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January 4th, 2018

09:03 pm: Meltdown over meltdown
Listening to the news this morning and hearing about Meltdown/Spectre on the BBC news, I felt a profound sinking feeling. Sure enough, I lost almost my entire day to dealing with it. The problem itself is pretty interesting, but the mitigation is far more intriguing: to what extent is the fix for the problem likely to impact the performance of large-scale parallel jobs? I guess the answer depends on how much overhead it adds to MPI calls — the driver layer typically runs in user space with some sort of OS bypass — and what impact it has on IO throughput.

The afternoon was mostly spent talking to an endless parade of people — my visitor's chair doubling as a psychiatrist's couch — with one of them, who I've been working with to run some very high resolution global simulations, came by to tell me they'd found a bug in the model. Apparently the adaptive mesh software which calculates the routing table degrades pathologically when the resolution drops below 8 kilometres, so the jobs we were attempting to run wouldn't have worked, even if we had been able to get them to schedule...

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January 3rd, 2018

09:45 pm: Thunderstorms, Macro, and climbing
Apparently, my vague memory that there had been a big thunderstorm overnight was correct: there had been a power dip in the middle of the night that was sufficient to knock a few things over. Luckily, by the time I arrived on the scene, everything had been sorted out and was on its way back up. After a fairly quiet day, I met up with A and we headed to Macro to pick up some crockery. After crawling through Marsh Barton, we discovered that Macro closed at 5pm on Wednesdays, and ended up back in the traffic on our way home.

Giving up on our mission, we went climbing. The evening was a success, although we didn't do anything that was either difficult or particularly new, but A powered up a nemesis route - a fluro orange 6a+ on a slight overhang which featured less than lovely holds. It was a nice send, not least because she'd had a minor meltdown on it a couple of weeks ago, and when she came down, she vowed never to do it again - we've all climbed routes like that!


January 2nd, 2018

09:47 pm: First working day of the year
Something of a struggle to get up this morning, after two consecutive late nights and a definite case of the cold that has been doing the rounds for the last week or so. Fortunately, after a couple of rounds of vitamin I and a hot shower, I got my act together and got into work, only to find the place almost empty, despite my tardiness.

After a largely uneventful day spent helping a colleague with a scalability study, I left later than usual and went round to see A. After sitting in on a bit of tech support — configuring a new iPhone for someone — we did a bit of bouldering followed by a handful of gentle routes.

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January 1st, 2018

11:41 pm: Welcoming in 2018
Woke up to a wet start to 2018, with our plans to go up to dartmoor looking doubtful thanks both to the weather and to one of the group going down with the bad cold that has been doing the rounds. After a quick review of the walking guides over breakfast, we decided to go up to Drewsteignton and Fingle Bridge, to walk the paths around the river up to Castle Drogo.

The river was extremely high with the recent rain and as we pulled up in the car park, we saw saw people getting kayaks off the roof of their van ready to try out the white water. Fortunately, the tiny hounds weren't tempted by the raging torrent but we soon saw another family who hadn't been quite so lucky: they'd started just before us and their springer had immediately taken to one of the pools and had jumped back just as quickly as he could manage. As we passed, the father said, "Probably best to keep them out of the water today. [The dog] just jumped in and you should of seen the look on his face when he realised what the water was like!"

The path was very muddy, with big streams of water running down the sides of valley and across it into the river proper. In a couple of places, we found teeming waterfalls, which, inevitably, proved too much of a temptation to A, and climbed up to pose in front of the torrent. After about an hour, we reached the second bridge and climbed up towards Castle Drogo, just visible on the crag above.

Walking the long way round, we reached the visitor's centre — admirably warm — and settled at a table in dog-friendly reception area. We refreshed ourselves with coffee, hot chocolate, and cheese scones, ready for the journey back. Despite the grubbiness of our dogs, we released that things could've been far worse: we a spaniel who was was so wet underneath that they were dripping thick, black mud on the floor! As we were getting ready to leave, a couple of kids came over to play to M&F — they introduced us to their Darcy, their 18 month-old black lab — and as we walked down, we found ourselves walking just in ahead of them.

In the afternoon, we returned to Exeter in time for A&I to fit in some climbing before the centre closed. We lead everything, moving from easy 4s to easy 6a+s, going for mileage rather than difficulty. On our return, A made supper — pea and lemon risotto — and we settled down to watch festive Bake Off, followed by Pitch Perfect 2 — which, somewhat contrary to my expectations, I very much enjoyed.


November 7th, 2017

12:43 pm: Saying goodbye to my lira
After finding yet more Turkish lira while I was tidying up, I resolved to convert the remaining currency back into Sterling. Having effectively already written the money off as spent when I changed it, I realised that anything I could get for it would be a bonus, regardless of conversion losses. In the end, I was able to find a rather good rate and I got back a whisker under 95 pounds for it; an amount which solidly exceeded my expectations...


November 6th, 2017

09:52 pm: Sending a project...
After a gentle day, I met up with A for an evening of climbing. We'd been there for about half an hour, warming up and trying A's project, before A's father joined us. After signing him in and picking up a load of stuff, I fished out my grigri and we worked our way through some easy routes, with the two of us taking it in turns to belay C. As might be expected, he was rather good and extremely determined and we all had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Towards the end, A retried her project. Having put together all the moves yesterday, she'd managed to get climb the route in two sections at the start of today's session. The move that was defeating her was probably the true crux — for anyone with decent flexibility and reach, that is! — which involved moved up over an overhang on a pair of less than brilliant open handed crimps. The move didn't bother me at all — a couple of weeks ago, I'd sat and rested on them for a few minutes to allow room for the person on the neighbouring route to finish a section that overlapped slightly — but, objectively, it's actually reasonably tough.

After cruising the first section with the spanning moves, A got to first tenuous spot and got her hands in the right position and bridged out wide before going for the first of the crimps — my beta is very different: I lean back into a shoulder move to get my feet up, get both hands on the crimps and reset my feet on a hold directly below and put in a knee drop against the wall. This time, she got her feet solid, held both the crimps and moved up to next hold, which she'd dropped in the past, and, after a slightly nervous moment, stuck it and pulled through to send the route. Amazing stuff!

She then persuaded C to give it a try. Despite being able to bridge the first move, he found all the weight shifting and footwork a bit tough — wearing hire shoes can't have helped! — and didn't make it past the move I'd struggled with, albeit for different reasons. If the intention was to convince him of the route's difficulty, I think A succeeded in her goal!

Once we were done climbing, I was able to talk the others into doing a spot of bouldering — A is not a fan and I'm far more focused on route climbing at the moment — partly to work on power and technique, and because, whenever you've got someone who hasn't climbed before, you're pretty much obliged to show them the whole range of activities from strength to endurance. After that, we dropped into the training room where C powered up the drainpipe campus ladder — something that is solidly beyond me — while A tucked her knee into a resistance band worked on Project Pull-Up (her goal is to do five unassisted pull-ups by the end of the year)


November 5th, 2017

10:58 pm: Starting my staycation in the best way possible...
With Sunday dog walking arranged for 10am, I was able to take things easy before heading down to meet the others at the river. We walked the usual route along the canal and round the field before heading back. On our return route, C spotted some likely looking windfall and A&I ended up carrying a couple of logs home over our shoulders. I was a little worried we might accidentally clobber a cyclist or fellow dog walker, but no, it was fine and no other park-users were harmed.

I dropped in for morning coffee and somehow ended up staying for lunch. Having failed to bring my climbing gear with me — I'd assumed I'd head home after the dog walk, pick up my kit, and head back to the climbing centre with A — we drove back to my place to pick everything up, and then headed to the climbing centre.

There we put the first results of Project Stretch to the test: I tried to climb a 6b+ route whose crux — a move that involves a wide bridge that A, with her amazing reach, can make with ease and which I really struggle with. My initial attempt wasn't successful, but after repeating yesterday's stretching regime and retrying the route, I was able to make the span without too much trouble. Once past that, I crushed the rest of the route and sent it with ease.

In some ways, I'm sorry that I've finished the route because it's been a fun challenge that both A and I have had to project. The move I've been struggling hasn't troubled her at all, whereas the stuff higher up that I cruise has been a real fight for her; and although she's done all the moves individually, she's still got to link the sequences to send the whole thing — something I'm confident she'll get in the next session or two. And, least we forget, being able to project a 6b+ is pretty good for someone who has only been climbing for three months.

Midway through, we stopped for tea and flapjacks — A had one of Chef Paul's amazing chocolate and ginger tiffins — which I'd been promised as bribe for looking through a personal statement for a job application, although I tried to persuade A that I was bribing her for finishing her application and coming climbing but she wasn't having any of it!

Somewhere around 5ish, A had to leave — she was due to go to a social event in Chudleigh but had serious cold feet about it. Richard arrived at more or less the same time, and, although I'd offered to go with A and divert some of the potential flak for ducking out of the event, I ended up staying and doing some of the easier boulders in the new set.

Eventually I realised that time was running short, said my goodbyes, rushed home, ate, and turned around to head back to meet D&P and C&J and A for an evening of unofficial quizzing — the tiny hounds aren't keen on fireworks, so we stayed in to keep them company. We'd originally planned to play Cards Against Humanity, but C had been called out, so we shelved our plans and did the newspaper quiz instead, whilst sampling some Christmas-influenced crisps (featured flavours: gingerbread, and prosecco!) and soaking up heat from the wood burner.

Walking home in the cold, I was grateful for my down jacket and regretting my decision to wear shorts — which I hadn't changed since climbing — as I realised that today might just have been the perfect start to my staycation...

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November 4th, 2017

10:10 pm: Ninetieth parkrun
A slow parkrun — I've yet to get back into a regular running regime after Turkey — which we started from so far back that we were still talking when people started moving and C said, "Oh, looks like we're off..." I caught up with L, who'd been out training the night before, and we made it round in a reasonably time. As per last week, I ran the last klick as an interval — not fun, given that it was straight into the wind — and finished 48th.

I stopped off for tea and hung out with A while C got ready to go to a football match before going to watch the rugby in the afternoon. Martha Dog had an appointment at the groomers around mid-morning, so A got changed and dropped me off on her way to Cranford. With the car only having two seats and no boot, Martha tucked herself up around my feet and made herself comfortable; and when I got out, she spent the rest of the journey looking sad and then cried when she realised she was on her way for a haircut!

I spent the rest of the day lazing around at home. I'd vaguly planned to go out in the afternoon, but the weather wasn't great, and I decided not to bother. Determined to make good on a recent pledge to improve my flexibility — the others were astonished to find that not only could I not bend far enough to touch my toes, but I could barely bend far enough to touch my knees! — I located a stretching regime I remembered from a Lifehacker article and got started.

For the record, my initial attempts to touch my toes were very poor: the farthest point I was able to reach was a dismal 35cm off the ground. After running through the recommend exercises and repeating the process I was able to get down to 24cm. Progress, for sure, but there's still plenty of room for improvement...

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November 3rd, 2017

07:54 pm: Gently winding down
A gentle morning working on some low priority background tasks before going on leave, waiting nervously for A to finish her job interview downstairs. Once she was done, we went for tea on the balcony while we talked things through and waited for the queue to go down in the canteen before going for lunch — a slightly-less-than-healthy combination of vegetable nuggets and chips, with peas for good measure.

After a brief stop off at home to pick up gear, we went to the climbing centre where we took advantage of the quiet and I started teaching A to lead belay. She picked up the basics pretty quickly, although, as Gav says, the actual process isn't really all that complicated. Rather, it's a case of becoming good by building experience: becoming more responsive, anticipating the climber's need for slack, and getting a feel for when you need to keep them in tight and when you can safely give them more rope.

It's also the case that clipping feels really awkward and fumbling at first; no matter how smoothly you can do it when you're on the ground, using a quickdraw at waist height, it's much harder to keep things smooth when you're on the wall, dragging up a whole lot of rope. But, that said, A managed a clean send of a 5+ and redpointed a 6a, which isn't bad for someone who has only been climbing for three months and who hasn't got much lead mileage.

I, too, managed to surprise myself by rather casually on-sighting a 6c on lead. Although clipped into the auto because my belayer wasn't signed off, I climbed the route properly, clipping every draw, fighting to stay on a move where I badly misread things — the QD was very awkwardly placed, probably because the route hadn't been set with leading in mind — and sent the route. This makes it the equal of the hardest thing I've led, it's certainly my hardest on-sight lead, and it's equal to the grade I'd expect to be able to on-sight on top rope. So I'm pleased. Newberry told me last year that there wasn't any real difference between what he could top rope and what he could lead, and told me I should aim for the same...

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October 31st, 2017

09:15 pm: Halloween climbing
Walking down to the climbing centre to meet A, I bumped into P&D and Dasher and Blitzen. Blitz was his usual dignified self but Dash was so hyper and excited to see me she ran over to me like a crazy thing and was doing little jumps of delight. I'm not entirely sure why she was so pleased, given that I'd seen her on Sunday, but still. As we were chatting, A arrived and we headed in to do a bit of climbing. We started by finishing the only two routes from the quarry we hadn't climbed on while we were doing mileage on Saturday, and then crushed some of the routes on the slab. Once we'd got some climbs under out belts, I fished out my rope and we had a go at pseudo-leading with a safety top rope. Rather to my surprise, I was still able to remember how to butterfly coil a rope and I managed to get A home in time to watch the final of Bake Off. I walked home through town, but it wasn't that busy considering it was Halloween — although, in a consession to date, one of the buskers was wearing a little witch's hat...

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