Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

18 Nov 2015

Wombat Upgrade

Today the order went in for a major rebuild of Wombat. Some parts will remain from the original, but overall most of the system will be replaced with more modern parts:

  • The new CPU has double the core count, higher clock speed and better features. It should be faster under both single and multi-threaded use. It should also use less electricity and be cooler.
  • The new GPU should be much faster, it's on a faster bus, and it has proprietary driver support (if required).
  • The SATA controller is more modern and should be much faster than the hard disk, the current controller is an older generation than the disk.
  • The RAM is much faster - two generations faster and there is four times as much of it.

Overall it should be faster, use less electricity, and be thermally cooler. It won't be as fast as my desktop, but it should be noticeably faster and my better half should be happy enough - especially as I shouldn't have to touch the data on the hard disk, which was only recently reinstalled.

14 Nov 2015


I'm starting to get close to my target weight - only 3 kg to go according to BMI or a few centimetres according to height to waist ratio. Sadly for the past month I've not been able to get as much exercise as normal and I've hit another weight plateau.

Another strange phenomenon I'm experiencing is being cold. Normally even in mid winter I'm fine at work or home with short sleeved shirts and only on the coldest days do I need to wear a T-shirt under a regular shirt. In fact I've not worn or owned a proper vest for decades.

Last weekend I felt cold at home and put a jumper on. Something I wouldn't normally do in autumn. On Monday at work I felt cold but it was such a strange sensation that I didn't even recognise it. On Tuesday I went into M&S and bought a vest! Human fat doesn't provide the same level of insulation that blubber does for seals and whales, but it does provide some and more importantly on a diet the body down regulates thermogenesis to save energy. As I've been starving my self for 9 months to lose weight, it's hardly surprising that my body has decided that keeping warm isn't that important when I've shed over 21 kg.

Today isn't that cold - but it is pretty miserable. I've now got a vest, shirt, thin fleece and thick fleece gilet on. I even raised the temperature on the central heating thermostat up by 2°C...!

03 Nov 2015

New Wombat

I realised that one of my desktop systems is now over a decade old, I bought it in 2005 and its starting to show it's age. The case and DVD drives are fine, the PSU and the hard disk have been upgraded mid-life, and there is nothing wrong with the display, keyboard and mouse. The problem is that the CPU is under-powered, there isn't enough RAM and the graphics subsystem is slow and no longer up to the job.

I've considered several option, but I think the least disruptive is a modern motherboard and faster current generation CPU. I can keep the case and most of the rest of the parts and just do a heart transplant.

31 Oct 2015

Blood pressure and weight

Since discovering I have elevated blood pressure and average but unhealthy levels of blood lipids at the start of this year I've made some small changes to my lifestyle. My diet was fundamentally sound but I have tweaked it a little and reduced the amount of it.

To date I've lost just over 21 kg at an average of 83 g per day, or in medieval units: 3 stones and 5 pounds at a rate of 3 ounces per day. It's important that the rate is slow so you don't stress your body and the weight loss should be sustainable as a result.

The last blood tests showed that my blood lipids had shifted drastically and are now very healthy, so my diet is worth sticking with. Yesterday I spoke to my GP, and after analysising a 5-day set of home blood pressure readings he's decided to stop the blood pressure medication.

I probably do have inherited high blood pressure, but my excess weight brought it on early and as long as I monitor it weekly we should be able to start medication again if it starts to rise up again.

My hybrid diet seems to have worked very well. To be honest I've only really tweaked what I was already eating, but the tweaks were worth the effort and I'll be sticking to the diet for ever now. I will be allowed a few extra calories per day - I do want to stop losing weight eventually!

The only real inconvenience has been having to replace most of my clothes, and as I've now shrunk down so much, even finding local shops that sell men's clothing that is even small enough to not look funny on me!

23 Oct 2015


Early this year I went to see my GP. I had a strange pain on my left side that I had been aware of for a few months and had become concerned about as it hadn't gone away. My GP asked the obvious questions and could make no sense, so he ordered a battery of tests. Two things came out of the tests, the first being elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in my blood, not high enough for medication but best reduced and high blood pressure which did need urgent medication...

I spent most of the summer having more tests: being prodded, irradiated, magnetised, and having more blood drawn (I think doctors still like their leaches...). I also had some pretty horrible alpha/beta blockers to lower my blood pressure.

No one mentioned it but I decided that I should lose some weight - I knew I was overweight, so removed extras from my diet, getting rid of excess salt, fat and sugar. I didn't actually have a bad diet, but I clearly did have too much of it.

Lowering my weight and improving the quality of my diet has reduced my systolic blood pressure by over 1 mmHg per kilo, or about 22 mmHg in total, and my diastolic blood pressure by slightly less, about 18 mmHg. That's pretty good and has drastically fewer side-effects than any medication.

Yesterday I had the result of my lipid tests. My total lipoprotein levels have fallen from over 5 mmol/l to just over 3 mmol/l. They weren't dangerously high, but they were not good, now they are very healthy. At the same time the level of my high-density lipoprotein (HDL) have risen from around 1 mmol/l to 1.8 mmol/l, changing my total cholesterol to HDL ratio from just over 5 (not so good) to less than 2 (very good).

As I've previously said my diet wasn't too bad when I started this change, and I already had plenty of exercise. What I did was trim the extras and snacks, curbed the salt and caffeine, added nuts and more soluble fibre, substituted some of the milk with soya milk and substituted some of my yoghurt with stanols containing yoghurt. Finally I just watched my portion sizes. Nothing radical overall.

The pain? It went away on it's own, still no explanation...! I'm still on calcium channel blockers for my blood pressure, but my GP thinks if I can stick to my diet/activity levels I may be able to come of them too!

08 Oct 2015

Why you are heavier than you think...

Today I went into my local M&S to try on trousers. In the casual section the smallest available size is marked as 32" (81 cm in real units). They are way too large for me and would fall down without a belt or braces. They apparently make some ranges in 28" and 30", but only stock them at the larger stores. As I've mentioned before they are all about 2" larger than they, say, so I was actually trying on a pair of 34" trousers - which I already know are too large.

The point is if you think you haven't put on any weight because you are wearing the same size of trousers that you did a decade or more ago, then you are sadly mistaken as in the interval your trousers have got bigger like you have but the sizes have lied to accommodate the change.

I use to wear 34" trousers at university and went to 36" shortly after. My most recent trousers were 36" and so I assumed (in error) that I had not put on weight over the years. As it happens I had and the vanity sizing had mislead me. In fact if it were not for vanity sizing I would have noticed this earlier and I may have done something about it earlier...

Vanity sizing doesn't seem to apply to French clothing from Decathlon yet, but seems to be wide spread in the UK market.

03 Oct 2015

Green gage chutney

Yesterday we made two batches of chutney: one was green gage and apple plus lots of spice and the second was just green gage based and less spicy. We now have used up all our green gages from this year - at long last...

27 Sep 2015

French Clothing Sizes

On Friday we spent several hours and quite a bit of money buying stuff in Decathlon. We needed some specific things and some things were on sale after the summer. Owing to my body shape change as a result of losing nearly 20 kg this year, a lot of my clothes - regular and sport - don't fit properly. Some I've been able to alter and some I can get away with, but some are now uncomfortable to wear or look absurd...

Decathlon design a lot of their own kit and then have it made all over the world. In that respect they are no different from many other companies both British and foreign. What is striking though is that unlike British and American brands, the stated size is more often the actual stated size, rather than a vanity size. For example to buy M&S or Next trousers I need to buy one size smaller than the quoted size or they fall down, but at Decathlon, I just need to buy the correct size and they fit...

16 Sep 2015

Vanity Sizing

Owing to a reduction in my body mass I've been forced to buy new clothing. It's been an expensive process and annoying to replace otherwise perfectly usable clothes...

I happened to have some older clothes that were not used much as they had previously been a little on the small size. The good news is that I've been able to wear them more regularly so I've avoided buying a few things!

One thing does annoy me. Unlike women's clothing which uses strange numbers, most men's clothing using simple actual measurements, waist of x inches / y centimetres. It's a fairly straight forward system, you know how big your waist size etc and should should be able to buy off-the-peg clothing without too much of a worry. However it's not true anymore! My older clothes when measured with a tape are the size that the label says. The modern ones vary wildly - though they all seem to be much larger than the label says. For example:

  • 20 year old pairs of M&S St. Michael Jeans, says 34", are 34"
  • 20 year old pairs of BHS chinos, says 34", are 34"
  • Modern M&S relaxed fit chinos, says 36", at least 38" more as they age
  • Modern Craghoppers Kiwi walking trousers, says 30", more like 33"

Some clothes, like jeans and those with elasticated bits do get larger with wear and washing, but even so modern clothes seem to be at least once size (2"/5 cm) larger than the label says they should be. Older clothing from the same company is the size it says...

At the moemnt I'm about a real size of 33"/84 cm waist, which is a pain as British men's trousers don't come in odd sizes, so it's either a real size of 32" (tight) or 34" (loose), but in vanity sizing that could be anything from 30"...

13 Sep 2015

Weight Reduction Rate

Over the weekend I recalculated my weight reduction rate target. As you lose weight your BMR falls, mine has come down by about 700 kj. That means to lose weight at the same rate as before I have to eat even less than I was previously. That means eating such a low energy diet that I'll probably miss important stuff out and I could start to lose muscle mass rather than fat.

Since hitting my weight plateau a few weeks ago I've been careful to not over indulge and to push harder on the bike. Re-plotting my weight against target on the new weekly reduction rate of 550 g per week rather than 750 g per week has resulted in a more realistic trajectory that I'm sticking to. Even after my holiday I'm still on target and should hit a healthy weight at the end of November this year.

One problem I do face is clothing. Lots of my clothes now fit me like a tent. Trousers fall down and shirts flap about in the wind... I've bought some smaller clothing, men's size small or medium rather than large or extra-large as previous, but I'm waiting until I reach my healthy target weight so I don't end up with new clothes that are too large. One problem I will face is that, in Basingstoke at least, I can't buy men's casual trousers in a small enough size in any of the local department stores, they don't stock anything small enough! Jeans I can get as they sell them to teenagers who should be smaller than full grown men, but they aren't really allowed for work...

09 Sep 2015

Cambridge Gage Jam

Last year our gage tree (probably a Cambridge Gage) had plenty of fruit but they were all inedible. This year it had plenty of fruit, so much so that as fast as we collect it there is even more ready to collect....

It's been a while since we had gages to jam. I used the same method as previously, though I added a fraction more sugar as the fruit wasn't fully ripe. Today's batch was 1.7 kg of fruit (cleaned and destoned), 350 g water and 1.2 kg of sugar, plus the usual juice of a frozen and defrosted lemon. The yield was pretty good and as we have loads of fruit left, even after we give some of them away I'll do another batch later this week.

04 Sep 2015

Summer Holiday 2015 (Days 14)

Today is our last day...

We left our campsite for the last time, said good buy to the animals and cycled back to St Peter Port. While getting bread I had a nice conversion with a local politician who asked me how I found cycling on the island, then we went and queued for our ferry home. Condor ferries were as useless going back to the UK as they were for getting us here and we were about the very last people to board, even though we had arrived with hours to spare...

We had an easy train ride home, with no problems, and a nice dry ride from the station to home. Total distance travelled on holiday 371 km (230 miles), not quite as much as the 929 km from last year, but more hills this time!

Picture of the day: Filter In Turn.

03 Sep 2015

Summer Holiday 2015 (Days 12/13)

Today was supposed to be nice so we booked a day trip to the island of Sark. We left the port early in the morning after buying bread for our sandwich and took the ferry to Sark.

Guernsey is very pretty and Sark is also pretty but in a different way. We had a jolly nice day there on foot and in the sunshine once we had escaped the hoards that came with us. The Bailiwick 1:10000 map was almost unusable as virtually all structures on the ground were not on the map and neither were field boundaries, but we survived and mostly didn't get lost!

Picture of the day: Castle Pier Lighthouse at St. Peter Port on the way out.

After yesterday's beautiful sunshine and walking on Sark, today we planned to circumnavigate Guernsey again for the last time before going home. So after popping into town for bread and some shopping - I got a very good deal on a cycling rain jacket in a water-sports shop, we returned to the camp for lunch. Once fully refuelled we set of on our second Tour de Guernsey!

Picture of the day: In the distance.

01 Sep 2015

Summer Holiday 2015 (Days 10/11)

After yesterday's busy day, we had another nice enough day and we were out and about most of the day. We had a nice long bike ride in the afternoon.

After the bike ride we went up to see the pigs, we arrived just as they were escaping and had to help the keeper put them back in the enclosure. We had a log chat with the animal keeper at the campsite who is a casual worker who just came down for the summer.

After feeding and re-homing the pigs I sent a TXT to a local outdoor company to enquire about see kayaking, as tomorrow should be a good day.

Picture of the day: Our Tent made in France no less...

Today was a bit different. As we knew it was going to be nice and after a certain amount of dithering on my part we booked up to try sea-kayaking. I didn't take my camera on the kayak so I've not pictures of the event.

Interesting coincidence, as we were waiting for someone to come out of a sea cave I passed a comment about the pink granite rocks, and our guide made a comments about the colour being quite red/orange rather than pink. I said it reminded me of home (i.e. Lancashire) and he asked where that was. I said Hampshire now days but I really meant Lancashire - where I grew up - to which he asked which bit as he was also a Lancastrian. So I said East Lancashire, and then he said which bit, so I said Rossendale and then he volunteered he was from Bacup! Spooky to find someone from your home town while bobbing up and down of the southern coast of Guernsey!

After changing out of my swimming trunks, we then cycled back to base for lunch and then half way round the island on a glorious afternoon!

Picture of the day: Petit Bot Bay, where we went out to sea. It had a lot less water in than when we left an hour or so earlier. Our guide/instructor told us there was a 10 metre tidal range, which is rather a lot.

30 Aug 2015

Summer Holiday 2015 (Days 08/09)

We went to see the market at Sausmarez Manor this morning. They also have a nice Fair Trade shop which we had a look round - though didn't by anything in the end. After buying our bread in town we cycled back to base.

In the afternoon we decide to walk to the coast and have a look around, it was cool and overcast but didn't actually rain and we worked up a fine appetite for dinner back at the tent.

Picture of the day: Say Cheese!.

Today we cycled into town as and arrived as the 2015 Guernsey Marathon was coming to then end. Most of the stalls from yesterday's market were also out on the sea front.

After watching the race and buying our bread for today and tomorrow (the shops being closed on Sunday), we (for fun) cycled half way round the island to go home.

Picture of the day: Winner.