h-notes ∈ April 2022

COVID update

Thankfully, I’ve no real evidence of any lingering after effects in my day-to-day. Spoilers for running chat below but the same can’t be said of lingering effects on my exercise regime. Broadly speaking I didn’t really feel it when I had it and I don’t really feel it now it’s gone. I know the same can’t be said for others though, and it really hit home the imbalance of this disease when we met some friends, one of whom is a long covid sufferer. She used to be a extremely active person; triathlons, wild swimming, hiking, etc, but now, 6 months since she had it she still struggles to climb flights of stairs or go for walks at anything beyond an ambling pace.

As we move into the “pretend it doesn’t exist” phase of the COVID response, it’s hard to know what the right call is. Lots of people get it and die, but lots of people get it and are fine, but lots of people get it and have long term effects - the results of which we’re still trying to work out. Is it a few months? Is it forever?

One-click discount

In March I decided I’d like to get better at helping people reflect at work, so I decided to level up my skills by actually reading what some other folk think about facilitating retrospectives. I bought ebook copies of Agile Retrospectives and Retrospective Antipatterns. I decided to buy both direct from the publisher as I thought that would be “better”. Of course, I forgot that “business”, “technical” or “management” books tend to be expensive, and buying direct means no discounts.

For some reason I decided to check for errata on Agile Retrospectives before I bought it. Perhaps I thought seeing a huge list of errata might convince me not to, or to wait for a new edition. However, clicking through to the errata page took me straight to some forum for the book with a hard to miss “35% off” coupon in the sidebar. That made buying this book easier and got me thinking about the other one.

I remembered that LRUG had once joined various technical publishers user group programmes and this entitled us to discounts. I trawled my email to find a coupon code and to my surprise it still worked even though the email was from 2013. I got 35% off that book too. In part this felt like a minor victory, but on the other hand it just felt frustrating. Clearly they can stomach selling the books at this discount price, but they just don’t because some folk won’t find the coupons.

Anyway, you can use USERGROUP for 35% off Pearson and devtalk.com for 35% off Pragmatic Programmers.

A lunch date

Last year I bought T a voucher for Aulis, the Simon Rogan chef’s table restaurant. This month we finally managed to get a booking, and arrange someone to look after R, so we took a trip to Soho on a Saturday lunchtime and had the most amazing meal we’ve had in a long time.

We’re no strangers to fine dining, but we’ve never done a chef’s table experience. It’s an obvious evolution of high-end dining. They don’t just explain what the startling combination of ingredients and textures on your plate are, you get to see them construct it. There’s something fascinating about seeing the detail and care that goes into how the food is put together, even if we’re really only seeing the final finishing stages, not the full prep-work that happened that morning. Seeing all that work performed in front of you, hearing the chefs talking through what they’re doing, explaining the ingredients, the seasonality, the textures and combinations and then being presented with it to eat. We both loved it.

This kind of dining experience is ridiculous. It’s a outrageous amount of money to spend on one meal, but it’s high art in edible form and I don’t begrudge paying for amazing food like this, particularly when it’s a treat. For those who haven’t tried something like this this article from the Birmingham Mail does a better job of explaining why you should than I ever could.

All I’ll say is, save up, go to a fancy place and opt for a tasting menu and wine pairing. It’ll be expensive but it’ll be amazing. Even if it’s not1 the food will be interesting and different and something to talk about.

What we did on our Easter holidays

For the easter holidays I took one of the weeks off to hang out with R. I planned something for us to do each day and we went on a series of adventures. I really loved this week, and it made me a bit sad that employment doesn’t provide exactly enough holiday that I can spend all her holiday time with her. I suspect the novelty would wear off, but for now I can’t wait for the June half-term and some of the time we’ll have together in summer.

One thing I did learn though is that you really need to think about these things well in advance. I managed to snag tickets to take her to her first gig, Andy and the Odd Socks @ Hackney Empire, but had I been on the ball I could have also taken her to see Nick Cope @ Soho Theatre.

Taking her to her first gig was a real highlight though. She sang along, punched the air, got excited, demanded merch, and asked about the next tour. All the things I did when I was a teenager going to my first gigs.

Other than that we had fun:

To be honest though, this was too many things. We didn’t plan much downtime and this meant that after the chocolate workshop when we said, “no, you can’t sit in the middle of seven dials roundabout and eat all the chocolate” R absolutely lost her mind. We all get emotional when we’re tired, of course, but understanding the real reason behind it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

Mislaid friends

A highlight was the gig, but a lowlight was that we lost her teddy on the first day out. We stopped for cake in a café up in Muswell Hill and then got on the bus to visit a park. However, just as we got off the bus we realised we’d left Teddy in the café. R was distraught and sobbed pretty intensely as we made a quick turn around to get the bus back up to Muswell Hill. By the time we got back to the café she was treating it more like a little adventure, but when we saw that our table was clear she started sobbing again. I cursed myself and tried to think where else teddy could be. Then we remembered: Teddy had come to the toilet before we left and sure enough - there he was in the loo watching everyone do a wee. We managed to make a joke of it about how all the other customers must have thought he was a toilet bear2.

All in all, a fun little diversion, and a story to tell T when we got home.

And then we lost him again two days later. The story is broadly the same - we were in a rush and only realised we’d left him behind when we were about to get off the bus so retraced our steps. Unfortunately that’s where the similarities ended.

I was pretty sure we’d left him on the previous bus, but the stop was the end of the route and I knew they stopped on stand for a bit, so there was a slim chance we’d get back to see the same bus and be reunited. When we got there the driver of the bus that was on stand was kind enough to let us on to look, but said they really only stop for 5 minutes and it was over 20 minutes since we’d got off. It was sinking in at this point we were unlikely to get teddy back so at this point R was pretty inconsolable. Mostly I think she was upset with herself as much as she was about losing teddy. To avoid admitting defeat I suggested we retrace our steps further to where we got on the bus as we had sent a selfie to T of teddy, R, & me from the bus stop so there was a minuscule chance we’d find him there. Unsurprisingly though, we didn’t.

By this point I’d googled lost property for the bus routes and knew the lines had closed, so I promised R I would call in the morning. The next couple of days I called first thing in the morning to ask, but each time they went away to return with a “sorry, we’ve no cuddly toys” response.

Happily, a few days later R was reunited with teddy who had been sent to a spa to get cleaned up before the lost property folk sent him on to us. R was initially suspicious because this fluffy clean teddy was pretty different to the dirty, plaster encrusted teddy with a cannula plaster on his ear – but after being shown a photo of teddy when she first got him, she bundled him up in her arms and starting making plans to get him dirty again.

So in the end we got through it all and maybe this was a valuable life lesson about looking after your stuff3.

C’mon dads

I don’t think I’m the most involved dad, but it was pretty noticeable in the places R and I went during our Easter break that there were an awful lot of mums and kids, and only a few dads and kids. So much so that Andy and the Oddsocks had a bit in their show to get the audience hyped up using this parental disparity:

All the dads cheer, oh that’s not very loud, now all the mums, much better, now just the kids … woah! we’re really rocking now!

Much better than stalls vs balcony and relying on the natural reservation of the first group to be called on.

I’d love to spend more time with R and it makes me a tiny bit sad that the amount of time I do spend with her, which I don’t think is enough, is in fact a bunch more than most dads. Obviously for individual children I maybe just saw them on the one day that their mum was looking after them and it was daddy time every other day. The aggregate picture painted by visits to several different places over several days suggests otherwise though.

Reviving some dead media

In an attempt to clear out some of the technological crap I’ve accumulated over the years4 T convinced me to throw out all my old floppy disks. This required me obtaining a USB floppy drive and extract any data from them. I wish I could say I found loads of exciting fragments of my past life, like forgotten diaries or photographs5. But alas no. Fully half of the disks were unreadable, another chunk of them appear to have been infected with some overwriting virus that filled them with a single menace.zip file.

I did however uncover a handful of interesting artefacts:

The main thing that this did for me however was bring back how frustrating using floppy disks were. They’re slow at the best of times, but when there’s a slight bit of a problem they take forever to read and/or decide they can’t be read. At one point the disk was so corrupted I had to shutdown and restart my laptop. Honestly, it’s a wonder we got anything done trying to use floppies to pass data around.


4 times!

I basically took a month off from mid-March to mid-April because of COVID. That first run was a real struggle, but I expected that; the first run after a break usually is, especially if it’s an illness break. I didn’t expect that the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th runs would also be a struggle. My heart rate doesn’t appear to be spiking unlike some other folk I know post COVID who have returned to exercise, but neither did I smash out my best ever 5k like someone else I know. So I guess it’s an average response. Pretty demotivating to be knocked back several months - in March I’d been looking to sign up to a half-marathon in May / June if I could find one, but I no longer think that’s a good idea.


4 - depending on how you count digital comic series.

One actual book - Bob Mortimer’s surprisingly sad and moving auto-biography - and 3 comic series (Whiteout, Paper Girls, Queen & Country). All these comics came from various humble bundles that I bought in March and although I did start another physical book, I found it easier to dip into some comics on my phone rather than crack open the book in my rare downtime.