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Archives for August, 2009

Off on holiday

August 29th, 2009

I’m going to be away for most of the next week on holitag in Prague! Ostensibly to present a poster at a conference, but I’ll likely skive off to do some sightseeing. Definitely not going to miss the session on “watermarking, chip ID, and IP protection”: should be very useful for my imminent corporate career.

Doubtless I’ll have a large number of photos to share with everyone upon my return. Joy!

Wielding my fat wad of CZK like a gangsta

Wielding my fat wad of CZK like a gangsta

Spudski Kartoffelstampfer

August 25th, 2009

I have a new potato masher! Received as present from my mum. It is Spudski Kartoffelstampfer. Here it is:


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First impressions are good: the handle is soft and comfortable to grip; the shaft is longer than most mashers giving good leverage against the potato. It’s plastic so it won’t scrape away the pan, but feels more robust than most plastic mashers I’ve used. The intricate webbing on the foot of the masher apparently helps to push potato away from the masher instead of sucking it up through the holes, thus improving the efficiency of the mashing process. Nick is doubtful that such advanced mashing technology is within the reach of modern science, but I will investigate these claims the next time I make mash potato.

The packaging gives some overview of the process used to produce the Spudski Kartoffelstampfer. The “spudski” part, I believe, comes from the apparent similarity to a skiing pole.


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Obviously the only reliable way to evaluate a potato masher is to use it to mash potato. I will therefore update this review after I have practical experience with it.

UPDATE: mashing was good! Effective but quite difficult to clean afterwards – potato gets stuck in the little holes. I’ve decided I’m not so keen on the mash produced from Maris Piper potatoes despite the recommendation of the British Potato Council for their suitability for this purpose. Expect a detailed survey of potatoes on this blog in the next few months.

Wonder of Modern Science

August 25th, 2009

I received an 8GB microSD card from the tubes today. It is small! But it contains 8GB of datas??! How have have scientists achieved this??!! Wondrous.

Here it is next to its mothership that turns it into a regular SD card:

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UPDATE: readers have demanded the microSD card be compared to the coal lump previously featured. Here it is:

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We can see that the microSD card is much smaller than the coal lump.

MECHANICAL PIG goes web 2.0

August 23rd, 2009

Recently the MECHANICAL PIG joined Twitter. Now the pig has been upgraded to take advantage of the emergent collective intelligence of web 2.0! The MECHANICAL PIG can now be controlled via the remote PIG TERMINAL. Users upload programs in the PIG CONTROL LANGUAGE for the pig to execute on Twitter!

Coal lump

August 22nd, 2009

By popular request, here is a photo of the coal lump extracted from the mine.

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Coal Mining Museum

August 21st, 2009

Went to the National Coal Mining Museum on the way up to York on Thursday. It’s fantastic! Well worth visiting if you’re near Wakefield and have even the slightest interest in mining. Best bit was the underground tour with a real miner! Proper northern as well. Got a fist-sized lump of coal out of the mine too.

Outside the NCM

Outside the NCM

Foot disease

August 19th, 2009

I’ve just looked at my feet and something shocking has happened:

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The feet display a non-uniform colour! What terrible disease have I acquired?! Stay away: it might be contagious!

Self-signed certificates on Nokia S40 phones

August 19th, 2009

I’ve been having a problem for a while with my Nokia 6300 phone not accepting the self-signed SSL certificate I use on my IMAP server (dovecot). This is a bit annoying because I can’t read emails on my phone.

Various Nokia forums suggest that you need to download the certificate over HTTP to install it. This is true, but there is an extra key step: the certificate needs to be in the DER format rather than PEM, which the phone doesn’t like. To convert, just use OpenSSL like this:

openssl x509 -in dovecot.pem -inform PEM -out dovecot.crt -outform DER

Place this somewhere you can access over HTTP and navigate to it using the phone. You’ll be asked if you want to save it, say yes and the certificate will be permanently installed in the phone. Now try accessing your mail over IMAPS and everything should work.

This trick should also work for other SSL applications (e.g. HTTPS), but I haven’t tried it.

A lighthouse, mini trains, and a nuclear power station

August 18th, 2009

Went on a family day out to Dungeness today. It’s a fascinating place: not only is it one of the largest areas of open shingle in the world, it’s got not one but two nuclear reactors (one currently being decommissioned), two lighthouses, and a mini train!

When I was about ten you could go on a guided tour of the power station which was amazing. Unfortunately, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, the tours have been stopped. Oh well, lots of interesting stuff outside.

The mini trains are awesome: they’re exactly the same as their bigger cousins, but about one third the size. Want one!

I’ve tried to write semi-interesting captions today, enjoy!

Slough and its environs

August 16th, 2009

I’ve been up in the Slough area for the last few days as I’m shortly to be employed there. Slough was best summed up by the opening lines to this poem by John Betjeman:

Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,

Unfortunately, seventy years later this is still largely accurate. Here’s a photo of Slough’s iconic bus station:

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I can’t bear the thought of living in Slough, so I’ve been looking around some of the neighbouring towns. Lots of people at work commute from Ealing (London, yuck!), there’s Windsor (pricey!), leaving Maidenhead as a fairly logical place to look. Maidenhead: it’s… average. If you were to take every town in England and average them together I think you would end up Maidenhead. Not that this is a bad thing necessarily. It is blessed with a number of rather elegant bridges, like this one over the Thames:

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There is also a famous early railway bridge, but no photo today sadly.

Fingers crossed I might have a flat sorted out by the time I have to start work…