Monday, 31 January 2011

Busy weekend, slow day

The weekend was spent doing a spot of spring cleaning (not quite spring, but we have our niece and nephew coming next week so we are doing a deep clean).  Saturday we got about three quarters of what we wanted to do done.

Sunday...  Sunday was different. I went for my run (the weather was not as nice, but the run itself went well).  Breakfast, more coffee (a *big* part of my weekend) and a long shower.  When I got out Mrs Stace was running up the stairs with my phone.  Our webmaster.  At that point you know your day is probably shot.  And it was.

Our provider was doing some maintenance this weekend and it all went horribly wrong.  I was calling several people over the next two hours to try and get things working again.  Hats off to our web master - he gave up a personal appointment that he should not have had to do in order to get things working again.

So that was my Sunday gone.  By the time everything was working again my mind was spinning from 20 calls in 2 hours and with too many people.

Today I had no energy at work.  Not feeling great, but that was not the reason.  Whilst the weather had been getting warmer the radiators had refused to turn off.  Now of course they had, I was cold to my bones and the atmosphere was just awful (and I don't mean emotions).  I think that one of my team showed just how bad it was.  He was in an all day meeting with an external consultant.  I saw him in the kitchen in the afternoon when I was about to fall on my keyboard - as the others looked like they were going to so as well.  He, not spending the day in a CO2 rich office was full of the joys of spring.  I chatted for a few mins and had a sudden rush of energy.  I got back, blasted a few jobs and just when I was starting to enjoy my second wind it vanished.  Seriously, the sooner we move to the other room the better.  Even more so for the company!

Then I came home and got a wonderful text from my boss.  The time and channel of a documentary about a transgendered Japanese artist.  Even started the message with a joke about yesterday (which was good - I saw the text was him and thought nasty words, expecting the worst with the site).

I just think I'm quite lucky to have a boss like him (even if he can be infuriating at times :p) 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Here comes the sun!

It's been a mixed bag this week.  The rain has slowly died out, and been replaced sun.  But also by seriously cold temperatures!

But it was beautifully crisp this morning.  The best winter weather as far as I am concerened.  I don't kow how cold it was when I left to run this morning, but the cars were still white from frost, as was half the road.

When I reached the lake it was a wonderful winter landscape (minus the snow).  Everything was white with frost, and everyones breath hung in the air in front of them.  For once I was wearing gloves for running - and didn't take them off until the last 1 or 2 km's.  I also kept my running cardigan on - I normally take it off after 3kms (or at the very least undo it and pull the sleeves up.  Not today - on and done up until I got home.

But, it was one of those mornings that made me glad to live here - the trees hanging in the slightly misty distace, the first and second bridges (yesterdays picture is number 3) poking above the tree line in the distance, a slightly darker shade of white to the mist and almost like a shadow.  Wonderful - I couldn't help but smile whilst running, it makes the distance a breeze to run.

A great end to a difficult week - work has been so rushed.  Too many final things for the project, and too many meetings to get anything else done.  I did at least manage to go drinking with colleagues again though - it's been a while since I did that, and was an enjoyable hour or so.

Friday was great - it's time for my monthly one to ones with my team and I decided to do a walking talk to take in the sunny weather.  Problem was it was about -5 and by then end of the last one my fingers were completely numb!  Still I had a good chat with my team members, and we got some nice plans for the short term future that should make their life more interesting, and bring the innovation back to the department.  Should be fun for all involved and make the business happy at the same time.

Friday, 28 January 2011

As promised...

Todays shot is not a new one.  Going through my shots from a couple of years ago I found a few that I really liked.

This one is a night shot, a 10 second exposure @ ISO 100.  It's almost perfect as far as I am concerned (stupid street furniture!).  It is taken on a country road not far from where I live, on a dark, windy and very cold evening.  My fingers froze!

There are also a couple of stories: one of the bridge and one of the night.

The Bridges (this is one of three) are quite new, and were supposed to make an impact for the local council.  They were opened by the Queen of The Netherlands with much ado.

Unfortunately they were in urgent need of maintenance quite soon afterwards!  Not the impact they wanted!  You see they contracted an architect from a sunny country.  Who specified materials which would have been brilliant in a warm climate.  Less so in North Europe where we have lots of rain.  They started to rust immediately (before they were finished they had streaks of brown) and the lights had to be changed for safety reasons - as I understand it they are not suitable for outdoor, wet use :)  There was a court battle about who should pay:  The council as they are the owners and signed off on the design; the builders as they should have said the materials were not suitable or the architect who designed completely unsuitable bridges for the area where they are constructed.  I don't know what happened with that, but I do know the renovation has since finished and they now look as good in daylight as at night.

The other story is of the guy I took photo's with.  When someone came speeding down the road he took a photo of the back of the car with a big grin on his face.  Yes, he used his flash to do it :)

Anyway, here it is:
Night Bridge


It's cold outside...

The weather has gone decidedly chilly here in Holland.  Checking my phone it's -4c outside, and I can go with that - my face got quite cold walking from the station to the office.

And yet the heating in our room is so awful that we opened *all* of the windows when we came in.  According to the radiators they are off.  According to our fingers you could fry an egg on them.

Roll on the big move next week!


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Starting a hobby again

All my life I've really enjoyed photography.  A few years ago I got myself a nice camera, and a couple of nice lenses.  About 2 years ago I treated myself to a nice macro lens and started to enjoy taking interesting shots. Mrs Stace hates the fact that when I take photo's I take an age looking for what I want to shoot, rather than pointing and clicking.

I have a Flickr account with my favorites on (but I'm not quite ready to link to it from here, sorry!) but it hasn't been updated in a long time, I've just not been 'there' to go out and take the shots, and the to spend the time uploading them.  I have a couple of nice ones blown up in the living room but I can't help feel that it's a little wasted at the moment...

So...  In order to try and get my creative juices flowing I thought I'd post some here, every few days or so.  I am not going to do it on a daily basis - that would seem a chore too quickly - but when I feel like it.

I'm also going to try and concentrate on macros and low light photography - I love the way the world changes when you get small, and the way that objects change their look when you remove most of the light.

I'll start today with one I took last night:

This is a 1:1 shot taken with my Sigma EX DG 180mm fixed focus lens on my Canon 5D, an then seriously cropped - 763*458 from 4368 * 2912 :).

I know that it would be better if it was lined up right (I don't have the software to rotate the image the little that it needs, and I have lost my tripod so this was taken free hand - floating the camera as close as it will focus on the TV was not the easiest thing to do late at night...)


Saturday, 22 January 2011

Busy times…

What a week!  Seems to be the story of 2011 (at least the story so far!).  We have a project coming up for release and it’s entering the stressful period.  Give it a week and it should be fine – but for now it’s slightly less than great fun.  It has been a nice project though, and I am going to be proud of it when it goes to production.

Monday I was sick – I don’t know what it was, I got to Hilversum and suddenly I felt really nauseous.  I struggle through the morning, but after a stand-up meeting for a project where everyone else in the project group told me how bad I looked I decided it was time to call it a day and went home.  90 minutes on trains, busses and then a 2km walk wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered and when I got in I just collapsed on the sofa and slept for most of the day.

It was a 24 hour thing though, as on Tuesday I was back at work, just very, very tired.  Wednesday I had to stay late for the something that went wrong on the project (my fault, I was supposed to copy data from production before changing data structures, it seems I forgot and had to spend 2 hours matching the old production data, with the newly entered data to make sure that the business didn’t have to spend a second day setting everything up… It was difficult, but I was actually enjoying the challenge of making a SQL statement that would do the work for me (I may be a project manager / team lead – but I’m still a geek :p) and learnt something new in the process that will save time in the future.

Thursday I was evil (as I said yesterday – I have not heard if the guy is walking without saying ‘ow’ a lot yet).

Today (I started writing this late last night…) was just non stop.

The car needed servicing.  I don’t trust garages, there is one that I just about trust so I always use it even though it's 90 miles away (I’m also the only English customer so I am always remembered and get good service – or so I thought).  It was a cheap service (you have cheap, normal and expensive services for AWD Volvos – but it’s all relative…) but I knew that the rear brakes were ready for replacement – they are 168000KM’s old.

Or so I thought.  It was the front.  And as it’s a turbo they are special brakes and I prepared for a stupid price.  It actually came back *very* cheap (10 euros more than someone on my team just paid for front brakes on a Fiat Punto!).  Oh, but the rear pads were also shot (oddly enough not the discs – another 168000KM left on those!).  Oh, and as they played with the front and rear brakes the fluid was changed at the same time.

And the alarm needing re-certifying (now a yearly occurrence) in order to keep the theft insurance valid (just because it’s an AWD the insurance classes it the same as a Chelsea Tractor re theft protection, the FWD version doesn’t need it even though it’s faster and more likely a target for the joy rider!)

All in 800GBP (less than I was expecting with the extra bits, more than I wanted to pay).  But, it took 4 hours to do all of the work.  And I had lots to do today so it put me way behind. 

I drove back and rushed the weekly shopping (thank goodness for smart phones that Mrs Stace could send the list to!) in a store I was not used to, so I was walking back and forward for longer than I wanted.

Got home, rushed lunch – which was a shame ‘cause I had treated myself to some really nice cobs that I rushed too much to really enjoy.  I was now 20 mins behind schedule and had to be out of the house in 40 minutes for therapy.  Normally that would be a rush, but since my first laser appointment I have started to wet shave as the results are far better.  So, a bit more than a rush…

Shaved, dressed (first time for a new outfit – I was over the moon with it; for one thing it fitted, which is an improvement on a couple of weeks ago)  and started on my face.  I have switched foundation this week – a local stored had a special offer on L’oreal so I decided to try the roll on foundation.  It’s wonderful stuff!  It gives a much nicer coverage than doing it by hand, and you don’t get foundation under your finger nails.

I actually managed to get ready in time (how I don’t know) looking better than normal because of doing things wrong (no time to do my hair using the brush normally, so I tried just using my hands – that didn’t work, but a quick attack with a brush afterwards looked better than normal and took half the time.  I have to practice that I think to make sure it wasn’t a fluke…)

Go to Amsterdam with no traffic issues for a change, and found somewhere quite easy to park.  And for once didn’t freeze getting the parking ticket or walking to the therapist’s office.  I got myself a winter coat.  Love the look and it’s *so* warm.  My only issue is that it’s slightly longer than my skirts.  Now this is not unusual in Holland (see it all the time at the train station – but Mrs Stace thinks that it looks a little like I forgot an item of clothing…)

The session was quite heavy this week – with a subject that I was really not comfortable talking about.  I’m glad that we did – it was what I wanted to talk about before I arrived (though he brought the subject up in the session), but it was difficult none the less.

Something light to end on…  I have gadget shopping trip coming up and have been trading mails with my ex-boss all week.  He is a Hi-Fi nut, valve CD players etc – and so I wanted his advice on how to set up my system when I get my next toys.  Got the advice I needed to get the preparations sorted (basically KISS) and found what I would like from Mrs Stace for my birthday - a FLAC server so I don't have to switch CD's all the time to get good quality music (and much cheaper than the presents of the last couple of years).  He also showed me he home network setup, and as a geek I have to say it’s very nice.  Something to think about if we build an extension to the house (as we are thinking about).

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Turning evil...

I've been a little evil today, and really enjoyed doing it!

A colleague and friend wanted to go running with me, and so we started today.  He's not fit so I started slowly for him.  I said we would do a 3*3 schedule (three minuets running, three walking for three repatitions).  After a 5 minute warm up.

Sounds nice doesn't it?  And it was meant to be.  Then I missed the three minute mark on my stop watch, and asked do you really need stop stop at three?  "yes" came the answer.  Shame as we passed that point already, give me another 20 seconds and you'll have done four.  Well done.

He didn't even swear at me :)  I hope he cam move tomorrow - I have a day off to get the car serviced so I won't get to see...

I prefer being the personal trainer than have someone fit telling me what to do.  Mrs Stace thinks you have to have an evil streak to enjoy it.  Who knows :)


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Out of breath!

Wow, what a week.

In the last week I’ve barely had time to breath – let alone do anything else.  So apologies for anything that I have missed…

We are ready to release a new product at work – really it should have been released last week, but with constant changes in specification, and with no lack of business knowledge at the start of the project (for those specifying) we were busy until Friday.  It’s been hectic to say the least.

Friday was going to be my wind down day for the week – I normally try to do as little overtime as possible (I’ve had burnout in the past, and really do not want it a second time), but this week it has had to be done.  I think that we are there now – there are a few last bugs to solve, but unless there are more changes in specs we are finished.  With everything going on I was busy all day – with my thoughts going ten to the dozen; s much for the wind down.

Now for the merge and release…  There is a usability test at the start of next month, and we need to be live before then. 


This week I have also had an issue with the after effects of last week’s laser.  I was expecting the pain; I was expecting the rash like after effects of having your hair and follicles burnt.  What I wasn’t expecting of still having the ‘rash’ now, and only having been able to shave properly for the first time yesterday.  That was really annoying!  I was supposed to be going to some friends, as Stace, on Wednesday.

They are really great people, and even though they have never seen ‘her’ they always treat me as Stacy.  Always – and it means the world to me that they do.  I was really looking forward to actually going as Stace, and having their support.  I give some coaching to him for his work, and we normally do this in one of the local cafes – it would have been nice to have been out as Stace with him.  But on Wednesday there is no way my skin was going to let me do that.  I shaved, in order to get ready but the results were not great.  (In case you had not read it in the sentence that was some English understatement there).  It’s shallow I know, but it would not have been good for my confidence to have been out looking like that for one of my first times in public.  So ‘male’ me went again…  That was such a disappointment and anti-climax from the build-up I had during the day.  Oh well next time (and not in the week after laser!).


And I have some personal projects to start at home as well…  There are three that have priority with me.  The first is to do a small website, using HTML 5 and jQuery.  It’s the way that we have to move at work, and whilst I am not a frontline developer anymore, and whilst I have never enjoyed the HTML end of development, I think it’s important to know these things when I supposed to a working foreman to my team.

Second, we are thinking of moving towards using Scrum more in the office.  We were supposed to be doing that a while ago, but it never really materialised.  I want to get up to speed with project management using Scrum and see which of our future projects I can apply it too.  I think that the developers would really like it, though I am not sure that the business would be able to cope with the initial hit that it is going to take to move from what we have to where we need to be.  And without the support of the business it’s just not going to happen…

Finally…  I want to do some problem solving with my team.  I have a number of very good, intelligent developers in my team but I think there is an issue of some of them thinking using the keyboard – and that is something I want to change.  When in university we spent the first half of the first development course not actually in front of a computer.  We did problem after problem, with increasing complexity and spent the time developing the skills that you need for solving issues – something that has left me in good stead ever since.  I really want to spend time here as I think that this more than anything else is going to help lift the level of the department – the ability to see what the problem is, and figure out how to solve it is more important in creating quality solutions that having x design patterns (also important!) in your head.

I think.

(Incidentally if anyone knows of some nice online resources for any of those things please let me know!)


Hopefully this week is going to go a little simpler.  Though I somehow doubt it ;p


Friday, 7 January 2011

That stings a little...

Auw, Pijn!

Today was the first day that I did something that was not undoable.  Ctrl-Z is not available, for the geeks out there.

I went for my first laser appointment.  I booked it for Friday afternoon to give my face the weekend to recover; I can do without people I work with asking me what on earth I have done to my face.

How was it?  You know that is a tough one to answer.  There were places where I hardly felt a thing – where there was not much hair anyway (I’m lucky in that I don’t have that much coverage!).  On my chin and lower lip it was excruciating!  On my upper lip less so – but that is the area that brought tears to my eyes for some reason.  But if I think back I could not actually describe it.  Maybe that’s a good thing :)  I do know that I’ll try to remember that the next time I am on the chair with the mouth hygienist – as bad as that is, it’s not a patch on this…

I have another appointment in 4 weeks.  I think that I’ll try some painkiller pills next time, if I can avoid the hassle of the cream I will.  I’m just glad they didn’t start on a higher setting.

To throw a cliché in there: and people think this is a lifestyle choice…

Saturday, 1 January 2011

And a new one just begun.

Sorry thought I'd keep the title running from yesterday :)

We had a very late night last night, we celebrated the Dutch New Year, waited an hour and did it all again for the UK one.  It was a quiet day, except for the constant fireworks that I mentioned which continued past 3am.

Today was late getting up (10am, I *never* sleep in that late!) and having nothing to do.  Lovely.

I did go for a run for the first time in weeks (the ice has just about gone).  Was great to get out again, though after 3KM's I was thinking wow three weeks makes a lot of difference! I'm going to stick at 3 for a week and go back to 6 next week I think.

The weather here has changed for the better.  Warm - compared to the last few weeks, sunny and dry.  It should stay that way for the next week so I am planning on being the first to go to work with the bike on Monday whilst there is a break in the weather.  I oiled the chain and checked the oil today, and took it for fuel and to pump the tyres up at the local petrol station.  It was a wonderful ride, but I was reminded why I have a neckerchief when I went the long way home and froze my neck at anything over 40mph...  But the roads were fine - which is what I was checking - and so if it does not freeze tonight I'll be riding tomorrow!

Right, another Jamie Oliver creation is calling.

Hope you all had a good evening last night.


Oh, one final thing.  I did something yesterday that I did not enjoy doing too much...  I blocked someone for the first time. The image used in the avatar was a little less than PG I thought, and whilst I am not a prude I would rather that kind of picture was not associated with this blog.  Sorry Sasha.