March 2017 - The Missing Blogs

March was a much quieter month than the previous two, but the start of 2017’s scuba season. One of my annual goals was to gradually purchase all of my equipment for a Liveaboard diving trip to Egypt in September; I had before now been reluctant to buy too much to avoid getting things too quickly and then wishing I had purchased the more expensive or better equivalent the first-time around. The first thing this year was my diving computer, a very crucial piece of safety equipment this allows me to see my depth, dive time, gas mix and uses an algorithm to calculate how long and how deep I need to perform a safety stop. The watch I bought was the Sunnto Zoop Novo, only an entry-level computer (some cost more than a thousand pounds!) but perfectly adequate for the diving that I will be doing and can serve as a backup if I buy another in the future.

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

With my shiny new computer, it was time for the first dive of the year! I took a day trip with Southern Scuba to Vobster Quay in Somerset. Vobster is a disused stone quarry, now filled with freshwater and serves as an outdoor activity park for scuba divers, free divers and swimmers. It’s one of my favourite in-land diving spots, for £30 or so, you can have a good day out diving with almost no hassle getting in and out of the water, great for training and practice. Vobster has some very cool underwater attractions too, with planes, boats and even a set of 3-meter high fibreglass clowns!

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Another one of 2017’s goals was to achieve my Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications, work was very supportive of this and funded the course in London for a week. The course was run by QA and has to be one of the best training courses I had been on; the trainer knew the course back to front, was incredibly knowledgeable and was very easy to follow. Prince2 is a project management framework and while I’m no project manager having an understanding of the practices has already proven very valuable to progressing projects and working closely with project managers who follow the framework well. I would certainly recommend the course for anyone involved in projects within a technology team.

Towards the end of the month, we took a trip back to Cornwall (a somewhat popular destination this year!). Spending time with family, we visited the Annual Beer and Mussel Festival hosted at Rick Stein’s Cornish Arms pub. The festival was a lot of fun, we had some interesting live music and plenty of never-before-tasted beers! One beer I particularly liked (according to untapped) was White Cross IPA from Black Flag Brewery, who also produce Fang, which is an incredible beer..

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Before heading home, we had some food in Mevagissey, only a short drive from home Mevagissey is picturesque working fishing port, it has some great pubs and restaurants too, but gets rather busy in the summer months. It also happens to be the place where last year I crossed Number 13 - Catch a fish off of The Bucket List (which I don’t seem to have blogged about), the catching a fish affair was all much simpler than I had anticipated. Just off of the harbour wall, there were swarms of Mackerel, who all seemed to want to jump on the hook, one chap was literally filling a bin bag full of the fish he was catching. We took the Mackerel home and cooked it on the BBQ – it was pretty good!

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall

February 2017 - The Missing Blogs

February started with friends, having dinner out and settling into our new home after a busy Christmas and beginning to the year. We spent time absorbing Upnor, taking walks along the beach and past the castle, enjoying the pub and surrounding area. We watched as the boats slowly begin to re-populate the river, the process is now an unexciting and gradual affair, very different than when it used to be a big weekend with a crane and a rush at high tide!

River Medway, Upnor, Kent

River Medway, Upnor, Kent

Victoria and I took time over Valentines weekend for some travel; we visited Dubrovnik in Croatia, a fascinating old city now famous in part for its role in the Game of Thrones TV series. We spent only three days in Dubrovnik, but that was plenty enough to see and experience the city. There were a few highlights; one was the bar on the cliff edge, which is reached through the sea-facing city wall, it had a fantastic view (and no bathrooms!). Another highlight was the restaurant we ate at for our ‘big evening’, the service was incredible and they prepared an entire fish, made a soup from the same fish and served it perfectly. A great trip, I blogged about Dubrovnik earlier in the year.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia

When we returned home, Victoria treated me to dinner, also for Valentines - it was a very special dinner at home, we had fresh Cornish Oysters and Mussels delivered live all the way from Cornwall in the post! We had a great evening and learnt how to shuck an oyster and cook Mussels. I was unfortunately not terribly well after the meal, which I’ve since concluded must be some sensitivity to Oysters (see post). Big shame, but not Victoria’s fault!

Cornish Oysters at Home

Cornish Oysters at Home

Later in the Month I took a trip to Cisco Live Europe, hosted this year in Berlin, Germany. This was the first Cisco Live I had attended, and I had no idea what to expect, turns out it was a huge event – but a lot of fun. The only single-vendor conference I had been to prior was Palo Alto Ignite in Vegas, which was significant but not quite as big as this. I travelled with a colleague and some guys from a potential supplier; we had a great time absorbing both new Cisco technology and wrapping around on best practices on some existing, deployed tech.

Cisco Live, Messe Berlin, Germnay

Cisco Live, Messe Berlin, Germnay

Can’t forget to mention what is possibly the best lager I have ever tasted, here accompanied with a Schnitzel too, the Beer in Berlin was all fantastic. The restaurant around the corner from the hotel was visited on more than one occasion! We didn’t manage to visit the Brew Dog in Berlin, unfortunately, but did get a chance to see the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie (very underwhelming) and a piece of the Berlin Wall. Interestingly I learnt after our visit that there is a piece of the wall just across the river from home, at the Royal Engineers Museum.

Berliner Kindl and Veal Schnitzel, Berlin, Germany

Berliner Kindl and Veal Schnitzel, Berlin, Germany

Once home I spent some time upgrading our home network and trialled some Ubiquiti Networks equipment, a little bit challenging as none of their products supports termination of VDSL, but I managed to buy an old BT modem on eBay which did the job. The EdgeRouterX and 802.11ac WiFi are still working a treat, no complaints although I do think we could use another AP downstairs as the 5Ghz signal gets a little weak. I haven’t been bowled over by the ease of configuration of their router, but the WiFi wasn’t too bad – I did need to set up the Wireless controller on a Raspberry Pi, but that seems to be working well.

Ubiquiti AP and Router

Ubiquiti AP and Router

January 2017 - The Missing Blogs

2017 was kicked off in the same style as 2016, with family in Cornwall. We spent time in East Cornwall in December and visited Bodmin Moor and The Cheesewring (see post) before heading to Charlestown for New Year celebrations. At Midnight there were fireworks from the harbour, and we enjoyed some champagne while watching the events in London on my phone! Late night, but lots of fun, a great start to the year.

Charlestown, Cornwall

Charlestown, Cornwall

We also visited Watergate Bay, a beautiful sandy beach in North Cornwall and took this genuinely memorable photograph - it was far too cold to only be wearing a t-shirt and entirely too cold to be surfing.

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

After returning home I had a trip to Amsterdam, to meet with work colleagues for some business in the Netherlands. A very productive trip and the first of many to Amsterdam this year. We have a fantastic office, and it was great to see this beautiful city during winter time. One highlight was the gin; I had no idea that gin was so popular in The Netherlands and that it is distilled here in some many different varieties. The flight on this trip with BA was terrible, I have since switched to flying with KLM instead, whose service has been fantastic - plus they still provide complimentary drinks (shame on you, BA)!

Sylvius Gin, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sylvius Gin, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My exercise regime was officially kicked off, in line with 2017 objectives, taking good use of the new local PureGym. I was much less fit than I realised but gradually I have got into the groove.

The big international news of the month was undoubtedly the Trump Inauguration, particularly interesting as I was travelling to the US the day following. The day I arrived was the same day as the 2017 Women’s March, which has been recorded as the largest single-day protest in US history, quite a significant event. The focus of the trip was SD-WAN, a topic which has had my full professional commitment this year and continues to do so.

My View of Trump's Inaguration

My View of Trump's Inaguration

While in St Louis I had some downtime to explore the city, I saw the Gateway Arch close up (it is enormous!), sadly it was closed for refurbishment. I did, however, speak to a very friendly and polite Park Ranger as the arch is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is maintained by the National Park Service. I also had time to visit the City Museum and get close to the Mississippi River; I took the MetroLink transit back to the hotel, which was a daunting experience!

St Louis Old Courthouse

St Louis Old Courthouse

Next stop was NYC to get our SD-WAN appliances racked and stacked, only visiting for a few days but again managed to get a day or so of downtime. I caught up with some friends for lunch in SoHo and took a sneaky trip to the top of One World Trade Centre (of which Cushman & Wakefield are both a leasing agent and tenant). While the view was fantastic, the view from Top of The Rock is still better!

View from the top of One WTC

View from the top of One WTC

2017 & The Missing Blogs

Quite likely the busiest year of all time and certainly one the most significant, there have been many missed opportunities for blogging in 2017. I’m going to commit to the cause while I have some time off and re-cap all the notable events of this year. After all, this blog’s purpose is both to share interesting occasions and to keep some history of them - that doesn’t work if I don’t actually blog. Expect to see some monthly round-up posts hitting the blog shortly, I will link them to this post as I add them.

Super Trees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Super Trees, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

In January I set some Annual Objectives, a bit like a monster list of New Year's resolutions. I haven’t done great, but certainly could have done worse… Worth noting that none of these would've been possible without support from others, not only the decking or car but the rest too. In order of completion:

I was, however, not able to achieve these objectives:

  • Log 100 dives
  • Complete 2 x ITIL Exams
  • Obtain Amazon Web Services Technical Certifications
  • Start Learning Spanish
Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong Island

Additionally, I was aiming to blog at least once a month; for those that may remark this post and those that follow this isn’t an attempt to swing in at the last minute and claim that I did manage that, I failed, marginally, but I failed. I’m sure I will do better next year, I certainly did better than 2016.

Dexter as a puppy

Dexter as a puppy

This year was a good year for progress with The Bucket List, without even thinking about them Number 5 - Own a Dog and Number 11 - Speak Publically in Front of a Crowd were both checked off. For those curious, I did not get the dog in order to check the item off(!) - In fact, I didn’t even realise it was on the list until Victoria noticed! The dog has since become more of a family member than we could ever have imagined!

I think in 2018 I may re-vamp The Bucket List into something less of a morbid box-ticking exercise and something that’s more goal-oriented, perhaps with some description around each of the entries. Certainly, there are a number of things that as time has passed I feel should be or have been on the list (Getting engaged and married!) and things that in hindsight should not be there (Number 28 - Break a Bone).