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Service! – recovered from the Wayback machine

[Originally posted on October 26th, 2016]

As a grown up, there are few things as good as someone else cooking and clearing up after you.

I value it and I reward it.

More importantly, I do not reward bad service.  Good service costs nothing, bad service costs customers.  As a waitress working in a well known franchise in the early 1990’s, we weren’t told this but it is something you see everyday.

I hear fiddles playing in the background…

If a restaurant is offering service, it needs to be prompt, accurate and civil.  It’s obviously a high bar I’m setting here.  In the past two months I’ve had two occasions where that has not been on offer.

Wagamama in Ipswich and International House of Pancakes in Elvedon’s Centre Parcs.

Today in Wagamama, Ipswich was the worst service I’ve ever had.  It was busy but we weren’t in a hurry and reasonably relaxed.  Can I get you some drinks? Please, an OJ and a sprite – small OJ.

30 minutes later and still no sign of the drinks!  Others had been served and our meal order had not been taken.

Everything OK?  I was a little curt in pointing out the lack of drinks.  The order had been lost.  Right, well an OJ and a sprite please.  Coming right up!

Only it didn’t.  The OJ was green in colour.  10 minutes later and the OJ finally showed up…

Simplicity in a complex world – recovered from the Wayback machine

[Originally posted October 28th, 2016]

It’s been a strange week not least for the first time in ages, I’ve had few if any firm plans.

No hospital appointments, holiday plans or things I need to squeeze in.  My kid turned 16 (2 more years to go) and is currently out learning how to ride.

Seriously, no plans?!

I’ve not tidied any cupboards, spring cleaned or run around like a mad thing.

It’s been lovely.  Kind of how I see retirement being, if I ever get that far.  I’ve not even, really, read a book.

I have done some catching up on what’s happening in the world, thanking my lucky stars that although we’re in a mess because of Brexit, we’re not in America right now 😉 and taking time to smell the roses.

Well, more dahlias than roses, to be honest.

The house is tidy, I have been working out my next major home improvement plan and investigating some answers to questions I’ve day dreamed about.

At your age!

At my age, I’d like a smart house.  I’d like my devices to connect to my internet and be controlled by me.  I have a router that acts as a portal to the world.  I don’t want anything else.

Nothing works that way though.  There are various options, some including the Raspberry Pi, but nothing seems to work directly.

I did buy some internet controlled thermostats which have their own IP address (blocked from the outside – I jump on to our network by an encrypted VPN) which I control through a web app.

This is not the way the world has gone.  There were issues with this technology: not least as it was open to the world.  Fair enough, fix don’t bin a genre because of a few bad implementations.

I’ve looked at Nest, Z-wave and Wemo but they all work off radio waves, which require a hub.  If the hub dies (and being the item running most often, it’s likely to be the first to go) you’ve lost all your automation!

So. I’m holding out for my internet of things.  I’d like switches connected to my internet, operating with TLS.  I’d like it all working off standards and encryption which are well proven and, lets face it, cheap to deliver.  Actually, where did I leave my pi?

Hedging your bets – a few words on a quick task – recoverd from the Wayback machine

[Originally posted on the November 11th, 2016]

By 8:32 this morning, we had a beech hedge in place of the old laurel one 😀

Laurel Hedge

Beech Hedge taken by Jon Fowler

At 7:22 this morning, the trench was approached and we lay out each “whip” ready to be propped up and filled in with earth.  (Apologies for the photo, it’s from a Windows 10 tablet…  I was in a hurry this morning, but managed to squeeze in a shower, putting away all the equipment and breakfast before getting to work in time to host my 9:30 stand-up this morning in the office, sort out my blood sugar, plug in the car and protect my RSI).  One person propping and the other shovelling earth was surprisingly quick.

It has to be mentioned that my man disappeared three-quarter’s of the way through to determine he had a sprint he had to attend at 8:30.  He did return so only a couple were done in his absence.  We did the rest  I was able to finish shovelling and heeling in without him.

Last weekend, my husband and I had worked out that the only way we could ensure the whips would have the best chance of survival on their arrival yesterday was to prep during the weekend.  So on a dull (alright raining) Sunday afternoon, my man and I dug a trench.  We put the dirt on a tarpaulin ready for the off on Friday morning.

It looks OK, hopefully it will all turn out alright in six months time when we’ll see if our approach worked.

 

Two steps forward, one step back – recovered from the Wayback machine!

[Originally posted on the December 4th, 2016]

Three years ago, as part of my job, I was involved in the UK role out of smart meters, which are basically mobile devices metering your gas and electricity and sending the data back to your energy provider.  As a consumer, this is great because you can see your data really easily from anywhere in the world.  For the energy providers, they can immediately see what the demand is.  It’s one of those win-win situations.

So I signed up for one as soon as they were announced.  Up came the wait for the network supporting smart meters in my region got installed.

That was completed early this year.  Finally, we were getting our smart meter.  Wow :)

I’m guessing not all went to plan?

While smart meters are indeed available in East Anglia, they are not available anywhere in the UK where you have solar panels.

Which we do.

So I do a due diligence check and finally bit the bullet and got an Economy 7 meter installed by British Gas for the pricely sum of £43.75.  (Not quite that simple, having rung up British Gas I was put through to accounts so they could “help me work out if we would benefit from that”.  Sandra, the person receiving my call accepted that I did indeed know what I was talking about with my HNC in Electronic and Electrical engineering and my Maths degree and 20 years working in industry.  Thanks Sandra and I got through to the booking and payments line).

OOOKay…

It felt a little more fraught than it needed to be but given the fuss, I thought I’d share the outcome of this experience with you.

We’re moved from a 12.176p per unit tariff to a dual tariff with 16p per unit during peak and 5.5p off peak (between midnight and 8am).

One of the joys of doing this with the solar panels, is while we’re generating, we have free electricity.  So midday is effectively zero most days.

Well, of course we’re doing this for the first time during one of the darkest and wetness months during the year.  If it works now, we’re ahead over all…

So, does it?

According to British Gas, you’re ahead if you use 40% of your electricity during the off peak periods.  Since installation to 4pm today, we’re looking at 115kWh against 76kWh which is exactly 40%.  Actually, we break even against our old tariff at 32% if, and only if, we get some of our power from the panels.

Over this period, we’ve generated 52,335 Wh, or 52kWh.

So far, so good ✓.

Is that truly typical use?

We are making slightly more effort than normal.  As the photo shows, cooking more in the oven rather than using separate ovens makes much more sense.

On average, to do that, you need to adjust times.  Picking the coolest temperature for the focus of the meal and then adjusting times for the rest makes a lot of sense.  In this case, I cooked a whole roast dinner at 160°C meant the yorkies and roasties needed 20 extra minutes (partially boiled potatoes in this case).

This makes a lot of sense to keep consumption down and help make the most of the solar energy we’re producing.  As well as helping our pockets.

We’re also making the most of our Leaf’s ability to charge at a set time.  At home, we do everything against that timer.

To use a charger at work or else where during the day, simply use car wings or press the charge now button, ignore the timer, in the car.

Is it working, then?

Basically, yes.  Just now, our day usage is 240kWh and our night time usage is 138kWh, a total of 378kWh.

Under our old single tariff, that would have been £46.

Under the new, it is £45.75.  Not huge but some saving; it also makes changing to a different supplier more appealing.  Our day time rate is more than 16p per unit!
Interestingly, during the same period, we’ve used some electricity than that through the solar cells.

Today for example, I am cooking Sunday lunch while generating just enough to cover that cost…  Should be interesting during the summer.

Six weeks, 4 days ago today – recovered from the Wayback machine!

[Recovered from the Wayback machine.  Originally published October 12th, 2017]

You may have noticed my blog seems to have lost a few articles (not that I have been that prolific recently).

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks as you are about to find out.

My Facebook friends and work colleagues have understood that I have been studiously updating both my fitness and cycling technique ready for the Palace to Palace cycle charity event on the 1st October.  My son had a scheduled operation six weeks before the event so I took some time off work to look after him and finalise my training.

The op’ went well and my husband returned from his business trip and as the recovery was going well, I thought, I should get back to the road part of my training.  Saturday evening, we discussed one of my new routes, a coffee break half way along and getting back for lunch.

Training by now consisted of slowly increasing from 10 off miles in 90-120 minutes to going twice as far in the same time, and heading for further yet.

I had also worked out that my trusty old bike was not really up to the job.  The gears would just fail to change and the chain would fall off.  Some of the last routes I did on it meant stopping several times to get the chain back to where it should be.

So, I had a helmet and a brand new bike and even a padded pair of Lycra cycling leggings:

Shiny new bike

Shiny new bike

All was going well.  I did some training independently, some with my husband and 45 miles seemed like a significant distance but strangely achievable.

Talking about sticking to routes, you were talking about six weeks ago…

Sorry.  A 15 mile trip to the centre of a growing town, stop off at a nice cafe and cycle back a 16 mile route (missing a nightmare of a hill on the return run).

By now, my prep was pretty easy.  The new bike has internal lights and given the weather (a balmy 22deg C) I went for a snappy sports top, padded cycle Lycra, helmet and camel back.

The journey to the cafe was relatively uneventful.  We parked up and had earl grey tea in view of the local church.  My blood glucose was fine, in fact it was one of the few times I had done the training without my Abbott Freestyle Libre flash sensor.  It was warm, but my glasses and helmet were keeping me cool.  My husband and I had worked out a while ago it was better if I went ahead: I am slow up hill where Jon catches me up and I am quick downhill.

About three miles in to the return journey, I was heading along the cycle path.  I stepped out on to a service road running along side the cycle path to ensure I could be seen by cars emerging from the drives ways and pointed the bike towards a dropped curb to rejoin the cycle path heading in to the next village.

That’s pretty much the last thing I remember.  My Fitbit reported I was doing 36kph.  I remember someone asking if I was alright but it felt like a really bad dream and I was waiting to get to a better bit before I woke up.

I certainly don’t remember Jon rejoining me and trying to work out where we were for the ambulance crew.  Nor do I remember the passengers from some of the cars caught in the road work lights looking after me until the ambulance arrived.  I just wanted to sleep.  I do remember being told not to move, given the neck brace, I didn’t move a muscle.

I vaguely remember the CT scan and being checked in the hospital.  We were there about 6 hours in total, two of which were waiting to clear my neck.  I’d landed on my head and my neck was bruised.  I was pretty much bruised everywhere.

In ER

In ER

And scrapped.  Bruised and scrapped and extremely tired.  The helmet had done its job but it only covered the area it covered on the top of my head.

Within two hours, the CT proved that my neck was still in one piece, which allowed a fully examination.  As I could move, I relaxed my shoulders and proved they weren’t dislocated.

I had broken my right maxillary sinus (cheek bone) in two places, cracked the occipital socket (eye socket) and broken the zygomatic (eye ridge, the bit of your eye where your mandible/jaw fits).

The gash below the right eye brow was taped together and my husband went home to get the car to take me home.

I love my husband but he doesn’t really know how to nurse someone.  I was a little concerned and shocked had started to set in – I hoped he was getting a jumper.

While I was waiting for him, a couple of nurses came and grabbed me to sort out the grazes on my face.

As I was still there, someone sorted out an ophthalmic exam.  Which was weird: the swelling was causing the muscles in my right eye to lag behind the left one but the registrar was really happy about my vision and asked me if I was sure I was diabetic!

We got home

With another eye exam on Tuesday and an appointment with Maxfax on Friday.  I had a bath and got most of the grit out of my shoulders, binned my top which had holes in it from the road.

On Tuesday, the eye exam was focused on my double vision.  I was assured it would resolve itself.  Indeed it was already much better.  The important piece of news was the fact the retinas were still attached.

We now get to Friday.

What I learnt today!

I see everyday as an opportunity to learn something new. Today, I spent some time with my lovely web server which is connected to the internet from home.

Today, I was adding a video card (VisionTek Radeon 4350 PCIe 512MB SFF DDR2 B2 Retail (w/ CFI HDMI dongle)) and updated the operating system and moved to using a new monitor (hence the new graphics card).

The card arrives as seen below and in no way fits in my server. But there is some more metal work in the box and after getting some pliers the lugs for the dvi port, the original brace comes off and a longer one with a VGA port attached is attached the right way round.

There are no physical instructions on how the VGA connector should be attached, via ribbon cable, to the card. Thank you ebay for supplying a picture of the orientation!

Card suitably attached, I boot the machine up and check it works – success!

Put in all the peripheral cards and cables and resit the machine and reboot. It still works fundamentally so I finally swap the monitors.

I am now in high grade graphics.

Sounds like a good day.

It did look that way. I launch a web browser and found that my OS update had wiped my network settings. When using a router to perform a hand shake to the internet and map my domain name to the correct machine on our network, that’s not trivial to fix!

Started with resetting the IPV4 on my Centos 7 box.

Checked I could get out to the internet, my usual is to verify I can get to google which I could. I could not reach anything else. Finally three reboots down, some bridging to our other broadband account and some shear bloodymindedness, it finally seemed to have a proper internet connection.  Phew!

OK…

My websites still weren’t functioning properly.  Update to symvers-3.10.0-862.2.3.el7.x86_64 or Centos 7.5.1804 to you and me, locked down some permissions.  Sorting out a couple of overly rigorous ones meant Tomcat popped up nicely.

Some changes in Apache meant a little work on the security side.  It was trying to use nss on the same port I use for my Tomcat.  Finally sorted that out and the majority of the Apache sites sprang back to life.

Except this blog.  Dx#!.

You got me, so what was next?

mod_security was working well with WordPress, the blog engine I use on my site.  Was being the operative phrase.  Disabling one of the rules meant it served the web pages well.

Saving became an issue.

I now have a protocol where I disable mod_security until my blog is written then re-enable it.

You see the results here.

Success!

Well, for a while I have wanted to get VNC working on my machine.  As this seemed to be a day devoted to the Linux box…

Suffice to say there was a little fiddling on the firewall front.  While incoming and outgoing were limited to TCP 443 and 8443, we now have a UDP just for RealVNC.

I am now moving mod_ssl.conf back where it needs to be, saving this blog and calling it a day.

Having a great evening 🙂

Hardly a swan swimming serenely

The human body is an amazing machine, continually changing and adapting to its environment. This has led to our relatively slowly reproducing species to cover almost all of the planet and thrive.

When part of your body’s key metabolic functions is being supplied mechanically, this continual evolution can be hard to manage!  As I don’t produce any insulin (or so little as to be ineffectual), part of my insulin replacement therapy is called the basal or background levels.

The basal is there to allow me to make use of my body’s release of energy stores (from the liver and muscles) for background functions, like breathing, waking up and moving.

This is currently where I find myself.  Effectively, something has led to a fundamental change in my basal requirements.  I can suggest this is because my bones have finally stopped healing or as they have, I have become more active, but ultimately, I am finding I have dramatically reduced my basal requirements.  In the past week I have gone from 30.9 iu/day to 28.1 iu/day.

I suspect this is only the beginning of this process.  Having made the changes seen below (from the yellow curve to the blue one) I suspect some more will be trimmed from my 10am basal rate to prevent the drop between 11 and 12am.

This is an iterative process, if all goes well.

Well?  How?  What???

To find my background levels, the easiest thing to do is to remove anything but the background functions from the equation.

In practice, that means food: coffee, tea, (if I smoked) cigarettes or anything that would require a bolus (or extra) dose of insulin.

Basically, to ensure my body is not stressed any further, meals are purposely missed along with anything that isn’t water.  Dehydration causes stress to your body and that can alter the results coming out of the record.  I limit myself to doing this three days out of seven to ensure fasting doesn’t cause stress either.

Having fasted over this period, you compare the blood sugar results you get over the period with your current insulin and modify that background insulin values to get something closer.  The graph shows what I established last week on day two of the process – I’d lost 0.75 iu/day the day before following this process.  I’d ended up with significantly less insulin though the 6am basal rate was a huge increase in dose.

Tools-wise, the basal rate estimator  from the Insulin Pumpers site is the best I’ve seen.  It shortens the process dramatically.  Because I do this occasionally, it often requires me to tune back into how the tool works with which dose needs to be modified at which time.

Sounds straightforward…

I start with breakfast and work forward.  As you can see from above, that lead to a dramatic change over two days.

Having established breakfast, I am now missing lunch.  My work mates find it a little odd as I am still going to lunch with them – the walk to the canteen is part of my background requirements and I am sitting there with my bottle of fizzy water.

Any sudden drops or rises in blood glucose mean you have to stop the process and make the smaller change to prevent that for the next day.

As I said, I do have a drop at noon I need to sort out: it is unlikely to be caused by my breakfast bolus (as now concentrating on the afternoon levels), but that may be a necessary check I have to make (checking my ratios).

Even when I have the final basal period sorted (evening meal), I will then check my bolusing values for the three periods as that can changed.

Easy then…

Hopefully…  just very time consuming <sigh>.  Maybe a three to four week process.

Words to the wise – recreating Unix’s touch function in Windows

Creating an empty file.

type nul >> your_file.txt
copy /b filename.ext +,,

The following works through a set of files in a directory and refreshes the date of them.  Useful if your company has a policy for deleting old files automatically, using Powershell.

(ls your-file-name-here).LastWriteTime = Get-Date
Get-ChildItem . * -recurse | ForEach-Object{$_.LastWriteTime = get-date}

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/file-and-disk-utilities

If you do this, it may be worth considering time stamping your files: textFile1_20180502.txt for example.

Qualys updates checks against Drown and cipher suites

Changes to TLS protocols

Jet lag meant I reverified my site against Qualys’ SSL Server test.
New concerns have lead to them tightening their tests to help you protect your identity on line.
In particular, forward secracy. Check out how to help set your web server correctly!

Fixing the face

Having found I required an operation, we’re then looking at some fundamentals of how the NHS works.

There are two basic types of operation: scheduled/elective or emergency.  Because my operation was the result of an accident, although it wasn’t life threatening, it was deemed a “planned emergency”.  I was being admitted Sunday for a hopeful slot on Monday.

Day 2 after op and subsequent days

Day 2 after op and subsequent days

It has to be said, things get a little silly.  Pre-op without a scheduled time makes for an interesting situation when you’re type 1.  Having established that paracetamol was off the menu, the other interesting thing was pain relief.  Ibuprofen without food can chew up your stomach lining.

The nurses all loved my Libre though.  Hourly ob’s were easily established and despite not having food, were easily worked through with nudges on my basal.  Sunday night I was moved four times to different wards and beds.  But otherwise there were no incidents.

Monday the slot came up early afternoon – so the drip was properly set up.  I dosed most of the day before the op, enjoyed the trip down to theatre – apparently one of the nurses had injured himself in a similar way (although in a fight!) and the operation had made a huge difference.

Of course, I was soundly asleep.  They give good painkillers after such a procedure and Monday afternoon and evening were spent dozing.  My husband came in a couple of times but I really can’t remember now.

I had my emergency kit with me – a couple of pairs of pyjamas, socks, slippers, some clothes for going home with and my tooth paste, book and hairbrush.  I look a mess, but I was advised not to wash my hair for a couple of days to allow the stitches to do their work.  I was very keen not to rip the stitches out with my brush either!

The nurses were all great.  Food was not an option Monday and Tuesday am while I was hungry, I didn’t really have the capability of opening my jaw wide enough to eat yet.  I had a salad for Tuesday lunch taken at a snail’s pace.  Tuesday afternoon, I was taken up for an x-ray and you can see how much movement I have back from the photo.

I grinned at everyone while I was being wheeled through the hospital but I got some really odd looks back.  Which felt very odd, I probably looked like I had been in a fight but that really isn’t the point.

The surgeon was happy with the outcome, as was I so three hours later I was discharged from hospital with strict instructions not to lie on that side of my face in bed.  Definitely wasn’t happening any time soon!

Eating was much better, as the days passed, the swelling went down and my feeling returned.  It’s not as it was yet, but it’s all coming together.

I broke my arm in 2009 and that took best part of a year to fully heal, and I can feel things getting better everyday even in March, five months later.

I had damaged my teeth and my bike was a mess.  I had to fight with the insurers to get it fixed rather than have a new one: £180.  New lenses for my glasses were £480 and fixing my teeth was nearly a £1000.  (Having never had a filling, I had root canal surgery on my front tooth in December).

I wish I had been a little more focused on my dental health – it’s taken a while to sort everything out.  My sinus on the right side is potentially still blocked too.  That may need sorting.

I have been incredibly lucky.  It could have been a very different story.