I Keep Saying It

I know, I know. I keep saying I’m going to post here more, but time goes by and I’ve done nothing. Well, nothing except working and scrolling endlessly through my Mastodon timeline. I have some small issues with my hosting to sort out and then, perhaps, I’ll be back. But no promises this time.

Walthamstow Wanderings

I’d been meaning to visit Walthamstow Pump House museum for years but never got around to it. Well, today was the day. My 9 year old son, Max, and I took a fifteen minute stroll there and had an absolutely brilliant time. We thoroughly enjoyed the sight and sound of the steam engines as they ran, poked around the tube carriages and fire engine, and happily made a small donation. It was well worth it.

After leaving the museum, we headed over the road to St. James park where Max spent a happy time in the playground, and then we strolled home and had a spot of lunch. After that, Max, clearly not having had enough yet, decided he wanted to go to Leyton Jubilee Park, so off we went. I’m now thoroughly exhausted but I’m not complaining. It was good to be a bit more active than I have been of late, as well as to see Max beng active too.

At Last, My Tax Return

This morning, after my partner left to go for a swim and then visit her mother, I actually sat down and did my tax return. Every year I swear I’m going to do it nice and early, and every year I leave it until late January. I don’t know why, as my situation is quite straightforward and it doesn’t take me very long to do. There’s just something about the official nature of the thing that makes it hard to get started on.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator at the best of times, especially when I find something unpleasant. I can spend hours screwing myself up to make a phone call, for example. I’ve got better at getting things done as I’ve got older but some stuff is still a struggle. The flip side to all the anxiety and stress is the massive relief when the looming task is finally accomplished. If only I could find a way to use the incredibly light feeling I know I’ll get afterwards to help me perform tasks earlier rather than later.

An End to Procrastination?

In a remarkable change from my usual MO, I’ve managed to do all my Christmas shopping well before Christmas Eve this year. I’m normally panic buying stuff at the last moment, but this time around all is calm. I should learn the lesson here and try not to procrastinate in future, but I suspect that’s not going to happen.

Into the Fediverse!

I’m currently trying out the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress, which enables this humble blog to be part of the mighty Fediverse. I think that decentralised, federated networks can work really well for social media and may help to combat some of the problems with sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Which is not to say that they don’t bring their own problems, but I suspect they’ll prove far more surmountable. Time will tell.

Monday Evening Fun

Yesterday evening I took the new Elizabeth Line to Paddington to meet my partner, who’d been visiting a friend in Wales for a few days. I took her to a restaurant we hadn’t visited for a while, Côte Brasserie at the Barbican. It was good to see the place nice and busy, although the staff were quite rushed (although still very friendly and helpful), and the food was excellent as always. The journey to Paddington was very quick and easy, and the journey home wasn’t too difficult either. When it’s working, London’s public transport is really excellent.

Bye Bye Twitter

If you’re a Twitter user (or, quite likely, even if you’re not) you’re probably well aware of the events surrounding its takeover by Elon Musk. As a result of his actions Twitter has become a cesspool of hatred – even more so than it already was. I cannot support a site owned by such an appalling excuse for a human being, so I’ve stopped using it. My account there still exists and I hope one day I may be able to return to using it.

Fortunately for us all, a good alternative exists in Mastodon. I’ve had a number of accounts over the years and recently created a new general purpose one. You’ll find a link to it in the sidebar here. I post occasional personal updates alongside boosting art, politics and anything else I find interesting and worth sharing. If you haven’t tried Mastodon yet, I urge you to give it a go. It’s a little different to Twitter but once you’ve found some interesting people and hashtags to follow (yes, you can follow hashtags, which is great!) you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a whole new and much more pleasant social media experience.

Goodbye Bike, Hello Bike

Earlier this year I moved to Leyton in East London and bought a bicycle. The reasons for this are many but include health and climate breakdown, as well as the fact that the cycling infrastructure in Waltham Forest isn’t too bad.

As a result, I haven’t been using my motorcycle at all so it’s time to sell it. I can’t see myself needing it again and, anyway, I can no longer justify owning a fossil fuel powered vehicle. To be honest, I’ll be very glad to be rid of the responsibility and the enormous expense.

Working on a Virtual Machine

The time is fast approaching when I shall need to upgrade my venerable MacBook Pro. It’s done very well but is beginning to show its age. Partially as a result of this I’ve been thinking a lot recently about ways to be independent of specific machines for my work. I looked at renting a virtual cloud desktop but, while it’s possible, it’s quite expensive.

An alternative was to set up a virtual machine, install and configure all the software I need for work and then keep a copy on a portable drive so that I can use a computer in the office or, in dire need, borrow one from a friend, and have everything I need to be productive readily available.

It turned out to be incredibly easy to set that up, and I now have a nice Ubuntu VM entirely dedicated to work, with all the software I need installed and configured. At the start of the working day I fire it up, connect to the office VPN and off I go. When I’m done I can shut it down and my laptop is all mine. I wish I’d done this years ago.

Less Social Media, More… This

I’m becoming less and less enamoured of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I’m not going to stop using them entirely but I am going to start using this site more. At least here I’m in control of my content, however tedious and uninteresting it may be.

So, check back here if you’re remotely interested in anything I have to say, or merrily ignore me if not.

Not Going Out

Just in case you were wondering, I’m not planning on going to the pub today, despite their re-opening. It’s quite clear that doing so is hugely risky and will only serve to spread Covid-19 even further. I love pubs, I really do, and there’s little to compare, for me, in whiling away a couple of lazy hours over a pint and a book, but no. Just… no.

A Quick Review of 2019

I don’t usually review the past year but 2019 has brought a lot of changes into my life and I have the urge to write about some of them, so here goes.

After a period of separation from my wife I decided in January that it was time for me to start dating, so I joined Guardian Soulmates. I went on quite a few dates and met some very nice people but soon found that endless dating was taking its toll on me emotionally and so I took a break from about March or April, which helped enormously. Then, in July, I got back on the horse and very quickly met someone amazing and wonderful, and we’ve been together since. She’s everything I ever wanted in a partner and I’m incredibly lucky to have her.

My divorce came through in December. My ex-wife and I are still very good friends and will, I hope, continue to be. Not just for the sake of our son but because it’s much nicer and happier to be friends. We’re still sharing a home togther but I need to move out very soon. She’s getting married in April to her long-term partner, who’s a lovely guy. I’m very happy for her. The only fly in the ointment re moving is that my finances aren’t great and I’ll struggle to afford anything at all, so I need to work on that.

I’ve been to some wonderful gigs this year, most notably Bad Pollyanna at Nambucca in March and the Lovely Eggs as part of Manchester Psych Fest in August. My guitar playing has come on a bit, although I’m never going to be a great guitarist. For me, though, it’s about the huge enjoyment that playing brings, not about having to be superb.

I also got to see Ben Elton perform at Watford Colosseum in December, which was a delight. He’s as funny as ever. If you get a chance to see him, I strongly recommend that you take it.

Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client

Courtesy of my recent upgrade to MacOS Catalina, I’m currently testing version 4.8.00175 of Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client for MacOS. Before installing it I was warned that it might be buggy and possibly might even not work at all.

Having tried it for a short while, here are my initial impressions. Installation wasn’t a problem, but then it rarely is under MacOS. The software starts just fine, and connects without fuss. The connection, once made, seems solid but the connection indicator in the application’s dock and menu bar icons remains stubbornly set to an ‘X’, indicating that a connection has not been made, even though it has. Not a major problem, but a bit of an irritation, especially if one needs to check.

I also noticed that the application starts automatically after a system reboot, and there seems to be no way to disable this. Again, an irritation but not a deal-breaker.

It seems to me that Cisco have somehow managed to be caught out by Apple dropping support for 32-bit applications in MacOS, even though they must have known about it for some considerable time, and have rushed out an update that isn’t really ready for release. It works, at least for me, but that’s all that can really be said for it.

More Motorcycle Woes

On Thursday before last I was riding home up the A41 as usual. I stopped at a set of traffic lights and, while I was waiting there, the bike just died. The engine stopped and the instrument panelk went blank. Switching the ignition off and on did nothing.

So, I got off and wheeled the bike around the corner, where I was able to get it up onto the pavement. I had a quick fiddle with it but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to fix it. Fortunately I’m a member of the AA, so I reported the breakdown using the mobile app, grabbed my kindle from my bag and prepared for a long wait.

Actually, I didn’t have to wait too long. A yellow AA van soon arrived (and what a blessed sight it was!) and the AA guy set about fiddling with the bike in a much more organised manner than I’d been able to. However, he wasn’t able to do anything either. I was expecting to have to wait for another couple of hours for a recovery vehicle, but no. He opened the back of his van and proceeded to assemble a rather elaborate but cool trailer. Having set it up and got the bike onto it, we set off for home.

Pausing only at a garage so I could buy some milk, we soon made it home and unloaded the bike. At which point, my spectacles decided to give up the ghost (well, break a bit, anyway). Since then I’ve had the bike collected by the local dealership and I’m waiting to hear from them. On past form, I’m not expecting it to be soon. Or cheap.

Online Dating

I have recently been dipping my toe back into online dating, via the Guardian Soulmates website. It’s rather like other social media in that it’s horribly addictive. The roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows that I’ve experienced, even in the mere couple of weeks I’ve been doing it is quite extraordinary.

Chatting with interesting and attractive people online feels great. Meeting them also feels great. Being rejected by them sucks. Hard. I need to develop a somewhat thicker skin, I suppose, but I don’t want to do so in such a way that I treat anyone with anything less than the respect and courtesy that they deserve. Hopefully I shall find my way through this and, who knows? maybe I’ll meet someone special and wonderful.

A Winter Adventure

Last Tuesday I rode my motorcycle into the office as usual. It was cold but not unusually so, and the weather forecast said there might be some rain but that was all. A little before I left for home in the afternoon I checked the weather forecast again, as I usually do in the winter. It said that it might rain, which didn’t surprise me much.

Anyway, I set out for home and all was fine. Up the A41 and onto the M1 at junction 1. A little way up and it started snowing. Really snowing. Before long I was constantly wiping my visor as the huge flakes settled on it and obscured my vision. Looking at the verges I could see that it was settling. Very quickly the road between the lanes started to get slushy.

Pressing on, I got off the motorway at junction 5 and back onto the A41 past Watford. I considered abandoning the bike but it would have been very hard getting home from there and the road wasn’t actually too bad so I kept going.

The slip road onto the M25 was solid traffic. It all crawled along and I crawled with it as I didn’t want to risk riding on the snow and slush between the lanes. The motorway itself wasn’t too awful, and before long I’d reached junction 17, where I leave. The road surface here was bit more problematic as it’s not the busiest of junctions, so I rode down off the M25 very gingerly.

Despite this, just before I reached the roundabout at the end of the slip road, the bike suddenly slid out from underneath me and fell over onto its right-hand side. I said a few choice words then tried to pick it up, only to find that my feet wouldn’t grip and I couldn’t. Fortunately, a couple of people from the cars behind me got out and helped, and soon the bike was upright again.

I was just considering leaving the bike at the side of the road and coming back for it the next day, when a van pulled up and the driver got out and asked me where I lived. Once I’d explained that we were very close to my home, he offered to give me and the bike a lift. After a bit of a struggle we got the bike into the back of his van and set off. It took us a while because of the traffic but we made it and, refusing even a cup of tea, he drove off. What a kind person!

I’d twisted my ankle jumping out of the van, so I spent the next couple of days working from home. It’s still a tad sore but you know what? It could have been a lot worse. On the whole, I was very lucky.

The British Museum

This morning I signed up for membership of the British Museum. I’ve been considering doing so for a few days as I really love the place and would like to support it. I work in Camden Town, not a million miles from the museum, and intend to visit after work sometimes and maybe on occasional weekends too. It’ll be nice to be able to have a quiet cuppa and a sit down in the members’ room while I’m there.