a script for uniquifying cloned VMs that appears to have vanished without a trace kept my heart rate up and my frustration above zero. I don't know how well I'll do at this evening's erg session, but I think I should go, rather than just going home.