Archive for the 'Life' Category

Monkey Business

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

A few jobs have unusually taken me away from my desk to sites around the UK for a bit of network monkeying; the realisation that the old Cisco switches in use at most of them were starting to fail (pretty crap, huh? I mean some of them are only 15 years old!) meant a site visit. This also meant tidying up rats nests of cables, removing old PBXs, changing the IP range so it was actually not duplicating real addresses in Japan (I kid you not), and in the case of the two most remote sites (in Belfast and Edinburgh) migrating phones to a new PBX and SIP, retiring the 15 year old Nortel switches that may cause Mr Sublimeproduct to have a breakdown if he even hears the command LD 49. This work had already happened elsewhere, but the hassle of a required overnight stay to complete the work meant all the work was combined into one visit there.

My last trip to both of these sites involved short notice, expensive flights, with an uncomfortably early start, and a LAN switch as hold luggage in one case, due to the aforementioned failure of one, so it was nice to be boarding one of those toy planes at a relatively sane time with all the business types.

Edinburgh first, and fairly straightforward. New switches in, config errors fixed, everything on a nice new RFC1918 net range. A quick re-use of the old switch to set up multiple IP phones quickly:

Steal someone’s desk. A little bit of “switchport mode trunk”, and Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover.

then a night in a hotel.

The next day was smooth too, with the only surprise (but it shouldn’t be, really) was BT’s refreshing, innovative approach to mounting a PBX in a rack:

Innovative brackets, lads.

Still, as it was only going in a skip, no worries 🙂

Belfast was a similar story, except the PBX was shoddily bolted to the wall with the screws rounded off, rather than propped up on timber offcuts, and in the evening, having a hardier colleague with me, we managed a pint in The Crown Liquor Saloon (and got a seat!).

BlndstHits

Monday, January 7th, 2019

The post title is a play on the RDS station name (GrtHits) for Greatest Hits Radio, the latest brand of Bauer Radio to foist itself upon the West Midlands 105.2 FM frequency, and so force it’s way into the many thousands of cars that don’t have DAB radios.

Back in the early days of this blog, I was pretty happy when Kerrang! launched on that frequency, then whinged about one presenter, then disappointed when Absolute Radio got the frequency, after a brief spell as Planet Rock, before that too got pushed off to a ropey, low-bitrate, not-receiveable-in-the car DAB slot.

I’d just got used to Absolute, and could put up with turning it off if they played Oasis, and now they’ve moved my cheese** again.

It’s not *awful*. The music is 60s/70s/80s/90s pop. From the Bauer website :

[engage marketing bullshit filters]

We deliver the most popular music for 45-64 year olds, reflecting the life stage of our listeners and keeping them informed and up to date with the latest news and information where they live. We play the greatest hits from the 70’s and 80’s with a sprinkle of megahits from the 60s and 90s thrown in for good measure. Classic songs that stand the test of time and sound as good today as they did when you first heard them.

Well, I’m right in that age group, and the music is age-appropriate, but it’s just so bland. Lots of very middle-of-the-road pop, and an overall feel of a old-school local radio station of the 90s, with a breakfast DJ, Simon Ross, who calls himself “Rossie”. There’s something wrong about nicknames for the over-40s. In fact, the MOR pop was more bearable during testing, when we didn’t have to suffer the presenters.

Given that Radio 2 has replaced one tedious DJ with an actually more tedious DJ, looks like it’s back to the SD card full of MP3s.

**I’m not posting it again.

A Place in the Sun

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

[note: this is retrospective, posted after the event. It’s also had a title change, and some of the more ranty bits removed, for a possible future post]

We’ve been away. Lanzarote, more specifically, Costa Teguise. A resort we’ve been to before, and it largely caters for British tourists (Germans too, but there’s a strong bias to UK tourism).

Very nice it was too, but I have to say the sheer amount of loud televised football and the near-total ubiquity of lager became a bit frustrating after a while; the upside being that you can get a full English and a pint for very little money, and enjoy it in the sunshine. The majority of the bars are run by English ex-pats using that handy freedom of movement thing.

What’s more, for perhaps the last time, we got to do this via a totally frictionless (and by frictionless, I totally mean that- step off plane, wave passport in general direction of border control, collect luggage, step into sunshine) border (crossed with our newly renewed not-fucking-blue passports), enjoying cheap, easy travel to the sun with no queuing. We paid for things with cards like we were at home. For the first, and maybe the last time, we used our mobile phones just like at home, roaming charge-free onto the local telco’s network and not giving a single fuck about charges per megabyte, so we didn’t even have to search out bars with wifi (though they were plentiful). Of course, we got a shit rate for our Euro currency, but low prices over there helped reduce the impact of that: Euro/Sterling rates were as close as makes no odds to 1:1 (actually 1.1 Euro to 1 GBP), so at least the exchange rate was easier than when we first visited when it was around 1.4-1, and a (400ml, typically) beer varied from 1 Euro to about 3, depending on location and time of day. Eurofizz lager, of course, but in the sun…

Compared to our last visit I’m a little less mobile (especially as I twisted my knee the night before we went), so there was less walking up and down the prom, though we did manage a few shorter strolls, only resorting to a taxi once (which was also amazingly cheap).

Not the most adventurous or exciting of holidays, I’ll grant you, but low stress, warmth, sunshine, and (relatively) low cost.

Chatiere

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

I discovered that the French for catflap is “chatiere”. This I discovered from the instruction manual.

Our return home from a gentle pub crawl (only 3) in Walsall was greeted by QT, on the front doorstep. Now, QT isn’t that bright, but he usually manages the cat flap. Shortly afterwards, Kitty announced her inability to get in by banging repeatedly against the flap and had to be let in.

I had a look at it. It’s about 7 years old, and opening it up disproves the adage that cats are clean animals, so I carefully clean it, lube it, and put it back. QT exits, and it doesn’t register his chip. Looks like it’s fucked. A temporary mod of tape to allow access for anything, and off to Amazon for a new one. There’s a large array of chip-reading flaps, now, but I just bought the updated version of what we had, not feeling like any potential door modification.

So then; programming the cats into it. I knew the old flap was a bit tired- yellowed from UV outside, cracked from getting knocked, but I’d been putting it off because I have a long memory, and aversion to injuries, and don’t like stressing my children.

As it was, leaving the old flap in place, assembling this one inside, using a long extension cable, a bit of patience, and (critically) realising the reader works upside down, and the fact the cats are more settled and older now, meant this passed without any fighting, and just a little initial suspicion of the new device has passed, and the cats can roam without having their food nicked again.

Hearing You Loud & Clear

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

I’m going to whinge, like the miserable, middle-aged man I am, with a first-world problem.

On Friday, I had an afternoon off, so we went into Walsall, and for a change to The Fountain.

I used to love The Fountain, but my last few visits have resulted in a change of heart, and it’s people that are the problem. Jeebus, I hate people 🙂

Further people to hate materialised when we went for something to eat. We went to Golden Moments, a Indian restaurant that’s been there forever, and that we’ve used for some 30 years now. It’s a step above the ordinary curry house- not expensive or overly posh, but relaxed, pleasant, and a nice place to be, which made their behaviour all the more…irksome.

It’s something I’m increasingly seeing, and it seems really odd to my late 40s mind: not just taking a phone call in a quiet restaurant, but using speakerphone to do so, and having it loud, and shouting, seemingly oblivious that the whole place can hear the conversation.

What is this? Is it learned behaviour from The Apprentice or countless other “reality” TV programmes (where there is at least a reason for it), or is it just total ignorance?

I’m not the only one to wonder this: from Mumsnet to Reddit, via Digital Spy, people are mystified.

My opinion? Some people are just entitled, inconsiderate fucks.

Broughty Ferry

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Again, I’m posting after the event, but I’ve fudged the post date to suit. We went to Broughty Ferry, effectively a suburb of Dundee. N,ot a bad journey, considering: the furthest I’ve driven in one stretch for a good while, and not too tricky either; M6, M74, M73, M80, A9, A90.

The A9 had gained average speed cameras since our last trip on the “road of death”. I don’t know if it’s lowered the casualty rate, but reportedly speeding has reduced; thankfully they’ve had the good sense to raise the 40 mph limit for HGVs on the single carriageway bits to 50. Fortunately, we only had DC bits to deal with.

A little bit of getting lost in Dundee itself saw us at our cottage by around 4:30pm, so after a short rest we went out to the first pub, then find out what Broughty Ferry is like on a Saturday night (the answer is: busy). It’s a suburb that likes to pretend it isn’t, and it’s a little bit affluent: not as many Range Rovers as Sutton, perhaps, but plenty. It feels smaller though, and public transport to central Dundee was good.

We went to have a look at the new V&A, which had opened the day we arrived: a magnificent building, for one so modern. It’s a shame that one view of it will be blocked by what seemed to be another office or hotel being built near it. Near the V&A was the rebuilt station- Dundee has excellent rail connections, at least until Storm Ali came along when we’d gone to Perth (but then we found the bus service is good too).

Dundee is a fine city: the city centre is quite compact and easy to navigate, there’s good pubs and restaurants. It’s also home to D C Thomson, home of the Beano, and the school that inspired The Bash St kids is still there, right in the middle, near the McManus Gallery, which had a Beano-themed exhibition on, which was a nice surprise.

We wandered about, visited some fine pubs, and had some good food. Even our return journey was decent, at less than 6 hours of driving time.

All’s Well That Sandwell

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

We were feeling a bit lethargic, so it was a surprise we managed to start on what we’d planned for a while: a look round the Desi pubs detailed by Creative Black Country in their book.

Desi pubs- pubs run by (and to some degree for) Asians are a familiar thing in and around the Black Country- we’ve even visited a few, like The Pool Hayes or The New Talbot, and let’s face it, what’s not to like? Indian food and beer. Sounds awful.

So then, into Walsall, a quick change to a bus bound for West Brom, up through Caldmore, passing very near to one Desi pub, and right past another. Through Stone Cross, lamenting the loss of the old cinema, and into West Brom.

We passed one of our targets on the way in, without realising in time, and continued into town. A slow walk down the High St pedestrianised area, and everything goes a bit Indian; sari shops, Asian grocers, and the pubs, bars and grills. We passed by the magnificent (but very faded) Lewisham Hotel, as was- now Desi Junction, passed The Prince of Wales (to return later), and ended up at The Sportsman for lunch. The return journey took in the Prince of Wales, then a break in the bus journey back took in The Red lion.

I’d not been to West Brom town itself for some time, and not the true centre for the best part of 30 years. It seems (I’m sorry to say) to be better than Walsall- the market thrives, it’s extremely multi-cultural, there’s not too many empty shops in the bits we saw, and there’s clealy been some investment in the High St.

Immobile Again

Monday, August 6th, 2018

I’ve had yet another trip into hospital, a repeat of last year’s procedure to try and deal with the uncomfortable swelling in my trousers. This time on my mission to visit all of the West Midlands’ hospitals, it was the Royal Orthopedic. Day surgery only, and an exemplary case of great care, efficiency, and ease, from start to finish.

I’ve had a couple of examples of the reverse recently, which I haven’t blogged because I do not wish to add fuel to the funeral pyre the current shits in power seem to be arranging for the NHS. About the only complaint I can make about this hospital is location and parking, but that’s really a secondary issue; a favour from a family member soon sorted that.

So, I’m back off the bike, unable to drive for a while, and off work for a bit, so I’ll quite possibly get ranty here and on Twatter. Still, at least I get chauffeured about and I don’t have to suffer the Oldbury Viaduct for a while. Plus, this time, I’m not getting snowed in, so at least soon I’ll be able to make it to the pub.

Expense

Monday, August 6th, 2018

It’s been a pricey month. First of all the Lupo, is a disgusting example of how VW quality just isn’t what it was, had a failed alternator at a mere 18 years old. The it needed a service and MOT, all of which passed without difficulty.

The Scirocco, meanwhile, adds to the cost. A major service, a minor suspension link, and a radiator leak, a tweak of wheel alignment. The new tyres will have to wait a short while.

To be fair, both cars haven’t cost very much in repairs as of yet, and bearing in mind we’ve had the Lupo for some 13 years now, it still looks presentable, and drives well, there’s little to complain about. The Scirocco costs more, but racks up the miles (and again to be fair, there’s been very little outside serviceing and consumables in the 30,000 miles since I’ve had it). I also wonder if the radiator may have been weakened by me being a clumsy twat, though it showed no signs of a leak until very recently, and given the recent hot spell, it needed fixing.

[edit]

The expense continues into August. Our boiler, installed in 2006, has failed. Repair is possible, but not insignificant, so a new one it is, and surviving like it’s 1930 with no hot water. Still, as someone pointed out to me, fascism and the right is on the rise, so it’s all just nostalgia, huh?

A Slightly Longer Spin

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

I’d finished work early to get a broken coil spring fixed on my car (the bodyshop visit having prevented me being organised and getting the MOT done with more time to spare) and the MOT retest done. The current horrors of the M5 make the journey unpredictable, so leaving plenty of time I ended up 45 minutes early, but Midland VW sorted the car early too, so I had time to visit my Mom, and still be home at around 4:30. What better way to use an unexpected bit of time than a short ride, down on the towpath, while rush hour goes on above and around?

I’m still not doing my normal, regular route (Chasewater and back) as I need to look at my bike setup and see how the knee bears up, but I was curious about Ogley Junction Footbridge, which as BrownhillsBob has observed, is undergoing serious work (and not before time; it’s a lovely structure and one of only 3 listed structures in Brownhills, all of them bridges).

I got warned by a chap coming the other way that it was covered in plastic, though he’d clearly passed over it as there was nowhere else he could have come from, but it looked tricky:

Sheeted up.

I wasn’t going any further anyway. Back home, with a few aches but nothing serious. A much better way to spend that time than sat in traffic.