Furlough: Day 3

April Fools Day, but there was nothing funny about it. Mostly because we completely forgot. No harm done, I’m sure.

Today was more leisurely than the previous two days. We started the day all getting stuck on a BBC Bitesize maths question. All of us. It wasn’t a difficult question (for me), but my method of figuring it out probably wouldn’t be included in the national curriculum, so I had to actually find a way of calculating the answer whilst showing my workings. GCSE maths was 30 years ago for me and, even as a computer programmer, I’ve yet to need long division and show my workings. It’s all been lost in the mists of time.

I eventually found an inefficient method of doing the division using multiplication and addition.

My next task was to create a timetable for my daughter. Knowing that she’s a self-starter, I felt that setting start times was unnecessary, so we settled for a simple checklist of subjects to work on each day. I suspect my son will end up using this method too as we’re not doing a great job of sticking to the schedule.

Personally, I managed to go out for a 5k run and spent 30 minutes practising on the guitar. I also spent about an hour trying to sort out my failing wifi connection on my PC.

On reflection, I thought I would have more time to myself, but the reality is that this is less like school holidays because I need to engage more with the kids’ homework. This has been quite tiring at times and not so rewarding. Looking forward to the weekend!

Furlough: Day 2

The kids and I were full of good intentions. My daughter had started on her Year 7 geography of her own accord, which was great. My son and I sat down to create a schedule – I know there are arguments against this, but there needed to be some structure to his day.

I thought he could create it in Google Calendar, that way he could eventually join my wife and I in our shared calendar. He took to this idea quite well and set up a basic schedule running from 9am to 3pm. We agreed it’s not a strict schedule and there are some fun things in there like A WHOLE HOUR for lunch, quiet time and a little bit of time for planning the following day together. And we progressed with the day…

He’d already completed BBC Bitesize maths and was up for some artwork. I figured drawing from observation would be easy, so I grabbed the nearest toy, a plastic tank, from a nearby box of toy soldiers. I used to love drawing tanks, but in reality, I used to love making up my own tanks rather than drawing what I saw. The boy is a chip off my own block and I could sense resistance to that idea.

I pushed a little further and he told me that the tank was too difficult. Ok then, a jeep with a rocket on the back (is that even a thing?). He accepted this and proceeded to disappoint himself by drawing a jeep which didn’t look like the jeep in front of him. “This is too hard”, he said. “You’re telling me”, I thought.

I gave him some guidance on how he could draw a more realistic picture of the jeep, but the damage was done. He was in a STROP.

After some unsuccessful encouragement, I called in Mrs Furlough to assist. Five minutes later and art was abandoned and he was now the leader in our family band and we were to perform a concert later in the day. We needed a band name (Apple Maoams), a logo and some songs. Enthusiasm restored, he was back in the game (minus the jeep).

Our band was a roaring success. We had a keyboard, guitar, some made-up percussion and a lead vocalist. I stuck with the guitar, which I can’t really play, but managed to find the notes for Baby Shark, some of Happy Birthday and some of that Bad Lip Reading song where Yoda sings about seagulls. I think it saved the day.

Furlough: Day 1

The Plan: In order to stop this time becoming day after day of aimless drifting we need some sort of structure. The first trick seems to be to strike a balance between fun and Miss Trunchbull (“a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Trunchbull)

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the kids to get dressed during the week. Given the chance, they’d wear their pyjamas all day every day. After some grumbling, they conceded to get dressed and agreed to follow something along the lines of a school morning routine, but with less rigid time constraints.

That’s about as far as I got. The rest of our first day was mostly spent firefighting! The laptop network adaptor keeps disappearing, my daughter’s Safari browser won’t work well with some Google Docs and my son’s Microsoft account was locked out (when or why did I even create that account?).

Then it was 3pm and it’s only fair to call time on home school for the day. Tomorrow we’ll sit down and sketch out a high-level plan for the weekdays.

As for my own plans, I repurposed an old Facebook page of mine into this one and resurrected my own website (more on that at a later date).

I also went for a run and learned that “rush hour” is still a bit busy on the roads and the pavements were full of families, dogs and other runners. I’ll choose my route and time better on my next run.

Furlough Opportunities

Monopoly board

Whilst working from home last Friday, my employer contacted me to tell me I’d be on furlough during April. It was a bolt from the blue. I am still employed, still getting paid, but I’m not to do any work, in fact, I mustn’t do any work! So it’s paid holiday? Yep, seems so.

Three days later and I’m still wondering what the catch is – more on that later, but in the short-term, there’s no catch.

Whilst my wife and I were both working from home, we have young(ish) children who weren’t really getting much of our attention during the working day. We’d only been working from home for seven days, but we had noticed that our youngest (9), in particular, was struggling to occupy himself.

Realising that this was also an opportunity to do some of the housebound things I’ve been wanting to do for ages, I grabbed a pencil and paper and started scribbling ideas for myself, the kids, all of us together, oh, and DIY to keep Mrs Furlough happy 😉

The resulting mindmap might contain more activities than I can realistically achieve, or even start, in the given month. That said, this situation could go on for longer, so I’ll plan for that.

Here follows, over a series of posts, how I took advantage of the time given to me.

Slow Down and Think

I made a mistake today.

I went to a classic car show in my local town centre specifically to take photos.

I had a look around and was largely uninspired. Many of the cars were from the vinyl bumper era. There wasn’t much chrome and chrome is what I went for. However, there were a couple of cars that were worthy of photos, yet the camera stayed in the bag.

The sun had disappeared behind a cloud and the cars lost their shiny appeal. So, I gave up and went home.

What a waste of time!

And a waste of an opportunity.

If only I’d sat down for just a couple of minutes and thought about it. Black and white photos are often the solution to overcast conditions, but instead I rushed around, gave up and went home without thinking about it.

Lesson learned.


How To Output A List Of All Files In A Directory Using PowerShell

PowerShell Logo

The Problem

I was recently tasked with sifting through years of stuff that had built up on one of the Windows servers at work and removing that which was no longer required. As a developer, this largely meant clearing out the local instance of SQL Server (tables, views, stored procs, functions, SSIS packages and jobs), but also there were a lot of batch (.bat) files and SQL (.sql) files knocking about.

These files needed cataloguing before I archived any of them as I knew that some were still in use. SQL Server wasn’t a problem as there are various system stored procedures to return a list of various entities, but how was I going to get a list of files that were scattered and buried in the ageing directory structure?

I tried using the Windows Explorer search function, but it was so hit and miss that I couldn’t rely upon it.

I thought maybe I could knock up an ASP.Net page to trawl through the folders and give me a list. Sure I could do this (I recall doing it with Classic ASP many moons ago), but then I remembered about PowerShell.


I’d only recently heard of PowerShell and seen some script and was impressed with what could be achieved, but I hadn’t had a real reason to use it. Basically, PowerShell is a powerful scripting tool that sits under the Windows GUI and allows the user to perform all sorts of magical tasks. I won’t go into detail here, so take a look at this: What can I do with PowerShell? Surely it could perform some basic file filtering and output the list. I wasn’t wrong.

Get To The Point

This is all you need to do:

Get-ChildItem C:\ -Recurse | Where {$_.extension -eq “.bat”} | ForEach-Object { $_.FullName } > C:\File.txt

Here’s how to paste script into PowerShell.

Break It Down

I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly what the switches do, but here’s a quick breakdown of the script:

  • The script is broken up by the pipes (|)
  • Get-ChildItem C:\ returns all files within the root of C:. The drive letter can be changed
  • -Recurse loops through all of the subdirectories C: and returns the files in those subdirectories too. How simple is that? I love it!
  • Where {$_.extension -eq “.bat”} only returns files with a .bat file extension. You can omit this if you want to return all file types
  • ForEach-Object { $_.FullName } returns the full path of each file, including the drive letter
  • > C:\File.txt chucks the results into a text file with a name and location of your choice. You can omit this to display the output within the PowerShell window instead

Bish, bash, bosh, job done!


Photo Credit: Joe Olson via Compfight cc

How To Paste Text Into PowerShell

PowerShell LogoSo you’ve found a PowerShell script online that you want to use or maybe you’ve saved a previously used script to a text file. All you want to do is copy the script and paste it into PowerShell, but there’s no Paste option in the context menu and CTRL+V doesn’t work.

There’s a nice easy solution to this problem:

  1. Open PowerShell
  2. Click on the PowerShell icon in the top left of the PowerShell window
  3. Expand Edit and select Paste

There are some other useful tools hidden away up there too.


Photo Credit: Joe Olson via Compfight cc

300 Beers, The First Five Beers

Way back in November 2013 I started my journey through the book 300 Beers To Try Before You Die! by Roger Protz. I haven’t posted since then, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been working (well, you know, drinking).

One thing that I decided early on was not to give a score to any of the beers. Scoring something based on how much you enjoyed it is so subjective and, furthermore, leaves little or no room for higher scores if you think you found your perfect ten or 100% beer before you’ve tried all the other beers in the world first. Instead I opted to write whether I’d drink it again or not. This will be of limited use to you unless you find yourself liking most of the beers I’d drink again. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

300 Beers #1 - Fuller's London Pride

300 Beers #1 – Fuller’s London Pride (England)

Bottle blurb: “London Pride has a smooth, distinctive malty base, with a rich balance of well developed hop flavours from the Target, Challenger & Northdown varieties and our own unique yeast in the brew. An impressively complex beer. The UK’s favourite premium ale.”

Earthy, clear golden brown. An ale with a solid base. The branding normally puts me off buying this because it doesn’t scream ‘rustic pub in the countryside’, but branding aside, I’d drink this again.

300 Beers #2 - Ringwood Old Thumper

300 Beers #2 – Ringwood Old Thumper (England)

Bottle blurb: “Old Thumper delivers a deep brown strong ale with a spicy fruity hop aroma and a warming malty finish. The distinctive taste has made it a champion Beer of Britain.”

Rich brown in colour. Light spicy taste, not earthy. There’s something nice about this which prevents a lasting bitter aftertaste. I’d drink this again.

300 Beers #3 - Robinson's Old Tom

300 Beers #3 – Robinson’s Old Tom (England)

Bottle blurb: “Old Tom is a legend amongst beers. First created by the Robinson family in 1899. It is a wonderfully warming dark strong ale, with aromas of dark fruit and a palate booming with ripe malt and hops, slowly followed by a deep port wine finish. Not surprisingly Old Tom has won almost every brewing accolade including being voted The World’s Best Ale.”

Very dark brown with little head. I looks much like flat cola. It has a strong flavour that I’m not experienced enough to identify. They’re right about the port finish though. It’s nice enough, but it’s strong, so I probably wouldn’t choose to drink it.

300 Beers #4 - Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier

300 Beers #4 – Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier (Germany)

Bottle blurb: “First established in 1040, Weihenstephan is the world’s oldest brewery. It’s Hefeweissbier is the authentic unfiltered version of Bavarian wheat beer – cloudy, yeasty and refreshing.”

I read a little about this one before drinking it and can pick out the banana and clove flavours. Perhaps it’s not as easy-going on the taste buds as Hoegaarden, but I quickly got into the flavour once I had an understanding of what the flavours were. I wonder if I had chilled the beer too much. Worth noting that the 300 Beers book is quoted on the back of the bottle. I’d drink this again.

300 Beers #5 - Kirin Ichiban

300 Beers #5 – Kirin Ichiban (Japan)

Bottle blurb: “Ichiban Shibori is a process by which beer is made from a single first pressing of the finest ingredients, giving you the sweetest, most flavoursome beer every time. Only Kirin Ichiban is made with such uncompromising standards, for a purer, superior taste.”

Certainly a very crisp and refreshing beer. The book tells me that there is a “lilting lemon grass…aroma”. I can’t smell it, but I think I can taste it. I’m not detecting any strong flavours, though I can tell that it’s a strong beer. If I could only have one drink at the end of a day of hard labour, this would definitely be one of my options. As it turned out, the photos that I took of this beer were all blurred as a result of some shakey-handed photography, so I had to buy another bottle. Shame.

300 Beers To Try Before You Die!

I had my 40th birthday quite recently. It’s just a number, but it’s also a bit of a milestone for reflection. It’s a time for contemplation:

  • How well have I lived my life so far?
  • How should I live my life in the coming years?

It also marks the day when I received the book ‘300 Beers To Try Before You Die!’ by Roger Protz.

300 Beers To Try Before You Die!

300 Beers To Try Before You Die!Before I die?

Panic stations. I’ve got to get to work on this pronto!

OK, so maybe I’m not so concerned about my death, provided it’s due to natural causes and that it takes place in the latter part of this century. However, this book has piqued my interest. I’ve enjoyed drinking, what I call, ‘real ale’ for some years and, whilst I’m certainly no expert, I have developed a taste for what works and what doesn’t work for me. As a result, I’ve got my favourites and that is that. I occasionally try a new ale, but as a general rule, I know what I like and I stick with what I like.

What’s so special about this book, then?

Well, it offers me an achievable challenge: 300 beers at one per week is less than six years. I can do that. Better still, many of the beers are of British origin and should be fairly easy to obtain. Even better, quite a few of them are available in my local supermarkets or off licences. All this means that I can knock a few off the list within a few weeks. Then the real challenge starts. The European beers, the North and South American beers, the beers that are no longer in production (if there are any)…

So here’s what I will do:

  • Drink all 300 beers in no particular order, except those that are readily available to me will probably come first for an easy win.
  • Drink them when I feel like it. I won’t be aiming for one every week or any other kind of fixed schedule.
  • Take a photo of each beer.
  • I’ll take drinking notes. I’ve never done this before and my sense of smell is no good, but if nothing else, it’ll remind me which beers I want to drink again.
  • If I see one in a pub and circumstances permit, I’ll go for it. Must remember to take a photo otherwise it doesn’t count.
  • Learn something about the different types of beer along the way.

Here’s what I won’t do:

  • Start ‘300 More Beers To Try Before You Die!’
  • Start ‘1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die’
  • Splurge the contents of 300 Beers to Try Before You Die! I’ve seen it going for £5 at a The Book People sale, otherwise you can get it from Amazon

So, that’s it. I might as well get started.

How about you?

Have you tried to drink your way through the book?

Did you have any difficulty obtaining any of the beers? How did you overcome that?

Let me know in the comments below.


My First Non-Organic Namesake

I don’t normally take much interest in boats, particularly fishing boats, but this one caught my attention:


I’d love to know the history of how this boat was named ‘James Denyer’.

Edit: Well, this answers my question 🙂