Month: August 2011


Phonak wins war of the workplace.

Each day on Wire FM, they have a general knowledge quiz, where teams from 2 company’s compete. Its run over a week, and the team that wins, stays on to the next week.

Amazingly, our team won 8 consecutive weeks. Finally a previous team, who retired undefeated (Arnold Clark) were brought back to play us. In the end, Phonak were victorious, and retire as the most successful team, ever to take part.

 Walking the Baker way.

Tony had been talking to a friend called Gosia, who was interested in joining us for a weekend walk and they’d asked me to pick one. It was a no brainer really, I instantly chose the Baker Way.

The Baker Way is probably my favourite Cheshire walk.

It runs from Chester Railway station, to Delamere Forest railway station. Its a brilliant walk, because it has a long section along the Canal, where you can stop at the Cheshire cat for refreshments.

Once you’ve arrived at Delamere forest, you can explore, have something to eat at the visitor centre and then get the train straight home again.

Gosia is a friend of Kasia Pirog, that Laura Croft of the Manchester Social circles group. I had originally met Gosia, when we did the Yorkshire 3 peaks (as a scientist, she was the person who explained why the replicators in Star Trek, could never work !).

Overall, a brilliant day. Unfortunately, I lost my way, when we were an hour from Delamere, and added an hour to our journey.

If you’re interested in walking the Baker way, there are details here.

Back to cooking.

I’ve started to cook again.

One thing that I really enjoy is making soup. Steve furnishes me with vegetables from the allotment, and then I cook them up. So far I’ve made 5 different kinds of soup (some of them conventional, some my own “creation”).

I’ve also started using my steamer. Its really quite smart. I get home from work, fill it up with water, put some vegetables, a salmon fillet and some baby new potatoes into it. Then I get organised for the evening, change my clothes, read my post, make some phone-calls. By the time I’ve finished there is a healthy and delicious meal waiting for me (one is cooking right now, as I type this).

The other thing I’ve started doing, is working my way through the cooker list.

I’ve mentioned before that its to easy to buy a cookery book. Read through it, and then put it on a shelf, never to be opened again. I go through my cookery books, make a list of the things I’m going to cook, with the name of the actual book, and the page number).

I then laminate these, and cross them out, as I cook them. Acapulco chicken, is a Ainsley Herriot meal, I haven’t cooked in years (Frank was still living in the UK, the last time I cooked it). I had Steve around the other evening and cooked it again.

It was just as nice as I remembered it. Over the weekend, I made French toast and pancakes, so there’s 2 more I can cross off the list. Later this week, Glenn is coming over to try my first foray into Mexican cookery, when I’ll make Tacos with shredded beef.


Evening at Carluccios.

 I’ve always wanted to visit Carluccios on Bridge Street in Chester.

With the exception of a curry, I feel a bit daft going out for dinner with a male friend, and usually struggle to find one of my mates up for fine dining anyway.

Enter Julie, my old friend and new-found dinner companion.

Carluccios had an amazing menu, which was really inexpensive. While reading there menu, I saw that they also do a picnic, which you can take away and costs £45. We both had mushroom pasta, which seemed to go down well.

The thing I was really looking forward to was the Realda wine. Only 7000 bottles of it are made each year (you can read about it here ) and 5000 are purchased and sold through Carluccios restaurants. at £8.50 per glass, it was the most expensive wine I’ve ever drunk. I normally prefer Merlo, but it was the nicest Cabernet I’ve ever tasted.

The shop even features a Deli, and we had a look around.

Problems at work, and learning about new technologies.

The best way to connect a network between buildings in a campus scenario, is usualy to use optic fibre cable, underground trough duct’s. If the building is across a public road, this can present problems (not technical problems usually, just loads of legal and administrative problems from people like the Local council).

Another option, is a Laser link unit (what used to be called a line-of-site laser). Its possible now to get them to upto 10gig capacity, the one we use at work, is rated at 1 gig.

The other day, our laser link stopped working. We have triangulated redundancy (both the buildings are connected over comm’s lines to our head office, so we can route data via there, if there’s a problem), so everyone was back working again quickly, but the question was, what was actually wrong with it.

Old documentation told me that each laser “head” had an ip address. Pinging one of them worked but not the other. More confusing, each laser head, seemed to have 2 Ethernet leads connecting it, which confused me (why not 1 ?).

Later, we couldn’t ping either unit, so what was happening ?. At times like this, it doesn’t make sense to spend hours and hours theorising, when your out of your depth. I contacted Open Network Solutions, who sent down 2 lads, Mike and John to assist.

On closer inspection, one of the laser heads wasn’t balanced, and was sending too much light to its partner. The partner, much like human retina will close down when this happens. Ironically, the head that stops responding is usually the one that’s working perfectly.

The other thing, is the 2 Ethernet leads. The laser heads, only use ip for management. One of the leads provides power over Ethernet to the head, and on this lead, you can connect to it over a browser and see what its doing etc. The 2nd lead (the one that actually carries the data) operates at layer 2, so has nothing to do with ip numbers.

On closer investigate, both units had lost power and reverted to factory ip numbers. This explained the problem pinging them, even when they were back working. We unlocked the laser heads and re-set the ip numbers. We can now quickly identify the exact problem, should this happen again.

Like so many times in IT, the trick isn’t to find out how something works, so much how its supposed to work. If you don’t know, you’ll try to send data down the management line, and never understand why you don’t get the outcome you want !.

A quick thanks to Mike and John for all their help.

Lyndsay is back from Peru

Congrats to Lyndsay at work, who has returned from the Inca Trail. A fantastic experience, she also spent time in the Amazon, which I’ve never done. I’m glad I was able to help out with organising and equipment. If anyone is reading this and needs some help with a trip, give me a shout (don’t forget, Ill be giving a talk on Adventure Travel at Chester Museum on Saturday the 17th of September).

Happy Birthday to Dan and Louise from work.

Finally, thanks to Steve, for his comments relating to my thriving Japanese Garden:

“Having read your website recently, I noticed that your friend Lisa just thought it was a collection of pots! All I would say to Lisa is that you have to take the same view as ‘Capability’ Brown. He was a famous eighteenth century landscape gardener, who took the attitude, ‘You have to see the plants as they will be, rather than what they are now’. Lisa sounds to me as if she just expects ‘everything right here, right now’. That is never going to happen with gardening, especially on a budget!

 The Bamboo, False Castor Oil plant and the pine tree will grow into quit substantial plants given time and a bit of re-potting.  Then it will look a bit more Japanese. Thank Glen for his description of ‘Little Tokyo’.”

Some good things about the recession.

A pub in Chester closed down because of the recession (I wont say which one). It re-opened, and they had an open mike night. I hated the previous incarnation, but the new one, was packed. I had a great evening.

I’ve always felt that some pubs in Chester trade on their name, when there not actually very good pubs. This proves that if you don’t give the customer what he actually wants (descent beer, friendly atmosphere, good music) he will vote with his feet.

Trans Penine Way.

Determined to get back to full fitness, I headed for Warrington to meet Tony for a days walking.

I had originally planned to cross the river, follow the path of the Weaver canal, pass through Runcorn and finish of in Frodsham.

I wasn’t concentrating too hard on navigation (and why would I, we were meant to be relaxing). Next thing, we were wandering along the Trans Penine Way heading east.

It was pretty fun, as we’d never walked it before, and seemed to be a long straight route.

As we walked further along the way, we came to this board-walk area around the wetlands.

Although the river that runs through Warrington is quite thin, its gets much wider as it heads towards Runcorn.We passed a pub next to a boat yard, and I hinted to Tony that we should get a pint. It fell on deaf ears, so we soldiered on.

We wandered through Spike Island, and then to the Runcorn Bridge.

 Although I’ve driven across it, I’ve never walked across it.

As we reached the foot of the bridge, some drunks offered us directions to Birkenhead.

I couldn’t decide if Tony was determined or just unhappy in this picture.

 I’ve never considered climbing the bridge, but I’d be more worried about Tetinus than falling off.

Carried on walking through Runcorn. Some parts of it were a bit rundown. Got lost just towards the end (seem to keep doing that lately).

Dropped down into Frodsham, a respectable 21 miles.

Popped into the Helter Skelter. We normally have a drink here, before getting the train home. On this occasion, the customers and staff weren’t welcoming or friendly at all, and I wont be going there again.

Another brilliant day out, that cost £2.