Sunday, 24 February 2013

Stace's Eleven

A couple of weeks ago Lynn over at YATGB did a post with 11 facts and 11 questions.  She then passed this onto 11 other people with 11 new questions.

I always love this type of this thing, and so was quite happy when I saw my name at the end.  There are a few ground rules (aren’t there always!)

·         Create a new blog post similar to this one.
·         Start off by writing 11 random facts about yourself, and then answer 11 questions which were left for you by your nominator.  
·         Then you can nominate up to 11 blogs and leave 11 questions for them to answer in return.  

First things first, the link back!  Here you go Lynn!

Right on with the show!

11 Random Facts about Me
1.     I love cars! Throughout my childhood my dad restored classic cars for friends.  One of the ones he did was a green Triumph Spitfire 1500. I was smitten and have one myself now (which is being restored by my dad J)
2.     I have almost zero self-confidence.  It is a fear of mine that one morning my boss is going to suddenly see that I am useless and fire me on the spot. That goes for most things in my life…
3.     I love shoes, but as a nuance only shoes that I love.  I am not into weird and wonderful and I am not into fashion per se, more simple and stylish! But, I have less shoes as Stacy than before I transitioned.  Working on it though!
4.     I prefer quality to cost when possible.  That does not mean I buy the most expensive I can afford, it means I buy the best quality I can afford.  If something costing 50 euros is better than the same item costing 100 (but is less cool) then I do not see the point in spending the extra.  Then again, if the 100 item is better I have no problem with spending the money if it’s in my budget. That is how I got my last bike helmet and the speakers in the living room.  There was budget left for both, but the extra would have given nothing extra (in fact it would have given me less!) I hope that makes me neither a cheapskate nor someone who burns money but someone who is pragmatic…
5.     I struggle to come up with 11 random facts about myself J
6.     I cannot stand watching football – even the major internationals hold no interest too me.  But I love watching the Six Nations and Rugby world cup, even if I watch no other games throughout the year! Every Super Saturday I go with a friend to her local Irish bar to watch all three matches (being scared of publicly supporting England with so much animosity being displayed generally! J)
7.     I’m a speed freak!  I have a SuperSports 600 motorbike with an insane amount of power for its weight and what my friends call an old man’s Volvo Estate; that can surprise people with the 240 horses that it has up front J  And yet oddly enough whist I may do the odd traffic light grand prix, I don’t generally speed – I don’t want the fines and the roads are not the place for really enjoying yourself.  I do use the car when on an autobahn though – but only when the road ahead is empty!
8.     I have a house full of stuffed toys! The Gruffalo and Mouse guard over the living room from the top of one of my speakers.  Most of them have names.
9.     I was in the ATC as a teenager, and loved it!  I even liked drill, as long as we got it right and it looked good.  I even tried to join the RAF but was turned down due to health reasons.
10.  I have too many phobias! Considering fact (9) one of them is flying on commercial jets!  Other than that poisonous animals are up there on the terror inducing scale for me. As much as I would like to visit, I don’t see a trip to Australia in my future! ;p
11.  I adore cooking! I have come up with a few recipes myself, and have adapted a few more – but I want to do far more!

The Eleven Questions

1. There's a fire in your house. You have time to save three material objects. What do you grab and why?

My phone – I have none of the numbers anywhere except for in it.  I can replace it easily enough, but probably can’t replace the information in it quite so easily.

My dress watch.  My parents got me the watch for graduating from university, the first in my extended family to do so.  It’s a gorgeous and slim line Raymond Weil and the only quality watch I have ever owned. It means the world to me, and is the only item of his that I still wear on a near daily basis.  I forgot it recently and spent the whole day missing it!

The wedding picture that sits on our piano. Whilst I could not be me on that day, and missed all the fun stuff that I would have so loved to do leading up the wedding, it was such an amazing day and I married such an amazing and wonderful woman. The favourite one on the piano is of is us looking out onto a river / canal that runs past the botanical gardens where we had all of our pictures taken.  We are laughing at a group of people in a boat yelling good luck to us.  I love that picture, and whilst I don’t really recognise myself in it we were so obviously happy and it radiates from the picture!  I even look half decent in it for one of the very few times before I transitioned.

2. You're an author. Would you be happy writing trash and be minted, or be poor and respected?
I’m guessing I am not allowed to cheat here?  I would like to take a pen name for the trash and use the money from those novels to write something that I am really proud of.

Of course if the writing of trash causes me to hate writing then I think you have to stop and find something else to do.  Just the same as I have in my career to date.  Once a job becomes too soul destroying you have to try and find something else before it consumes you and leaves you bitter.  I’ve seen that too often in others and don’t want to move away from a job I love!

3. Karaoke: yes, no? If so, which track? If not, why not?
Yes, but only Lips on the Xbox at home either by myself or with Mrs Stace!

Track?  I don’t have one specifically, but anything where you can really let go when singing and belt it out.  We did Beck – Loser recently and it was so great to do!  We couldn’t talk afterwards, but it was so much fun we didn’t care!

4. Favourite book?
I don’t know if I have one single one – we have more than 500 to choose from at the moment, and I expect it to reach 550 by the end of the year!

I like so many different types of books that I even struggle for a genre.

Either “The Andromeda Strain” or “Sphere” (so, so much better than the film was) or one of the Discworld books “Nightwatch” or “The Hogsfather”

Or if I am in the mood for something light then “Bridget Jones” or one of the earlier “Shopaholic” books.

If I’m in a gruesome mood then something from Kathy Reichs – “Deja Dead” or “Monday Mourning”

Or, in a nostalgic mood Judy Bloom or Roald Dahl.

Really, don’t make me pick! J

5. What's your earliest memory?

Too painful to mention here, sorry.

The ones that I can mention are still painful, but physically!  I was always injuring myself as a child.  Falling over whilst playing and trying to knock my front teeth out (both milk and adult!), falling off of bikes or skateboards.  At one point I must have been well known at A&E as I was going there 5 or 6 times a year!

6. You invent a new technology that would help people. Would you patent it, licence it or give it away to be used freely?

I would patent it to make sure that no one else can patent it and abuse it.  After that it would depend on whether or not I had other income. If I need the income to live then I would license it per territory, hopefully so that I could survive, but still help those who have the most difficulty getting the help they need.

If I don’t need the income then I would license it either very cheaply or free of charge

7. Cooking: do you have a signature dish? I'll include snacks, cakes and/or biccies in this.
I have a few…

Lasagne Bolognaise – I love making this, I love eating this!  Fresh pasta sheets, layering freshly made sauce:
Onion, garlic and mushrooms softened before adding minced beef salt, pepper and Italian herbs.
Once cooked through pour in some sieved tomatoes and simmer to reduce to a thick sauce.
The b├ęchamel is just butter, flour, milk and some cheese for flavourings.

It takes a long time to make, but is so worth it!

I have my non-fried, double fried herb chips too (the recipe is somewhere on the blog).  Crispy, tasty, fluffy on the inside and only a tablespoon of oil per person!

Christmas cake – originally from Delia Smith, altered to reduce the ingredients that I don’t like (or can’t get easily) and the ones I like increased to make up the weight!

New York Cheesecake – Hummingbird Bakery recipe (cooked slightly differently to the recipe as I prefer the texture when I make it my way!)

Hopefully I’ll be adding a couple of new ones to my list soon.  Marble vanilla / chocolate New York Cheesecake, some kind of soft cookie and a few new pasta dishes.

I am so hungry after writing that!

8. Can you do impressions / accents? Which one is your best/worst/favourite?
The only one that I can do is an Irish accent.  It’s very good, but comes on automatically when I am in an Irish bar and have had a drink or two.  Which isn’t what I want! J

I would love to be able to do a highland Scottish accent – but no matter how much I try, I can’t see to be able to do it!

9. Is there any skill you wish you had?
There are a couple I suppose.

The first is the ability to be relaxed around people and not sit shyly and quietly. I am much better than I was when in the UK, but I am far from comfortable in large groups! It would help me be more sociable and help me in my job where the ability to back up your personality with words is quite useful!

I would also love to be able to sing again.  When I was younger I had a good singing voice, but it’s no longer there and I do miss it a lot!

And of course, see my answer to question 8!

10. If you could change an event in history, which would it be and why? It can be a biggie (WW II) or personal.
Nothing, I know from personal experience that whilst it would be so tempting to change some things from my history that I could not do that as I am the sum of my experiences. It is something that I am struggling with at the moment as I want the paradox of having a different childhood but still having the life, and being the person, that I am now.

I think the same is true of the world.

On a lighter note I would like to change the Spitfire rotting into an unusable wreck to it never rotting ever, ever, ever!

Then again, that would mean my dad would not have his garage as it was built to restore the car, and of course he really wanted to restore my car as the last one he did before stopping.  See what I mean – even something small has so many consequences!

11. You're cursed (blessed?) with being a monster. Vampire, ghost, werewolf or ghoul? Which one and why?

Vampire!  Without a shadow of a doubt!

Why? Because as a computer programmer people already think I am afraid of the sun. The stylish clothes of course, and not forgetting never growing old (yes am I vain!).  Could I just do Brad Pitt’s or Spike’s thing of not killing people to survive?  I don’t like that side, but let’s face it it’s a problem with all of the options!

I couldn’t be a werewolf – come on, after trying to get rid of my hair so much over the last few years that would be ironic at best!

I’m scared of ghosts, so if I chose that I would be afraid of myself (more than I was 4 years ago!)

As for ghoul…  I’m going to go back to the vain thing!  Have you seen the images of ghouls! J

My 11 Questions

1.  What is your best memory?
2.  An oldie, but I like it…  Lightning: Scary or Cool?
3.  Adrenalin Junkie or Relaxation Queen / King?
4.  What would your ideal pet be, and why? (Fantasy creatures are allowed if you wish!)
5.  Public Transport or own car (or own power)?  And why
6.  Where are you on the chilli scale – none, flavour enhancer or it’s never hot enough
7.  Do you feel your age when not in the company of teenagers?
8.  What films, and scenes, do you cry at?
9.  When thinking about the invasions of privacy, and all the down sides would you really want to be a famous person – even with the money that goes with it?
10. You are on a plane when everyone except for you falls violently ill.  What do you do?
11. Was everything really so much better when we were children?

Those bloggers who I would like to pass the list too

This is actually difficult.  A good proportion of those that I would pass it onto are not actually blogging anymore! This makes passing it on more than a little difficult!

There are 3 that sprint to mind, but after that I am going to leave it as an open invitation.   (Though if you take me up please let know!)

Friday, 22 February 2013

New Toy!

After speaking to my boss on Monday I arranged to work from home on Tuesday.  I wanted to concentrate on a couple of things, to put into action my idea of working on my high prio lists and as it was my quarterly visit to the gender clinic to speak to the endocrinologist to make sure that I could work rather that sit in a car for 2 hours.

So...  Opposite to normal I got Mrs Stace breakfast whilst she rushed to get ready for work and then I got ready.

Ready in this case being throwing a dressing gown over my pyjamas and opening up my laptop on the dining room table and taking advantage of the espresso machine for lots of cappuccinos :)

I had planned a three hour work block, and knew what I wanted finished in that time (and managed to do it!).  So at quarter past nine I signed off, got changed into my running gear and went for a gentle 7km run.  About 500m from home I got a call from someone in the office, so I walked the last bit.  It was bright, sunny and windless.  In other words perfect for running, and I really enjoyed it.

I got home, threw on a fleecy cardigan and logged in again for another 75 minutes.  Not quite managing to do what I wanted, but close!  I needed to write some data update scripts so that the business did not have to make 4000 manual changes to data.

Unfortunately the database is a little old and has had, well… Let's call it some organic growth.  Finding the right fields to update, and even the right tables to update proved to be a bit of detective work.  Checking the site code, back end system code and of course looking into the database tables themselves I managed to build a reasonable picture of what I needed to build.

Some tricks to make the update statements simple (for the techies out there...  Why use multiple table update statements - in this case multi-database, multi-table update scripts when you can fill a temporary table with the record id's you need and use those for the update statements instead?) and there is was.

At the point of having to shower and get ready I was not close to being finished with that though.  A little behind as I wanted at least the first script done before leaving!

A bit of a long shower (to loosen up after the run) and quickly get dressed (I had already picked my outfit for the day).  Err...  No.  I realised that seeing as I was going to have to have my blood pressure taken, and maybe some blood taken as well, and that would not work in the outfit I had picked without taking off clothes multiple times.

No then.  Ok then, loose jumper and skirt.

No, don't like the end result of that.  Now I am stressed that I am not back at work, and still have to pick an outfit that is practical and I like, and I have drive to Amsterdam.

In the end I went for another of my favourite outfits, it kind of worked for the blood work and blood pressure, and by this time I had no choice anyway!

Right.  Hair (stressed and in a rush, so obviously I was not happy!), make up (ditto) and I managed to leave the house about 15 minutes later than planned and also lost 30 minutes of work.  Quite why my confidence left me at that moment in time I have no idea!

But...  Got there (phew!). Parked the car in the of the car park that remains at the hospital (they are building on top of the other half, and I guess they don't want anything to happen underneath whilst they are busy - I don't know if that fills me with confidence in their safety or not!).

About 6 months ago the hospital finally opened a newly refurbished cafe in the reception area, there is a cafe outside, but the food sucks and it has a strange atmosphere.  So I sat down, explained that I had an appointment in 30 minutes and was that enough time to order a tuna sandwich and coffee and eat it.  The waiter assured me it was.  He left, I posted on Facebook that I hoped it got there in time and by the time I put my phone away a ciabatta appeared on the table.  And it was really nice too!  The coffee followed, and was as nice as the sandwich.  I paid and left and managed to get there with 5 minutes still to spare.  Few.

Sat in the busy waiting area, got out my ebook reader and carried on with my novel about a boy who discovers he is a wizard on his 11th birthday :)  And it turned out that they were running way behind.  All the rushing for nothing!  Oh well, if the guy needs to spend extra time with me because of something then I want him to, so I am not going to complain about being a little late.

And the co-ordinator bought around chocolate eggs as an apology, so what was there to complain about :)

The appointment went kind of well...  I'm still leading a healthy life (no blood work this time as that will come in 3 months).  But...

He does not like the amount of androcur that I am on.  Really, really not.  He reduced it last time and after nine days I was climbing the walls, so one of the assistant endocrinologists put me back to the old dose.  He's German and made it very clear that I am on double what he would normally prescribe, and 4 times what would be prescribed in Germany.  It could lead to tiredness and fatigue (something I had 3 months ago, but is not so much of an issue now) and he is concerned.  But at the same time it's not dangerous and so he has kept me on the dose.

The other issue was my blood pressure.  It's always high when measured, and for some reason doubly so when he does it.  171 over 101 and he is not happy.  He does not believe it either - I am too apparently healthy to have this high a blood pressure.

So I have to measure it myself.  On the way home I got myself a machine for home, and I now have to measure it twice a day.  Once when waking up, and once in the evening after I have spent some time relaxing.

So I got home later than I had planned, and got back to work again.  This time I got my scripts finished, and even better as soon as the first was done I had a base and the other 6 took 15 minutes in total.

So...  How did the machine go?

Well, the second the balloon inflates on my arm I feel my chest tighten up, and have to fight to keep the stress levels under control. Feeling the pulse in your upper arm, because the blood doesn’t flow to your lower arms and having the realisation that what the machine is doing is crushing your artery to stop the blood flow just freaks me out.

So far though the pressure has been high, but not extreme as it was in the hospital, so that is a plus.  Between 125 and 145 over between 75 and 95, the lower range is fine, the upper not.

I’ve also been overusing it (thanks for the idea Chrissie!), in the hope that doing it regularly will make it more normal and not the stress event it was.  The first morning I woke nearly 2 hours early and spent those two hours stressing about taking the reading, or snoozing and dreaming about stressing about silly numbers on the display when I did the test.

(Did I mention that I do not like having my blood pressure taken?)

Still, it’s getting better.  Lying on the sofa in the evenings after eating I’m spending 10 mins relaxing (as much as I can) taking a reading and repeating another two times. It’s starting to get normal, it’s not normal yet, but it’s starting to get there!

PS Lynn – I have not answered your questions yet, but I will get there!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Cry Wolf

Wow, so much has happened in the last weeks. Mind you I am not sure how much I can remember about it.

I’m going to start at the end though.  I feel awful about now – stress from work (just so much happening in such a short space of time) has just not been my friend. On Sunday I did some work for our site that had to be done for an appearance on a consumer program today.  Actually I spent most of today polishing it off too (and at 7pm was removing some cool code that I made to minimise database access as I underestimated how many servers we had, oops!).

It was stressful, a fight to make it do what I wanted it to do without putting too much load on the servers, and a lot of fun in between.

But by yesterday 3pm (2 hours before I finished) I was sitting at our dining table, typing, struggling to get something working and doubled up in pain from my IBS.  It was really not fun.

So today I made sure that I had a chat with my boss.  He has offered me some tips and tricks, told me off for not saying that I could not do this weekend.  Complimented my for being committed enough and caring enough to get so stressed about it.  And scolded me for taking it home with me and not leaving it where it should be.  Informed me that it’s great that he doesn’t need to keep a constant eye on me as he knows I do my job without interruption and tried to teach me that I can go to him if I feel he is not giving me enough notice because of this.

Told me off for not spending enough time planning, and trying to get me to see that by spending an hour a day planning my time that maybe I can spend the other 7 productive and not worrying about the things I am not doing.

Got me to realised that ‘I want you to think with me on’ does not have to translate to me doing.  That it’s also my job to ruin other peoples weekends sometimes and not kill myself because I don’t like doing that.  Not often, if this came up every weekend it would be totally different, but sometimes.

I like my boss.

So, I have a plan of action for the coming time.  Let’s see if I can stick to it!

So what led to this turn of events, which went from me feeling ill in the afternoons as my to-do list was too long, to being doubled in pain…

Well, the last real post serves a good indication of what went wrong.  At least the start.  Just a series of events that were not expected in a time period when I am totally rushed off of my feet.

After that week I knew what I needed to do before the end of it.  A few technical and functional issues with some reporting that I write each month meant that I was a day behind my schedule on Wednesday.  A day when I was planning on being in team meetings for most of the day (moving everything back one more day).

And on that day we had a couple of consultants in for our TFS server. I assumed that they would both be working on the technical side and that I would be needed occasionally just for information.

I was wrong. There was a technical guy doing the migration to a new server and version, and a functional guy who was helping the technical guy when needed and helping me figure out what we wanted to do with the new version for the rest of the time.

Oops.  We had not counted on that!  So instead of a day in meetings and a day doing other things I spent two days organising on the fly meetings so that the right people could see the new features, and figure out what they could use them for.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great two days, we saw some great things and I think that everyone saw something in the new version that they liked (I just have to learn how to implement it!). It’s just that it wasn’t in my schedule and put me another 2 days behind where I wanted to be.

Friday was spent playing catch-up.  I put on my out of office auto reply for email (even though I was in the office – that confused my boss), set my phone to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and set about trying to get up to date.  I actually made a nice attempt at it too.  In the morning I spent time organising what I was going to do, and splitting my to-do list so that I wasn’t looking at a scary list of 40+ tasks, but a manageable list of only 5 or so.

By the end of the day I was happy, relaxed and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  Until I reached my home town and the phone went.  10 minutes from home and I saw my Sunday disappearing (I had decided that catch-up was not going to happen on a Sunday, it was going to be an R&R day).  And then the pain started to hit.

So ‘Cry’.  Well, nearly – like I said before it’s not something I do often; but I felt on the edge!

So…  Saturday.

Those of nervous disposition should skip the next few paragraphs.  I’ll let you know when it’s safe again J

Saturday was zapping day again.  North and South (a colleague liked that description!).

So the morning was going to be leg exercises, breakfast, shower and anaesthetic cream and  get dressed ready for the drive there. (Thank god you can hide the anaesthetic under your clothes!)

The reality was waking up at 10am (the time I needed to put the cream on) quickly having a cappuccino (sorry, I need that before I can move in the mornings), showering, getting myself sorted 40 minutes late.  Breakfast, another cappuccino (1 less than normal!) and legging it out of the house.

I got there, we had a chat about various things, and I asked if she could give my face a quick zapping as it had been a while.  Sure.  Zap zap zap.

Now the uncomfortable bit…  Get half undressed and lie down as she looks at the results from last time (oddly enough much less embarrassing than last time) and she got to work.  She was using a higher power than the previous time and so I could feel it (especially with the cream having a substantial amount of time less to work).  Painful, but doable. Zap zap zap.

Suddenly I jump that violently that my whole body leaves the table.

I guess I did not go far enough backwards with the cream in the rush of the morning then J  Lesson learnt for next time.

Again ‘Cry’ (real tears this time too! J)

I’m still a little red, but it’s nothing I can’t live with.

One last thing on the subject.  A colleague of mine asked what I was doing this weekend.  I told him he really, really didn’t want to know.  He pushed for an answer so I told him.  His face was a picture.

OK, those of you with a nervous disposition can look again now!

And the wolf?

Well…   I was in a skirt on Saturday, one of my favourite blue Mexx skirts.  With a matching Mexx jacket and mint green jumper underneath.  Black tights and red shoes and handbag finished the outfit. It’s one of my favourites and I love wearing it when I need confidence.

On the way back from my laser session I was walking down the street to where I parked and for the first time got whistled at.  (The wolf).  I tuned me head to see a not too unattractive man smiling at me on the other side of the street.

Now, I’m still into women, and still adore Mrs Stace.

And obviously I was disgusted that someone would do that in this day and age.

But still, I couldn’t help but have a small smile as I walked back to my car and a grin from ear to ear as I drove home.  I’m sorry, but it has never happened to me before J

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Still going

Don't worry, I haven't dropped off of the world - I've just spent the last two weeks working too many hours doing too stressful things to be able to do much and today (which I had earmarked as an absolute de-stress day) fighting a sudden, urgent new requirement for work.

I'm stressed, exhausted and to be honest pissed off that I have spent more than 6 hours working on a Sunday.

Ergo...  For now I don't have the time or energy to write anything.


Stace :(

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Yes! A letter from the tac office!!!

OK, maybe not the normal response for a "fill in your tax return" :)

But it was the first official letter from a government agency that started with "Mw" (Short for Mevrouw - Madam).

Sometimes the joined up Dutch system can seem a little Orwellian, but they do work efficiently.  One visit to the town hall, not even one form to fill in, and everything is updated!

I'm smiling :)

Now to find time to actually do the return!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sleeping is not time wasting

The last week has been exhausting (I know I say that a lot, but the last week…  Wow!) and so I’ve had so very little time / energy to get to the laptop to do anything…

I started on Monday, we had an appointment and so we began working from home before 7am, on the bright side it meant that I started my working week about 3 meters from our espresso machine.  And I took advantage J

So, trip to the hospital (where the appointment was 20 minutes late) and then rush to work to continue the day.  For some reason I could not get away on time, though thankfully the traffic was not that bad, and then I had to continue doing something that was urgent (and I needed to make up the time for the appointment).

Thankfully I did manage to get my running done when I got home (still slow from my best ever time, but it’s getting there again).

The next day I got to work on time, but had to leave early.  So another appointment (10 minutes early this time!) and then home in semi-rush hour traffic.  Again time to work out (woohoo) and get some food prepared.  The evening was supposed to be making up for lost time from the appointment again and then relaxing, but as there was something else urgent that didn’t happen during the day, and both of us stopped working just 40 minutes before we went to bed.  Really not enough time to relax…

Wednesday was supposed to be a fun day with a new project, but for various reasons that did not go to plan.  There was a lot of work with the product owner, project leader and me to try and figure out how to get things back on track and I left the office about 90 minutes late.

Into the worst traffic I’ve seen for a while.  Where one of the motorways was closed. And where I had to take a country lane route.  With lots of other people who would rather be on the motorway, and not waiting for traffic lights at a junction only designed for light traffic.  From the start of the queue to getting through the green light was about 25 minutes instead of just 1and a journey that normally takes 45 minutes took more than 90 L On the bright side I spent the remains of the evening with my sister in law, her husband and their three children.  Always a lot of fun J

Thursday was just ug.  Again, start from home before 7am, yet another morning in a hospital (three times in one week gets over the top – don’t worry, not me and nothing bad) followed by a trip to the dentist where I needed to get a tooth filled.  Now, I hate going to the dentist.  It makes getting my face lasered seem like the good option.  And Mrs Stace had an appointment so I was on my own.

Thankfully this time the anaesthetic worked completely and apart from major stress it was fine.

A trip to the office (75km from the dentist’s office) on the phone to the project leader discussing the previous day again (hands free, and ignoring him when I needed to for the traffic).  Got to the office grabbed some sandwiches and ate whilst working (for the 4th time that week!).  Followed by a tiring, long but great group session about the project.  Which also made me very, very late home – and stuck in traffic *again*.  In fact I was that late home that working out was not on the cards.  In fact I was even going to avoid cooking and just buy something from the snack bar (crap food that I would have regretted…) except that Mrs Stace pointed out that the meat in the fridge needed using that day.  So…  I made my home made Spaghetti Bolognaise (and it was lovely, so much better than snack bar food would have been – shame on me for even considering it!) And then tried to relax for the hour or so that was left before bed time…

Friday started awfully.  Something happened in the office that upset me so much that I could not concentrate for most of the morning, and I ended up in tears in front of my boss when we were out talking about it, and colleagues when they asked if I was OK.  That is something that I do not do, I do not cry easily but I was just so gone I my head with it all.

It was sorted in the afternoon, and all is well now, but I was exhausted, aching from the stress and adrenaline and feel like a complete fool for getting so upset in front of people.

The rest of the day is somewhat of a blur, except for the last 90 minutes that I really enjoyed.  Firstly an hour putting our technology roadmap on a time line for the year, figuring out when we *can* do things, as well as when we *need* them.  And solving conflicts when they don’t match.

And finally, just before leaving we found out why something that we have been working for a few weeks is not returning the right values. OK, new product IDs from the company and within 15 minutes I had the code fixed, the web master had deployed it and the product owner had tested the results and was happy.  Now being able to do things like that just before leaving does make me feel great!  And allowed me to start the weekend on a high!

The only thing was that exhaustion caught up with me rather quickly.  By 8:30 I was dozing on the sofa and I completely missed the last 90 minutes before going to bed!  I thought I had left that behind a couple of weeks ago – but apparently not…

Now, time for breakfast and get ready for helping my brother in law clearing a couple of rooms to get ready for building work they have this week.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Transformed from working to smoking...

I've found recently that I have been taking more notes than usual at the moment during meetings.  And the amount of meetings I have in the short term is about to sky rocket.

So, time to get the tablet out and charge it - otherwise I'll be spending more time retyping notes than I will actually acting on them!

I've not used it in a while, so the first thing I did was charge it overnight.  Then this morning before work I tried to turn it on.  Nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly.  The backlight came on, but no loading screen.  No error text.  Nothing.

OK, turn it off and try again.

Er, no.  It won't turn off, either.

Soft reset!  Nope, it goes buzz, turns off and then turns on again

Hard reset!  Damn, how do you do that again?

So I left it in that state and went to work.

When I came home it was still the same.  Yup, it hadn't gone into sleep mode in 10 hours!

So, Google how to do a hard reset.  There are two methods.

The first is simple, power an volume down button for 10 seconds.

Click from the speaker
Screen off
Screen on


Lather, rinse and repeat as needed

OK.  Nothing is working.  Method two!

There is a pinhole between the HDMI and SD slot on the side of the tablet.  Put a paper clip in the hole and...

It goes off, immediately!

Let go...

*&^% it comes back on again.

Lather, rinse and repeat as needed

Still nothing doing.

(Did I mention that I hate IT sometimes)

So a post in a transformer (no, not the Mattel one!  I hope!) forum to ask if there is any other method that I may have missed, a mail to Asus (I expect them to say send it back, it's not yet 2 years old) and it's a waiting game.


If I put my nose to the speaker grill I can smell roasting electronics (Yes, it's dead...) And it has a rather large Lithium Ion battery in it.  And it sells of burning.  And I can't turn it off...

I think I need to keep a good eye on it until the battery runs out...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Captcha- is there anything worse?

A few weeks ago, if I did the settings right, I turned off the captcha for comments on this blog.  The reason was two fold:

  1. Even with the captcha enabled I had spam comments from time to time
  2. I'm trying to think of something more annoying when you are trying to do something on-line than having to read something deliberately made unreadable
Basically in user interaction terms it is about as bad as you can get at making sure users have the worst possible experience.  I have really good eyesight, and can read very well - but the captcha that Blogger uses can boggle me a lot of the time.  Blurred house numbers and swirly letters which could be a U or IJ etc.  Terrible!

So I decided that I would remove the hindrance from the blog. (If I failed, please let me know!)

For this blog it is not that much of a problem - it's not like my posts generate hundreds of comments, so if there is something there that I feel is wrong it gets removed with quite simple ease.

For other sites of course it is a different matter.  Take a system that allows users to do something with their account when they have forgotten some account details - whether that is the username or password.

So, if you really do need a captcha how can you ensure that your users do not pay the penalty?  After all should usability suffer just because you are looking for security?

My favourite option is this one - the honey pot captcha.  Basically, you add a normal sounding field to the site "Address" or something similar.  Then you hide it with CSS so users can't see it.

And in one swoop you have a field that Spam bots will want to fill, and humans will never even see! Then you check to see if the default value had changed when the form has posted and hey presto you can filter the comments that cannot have come from human users.

It's not perfect, and if someone really, really wants to spam your site they will be able to defeat it with some investigations.  But them how secure do you really need?  You can always make the name of the field random - that makes it harder to crack.

But the main thing is that your actual users are passing your test, and they don't even know that they are taking it!

I've seen comments that it won't stop human spammers, but then neither will a traditional captcha!

And if it's really that important you can always use learning software, ala Akismet.  The software goes through the comments and, the same as the spam filter on your email account, mark all the spam comments so they don't appear.

There are a  lot of options out there - there are even great CSS captchas that are perfectly readable to humans but unless you have a spam bot that renders a page with full CSS and interprets hundreds of DIV elements as a number then it stops bots.  I'd love to put a link to one, we used it for a few years at work - but I can't find it any more...

So why does Blogger (Google) not do some research into something cool that people don't struggle with!  The people they have working for them can surely come up with something much better!

Up and running

Well I've finally reached the point where I can start get on with things again.

Over the last week I finally started to get back into shape again after my bout of flu - something that seemed to take an age to get back to.

My work out routine is 5 days per week, giving to rest days for recovery.

Then I alternate working out with the Kinect one day, working on leg strength exercises to try and keep my knees in good condition and the other days I do a 7km run around the countryside near where we live.

So, last week I thought that I would start gently by doing the leg exercises for a few days, to try and get my leg strength back after the previous weeks of forced inactivity.  I also thought that as the leg exercises are only 13 minutes long that they would be a good start.

Wrong! It may be short, but it's oh so intense! After the first 5 minutes I was starting to ask myself whether or not this was such a good idea :) But I managed to do it, and kept at it for a few days as I still wasn't feeling up to a run, and the snow would have made it a little too slippery still.

After three days of doing that the snow had gone and I thought it was about time for a run.  So on Tuesday I came home from work, in the rain I may add, got changed and went for a short run.  A little over 4kms for the first run seemed to be a good idea.  I normally run to my heart rate - trying to keep it around 160bpm.  That was almost impossible on Tuesday! After 500m I was ready to stop - breathing hard whilst running slow and when the wind hit I could hardly move!  After 30 minutes I got home, could hardly breath and was soaked from the rain.

But, I had done it!  Started the road to getting back to fitness!

Yesterday I decided that I would try to do 7km again, not quickly, but just to try and do it.  I woke at 6 listening to the rain drumming on the window, and thought that it was not going to be a pleasant run! But, I managed to get back to sleep for another couple of hours and by the time I woke the sunlight was streaming through the blinds in the bedroom! I got up and sat watching Outnumbered for 40 minutes to get the sleep from my system, and to get some liquid inside me, before getting changed and leaving the house.

The sun was out, it was an absolutely gorgeous morning! There were some fluffy clouds in the sky, illuminated from below by the sun (making me wish I wasn’t running, but cycling with my camera…).  But, it was cold – really, really cold – and after 500m I could not feel my hands.  However, after the first 2kms my body heat was starting to spread and I managed to get into a good rhythm.

By the time I had completed the run the sun was up and bright enough for me to wish I had bought sun glasses along with me! I got home and actually felt really good, so much so that next week I may try for two laps at the weekend.  Once I got on the sofa however I was in a terrible state!  My lungs, chest and throat reminded me that I have been ill, and that I need some more time to get better.  The time sucked – 6 minutes slower than my best, but I really didn’t care.  I was just happy that I had managed it.

A couple more runs on Monday and Thursday to come, and as long as I am felling OK at the end of them I think the 14km could be a possibility the week after.  90 minutes running does worry me, but the advantage of doing it on a Sunday morning is that if I have to give up half way around the second lap I have the time to walk home 

And…  for the first time since I was ill I got on the scales (thanks to Mrs Stace for forcing me into this to show I wasn't gaining yet more weight - I've been terrified of getting back onto them) this morning to find out that I have lost nearly a kilogram of the Christmas weight that I gained.  Back down to 73.5, hopefully now that I am running again I can get back down to at least 70 in the coming weeks now that I’m back to regular exercise.

One final thing – my email is not working at the moment.  The server, and web interface disappeared this morning (yes I am concerned!) and so I can neither send nor receive mail.  So for the second time in three weeks I have to say to those waiting for an email: Sorry!