Saturday, 13 December 2014


It's been the week from hell.

Normally at this point I'd write about the myriad of things that have happened. However some of them must remain private and frankly I'm not emotionally strong enough to write about any of them.

I'm at my lowest ebb.

And I'm still digging.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Ever increasing progress...

Earlier today I was sitting in our lower office waiting for the kettle to boil as I was simply desperate for a cup of tea. Idly I glanced at the reference book shelves and one tome in particular caught my eye...

Managing Gigabytes

I chuckled, "what, you mean like I have in my phone?" I suggested to one of my colleagues (not the hot perm) that it must have dated from the 90's at worst maybe the early part of this century. But, being a lazy cow I couldn't quite bring myself to have a look.

Until curiosity kicked in.

1999. To be fair it was the second edition, the original was 1994 when a gigabyte was quite a lot, I remember buying 105MB IBM disks for my company at the astonishing low price of £100 each, just a pound a megabyte! I even remember when in late 1995 at Millennium Interactive having a 1 Gigabyte disk sitting on my desk in a massive Micropolis AV enclosure. More data than you can possibly ever imagine.

My phone holds 32GB.

The micro SD card I keep inside my purse for carrying big lumps of data and reference source code around is 64GB. It cost me about £20.

I don't think I could have lifted 6 of those 1GB drives never mind holding 64. In my purse. Tucked in a corner.

What struck me though was that in 1994 this book was described as being guidance for dealing with large-scale information systems. Or phones as we call them now.

I know I shouldn't be surprised, my career has followed the wave from when 1K was considered powerful, through that first 10MB disk and on to the point where now I am responsible for ingesting and dealing with thousands of energy readings a second. As I write we stand at 4,328,418,436 readings, in the time it took to write that we passed 4,328,424,158.

Quite a lot then.

Our ability to generate data has grown to match our ability to store it. I suppose you could argue that it's the other way around though I suspect that it would be a teensy bit inconvenient to have your storage being permanently full as you await the next technological burst.

And the inevitable march of ever increasing progress.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

What the actual PDF

At lunchtime I took a moment away from writing stuff that monitors energy and did a little more of a Skunk Works private project that is making old WI documents available online.

The trouble is a few of them were what can only be described as uncooperative. Or what we refer to in the trade as bastards.

In a nutshell they were what look like Microsnot docx files that had PDF attachments. But I don't have Word. Awkward.

Even more awkward because whilst Google Docs was vaguely aware it had an OLE in the docs it had no way to display it. And as for Open Office, well, they know narrthing. Blank pages. Grr.

So: Plan A.

Consult my local friendly librarian, aka my lovely flatmate. I asked if I could email a file to see if she could get at the object and save it before finally sending it back. But then I had a moment of inspiration, I remembered that Microsnot had made Word available online, woo hoo go plan B!

Plan B.

After numerous attempts to remember by Microsnot Live password I admitted defeat and got them to reset it for me, scampered off to the online Word, eventually worked out how to upload a file in to their OneDrive and then looked at what I needed to look at...

Oh FFS. Didn't work. Back to Plan A.

Plan A: reprised

So my flatmate loaded up her Word, opened the file, saw the PDF and tried to get the file out. I bounced with glee when she said the file had been dragged to email, hurrah!

The email turned up, I opened it, I got excited when I saw that I did indeed have what looked just like what I would expect...

Until I clicked on the PINK.pdf and the iBastard preview tool showed me... The icon.

Not the PDF.

What the actual...

I will laugh about this later. So I curtailed my lunchtime entertainment, and went back to feigning being clever and actually trying to work out what stuff I have available that can then be used to improve a client tool.

And then there was Plan C...

A little later I had a sudden recollection that a docx is actually a zip file. Oh.

I skipped back to my terminal window and...

  • copied the file to
  • opened the file in the iBastard finder
  • navigated to word/embeddings and saw that there was a big fat file called oleObject1.bin
  • I said ooh
  • And then renamed it to oleObject1.pdf and...
  • Opened the PDF!
Yes it's a bit of a faff but it did mean my archiving project can continue.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

I don't believe it...

I'm in grave danger of becoming a female parody of Victor Meldrew. This probably won't come as a shock to anyone that knows me.

Take, well, everything. I know it's a London thing to be exasperated by:

  • People stopping before the barriers on the underground
  • People stopping after the barriers on the underground
  • People that have to search their voluminous bags as it hadn't occurred to that they'd need their Oyster/Contactless/paper ticket before going through said barriers or getting on a bus.
  • People that stand and carefully read the line signs whilst blocking the crossover at Oxford Circus
  • Oxford Circus
  • Those that walk at less than 4MPH and insist that it's okay to stop and take pictures with no warning
  • Or better still with no warning and of their friends thus doubling the blockage
  • Let's face it: everything
But I'm becoming increasingly exasperated anyway, mostly about general rudeness, lack of consideration and generally acting as if only they are important in this increasingly crowded world. And then there's the really stupid things; becoming irritated by being told what to do.

Or even my recent exasperation that owing to me being mid changing of details I now have to try and prove that I exist so that I can add a legitimate vote to a future Tower Hamlets election. Mind you I was also exasperated by the fact that the FINAL DEMAND that told me I MUST do this by the 20th arrived... On the 22nd.


At least I've not started on service in shops, bars and restaurants.

Honestly I'm now considering no longer tweeting anything as somebody always comes back with some helpful advice that only they could have thought of. But here's the thing, well two things, firstly in a few words I have not conveyed everything about any given situation I am merely expressing my exasperation about whatever it is. Secondly, I'm actually quite clever contrary to my portrayed image of a PhDitz airhead that spends most of her time worrying about broken nails and... Well just broken nails.

But it's not just Twitter. Being told what to do in such a way that implies that a) I couldn't possibly know or b) what I do know is wrong. 

So yes, I can work this stuff out and I almost always have a plan B. Laptop dies? Use my tablet. Or phone. Internet goes off? Switch connection and tether from my phone, or dig out a dongle. Trains delayed? Find something to occupy myself. Totally screwed? Find a plan B. Pen runs out of ink? Use another pen. Or a pencil.

I do this day in, day out. Most days it at least involves mentally re-routing through the underground network without once looking at a map or changing my pace. It's what I do.

Pretty much me.
So a blurt of exasperation is just that and more often than not I will turn it in to a general screech in the direction of an aspect of modern living. And then I feel better.

As some of you know I will happily get in to an argument about something that has aggrieved me, but I don't want to keep doing this. It's bad enough that I find myself mentally mimicking Mr Meldrew but saying it outloud is making me sound like a cantankerous middle-aged harridan.


More importantly I'm finding myself snapping some response that drips with the rancid gooeyness of bitter sarcasm. And I don't like this, it's certainly not what I'd planned to write about this morning. Unfortunately I am not sure how best to turn this around without simply disconnect me from the source of whatever it is that is causing the feeling to fester.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Do you fancy trying them?

So this evening I decided to meet up with a friend for a natter and a quick drink. Or two. The location was carefully set as Tottenham Court Road as owing to me, a pair of wellies and a few thousand poppies I'm currently hobbling around W1 at 0.9 times the speed of a particularly clueless tourist.

Not a sight one wants to see.

Anyway, we agreed to meet by Tottenham Court Road as it sort of made sense and did rather avoid the tenth circle of Hell that Dante sensibly excluded from Divina Commedia: Oxford Circus.

Except I'd forgotten that arranging to meet anyone at TCR is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack that's strapped to a racing car in a tornado. Just with more tourists about. At least the hoardings were down outside the Dominion Theatre.

Two large gins in the Plough on Museum Street later we were walking back to TCR and vaguely ignored a young lady that was handing out something or other outside the Starbucks on New Oxford Street. My companion had to pop in to deal with a call of nature so we bid each other farewell and I continued on my way.

At this point the young lady again tried to offer me whatever the free sample was. I peered closely but owing to being frightfully middle aged I couldn't actually read what it said, so she told me: Condoms.

I thought I misheard her.

After all, I'm 47; I tend not to get offered condoms on the street any more. Well, if the truth be known I never was offered any and definitely not by very attractive young ladies. But I digress. After I burst out laughing a bizarre exchange occurred which lead to her deciding it might be best if I have more than one and I went on my way, still giggling as, if the truth be known, she was too.

Within 5 yards a man started talking to me, he was, unsurprisingly perhaps, interested in the conversation and cackling that had just occurred. Being amused and gin merry I proceeded to explain that I'd just been given condoms with the hope that I'd get lucky and need them over the weekend.

Unlikely, I must to clean my oven and sort the pan cupboard.

I laughed along with me at the insanity of the suggestion before kindly making a suggestion that went something like this:

Him: so, err, do you fancy trying them out now
Me: I'm not sure I follow
Him: you know, we could go somewhere quiet.
Me: *     *
Him: yeah, it'd be fun, so do you fancy it...

Now let me think...

I'm pretty sure that no about covers it. And then some.

For added entertainment the conversation continued along those lines for what felt like an eternity before I wished him a good evening and disappeared down the stairs of Tottenham Court Road station with the plan that if he followed I was going to attach myself to the nearest PCSO, BTP or TFL staff member that happened to be there.

So what is that? At what point does your innate politeness kick in and make sure that instead of you telling somebody to leave in no uncertain terms you keep on banging the polite drum knowing that you'll only use any serious sanctions if things get out of hand.

On the plus side at least it wasn't like when I was coming back from the WI group thing and was semi-accosted in Oxford Circus whilst being less merry and more actually quite drunk. On the plus side I did get away with pushing the blokes involved away before making a run for it.

Anyway, it's left me once more feeling slightly perturbed but I'm sure I'll get over it. In the meantime I've some prophylactics that won't get used if anyone needs some which, according to the girl that gave me them, are the closest thing to wearing nothing.

She was wearing an awful lot so I'm not sure she really meant it...

Friday, 21 November 2014

It's a disgrace...

I've heard a couple of women muttering "it's a disgrace" so many times this evening it's actually a miracle I didn't push them off the train. Well it's not as then I might have lost my seat.

And that would never do.

I knew something was up when I got to Kings Cross by the skin of my teeth and then waited. As the train filled to overflowing I told the boy that I was as ever grateful that I was in First Class and had a seat. Without, that is, somebody sticking their elbows in my side or leering at my cleavage.

I was also glad I followed my usual habit of getting the train before the one I had to get as the delay meant there would be no wait at Cambridge for my connection.

It was perfectly timed, I alighted, sauntered up to the last AMT outlet, the one by the waiting room that I'm endlessly berating the train company about, picked up my customary tea and shortbread before finally waltzing straight on to the newly arrived chuffa train and took my favourite seat.



I knew we'd be delayed as the following train wouldn't make the connection unless they waited. It mattered not; I had tea. And shortbread.

Sure enough the hoardes arrived. And kept arriving. And then arrived some more.


I lost count of the of First Class ticket holders that stuck their head through the door before stalking off. Mrs ItsADisgrace made it all clear when she proclaimed loudly that:

I booked a reserved First Class seat. It's a disgrace, there should be enough seats. Etc.

She mentioned this a few times. But here's the thing: she clearly didn't have reserved seating on this train as doesn't have it. In the First Class compartment there are seven seats. Seven. She'd obviously been heading to Norwich from Liverpool Street on the Intercity where there are, I think, two coaches dedicated to First. It might be more.

Not seven seats.

At this point I sighed, put in my ear phones and ignored the droning complaints about this itsy bitsy little branch train.

Even Jesus would have struggled to seat the five thousand.

I never cease to be amazed by the way people can blissfully ignore the reality of a situation and instead bang on in such a way to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are quite stupid.

Anyway, it was a first for me, I've never seen people sitting on the floor of First before but, if truth be told, it was still more civilised than the hell beyond the automatic doors.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Contrary Exercise

On March the 17th I did something I've never done before. Something so perverse as to be at the edge of my ability to comprehend why anyone could be so insane as to think this was a good idea.

I bought exercise clothes.

To be fair this wasn't a whim. In a moment of actual insanity I conceded that it would probably be a good idea to do some actual exskdjj. Exskdjhl. Exasdl;; Exe. R. Cise.

See, I can even say the word!


Exe. R. Cise clothes. Yes, mine!
Now having not ever done this nonsense before I had no idea what to get, so off I toddled to Primarni to get something that was a) cheap as I would only wear it once because honestly I won't make the same mistake twice and b) vaguely suitable. Think Sporty Spice meets a kebab van. It took me about ten minutes to work my way to a corner of the Oxford Street branch in a place which had disturbingly lurid colours and excess lycra.

Fortunately they had stuff suitable for geriatric size and I sauntered back to the office happy in the knowledge that at least one day I can tell my grandchildren that I'd thought about exercise. Once.

What I didn't realise is that Clare, being the enthusiastic (read: insane) type was also out shopping. She'd bought a) some things called weights which looked suspiciously like something from the kinkier corner of the sex shop on Goodge Street, b) two mats, one each, which would make exercise somewhat more comfortable and c) things called ankle weights which definitely must have come from said sex shop.

So I tried them on.

Okay maybe they are actually tags to track whether I'm exercising. I didn't at all feel silly wearing them. No sirreeeee. The plan was set at 7am we would head for the roof terrace and my date with destiny.

I put the number of the paramedics on speed-dial.

The very next day... Well I was up on time, whilst the Jane Fonda of E14 was a little late. Something about it being the middle of the night. At least that's what I think she said. The plan was simple, she'd chosen a torture regime exercise plan from miCoach in the my-flatmate-is-a-lazy-mare-who-refuses-to-exercise section of the site and synchronised that with her iTorture as it should now be known.


I think it's fair to say that if you get fit from laughing I will be taking Gold at the next Olympics in everything. Imagine a hippo at her first pilates-meets-ballet session and you won't be far wrong. In lycra. Obvs. But here was the strange thing. Whilst my body was telling me I'd been doing things I shouldn't be doing I actually felt fine. No. Better than fine.

I actually felt good.

Weird. With that in mind I showered, dressed and headed off to W1 for a day of tribulations. Disappointingly I was offered a seat at Mile End. On the Central Line. By a lady. Pfft. But on the bright side I'd fair bounced to the station. In my head I was thinking that wasn't too bad, but let's face it, hardly motivation.

Later that evening I was off to the WI where I knew I was going to have to do the introductions which may have influenced how tidy I was. Classical was how my look was described by one of the lovely ladies. It was a great evening with a really interesting speaker and all was well in the world...

Until that is I was chatting with one of the other committee members towards the end of the evening when she dropped the napalm coated bombshell that was:
"Victoria, are you expecting?"
And there, in those four words lay my incentive. It was time I went down a dress size and never got offered a seat on the underground again! Ever. Well, maybe not ever, but just not because I look pregnant.

The next morning at 0650 hours I was ready. And at 0700. And at 0710. I realised that maybe Clare wasn't going to get up so with my own plan loaded on miCoach I headed to the roof to exercise. On. My. Own.


And it was fine. It might have taken my a bit longer as I had to look at the little videos to see what the hell I was supposed to do, but exercise I did. Triumphantly I wobbled back downstairs to cool off and scoff the cake I'd brought back from the WI the previous evening. Never has a piece of cake tasted so good! When I say piece I obviously mean two pieces.

Originally I set the plan so that I would work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but obviously starting on the wrong day knocked things out so Saturday was the last day of my first week. Amazingly I again did it alone. More specifically I got up, made dough for bread, put the first load of washing in and then bounced up to the roof for exercise the third. Crikey.

Monday would be the first day of the new exercise week and also I thought would test my resolve... It was barely above freezing and frost was everywhere. Fortunately I am well insulated, northern and slightly bonkers.

It was a little fresh and I did make sure I was in a patch of sunlight to get some warmth. Plus the frost made things a little slippery, but oh the air was glorious. And I felt annoyingly good about myself as I desperately struggled to do what is actually quite a simple routine.

I am after all still new to all of this insanity.

Fog lifting...
The madness was setting in as by Wednesday I was looking forward to my morning torture, which it was. I was on a roll. Or would have been if come Friday morning I was truly struggling to get moving. This was not good. By some miracle I managed to force myself to get going even in spite of the fact that thick fog was enveloping E14 making the Spanish Inquisition look a more palatable prospect than twenty minutes of exertion.

And yet...

I did it. I actually did it. And I felt very good about the fact that I'd managed to against the odds of my years of sloth.

Tomorrow. At 7am. I shall do it all again.