Day 258 – No Sprain, No Gain

I made it back to the gym!

It felt great!

Until it was over; then I felt a bit worn. And now I feel exactly how it feels to not have been to the gym properly for 2-3 weeks. But that’s also a good feeling in its own way. Nothing quite like heavy weary legs to feel I’ve done what needs doing.

I was expecting to have to go much easier on my shoulder tonight. It’s been getting sore overnight, and tingling arm when I’ve slept on my left side. Instead it seems like the exercise did my shoulder some good.

I wasn’t sure if my form was okay, but Nikki assures me I was as straight as I always am. I put a little less weight on the upper-body exercises, but not that much less once I felt it was going okay. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow. My abs are liking this work-out less than my shoulder actually.

I was hoping to think through some complex thoughts tonight, but the brain-fog has got me bad. I cannot quite focus. But that too is relaxing.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to properly separate my work day from my home day.

Next time I hope my home day is a bit more productive.

With a functioning brain.

Day 257 – Progress and Perfection

After a lot more effort than I had anticipated, I decommissioned my 4-Bay QNAP NAS this afternoon. All files finally transferred off (400MHz of 2007 ARM grunt is really not adequate to saturate my network), and the 8TB of space re-formatted ready for sale, I have put up my final eBay listing for my little electronic re-org that has lasted the last couple of weeks.

It feels good to be able to stop thinking about the old, so that I can focus on the new.

As of yet, I have not played enough with my Windows 8 start menu to optimise it for its new consolidated uses. Only today, after a driver install and a re-boot, did I manage to get my 27″ monitor to run on 2560×1440 again. It had been stuck on 1680×768 stretched out to fill the surface.

I had hoped to make more progress on some software-development posts, but I really had to focus on my tools first and foremost.

Having said that, over my chores I did do some thinking about the larger structure of those posts, and I think I have come up with a great way to illustrate the “why”. I think the underlying theme I was looking for all along was to strive for a more perfect language. A future-state in which incorrect programs are impossible. Every abstraction along the way ought to at least try strive towards that goal.

And now I have to turn my mind back to the distraction of the TV in the background.

Day 256 – Digital Dusting

The inevitable and unenviable down-sides to upgrading network storage are the clean-up duties that come with it. Time turns pristine terra-bytes into atrocious terror-bytes.

We all succumb at times to the convenience of wide open spaces that make us just drop some data in a disorganised pile. I’ll tell myself I’ll get back to tidying it later. It’ll just be there till the weekend; a couple of weeks at the most. I’ll delete what I no longer need and I’ll group and re-name everything I intend to keep.

Today I “enjoyed” cleaning up 85GB of music with low quality meta-data tags. It had never really mattered that I had never gotten to this clean-up until now. As it turns out, for music playback, Plex really cares about having some nice high-quality tags to identify all the tracks from. It’s the difference between a crude image with a disclaimer of failure, or a polished album cover off the internet.

I was really not looking forward to this task, and I’d have gone even more mental if not for MusicBrainz and their wonderful “MusicBrainz Picard” tool.

MusicBrainz-the-site I believe has existed for some time, and it is basically an open collaborative Wikipedia for music album meta-data. To say it is comprehensive is an understatement. For many albums it has every single variant released in every single geographic area with all the minute variations in meta-data.

Wading through this could be a pain.

But, that’s where MusicBrainz-the-tool comes in; I point it at my music folder, drag all the tracks across the be identified… and it starts by grabbing the details that are already embedded in all the files.

If that data is already sufficiently detailed, tracks and albums will immediately move into the “identified” column. If not, you can click the magic “Lookup” button, which will match the available details against its extensive database. It’ll match tracks by album, track name, track number on the disc, duration… whatever it can use to uniquely identify the album a group of tracks were on together.

When this succeeds (as it does most of the time), again, the albums move straight in the “identified” column, only padded out with much more comprehensive tags including contributing artists, year of release, publisher, and on and on.

In the rare cases where this still does not pinpoint the album (for example, multi-disc albums that were split into separate directories seem to usually fail), you can hit the button that takes you into the search page of MusicBrainz-the-site. Every entry in the search result has a banner that you can click, which will add the album into the “identified” column where you can then drag the album that you think matches. Again it’ll do a best-effort automatic match of the tracks you drag across, but ultimately you can drag-and-drop the identification results till you are happy with the matches that have been made.

Then all that’s left is hitting “Save” and the tracks get re-tagged in-place with the new information.

I like the way the workflow has been laid out. I like that the automation is merely assisting me and not telling me what the answer is. Too many poor solutions suffer from over-automation leaving no room for human intervention if the automated outcome isn’t quite right. This is not one of those solutions.

And I think it saved me a lot of time today.

Now I get to sit back and relax with my music library.
Before I have to go and clean up a decade of photos I’ve put in all the wrong places.

Day 255 – Recovery and Countdown

At long last it seems that my back is starting to behave. My shoulder feels much better after 2 weeks of slow recovery. Just two weeks away from my next Melbourne trip…

… let’s hope this doesn’t happen again.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to very carefully try a class or two at the gym. My legs can take the brunt of it; it’ll make me feel less like a potato.

If that goes well, I might also at long last make it back to Wet’n’Wild on Sunday. By mid-April their season will end, and I’ll have to find another hobby to keep me occupied over winter.

Winter Is Coming!

And also, the inevitable count-down of my challenge. I’m kinda excited by the idea of starting the final-100 from April 8th onwards. One final marathon of attempted originality to take me to the finish line… and a new start into the unknown.

I should start planning a victory party, because this has definitely not been an easy challenge so far. I may have been a little cavalier in taking it on; but if I don’t stretch outside my comfort-zone I’ll never learn anything new. And I’m sure this is going to be useful discipline.

Day 254 – Departure

Today was a very foodful day.

It was Jeff’s last day.
Jeff had started work at the company almost at the same time I had. I think there wasn’t more than a month between us. But after 10.5 years he was ready to find another challenge… in the form of some time off with his Steam account. It’s hard not to be envious.

But back to the food.
In the morning one of the other developers had brought in a home-made cake with cream and mashed fruit. I’m calling it breakfast. Over this aforementioned cake I took some time to “supervise” as Jeff, his wife and the graduate were setting up tables in the biggest conference room in the building.

Which brings me to food-the-second… lunch. Jeff has many-a-time organised an impromptu lunch. When the boss was up from Melbourne. When a co-worker was up from Melbourne. When it wasn’t raining. When it was raining. It really was just an excuse to get pizzas into the building (specifically an excuse for him to order a Thai Foon pizza). This time the crowd was a little larger than our usual developer-crowd. Instead of fitting 12-15 people in a room, we were looking for space for 60+. A lot of people like Jeff.

I was unusually modest in my lunch-intake; there were 6 salads, stacks of portuguese chicken, chips and I think about 8 flavours of pizza, stacked 2-4 pizzas deep in each flavour. It’s easy to get greedy when faced with that much food.

The day was rounded out with an afternoon tea-with-cake. This is that special occasion where the soon-to-be-departed is relentlessly mocked over anything and everything noteworthy during their tenure. As much as we kid about everything he touches breaking, it is really the most horrific exaggeration ever. He’s produced some amazing results over the years, and if not for him, the most recent project wouldn’t have gone anywhere as smoothly as it did.

It’s a great loss to us… but the only alternative to keep him I could think of was to sedate him and chain him up in the basement.
I’m told this is unethical.
Alas.

Day 253 – Chromecast Rocks

But first… it sucks.

It sucks that Google aren’t officially selling it in Australia yet. In the US you can buy the Chromecast home-delivered for US$35. And it’s a no-brainer from what I can tell.

A Chromecast is a small Linux computer inside what looks like a USB stick. But instead of a USB connector, it has a HDMI plug on it. You stick the Chromecast into your televisual device, set it up to connect to your wireless network (I found the Android app the easiest way to go through this process). First thing it’ll do then is connect to the internet and download the latest firmware updates, and then you’re set.

Chromecast is basically a multi-media front-end PC stuck right into your television. And all your Google-based devices and apps have the potential to become a remote that can control it.

When I’m in YouTube on my Android, I can hit the Chromecast button, select the TV device by the name I’ve given it, and it’ll playback the YouTube videos that I select and control on my Android.

When I’m in Plex on my Android, I can hit the Chromecast button, select a movie, or a television program, or a music track/playlist that exists on my Plex server, and the TV will start playing it… again with my Android continuing to act like a remote control.

When I’m in Chrome on my laptop (with the Chromecast plugin installed), I can hit the Chromecast button and display my current webpage on the TV to share with everyone in the room.

It’s the cheapest media PC I’ve ever had in the living-room, and it’s by far the most satisfying. The way to use it is so simple and transparent… and from what I understand, the API is fully public, meaning that any app-developer can add a Chromecast button to their Android app and define the behaviour for the Chromecast device to follow.

I had to pay about AU$50 on eBay to buy a Chromecast from the US, but it’s easily worth it.

Heartily recommended!

Day 252 – Cosmos!

No, not that one.
I’m saving that for later… I think.

Cosmos
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

I bought the DVD box set of the original 1980’s show in which Carl Sagan takes a journey through the cosmos. Reading descriptions of this show on websites had made me want to buy it many times in the past… and I never quite did.

I have so far only seen the first episode.
It’s definitely a show of the 80s.

There is the ubiquitous synthesizer music in the background (Vangelis). There is CGI that is both remarkably dated, yet remarkably good for its time. And there are the interspersed people shots with the ridiculous glasses and hairdos and clothing.

And yet…

…none of that seems to matter once you get caught up in Sagan’s flowing monologue. He most definitely has a way with words. And although the CGI available at the time must have been limiting, the way some of the shots are set up are very cleverly done. Especially the cosmic calendar at the end of the first episode gets used very effectively to convey a sense of scale about the age of the universe and our civilizations’ miniscule foothold on the end of the last minutes of the last day.

Scale is often the hardest part of science.

Some of the numbers science comes up with are just too hard to grasp purely intellectually.
The age of the universe.
The distance between the galaxies.
The size of an atom.
The energy contained within an atom.

Even something as intuitively relate-able as a cloud is so much more immense and overwhelming once you fly through it on a plane. And that’s the really easy stuff. Our human minds are just wired with too over-inflated a sense of our own significance.

I can’t wait for episodes 2-13.
And then to do it all over again with Neil deGrasse Tyson at the helm.
Although I could already hear him in the back of my head when Carl called Pluto a planet.

Day 251 – Downpour

I considered not going in this morning. I woke up with a seized-up left shoulder; I’m pretty sure I did that in the last hour of my sleep because I remember being okay the last time I rolled over before waking up. Agony!

Today however our new(ish) CIO was supposed to come to the office for another visit, and there was a celebration for a major project that was completed exceptionally successfully. I felt an obligation to be in. And for the most part it wasn’t actually too bad. By about noon my shoulder was mostly easing up.

The mid-morning celebration for the project had involved copious quantities of pastries and snacks, so I was not feeling too hungry. However, when my fellow-manager was heading out for lunch I thought it might be wise to get some opportunistic food as well. I hadn’t intended to head out, but with the downpour outside I couldn’t make him walk through the rain, so we drove.

As bad as the rain was on the way out, it was worse on the way back in.

I don’t mind rain. There is nothing better than getting drenched on the way home to a nice hot shower.

There is nothing worse than spending an afternoon in drenched demin. While it was wet, it was freezing my legs to the bones. When it started to dry, it felt like sandpaper against my legs. There is really no winning with wet demin. Luckily I had my superfluous gym-bag with me, because switching t-shirts felt really good. Last thing I’d want with my sprained back is the start of a cough.

I think tomorrow I’ll bring a home-made lunch to protect my back.

Day 250 – Shouldered Burdens

I’m glad the state I woke up in was not indicative of the remainder of the day to come. I’ve gone from extremely uncomfortable, to almost bearable. If I don’t move my neck too fast and sit nice and upright I could almost fool myself into believing everything is fine.

I will however be a good boy and take it easy a little while longer. I’m itching to get back to the gym, but if anything Saturday has shown how fragile this recover is so far.

Today I’ve kept to easy tasks. My main accomplishment for the day was to clear off my entire desk and re-organise my technology so that it all fits nicely. Now I just need to get rid of the QNAP TS-409 that has done faithful duty for 7+ years. Even though it was in no way failing, it was no longer living up to my needs and expectations.

The 870 PRO so far is doing a great job at impressing. I’ve installed the latest version of Plex on it, as well as on my laptop and my phone. And I’ve started ripping some of my media onto the drive to have a play with it. I’m impressed with how slick the integration and interfaces have become. Last time I considered Plex was 2-3 years ago, and I moved on to XBMC for the living room. It probably was the right choice at the time, but now… this is so much better.

I can’t go too far overboard with the ripping yet though, because I only have about 3TB of usable space in the 870 at the moment. I purposely only got the bare essentials space-wise so that I can wait out any price-drop in 4TB drives later this year when the 5TB models will finally arrive. Once that happens I should be able to load up the 870 and start filling 28TB of storage with all our media for instant-on access from all our devices. It amazes me a little how long it has taken for this particular future to arrive in a ready-to-go product.

I guess with all the tech-stuff out of the way, I can get back to making a dent in my reading; Ice and Fire has waited for my return for too long, and I have a Matthew O’Reilly waiting for me since Christmas. I am current with all my Podcasts at the moment, except for one Nerdist that I paused because they were going into Bioshock Infinity spoilers… which is the other area I need to re-invest some time in; I have a truckload of games waiting for my attention. I’m only halfway through Bioshock I. And that’s the only embarrassment I’m prepared to admit to right now.

Oh god, and software development.
I have long in-depth posts that have been rattling through my brain for too long.
And an intense itch in my fingers to make a dent in my Web Development projects.

My next break is over Easter.
I think I should plan to stay home and Do Things.

Day 249 – NOOOOOoooooo…

I had plans for today.

To be fair, I managed to get through some of them. I decided to fit in some extra reading time at Michel’s today, which went fine. And then I was going to put together the eBay listing for my PC and then move on to doing some study for a technical post. Instead I have been uncomfortable for the better part of today.

I had taken pictures of the PC. I had taken pictures of the external DVD burner. I had taken pictures of all the original boxes I’d kept for the components and parts.

Before boxing it all up, I wanted to make sure I had all the right cables in the boxes. Unfortunately the whippet was in front of the drawer that I needed access to. He was sleeping on his bean bag. So I moved it. Or did a good impression of moving it.

It had shifted about a foot and I felt heavy twangs up my shoulder-blades and upper-back. I knew this wasn’t good immediately. It set me back to when my back first went loopy around Mon/Tue this week. The range of motion in my neck is very limited, and making doing anything more than just sitting as upright as I can very uncomfortable.

I’d never realised how much I use those muscles doing the most ordinary of things before this week. I can move my arms fine without discomfort or pain. But rolling over on the bed is anguish if I don’t keep my back completely rigid. Getting up off the lounge is a simple motion… except it apparently involves quite a bit of motion of my neck… which makes me get up like an 80-yr-old right now.

I can decisively say I’m not enjoying this.

I’m going to keep my back heat-packed as much as I can, and I’m going to see about a physio appointment for a thorough look at the problem. I wish medical science had a quick fix for this.