Made it to the last day of the challenge. It's been an enjoyable week. I've not been finding it easy to find things to write about but I am proud at having managed it. I think I will try to continue for as long as I can.

I ran again this morning having taken a rest day yesterday. Pleasantly the weather had improved and it was much warmer than the near-zero temperatures I experienced the last time I was out. I feel that I'm getting back into a groove with it and my times have subtly, but steadily improved over the course of the week.

Related to running, I made a useful discovery that Garmin Connect, the web application that supports my GPS has, at some point in the last couple of years, gained the ability to synchronise with Runkeeper. I use both of these tools for a couple of reasons - partly because when I started running initially I was tracking my runs using a smartphone and used Runkeeper to do that, and partly to keep my data in more than one place to mitigate the risk that one of the applications might go away of lose data.

Up until now I'd been making use of a third-party application to pull the log files from my watch and upload them to Runkeeper in a manual process separate from Garmin's automatic synchronisation to Garmin Connect. I'd been struggling to get the site to work properly having made a recent switch from Firefox to Safari as my day to day browser and this led be to discover that this proccess was no longer necessary. Having authorised the connection between the two web applications the synchronisation process happens almost immediately after I connect the watch to my computer.

The outside world continues to be alarming, a situation that I don't imagine will improve in the next six weeks before the election or really any time soon. Despite all the rhetoric about 'control' over the last couple of years it feels to me that there is an utter absence of it, and we have politicians doing what the have the ability to do with little regard for whether what they are doing is going to be good for the country as a whole in the long, or even short, term.

I'm doing my best to stay positive, but I'm increasingly feeling the urge to keep my head down and my friends close in whatever ways I can.

Had a bit of a panic with these writings yesterday as I somehow managed to end up with an empty file in place of what I'd written on day 5. Fortunately after a lot of head scratching and fiddling around with git and Time Machine in the hope of recovering it I noticed that it was still present, unsaved, in a tab in my editor. Phew. I gather that there are a couple of extensions for Atom to autosave work-in-progress so I'll be exploring those soon.

(500 words) 2017-04-20 0815

Posted Thu Apr 20 08:15:30 2017

Well, yesterday got off to an unexpectedly interesting start. Over the long weekend one of our systems at work developed an unusual fault which, thanks to a combinations of factors, resulted in the generation of something upwards of 64 thousand email messages to a mailing list that I am on. It took about 90 minutes for my system to process, and then delete all of this.

In the meantime, our Prime Minister announced that she would be making announcements on the steps of 10 Downing Street later in the morning. There was a flurry of speculation on social media as to what sort of announcement might be forthcoming with some being ruled out as having precedent for being made in parliament or elsewhere.

While this was going on I was listening to a presentation by our sales and integration contacts from Hewlett Packard. We're reaching the point where the c7000 BladeSystems that make up the majority of our infrastructure will be coming up for replacement and HP are keen for us to adopt their replacement product - HP Synergy. It does look like an interesting setup, at least from the marketing pitch. The prime selling point is the management system (which exists for the more recent pieces of c7000 equipment, but as we have little of these we have not looked into using it yet) which looks to have a lot of features that will reduce the amount of piecemeal work involved in day-to-day management and operation of the systems, and has deep integration with HP's counterpart storage product - 3par - which we have been making increasing use of. I'm not sure if or when we will be likely to buy into it - technology being useful is one question, funding purchases of it particularly in the current political and economic climate (more on this in a moment) is an entirely different one.

So we returned from the presentation (complete with complimentary donuts) to find that Theresa May had announced that she would be pushing for a General Election to be held in a few weeks time on June 8th. The UK notionally has fixed term parliaments, introduced by new legislation introduced in 2010 to ostensibly prevent a Prime Minister from calling an early election on a whim. The act, however, has provision for an early vote in the event of a non-functional government or a vote in favour of a General Election with a significant parliamentary majority. It is expected the the Labour opposition will support such a vote in this instance, so we're off to the races.

The impression I'm getting from the papers is that this move has been taken by the Prime Minister in an attempt to strengthen her position against other factions within her party. Whether this is the case and whether it will work is anyone's guess. From my own perspective I'm not sure what would be a good outcome. I've got serious reservations about the Labour party but they might be the least worst result. The Liberal Democrats position seems to be rallying following the EU membership vote but how this will translate into parliamentary seats, and what they'll be able to do with those seats, remains to be seen.

In Scotland it will be interesting in itself, with the very real possibility that the SNP will take the entire country, but as we have seen since 2015, controlling every seat in Scotland actually gives them very little influence in Westminster.

As seems to be the permanent state of affairs - Interesting Times.

(591 words) 2017-04-19 0759

Posted Wed Apr 19 18:07:52 2017

Ran again this morning. Crikey it's cold today, just below zero according to the weather forecast and it certainly felt like it.

Yesterdays lunch was lovely. We were at a place called Mango, in Longcroft, which has an interesting combination of Indian and Italian dishes on its menu. Our party opted for the Indian options and I had the increasingly ubiquitous Haggis Pakora to start, followed by a slow cooked lamb dish that was most delicious - on the spicier side and incredibly tender.

During lunch Laura asked, to my surprise, whether I would like to continue on to Glasgow after the meal to see The Handmaiden. After a little time wandering around the shops as we arrived early, and having bumped into an old friend, we arrived at the GFT.

The Glasgow Film Theatre, to give it its full name, is one of my favourite venues. We're quite spoiled, really, having several wonderful independent cinemas within short driving distance of us in addition to a number of large multiplexes.

The Handmaiden turned out, as I had hoped, to be an interesting film. Drawing from a Sarah Waters novel originally set in Victorian England it transplants the action to Korea and Japan during the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula, and follows what presents itself initially as a caper to steal the fortune of a lonely heiress but which quickly pivots into a much more complicated tale. It's difficult to describe much more of the film without ruining the surprises but suffice to say both myself and Laura enjoyed it, and I'd certainly like to see it again.

I'm going to suggest that we take in Ghost in the Shell this evening as it will be one of the last showings of it locally, as I would still like to see it on a big screen.

Before we went out yesterday I indulged in a another little bit of media consumption and re-watched the first episode of Mad Men which has recently become available on Netflix. I watched the show when it originally aired on Sky Atlantic some years ago and I was curious to see how it had held up against my memory of it. Being a period piece it doesn't particularly date beyond the appearance and performance of the actors differing from my memories of the later series of the show. I found it fascinating again, as I did first time round, how the showrunners set about establishing the setting from the outset, from the obvious things such as the widespread use of cigarettes (blending into Don's challenge to market Lucky Strikes in a regulatory environment which even then was getting hostile towards cigarette advertising), to references to the then recent wars and towards the end of the show Richard Nixon's upcoming election campaign against John F Kennedy.

I'm glad to say that the show feels as good as I remembered it - always a risk when rewatching stuff that without the benefit of novelty it will not hit the same notes. I'm not sure whether I will continue and rewatch more of the show or not - lots of other things to watch and read that I haven't seen before.

(538 words) 2017-04-18 08:21

Posted Wed Apr 19 08:17:58 2017

I thought about running again this morning but decided that it would be better to take a day and ease my self into it - I don't want to do myself an injury by pushing too hard when I've not been running much lately.

Yesterday didn't quite follow the plan I had expected and we didn't, in the end, take in a movie. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see the films later in the week.

I did watch the Silverstone 6 Hour race which was quite enjoyable, with a close finishes in all of the classes (assisted slightly by a safety car period midway through the race, needed for clean-up following a quite alarming crash by one of the Toyota prototypes). There was plenty of action throughout the race, part of the big draw of multi-class sports car racing for me is that even if the head of the race isn't particularly interesting there is likely to me something else going on elsewhere in the race.

I also watched the Formula 1 race which while not quite as interesting did have its moments, and it is encouraging to see the Ferrari team taking race wins and Red Bull looking close, rather than the procession of Mercedes wins that we saw last year.

Today we'll be having lunch with Laura's parents and some of her family and friends, not for any particular occasion just happenstance that a number wished to get together around the same time. They're all good people so it should make for an enjoyable day.

I'll be back to work tomorrow, and I'm going to have to resume my Open University work. Having submitted an assignment last week I decided to leave it aside for this weekend and get back into it in the evenings from here forward. I'm starting to feel a bit more settled in the work than I was when I started. The module I'm working on is centred on an I.T. project and is meant to be student led. One side effect of this is that in the early stages everything has felt a bit me vague than I've gotten used to OU modules being.

From the comments on the module Facebook group it sees I'm not alone in that perception which is at least reassuring. I'm confident now that I'm starting to get a feel for it that I'll be able to make better progress than I have so far, particularly now that I seem to finally be getting over the winter cold that's been dragging me down and cutting into my study time these last months.

I'm finding the "don't edit" rule of this challenge to be a little, well, challenging. Used to being able to skim over what I've written and make changes as I go along. Thinking about it this may be an element of procrastination in this - moving words around when I've run out of things to say rather than writing new ones.

(500 Words) 2017-04-17 0753

Posted Mon Apr 17 07:53:56 2017

It's been a busy morning already. I managed to drag myself out for a run just after sunrise, my first since participating in the Southampton Parkrun while we were in the city for Minamicon back in March. It was very pleasant to be out while it was still very quiet and there was little traffic on the roads. On venturing out again to collect my paper having eaten it also appears I managed to just miss a rain shower.

I seem to be talking about habits quite a lot in these posts to far, and running is one that is perhaps a good example of the problem I have with routines - I can be good when I've settled into them, doing something in the same way every day or almost every day becomes easy. When I break a routine, however, it can be difficult to get back into that. I found this when I stopped running after the clocks changed a few years ago and it became to dark in the evening to use my usual route. I avoided a break for a little bit longer last year by taking to treadmill running at the University sports center but again while I was away for a little while over Christmas I lapsed and found it very difficult to motivate myself to get back into it again.

I don't know if there is a solution to that, other than avoiding taking breaks in the first place.

It was nice to get out and about yesterday although Laura was not feeling well enough to come with me, even if it was just to run a couple of errands. It's always nice to spend time with my parents and I'm very thankful of the good relationship I have with them.

We are hoping to catch a couple of movies a the cinema over the next couple of days - 'The Handmaiden' which is a Korean film inspired by the Sarah Waters novel 'Fingersmith', which received very interesting reviews when it screened at film festivals a few months ago, and the live action remake of Ghost in the Shell which despite controversy regarding its casting has been received favourably by friends of mine whose opinions I trust.

It's a busy weekend on the motorsports calendar, with sports car and single seater racing at Silverstone as well as a Formula One race. I decided not to take in any race weekends this year as I wanted to concentrate on my studies but I will admit that I'm a little sad not to be enjoying the proceedings from trackside. Fortunately there is good coverage on TV and online, and while I was driving yesterday I was keeping up with the European Le Mans series race thanks to Radio Le Mans' commentary - the best pictures, in their own words, are on radio.

I should confess that I cheated a little bit on the rules this morning, reporting my run to Facebook before I started writing this, but I resisted the urge to read anything.

(514 words) Sunday 2017-04-16 0819

Posted Sun Apr 16 08:19:52 2017

On to day 2 of #500words.

I'm feeling quite tired this morning. I stayed up later than I expected to last night and for some reason did not sleep well, just couldn't seem to settle for some reason.

I have stuck to the rule, resisting the urge to dive into my phone after silencing its alarm this morning, and nor have I opened my email.

It looks like it is sunny outside. I think we are going to visit my parents later today so some pleasant weather would be good. We'll be dropping off presents for my niece who has her birthday this weekend and chocolate eggs for her and the rest of my sisters' kids.

Yesterday I'd mentioned how this might fit into another practice that I am working on and in fact it fits into two, although one of them I had lapsed from slightly.

I've never been a brilliant speaker. In particular when I was younger I suffered from stammering and while this has subsided as I have gotten older - I think in part due to being a bit more confident in myself - I do still have troubles with speaking too fast or not clearly enough, particularly when I am nervous or stressed.

What I have been doing to try and work on that is making short audio recordings, just a couple of minutes, of myself speaking out loud while I try to do so clearly and confidently. To that end I have a dynamic vocal microphone mounted on my desk where I've had an audio mixer as part of my sound set up for some time. Along with the computer this gives me a easy way to make recordings.

Up until now I have been mostly speaking about the recording process and any changes I had made to approaching it, along with reading from news articles that interested me on the particular day in question.

Yesterday I read out the first of my #500days posts, and I also experimented with video recording this as well, having figured out a way to use the mounting hardware I have to position my webcam alongside the microphone.

While not quite as strange as listening to my own voice used to be, probably because we're all long used to mirrors, there is something odd about watching yourself speak. I suppose I'll get over that in time if I continue with this.

Despite the aim of this being to create some space from the clamouring of social media it's not easy to not think about the news. I'd probably describe myself as a realist than a pacifist - I think armed conflict should be a last resort but I don't feel we'll ever live in a world where it is completely off the table. What I don't understand it folks, particularly those with power and responsibility, who would charge into war with gleeful abandon. Our history is more than littered with tragedies where all too frequently the success has paled into insignificance next to the cost in human lives.

That's me done for today, time to see what the morning brings.

(526 Words)

Saturday 2017-04-15 0733

Posted Sat Apr 15 09:48:04 2017

The other day, I read a post on medium by Remittence Girl setting out the idea, and some rules for writing a little bit every day, 500 words, before doing anything else, and in particular before getting involved in social media.

This isn't a new or unique idea, many writers and journalists have promoted the idea of a daily writing habit, and there are modern incarnations of the idea including Jeff Goins' 500 words a day challenge and 750 words.

Writing is a bit of an odd thing for me: I do it a lot - my job make extensive use of email and I spend quite a bit of my leisure time on IRC. In my academic work I've usually gotten encouraging feedback about the basic quality of what I've written, but even after six years of Open University study I don't feel that I really understand how to 'write like an academic'. I've made attempts at journaling before, both online and more recently on paper but sticking to the habit, and finding things that I wish to write about, was hard.

As it happens, this might dovetail with another bit of, personal development I suppose you could call it, that I've been working on - rising early. In my adult life at least I've never considered myself to be much of a morning person, and both staying up late and sleeping late have tended to be a pattern that I've fallen in to. With a 9-5 job that has tended to result in mornings that are a rush to get washed and dressed before dashing out the door.

So, for a few weeks now I've been getting up at 0500, which has been harder some days that others. This gives me plenty of time before I need to leave to get ready, have a cooked breakfast if I feel like it, collect my newspaper and listen to the radio, all at a relaxed pace. I've considered taking the time to got for a run but I'm leaving that until the weather warms up a bit.

With that extra time in the morning journaling feels like something I should be able to do, and getting my own thoughts down before I dive into the news and social media ought to be interesting.

Remittence Girl's suggestion is to do this for a week, so I will endeavour to stick to that and should it work out I'll see if I can keep going. I'm writing this in my ikiwiki blog but I've not yet decided whether I will publish it. Blogging is a little bit performative and comes (to me, anyway) with a pressure to write in a way that has a purpose, which feels at odds with what the #500words concept is about. I might publish some posts but not others, or put them up in batches rather than as a day-by-day thing.

This feels to me like a good start and I now have an idea of how much I'll need to write. Now to commit it and see if my ikiwiki still works after two years of neglect.

(523 words)

Posted Fri Apr 14 08:50:54 2017
Hash: SHA512

Tue 10 Feb 2015 17:27:10 GMT

For a number of reasons, i've recently set up a new OpenPGP key, and
will be transitioning away from my old one.

The old key will expire shortly and I will prefer all future correspondence to
come to the new one. I would also like this new key to be re-integrated into
the web of trust. This message is signed by both keys to certify the transition.

the old key was:

pub   1024D/45515F0D 2007-03-02
      Key fingerprint = 0959 D8F2 FA5A 72F2 3A38  7061 07E8 A128 4551 5F0D

And the new key is:

pub   4096R/7F2911DC 2015-02-09 [expires: 2017-02-08]
      Key fingerprint = 3E02 CCDA F08C B622 3ED1  C7E6 234B 7D09 7F29 11DC

To fetch my new key from a public key server, you can simply do:

  gpg --keyserver --recv-key 0x234B7D097F2911DC

If you already know my old key, you can now verify that the new key is
signed by the old one:

  gpg --check-sigs 0x7F2911DC

If you don't already know my old key, or you just want to double check, 
you can verify the fingerprint against the one above:

  gpg --fingerprint 0x7F2911DC

If you are satisfied that you've got the right key, the UIDs match what you
expect, and if it's compatible with your key signing policy, I'd appreciate it
if you would sign my key:

  gpg --sign-key 0x7F2911DC

Lastly, if you could upload these signatures, i would appreciate it.
You can either send me an e-mail with the new signatures (if you have
a functional MTA on your system):

  gpg --armor --export 0x7F2911DC | mail -s 'OpenPGP Signatures'

Or you can just upload the signatures to a public keyserver directly:

  gpg --keyserver --send-key 0x7F2911DC

Please let me know if there is any trouble, and sorry for the


Mike Quin
Version: GnuPG v1

Posted Tue Feb 10 17:31:38 2015

Back in June, inspired by the hint of some pleasant weather and the understanding that I'm perhaps not as active as I ought to be, I bought a pair of running shoes and started following the popular "Couch to 5k" training programme.

The programme starts out with short periods of jogging interspersed with slightly longer periods of walking, and over the subsequent weeks the time spent jogging is increased steadily, with the aim - as laid out in the name - of allowing a fairly sedantary person with no running experience to progress to covering a 5km run over the space of nine weeks. Being a little bit active I'm probably not in the typical couchbound start group, but I've not really done any running since high school.

Now that I've finished week 5 - more than halfway through - I figured I write a bit about the experience.

On day one I didn't manage to finish the routine as laid out and was wondering whether I'd just wasted the cost of a pair of shoes.

Looming large duirng the early weeks was thr worry that my damaged hip might not be able to deal with jogging, however despite somme initial discomfort this hasn't turned out to be a problem, and I'd go as far as to say that the level of discomfort (which has been variable, but constant, pretty much since I broke the hip) is lower now than it has been in the past.

So far, I've found the progression to be perfect - the workouts have been challenging, but I've managed, with a bit of willpower, to complete all of them so far, and I'm feeling positive about the remaining weeks.

The last week has been the hardest so far - While the first four involved doing the same routine three times, week five ramps up this distance covered at one time considerably, from 5 minutes at the start of the week to 20 at the end (and, as my luck would have it, the long run fell on the warmest day as well).

Posted Fri Jul 25 18:53:54 2014

One of the tools included as part of iOS6 and OS 10.8 is a simple but useful note taking app, unsurprisingly named 'Notes', which is also part of the iCould service and can be synced between devices over the internet.

I've used Notes lightly since it appears, primary to jot things down when I'm travelling (I used it a lot at Worldcon), and as a shared clipboard to move URLs and small snippets of text between my Mac and the iPad.

What isn't readily obvious when using the application in either guise, or the iCloud web service, is how the notes are stored.

It becomes apparent, however, if you use a third-party mail client to access your iCloud email account. There is a 'Notes' folder, hidden when viewed in, which contains, as you might expect, your notes in standard e-mail message form.

Okay, so we can read notes over IMAP, can we write them? Editing existing ones works as expected, but just saving a new email message into the folder doesn't - the message is visible to the IMAP client, but note to the Notes app.

So lets look a little closer at the headers on the notes from Notes:

Subject: An uninteresting note
From: Me <>
Content-Type: text/html;
Message-Id: <>
Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 23:43:09 +0100
X-Mail-Created-Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2012 23:43:09 +0100
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
Mime-Version: 1.0 (1.0)

Mostly what I would expect, apart from the X-Universally-Unique-Identifier and X-Uniform-Type-Identifier headers, which turn out to be the magic trick. Create a new message with those headers (with a new UUID in the unique-identifier one), and hey presto, it appears on iCloud and in Notes.

With a little bit of help from offlineimap and some shell glue it is not particularly hard to use this mechanism to create new notes, or edit existing ones, from the command line.

Posted Fri Jan 11 18:18:17 2013

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