David's Journal - November 2015

One complaint about the likes of Facebook and personal web sites is that they tend to record just the highlights of a person’s life, giving a false impression. That’s pretty much true: I don’t post anything unless I think people will find it interesting, and put holidays up on my web page but never anything about all the other days: the days of work and ordinary home life.
So here’s a week-long diary, including all the banality of my everyday life. Who would want to read that, you ask? I have no idea. Maybe no one. In which case it has been an exercise in writing skills.

Monday 9th November, 2015

I rose early at 6:15, and caught the 6:30 bus into Glasgow. I like to read on the bus and so take my Kindle with me. At the Tuesday morning church meetings I go to we read one book a month, and this month’s book is CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, so I try to read a chapter each bus trip. After this morning’s chapter I switched over to Tommy’s War, an account of a Glasgow man’s experiences at home during the First World War.

Getting the early bus meant I could start work at 7, which helps build up the hours for the week, especially as I get in late on a Tuesday. I normally have breakfast at work and had muesli this morning while catching up on emails. I work as a software engineer for BT, in a team which develops the systems that provide data for emergency calls. I normally start the week examining reports of unknown cell locations for emergency calls, so did this first. This morning I also had a request from our emergency services liaison team to check some figures which seemed to be saying the call handling figures had been bad for a recent day, but I was able to show there was a problem with the figures rather than the actual performance. I had some help looking at the message format of some messages between our systems and finished the morning off with a teleconference on the format of our Advanced Mobile Location message, which we’re trying to get put on as many phones as possible - it’s a mechanism by which your phone tells us where you are when you make an emergency call.

During all that I managed to get myself a cup of tea, with biscuits and some Aldi chocolate. I should probably cut down on the biscuits.

A sandwich for lunch and a walk, mostly through the St Enoch Centre. I try to get a walk at lunch time and sometimes in the evening, keeping track of distance using the Runkeeper app on my phone. I think some people get regular updates whenever I take a walk, which must be a bit annoying for them. When I got back I had another cup of tea and biscuits, negating all the good work.

Back to work and in the afternoon I did some coding. We have a web page that looks at the time it takes for emergency services to answer calls we put through to them. This has proved so popular that the people who use it want some extra changes put into it, which is what I did for the time up until 4. I printed out some worksheets for Claire to use in her kids’ class on Sunday, then headed off to get the bus home.

Dinner was chicken, cheese and tortilla chips with rice, washed down with fresh orange and lemonade. I hoovered upstairs, and took Cate to tae kwon do. It was too wet for a walk, so I came back home and had a few games of Bejewelled on the iPad before fetching her again.

Supper was a cup of tea and a bit of baclava while Cate finished watching Harry Potter on the telly. Claire and I take turns putting Cate to bed, and she still likes to be read to, so I read a chapter of Willard Price’s Underwater Adventure at bedtime, then down for a bit of reading myself and Clash of Clans before bed at 11:30. Willard Price was an author I read a lot of when I was young. He wrote books about two brothers seeking to capture animals and bring them back to their father’s zoo. They usually got into some deadly danger during each adventure.

Weather was rainy all day, very windy in the morning.

Tuesday, 10th November

I was up early again to get the 6:30 bus, with a quick bit of muesli to get me going. I walked from the bus stop to Harper Church for the Tuesday morning prayer and bible study meeting. We studied Isaiah 3 over a roll and bacon, with potato scone and a cup of tea.

I walked to work for 9:45, and started with another cup of tea. We met Paul, a new guy on the workstation team. He’s Scottish but for some reason could only be recruited into Adastral Park near Ipswich. One I’d caught up with emails I continued code changes for our statistics UI.

A sandwich for lunch, then I joined the centre CARE team meeting. CARE is the company’s survey to find out how people feel about their work, their boss, their work environment and so on. The CARE team is a group of peers set up to try and solve the problems we’ve already raised in the survey. Basically “You say it’s a problem, you fix it”. My part in the meeting is usually to point out that if could fix it we would and the problems we raised are for senior management to solve.

Back at my desk I finished investigating why we were recording calls without any apparent end times in the UI, and sent out a summary report. I caught the 4pm bus home, reading Dreadnought, a book about the naval arms race in the lead up to the First World War.

Tuesday nights are always busy. I took Cate to Total Soccer at the school, then back for my own dinner - BBQ chicken and rice - then picked up Cate and her pal Holly for bible club in Erskine, while we walked around Erskine, past Inchinnan Cemetery. Once Bible Club was finished we rushed back to Houston to drop Cate off at scouts, dropped Holly off home, walked home for half an hour then walked back to pick Cate up and drove home for bed.

I came down to read for a while. Cate came down at 1am and weed in the washing basket! That hasn’t happened before!

Weather: torrential all day but dry and calm in the evening. Quite mild.

Wednesday, 11th November

I worked from home so I could help at the school. Up at 6:15, breakfast was granola and a cup of tea, then I switched the computer on at 7. I started with emails and a chat with Deana, who runs our data team, responsible for ensuring the name and address data for all the UK is accurate. The computer wanted to make 75 security updates so I had a shower.

I started building an alerts screen for our monitoring tool, to spot certain events happening and store them. I then went to Cate's school to help with the technology challenge. They’re building a model vehicle with a small electric motor. One of my many impairments is that I have trouble recognising faces, which often makes social situations difficult. It was a bit embarrassing to enter Cate’s class and not be able to work out which of the girls was my own daughter. But I got there eventually and was hopefully of some help.

Back for a quick bite of toast and cheese and I continued with the alerts page. I finished work at 5 for dinner - chilli and rice - Cate had a piano lesson while I fixed her school bag then played Bejewelled on the iPad. Claire was away at Zumba. Cate had a bath, then we made a stop motion animation with Playmobil figures.

Cate was in bed by 9 and I got ready for my regular 5-a-side game at 9:30. I play with some local folk, mostly from the Linwood Gospel Hall, who go to the football after their prayer meeting. While it’s mostly Christians playing it isn’t always gentle. Home for a shower, and I watched the apprentice with tea and a biscuit, then off to bed.

Weather - dry in the morning, raining from lunchtime, happily dry by evening. Still quite mild.

Thursday, 12th November

Up and out for the 6:55 bus this morning, and I got to work at 7:30. Muesli and tea for breakfast, and I continued with my alerts screen. This user interface work we’re doing is written in Java using a toolkit called Java Server Faces. It runs on a web server and we access it using our web browsers. The main processing code we have is written in C++ and accesses an Oracle database. I was responsible for some of the original code written back in 2003. I had a call with our customer, John, the 999 product manager within BT about AML, and I talked Paul, the new recruit, through DSL, which is a scripting language for the workstation that handles the 999 calls, which I wrote around 1998. It’s good to know that my code has been working away for years, helping save people’s lives. Another call with the customer about no-end-time calls, by which time it was lunch - the usual sandwich, a walk, then and a cup of tea and the TTC. This is our technical team call which we have every week, where we go through where we all are on the plan and raise any issues we have. I have to bow out of the call early some times to get the 4pm bus home.

Left over chilli for dinner, and Cate’s football training was called off. Cate wanted to bake cupcakes so Claire helped her do that while I repaired the sealant around the bath. We watched a bit of Harry Potter while I played Bejewelled and I read a bit of Dreadnought before bed at 1am.

Weather - not too bad during the day but we were hit with storm Abigail in the evening and it soaked me on the walk up from the bus stop.

Friday, 13th November

Up at 6:30 for a shower and out in time for the 6:55 bus, which got me to work at 7:30. Muesli and tea while reading my emails and printing out the instructions for the STEM event at Stepps Primary School. A colleague, Edd, drove me there and we did two sessions teaching primary 6 kids how to code a game in the Scratch language, which is a simple, visual coding language with built-in sprite handling, movement and so on. Another colleague, Graham, joined us for the second session after taking the train to Shotts instead of Stepps.

Back at the office for 12:45, I had a pasta tub from the cafe (very unusual for me to get food from there) and joined the last part of the secure programming workshop. Then a cup of tea, a chat with Andrew, who had come up from Newcastle for the workshop, some analysis on calls with unknown cell ids and I did my weekly report and time booking. Plus I had a one to one meeting with Ian, my manager.

I caught the usual bus home at 4. I’d booked the Kublai Khan restaurant for Cate's treat after getting a good report at school. This is a favourite, a restaurant in Glasgow where you make the main course yourself, chasing from various meats, mixing in your own choice of spices and handing it to the chef to cook for you. It’s a great gimmick, and makes for a fun night out. We left at 5 but it took nearly an hour to get into Glasgow with the traffic. Anyway, we got to Kublai Khans and had a great meal. Cate loved the asian fish balls, and the baby octopus from the main course options. After a starter, 3 main courses (Claire only had 2, the wimp!) and a pudding, we rolled out to check the Christmas market for potential presents before driving home. Early start tomorrow so we were all in bed fairly early.

Weather - wet and blowy all day. Getting colder too.

Saturday, 14th November

Up at 6:45 as Cate's on the early match. Granola and tea for breakfast and out for 8:15 to go to Parklea playing fields in Port Glasgow. The Port Glasgow team were a bit brutal but St Mirren outplayed them for a convincing win (not that results are recorded). It’s worth pointing out that Cate is playing in a team comprised entirely of boys, plus her. This doesn’t seem to put her off at all. The teams we play against have the occasional girl, then there are a couple of all-girl teams. The Rangers girls team in particular are very good.

Home for a warming shower for Cate then off to Stevenston for lunch at Claire's dads. Irene and Sam, my sister-in-law and nephew, were there too. After a huge fry-up, cakes, a smoothy and a chat we left and stopped off at Decathlon in Braehead to get Cate a high vis coat for the school safety walk.

Getting home at 4:30, we had some sparklers left over from fireworks night, so tried them out in the back garden. I had a nice bath while Cate watched Back to the Future 2, then I read The Martian while the two of them watched Strictly. A bit of reading was followed by bed time. I came down for a while for reading/iPad/telly and sewed up Currant, Cate's toy beagle whose head had fallen off.

Weather - yep, rainy again.

Sunday, 15th November

Up at 7.30 with plenty of time before church. Granola and tea for breakfast, then I made Cate's eggs. Out for 10 as Claire is doing a class at Kids’ Church. I helped her set up, but stayed in the main service where we had our final sermon on the book of John, then I helped tidy up upstairs and set up for the fellowship supper.

Back home for the last of the chilli for lunch. Cate had piano practice, pantomime practise, note reading practise, then played with Lego while I picked the best of the year’s photos for a calendar. I’ve been doing a calendar with pictures of Cate from each month for the grandparents for a few years now. Cate came up to play Friv games on the computer and I went down to play Bejewelled (again). Then I took her through the Pong game we taught the kids on Friday, which she adapted for sharks and a diver; much hilarity ensued.

No dinner tonight, and we were out to church at 6, with Alan speaking again, on Daniel 9, followed by the fellowship supper, a traditional monthly sandwich and cake affair at Harper Church. Much cake was consumed.

Back home and Cate was straight off to bed. Claire watched the Strictly Results show while I read The Martian. Bed at 11.

Weather - torrential rain all day.

And that's it. A fairly typical week, though it was quite a busy one.

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