2022 Manifesto

I've not done New Year Resolutions for last year...didn't seem much point due to the huge amount of un-certainty. I did end up ticking off most of my 2020 resolutions, albeit not to the initial timescales...global pandemics will do that to you!

For me, 2022 will be about adapting to the "new normal". I've lost a commute, and gained a dog, for starters.

Get Track Accreditation and compete in Reading Track League

On Mondays through spring and summer there is a velodrome-based racing league in Reading (at Palmer Park, literally 10 minutes from my house). I've not done track riding before...there are a couple of significant differences between track racing and road racing (which is what I normally do);

  1. No gears or freehub (proper fixies)
  2. No brakes
  3. No right-hand turns

I'm going to go for my track accreditation from March (when coaching starts), and then compete in the Monday evening track league. Compete, for me, means "be competitive", not just attend.

Track accreditation, at it's core, consists of doing coached sessions until a certified coach considers you not a danger to others or yourself. It can take a couple of weeks, it can take months. Once I've gotten past that, I'll need my own track bike in order to race. I've been doing (road bike, with gears and brakes) training sessions down there throughout autumn and winter so far (and I've done this in previous years...it's a great way of getting some leg strength over off-season), and know a number of the regular league riders and organisers from there. It'll be a good way of getting my racing fix in, without the hassle of getting to London. It will also improve my general skills on the bike.

Upgrade the Plex Server

In 2020 I replaced Google Music with Plex on a Pi4. Possibly one of my most successful tech projects, and it's pretty much re-couped its costs already. The media server has now grown well beyond the initial scope, with all my DVD's, online video purchases, music, audiobooks etc are on there. I'm nudging the top of the 2Tb storage I plugged in, and it's worked pretty much flawlessly.

I've now hit an issue with transcoding. It's something that the Pi4 simply cannot do. Most devices I have can do direct streaming, however my old tablet does not play well with Plex (it crashes, the version of android on it is too old). I've risked going with an Amazon Fire HD Tablet...they are simply too cheap to ignore. Downside is that their supported codecs are mainly limited to 30fps. I've captured most of the footage at 60fps, so the Pi attempts to transcode the video...which takes a while (about 4 hours per hour of 1080/60 to 1080/30 transcode). This is totally not the fault of the Plex server, but it is what Plex is supposed to do...it's just designed with a slightly gruntier processor behind it.

So, I'm going to build a new server. The goal is still; small, passively-cooled, and low power requirements. I still want it headless and running Linux as well, as it's simply more efficient and reliable for what I want. I also want more storage. My current plan is to buy an older Intel NUC running (probably) an i5 x86 processor, then install a basic Linux distro (probably Debian, as thats the one I have most/all my experience with). That will then have some HDD's attached (internal or external) for increased library storage. This should be enough for real-time transcode of a stream, as well as opening up some other features such as Sonic Analysis of Music for auto-playlist creation. I can run the servers in parallel, so this once can be got fully up-and-running before decommissioning the old one. I'm half-tempted to put in a NAS, and then a separate processor box...however the setup cost of a NAS box is fairly large (looking at a Synology box with a couple of large Ironwolf HDD's in there, and its >£500).

Sort out the home office

I now spend 7+ hours a day in my home office. It was already pretty well set up, and I've done some ad-hoc upgrades in the last year (a good desk mat, to keep my forearms comfy, and a new office chair which has worked wonders for my back). I've also gotten a new laptop, and a new phone. I already had a good monitor and desk, so I now have all the hardware for a good, ergonomically correct working environment. What does need sorting is the room around it. I'm currently in a small niche formed from a green-screen pinned behind me. I like working in a smaller area, it increases my focus and removes some distractions...but it's a bit messy, and probably won't cope with a labrador in a couple of months time. A re-shuffle of the room, and probably some Ikea stuff is needed.

Complete the dog training

Reaver is now almost 10 months old...at 7 months we hit the "teenage years", where recall goes out of the window, hormones start to come in, and generally he stops automatically obeying us. We were expecting it, and thought we could work through it, but we definitely hit a plateau. I had a fortunate encounter with a dog trainer a couple of weeks ago, and after some guidance and pointers yesterday we've now got some plans and support moving forward. We've got some key goals;

  1. Good close lead walking - currently this is a bit of a battle, with everything being a distraction
  2. Recall - was great until 7 months old, now non-existent
  3. Calmness around other dogs - they have become more and more exciting
  4. Stop eating poo - I wouldn't mind so much, but it gives him a dicky stomach, forming what is the worst sort of feedback loop

I'm pretty confident that we'll get there. The trainer we've found is a part-time gamekeeper, and works with spaniels and labs a lot at a local shoot. Within 5 minutes he had Reaver walking at heel up and down our road, as well as sit/stay at distance and a good "Leave". Made us look like idiots when he immediately started jumping up on us.

Discover 4 new authors?

This is legit getting harder, though I have maintained it for a few years now. I'm currently in the middle of a marathon Wheel of Time audiobook session (at time of writing I'm halfway through the main sequence, averaging a book every 6 days'ish). Realistically this will continue until March, and I have a backlog of other books from established authors to read once I'm there.

Revise Pension Options

Project 55 is continuing, and the pension fund is about £10k ahead of expectation. I've booked an IFA for early January...normal recommendation is to review your finances 10 years before your planned retirement. Pretty boring, but needs to be done, so it makes the list.

Make a decision on the motorbike

It's now not been used since 2018, is currently under SORN with a rear tyre puncture, and definitely is not accruing value. My "ideal" would be to sell it and get an electric motorbike, however they are cripplingly expensive compared to a petrol machine. I've survived 3 years without needing to transport myself any vast distances...commutes are gone (at least in the short term), and I'm more than capable of self-propelling myself over 20-30 miles without any major hassle.

I should probably sell the bike.

Options are;

  1. Get it fixed up, re-taxed and force myself to use it
  2. Get it fixed up and sell it
  3. Other

Death to Micro-B

This one came about when I was shopping for a new torch (black dog + night-time poo-runs means a good torch is really important). I ended up actively choosing one that had a USB-C port over a Micro-B one, simply as I hate having to have multiple cables sitting around.This led me to think about what I have left on Micro-B;

  • 2 GoPro Sessions (never use 'em these days...should probably sell them or give them away)
  • Garmin 520+
  • Huawei Mediapad tablet - has a spicy pillow forming
  • Kindle
  • JBL Charge Bluetooth speaker - rarely used, already replaced with a pair of Boompods Zeros

So, goal is by the end of the year to get rid of, or replace these devices, and then NEVER BUY ANYTHING WITH MICRO-B again* so I can pack a bag without taking millions of cables.

*my keyboard and mouse have micro-b, but they get a pass (for now) as they don't move from my desk, and only rarely need charging...anda they are new, so replacing them is just a waste!

I have a handful of proprietary charge cables, and included here is an active avoidance of them in future, unless there is a genuinely compelling reason (the 2 main ones are my bike light, which is very hardcore, and an LED lantern with a magnetic attachment).

Clean out the house

We've been in the house for over 8 years now, and there are some items that are simply never used. I need to go through the garage, over-stairs cupbaord, under-stairs cupboard, utility room and my own room and work out what can simply be gotten rid of. It's a quirk of a modern(ish) house that they don't have a huge amount of storage.

On the list of things that can go are;

  • Board games - I have about 40-50 crated up in my office, and the vast majority will probably not get played.
  • Camping gear - stacked up in the over-stairs cupboard, not used since we moved here
  • Motorbike gear - linked to the "what do I do with the motorbike" dilemma
  • Bicycle spares - I have 5 bikes, but realistically only use 2-3 of them. I also have a pile of spares, partially worn items and the like
  • Semi-old tech - notably including a 1080 eGPU, some old gaming laptops (MSI and Cyberpower), keyboards, mice, mini-projectors. All are 3+generations old, but still functional

It's all taking up space, which is becoming more and more of a premium. Plan is to go through everything...if it's worth eBay'ing it will be eBay'ed. Then see if anything can be donated, and failing that it goes in the bin. I've discovered the eBay factor is as much about size as anything else...I recently sold my (never used) PS4Pro, and the box was just beyond the cheap zone for Royal Mail, so ended up costing ~£25 to ship... I can see boardgames being not worth selling for that reason, unless I can find a local way of selling them. We did a car-boot just before we moved here, and I wouldn't sell anything with worth at them, as the vast majority of people are only planning on spending £1-2 on items...good for books and nic-nacs, but not for anything else.

Pay Carbon Offsetting

This will be permanant now. 2020 ended up being cheap, as most of my flights were cancelled. 2021 we got a single long-haul in there, so I'll get that re-factored in. We are (as of right now) still with a zero-carbon energy supplier, however they are currently being run under government support, and there is a reasonable chance we'll get shunted off at some point in 2022. If that happens (and lets hope it's not British Gas, who have agreed to never contact me again, after paying ~£300 for poor service and agreeing that they broke their own T&C's to me) I will ensure that we move to another zero-carbon option. It's not much, but it's something.


Well this has all gone to rat-shit :-(

Get Track Accreditation and compete in Reading Track League

This was going well...I'd sourced a bike from Pankhursts, a local bike shop run by an ex-pro Mechanic...a beautiful custom-made De Rosa, with a load of little quality-of-life tweask (removable brakes, a brake surface on the front rim, some classic Campag cranks etc), and done the first third of accreditation. Generally down the track I was going well, and had finally grabbed the 100-lap KOM of the velodrome in training. This is now on hold until 2023 :-(

Upgrade the Plex Server

I'll have to look at this in the latter half of the year...while it's not strenuous work, getting the hardware in place in the house is, and I'll probably need fine motor control, which is not there right now.

Sort out the home office

Again, this will be put on hold. On the plus side, I have a good working environment for a cripple, and I've been able to tweak the deadk height, chair etc to get my shoulder rested and the weight off my pelvis. Won't be moving any furniture around though :-)

Complete the dog training

This is ongoing, however for the next 2-3 months the focus will be on getting Reaver behaving better with Gill, and not jumping up at me, lest he send my flying.

Discover 4 new authors?

I've finished the Wheel of Time marathon, and I'm now catching up on books that were on pre-order (currently on Neal Stephensons "Termination Shock", which I'm enjoying...he often sends you off on Wikipedia dives, like discussing the Actual Line of Control, which is a long-running border dispute between India and China where both sides have informally agreed to not use guns (mainly), and so they fight with sticks and rocks. Give this a near-future spin and you have gangs of state-sponsored martial artists fighting in mountains while streamers with drones broadcast it world-wide).

Revise Pension Options

Nearly complete. I engaged an IFA to do a review of our pensions to date, and model early reitrement and possibilities or optimisation. We were actually due the playback last week, but that's been delayed.

Make a decision on the motorbike

Nothing done yet...realistically this will have to wait until I'm mobile again.

Death to Micro-B

Not going well.Annoyingly my Garmin died (battery issue). I endeavoured to attempt to replace it (ordering a replacement battery), however the unit was glued together, and despite heat/prying the screen cracked during the disassembly process. There is not currently a Garmin headunit that supports USB-C (the 540 model is rumoured to support it, but it has no official spec or release date), so I ended up getting a 530 which is still on Micro-B

Clean out the house

I had planned to do the effort part of this over Easter (digging through cupboards etc), but again that has to be put on hold. Latter half of this year is going to be busy.

Pay Carbon Offsetting

This will happen in December

I now have a new, relelvant short-term set of goals to see me through the next 3 months;

  1. Protect the breaks - I actually think the one most at risk is the collarbone, even though the pelvis is more serious overall. Anything I can do to avoid surgery is good.
  2. Be healthly for September - we are doing Honeymoon v2 in September, a return to the Maldives without any medical dramas, so I need to be physically fit and fine by then...fully mobile, working limbs etc etc
  3. Keep positive - it's very frustrating losing another season to injury (this is the 3rd after the broken wrist and back, then add on another year or two for Covid). I've built myself back upto fitness before, I can do it again.
  4. Recover right - Realistically I'm not going to be doing any cycling for 6 weeks, and nothing outdoors for 12. I can, however, get on with some non-weight bearing physio to start working on mobility and stability around the joints.
babychaos's picture

It must be said that I think you're a legend. For many, including me, an injury like yours would mean months of just trying to survive; not planning to get back to where I was. That you're able to take stock, set limitations and make plans is astounding. It's no small part of why I'm proud to call you a friend and admire you greatly. It's almost boring to say "get yourself fit first, then work out what you can do" because I know that's key to your plans. You're not intending on breaking yourself any further and your patience as always been exemplary.

You're always welcome on Sunday night gaming - it's more about the banter than the game. "not-knowing the games" only lasts for a short time.

brainwipe's picture

Keyboard/Mouse controls dont work too well for me right now, with the borked left shoulder/arm...I have very limited mobility in the left (southpaw mouse) arm, and I have to have the keyboard well over to the left as well for typing, so I don't have to move the shoulder at all...this means that I have miniscule mouse movements. Once I realised I was going to be an in-patient for more than a couple of days I had Gill drop off my laptop and peripherals (the Switch would have been too heavy to hold, which gives you an idea of the stength of the shoulder right now). I have an XBox controller, which is a lot easier to use as I can just settle into a supported position. A nurse said my bed was definitely "blokey"...

I've spent the majority of my time in Forza Horizon 5, which is really good fun....and it's definitely aimed at fun over realism. It's pretending that I'm a really good driver, and it runs remarkably well on my machine (I'm getting 80-100fps at 3440x1440p with Ultra/RTX on and the laptop in "Balanced" mode, and it doesn't even support DLSS). NVidias new resoluton scaling doesn't work great on it, I was seeing a lot of artifacts on sharp edges (of which driving games have many!), but my home monitor supports VRR upto 100fps, so I'm getting a silky smooth experience.

I had my physio assessment last night, and got some exercises (mainly around joint flexibility right now), so at least I feel like I'm doing something to help, rather than just sitting on my arse.

babychaos's picture

So probably not the 3 months I was planning at the start of the year...no plans survive first contact with the enemy and all that.

A quick recap...on the 26th March I was involved in what the NHS described as a Road Traffic Accident, though was actually a crash in a cycling race. I spent 24 hours in A&E Resus strapped to a spineboard with my neck braced, pumped full of morphine while they determined if I would need immediate surgery. I only found out later that any impact hard enough to break the pelvis (which is what I'd done, in 3 places) is often violent enough to cause significant internal organ damage. Fortunately that was not the case, and the fractures themselves were non-displaced. I'd also broken my collarbone, however the NHS treat you according to your highest risk injury, so I was bundled into an orthopaedic ward for 8 further nights while I was assessed, and the Occupational Therapists got me from "unable to move my legs" to "hobble 10 metres with the aid of a crutch".

What I Learnt in Hospital

Alcohol fucks you up.

This was my first stay in an NHS hospital, and I had assumed (mainly from TV shows like Casualty and Holby City I guess) that the majority of ward patients were old people who had fallen over, car crashes and sporting injuries. In my bay over the 9 nights I saw 9 other people. A quick breakdown;

  • 1 was an old, senile gentleman who had fallen and broken his hip
  • 1 was a chap of a similar age to me who had trashed his ankle rollerblading
  • 7 were gentlemen of a similar age to me with alcohol-related issues (drunk and fell, alcoholism and further complications such as diabetes, liver failure etc etc).

Definitely not the demographic breakdown I was expecting. The easiest patients were probably myself and the roller-blader. One chap (who was undergoing multiple organ-failures as a result of long-term alcohol poisoning) was constantly complaining that the insulin-pump that was keeping him alive was "too noisy". Hospitals are noisy places, but for a good reason. My normal response to using the NHS is guilt, as I feel I am taking up resources better used for more needy people, and gratitude that I can do a sport that does carry a level of risk without worrying about bankrupting myself if the worst thing happens (hello USA!)...to sit there complaining about free treatment that keeps you alive despite your own best efforts...I felt angry (countered by extreme tiredness and opioids).

The ward (the male half anyway, which is all I saw as I waddled from my bed to the toilet)) also had 2 bays (8 beds) full of long-term patients...people who really, really should be in care homes, but were unable to be placed (no space, or quite often a covid-positive test prohibiting their movement).

How is the Recovery Going?

Far better than I have any right to.

We are now just over 3 months post-incident. I left hospital able to self-mobilise over about 10-15 metres with the aid of a crutch, and with orders to use a wheelchair for any distance outside...otherwise to minimise any weight-bearing on the pelvis. I also had to keep my left arm in a sling due to the collarbone. I was allowed to carry out non-weight-bearing physio on the leg...so the first thing I did was engage my private medical via work and get to a local physio (Berkshire Physio, which is just round the corner, and comes highly recommended by a number of fellow sports contacts). I spent 5 weeks doing leg raises on a bed, resistance band work and strength/mobility stuff on the surrounding soft tissue. The main area of weakness is the abductor (aka groin) on the innder thigh...one of the pelvic fractures was where the muscle joined the bone, and it was (and to some extent still is) incredibly weak.

After that initial 6 week recovery period Gill and I had a fun trip to St Marys hospoital in London in a wheelchair (where my treatment plan was being defined...it was the hospital I should have been taken to in the ambulance, however their major trauma centre was already full of the other people who had crashed in the race...the on-site triage had me marked as the least injured, so I was last to leave the scene). British Rail staff made the entire trip very easy, immediately offering assistance, bumping us into 1st Class where there was more space (and free tea/biscuits), and helping get the chair in and out of the train. St Mary's itself is right next to Paddington (I didn't realise I had walked and cycled through the middle of the place several times before!), and my pelvis was quickly given the all-clear. The collar-bone...less so. An x-ray indicated that it had not really healed as expected...the pelvic expert decided that I needed another 4-6 weeks in a sling, and forbade me from riding a bike outside. Once we got home I decided to get a second opinion, and arranged a referral to a local, private shoulder specialist (the same guy who was me when I had an argument with a car in 2011 and broke my shoulder blade).

He had a look, poked and prodded me a bit and (with Gill as a witness) said "you can do anything with that shoulder, it healing fine". This was slightly revised on a follow-up 4 weeks later to "the bones have not knitted, however the entire thing is held together with scar tissue, and thats fine"...which was news to me. The x-ray looks horrific, but apparently this is not uncommon. The collarbone is about 1cm shorter now, and there is a small loss of range of motion, but nothing that will impact me day-to-day unless I decide on a career of getting thing soff tall shelves behind me.

Since the all-clear, I've been spending my time starting the long, arduous job of getting back in shape, as well as continuing physio on the weakened areas. My physio said a "normal" person would probaby have been signed off about a month ago, as my normal day-today activities are back to normal, with no impact (so walking, working, sitting/standing etc are all at 99-100% pre-accident). My cycling is not back to 100%, and I'm hyper-aware of the weak areas. The weakened abductor is causing some instability in the left leg when under load, causing the knee to fold in. This can be seen as reduced power in my left leg, and (with some of the whizzy toys I have to monitor my pedalling) an inconsistency of pedal stroke...so we continue to work on that area.

In terms of cardio volume, I'm roughly where I was just after my Christmas break, albeit with a healthy dose of fatigue in the system. This puts me on course to be back to "normal" in 2-3 months, just in time for autumn. Realistically it will be a rebuild until September, a couple of holidays, and then start the build into 2023.

You got another dog???

Errol joined the household just after I got the all-clear on the pelvis. We had initially planned to get another dog April/May next year, once Reaver was settled and past the teenage years...however an opportunity came up via the stud kennel network Reaver came from to get a failed gundog/failed stud dog (too stupid to be a gundog, and a slight knee imbalance put paid to the gigolo work). We had him on a week trial, and had pretty much decided within 48 hours that there was no way we were not keeping him.

Errol is a chocolate labrador (full pedigree, much like Reaver), very small, to the point we could be mistaken for a 9-month puppy, and incredibly affectionate (for context Reaver is 28kg, Errol is 23kg). As a working dog he had never been in a house, and lived in kennels with other dogs. Well lead-trained and crate-trained, but lacking certain skills (we've had to teach him a Sit, and house-training). He's incredibly laid-back, unlike Reaver who is a little FOMO...so between them they have worked out an accord. They are both going for the bollock chop in a couple of weeks (no major issues, but a small amount of dominance behaviour means we've moved Reavers chop-time forward a bit). The house is now a full-on dog home, it's lovely.

anything else?

Gill went public with her news a few days ago. We had the diganosis late 2020. It sucks...however right now the prognosis is good. The drugs are working, and it's been caught very early. The treatments have more day-to-day impact than the disease right now, so it's a case of carry-on-living, and get stuff done.

With that in mind, yesterday I had something done I should have sorted (literally) years ago. In my more rebellious youth (probably 1998/1999 I think) I allowed someone learning to tattoo to try a tribal piece on my arm. You may have seen it...it's awful. Basically a combination of them not really knowing what they were doing, and poor equipment that failed mean that I ended up with some dodgy black lines on my right arm. I had assumed it would need to be lasered off over several exceptionally painful sessions, and ended up just living with it. In the intervening 20-odd years the number of tattoo places in Reading has exploded (it used to just be Ians near Chatam Street), and with it the technical skill and ability of the artists has improved massively. After a bit of encouragement from Gill i spent some time looking through all the various parlours and artists, and really liked some of the stuff a chap call Kev was doing at Eternal Nirvana. I've always liked abstract/geometric and tribal style tattoos. A few emails and phone calls, a consultation or two, and the end result is that yesterday I spent 8 hours have a cover-up design put in place, lined and filled. I have a follow-up session in a couple of weeks for some shading and fill work, and right now my right arm feels like it's incredibly sunburnt...but so happy that I've finally gotten rid of the childs scrawl that has marred the skin for decades. Kev's done an incredible job, and put together an awesome design. Once the arm is done I'm totally getting my lower legs done.

No photos for that yet, they will come once the work is complete and healed...probably end of July.

babychaos's picture

When people say someone is hard as nails, they usually mean some kind of a martial prowess. Being good with fists and feet and shit.

Not to me.

When I think of hard as nails, I think "in traction to fitness in 3 months" + Mrs with cancer + just getting on with being awesome. I don't know how you do it. It's not sarcasm or banter to say that I admire your spirit. That same spirit that took a leap of faith to move to Reading in the first place, live in a dingy flat and work your way up out of a fucking call center. To deal with all the crap that life's thrown your way is impressive beyond words. It hurts to see you in pain; even though I know you'll push through - because there's nothing that really stops you.

I know you'll be back racing on the bike; although the idea does terrify me. I know it feeds that drive you have, which is vital to your happiness but it's still terrrifying.

Errol looks like a right character, hanging out on the sofa with you. I'm thrilled you're now dogged up to the eyeballs!

As for the tattoo - I'm keen to see the result! I hope it wasn't as painful as getting the one in the centre of your chest. IIRC, that was a right bastard.

brainwipe's picture

Cheers, it is appreciated. I decided a long time ago sitting around being maudlin achieved very little, rather get things done than complain about not getting stuff done.

I'd say parts of the tattoo are on a level with the sternum tattoo...mainly the softer skin on the underside of the arm, in the elbow pit and near the armpit. The time taken also gets wearing...the entire piece is significantly larger than anything previously...probably 2/3rds circumference of the (admittedly skinny) arm from shoulder to ~3 inches below the elbow. Healing wise it's less painful than the neck (and I still remember going to a gig at the Rivemead the same day I had my neck done...now that hurt!), but the area covered means it's a little sore still. I'm really looking forward to seeing the final piece completed myself. I've seen mocked up outlines as part of the design process, but the black-work and shading will really make it.

I'm not sure I'll race with youngsters again...I've definitely got the message that I no longer bounce...however there are still options. There is old-man racing (40+), and BMCR, where someone has already offered me lifts to races. Finally there is the velodrome...it's looking like I won't get accreditation sorted this year (takes 2 months, and running out of summer), so thats for next year now.

babychaos's picture