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Week Notes

Week 8: Hathersage

We cut our camping trip to two nights. Good lord, those camp beds were uncomfortable. Our camp site was lovely though, and the Peak District deserves more exploration. We camped on a small site on the outskirts of Hathersage. The nearest shop was over a mile away, which in an ideal world is the absolute minimum distance I would prefer civilisation to be. I enjoyed driving up and down Winnats Pass, though my feeble car struggled to match my enthusiasm:

On the way home we took detour to Hardwick Hall. We’ve been before but it deserved a second look. The house was built by Elizabeth Cavendish, a formidable woman who is well worth reading about.

Back to work tomorrow, so I’ve spent my last moments of freedom imagining all of the things that could have gone wrong while I’ve been away.

Finished reading:

  • Sphere, by Michael Crichton. Probably not the book for you if you are claustrophobic, or have any concerns about the probable existence of a malevolent alien intelligence.

From around the web:

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Week Notes

Week 7: X-Ray

  • A week off from work is on the horizon, then I’m only back for four days and then off for a week again. I love the summer holidays. For three days next week we’ll be living under cover of canvas in a field deep in the Peak District.
  • We had to visit our local A&E department this week as our youngest decided to exit her bunk bed by way of jumping and landing on her elbow instead of her feet. It’s a unique approach, but not entirely successful. There were many tears. Ever the optimist, I suggested it was a just a sprain and dosed her up on paracetamol. E suggested more caution so we headed off to A&E. She was right, of course. An x-ray showed that she’s fractured and dislocated her right elbow.

    It was after 9pm when we arrived at the A&E department, which despite the hour was filled with afflicted children and dyspeptic parents. We were told that there was only one doctor on shift and to expect a wait, but we were triaged, x-rayed, treated and on our way back home within the space of two hours. We forget about the NHS until we need it, but when we do we are reminded at how utterly brilliant it is.
  • The price of my hosting is creeping up, rising from £4.27 in May to £5.47 this month. The host hasn’t changed their prices, it’s the result of the terrible performance of Sterling against the Euro.

From around the Web:

  • An acquaintance that works in one of the old council offices near me complained that their office had reached 34°c during the last short heatwave. As climate change takes hold we’re going to have to start constructing our buildings differently. This habitat prototype is inspired by a proposal for for habitats on Mars and is built using a new material that is more durable than concrete & recyclable. It’s better looking than a stack of bricks and slate too.
  • The great moon hoax of 1835
  • Chris Crocker-White at Balena.io recreated a National Rail electronic timetable with a small OLED display and a Raspberry Pi: Build a Raspberry Pi powered live train station sign for your desk

Finished reading:

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Week Notes

Week 6: Toilet Guru 🚽

  • I have spent an unconscionable amount of time reading toilet-guru.com. I love websites like this.
  • I’ve redesigned this website with the aim of going ‘back to basics’ so it’s mainly plain HTML and only a small amount of CSS. I have limited design skills, but to my eyes it it looks clean.
  • We finished watching the second series of Killing Eve. It was very good, but perhaps not as good as the first series. I’ll watch the third if they make one.
  • I’m out of words for this week, but I prefer to end on an even number – in much the same way as I can’t stop filling my car with fuel until the total is a round number. It’s nearly August. Can you believe it?
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Week Notes

Week 5: Hot winds

  • Earlier this week my youngest daughter complained to me that she had ‘fizzy feet’, by which meant she had ‘pins and needles’. One of the interesting things about being a child is that you sometimes have to create new words for things if you haven’t yet learned the correct one – and sometimes they are better than the real one.
  • Having finished Micro Adventures by Alistair Humphries I now desperately want to go camping. I used to go camping all the time; usually with a tent and some home comforts but NEVER on a campsite, so wild-camping isn’t new to me – but Alistair feels strongly that a tent is just a more rubbish version of being indoors, so I’m on the lookout for a bivvy bag to see if he is right.
  • When travelling through York I passed a Chinese takeaway called ‘Hot Winds’. This is either a really terrible name or a really brilliant one. I can’t decide.
  • I have a love hate relationship with podcasts. I can go months without listening to one and then I’ll find something I really like and binge listen. This week I listened to ‘Who the Hell is Hamish?’ from The Australian newspaper. It was grand.
  • One of the good things about these ‘week notes’ is that no one really cares if you’re a couple of days late.
  • However your week has gone, it’s been better than this guys:
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Week Notes

Week 4: Take a hike ⛰️

  • Fifty thousand people have signed up to a ‘joke’ Facebook event with the aim of mass-storming Area 51. I’m worried that a proportion of these people are not joking.
  • I’m still shocked at how much I have been spending on food. I weighed myself on Monday to cement the general feeling I have of disappointment with myself.
  • We’re in that phase of the year where we have not yet acclimatised to the weather, so we spend a good portion of our time complaining that it’s too hot, too dry and that spring was too short. We spent the preceding six months complaining that it was too cold, too wet and that winter was too long. If we’re not talking about Brexit, we’re talking about the weather.
  • I really like the North American word ‘hike’. I don’t think we have an equivalent in British English. We use ‘walk’ to define any length of journey by foot. It could equally mean a quick walk to the shops, or a walk from Lands End to John o’ Groats. A hike sounds like a proper walk. Hills climbed. Energy expended. Maps read. Like the one so beautifully described this week by Neil Steinberg. A walk is just a.. walk.
  • I have little else to say this week – except please don’t go on any unnecessary journeys to top-secret military bases.
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Week Notes

Week 3: Roast Beef

  • My daughter stood on the scales and asked if the displayed figure was the weight of her whole body or just her feet, which is a reasonable question really.
  • I can hear my backup disks writing data when I wake up in a morning. You can’t do that with SSDs.
  • There was a lot of lot of garden maintenance this week.
  • I discovered that my bank can show me the total I have spent at a retailer – thus this role of shame from the past eleven months:
    • £359.55 at Greggs
    • £70.73 at Cooplands Bakers
    • £707.99 at Amazon (to which my daughter exclaimed ‘think of all the stuff you could have bought with that!’ and all I could think of was the stuff on my Amazon Wishlist)
    • £166.60 at McDonalds
  • We had family round for lunch at the weekend. I cooked roast beef for six people and it wasn’t a complete disaster.
  • I’m in an XMPP chat room where one of the young participants is doing an ad-hoc trip around Europe. Someone asked where he was at and the response was ‘Cycling to Denmark’. We all accepted this as a perfectly normal thing. The internet is sometimes a wonderful place.
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Week Notes

Week 2

  • I have moved the 43 bags of mud to my front garden, bringing them closer to their eventual but yet to be decided destination.
  • I threw caution to the wind and installed the iOS 13 beta on my iPhone and iPad. It’s a bit rough around the edges. Dark mode is nice but I don’t know why people wet their pants about it.
  • My RSS feed has been spewing out all sorts of content that shouldn’t be in it. Sorry about that. I have never professed to know what I’m doing.
  • Blog discovery is broken, but this Google-fu works okay for finding search terms within blogs: inurl:/blog/ [search term]
  • The domain name that this blog sits under has changed to reflect the title. Everything should work as normal.
  • We had lunch with friends of ours today. They’ve just bought a house which has a large and elaborate pond in the back garden. They intended to fill it in but it has since been occupied by a pair of horny frogs and a multitude of their children. We gazed upon this microcosm of life for quite some time. Amongst the tadpoles I spotted one that was in some weird stage of development – possessing a long, functioning tail as well as fully grown legs. The poor thing looked like it didn’t know what to do with this surprising amount of limbs. It couldn’t swim properly because its tail would get in the way or inadvertently change the intended trajectory – but it just carried on, doing the best that it could, muddling through to some sort of destination but possibly not the one that it intended. Sometimes I feel like that frog.
  • ☀️🕶⛱

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Week Notes

Week 1: Blue Rinse

  • On Monday morning my work laptop spent forty three minutes installing ‘essential updates’. I took this as an indication of how the rest of the week would progress.
  • I also have 43 large bags of mud in my back garden.
  • Amazon have announced an updated Kindle Oasis. I had an Oasis but sold it to get a Kobo Forma. I’m happy with the Forma but having considered the pros and cons for about ten seconds I’ve decided that I’ll buy the new Oasis. I’m a slave to consumerism.
  • Boris Johnson is going to be Prime Minister. I’ve come to terms with it.
  • I’ve been reading Wolf Hall for three weeks. Three. Weeks.
  • On Friday I saw an old lady with a blue rinse. For some reason this made me happy.

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Blog

RSS makes the web tolerable again

Back in the halcyon days of the early web the large internet portals, like Netscape, Yahoo and AOL, were starting to think about how their customers would access the ever-growing amount of content being produced on the internet. The answer they came up with was ‘syndication’. From the user perspective this was as simple as adding a BBC News or Wired widget on your homepage. If you are as old as me you might even remember doing it. Behind the scenes these content transactions were powered by a syndication protocol called RSS (which stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ or ‘Rich Site Summary’, depending on who you ask). Theoretically this was good for everyone: content providers were able to to reach people they would never have reached before, users had control over how and where they receive content, and the portals kept customers on their sites for longer by offering personalised experiences, like this:

For a while RSS was ubiquitous, but it faltered when the larger social networks became the main vehicle of syndicated content – and it didn’t help that it has never been particularly user-friendly. Most people now get their news from social media but recent years have shown that this can be problematic: social media platforms are not neutral content providers. They manipulate how, when and what content is delivered to end users for their own ends and you have to sift through all the ads, outrage and general horror of social media to get to the content you want to see.

It’s not all bad news. In fact there is very good news: RSS never actually went away. Most websites, whether they advertise it or not, still provide an RSS feed and you can use it right now to take control of how content is delivered to you.

Here’s a screenshot of my RSS aggregator this morning:

I subscribe to nearly two hundred feeds. That sounds overwhelming but while some sites publish multiple times per day, some only put out a handful a year. I can scan through the headlines of all of these sites in a few minutes. It would be very difficult to keep track of that content without RSS.

I use RSS to keep track of:

  • Blogs
  • Twitter accounts & hashtags
  • Instagram accounts
  • Reddit subreddits
  • Newspapers

My feed reader can do clever stuff like filtering out certain key words or phrases. I can, for example, make Boing Boing tolerable by filtering out posts about Trump or those authored by Cory Doctorow. I can organise my feeds into folders – so if I want to avoid the news one day I can just skip that folder, or mark the whole thing read and pretend nothing happened that day. One of the biggest benefits for me is that I’m less likely to open my browser and get lost down the rabbit hole.

Getting started:

It’s easy to get started with RSS:

Step 1:

Sign up for an account with one of the many feed aggregators. Some of the more popular ones are:

All of these have mobile applications – some have desktop companions too. I use Readkiton OSX and Fiery Feeds on iOS. Many people like Reeder. There are options for other operating systems too and the web applications don’t care what OS you use.

Step 2:

Subscribe to some feeds. Most readers will automatically find the feed if you put in the address of the homepage. If you’re short of inspiration you could take a look at my blogroll.

Step 3:

Marvel at your technical wizardry, the amount of time you save and your new found freedom from algorithmic content delivery.

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Blog

A walk around Welton

My friend Dave and I took a walk around Welton on what turned out to be a sunny evening. We’ve walked the various routes around Welton before but this route was new to us. The first small climb offered up some great views over Ellougton Wold and out across the Humber that we hadn’t seen before.

The route took us back down to our starting point through Welton Dale – which has sadly been fenced on both sides now so it feels like you are being kettled as you walk down the valley. If you’re prepared to jump off the path for a bit you’ll find the Raikes Mausoleumhidden within the woodland. The structure is two hundred years old and sadly in need of some attention now, which is a shame as it still houses the remains of some of the family. It was a bit spooky at dusk and we didn’t hand around – so no photo.

I told Dave that Welton was quite posh, but I don’t think he believed me until we walked past a million quids worth of helicopter parked on someones lawn.