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September's Journal

[16:25] I decided to go to the doctor this morning to make sure that the bite on my right upper arm wasn't anything to worry about. I now have antibiotics to take and a mild worry that the infection in it is going to start feeding on the fluids in my elbow, for some reason. Cue pills four times a day on an empty stomach. I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics for 'no' reason but this bite is really, really itchy and the skin around it - and yes, slowly getting closer to my elbow - has been very, very hot compared to the rest of me. I've managed to not scratch it as yet but sometimes it's really tempting.

This morning was a bit of a rush once Kris and I got our wiggles on. With only twenty minutes to get breakfast and get to the surgery I had to buy lunch at work today which was a tad annoying. Still, I got in what felt like an awesome 6km run over lunch time.

I've been helping people with DNS/web site related issues today as well as talking online about FTPS mirroring solutions (unsatisfactorily, unfortunately) and generally tidying up for my week away next week. Not much happening/needing to be wound up, which is nice. I'll head off now, meet Kris for a drink and a chat and find out about her day and then head on over to get the headset on my bike hopefully fixed a bit at Cormac's. I don't think there will be any rowing this weekend which means Kris and I will have two full days of relaxation together for the first time in I don't know how long. We'll probably go stir-crazy unless we completely clean and tidy the house, go for at least one run, one cycle and do a test pack for Sunday evening.

I hope you have a nice week next week while I'm away. There will more than likely be photos from next week for me to upload as soon as I'm able. We'll be doing plenty of cycling, walking and maybe even some running if we have the room to pack our trainers. I'll tell you how it all goes on the Tuesday after the bank holiday. Hurrah! Hmm, that'll be September. This year is going so quickly and it really does feel like the time to start making big decisions is getting closer and closer at a stupidly fast speed.

But, not tonight, not this weekend and not next week. I've got at least that long to have a brilliant time. With Kris, and bikes, and Scotland and probably midges. Must buy some repellant...

[17:05] I appear to have just received an attempted phish for Red Hat Network subscription renewals. Somehow, I don't think so. They'd need to get a few more details right, I think.

Today I have been mostly passing up a golden opportunity, talking about Big Things with Kris completely out of the blue, writing down a list of things I really should know more about, thinking about Seattle, having lunch with Kris, heading into meetings about major applications and making a contribution just like a real sysadmin and collecting Tyan servers from people who don't want them any more and getting double the amount of cores than I thought I would. Which is nice.

I'm off home now to wash up, have a Thursday, have some lovely Indian food and try to put to one side the big things which are going to need thinking about in the near future, at least for a little while.

[17:00] Last night didn't go 100% according to plan, but it was pretty great nonetheless. I really do think these AR things take their toll on me either physically or mentally/emotionally. It's a bit of a bind to be honest as it means I end up not being at my best for Kris and myself for a few days. We don't like that. We don't like that at all. Still, nothing last forever so eventually things even out again. Having a bit of a rest for the evening rather than doing lots and lots was probably a good thing.

I'm rowing this evening, having run a reasonable 8km in the blazing midday sun, so we'll see how that goes. Being in a mixed boat with the Dev guys may prove to be an distinctly 'interesting' experience. Still, it's all good practice.

Today's work day consisted (in reverse order) of me failing to put the right webauth keys in the right place to make three new web server instances work correctly (fixed), waiting around for the air-conditioning engineer to check a unit (in my sweat-soaked running gear on account of the rest of my team being either in town or on holiday), fixing up about a dozen scripts and catching up with a whole lot of correspondence which had been pending. I also picked a few apples from the tree in the car park.

Excellently, Kris finished her first draft of her entire dissertation today. That's blimmin' brilliant!

[17:00] With the help of Cormac and his toolbox of great fullness he and I dismantled and reassembled the head set of Kris' bike last night. I have to say it was extremely simple to do when you have everything you need. I really should think about a) tidying and clearing out the garage a little and, b) spending some serious amounts of money on a properly-equipped bike tool set. Hell, when I eventally get around to redoing the kitchen I can use the old work surfaces and cupboards to keep lots of stuff in neatly. Not my idea originally, but still a damned good one I'm thankful to have been told about.

Anyway, now that we have a second set of panniers (borrowed), both bikes that we'll be using are in as good a condition as we can hope for (I'm not taking my commuting bike as its head set also needs some work and the tyres might not be quite good enough for some of the routes we do) I think we're pretty much ready for our holiday. Of course we may need a map (or two, judging by the Ordinance Survey's web site) but we should be fine.

Today's work has been steady and quiet. Nothing much to report that you don't already know about my days. I have to admit in a side note that rather than suffering from physical tiredness after the ACE Race this weekend I've been very down/drained/emotionless for the last few days instead. I wonder if I have to get at least one or the other following the amount of exertion/energy I tend to expend...

No rowing this evening so I'm off home to have a wonderful time with Kris instead! I think we deserve it. Also to put a chain guard back on her bike with help from some screws I was kindly given.

[16:00] The weeekend's ACE Race was a bit of a trial. I mean, getting up at 05:20 to get a train to where I and my bike were due to be picked up was bad enough, even if the drive to just north of Portsmouth was fairly OK. But the race itself was pretty tough. Starting off with a 3 mile foot race (half of it up an unrelenting steep hill) we then collected our maps and had to run back down again to the bikes. Lots of very steep hillside mountain biking (seemingly mostly uphill) then followed with a brief interlude of about an hour in the middle when we were required to go on foot again. Hills, hills, hills. Lots of hills. Checkpoints hidden in the most unlikely of places and (for the first time ever in a race for me) a puncture. This wouldn't have been so bad except that my pump chose that exact moment to give up pumping air thus necessitating I and my race partner waiting for someone kind to stop and let me use their pump on the spare inner tube I'd speedily put into place. I loaned them my compass for the duration of the race as thanks.

We did pretty well, considering we only came in fifteen minutes behind our other team (the length of time we were waiting for the tyre to be fixed). Of course we'll be behind them in the results and pretty far down considering we went over the time limit by about five minutes or so. Still, for five hours of non-stop running and cycling I think it was a pretty good day. I kept nice and hydrated, ate enough and didn't feel too bad almost immediately afterwards. The journey home was fast and uneventful and it was a real pleasure to relax in the shower knowing delicious home made egg-fried rice and delivery Chinese food was on its way. Naturally Kris was also there to make me feel like a hero and soothe my weary brow. She's lovely like that.

Rather than get all stiff and achey on Sunday we got up fairly early and I followed Kris on a 5 or 6km run around town and up our only decent hill. That was rather great and meant that I felt nice and loose for the rest of the day. A day which included not only more washing and washing up but a well-timed trip to Tesco, some emergency pump-shopping on Wiggle for our cycling holiday next week (even if I did manage to work out how to fix the pump while sitting on the floor of the kitchen last night) half of the hedge being trimmed (all of the outside, rather than half the outside and half the inside) and a bit of reading.

According to Wiggle I'm now due three packages from them in the near future. I do hope they all arrive by the end of the week otherwise I'll be most displeased. Not that I paid for faster delivery, but you'd have thought even first class mail would take less than five days. You'd have thought...

We have a full compliment of people back at my end of the office this week. One person was off with illness, another's been on holiday for a few weeks. For today and tomorrow we'll get together and catch everyone up on what has been done and needs to be done over the next ten days or so when at least two or more of us will be off again. My work today has consisted of patching, fixing, backing up and giving helpful advice to people who I wish would think before they asked.

I also went for a nice fast 6km run in an attempt to push back the muscle ache for another day or so. I'm not sure if I'll go and do group ergs tonight. Maybe I deserve an evening off.

[16:25] Today I have been mainly trying to tease out of people the story behind why things are apparently 'broken'. What it turns out is that sometimes people make lots of silly mistakes. I really wish they wouldn't. It bothers me. Being able to legitimately foist off the problems to other people was marvellous though.

It meant I was able to go for a nice 6km run at lunch time which I do believe I did in a pretty good time (for me). Perhaps not a brilliant idea considering I'm off to the ACE Race tomorrow but it felt really good to get out and stretch my legs, literally. The weather was quite nice too.

So yes, a very early morning tomorrow to get to Portsmouth in time for registration, then the race, then home again. Should be back in time for dinner. Sunday will be a mixture of Tesco, planned hedge-trimming (at least one side anyway as it really needs doing) and some relaxation, where possible. Part of me hopes it rains on Sunday, part of me doesn't.

We watched the Muppet Movie last night. That was excellent. Even though I was quite worried that Kris still knew all the words to the songs.

[16:30] So I managed to neither go to the cinema last night nor to erg training this morning. I did have a very wonderful evening though, even if parts of it went by too quickly. I'll have to work on that.

Happily, the weird throat thing which I woke up with this morning seems to have faded away overnight. Which is good. Watching too much House can leave you feeling like every odd symptom you have is something which'll end up making your eyeballs pop out and your tongue explode. My neck ache caused by enthusiastic exercise also seems to be going away too in time for the ACE Race this weekend (which I'm going to have to get up horribly early for).

Work has been surprisingly busy these last few days and for the most part I've come up with solutions and things for pretty much everything. In fact, looking at today/this week's to do list I don't actually have anything of note still to do. This means, of course, documentation and tidy up. I've provisioned a new Resin container, an Apex instance and all the ancilliary stuff that goes along with that kind of thing as well as helping one of our Ruby developers, well, develop with the judicious use of some Ruby gems. As a final pat on the back to myself I managed to sneak by the last of the essential RHEL4 upgrades this morning before I even got into work too. This means only the two DB boxes I just did the specifications for the replacements of are out of date now and they should be getting turned off in a few weeks anyway (if we get the replacements from Sun in good time and I can install them quickly).

In a mild fit of trying to get things sorted in good time for the holiday (no, not panic) I've asked Kris to come with me to Halfords straight after work today to see what they can do about the wobbly bottom bracket her bike has developed. It's either a two minute job or a ten day (their backlog duration) job. If the former then it should be free under the warranty (I hope). If not then we'll go elsewhere and try and get it done by a decent bike shop in a faster time.

I should probably pack up and see if I can get out of here early so I can meet Kris. Tonight's a Thursday too, which means I need to get home, do the washing up and try to make the house look presentable too.

[16:30] Today has been a really good day in terms of work. I've done all kinds of useful things. First off I've patched a whole slew of servers for some moderately important security and bug fixes. I've arranged to patch one of the remaining servers which I mentioned a few weeks ago as being massively out of date (tomorrow morning), I've managed to snag two free servers which Cormac and I will hopefully be collecting on Friday (car availability willing), worked out why the PHP/Oracle php-oci8 stuff wasn't working from with Apache when it was from a shell (stupid environmental variable passing) and ascertained that the Apex applications which weren't working are like that because they don't actually exist yet.

Basically I've fixed everything, everywhere.

To counterbalance the sheer awesomeness of me, last night's rowing outing was distinctly odd. The boat was amazingly balanced but the amount of chatter and lack of concentration in the boat was equally high. I think we annoyed our cox somewhat. Still, given there's a lot of other stuff going on at the moment it's kind of useful that there's not another outing until next Tuesday.

Off to the cinema this evening to see G.I. Joe basically because it'll be highly amusing. Tomorrow should prove to be fun with a portion of running at lunch time and the regular Thursday evening wossname.

[17:00] Today has been filled with work on Apex instances (apparently the number we need just jumped from three (Live, Dev, UAT) to manylots more. This is annoying but probably something I can weave into the load balancer rule we have such that it can all still come together under the one URL I've been able to cluster them under up until now. Of course, the first new instance that's been installed doesn't seem to be working within the infrastructure I'm talking about but that could be down to all manner of things outside of my control. At least I hope so.

The other thing I'm working on is that php-oci8 (Oracle) connection thing. Did I mention that previously? I think so. Anyway, aside from people creating users on machines without going through this office it also seems that the connection thing isn't connecting. This is a bit poor and very worrying in case it's something to do with the mildly shonky assemblage of Oracle client/instantclient stuff I installed back in the day to deal with the DBI::Oracle perl module and stuff. Hopefully it's not all my fault and things will work out once a) the developer knows what he's doing and, b) the OCM instance he's connecting to is actually running (not that it wasn't, it'd just failed over to the other instance which happens when the primary is down) and answering correctly formatted requests.

I went for a run at lunchtime today (rather than get a burrito). Did the 6km loop to make sure I didn't re-destroy my feet and ended up collecting about 1.5kg of mini plums for free off various trees. I think we may end up eating them over the next few days in lunches. Rowing tonight, so I should head home and do some washing up before I go out again. Cormac and I put the new rear cassette on my bike last night. It's nice to know the chain won't be slipping any more but has highlighted that a) I bought kind of the wrong one and, b) that maybe the chain'll need replacing anyway as it seems to be stretched and really feeling odd now.

[16:35] I probably made a little bit of a mistake this weekend. I had the generous invitation of a 24 mile walk across London (near the airport to Barnes) and wore the wrong socks. As a result, aside from a brilliant day with a good friend I ended up with a few blisters on each foot and a bit of worry about next weekend's ACE Race. I also didn't manage the complete distance and had to make us bail out about 7 miles from home so I could save my feet for the trip home. Luckily there was barely any walking between stations and I still had a bike when I got off the last train. I think I'll be OK if I treat myself gently for a few days, and maybe go for a gentle run on Wednesday/Thursday and/or Friday. Suffice it to say when I got home in the late evening after a truly delicious Thai meal I wasn't in any shape to do anything other than sit back and relax with Kris. Apparently we missed a bit of an epic party, which is a shame.

We got up a little later than usual on Sunday. Just in time to potter a bit and then do a Tesco run before lunch. Lunch! Wow, yes. That was my first proper experience of dim sum and aside from being completely fabulous was nearly my last on account of nearly detonating my stomach with the amount I (and everyone else!) ate. Completely worth the money and meaning we didn't need to eat again other than some pineapple chunks and a few slices of baguette towards the end of the day. Delicious!

Work today has been moderately interesting. I've been setting up a new Resin container to run a Java application that's going to be tied into an Apex application instance. I have no idea how the Oracle magic is going to work but if it does we'll have saved ourselves quite a hefty amount of money.

Speaking of money, mine seems to have slipped through my fingers somewhat this month already. Almost all of it has gone on useful and/or essential things (including the holiday Kris and I are looking forward to in the next few weeks) but the rest somehow just seems to have vanished on... things and stuff. It's most disconcerting. Anyway, other than the things I need to pay for I think that's it for me until the next wodge comes in from the people who seem to think I'm doing a useful job.

And as for useful jobs, Kris has filled me in on what she thinks she might begin to do once her Ph.D is done and dusted. I have to say I look at her ideas with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. I really do hope everything she wants to do comes to fruition (with my help, perhaps) because things could be really, really good then.

[16:30] An early rise saw me on the water for 06:30. After the rain last night (which happily I wasn't out in the boat for) the river was slightly up over the bank on the hard outside the boathouse. Luckily we were still about four inches off having to call off the outing. All things considered it was a pretty good one. Not perfect by any means; while quite well balanced now and then we were still pretty tippy, there was some slide-rush and now and then we tended to yank things through. The rain held off too.

Work today has been about keeping things stable. I've talked to a few people about the Tomcat servlet I have to install for some strange PDFarisation reason and been fiddling with one of the main DB boxes we have to find out whether the problem the DBAs were having was down to disk contention because of a large file move.

Otherwise I've been sitting here waiting for the week to end by doing lots of tiny scripting jobs so I can then spend it on a date with my girl, a very long walk in London and a day of absolute relaxation perhaps with a not-so-relaxing 12.7km run at some point.

[16:20] Another day when I wake up pretty shattered. So tired in fact that Kris managed to get up without waking me and get on with her morning. Still, that was only just past 05:15 this morning so I think I can be excused. In between work today I've managed to panic about getting trains to Edinburgh and back sorted for Kris and me and our bikes (Qjump 0 - 1 National Express East Coast), fought with PDFs to get them printed in the right orientation and in colour and had lunch at my desk.

Work-wise I've been rerolling RPMs to be happy with a php-oci8 I may use in the future, completely failing to talk to a DBA about installing a Tomcat engine to run some little hack to get around us needing to spend a couple of grand on a piece of software and working on some RAID monitoring which won't complain quite so much when the temperature changes by a degree.

Last night Cormac helped me dismantle and reassemble my commuting bike with the aid of the right tools and get around the fact that some bits aren't quite the same spacing/fitting/size as the ones I've had to bin. I've ordered a rear cassette to replace the one which has been "sharked" for a while now and that should arrive with the cycle shorts she's going to need for our Scotland adventure (more on that another day).

[17:05] Last night I really wasn't in the mood to go rowing. Especially as, even after working from home for the days, I was still exceptionally tired. However it appeared that either a lot of people in the boat have improved, the coaching was spot on and/or I was so relaxed that I didn't affect the balance very much. Either way the outing really wasn't that bad at all. I came home shattered to find that Kris was in the middle of cooking up an absolutely stunning lamb korma. So stunning in fact that we're going to do it again very soon. My contribution (other than a little bit of preparation work) was adding creamed coconut.

Other than working from home yesterday I also managed to break my good bike by trying to take off its cranks to make sure they actually still did. One bolt came out easily and the crank itself seemed to come off easily too with very little effort from the crank extractor. When I tried to put it back on again I discovered that I'd crushed the thread a little. After about half an hour of trying I resorted to going to the local cycle shop to get them to re-tap the thread. This cost £2.50. I then spent a further £6.99 on an extrator which didn't actually break things.

Today most of my efforts have been centred on getting php-oci8 installed for RHEL5 servers. I tried to use an RPM but it necessitated rebuilding the Oracle-provided RPMs to fix their provides and ldconfig operations. In the end I just went with "peardev install pecl/oci8" on account of pecl giving a memory error.

I'm off now to do some hopefully final work on my commuting bike with the help of Cormac and some large metal tools. Here's hoping I don't manage to break the thing utterly.

[12:00] I'm working from home today on account of being just a little bit too tired and having made a few too many mistakes since getting home yesterday evening after the weekly Tesco run. You might have noticed a few grammatical errors in what I wrote yesterday. Suffice it to say they were the least of my mistakes. The others I made (and actually had been making for some time) were a lot more important. I don't deserve that and Kris certainly doesn't. Today is therefore a chance for me to take stock, get some things sorted and make sure I'm doing all I can to be who I can and should be.

Some of the things on my list to try and do today include: a nice breakfast (managed that in style), shave (yup), sort the kitchen whiteboard so Kris and I can get a calendar/scheduler up to allow us to both know what each other is doing for the next few months (nearly done), start using an RSS feeder, make more notes on some of the things Kris is doing as it turns out there's much, much more to it than I thought and I really should be more aware of what the last six and a bit years of her life has been focused on, have a nice lunch, do some planning for the cycling holiday we want to take up to Hadrian's Wall in a few weeks time and last but by no means least relax. Oh, and do some work.

Other thoughts that occur today include in no particular order: just how badly I've been looking after my commuting bike if I can't get the pedals or the cranks off with some serious elbow grease and a blowtorch (to heat up the metal), just how weird it actually was to be running around Sheffield after last having been there to visit Elaine all those times and then to watch her graduate with a Masters after my small part in helping her finish it, how great it is to be able to get in through our draconian firewall and have access to my linux desktop and the unlimited power I can wield from my comfy chair at home and lastly that after not being able to get the old pedals off my bike that if I canget the cranks off instead the last bits of stuff which weren't stripped from the bike I left at the station a year or so ago are just the bits I need. That last one is very convenient... if I can get the old bits off the commuter I'll be sorted!

So, things to do today, probably rowing this evening (here's hoping it doesn't rain)_and a brand new day tomorrow. I've also got some emails to reply to with regard to AR training and stuff, but I think that can wait a day or so.

[16:45] Don't get me started on the fact that it's bloody August already. Seriously, how is that even possible? It puts into relief that there are a good few things I really need to get on top of in the next few weeks or so both professionally, athletically and personally.

Anyway, speaking of athletics it looks like I won't be going to Peterborough this weekend for a chance to break my Novice duck in rowing. This is because the race secretary failed to apply for a place in the regatta until the vastly over-subscribed event was thus. Such is life. It does mean I get to spend a whole weekend with Kris for once, which is guite marvellous. It doesn't, it seems, stop me from having rowing outings this week though. That's OK as I definitely need something to help me stay loose and limber after this weekend.

Following a long drive on Saturday morning I and my race partner (Hannah) arrived in Sheffield for the Rat Race. A quick check in and a walk to the Rat Race HQ and we had not only registered and collected our goodie bags, I'd also bought a multi-sport helmet (thus not needing to cart around both a mountain bike helmet and a climbing helmet on the Saturday). After having some packed lunch back at the hotel we changed for the evening's 2.5 hour prologue/orienteer and headed back to the start to wait for the other mixed pair running under our group team name. Vastly more experienced I viewed them as the yard-stick to compare against. They arrived just a few minutes before the registration closed. Two hours before the start we recieved our route books and spent the next forty minutes marking up our competition-provided Sheffield A-Z.

The run began at precisely 17:00 and Hannah and I headed off into the city to do a variety of challenges, long runs and general route finding. We didn't do too badly all things considered and as the rain which had pervaded all through the lead up had stopped it was fairly pleasant to speed around the streets. Among the standard checkpoints to 'dib' at we had to fight against the current in a leisure pool (and do the flume), sing a song on stage, make an origami flower, skate board, do a climbing wall traverse and climb a tree. There were others, but those were the ones that stand out. After about two hours and twenty minutes we figured it would be better to head home and not incur a time penalty. Our partner team beat us by a few checkpoints but we did pretty well considering. What was equally pleasing was how tired we didn't feel at the end. Even so, heading home, changing and showering in time to wander the town in a fruitless search for some decent food (we resorted to a mobile van in the end) lead to an early night for everyone even if I didn't get to sleep for a good hour or so.

Given the obvious nature of the "Nine2Five" race and the need to get routebooks, breakfast and bikes assembled everyone was up and about and eating porridge for 06:00. This is pretty unpleasant for a Sunday morning. Still, once there (having checked out and put all my stuff in someone else's car for the trip home) we managed to scam a map from the organisers to replace the one I'd packed into my bags as we left the hotel. This was duly marked up with the monster route for the up to eight hours of (bike) saddle time we'd be putting in and then we waited for the start. Racing with our partner team we completed the initial foot race to spread out the pack and then actually got ahead of them on the first dash to the dry ski slope where rubber rings were employed to slide down to the bottom following the slog up to the top. The cycle up to the "Ski Village" was pretty unpleasant in and of itself. It paled in comparison to the slight wrong turning we took in trying to get to the top of the hill behind the slope. That was where we probably lost the first chunk of time to the rest of the pack and our partner team. Still, with plenty of hard cycling up hill and down dale (and a few more wrong turnings) we managed to make our way towards the Magna Centre via woods and a BMX track and numerous steps and steep streets. It was exhilarating and with sensible hydration I felt strong and energetic the whole time.

Unfortunately, owing to again following people too much, not quite reading the route directions properly and generally being a bit new at this kind of thing we got thoroughly lost and into a dead end for about twenty minutes which really caused us to lag behind. By the time we were to dismount and do the rope and harness stuff in the ex-steelworks we were about 55 minutes behind the people I wanted to catch. Queues in the Magna Centre hindered us even more but some rapid checkpoint discovery and some extraordinary cycling took us from there to another bit of map reading failure on the way to Don Valley stadium. Still, once that was done (and I'd failed to kick a rugby ball for a conversion) we slogged a quick kilometer on foot to pick up another checkpoint and then cycled for the kayak stage. This is where we made up serious time and (by my calculations) did it at least ten minutes faster than the others such that by the end of the whole race we finished only 45 minutes behind them. Either way, the kayaking was a wonderful chance to stop pedaling and use some other muscles. This did mean that when I got out of the thing at the end my inner thighs cramped for a few minutes. Rehydrated and fed we powered on back to the start to complete a space hopper challenge, a cargo net crawl and an inflatable... thing. This just as our friends were finishing!

Still with five more checkpoints to go we headed back out on the bikes and got a little more lost looking for a checkpoint I'd managed to tear off the map in my haste to minimise the amount of folding I'd need to do. We binned that one and endeavoured to find the others, managing to do so even while going the "wrong" way up some of the steepest streets I've ever seen. We finished feeling very happy with what we'd achieved... especially as, after a change of clothes and some food we returned to find that we'd come second in our class (behind our partner team of course) and 23rd overall against some very experienced competitors! Blah blah blah, drive home, very tired, shower and bed.

I was thinking about taking today off to recover but I felt pretty good when I got up this morning so I've been drinking lots of water, eating slightly more than normal and celebrating the fact that I'm free this coming weekend! There were some moderately major problems at work over the weekend with log files overflowing and backups failing to run but they're slowly getting sorted, which is going to allow me to leave work dead on 17:00, go to Tesco and then collapse!

So, how was your weekend?