Happy Christmas and New Year!

It’s been a fairly quiet year for the blog, and I’ve felt less inclination than usual to keep adding to it. But my inbox is testimony to the fact that there’s a cadre of faithful readers nonetheless, and so to them especially, I send festive greetings and wishes for a peaceful and happy Christmas and New Year.

As my turkey slowly defrosts in time for the mega-roast tomorrow, I reflect genially on a year in which I finally got married; the two rescue cats finally became friendly; and I discovered the music of Vaughan Williams properly for the first time as a result of finally getting my music metadata into good order. Work plodded on as usual and I didn’t have to save a database from almost-total destruction due to System Admin mis-configuration for once. Windows went, and came back again… with a vengeance. RAC finally worked on Hyper-V (must write that one up sometime soon-ish). And I got to upgrade a lot of my hardware. We nearly moved house, and then decided not to, just in time.

It’s been a good year, if quieter than normal (or maybe I’m just getting older!). Looking forward to 2016, and hope all my readers feel similarly. See you in the New Year…

2013 Wrap-Up

I started the New Year at a new employer, doing RAC and Data Guard configuration/setup and various bits of database development work. I end it with us preparing (finally!) for a disaster recovery test in which we will find out if I am as good as configuring multi-node Data Guard setups as I think I am! First few weeks of the New Year will reveal all…

Meantime, my job’s changed a bit over the course of the year. Day-to-day management of the database infrastructure having been (or about to be) outsourced to a consultancy, I am more focussed than ever on development activities… and these have suddenly taken a turn in the direction of SAP BusinesObjects. Which makes me Universe Designer-in-Chief, trying to master a product I’ve never really used in anger before. Some learning curve! Fun times ahead, methinks.

Lucretia (the cat) has proved as young-at-heart as ever, despite turning 18. She lost a lot of weight at the veterinary ‘hotel’ we put her in whenever we take a holiday. So much so that, this time, I thought we were going to lose her. She literally couldn’t purr right: she’s normally double-bass profundo but could only manage a pathetic sort of high-pitched wheeze on our return. If she’d eaten at all during the fortnight we were on holiday, it would only have been on day 1. But four days after our return, having not touched food no matter how nicely we put it out or varied it, she finally got her mojo back. The purr returned on day 6. And now we’ve been back two weeks, I doubt you’d notice the problem. She’s good for another year or two after all, it seems.

Chandler (the wallaby) still looks as if she’ll be around for years, to, where “around” can mean “eating out of the cat’s bowl” or “watching TV in the lounge” as she deems appropriate. Four other wallabies have persistently attended the back door throughout the year, making us feel very lucky and very happy.

Personally, I spent a lot of the year gearing up for the Benjamin Britten centenary. We got the Royal Mail stamps, then the Royal Mint 50p proof coin, then the full scores of the War Requiem and Gloriana. Then it was a long, long wait for the flight to Blighty, spent for the most part panicking that I’d fall prey to some virus or bug or other. But in the end, I awoke in Aldeburgh on the appointed day with no sniffles and just the merest hint of a chest infection that has subsequently developed into a nice dose of body-wrenching bronchitis. Returning to the Red House (where Britten and his partner Peter Pears lived from the 1950s to the 1970s) for the first time since 1986 was one of those truly memorable, once-in-a-lifetime, experiences.

“Have you ever been here before” asked the guide. “Why yes, actually,” I replied. “In 1986, I came and had a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit with Sir Peter Pears, who’d invited me to discuss the works of Britten”. At which the guides (pleasingly!) expressed suitable amounts of awe and admiration. I didn’t remember the room where he’d handed me the digestive, because they’ve moved everything around, back to the way it was in 1967. But, satisfyingly, the dip in the floor where I embarrassedly tripped over in 1986 was still there, still familiar… though somewhat less embarrassing second-time-around!

I have to say, “Britten Country” (that is, Aldeburgh, Snape, Orford, Thorpeness and their surrounds in east Suffolk) is utterly wonderful (though we were lucky with the weather: typical bright-sun-clear-sky-cool-temperatures November, basically). I’ve dreamt about it ever since returning. If someone would kindly donate about half a million pounds, I’d be buying a house there and moving back almost immediately. It was that good -and much better than I had remembered from my last trip there in 1989. God’s own country, for sure.

I only changed operating systems three times in the year, which is some sort of record (low!) for me. Windows 8 (and 8.1) were good, but uninteresting. Fedora 19 was good, but Gnome Shell is bloody awful, despite copius quanitites of goodwill and patience on my part. And Linux Mint KDE 16 is new and experimental, but I’m enjoying it. No doubt, the story will develop in 2014…

Coming back from Paris a few weeks ago was not the nicest flight I’ve ever had: the incipient chest infection finally took hold, and by the time we started the final leg from Kuala Lumpur, I expect I was that sort of unavoidable, irritating passenger everyone dreads: my cough was persistent, loud and annoying. I end the year on a course of antibiotics as a result, though they don’t seem to be doing an awful lot.

Somewhat more worrying was the perpetual numbness in parts of my assorted limbs on the right-hand side of my body. A CT scan was ordered… and bizarrely tended to suggest I’d suffered a minor stroke at some point. Thus a referral for a more detailed MRI scan, which took place at the start of this week. If you haven’t had an MRI scan, I wouldn’t recommend one! The procedure consists of being inserted a very long way into a very confined space and being told to stay absolutely still for about half an hour (which is much, much harder than it sounds!). They also tell you that ‘the machine will make lots of noises’… and you sort of expect a bit of a hum, whirr and kerphhutt. Actually what you experience, despite ear plugs AND ear defenders, is the most godawful, body-ripping WHOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRR-KERPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPHGHGGHHHHHHHT-BOOOM-ditty-BOOOOM-ddiiittty-kerdiddle-kerdiddle-bludge-phhot-quot-kerpling. Repeatedly, incessantly and at a volume I can only imagine that, without ear defenders, would make your eyes bleed.

I’m not surprised to be told that approximately 50% of people who start an MRI scan hit the emergency release button they give you and thus fail to complete it. I was pretty close to hitting ’emergency stop’ myself, but managed to make it through, with gritted teeth.

I am dubious about what passes for much of ‘medical science’ these days: doctors taking a quick look in the back of your throat, making three passes of your chest with a stethescope and then reaching for the day-off-work sick-form pad doesn’t actually count, in my view, as medicine. MRI machines, on the other hand, really are cutting-edge science and definitely count as “proper medicine”… but they really need to do something about how user-unfriendly they’ve made it!

Anyway, I haven’t had the results yet, but the numbness persists. We shall see. I have no symptoms apart from being able to stick needles into parts of my right leg without it hurting, when it probably should. Oh, and the tip of my nose constantly feels cold, too, which is an odd sensation to be sure.

Otherwise, the year has not been at all bad. I’ve enjoyed work and the company of many colleagues, I’ve loved getting back to Cambridge and Aldeburgh, ToH is happy, the cats and wallabies are content, I’ve spent more than I should on music and less than I ought on computer hardware (not something that has happened often in the past decade or so, I can tell you!). My sisters back in England are all well, as are my various nephews and nieces. I turn 50 on January 7th… all-in-all, it’s not been a bad run-up to it.

I shan’t be posting much (if anything) between now and the turn of the New Year, so can I take this opportunity to thank all my readers and correspondents for their continued interest in all things Dizwell… and to wish you all a joyous Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Good Riddance

I shan’t, I think, be sorry to see the back of 2011.

The year started well enough: a birthday viewing of The King’s Speech was thoroughly enjoyable. But my birthday meal took place in an appalling restaurant in Sydney that has acoustics only someone totally deaf could like. I couldn’t hear a bloody word being said by anyone, got very grumpy and refused to eat any of the food as a consequence.

An old friend of mine turned up to said birthday meal, looking -literally- white as a sheet. I’ve never actually seen someone who fitted that clichéd description before, but Rodger did, and I made a point of mentioning to him that he probably needed to see a doctor.

My birthday meal being on a Friday, Rodger finally made it to the doctor’s on the following Monday -at which point the staff there declared that he was actually in the process of having a heart attack and he was whisked off to the nearest coronary unit immediately. The Other Half spent a lot of the next four days visiting Rodger as he recovered from an emergency stenting procedure. The two of them walked out of the hospital on the Friday afternoon and made it to the nearest pub for a celebratory ginger ale. I turned up after work, just in time to see Rodger off in a taxi back to his home.

Which is where he died sometime that night.

We had to get the police to break into his apartment the next Tuesday, having not heard from him for a while. They found him in bed. At least he’d died in his sleep. He was 69.

He had no close family, but a sister of a 1970s friend was the closest thing he had to next-of-kin. She swooped down from Queensland as soon as we told her the bad news to “take charge of things”, announced that there’d be no funeral, and that was that. Within a fortnight, with house contents and body summarily disposed of, it was as if Rodger had never existed.

Things settled down a bit after that, until in March one of the cats had two strokes (of the cerebral variety). Since he didn’t end up walking around in circles, the vet declined to put him down, but Gracie’s never been quite the same since. He had a third ‘incident’ just three weeks ago. He’s slightly unsteady on his paws, but otherwise apparently fine. But we’ve spent most of this year expecting him to bow out, which doesn’t work wonders for one’s morale. The prognosis for this coming year isn’t much better, either.

Being made redundant is also not exactly a bundle of laughs, which was the next surprise to hit us, in May. My employer was bought out by their largest competitor, who is based in Seattle -and is a SQL Server shop. There was some requirement to keep our existing Oracle databases running for a transition period -and, indeed, to move them lock, stock and control files to the Seattle data center in November. As a result, I am (at the time of writing) still employed by them …but only until January 6th 2012. Meanwhile, I can reliably report that spending 7 months dismantling everything you’d built and managed for the previous 5 years is not exactly fun. I should probably be grateful for being kept on at full pay for not doing a great deal of original work, but I’ll be glad when the clock finally runs out next week.

The year picked up a bit after May (it was, to be honest, hard to imagine it being able to get much worse). We holidayed in Tasmania about then, and cruised the South Pacific at the beginning of December. I worked out how to propagate the Kangaroo Apple from cuttings. We saved a red-bellied black snake from doom and destruction. Two new wallaby joeys joined the resident mob.

On the other hand, two Shuttle PCs I bought turned out to be complete duds (though we did end up with 100% refunds, so no permanent harm done) and my old Internet passwords got hacked as a result of a screw-up on the part of Lastpass (who are, indeed, now the last people I’d ever entrust my passwords to!) So the year seemed to continue on its mostly gloomy way, despite the occasional sunny spell.

The year ended, however, with us winning three Trivia contests on board the Pacific Pearl. So hurrah for general knowledge and knowing that Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, not Facebook.

Well, anyway. I didn’t much like 2011 (can you tell?!), but here’s a virtual beer to the possibilities inherent in a new 2012. Happy New Year, everyone.

And vale, Rodger Hall (1941 – 2011).

Merry Christmas

It now being just 1 sleep away from the big day itself, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank both my readers for their continued interest over the past year -and to wish them well for this present Christmas season.

Additionally, I probably won’t be posting much here before the New Year, so I’d like to throw in my best wishes for the New Year now, too.

May your halls be decked, and your holly boughs be always prickly.

Peace, prosperity and modprobes to all.