2021: week 8

  • The weather was nice this weekend so I finally got out on a bike ride out of Edinburgh. I don't really know where I'm going, so I did Two Houses from Ronde Cycling Club. It was great!

    The route went through two massive car free estates (thanks Right to Roam!) right by the sea. Little bit of jeopardy with sheep sauntering across the road on fast descent. Perfect.

  • We also rode around Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. At Dunsapie Loch we spotted an (the?) otter just hanging out having a splash. Sorry (not sorry) to everyone who got overtaken on the hill up by 3 kids screaming “OVERTAKE! OVERTAKE! OVERTAKE!“.

  • This week I received 3 calls and texts from people concerned about our missing cat, including a carer calling on behalf of her client, a man who was very concerned. All were relieved to hear he returned safely.

  • We’ve been watching Dark. It is, as a friend would say, absolute bobbins.

  • When asked how old she was, L replied that she was "one and a tortoise". It took a while, through lots of laughter, but eventually we worked out she meant "and a quarter". Actually, she’s nearly 3.

  • I managed to touch my toes briefly.

2021: week 7

  • Bit late this week. Standards are slipping already.

  • It has been very snowy here. Proper snow, that sticks and stays. I took an impromptu morning off on Thursday to go sledging with the kids. Best decision I made all week.

  • On Satuday morning we got a cat flap installed. I attempted to teach the cats to use said cat flap. Big cat: totally fine. Little cat: not fine. Absolutely terrified, he does a runner down the end of the garden, back again, and then over a wall into next door and gone.

    The rest of Saturday was spent trying to decide how much to worry.

    Sunday was spent worrying and leafleting our street. The gardens behind our house opened up to let us have a look around. We posted on a few local Facebook groups.

    The neighbours got in on the action, with excited reports of footsteps sighted in the snow and other minor disturbances.

    Some time in early hours of Sunday he returned. Where did you go little cat? What did you see? He's giving nothing away.

  • In retrospect, Cat Shit Gate might have had some lasting impacts.

  • S and A will now go down the road and buy our croissants for Saturday morning coffee. We get a little push notification on Monzo when the transaction is made, so we know they've not been child murdered.

  • I went to the same cafe during the week and asked for a bacon roll. They were out of rolls, but very politely I was asked if I could pop over to the corner shop over the road to pick some more. Briefly, this completely threw me before I realised it was a very reasonable request.

  • That it's. That's the week note.

2021: week 6

  • Like Tom, I've been trying to touch my toes. Doing so has revealed a litany of issues, so I've been doing some Yoga with Adriene in the mornings. It's free, she's not too hippy, and sometimes her dog comes and sits on her and we all have a laugh about it.

  • Sometime in November I was pulling away from a junction on my bike, when I looked down to discover the frame had snapped. One of the lugs on the 1970s FW Evans frame had rusted through, irreparably, leaving me to perform an emergency glide-to-a-halt on Homerton Road.

    Thankfully I'm blessed with an array of other bikes to choose from, but it's useful having a looks-knackered-but-is-actually-nice city bike, and I missed it.

    This weekend I finally managed to finish building up a late 80s Dawes Galaxy, in a royal blue. (Along with overhauling a new-to-him Islabike for S.)

    I really loved the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub gear on the Evans. 3 speeds is all you need for living in most parts of London, but it's not very practical for Edinburgh’s vertical cobbles. So the Galaxy has a MEGARANGE rear casette and very wide double at the front. I think we're going to get on just fine.

    My father-in-law is planning to turn the Evans frame into windchimes.

  • We need to replace a couple of the single glazed windows in our new place with double glazing. The man, a glazier, who came round to look said he didn't believe in double glazing and that it was all a lie.

    Which reminds me of the damp specialist who didn't believe in damp. Something about how the English invented it, and nowhere else in the world has damp and it was all just condensation. I don't really understand, but I think about it a lot.

  • There's a special machine that shakes oranges off trees into a big hopper, and they use it in Valencia. I miss Valencia.

2021: week 5

  • I've adjusted to Edinburgh absolutely fine by wearing an extra layer at all times.

  • We're doing the 7 hills, one a week. First up was Calton Hill. Getting the cargo bike to the top might have given the kids the wrong idea.

  • My bike route planning brain needs an upgrade to handle a third dimension, and an extra boolean flag for cobbles.

  • I love forums where the really famous people from that community also hang out. Tao Geoghegan Hart popping into LFGSS to say thanks to everyone congratulating him on winning the Giro is a great example.

  • The kids are starting to be better than me at things, which is a both a joy and a harrowing reminder of my limited utility. This week, Dobble, in which it's clear my pattern-matching-to-vocalising pathways have degraded further than I'd hoped.

2021: week 4

  • Hello, I live in Edinburgh now.

  • The pandemic x storm x rail engineering works collab did not defeat us. F doing a job interview on the morning of the move did not defeat us. But when one of our cats did a shit in the box on the other cat and they smeared it all over each other and we found ourselves trying to clean shit off two cats with tissues in a tiny train toilet? That almost defeated us.

    Remarkably, that was not the most stressful part of Thursday 21st January. That special moment was reserved for the hour we spent in the freezing cold in Waverley station slowly discovering that someone very incompetent further up the chain had not done a special bit of paper correctly, so no-one was buying or selling any of the houses they had promised. The solicitors advised us that we should consider finding a hotel. (With two shit covered cats.)

    Thankfully, 5 minutes before the banks closed, the money landed and we owned a new house. It was quite the rollercoaster.

  • I tell you this, not for your pity, but so we can laugh about it when it's not so raw.

  • The last few days have been freezing, but clear and absolutely beautiful. We went down to our local beach and watched the old ladies go for a swim in their bobble hats.

  • That's more than enough for one week, thank you.

2021: week 3

  • Spent most of the week avoiding packing, thinking about packing or actually packing. We move to Edinburgh in 3 days.

  • Thanks house, you've been good. Lots of happy memories.

    We're leaving the kids’ heights penciled on the door frame in the hallway.

  • How is it that a tiny strip of brown tape can keep 20kg of stuff from falling out the bottom of a cardboard box? It doesn't seem right to me.

  • I like it when the conspiracy theories turn out to maybe, possibly, be real. Feels like it's important to let them have one or two every now and again.

  • Sea shanty TikTok is what I need right now. It's so basic that I think the Guardian had an article explaining it, but I don't care. It's a crying shame that we'll never get internet latency low enough that people across the world can harmonise together in real-time.

  • Phoning this one in now and going to bed now. 😴

2021: week 2

  • The weeks, they are relentless.

  • Homeschool is going about as well as expected, thanks for asking.

    I want to write about how furious I am about it all. How we had 10 months to prepare for this winter, and the best we've got is fucking Google Classroom. How there is no plan, strategy or whatever of how we're going to educate and support kids when this rolls into years 2, 3 or beyond. And how lucky we are to have spare laptops and unlimited wifi. But you've heard it all elsewhere, and I'll spare you my precious, unique take.

    Also, I had to explain to S that “WHERE IS THE SPELLING TEST??? ANYONE?” is not an appropriate message for Google Classroom. Online etiquette classes are currently running about three years ahead of schedule.

  • Good week for newsletters. Way behind everyone else, I discovered Garbage Day. It contained this sublime quote about those cheeky fascists who stormed the Capitol.

    “Things that make sense on the internet, when spoken out loud, slip away from you as if you were trying to recall a dream.”

    I feel the same whenever I find myself referring to a tweet in an IRL conversation. I can't imagine how disappointing it must be to find the same at seat of US democracy.

    Also, Money Stuff is back.

  • We rode down to London Zoo on the cargo bike and saw giraffes, zebras, camels, lions, pygmy goats and meerkats from outside the fence. Surprisingly cheering.

  • Extreme Railbiking. OMG, the views.

  • 10 days left in London 😬.

2021: week 1

  • I don't really know how to do these, but I love reading other people's, so let's give it a go.

  • We’ve spent a lot of time in the house as a family this year. Just before Christmas F had to self-isolate and I was working. S and A were going a bit bonkers (again). We realised we could just send them to the playground on their own. So we did. Life changing! Now they go all the time, coming back every 45 mins or so, so we know they haven't been abducted.

    It feels so good that maybe it's illegal? I don't want to know.

  • We're moving to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks. I need to stop refering to it as ‘a new life in the off-world colonies’. It has resulted in some very blank looks.

    I'm excited though! Change, any change, is very welcome right now, and it'll be a proper adventure. We've got a bit more room for everyone, and a little studio thing in the garden I can work from. I'm looking forward to getting to know Edinburgh and surrounds, and getting out into other bits of Scotland too.

    But, I'll miss London. Anna's post hit me 'in the feels', as I believe it's refered to.

  • One of our cats keeps bringing in uncooked chicken legs. It's not great. Cooked chicken legs I could understand - people eat chicken and chuck it out - the cats love all that. But who is keeping open stash of uncooked chicken legs somewhere in a 4 house radius?

    Still, better than the 21 live toads they bought in over a 12 week period a few summers ago.

  • Kids, houses and cats. Sorry. Publish.

Internet Research #2

1. I've always enjoyed Matt's 'filtered for' posts, but I especially enjoyed this turn of phrase:

Computer chip architecture is about the regulated control of information. The design never anticipated that unregulated information - time - would be brought in from the outside.

I can already see the government campaign warning against unregulated information.

Filtered for recent computer exploits

2. In the same post Matt linked to System Bus Radio — turning a computer without any radio hardware into an AM transmitter by hitting the RAM fast enough you "carve radio waves into the air". Useful should you want to exfiltrate data out of an air-gapped machine.

This reminded me of a tale told to me by the radio engineers when I used to work at the BBC. They reported being on an AM transmitter site, working late at night and suddenly hearing John Peel's voice coming out of the chain link fence surrounding the site. I'd always thought that was due to the chain link fence somehow demodulating the AM signal and vibrating (handwave *physics!*).

Anyway, I did a bit of Googling and this Reddit post turns up (the video in post is dead, but the correct video is below), which appears to show a radio signal coming out of vapourising grass touched to the grounding of a large transmitter. In Russia, obviously.

In the comments someone explains how it works:

It's not the radio wave causing the sound. The antenna is being positively/negatively charged hundreds of thousands of times per second in order to produce the radio waves. Because the grass is just a bag of salty water, when it is put in contact with the antenna, it will begin to exchange charge with it. This is an AC current. Grass has a relatively high resistance so will heat up when AC current passes through it. This heat causes water to vaporise, and the rate of vaporisation will depend on the amount of AC current. The current is proportional to voltage, which is being modulated by the radio station to allow radios to reproduce sound waves corresponding to music.

Radio is witchcraft.

3. Tim Bray thinks Google has stopped indexing older parts of the web, making it harder to find old posts from smaller sites. It prompted me to try out Million Short, a search engine that lets you remove up to the top 1 million sites from your query. If you try something like 'london fish restaurants' it's not bad. Gone are (most of) the roundup sites, top 10s from newspapers, Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc. Instead, you just get a load of, y'know, fish restaurant websites. And sometimes that's what you want.

Million Short

Million Short, 'london fish restaurants'

4. Being a massive Bret Victor fan, I really want to visit Dynamicland.

We are a non-profit long-term research group in the spirit of Doug Engelbart and Xerox PARC. We are inventing a new computational medium where people work together with real objects in the real world, not alone with virtual objects on screens. We are building a community workspace in the heart of Oakland, CA. The entire building is the computer.

Well, why the fuck not? Don't miss the 5000 year plan.

Dynamicland

Dynamicland

5. Ursula Le Guin has died, aged 88. Matt (everyone on the internet is called Matt) linked to her essay, 'A Rant About "Technology"' which I'd not read before, and is superb.

I don't know how to build and power a refrigerator, or program a computer, but I don't know how to make a fishhook or a pair of shoes, either. I could learn. We all can learn. That's the neat thing about technologies. They're what we can learn to do.

If you can learn it, it's a technology.

Ursula Le Guin

NAD C315BEE amplifier buzzing

I'm sticking this up in the off chance it'll turn up in someone's Google search one day and save them some time or money.

If you found this you probably did what I did which was forget to turn off your NAD 315BEE amplifier. And then one night, at 3am, you woke up to find your speakers buzzing REALLY LOUDLY. Even when you put the amp into standby, which is odd.

The two large 10000μF smoothing capacitors have blown and need replacing. If you've got a soldering iron and stable hand you should be able to do it yourself.

If you're in the UK RS stock these replacements which are the right specification and size. You can find guides on YouTube for how to swap them.