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That was a complete surprise [Apr. 19th, 2016|12:03 am]
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I do not really know what's happening with me at the moment. Life has gotten... complicated, in a way I don't really understand.

One of the things that pretty much hit me out of the blue is that there's been this lovely person I've been doing lots of kink with for a while. It's been something pretty gentle and wonderful to go back to again and again. I managed to learn a lot about my body and how it works in its new configuration, while having some level of comfort and control over the whole process.

Somehow, in no way I can identify, the whole thing started going into proper relationship territory and, well, yesterday, I ended up ending it. I had to because, well, I got to know the person and, grrr, incompatible gender identities. Which sucks. A lot. I have been crying. A lot. Yeah, go me.

Somehow, this person just completely snuck under my skin and I didn't notice. I'm so hard and cynical on the outside, but I totally let this person get past all of that. I didn't even think to stop them. Or that it meant anything.

The whole thing has dredged up feelings and memories I have not had for a while. Certainly I've not thought I was even capable of. It was lovely having someone in my life, to talk to, cuddle up to when I needed it. Also for other things.
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Learning to Program Again [Apr. 14th, 2016|11:49 pm]
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I'm taking a bit of time to do a bunch of things I haven't done in a while. One of them involves coding.

So, at work, we have insane levels of calls, and things have been a bit bad recently. That's a different story and it seems like it might be calming down, or at least reaching that crisis level that might result in things happening. Anyway, I digress.

One of the things we don't have is any kind of call logging system. I decided I wanted to try to expand my coding skills a bit and needed a project. Then I put the need at work for a call logging system together with the need for a project and, wham, I've been beavering away on it ever since.

It's been an interesting journey. Part of me really, really doesn't want to touch code at all, especially not in any work setting. Too many bad memories. On the other hand, another part of of me is finding the whole thing therapeutic.

The bizarre thing is how well it's going. So, I decided to try a very specific set of technologies. At the moment, the buzzword language is JavaScript. Basically, it's a language that's been used in web browsers since I was little. In fact, I remember learning some of it as an early exercise in coding, way before I was in University.

It was a horrible language because, back then, coding standards regarding it didn't exist, and neither did the DOM. The DOM, or document object model, was a standard they released to allow code to interact with the HTML on a web page.

Since then, there's been lots of standardisation and the DOM has enabled all kinds of cool effects. JavaScript mushroomed as my life went by and, recently, it's started to be used in ways no one would have envisioned.

One way I am using it is to create web pages that don't need reloading to do things. To this end, I'm using Angular, an amazing Javascript framework that wires up web-pages effectively. It's neat.

Angular is good, but it needs something to talk to. There's been a movement to use JavaScript here too, and this is the Next Big Thing. I've been avoiding that like the plague, because at least some of it is that "this is the sexy language of the moment" as well as "we have good technical reasons for this".

Instead, I wanted to stick with languages I knew, so I was going to use PHP. PHP has also moved on since I was using it. I think PHP, more than anything, was the language that convinced other languages that having a dictionary type as an integral part of your language is really useful. Unfortunately, its time has passed as other languages have introduced features and now it's been PHP playing catch up.

One of the things that Ruby introduced was the idea of the framework, or MVC design pattern. This has been a good thing for PHP and stuff has risen up to fill the void in for MVC design patterns. The leading one seems to be Symfony, though Laravel also is popular.

I was going to learn Symfony and use this to write the backend of my application, the part that the Angular talks to. However, I spent a few days struggling with it before going to Python and Django.

I never thought I'd like Python. It's a language [personal profile] pplfichi liked and, for because of the way it was designed, really, really bad for web design. At least, that was, until MVC patterns came along. Now it's pretty awesome because, as I see written everywhere, it's easy to learn. But more then that, me and Django click in some odd way. Me and Symfony don't. Whether it's bad memories, the sex change or what, I don't know, but I'm starting to pledge my allegiance to the Python side of programming.

Django is nice. It describes itself as for "Perfectionists with Deadlines", a philosophy I can absolutely sign off on. It's wonderful because you tell it what you want it to do and it goes and does it. There's lots happening under the hood, but the syntax is warm and welcoming, as opposed to Symfony's syntax, which uses far too many annotations in the comments, which is just wrong.

So far, I've managed to combine a bunch of things in Django and make what's known as a REST framework. A REST framework is a particular type of web-site where the website only communicates in Javascript objects. In other words, it's all content, no mark-up. The idea is that you then filter that information through another web page to make the pretty things appear on the screen. In this case, that's Angular for me.

Angular and Django Rest appear to get on quite well, once I got past Cross Site Forgery Protection, something I really don't understand, but managed to make work. I've constructed simple administration interfaces in Angular and now I'm working on some more complex things.

Where it will go from here, I don't know.
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Food and Health [Feb. 26th, 2016|11:11 pm]
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Apart from that, I've slowly been cooking my own food each day.

I subscribed to Hello Fresh, something [personal profile] pplfichi uses and which I first thought too fussy, but now I adore. I sign up for three meals for 2 each week and, on Sunday evening, I get a box of meals which I cook during the week.

It's been good so far. The food is particularly appetising while the meals are interesting and intricate without being gaudy and fussy. Some have worked better than others, but all have been, on the whole, good. I've picked up small techniques from the recipes and if I keep this up, I should be quite an accomplished cook.

It's been awesome to take care of myself, by myself. It's given me a sense of empowerment. Not only that, but the food is easily paid for by me, out of my budget. Even on my pay I can afford it and the simple cost per week makes budgeting for food easy. I know how much I'm going to spend. I still have a lot left over and my lifestyle, though very spartan, isn't unenjoyable.

In terms of health, I've been slowly able to work a bit longer. Last weekend I was wiped out. This weekend, I'm not. I want to do something fun and enjoyable. Not sure what, but I'll see.

I also had some chats with people about fitness today and it's been playing into something I've been thinking, that I might be ready to start an actual fitness regimen. I've kept alive my gym membership for a while out of misplaced optimism. I was finally going to cancel it. I've changed my mind. Though, in reality, I'm far from going back.

However, I do feel I might be at that stage of fitness when I first came back from Birmingham, broken in body and in mind. I started doing Wii Fit, slowly, the most basic exercises. Also a bit of the dance games. It's time to do that again. Slowly, surely, I will heal.
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Life goes on... [Feb. 26th, 2016|10:53 pm]
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This week has been a bit of a weirder one, probably in good ways.

Work carried on in the daytime. Even when the person doing the seat plan told me categorically that there is no space before 2pm on Wednesday and I'd have to go back to the old way of doing things, I got told to come in the next day, and people made room for me. I sit next to the team lead in the central Brighton cluster. I'm valued. When did this happen?

Not only that, but I seem to have established myself as the person in charge of the "Request More Info" queue. For whatever reason, people have been throwing the small little bits of silly scutwork that no one else wants to do and, as a result, while some of it is boring, some of it is interesting. Every day, I get to tackle referrals and try to work out What Went Wrong. Then I fix them (if I can) and send them back through the system. Or I document them.

The intellectual level of that work I find stimulating. It helps my brain keep functioning, though I notice I become duller as the week goes on and actually enjoy the more rote stuff. It can be a bit scary, though, as people give me work and it can be three hours into the day before I have time to do it. But then, I'm trusted to manage my own workload.

Also, many mistakes I have made during learning to book have come back through the team to bite me, but that's been good, in the sense that no one has murdered me yet and, at the same time, I'm learning what went wrong. Most of the time, no one would know it was me if I didn't tell them, but I insist on doing so anyway. I'm even starting to get confident and find out info for various things. Without that info, I feel like the office of satire where documents are created at the top floor, pass through the building on the way down and end up being burnt as fuel in the basement. It's like that, sometimes, only we move PDFs around.

Finally, they put me on the phones. I've answered queries and helped sort things out for two people so far. Eeek! I've even called out to GP surgeries and bugged them for more info.
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Slow and steady improvement [Feb. 20th, 2016|11:17 pm]
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Life has been a bit of a mixed bag this week.

I heard back from Tesco and they said, well, not no, but they didn't say yes either. They told me I lacked confidence and that, although I possessed the technical skills they needed, they wouldn't take me on that reason. But, they told me, fix that, and everything would be fine.

This was nearer the beginning of the week and, well, I got angry, I cried and, well, to cut a long story short, after I cried in a quiet corner at work at the unfairness of life, the universe and everything, I got a bit angry and then promptly proceeded to get focused so that, by the time things had died down, I went through masses of work and dramatically bolstered a flagging team.

The next day, as a result of my labours the night before, the next queue in the admin process was dramatically overloaded, so I started working on that, and doing OK. They then asked me to come in during the day for the last two days of the week, which was awesome. Working during the day is so much better than working in the evenings.

I'm still due to work in the days, although I'm not sure if this is permanent. It marks a huge improvement. Also, they have me doing things that involve things other than loading, the data entry process they hired me for initially, which is a boon to my poor brain, which has been deprived of sufficient stimulation.

It also sounds like I heard back from a PhD placement I enquired about and, that also seems to be a positive thing, I think, but I've missed the deadline for this year by a week or so. Not a terrible tragedy and, probably, a blessing in disguise. I need to follow it up properly, but I think it means that, should everything else fail, I could do another PhD. This is valuable to know and is good as a back-up plan.

Added to that, the gentle level of work I've been doing seems to have had a generally bolstering effect on my health. I seem to be brighter, I'm not as tired all the time and things are much better. There's still a long way to go, but things are better and, when they keep me in the daytime, I don't feel so depressed. I even have evening which, as my stamina improves, I can use to enjoy.

Clouds on the horizon at the moment include that the current extra responsibilities at work mean that I can kill someone and I'm vastly more responsible than I was. I'm at the end of a chain and instead of my work being checked by others, I'm doing that checking. It's terrifying and stressful. There is no training and if I make a mistake, it all gets escalated quickly.

Also, my parents returned last week and, well, things are always more difficult with them around. I'd like to move out, but my salary won't let me. I'd like to give my mother some rent, so I can feel a bit more entitled to the house's resources, but my mother said no.
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Fuck me, they did it! [Feb. 12th, 2016|12:41 am]


Apparently, LIGO, that thing I worked 4 years on with my PhD, has seen gravitational waves from a black hole.

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Childlessness [Feb. 6th, 2016|10:44 pm]
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So, during the whole transition process, I've always had the option of doing something to combat feeling bad about not being female enough.

The problem with that is that there's a natural limit to what can be done and, having gone nearly through the whole transition process, I've hit that limit.

The limit would be fine if what I felt and what I wanted could fit inside that limit. I've always been dreading, though, that one day, I might hit something I couldn't deal with, couldn't solve. Something I desperately need but could never have. I've often wondered that, if I hit that, would I be able to go on and would I have the courage?

I think I've hit such a point.

The problem is children. I can't have any. Read more...Collapse )

In terms of relationships, it brings issues that complicate things. Read more...Collapse )

Where I go with this, I don't know exactly, although writing this out has helped a lot. Read more...Collapse )
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Cornelius Sulla [Feb. 2nd, 2016|12:56 am]
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I've gone back to reading the Masters of Rome series, trying to finish what I started. I was a little worried that I'd be lost when I started, but book three had a really good summarry and the books break in good points. Effectively, there's a new generation of people to worry about in each book, while some younger protagonists suddenly become the aged elders. It's pretty interesting.

The book picks up from Read more...Collapse )

Sulla is, quite simply, a fascinating character. I need to read up on him properly from a historical perspective, to work out which bits of the book are fact and which are fiction, but he's an amazing character. He's genuinely one of those characters I'm never sure if I like or hate, and that's rare.

In the books, he by turns psychopathically ruthless, deadly to his enemies and self-aggrandising. By other turns, he does what is necessary and not what he would like, he's loyal to his friends, has a wicked sense of humour and, more importantly, loyal to the ideal of Rome. He stabilises the Republic (at least for a while), even as it is slowly crumbling. Undoubtedly he is both part of its salvation and its undoing and I can't quite understand which is which.

The tale of Sulla's end is also the tale of start of another young man of renown, Gaius Julius Caesar. I think it's safe to say that most people have heard of him...
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Tesco interview and demand planning [Feb. 2nd, 2016|12:29 am]
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I have a major interview coming up, on Friday, which is quite exciting. It's for a job at Tesco trying to forecast demand. In short, Tesco pioneered (at least in the UK) the practise of using engineering and science based graduates to dip into their past data (which they've always been very good at collecting at the checkout) and then using that to commit forecasts about shopping behaviour.

I've been doing research on the topic because they asked me to, but I've been finding some of it quite interesting. There's lots of things you wouldn't expect once you start delving into what they can find and know.

For example, certain goods are very much bought at the start of summer or winter. The first warm period marking summer sees a surge in, amongst other things, meat for barbecuing, while vegetables drop. On the other hand, cocoa and cat litter fly off the shelves in the first freeze of winter (cats hate going outside to pee in winter, something our cats get no choice about).

Equally, ice cream responds to temperature, though it is mainly receptive to changes in temperature from previous days (if it's hotter than the day before) and tops out at about 24 degrees C (whereupon people shift to ice lollies). Also, Glasgow considers 15 degrees C as being very hot for data purposes and you can see the same reaction at that kind of temperature.

They seem to, in particular, want me to do this for fresh food, which I've been looking into. This in itself is maddeningly complex, because fresh food is itself a broad church.

Some things behave a bit like bell peppers: you grow them year round in greenhouses (either in the Netherlands or Spain) and the demand you think you need you communicate to the supplier and they try to grow whatever they need. Some things are like apples: they're grown once, preserved in weird gasses and then trotted out when you need them during the year. Other things merely have a season and that's it. Some things will be flown in from all over the world (pineapples), some will not.

Also included is meat and fish, which also have varied and different ways of being dealt with. Beef, for example, needs 3-4 weeks to cure properly while chickens seem to be slaughtered to order. Fish, on the other hand, will mainly take about 10 days at most to get from the sea to us and may be frozen, may be not (and legally must be if used for sushi to kill pests). It's on ice a lot of the time, whatever happens.

All of these things make the demand process pretty fraught. If you could predict the demand, would it do you any good given that the supply depends on when you predict the demand? I don't know, but it's all turning out to be a fascinating problem.

If that's not enough, then there's also logistics elements that I've been looking into, which seems to be like playing a game of OpenTTD, but for real. So the length of time you take to get your stuff from supplier to shop also matter a lot, as the path you take.

Tesco aim to reduce waste by removing as many unnecessary trips from their supply chain and try to basically run the company as if they were the Toyota of Supermarkets, embracing Just In Time philosophies and reductions in wastage, as well as techniques that try to respond to errors.

Demand planning, of course, plays into that, but it's just a small part overall of what's going on. They seem to have pioneered a major logistics chain, which I'm not 100% certain about how it works, but it seems to be that they can get everything into their major distribution centres and use those to push the goods into where they need to go, using RFI to track shipments through the system and eliminating storage by cross-docking, sending stuff from arrival straight to it's destination. The data challenge involved in all of this just is quite exciting and makes my head hurt just thinking about it.
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TV: Sense8 [Jan. 27th, 2016|12:27 am]

During my illness, I decided to get a Netflix subscription, since most of the stuff I actually want to watch is there, rather than on Amazon. This turned out to be a really good move.

One of the first things I watched was Sense8, a twelve episode series about 8 people linked together telepathically so that they can feel each other's lives and, even more impressively, share each other's skills. It's something interesting I wanted to watch because I had a short story concept that mimicked this, so I wanted to see how they did it. It also has a positive trans character, which is awesome. It's also produced by the Wachowskis (Matrix) and Straczynski (Babylon 5).

It turned out to be awesome. There are interesting themes about separate lives colliding and the skills transference is really interesting (there is one particularly bad-ass martial artist Korean lady who executes beat-downs in the slums of Nairobi when the young lad there gets into trouble). As you'd expect, each character in the eight brings some essential skill to the table, whether it's computer hacking, martial artistry, gunplay or pharmaceutical knowledge.

While each character is going through massive personal circumstances that are challenging (indeed, the probability of eight randomly people having that much drama happen to them at once is vanishingly small, but, still, it's a drama, so...), it's kinda interesting and reiterates the lesson (something I've learned a lot) that often other people's problems can be easily solvable to us, when ours are not. Which is why, sometimes, as a society, the most awesome thing we can do is turn away from our problems and solve each other's problems, in this way triggering the solution to our own problems when they are solved by someone else in turn.

One of the interesting tricks the camera does is that the actor that's in control of the body plays the person who is there, which helps keep things from being confusing when you're watching it. So, for example, when the Korean lady issues the beat-down in Nairobi, we see her kicking arse. THere are just enough scenes to break that down nearer the beginning so that we cut to outsiders, who don't see that, they just see the person who is there. However, when two people are conversing, it can get a bit crazy, because they make the two people stand next to each other and even interact, so I often wonder why no one around thinks that person is going crazy (although it does happen in particular to one of them).

Anyway, well recommended. I really enjoyed it and hope there's a series 2.
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