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.