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December's Journal
February's Journal

[16:10] Things aren't going especially well at the moment, but I'm so full of hope and plans to improve them that it'd take a concerted effort to stop those things getting better, eventually. I'm having a bit of a hard time of it at the moment though. However, I'm off up to see my family for the majority of the weekend after I leave work. I'll have two big rucksacks full of things that aren't needed in the US to lug between two train changes so won't be taking my laptop for fear of it getting forgotten or damaged. Plus I don't have three hands. A book (or books, because I like books) is a much more sensible idea in this situation (not going nuts on the train with nothing to keep my brain from freewheeling) seeing as, also, a lot of the things I'm carrying are heavy and/or hard edged. My parents will store those things for however long I'm out of the country (being nice like that). While I'm so close (relatively speaking) I'll also be going with my brother to see my grandmother for what could be the last time, depending on circumstances. Hopefully she won't see it like that and the visit won't be weird. It'll be nice to see my family though. Funny how I always seem to be scheduled to see them right about the time things get especially hard.

[07:45] I think I've already peaked for today. It looks like I patched the two servers I needed to as well as the live load balancer this morning. And it all seems to have gone OK. I guess I'll find out in an hour or so when more people get in. I'm already shattered for getting in well before 07:00 and also having slept extremely badly last night. I must have laid awake from about 04:00 until I got up. Not to mention waking up what felt like every 30 minutes or so throughout the night. Maybe I had too much haggis.

Last night's Burns' Night dinner with friends was nice. To be honest it was just what I needed as sitting at home alone last night wouldn't have been the best idea. I really miss Kris at the moment.

[15:40] Just spent the afternoon after a 10K run (I needed that) demonstrating everything I know about Xen (tomorrow is KVM). Turns out (again) that I know more than I realise. Which is nice. And now I'm going home. Hopefully Kris will be available to chat before we planned, but if not I've books to read.

[17:00] Not much to report today. Except that I forgot my running shoes, which was a bit annoying as the weather looked OK. Last night's gym session wasn't so hard, but did leave me feeling a little tired so maybe it's a good thing that I didn't do anything today. Anyway, other than doing some load balancer things and a tiny bit of trouble shooting here and there all I've really done is read up more on networking things, apply for another job in the USA and make sure my order for a front light fixture went through OK. It seems to have and it looks like I'll get it delivered to work tomorrow.

I'm off home shortly to catch up with Kris and then over to Cormac and Steph's to help cook haggis, neeps and tatties for Burns' Night.

[17:00] Last night was fun. After a quick chat with Kris I cycled down to the restaurant and had plenty of food, fun and conversation with people. I get the feeling it might have been the last time I see some of them for the next few years. Possibly not if we end up visiting here regularly. Anyway, after a sensible amount of food and perhaps a slightly less than sensible amount of sake I headed home and fell into bed.

The reason for the earlier-than-I-might-have-liked bed time was that I needed to be at the other server room before 07:00 this morning to make sure our network administrator didn't get into difficulties on his own in an unmanned offsite location. Having decided on a burrito for lunch and skipping morning exercises meant that I could just roll out of bed, pull on some clothes, eat something and cycle away. Unfortunately I dropped my bike while closing the garage door and snapped my front light mount. This required me to hold the light in my hand all the way to the server room. I brought some super glue with me though so I think I've managed to stick it all back together again. I'll see what happens when I reattach it to my bike in a little while.

Before and after lunch I spent a significant amount of time showing my coworker how to do the meat of what I do here day in and day out. I still haven't finished yet and it's turning out to be a little more than I thought it would be. It's surprising just how much I'm responsible for and how complicated some of it is.

I'm off to the gym this evening and then home to try and figure out something to have for dinner. I keep having to remind myself that in fewer than 30 days I'll be leaving the country, so buying new things (rather than eating out of the cupboards) is a bad idea and I shouldn't stock up on nice things to feed Kris when she comes back as we'll only be having perhaps two or three main meals together at the house.

Anyway, I think that's everything for today.

[16:55] Happy Chinese New Year. To celebrate I'm heading out this evening (after Skyping with Kris) with friends to eat Chinese food and drink and generally have a good time. Now I think about it it's the first time I'll have had Chinese food in a good few months. Especially non-home made.

The weekend was a bit disappointing, really. After it rained most of Friday the parkrun course was pretty wet, very slippery and sticky too. Also for the first time ever there were a load of people running at the same speed as me. Usually it's me and maybe two other people. With more people around the narrow points on the course were congested and this probably contributed somewhat to my rather poor 20:00 time. Not the only reasons of course, I was just slower than I was hoping. Frustrating. What compounded the frustration was that I found my bike had a puncture (front wheel) when I went to cycle to Tesco. I pushed it there, shopped and then pushed it the mile and a half or so home, trying not to damage the tyre or wheel rim. With no Kris to talk to and really not feeling like doing any CCNA study I ended up tidying the house a bit, doing bits and bobs and generally wasting the day away somewhat. I could have gone out in the evening to the boat house to see some live music, etc. but just didn't feel the urge. Sunday started with a 19K run (which I'm really starting) to enjoy quite a lot now. The extremely strong wind on the return leg really took it out of me somewhat, but when I was in shelter or trying to keep up with a girl who decided that I wasn't going to pass her for a mile or so I kept up a pretty good pace, I think. I did do some study in the afternoon rather than waste another whole day but it was only one chapter on VTP and it was all pretty straightforward.

This morning I had a frustrating hour or so trying to work out why a developer couldn't access a web application he'd published to a release candidates area. In the end it turned out that his own documentation was both incomplete and wrong and the eventual fix was something I only stumbled upon half by accident. Still, I was able to get out for a run at lunch time to get my head back in order. Other things I did today is try and figure out my whole NI issue once I leave the country. I think I have a handle on things now. I'm just not sure if it's sensible for me to actually do voluntary contributions given I might be back within six years or so. Something to think about, anyway.

[16:30] I showed two people around my house last night. Chances are they'll end up renting it after I leave. Definitely an odd feeling, but given I've already sold the place I didn't feel the need to try and "sell" it to them. However, they were nice, so I'd be happy if they were the tenants after me. Amusingly, one of them also works with/for/under my next door neighbour, so that should prove helpful if that's who we end up leaving our keys with when we go.

Went for a short, slow run today in the driving rain. It was wonderful to get out and moving but I really had to try hard not to speed up to my usual cruising pace. We'll see if I managed to help my chances at a parkrun PB tomorrow. Speaking of helping my chances, I also didn't go to the gym last night as I think I might be getting the forearm equivalent of shin splints (I'm not, but the discomfort feels the same sometimes). Instead I went home and talked to Kris on Skype, which was an infinitely better use of my time (and hers). She's working so hard at the moment. I'm glad, though, that she can take the time to chat to me. That's awesome (literally).

And so, it's the end of the week. I've spent the day doing small work things and reading more CCNA stuff. I'm into the second book now. Obviously I don't remember everything from the first book, but I've plenty of time to finish the second one and start again from the beginning of the first again. Maybe more than once more before I go. Anyway, home now, then Kris on Skype, then a relaxing evening, Saturday's parkrun, Tesco, studying and relaxing, possibly to the boat club in the evening for a live band and company. Sunday'll be a morning run, then some study and relaxing and suddenly it'll be Monday morning again.

[17:00] Quick entry as I need to get to the gym and then home in time to show prospective tenants around the house.

More CCNA reading today. And some looking at our core switches here in an effort to get the CLI commands more firmly embedded into my brain. Otherwise I've been tasked with finding out why a data import is no longer working. Not knowing much about the failing file's correct format is hampering my work as well as not understanding how the import works with regard to whether missing earlier records means that valid later ones become invalid (i.e. using 'split' to perform a binary split on the import file to find the bad lines). Anyway, I need to go so I'll take another look tomorrow.

[17:00] Today I actually got my hands on a Cisco switch for the first time since about 1999. Configuring it was fun, although I need a lot more practical/hands on experience before all of the commands are at my fingertips rather than having to look them up every other line. Still, with help from the Networks guy I'm pretty sure I've got it ready for installation at the remote site. There's tons of configuration options that aren't even mentioned in the CCNA, but that doesn't matter as it's much more 'real world' than the stuff in the books.

Speaking of the books I've obviously been rereading the sections on switch configuration and troubleshooting. Tomorrow I'll be doing more about routing and stuff like that. It's really interesting stuff and I wish I'd made time to learn it when I was younger and had a brain which absorbed this stuff more easily. Still, I'm doing it now. Hopefully it'll both be useful and something I get to use in the future.

Went for a run at lunchtime today. Hazel (someone from elsewhere in the building who runs, but not as quickly as I) came along on her bike and paced me. I managed to do 6K in about 23:39, which isn't awesome, but was pretty good considering the route has some hills on it. I'm feeling pretty pooped after basically doing a full speed run at lunch so I'm going to chill out this evening and maybe even order a pizza.

I sold the remaining contents of my house yesterday. So now when I go home I live in completely rented accommodation. This means I need to be careful not to get pizza sauce on the sofa, or at least more so that I used to before. Also my bike isn't mine, neither is the bed, or the toaster or anything else other than a few bits of electrical equipment and my clothes.

Another link with the UK snipped.

[17:00] I think I need to read the routing protocols chapter again. There's a few too many things I didn't quite get down when I did the mini test at the end of the chapter (beginning actually, but don't worry about that). It hasn't helped that today has been a bitty day and I haven't been able to spend a good unbroken chunk of time studying. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be better. I posted back my old driving licence (new style; two parts) cut up in an envelope to the DVLA at lunch time. It got me out of the office on a none exercise at lunchtime day, which was good. I've also asked enough people I know to help me with the tax puzzle I have to be sure that the responses I've had with regard to what I need to do make sense. I'm still waiting on my parents to weigh in, but I think it's pretty much sorted now.

Today I prepared for tomorrow morning's patching, helped track down some weird data we had for payments, read a lot about routers and routing protocols, gave up on getting £11.38 back from E.ON for my utilities, sold the last of my furniture, fixtures and fittings to my landlady and left work after finishing this journal entry to go to the gym.

Tomorrow I intend to reread the last few chapters on routers and routing protocols, go running for 6K at lunchtime with Hazel on her bike keeping me at pace and then collapse when I get home. I might even see if Kris is around on Skype.

[18:15] I can see now why some people have tax advisors. Trying to work out what I need to do to get my tax/National Insurance affairs in order before I leave the country is a nightmare. It looked like all I needed to do was fill out a P85 (not that I can do that until I get my P45 from work, which I won't get before I leave the country as I'm using vacation time (during which time I leave the country) to 'work' the whole month, so that's going to complicate matters too). But now things seem to be all complicated with terms like "resident", "non-resident", "not ordinarily resident", "domiciled", "non-domiciled" and 1001 other terms which really aren't helping. It just seems like an exercise in making sure HRMC gets its pound of flesh, even if I won't be living and working here any more or for the forseeable future. I think tomorrow I'm going to try and get an appointment at the local tax office to see if I can't get things sorted out.

In other news I haven't been able to spend much time on my CCNA study due to other things happening. However I did get to go for my run and helped Hazel get a sub 8 minute mile pace, which is good. On Thursday she's going to pace me on her bike, which should mean I get a good run in. I need to work out how to organise the rest of my training week around that, I guess.

Over the weekend I did parkrun (19:22, which isn't so bad, I guess), read a lot about networks (first time I've studied on a weekend in over a decade, I think!), went for a 19K run on Sunday, saw MI:4, which wasn't totally terrible and chatted to Kris here and there. I haven't seen her online (email or Skype) today, but I assume that's down to it being a public holiday and her being busy being productive or similar.

It's cold and dark here now (outside, not in the office) so I'm heading home. I don't think I'll take my book with me tonight, I think I need some head space from anything complicated this evening. Back to it tomorrow though as I have more people/places to call and get addresses changed, accounts closed off and things like that.

[17:25] Hmm, my head is full of CCNA stuff and not even a 6K run (where for once I took my watch and discovered I've been beating my "PB" for that distance for probably a good few months now) could stop it from aching gently by the end of the day. I'm also taking one of the massive tomes I'm borrowing home this weekend. I don't know if I'll crack it while I'm sitting on the sofa but it might be a good idea. It's not that any of it is particularly complicated it's just that there's so much of it to remember. I'm sure I'm already beginning to forget the earlier concepts.

I'm off to parkrun tomorrow, then Tesco (don't need much this week it seems) then probably stick my head in the book for a while and then either talk to Kris on Skype after that or on Sunday. I'm not sure as yet. I guess it'll depend on the weather, among other things.

I really should have started learning this stuff (properly rather than piecemeal as and when I needed it) a long time ago. Here's hoping I'm not too much of an old dog to learn some new tricks.

[17:00] Today started off OK in that I had something to do. It happened to be patching a server and then heading over to work on the fire suppression system with contractors. After that I was able to get down to some more CCNA study although hit a brick wall in that I didn't have some actual Cisco switches to try things on. This should be remedied tomorrow with the help of the Networks person, if he's around.

No running at lunch today, but I am going to the gym this evening. I'm exceedingly glad that every time I've been recently and had to force myself not to turn off on the way there I've not regretted going by the time I'm less than half way through the session. So that's good too.

Oh, and I spoke to someone from the company I really wouldn't mind working for again today (briefly). He has another idea for a post that (after having looked at a sample job advert) I might be really good at and might fit really well with Kris' career movements... if I had a bit more knowledge. We'll see.

[17:00] Today my head is full of IP calculations (subnets, broadcast addresses and the like). It's a good feeling. I really learned stuff today. Proper stuff too. Useful stuff. I look forward to learning more of it tomorrow. Chapter 4, if you're keeping score.

Ran at lunch time, which was good. Heading to the post office shortly, and then home in time to catch my wife on Skype, because I miss her quite a lot.

[17:15] Today I began actually looking at CCNA study guides to make sure I know everything I think I do. It turns out I've got chunks of it, but never having actually learned in a structured manner there are interesting gaps that are of benefit to be filled with knowledge. Useful stuff, especially as I may end up in a job that needs a more complete appreciation of this stuff and because there's nothing else going on here for me at the moment. In fact for the last few working months it really has felt like I've just been... left out of all of the work that's been coming down the pipe. I'll tell you what though; directed self learning is hard work when you've got a whole internet at your fingertips to go and look at when something just isn't holding your attention. I know that when the chips are down, it's my job to know something and I'm on a deadline I pick up and retain knowledge like a human-shaped sponge, but when there's no requirement for me to be learning something or (as in this case) I don't have spare kit to try something on for real, it's so much harder to keep concentrating on the matter in hand. Still, knowledge is power.

Speaking of power, I'm off to the gym now, after doing a 6K interval/speed work run at lunch time. I'm so so glad my cold has vanished, even if I have had an annoying cough for most of the afternoon on and off.

[17:15] I ended up going to the gym. I think it was a good idea, even with my cold. I definitely didn't feel any worse afterwards and possibly even a bit better due to getting my system all pumped up and stuff. Saturday's parkrun wasn't anything special. Still feeling the effects of the cold (I really didn't sleep well) I made it over the line in under twenty minutes, but stood pretty much zero chance of breaching my personal best. Only four more events to go. I don't know if I'm going to manage it. You've got to try though, haven't you? The rest of Saturday was spent coughing somewhat, which wasn't helpful. Sunday was a bit better and Kris and I went into town to do a few errands and generally clear the decks of things we needed to do, like packing and sorting out what still needs to travel with us next time. We also popped over to see Shaun and Fran's new house, admire their rapidly growing daughter and have tea and biscuits.

Kris left this morning, out of the door at 02:30 as usual to get the pair of flights which will see her landing in an hour or so from the posting of this journal entry. I look forward to getting an email or text from her to tell me that she's back at the apartment safely. Hopefully she won't work too hard this evening and will go to bed and sleep deeply for tomorrow's return to regularly scheduled life.

I'm heading home now to do meter readings, call the utilities company and do some transfering before I go for dinner with Kate and return some tupperware. Oh, did a 10K run (more of a jog) today. Seemed like a good way to start the training week in preparation for something a bit faster and shorter tomorrow. Perhaps 8K at a bit of a faster lick with Wednesday being a high speed 6K?

[17:00] Now that I have a visa for the US I can start looking at jobs with a view to actually getting one, rather than hoping someone will even look at my CV rather than just binning it. As such I've been working on that document today as well as sneezing a lot, blowing my nose a lot and generally not going for a run at lunchtime and really wishing I could.

Also I've been reading more documentation about systemd in the hopes that I'll actually be a sysadmin in the future and have exposure to it. Who knows. In other news, lots of us went out for a curry last night and it was good. The second last one before everyone says goodbye to us for the last time in a good long time.

I'm seriously considering not going to the gym tonight and just going home instead to do things like washing up and tidying. I think it might make sense so that I'm not completely out of energy for tomorrow's parkrun, which I really don't want to miss. We'll see how I feel on the cycle home whether I turn off for home or carry on to the gym. Kris is at yoga so it's not as if we'll spend less time together if I go. She does, however, go on Monday at stupid o'clock in the morning, so that's something to try and not think about if at all possible. Except that we'll be spending this weekend looking at what she can take on this trip back to the US so there's fewer things to try and pack the final time.

[17:00] Blah blah blah heavy cold blah blah blah. Still, never mind: curry tonight. I shall burn it out with cleansing fire.

[16:45] The cold I thought I'd fought off a few weeks ago seems to have found me again. This is annoying. Still, I managed a gym session last night and a 6K run today. The run was my first in my Christmas compression top. I really hope that the effect I felt was not psychosomatic, as it was rather good and even with this incipient cold and such I felt really quite good for the duration of the run. Maybe there's something to compressionwear after all.

Otherwise things continue to be quiet here. I have two minor patches to apply to some servers tomorrow but for the most part I just seem to be reading manuals and learning things. But Kris is waiting for me to cycle home and meet the landlady, so I better go and do that.

[10:50] Welcome to 2012. I have to say I wasn't really up to speed with calling the year 2011 and now I have to start all over again with 2012. Still, this year is going to be one filled with more changes than perhaps I have experienced in quite some time. Leaving my job of 13 years, moving to the USA, being a "sysadmin without portfolio" as it were, figuring out what I am going to do with my life (both personal and professional) for the next few years, having a do-over of Kris and my first year of marriage by dint of actually spending more than 6 of the next 12 months actually in the same country and possibly even in the same city and, well, things like that. It's going to be an interesting year, or perhaps more than a year. After the tail end of February I'm not sure what I'll be doing. Likely as not I won't be posting to this journal weekdaily unless I get really bored (it's highly likely until I find something useful to do). However I will provide occasional updates so that anyone actually reading can see what I'm up to.

Until then it's business as usual.

The Christmas period was pretty lovely all things considered. First off, I was awarded my CR1 visa. Which was good. I took an early train down to London and then had a lot of "hurry up and wait" at the US Embassy before my two four minute or so interviews with someone sitting behind a glass window who didn't ask to see any of the documents/photos I'd brought, ask me any of the questions I'd been cramming for concerning Kris, myself, our families and circumstances or in fact pretty much anything at all. A distinct anticlimax. Probably due to the fact our case is straightforward, we're both white, not poor and seem respectable. Ho ho. Anyway, after that I toddled up north (in first class, no less) to Manchester to meet Kris and my parents for a concert at the Bridgewater Hall after a lovely meal (my parents' Christmas present). It was a long day. The remainder of Christmas was spent doing a parkrun close by the house, having fun with the family (Rory came down too), eating lovely food, enjoying time together and then heading back. Once back Kris and I had less than 24 hours before we were picked up by Andrea and we drove down to Dunk's for a cocktail evening with friends. Bacon sandwiches in the morning and back home again. Following that all that was left was some Ben and Kris time, a run here and there and New Year's Eve at a restaurant with pretty much everyone we know in Cambridge. It's just a shame the music wasn't brilliant as everything else was. The Christmas sales have failed to grab either of us particularly hard, although Kris got a few essential things (she'd claim they were). I bought a new phone (as un-"smart" as possible) so that I have something with a reasonable battery life which should work everywhere in the world that Kris and I may travel in the next few years. Unfortunately it has a touch screen, which is semi-useless. I guess that's it as infodumps go.

Today I've already semi-broken a few things, then fixed them (I think). I've sorted out some false-positive error-reporting hardware and updated the BOFH Journal for the year change (something I really should automate, but haven't). I'm off into town at lunch time to see Kris and work out where I'm putting the money from the sale of my house while I'm out of the country, then back to work then to the gym this evening. If something amazing happens this afternoon I'll post something else, otherwise see you tomorrow.