Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

17 Sep 2014

Apple and Damson Jam

I made damson jam, it's something I've not made for years. It's the first year we've had fruit from our damson tree. Sadly we were on holiday when the fruit was at it's prime so we lost some to birds and age. In the end we had about 1.5 kg of fruit that was okay, to which we added a further 1.5 kg of cooking apples we collected from a box in the village.

I gave everything a wash and picked out the past redemption fruit, and put the cleaned damsons and roughly chopped apples in the jam pan and added 400 ml of water. I then heated the mixture and gave it a good mashing until it was all broken up and soft. Previously I've tried making jelly but the yield is dreadful, so instead I forced the mush through a collander to hold back the stones, pips and coarse material.

Next I cleaned everything up and started on the jamimg process. I added 1.5 kg of sugar, 300 ml of water and the juice of a lemon into the jam pan and heated to boiling. I then poured in my 1.5 kg of apple and damson puree, and brought quickly to the boil. I let it have a full rolling boil for about three minutes (damsons and apples have a lot of pectin and if you boil for too long you just get rubber). I then potted it up and left it to cool.

From this batch I got 9.75 jars of jam, which isn't too bad at all. It's not as clear jelly, but it tastes plenty good and it's a lot easier to make than proper whole fruit jam. When I put it in the jars it was very runny and didn't lool jam at all, this morning when I inspected it had set well, I'll find out tonight if it's over cooked!


08 Sep 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 16/17)

Our last day in Denmark. It has been a fantastic holiday and a country I strongly advice anyone to visit who likes good food, rolling countryside, bike friendly roads, pretty towns & villages and coastlines. It's not for the mountain lovers though as it's not very high anywhere...!

After our final Danish breakfast (which has been consistently good) we cycled around town occupying ourself on a sleepy Sunday before we headed off to the ferry port. The forecast wasn't great and that is what happened, it wasn't hot or cold, and it sort of rained but didn't.

We cycled up the coast to the beach north of the town and had a look at Mennesket ved havet or "Man by The Sea", a giant set of figures sitting on stools looking out at the sea. We took several pictures and with the flat light none came out all that well. We then went up the cycle path and had lunch.

After lunch we went to find a flea market - that was coming to an end when we arrived, and all the classic Lego on sale I was looking for was long gone... After that we went back to town and spent an hour in one of the squares watching the world go by before heading off for our ferry at the port.

Boarding the ferry was a bit drawn out and tedious, but we made it to our cabin without any problems and managed to get rid of our change in the shop on some sweets. In our defence we had brought healthy food with us and we'd been cycling so a little chocolate isn't going too hurt much...

In the morning we woke up in the middle of the north sea. The cabin wasn't as hot and stuffy as the one on the way out, and as the sea was mill pond calm we weren't kept awake with the constant shake, rattle, roll and squeak that made the journey out so miserable.

After breakfast we ventured outside, it was nice and sunny and there wasn't too much wind so it was quite pleasant. Would have been nicer without the smokers, but you can't have everything. We went back inside after a while and watched the end of Danish TV (seems to be mostly old British TV with subtitles...)

Eventually we arrived in port and were called down to the car deck. A nice member of staff suggested we moved our selves and our bikes so that the unloading team could see us - a bus had parked next to us. As a result we were the first of the boat and first out of the ferry terminal.

We then retraced our steps through the rail network, which is always stressful. As it happens we were early after the first leg and were able to take a late running train that got us into London more than an hour early. Cycling through London was HORRIBLE, cars drifting in and out of the bike lanes as if we were not there, the final straw was some w****r of a cab driver who turned left into the cycle lane and caught my rear panniers and almost pushed me over. Banning cars, cabs and lorries from the centre of our big cities can't come soon enough if you ask me...

We made it to Waterloo station and were able to catch an early and quiet train home, giving us time to do a load of laundry and other stuff before it was time for bed and work tomorrow.

We did 929.73 km or 577.707 miles in medieval money... Annoyingly I caught the reset button, so I only have total distance and I don't have rolling averages and elapsed time, but on the section I do have time we were averaging just over 18 km/h, which isn't bad as that is with all our belongings almost all the time and includes walking and slow in-town stuff when we got lost.


06 Sep 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 14/15)

We left our B&B after another hearty Danish breakfast and cycled on to Kolding on the mainland. At lunch we stopped at the fantastically named Middlefart. Kolding Danhostel was the first we hadn't booked, we didn't know the weather would go so we didn't book in advance, which we probably should have done as we just managed to get the last room when we arrived!

After unloading and having a shower we went for an explore round town. Like almost all the towns we've been to, its cycle and pedestrian safe in the most, pretty and the shops close early so good for window shopping if you arrive late!

Today's picture is Koldinghus Castle an ancient royal castle, that the Spanish who were billeted there during the Napoleonic wars burnt to the ground by accident while trying to keep warm. Restoration was completed in 1991, the tower to the right of the picture is the only bit that survived the fire and is apparently more original, the rest is a twentieth century rebuild.

After dinner we had the TV room to ourselves and were able to watch the Vuelta on Danish TV.

In the morning we cycled back to Ribe, we couldn't stay in the town as everything was booked up because of a festival this weekend. Instead we had a walk round, went into a toy shop and looked at Lego - which we didn't buy as it's not practical on our bikes no matter how much I wanted it...

Then it poured with rain, making everything very wet and emptying the streets in less than a minute. Today's picture is the cathedral at the centre of Ribe: Vor Frue Maria Domkirke, apparently it's the oldest building in the country, and its bulk shielded us and our bikes from the rain...! Once the rain had stopped we cycled on to Esbjerg for our last night in Denmark.


04 Sep 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 12/13)

Today we had to take the train to over the bridge to our next destination so we didn't really need to cycle anywhere specific. So we went to the Trelleborg ring castle and museum and then on to the near by beach.

The fort was started in 980 and abandoned only ten years later. It's possible that it was never completed, was destroyed by fire or became obsolete because of the ever changing politics of the Viking era. We don't know and at the museum they still don't know.

The fort consists of a large circular earth bank and ditch outer, and within the centre a number of timber long houses. Today's picture is a reconstructed long house built in the late 1930s, and though no-longer though to be correct it's still an interesting building and at least it's posts are in the right place as their layout is taken from those in the fort (out of shot to the right). Trelleborg Long House

The visitors centre was small but quite interesting with some nice models showing what they think the fort looked like and plenty of Viking things to touch and dress up in. The stainless steel ring mail they have to play with is awfully heavy when you put it on, I can't imagine anyone walking about in it, let alone fighting in it...

On the other side of the site they had newly built houses for normal villagers which are much smaller and a lot more modest.

After lunch we cycled out to the coast and spent a few hours lounging about and digging holes in the sand. Eventually we cycled back into town to take our train to Odense and another B&B. Unlike British trains which begrudgingly take bike on them, Danish ones have load of space for them and boast about the bikes with nice clear signs to can see, without needing a microscope...

Today we had another light cycling day and had just a short cycle out from our lovely B&B to Ladby where there is a Viking ship burial. All the nice stuff was removed in the Viking period and the wood has totally rotted away, but some of the iron rivets survived and the impression of the wood remained, and in the mid twentieth century it was excavated and preserved.

Today's picture is a shot of the end with the anchor and chain in of the Ladby ship, which I'm pretty sure is not the original one but a recreation, but I can't remember. The site has a modern dome on top and the remains are boxed off behind glass to maintain the humidity and temperature and stop people from poking it!

After visiting the burial site we went back to the little museum where there is a recreation, the king was buried with horses and dogs, the remains of which were not removed so they know how many and how they were arranged. The museum is also building a replica of the ship with the help of the Viking Boat Museum that we visited a few days ago.

Again another smashing place and well worth visiting. We were very lucky too, as other than a clueless pair of Brits who where there some of the time we were we had the boat to ourselves for quite a while...

We then cycled back to town, were we had a wander round the H. C. Andersen trail in town which was free and occupied ourselves for a few more hours until dinner time.


02 Sep 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 10/11)

Today we left our B&B in the city and cycled in the sun to Roskilde. Like Ribe, Roskilde is a former capital of Denmark and is famous for the scuttled boats found in the harbour that have since been dug up, preserved and put on display. They think the boats were deliberately sunk to block the channels into the harbour, to prevent raiders from attacking the city about 1000 years ago. The period was famous for a lot of in fighting and combined with dendro dating they know when the wood for the ships was felled.

The Viking Boat Museum is fascinating and has lots of modern experimental archaeology going on, as people try to understand how these old boats were actually built and used. The main exhibits are the remains of the boats that are on display in a purpose built exhibition hall that from the outside looks like a concrete u-boat pen, but on the inside is a stunning light and airy building with the boats all for display.

After visiting the museum we checked into our Danhostel, which is physically next door to the museum and had dinner - which was a bit harder than planned as the kitchen's microwave didn't work. Unlike previous Danhostels there was no cycle provision which is a bit of a pain.

After dinner we went for a walk round the city, which is very pretty and has a large and impressive cathedral. We followed the historic town trail backwards, which was mostly okay but sometimes you can miss a turn..!

In the morning we left or Danhostel and cycled to Slagelse. The national bike route was a bit naughty today and sent us on some dirt tracks that were okay on a hybrid but would have been no fun at all on a road bike. No broken spokes or punctures though so we did manage to survive okay.

After a short section on the road we were sent on another off-road section through a wood, where we saw a cute red squirrel and lost the cycle signs entirely and the track was so poor that it was unridable even on a hybrid - you needed a mountain bike and no panniers with all your belongings in! In the end we did come out in the right place but it wasn't fun. So far it's been the worst experience on bike.

We eventually arrived at our Danhostel, had a shower, did some shopping in town and then went to the kitchen to prepare diner. So far every Danhostel has been spotlessly clean and well equipped, our room was perfectly clean but the kitchen was unsanitary and the microwave smelled like something had drowned in the rancid liquid that was swilling around at the bottom of the oven.


31 Aug 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 08/09)

We left our home for the night and cycled to the capital, in the hope of arriving before the predicted rain. The route was fast but boring and well signposted until we reached the outskirts when the route markers vanished and we got lost. However we managed to find our way to the capital in the end, and before it started to rain.

After a brief but surprisingly good lunch we went on to our B&B in the suburbs, where we unloaded and had a brief rest before we returned via train to have a look round. The rail service was fast and cheap and we made it back for our exploration of København. It rained and it rained and we did get wet - but with good quality clothing we survived and had a very interesting "palaeolithic" dinner.

On our return from town we sat on the bed in our B&B and I watched Jaws (with Danish sub-titles....)

Overnight it rained, and rained, and rained a bit more. The weather forecast said it would and it really rained. The forecast for today was dull, clearing later and with that in mind we set off with a spring in our step to the station. We were less than a minute out of the station before the rain started and by the time we arrived in central København the rain was pouring down. Luckily I found a broken and discarded umbrella and managed to hop from shop to shop without getting saturated.

We actually found some of the shops as good as museums, except you could buy stuff if you wanted - which as we were on bikes meant we could actually buy very little! This was probably a good thing as I could have spent a fortune in the Lego shop alone!

Towards the end of the afternoon it cleared up for a while and this is when this picture of a Statue in the rain was taken, it's the Danish archbishop Absalon on a horse looking all brave and knightly.


29 Aug 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 06/07)

Today started well, my bike stopped making an annoying noise and we had another good morning cycling. However, just before lunch another spoke broke, so we spent lunch on the lawn behind a bike shop while another spoke was installed. The chap in the shop was very nice and quick but charged a fraction more than the first place. He also warned me that other spokes could easily go at any time now...

After lunch we redistributed some of the weight, my better half taking a bit extra and I'm now avoiding hard acceleration and breaking. Unlike the UK where our roads are more pothole than road, in Denmark most of the cycle routes and roads are pretty good but even so I'll try to avoid bumps from now on...

Wind turbines are quite common in Denmark - on average they generate more electricity per person from wind than the UK does from nuclear... Only when you get really close to them can you just hear a faint swoosh, they are silent compared with the road noise of a bike. So far we've seen no piles of chopped birds and bats at the foot of the towers, no blinded or deafened Danes and no "Nej" posters anywhere. I like them and thing the really big ones enhance the landscape as long as they are in clumps of four or five as they mostly seem to be at the moment.

Our day ended okay when we arrived in Vordingbord with all our tires inflated and all spokes accounted for. My wheel does make an annoying noise though...

All pictures, not just daily blips are now on Google. Today's blip is: Spinning in the wind

After another night in a Danhostel, we set off and nothing bad happened at all today. This is good. Even the rain held off until we had arrived at our destination in Køge, where we occupied ourselves doing the laundry. If you have to carry everything around with you on your bike you are more likely to travel light, hence a mid holiday laundry event...


27 Aug 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 04/05)

Today we started with a very generous breakfast at our B&B - the owners really did feel sorry for us as we looked so wet when we arrived yesterday. We then cycled on to the ferry port to take the ferry across to the island of Funen. We then cycled on to our destination of Faaborg, about 30 minutes from arriving I noticed a strange noise and discovered I had somehow snapped spoke on the rear wheel of my bike.

We checked into our Danhostel, then went looking for a bike shop to fix the spoke (who said they'd fix it in the morning) and then wandered about to see the town. Tonight's dinner was the first we made from locally source ingredients.

Today's picture is Viking longship in the middle of a street. We had quite a bit of time to look round and the town was quite pretty if a little quiet.

After a good night's sleep the day started with a trip to a friendly local bike shop to fix my broken spoke. After the fix we set off for Nakskov our destination for the day. While the wheel was round and had all it's spokes present and correct, it made a lot of noise...

Today's picture is another church, this one in Ulbølle, again as a result of getting lost... The Danish cycle network is brilliant, but the direction posts are far apart and some get knocked over in places so you can easily miss a turning and have no idea where you are.

We arrived at our Danhostel outside of Nakskov with only a minor incidents - my chain hopped of the smallest chain ring and got wedged, but that was easily fixed, even if I got covered in chain muck...


25 Aug 2014

Summer Holiday 2014 (Days 02/03)

Today didn't start all that well. The DFDS Seeways ferry: squeaked; rattled and rolled all night long, which didn't make for the best crossing possible. We also discovered that while I don't get sea sick but my better half does...

We also got our first exposure to Danish TV, which seemed to consisit of lots of very old British TV with subitiles.

Once we were on solid ground we negotiated the Danish road system to get onto the bike infrastructure, to cycle to Ribe our destination for the day. It took a bit getting use to being on the wrong side of the road, but the Danish drivers were both very forgiving and rare so it was a pretty safe exercise until we were onto the cycle route. We cycled the hour and a half to Ribe along the sheltered side of the sea dyke which protects the country side from the North Sea, so we were out of the wind and had a very easy cycle.

Once in the city we had a brief explore before we checked into the Danhostel and could have a shower and change into normal clothing. After dinner we went back into the city to follow the City's Night Watchman tour. The very nice chap gave a fascinating tour of the city and explained how it had developed over the centuries and best of all spoke very good English!

Picture of the day: The Night Watch

We had a good night's sleep in Ribe and a very hearty Danish breakfast to start the day and set off on our bike ride. The Danhostel was very nice, it was clean, with a good place to lock the biked and had a very nice breakfast on offer which was very good value.

Today's picture of the day is of Rise Kirke where we got slightly lost, but we did get a nice picture in compensation.

Today was a little challenging, about an hour before our arrival at our destination my better half acquired a puncture, then it then started to rain while we repaired the puncture, then I acquired a puncture about 30 minutes later, at which time the rain turned very nasty and into hail... When both were fixed we were able to arrive at our destination B&B where hot tea and cakes were laid on for us (we looked liked drowned rats...)

We had puncture repair kits, spare inner tubes, waterproof covers for our panniers and decent modern cycling kit so we actually were fine. Our hosts were extremely gracious and provided very good company, food and accommodation, so the day ended as well as it had started.


23 Aug 2014

Summer Holiday 2014

We finished off the packing this morning, loaded the bikes and cycled up the hill to the station to catch the train. We were are few minutes later than planned and had to go up the hill with more gusto than planned, which isn't so easy with several extra kilos in the panniers and half a dozen Ferraris clogging the village up (CarFest South started today). Anyhow we caught our train to London okay, crossed London in one piece and arrived at Liverpool Street Station where. We then took two further trains to arrive at Harwich International to take our ferry to Denmark.

Considering the number of trains involved and having to cycle across London, CarFest in the village the only incident today was to lose the magnet for the cadence sensor on my bike computer.

I don't think I'm being controversial if I were to say that cycling infrastructure was pretty terrible all the way. The train to London had dire cycling space, London is a nightmare to cross even on the Cycle superhighway on a weekend, Liverpool Street station was nasty to navigate, the first train to the port did have a guards van with space to put bikes, but the next train didn't.

Picture of the day: The Gherkin


16 Aug 2014

Using Less

Since we moved into our current house we have continually aimed to reduce our gas and electricity use year on year. We started with a number of behaviour changes relative to the previous owners - which saved 50% on gas an electricity on the first year. Since then we have gradually replaced old/worn out/inefficient things with modern/highest efficiency replacements/alternatives and significantly improved the insulation in the loft space and under the ground floor.

YearkWhTotal
ElectricityGaskWh·m-2
20095 00022 000233
20103 00019 000188
20112 67513 945137.4
20123 5269 606108.5
20132 3919 40297.5
20141 2953 74941.7

The 2009 and 2010 years are estimated and 2010 contains both our and the previous owners usage. 2014 contains only 61% of the year, so isn't comparable yet. I could also do with a scaling factor for the weather as some winters are radically different from others and that makes a big difference to the winter gas figure.

Even though the 2009 figure is an esitmate it's still only about two thirds the EPC survey the house came with when we bought it of E/48 - 314 kWh·m-2, and we're already loads better the best estimate of D/55 - 275 kWh·m-2.


28 Jun 2014

New Time Piece

Personal portable tine pieces are strange things. My first watch was a small red wind-up Timex that I was given when I could read the time. The strap eventually frayed out but it was still in good order when I was given a Timex LCD digital watch when they became popular and cheap. That watch lasted all of 12 months before it died to be replaced by a Casio digital watch which lasted many years and many straps.

At University I had my grandfather's watch, a mechanical Swiss watch that was very accurate as long as I remembered to keep it wound up. I continued to wear it as my regular watch in my first job. The only problem with this watch was it wasn't shock or waterproof and it was no good when I forgot to wind it up! My better half got me a Casio hybrid analogue/digital watch which I used for many years as my out doors/DIY watch.

I was somewhat disappointed when the resin case failed and though the watch was okay it wasn't wearable anymore and I replaced it with two watches, another similar Casio and a titanium cased Lorus quartz analogue display watch. The Casio failed in exactly the same was as the previous ones, dead straps and the a case failure.

My most recent watch is a Seiko titanium cased quartz analogue display similar to the Lorus (they are the same company) but this one is slightly nicer and battery is solar re-charged so it should never need replacing. The strap is also made of titanium so unlike the continually failing resin straps it should also last quite a bit longer...

The irony of all these watches is that I sit in-front of a computer for a living, and often at home - all of which have network synchronised clocks on them that are far more reliable than any of my wrist-watches. When I'm not at a computer I usually have my mobile phone with me or another high precision time pieces is available...


26 Apr 2014

Squeeze

Today I completed the last migration of a Debian GNU/Linux system from version 6.x (aka Squeeze) to version 7.x (aka Wheezy). One system was this server, which I migrated to a new hosting platform, today's migration was an Viglen MPC box that someone was using when the upgrade was initially due.

The upgrade was painless (as usual) and everything on the new box is working perfectly as expected.


25 Apr 2014

BigV

My hosting provider Bytemark started to develop a new virtual server technology some time ago. It's marginally cheaper and marginally more powerful than my current solution. It has many scalability advantages as well but they are not as important to me as the fact I was due to upgrade my existing server and migrating to a new box has many advantages over an in situ upgrade.

I signed up to their free trial and was instantly impressed by both the technology and their customer support. I know there are other good companies so in no way do I want to criticise them, but Bytemark are very good people to work with.

I built my new Debian box, installed the packages I wanted and ported the bits over from the old server over a few evenings. It took only a few hours, and in the process I was able to improve some of the layout and such of the new box and try out newer packages.

This week I updated the DNS records updating the box names and other than forgetting to switch my email server from listening local to listening to the network everything went very well. All that happened was email was backed-up for a few hours before it all arrived.

I've now stripped the old box down to it's minimal running configuration, deleted all my files, and I'm now filling the filesystem up with random junk before deleting the junk and switching the box off so that it can be returned to Bytemark.


22 Apr 2014

Hardware Score Card

Over the years I've had quite a few computers, starting with a Commodore 64 which was an "out of box failure" and had to be replaced straight away.

The next computer I bought was a Dell that had zero defects on delivery, zero defects within it's 3 year warranty and zero defects after that - to the best of my knowledge it's still working if I were to take it out of storage and boot it up!

Next came a Dell laptop (re-manufactured) that had zero faults on delivery, zero faults within it's warranty period but since then the bezel has cracked and there are three dead pixels on the screen. Again like the desktop it's still working today many years after it finished active service.

Then we have a pair of Digital Networks UK desktops (one that I'm using today). Zero faults on delivery, both Iiyama displays failed with the three year warranty and the DVD-ROM on one died and its power-supply has been swapped long after the warranty expired.

Next I have another Digital Networks UK desktop (used as a server), it's had a power-supply fail under warranty, and after the warranty period: one hard disk; the power-supply and the case fan have had to be replaced. It's also been somewhat prone to overheating under full load most of it's life.

Finally I have a Novatech laptop, which had a dead batter shortly after the end of the it's one year warranty period. Which I should have realised by law that it should have been a two year warranty and as such should still have been a warranty swap... Otherwise the laptop has and is still fine.