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November's Journal
January's Journal

[12:40] Just a short pre-Christmas post to wish you all a happy Christmas and New Year. Especially if you're travelling anywhere. The roads and pavements here are attrocious; like greased glass. I came off once on my cycle in and I intend to go back the very, very long way home so that I make it on piece for Kris and I to spend a safe and wonderful festive period together.

Workwise I did something incredibly stupid and patched a very important live server just before I wrote this entry (which is the last thing I'm doing before I leave). It went perfectly well (although I'm sure it paused a few times just to worry me a bit) so now I'm done. I'm off home to wrap presents, drink a little bit of port and have some lunch with my girl. I may or may not do an entry or two over the next week or so. If I don't then I'll be back and ready to go on 4 Jan 2010. See you then, if not before.

[15:45] So last night I took Kris out for a wonderful, delightful, intimate and wholly romantic meal at a restaurant we'd never been to before and popped as they say, The Question.

I went down on one knee between two tables, offered up the ring and and said something I can't actually remember (although Kris has reminded me and it wasn't totally lame) and waited for her response...

Naturally she said yes. I'm just that wonderful. She liked the ring too, which was actually my biggest worry. Despite being pretty sure that I knew the answer my heart was still beating something fierce and as I said, I can't for the life of me remember exactly what I said. Sitting down afterwards and being congratulated by the few people around us in the mostly empty restaurant I was sure my ears were going to explode given the heat I could feel in them. Kris, of course, was radiant and the ring looked/looks perfect on her finger (and I don't even like rings). We were poured two flutes of champagne on the house from the manager, ordered and ate some amazing desserts (similarly wonderful to the starter and main courses we had, we'll be going there again) and then took another taxi home again.

And that's all I have to say about that, really. We called parents and other relations when we went home and, on the coldest day of the year hereabouts, went to bed.

Today has been like any other day except that I now have a fiancée. I still went to work and tried to fix the firewall issues we're being plagued with at the moment (in fact I'm off into town soon to do some cable shifting to see if that helps). Despite that I've been able to find another tiny present for Kris, go for a wonderful 8km run in the snow and ice and eat a few too many sweets.

I should probably head off and gingerly cycle into town to do that work. I think I'll head home after that. If you ask I'll try to give some more details on last night (the bits before we retired for the evening), otherwise, well, there you go. The adventure starts here!

[16:40] A curious day today. Up until 14:00 all was quiet. There'd been the usual cautious/tight-gripped cycle to work over sheet ice but after I got here it wasn't as if there was much going on. However, after 14:00 we began to see some really weird network issues affecting not only the load balancers but sometimes everything else as well. We're all stumped at the moment but the Network guy seems to be on top of it. At least I hope he is. He's on the phone with the firewall support people at any rate.

Tonight is a special night for Kris and me. We're going out for dinner and taking a taxi each way so that we can wear our glad rags and everything. Sort of like a Christmas date/early present. It should be awesome.

Speaking of awesome, Kris stepped out today to collect our Christmas goose. Not only was it cheaper than we thought but it was also filled with internal organs and came with a whole mess of neck fat too! Mmmm, neck fat. Honestly, when you're a cook this is a serious win. Apparently.

I really honestly cannot stay late tonight and help with this issue if it's still extant. I've got to get home safely and on time so we can get out on roads which look like ice rinks.

[16:10] And we're back! Hi there. It's been a few days and all kinds of things have happened. Here's a short list: Travel to and from Manchester with little to no issues with public transport, realising I'd left the heating off at home while temperatures dropped to -4 most nights (and worrying that the pipes were going to freeze and burst), seeing my parents but not managing to see my grandmother and still having a wonderful time, wrapping presents, fixing computers, using an EeePC for the first time and eating a lot of very nice food. Oh and I showed Kris something of Manchester, even if we didn't actually end up buying anything.

Suffice it to say Kris was again a complete hit with my parents (like, duh), we overheated on the Virgin train, had a lot of mulled wine and returned to find that the house wasn't flooded and the earrings Kris thought she might have lost, she hadn't. Getting home late on Sunday night made for a bit of a faff unpacking and then going straight to bed, but it was all OK in the end.

What was also OK was getting into work this morning in the icy conditions, replacing a RAID card battery and getting two machines' SP/BIOS firmware updated. Only another twelve machines to go to fix the issues with bugs in the versions of the firmware those machines were shipped with. Marvellous.

At lunch today Chris took me to pick up a parcel from the sorting office which had been flagged as needing import VAT paid on it. Only £2.86 but an £8.00 handling fee by the post office was also added. I find that more than a little ridiculous.

Anway, I also managed to bag (not literally, with a gun or anything) a goose for us for Christmas Day and Kris is doing research into goose recipes. All we need now is for the goose to be collected tomorrow and the wine to be delivered today and we're good to go except for one or two things.

[16:45] Happy Friday! Well, it is for me. I'm off out of here tonight. We're both heading to Manchester on the train. Here's hoping that the snow doesn't come down either tonight or Sunday evening. The train network here just can't cope with anything other than brilliant sunshine (not too hot though, it warps the tracks) and a wee bit of wind and rain. We're pretty much packed, Kris is making us an awesome picnic dinner to have on the Virgin Cross Country service and I've got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to read.

Today's been pretty good for 'stuff'. I've had a quote from the roofing guy for the work I need him to do (and if I say yes before the VAT rate goes up I can save a bit of money, too), I've received another Christmas present delivery to sneak past Kris when I get home and it turns out that I won't be fitting a new RAID card on Monday but just a new RAID card battery. That should prove to be a little less worrisome.

I went for a run at lunchtime. Despite the chilly weather I still had to take my gloves off somewhere around the 4km mark to stop my hands from overheating. All in all a rather good run and perhaps just 30 seconds or so off my best time for 8km.

Speaking of time, I think I should end my working week here and head home so we can get the bus in time to get the train to get out of town. Hope the house hasn't sprung a leak by the time I get home.

Next week is, as I've mentioned before, going to be hectic and more than a little fun-packed.

[17:15] In a fit of rebellion I'm not going to go to the boat house this evening either. Don't all gasp at once. I've just got too much to do in terms of wrapping presents and getting ready for tomorrow evening.

A few bits of literal housekeeping next. First off we had Tim the builder come over this morning to look at the damp issues in the house. He had some useful suggestions regarding the vent we have in the rear wall ("block it up") and the bits of wet/mold we're getting in the window reveals. We also went outside to look at the crack in the rear wall and have arranged for a quote for fixing that with some repointing and having a half-brick or two replaced. He the drilled some holes to check on whether damp was coming in to one bit of plasterwork via the outside and determined that no, it wasn't. So that's OK. A fairly major bit of work on my neighbour's concrete 'patio' is going to be required to stop it being above the damp course on the rear of my property where it apparently seems to have been for the last decade or so. Basically he's going to chop away the concrete to a width of a spade or so, fill it with gravel and put a new edging on it. This should allow water to go into the ground rather than soaking into the brickwork. Some work on the downpipe should also be done too and it's all going to be dealt with in the new year. Seems the list of issues with this house just keeps on building (no pun intended). I really don't think the people who added the extension (which became my house) on to the original house really knew what they were doing. It won't cost too much and should deal with another good few damp issues we've been noticing. During the day I also called the roofing guy who's promised the photos of the guttering and a quote tomorrow and the bathroom fitter's called to say he'll call again on Friday to arrange a visit on Monday to see what he can do about the bathroom sink tap and the shuddering pipework. Did I mention that when the toilet cistern finishes filling the closing of the valve makes the pipes rattle? Well, there's that too.

Work today has been following up with Sun with regard to the calls I have open and discovering that I'm going to have to be in work for 07:00 on Monday to do a RAID card swap out. Really not the best way to start the week, especially after having been traveling until late the night before. If Kris needs me to I should be able to then go back home to be around for the bathroom guy to talk to me rather than dumping it on her. Still, all things considered it's going to be an awesome week bookended with Christmas and other big things. Speaking of which I had a call about something I was after which is now in the shop. I should probably collect that before next Tuesday at the latest.

It's now gone 17:00 so I guess I should head home and get things started on the organisational front for tomorrow. Kris and I are off to see my parents in Manchester for four days (and a very late Wednesday night) so there'll be no entries after tomorrow's until Monday.

[16:30] It was another one of those good weekend things again. Tesco shopping on the Friday while it's still pretty quiet, Saturday morning rowing with people who actually wanted to be there (even if the actual outing wasn't amazing), the afternoon spent shopping and reading while Kris was at the cinema. To be honest the whole day felt a bit Sunday-like. That's OK of course, especially when Sunday is a whole other day still to come. On the whole I'd say it was a pretty lovely day.

Among the things that happened on Sunday there was a realisation that water is leaking from around the place where the mixer tap on the bathroom sink comes out of the sink itself onto the floor beneath the cabinet the sink is on/in, that the house really has to be kept warm otherwise the cold does a real number with condensation at the top of the walls and around the window reveals and that Cat and Julian's new rented accommodation is really quite nice. As I wasn't rowing in the morning Kris and I took the opportunity to enjoy a nice morning to ourselves before heading over to the housewarming to spend some time socialising and generally getting to see people for perhaps the last time before Christmas. The weather was pretty cold and wet on the way there and colder but dryer on the way home. We fought against this by leaving the heating on, spending time reading and doing computery things and then cooking an extremely tasty but problematic (more in a second on that) roast lamb dinner with roast potatoes and sprouts.

Unfortunately it looks like the food was a little too rich/the potatoes or something a little too soaked in fat because we felt pretty leaden in mind and body when we got up this morning. I got myself to the server room in town where I met with an MGE engineer and someone from our UPS maintenance contractors who informed me that what I'd been told at the IT exhibition was perhaps correct and that we would need an MGE IT engineer to come out and check all internal firmwares (non-user accessible too) were in sync/complimentary so as to perhaps avoid and future signaling issues to client software. Then he replaced all the capacitors.

Back at the office I've been trying to juggle three different calls open with Sun at the moment for about five different x4X40 servers which are having a variety of RAID and ILOM/IPMI issues. It seems that if you leave the SP up for too long without a reset things get a little odd. I had to cold reset one chassis to get the SP reporting stuff via ipmitool and even the web GUI. It didn't help that when shutting down the OS the box hung and then had a soft lockup loop on unloading the IPMI drivers.

I think I'm going to go home shortly, see how the first of Kris' three Skype interviews today went, wash up and then head out to the boathouse with a heavy cycle ("step") to do my next 2K erg test. I just hope I don't twinge my back again (and that I get a good time).

[16:15] So last night was awesome. We had nine people in the house including Kris and I. The cookie selection was amazing (all Kris' own work) there was plenty of mulled wine and mulled apple juice which I'd never had before but certainly will again, mince pies, cheese and oat cakes and brandy butter stuff. We also managed to get through "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" (1966) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) and "A Christmas Story" (1983) to the reasonable enjoyment of pretty much everyone. The last one is apparently something of a US (or at least Kris' family) favourite. I saw it as perhaps something Zach Braff used to watch a lot before he started doing Scrubs.

Obviously there was a lot of condensation in the house this morning and the window frames in a few places were cold and damp. I blame the temperature really dropping last night (foggy all of today) and the amount of people we had breathing in the house. Not that you can stop people doing that and it was lovely to have everyone there.

Work today has been kind of slow. Not much is happening as we get closer to Christmas except some maintenance work on bits of hardware which're going wrong and a few software updates and the like. There's still some UPS maintenance to be done (Monday morning I'll be in town for 09:00 to make sure nothing goes wrong (again) and to grill an MGE engineer on just what the deal is with firmware and stuff) and some scripts to write, but isn't that always the way?

At lunch time I headed into town to buy a special thing or two (which either took a lot longer than it should, or much less time than it should, I'm not sure which) and then came back to bury myself in work for a while. I'll be off shortly to do the first round of Christmas Tesco shopping with Kris and then it's the weekend with rowing (no race as we didn't get our entry in in time) and other fun things.

[17:00] Today has been a much better day. I mean, last night wasn't bad but it left me feeling drained. Who'd have thought shopping would be so hard? It was wonderful - wonderful I tell you - to come home to find Kris not only having made an imperial buttload of cookies of various types for tonight but also having done some washing, the washing up and being available to hug lots and help me recover some equilibrium. It certainly helped me organise my thoughts.

Today though I should have been in work for 08:00 to do a ZXTM upgrade. At 07:59 I was still at home and checking mail in a pair of shorts. By 08:19 I was at work, with my lunch (and breakfast) packed in my pannier doing the work in a mostly coherent state. That's mostly thanks to Kris for her lightning fast sandwich-making skills and the traffic being light. All went well and I was even able to clean up some configuration warnings post-install as well.

Other than lunch with Cormac and Shaun I've spent a lot of the day working on applying firmware updates remotely to a Dell PowerEdge running debian. This has been a pretty great learning experience for me and now I'm happy to say that the BIOS, BMC, ESM, (D)RAC and PERC are now at the latest versions available. That's pretty good.

I'm about to head off to Tesco to pick up the last few things we need for the Christmas Thursday this evening. I think it's going to be brilliant. Therefore it will be. Cookies, mince pies, brandy condiments, mulled wine and some truly smashing company will be accompanied by some classic Christmas viewing and even some people who wouldn't normal turn up. Time to go!

[17:05] I'm stuck here waiting for the UPS engineer to finish filling the APC chassis with two tons of lead acid batteries at the moment. I hope he finishes pretty close to 17:00 as I'm heading into town for a spot of very thoughtful shopping. After that I intend to go home, do some washing up and relax for the rest of the evening. If Kris was going running then perhaps some erging would be on the cards but right now I'd rather just make sure I don't do something silly to my lower back before the training session and Head race on Saturday.

Speaking of which, I subbed in for someone last night in a Vet IV+. It's silly but the more experienced I get at rowing the more nervous I get about getting into a boat with people who are far far better than I. Last night for example I was not only the shortest by at least an inch and a half but there was an ex-international, ex-Cambridge Blue guy, a guy who has been rowing in national lightweight crews on and off for at least a decade and someone who's been rowing for at least ten to fifteen years... and me. I can't remember concentrating so hard on something physical since I did my first lead ascent of an outside pitch. Suffice it to say the fact that it was pretty much pitch dark didn't help (although maybe it did, I'm not sure now I think about it), but the water was millpond flat, everyone else in the boat knew how to keep it steady and aside from a few meta/proto twinges to my lower back I think I got through the outing without embarrassing myself, even if the cox kept reminding me to square earlier and get a bit more cover.

Some of yesterday, especially once I got home, was spent firefighting an issue which raised its head during the morning. I think a satisfactory solution has been found but for a little while things were touch and go. I was also hoping to fix another issue but when I connected from home to check it appeared that someone else had already done the work. I just hope that what was done was a fix for the problem I was seeing.

Anyway, since I finished that sentence the UPS engineer has finished his work and left the premises so I can do so too!

[12:00] A morning of hassle and stress. Hopefully I've managed to solve much of it with an email or two. Luckily it's the Christmas Meal today so there won't be any work this afternoon. As soon as the meal is over and we've all sat around and talked I'll be able to go home and help Kris with a few things as well as tidying the house, doing washing up and a number of other duties I should be attending to. I'll probably end up doing some work from home anyway.

So, yes, that's it for today. I solved a few minor issues with an SCC pull command which was failing and uncovered a few problems that Chris (my coworker) and I will look at in the next few days. We also replaced a disk in a server. Woo.

[16:00] The weekend's rowing was extremely 'interesting' to say the least. Saturday I got half an outing due to five people turning up and there being three bow siders. Luckily I'd brought some gloves and some extra layers so I was able to cycle along the bank for the other half of the time and watch how things were going without freezing to death. Sunday morning it hammered it down with rain the entire time. Thankfully the strong wind wasn't terribly cold so sitting at bow rowing stroke side I and the rest of the crew weren't reduced to blocks of ice. Needless to say I spent the rest of Sunday in, keeping warm and helping Kris (by which I mean watching Kris) put up the Christmas tree. She's done a wonderful job. In fact, Sunday afternoon was really rather lovely for all kinds of reasons. Saturday afternoon's a bit more of a haze. I'm pretty sure we went into town for a little while and did some shopping (even if some of the things I wanted to get sold out between me seeing them and going back to the shop to get them)...

Oh, I know what we did. We went to a fair which wasn't terribly good and then went into town shopping.

Anyway, today I had my usual poor night/morning's sleep and dragged myself out in time to do the morning exercises, shower and get to work. Sunday evening I'd noticed that one of the servers had had some issues and I'd rebooted it there and then so most of today has been spent learning about nForce driver (forcedeth) issues with BIOS writers and reversed MAC addresses, failed physical disks taking down virtual disks and stuff like that.

Tonight I get to get my hair cut, make bread, go to an erg session (with actual coaching, hope I don't pull my back again) and then have dinner with the fragrant Kris. I didn't run today, but that's OK because I ate doughnuts instead.

[16:30] Today at work nothing actually happened. I mean, other people did some stuff but I honest-to-goodness didn't have anything to do. I mean, I fixed some Big Brother installation stuff, modified a few fontconfig.cfg files on a couple of Solaris 10 boxes and applied some RPM updates, but that's it. The highlight of my day was going for a run and having some free food at a 40th birthday party over lunch.

It's a shame really, I was getting some momentum back after yesterday's installs and the scripting updates I did. I know there's stuff coming down the pipeline (speaking of which, I learned about bash's PIPELINE variable today) but it's just not here right now and I really do feel like I could be doing more. I guess it's time to get out the old list of things to be learning and do some of that learning thing.

Because we're doing the food shopping tonight the weekend should consist mostly of rowing, a winter fair, some socialising and clearing up the accumulated leaves in the driveway. There might even be some slacking and a spot of joint shopping too.

Oh, before I go, Kris' Sinterklaas shoe-gift-thingy really is very cool and awesome morning fun.

[16:55] I started off the day feeling really very tired. Didn't go to bed particularly late but neither of us seemed to sleep terribly deeply. With Kris' help I dragged myself out of bed and we both headed into town. She to do some dissertation work with a change of scene and me to do a server reinstall. My work went pretty flawlessly so I popped into a few shops to make some Christmas purchases before heading to work in the cold, windy weather. I also did a bit of window shopping which I should probably drag Kris along to help me with on account of it being Quite Important she's happy with what I'm interested in.

I've been for an 8km run in penance for yesterday's pigging out at the IT Exhibition (damn that over-supplied finger food) and not going to the boat house. It was cold, wet and windy... but oddly satisfying. I'll make sure I go down there this evening to sign up for the outings this weekend. I just hope my back doesn't twinge again while I'm in a boat. Speaking of which, the race I wasn't asked to be in a crew for this Saturday at Wallingford got cancelled yesterday. They're scheduling it for January. Hopefully I'll get in some boat or other then.

Still nothing from either of the builders. Also since we've had the heating on longer and lower the condensation seems to have abated a little, which is satisfying. I just hope a cold snap doesn't bring it all back again. Or a huge amount of rain makes the walls get all damp again. Darn it, I want a new house!

[16:35] No training for me today. I didn't even go for a run at lunch time (although I should have) on account of going into town to check out the IT Exhibition being hosted by our Institution. It was dull and I wish I'd gone running instead, even if it was pretty cold and damp.

Speaking of cold and damp I called the roofer who came over on Monday and the builder who did the lintel installation (must get those pictures up on the gallery soon!) about various bits of work the house really should have done (before Christmas if possible). The cracks in the house are hopefully only getting damp from above rather than from cracked damp coursing below. Having a roofer come out and look at the first possible cause and getting it fixed would be helpful first step. He's said he'll quote for putting in some silicone sealant and some Thompsons Water Seal, so that might fix it. The builder who's coming out to deal with another damp spot around one of the windows he resealed after plastering around it might also venture an opinion when he comes over at some point soon. It's very much better to deal with these things sooner rather than later so that the ball goes into someone else's court and the worry level can be reduced. At least a little.

I've had to scale back a few thoughts and stuff I'd let grow a little bit out of control in the last week or so. It's not a step back in any way, more a return to the balance point I had mistakenly assumed had been tipped past. Very much a situation resulting from my own assumptions and now set to rights. So that's good. I should remember that one very important decision isn't affected by anything else though. And despite thoughts to the contrary this morning, should still happen fairly soon.

Cryptic enough? Probably not.

I finally managed to do something I've been meaning to for years this afternoon and that was subscribe to Wil Wheaton's blog. I don't know why but for some embarrassing reason I feel a kind of kinship with him. We're of a similar age and seem to share a huge amount of similar humours, thoughts and outlooks on life. Of course he's massively more witty, erudite, well-written and of course famous than I am and will never ever know who I am, but I'd like to think that if we met we'd get on well.

Other than that I guess I'm done for the day here. A few emails exchanged with clueless people about the UPS, some kickstart configurations tidied up for tomorrow morning when I start in the centre of town rather than here in the office and a USB stick safely packed in my pannier. I think I'll head off into town shortly, enter a prize draw I have no hope of winning, grab some free snacks and pretend I know what I'm talking about when I discuss SANs with someone from Sun.

[17:00] Huh. December. Only 30 days to the end of the year. There's an awful lot that's going to happen between now and 2010. An awful lot. Seriously.

Today was a good start to that. After last night's great ergo session which went to pot in the last 30 seconds when I twinged my back something fierce as I was winding up to come in right on the average wattage I was supposed to it was lovely to wake up and find that the windows weren't terribly condensationed given it got below freezing last night and that Kris was there to remind me of some of the finer aspects of life, including bluberry loaf in my lunch.

At work barely an hour Kris rang from town to tell me that Borders were selling everything at 20% off so I dashed into town to spend about an hour pondering what extra Christmas presents to get her. I'm pretty sure I got the best choices from what I was hoping to get.

Back at work there was just time to do some documentation catchup and email one of our engineers about the UPSes and the parallel call I've got in with APC/MGE/Schnieder Electric before it was time for a burrito. With that in hand I was able to start thinking about lengthy emails I needed to write, read and ponder some more about Remus and close down some web sites I'd been using on and off for the past five or more years. No need for them now; they were just becoming a distraction. I have dinner with Kate last night as a lovely Turkish restaurant to thank for that.

Happily my back hasn't been a problem since I got up this morning but I'm still going to avoid the boat house and a gym session this evening to give it a proper rest. Kris wants to put up the Christmas tree anyway and I need to finish doing some painting in the bathroom so it should be a full evening by any measure.

In other news, the thing I sent back a week or so ago appears to have finally arrived but a replacement in the size I want isn't available. Luckily the people I bought it from are going to be very helpful about things, which is nice. All I need now is for the tax thing to come through and Christmas might be a perfect time to get an extra thing or two to make Kris happy.

Speaking of which, I should get this Amazon thing home along with myself so she can hide it and we can eat advent calendar truffles.