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Week 40: Christmas is coming

With a handsome 81 days to go before Christmas, I ordered the Christmas tree. I won’t say that threat of potential shortages was no part of my consideration at all, but it was more the fact that we got an email from the local Christmas tree supplier we’ve used previously to say that they had started taking orders, and I thought that I might as well sort it out now while there’s a good choice of delivery days.

I don’t exactly feel festive yet, despite the Christmas products that have already filled up one aisle in our local Tesco, but it’s one less thing to worry about.

I finally found a way to run individual tests directly from my editor in the Rails app I’m working on. It was inserting a frustrating amount of hassle into my workflow, so I resolved to see if I could do something about it.

The underlying problem is that the app uses a library, Shoulda Context, that breaks most of the easy ways of addressing a test by the line where it’s defined, and thus makes it impossible to use common methods like Rails’s own rails test command, and difficult to integrate into an editor.

But after asking around, James pointed me in the direction of a tool that did just what I needed: testrbl. I took the opportunity to renovate my Vim test-running configuration, so I’m now using vim-test, which gives me better integration with neovim than the custom code I’d been using for the past decade or more. I added a testrbl runner in imitation of other runners, and configured that in a project-specific configuration file by adding one line:

let test#custom_runners = {'Ruby': ['Testrbl']}

I can now run the test I’m working on without having to switch to a shell and lose my train of thought. A tiny thing, and yet a huge productivity boon.

I spent one morning working from a café on my recently-acquired laptop (passim) for a bit of variety. After a few annoying freezes, I started looking for causes, and a peek at dmesg told me that 8GB of RAM is not enough for my workloads. I’d suspected from the outset that it wouldn’t suffice, but thought I’d wait and see.

Having waited and seen, I ordered an upgrade. The T470s has two slots for RAM; one is soldered onto the board, while the other takes a standard DDR4 SODIMM. I had 4+4 for a total of 8GB. Officially, according to Lenovo, the maximum usable size of SODIMM is 16GB, which would give me 20GB, but there are plenty of credible reports that 32GB modules also work perfectly. This isn’t unusual: I was able to put 16GB into my X220 in defiance of the official maximum of 8GB, which seems to be informed by what’s available at the time of release, not what the CPU and chipset can manage.

I ordered a 32GB module (Crucial CT32G4SFD8266 for the record), swapped it in, and after a heart-in-mouth moment when I realised that I’d left the computer in suspend mode and wondered if I’d killed it, the laptop now has 36GB of RAM. Much better.

For the first time in over a year, I met a few other Sanshinkai members on Saturday to play and sing and talk and eat and drink. I’d been a bit despondent about when we’d be able to start up properly again: we usually meet at SOAS and universities seem to be among the most covid-averse institutions right now. But I was overly pessimistic, because we’ve got a room booked there in a fortnight’s time. Some people have moved away, and others have new responsibilities, but I hope we can get the group going again.

One thing that has always annoyed me about going to Sanshinkai is the fact that I can’t cycle there, even though it’s the fastest and most pleasant way, because I can’t comfortably carry my instrument case on my back, and I can’t carry it on my bike. I searched the internet for solutions and discovered the Mundo Airpannier. I don’t know how well it will work, but it looks promising, and it’s cheap enough to give it a shot. I’ll report in due course.

I finally managed to get a follow-up blood test to see whether my iron deficiency was just from donating too much blood or whether it indicates another problem. It feels like you have to be very motivated with copious free time to get medical treatment in this country, and I feel bad for all those who must suffer worse outcomes because simple, timely attention is unattainable due to everything being a complete shambles.

When I spoke to the doctor before, she prescribed me a course of iron replacement, and told me to get a follow-up blood test in six weeks. Unfortunately, she didn’t organise that, and I didn’t ask her to, so when the time came around, I had to sort it out. If I had known how much of a hassle it would be, I’d have asked her at the time.

The first time, I phoned up the GP and got through quickly. No problem, the receptionist assured me. Do you have a printer? (Yes.) We’ll email you the paperwork, and you can take it to the hospital.

There was no email.

The second time, I had to wait on hold for over half an hour of the same insipid sixteen-bar guitar loop until I got through. I had to explain everything again, but the receptionist breezily assured me that I could drop in and pick up the form tomorrow.

I was busy the next day, but popped in on the day after that. There was no form. There was no record of any form having been requested. Once again, I explained my situation. They needed a nurse to sign off the request, but if I came back at five o’clock, the paperwork would be ready.

You know what happened next.

At five o’clock, every single person in the surgery was different. Nobody knew anything about the events of a few hours earlier. However, the evening shift turned out to be a bit more useful than their colleagues: after waiting for a few minutes, they sent me off with the piece of paper I needed.

With the wrong name on it.

Fortunately, it doesn’t actually matter: an enterprising stenographer typed my middle name into the first name and middle name fields when I registered (via a paper form, naturally, because this is still only the third decade of the third millennium), so I ended up with a duplicated middle name. But they’ve corrected it now, and it didn’t stop me getting the blood test, so I don’t care.

I’ll find out the results next week.

Older

  • Week 39: A long walk

    I met a few university friends in Soho on Thursday evening. That was a delight. Soho seemed busy; I don’t know if Fridays are busier or if Thursday is the new Friday because so many people are working from home on Friday even if they have to be in an office the rest of the week.

    More …

  • Week 38: Panic stations

    Several energy providers collapsed due to energy prices, and a problem with deliveries to a few petrol stations ballooned into panic buying and shortages, but I had a fairly quiet week.

    More …

  • Week 37: New(ish)

    I’ve had what felt like a frustratingly unproductive week. I didn’t really get anywhere with work, and ended up writing off a couple of days entirely.

    More …

  • Getting an EM7455 WLAN module working on Linux

    I bought a new (used) laptop, a ThinkPad T470s, and realised that a) it had a slot and antennas for a WLAN module, b) I could pick up one of those modules for £30 on eBay, and c) if I took advantage of Three’s free Data Reward SIM I’d have a convenient if limited connection when I can’t find WiFi, without having to tether my phone.

    More …

Older entries can be found in the archive.