Tag: Professor Elemental

Quest For The Golden Frog

Crash-landed near Tanzania
Surrounded by savages in rabbit ears.
Before you could say ‘My good man, how queer,’
I held aloft my magic spear!
‘In the name of the empire, bring me the frog’!
Amazingly, they made me their king or their god;
I didn’t think this was odd until we got to the volcano…


Woke to a disappointingly gloomy day; having hoped for sunshine the weather was overcast and a little chilly. Eventually finished breakfast and getting the kids dressed by about 9:30, then went out on my bike for an hour or so around 10. By the time I got back, an hour later and 16 miles down, the sun was shining gloriously. J was about to start her online Zumba class, and we had time to briefly discuss the kids’ poor behaviour while I’d been out. Confronted them both, incredibly calmly, about the arguing and fighting that had been going on. Didn’t raise my voice at all, just talked to them (and confiscated their tablets). There were a lot of tears from both, but I think we reached an understanding about appropriate ways of behaving.

Lit the BBQ in the afternoon. The pork belly I cooked on it turned out amazingly, I’ll be doing that again. Ate outside in the sunshine; it’s not yet got to the time of year when our sun-trap garden is too hot to use of a late afternoon. Managed to get the kids into bed reasonably early, and had time for a film before we turned in for the first time in ages: Ant-Man and The Wasp. Fun, but I think I liked the first movie better.


Another lazy start, and after breakfast this time it was my turn to play referee while J went out for a run. As I came downstairs to the kitchen, however, I found unwanted visitors invading the bins. Obviously emboldened by our choice of film last night, a colony of ants have discovered our food waste. Moved the bin outside and gave the worktop where they’d been gathering a thorough clean. I’ve ordered some ant killer online; hopefully it’ll arrive before they get to be too much of a problem.

We fired up the Nintendo and had a good 40 minutes of the four of us all playing Just Dance together. Certainly felt like a (light) workout but because I forgot to put my FitBit back on after charging it, I’ve no idea how much energy I burned. Lunch was a picnic in the garden again, which was lovely – the weather was definitely on our side.

Roasted a pork shoulder for dinner, with an apple juice-based brine injection. Something to do again, the meat was wonderfully moist and flavourful. The crackling picked up the flavour too, though didn’t crisp up quite as much as I’d have liked. Talked with mum outside in the garden while eating ice creams in the sun, then put the kids to bed. Finished off with the season finale of Better Call Saul. Wow. I could see where Lalo’s story was going, but Kim’s… that’s blown me away. Guess I’ll have to wait a couple of years for the conclusion. Boo.


Woken shortly after 6 by a little girl who wanted to go downstairs and watch cartoons; I managed to get her to stay in bed for another hour before bowing to the inevitable. Weather was once again gloomy and there might even have been the odd spot of rain. While not exactly meeting-light, things weren’t too full on for a change, though there was one person who sent out an invitation without an agenda or context at short notice and didn’t want to take “no” for an answer when I declined to join their meeting instead of having lunch. Pressing “Decline” on that one felt oddly empowering.

The meeting after lunch was less helpful. “Here’s something we need that we discussed with, er, the ginger guy on your team. Can you sort it?” Took almost the entire meeting to understand what they’d agreed and with who, and the answer that they could do it themselves and call on us for help was at least acceptable.

I’d intended on enchiladas for dinner but in a fit of complete disorganisedness, the chicken was still in the freezer at 5:30 when I finished work. Instead: emergency lamb curry! After food, the silliness quotient was starting to increase rapidly, so packed the kids off to bed. Just as we were settling in front of the TV, though, we were disturbed by a very much awake boy who was somewhat unsettled. We talked about some fun things we could do (he’s going to make a book about his bears in the vein of Teddy Edward Goes To Timbuctoo, which I’ve had for about as long as I’ve had a bear of the same name), and maybe learn how to knit a scarf for one of them too. Distraction therapy works wonders.


Woke up this morning feeling super!
Where’s the butler?
Pass me the butter!
My muffins are freshly baked;
Wake up and I stretch and shake.

My life? Well yes, it’s great –
Like I live on a slice of special cake!


Up at 7. As usual, one child was raring to go while the other needed dragging out of bed to get breakfast. Today was my day for working with interruptions so settled myself down at the kitchen table. In contrast with the last few times, I somehow managed to help out with English schoolwork at the same time as writing CloudFormation, making lunch, handing out felt tip pens and debugging python. Vanished off upstairs for an hour at 12 to run an interview but otherwise stuck to the kitchen for the most part.

Lunch was cold cut doorstep sandwiches made with the legendary bread-borne-of-beer. I really liked them but the bread’s dense and it was probably a bit of a struggle for the kids given the combination of thickness and density.

At one point the there was Minecraft-themed yoga in the living room. I had no idea such a thing existed, but, hey, whatever keeps my meetings free of interruptions…

There hasn’t been so much bickering today either. At one point the seven-year-old was playing Minecraft on Switch, and I gave the four-year-old Sonic Mania to play on the big screen to keep her quiet. She seems to have fallen in love with Knuckles the Echidna; most likely because he’s pink. There was a lot of dying on the first baddie and almost as much “Daddy, I’m stuck!” but she had fun.

Seems like today was a calm-before-the-storm kind of day; there are ominous clouds on the horizon in terms of juggling-all-kinds-of-outstanding-projects. A baptism of fire for my newly enlarged empire, ahem, team. I’m too settled. Surely something is going to upset our cosy new routine soon?


Think I’m starting to adjust. Woke up again at gone 7, made a start on work. The usual nonsense over breakfast, then mostly hid upstairs trying to get some work done, which seemed like a lost cause. Not because of the kids, but because of the number of meetings in my calendar. A grumble on a private Slack about the fact that we were supposed to be meeting for beers tonight turned into arrangements for virtual beers, which was good. as was the presentation I delivered talking about the infrastructure scheduling work we’ve been doing.

Found the time during my lunch break to prep the ingredients for a paella, which turned out awesome at dinner time. I should cook those more often. Managed to shepherd the kids into bed at a sensible hour then settled down in front of FaceTime. Was really great talking to everyone, a welcome antidote to the outside world. Eventually crawled off to bed, a few drinks down, at midnight.

Hat Full of Sunshine

Life is a laugh when you’ve got the joke;
Get yourself together, get on with the show.
Onwards we go, onto new adventures-
The best ones I’ve known I can barely remember

COVID-19 diary – WFH day 3 of whatever.


Worked from home; so far so unusual, other than I usually choose to WFH later in the week. Suspecting isolation was only a matter of time, dig my bike out of the garage and clean it up. Need some way of getting minimum exercise over the next few weeks. And not running. I hate running.

Also ordered ingredients for about 160 pints of beer. Who knows when or even if they’ll turn up (edit: Thursday, apparently) but if I’m going to be stuck at home I might as well work on increasing my stock levels. Besides, the small businesses like the brewing suppliers I use need all the support they can get.

At 10pm an email comes in saying all staff who could must stay away from the office and WFH, and that anyone who couldn’t needed approval from top-level management to come in.


Get up, drop kids off at nursery and school. Changed into my cycling kit and headed out on an 8-mile bike ride before work. Helped clear my head a bit; will try to do that as often as possible.

First day of everyone WFH and things don’t go horribly badly; a few teething issues around access for some people to resources due to AWS security group constraints no-one had even thought of, let alone expected to be a problem. Video calls are horrible; too many people using consumer-grade internet connections at once with high contention ratios. I’m getting used to talking to fuzzy clouds of pixels.

Emails come in from Sleeper Jr’s school; as of now all extra-curricular clubs are cancelled, along with all school trips and the school disco that was going to take place on Thursday. It’s closely followed by an email saying that all Scout meetings are suspended indefinitely. Later on the news reaches me that my brother and his wife are now self-isolating after he’s come down with a cough. Stay healthy, both!

Emails also from some of the small companies I’ve invested in through crowdfunding. They make for very sober reading. One expects a drop in orders of 80% as a result of the combination of social distancing and supermarkets prioritising essential staples. Ouch. Wouldn’t be surprised if all of those small investments (all centred around the hospitality industry) are wiped out. My pension pot and a larger shareholding in my previous employer have taken a massive battering already, the latter having lost 60% of its value since I got the shares last summer, almost all of that in the last couple of weeks.


We’re running low on Weetabix. We’ve not been excessively stockpiling, but it seems like we’re the only ones. There’s a queue on the Ocado website of 2 hours just to make a change to a basket. As I’m walking Sleeper Jr. to school, another email; the kids’ swimming classes are cancelled indefinitely too. Yet another small business who are going to struggle; they’re taught by couple of swimming instructors who hire a local school pool at weekends.

As the day goes on we think of more things that we need to add to the shopping. There’s a queue of 15,000 people waiting to get into the Ocado website, 2 hours long, and I keep getting to the front while I’m working only to lose my spot because I didn’t notice quickly enough. Frustrating. Even more frustrating is when the queue is replaced with a “We’re closing the site until Saturday” message.

5pm: Notice is given that schools are going to close. That’s going to burn through the savings pretty quickly if we have to pay for childcare we can’t use and take time off to look after the little darlings. Hopefully we both have understanding bosses.

Work is blending into life too much. Admittedly there’s a massive deadline at the end of this week but I really, really hope I can maintain a better separation than I have so far; I can’t resist the temptation to poke the code i’m working on and get it that little bit more functional. I rather suspect from next week onwards all the days will be like this.

Tune in in a few days more to see if I’ve gone postal yet…