Categories
Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #1

During this lockdown, they say that routine and regular social contact are the most important things to keep people going. So what could be better than resurrecting a blog that hasn’t been updated in around four years to get us through these troubling times.

Since my most (relatively) popular blog posts have been about my food shopping habits and meals I’ve cooked, I thought I’d make that the topic of this post.


Like most people I’ve been trying to reduce the number of times I’m going outside to reduce the risk of picking up the virus or transmitting it to anyone else. I decided that instead of shopping (approximately) weekly, I would instead try to shop for a whole fortnight. Here’s the list of things I ran out of, and why I won’t be shopping for more than a week.

  1. Milk – My diet is high in breakfast cereal and I normally go through 6 pints of milk in 7 days. Milk doesn’t normally last two weeks. If I bought 2x 6-pint bottles, the second one would almost certainly be going bad by the time I was through it. I’m not doing UHT.
  2. Bananas – My 11am mid-morning banana is a key part of my routine. Even if I had bought a sufficient quantity of bananas, they would still be well past their past by the start of the second week.
  3. Lettuce – I didn’t really run out of this, this one ran out on me. This was the only item I bought that went bad. I think it must have been close to its “best by” when I bought it and then I forgot about it for a couple of days. Unfortunately I had to throw about half of it away. I don’t often get lettuce so I could do without this one.
  4. Chicken – I thought I had 2 or 3 chicken breasts in the freezer, turns out I only had 1. Fajitas made with sausages still work though. This was bad planning on my part really.
  5. Onion – I bought a “seasonal vegetable pack” which contained an onion that went mouldy. Fortunately I had also stocked up on onions separately so it didn’t matter. The seasonal vegetables (carrot, turnip, swede) worked out well though, I made it into a soup with some leftover potatoes. I even made enough to put two portions in the freezer.

So there it is. Milk and bananas are the two reasons why I will be going shopping every week.

*Side note: It actually worked out at 12 days between large shops, with an intermediate milk purchase on day 8.

Categories
Life event Out and about

Solar Eclipse 2017

In my ongoing aim to photograph astronomical phenomena, I recently went to the USA to capture the 2017 solar eclipse. As with the super blood moon, it’s been described as a “once in a lifetime” event, however I saw the 1999 eclipse (in Romania) and I might go to the 2024 one too (also in the USA), so it’s probably just a “three times in a lifetime” event (which is probably more common than a lot of things).

Having bought a special filter for my camera to protect it from the sun, I connected my camera to my computer and set it up to take a photo every minute.

The first few shots were slightly out of focus but do show the moon gradually moving across the sun (or does the sun move behind the moon?).

The main issue was with the sun moving across the camera field of view and disappearing off the edge. The answer was to redirect the camera but sometimes it took time to re-find the sun (the viewfinder couldn’t be used because the filter wasn’t suitable for human use, and the electronic display doesn’t work when connected to the computer). Therefore I missed a few of the shots, but I still got enough to produce this awesome timelapse:

[ADDITION: This is over about a 3 hour period and each ‘sun’ is about 3-5 minutes apart]

And here’s a simpler linear version:

I also captured several images of the corona (after taking the filter off):

Following some post-processing in Photoshop, I produced a more detailed shot of the corona:

And here’s a shot of the sun without the moon blocking it:

Categories
Life event

The Pizza Incident (aka Cheesegate)

Just over two weeks I was in a Surrey pub with some colleagues. It was a warm sunny afternoon so we were sat in the beer garden enjoying some drinks. I was getting hungry and the place had a special pizza oven so that seemed like the thing to go for. A few other people had already got one, so I ordered a pizza too.

As always, I ordered the spiciest pizza possible and waited for it to turn up. By the time it arrived, I was even hungrier and couldn’t wait to eat it. I grabbed a slice and took a bite…

Not only was it ridiculously spicy, but it was also almost 1000 degrees. In my shock and subsequent haste to put the slice down, I got some cheese down the front of my lip. It took me some time to notice since my mouth was literally on fire.

Anyway that bit of cheese burnt my lip and it later started to blister. A couple of days later, my lip was double its normal size and remained that way for a few days. It then started to scab over which made it look even worse.

Where I was going is this: during that time no-one asked me what had happened. Whether people assumed I had some horrible lip disease or had come across some terrible misadventure but were too afraid to ask, the actual reason was pizza related and probably less/more* exciting than you were hoping. Hopefully that clears it up…

*[delete as appropriate]

Categories
Lazy post

Signs of London #1

Categories
Miscellaneous

Power up!

About two months ago, I was getting off a flight and noticed that my backpack (containing my laptop) felt rather warm. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, thinking that maybe my laptop had turned itself on for some reason, or I was just imagining it.

At the hotel, I noticed that my laptop casing was coming apart. I assumed the man in the row behind me had been careless putting my bag into the overhead locker.
img_20161106_2131237

I pretty much ignored it until last week when I decided to take a look inside. And this is what I found:

If it’s not that obvious, the battery had expanded to approx 150% of its normal size, and this is what had pushed the casing apart.

I contacted the manufacturer who put me touch with their UK authorised repairer. Unsurprisingly the warranty only lasts one year for the battery (my laptop is now over three years old), however they were willing to sell me a replacement.

Here’s a comparison of the old battery and the new:

And here it is fitted snugly into the laptop:

Oh, and I saved myself about £85 by fitting it myself.

(For the observant ones out there, yes, I did take the opportunity to clean out the fans too.)

Categories
Out and about

Annual Review

It’s now been over a year since my last post, so it’s time for my annual review of the last 12 or so months. So what have I been up to? Well, here’s some of the places I’ve been…

Beijing
Beijing

New York
New York

Scotland
Scotland

Wales (I didn’t get any good photos)
Wales

Northumberland
Northumberland

San Francisco
San Francisco

And just around London
Underground London

Categories
Life event

Super Blood Moon

So this morning, was the Super Blood Moon 2015 (technically called a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse).

It was described as a once in a generation event since the next one isn’t until 2033. I have no idea what this actually means since that’s only 18 years time and I intend to still be around then.

Anyway, I set my alarm for 3am in order to see the red moon at its peak (3:47am). I had intended to climb a nearby hill, however I decided I was much more comfortable at home, plus the moon was visible straight out of my bedroom window so I decided to just stay in.

It was quite strange to see a red moon, but I was expecting it to be a bit bigger. I’m sure it was bigger than normal, but I’m sure I’ve seen it larger before.

It took a while to work out the settings for my camera and I ended up taking 10 completely black images before I discovered that increasing the ISO allowed the moon to be recorded (even though I could see it in the viewfinder). The internet suggests that a focal length of 1000mm is best for moon photos, but my maximum lens only goes up to 250mm so the moon is still quite small in my photos. The alternative is to have a reference object to show the size (e.g. a landmark) but there aren’t many of them outside my bedroom window. I’m sure the settings I used weren’t ideal, and it probably would have been better if I was outdoors, but here are some of the photos I took:


[Note: for some reason one of the photos doesn’t appear to be loading. If it’s still not loading by tomorrow, I’ll have another look]

Categories
Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 5

So here we are, the final day of my holiday at home. Having woken up late and having somewhere else to be mid-afternoon, I didn’t have much time.

There was however one Monday-Friday only museum that I wanted to visit during this week, the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre.

To get over to West London, I had to take three Overground trains, having to zig-zag across South London to get to West Brompton.

The museum is very small and only took about 5 minutes or so to look around, which was good as I didn’t have much time. The sign on the door implied that it was only open by appointment, whereas the website states that appointments are appreciated. When the man inside saw me peering through the door, he happily let me in. I wasn’t even the only person there in this small museum, as a group of three other people turned up when I was inside. The photo below pretty much shows the entirety of the museum.


One of the interesting items was a document detailing the requirements for police officers in 1829. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

* Your working hours will be eight, ten or twelve hour shifts, seven days a week. No rest days are allowed and only one week holiday per annum, unpaid.
* Every encouragement will be given to grow beards, as shaving is regarded as unhealthy. However, beards must not exceed two inches in length.
* You are NOT allowed to sit down in public houses at any time. [Does this include standing?]
* No meal breaks are allowed, the top hat may be used to hold a snack.
* Before attending for medical examination and interview to join the police it is advisable to have a bath.

Having seen most of the items in a few minutes (there wasn’t much to read), I headed back for my afternoon appointment. I decided to take a different route home, using the District line to Wimbledon where I changed to Tramlink. This was my first trip on London’s tram system and I planned to explore more of it and then get the bus home, however I realised I was quickly running out of time so transferred back to the Overground to complete the loop.

And I would have been back in time, if my afternoon engagement hadn’t been cancelled.


Several months ago I bought some fish from my local Food Assembly. Not having much clue what to do with so much fish, I put most of it in the freezer. Today seemed liked the perfect opportunity to use up one of the dabs I had stored.

Searching the internet, I came across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Mediterranean-style Dab with bacon, olives, tomatoes and pine nuts. Surprisingly, this recipe was incredibly easy to follow and I completed it in the same time as stated (30 mins). The hardest part was eating it, given the amount I had on the plate (I served it with salad and new potatoes), and also the bones in the fish. A successful meal to round off the week.
IMG_20150911_183550

Categories
Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 4

Today I headed back into the City of London for a tour of Guildhall.

First though, I popped into the church of St Lawrence Jewry next door, which is actually a very recent church building, rebuilt after being bombed in WW2. The Jewry part of the name refers to this being in the Jewish part of the city until 1290.

Our tour guide, Pat, advised that this tour only lasts an hour, but could easily last well over two, so would be fairly rushed. We were also told that photos could be taken but discretely, so apologies that the interior photos are taken on my phone rather than my camera.

The tour started in the Great Hall which was being set up for the afternoon’s Court of Common Council meeting. A few members of the group were training to be Blue Badge Tourist Guides and were scribbling frantically in their notebooks. The remainder of us just listening as Pat explained all the statues in the hall and the symbolism of all the particular objects. The main theme within the entire building is of history and tradition, combined with rebuilding following the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Many of the rooms have changed usage over the various centuries although most of them are used as meeting rooms today, mainly to be hired out to businesses or for wedding receptions.


We then had the option of coming back in an hour to see the council meeting. However I had to be getting home to get the evening’s meal ready (even if Thameslink had other plans).


My meal for this evening was another one suggested by colleagues at work – kebabs.

I chose to make two different kebabs: “Chicken kebabs” from “Nosh for graduates“, and “Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper” from Serious Eats.

Both of these recipes wanted to make a marinade which the chicken would then soak in for a few hours before cooking. This made the cooking process seem less onerous as it broke it down into two distinct parts. The recipes were designed for BBQs and large quantities so I reduced all of the ingredients in each by about 60% as I only planned on making two skewers of each. I did make a few deviations from the recipe. In the first recipe I swapped mushrooms for courgette, and, whilst writing this, I realised that I missed out the red pepper. In the second recipe I used smoked paprika and dried crushed chili peppers as the first step. I also swapped red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar as that’s what I already had, although I’m sure it made absolutely no difference.

I then grilled the kebabs on my George Foreman grill (which will now need a lot of cleaning) and served it with pitta bread and hummus. I did look at making my own hummus, however since I don’t own a food processor or a blender or a pestle and mortar (and no intention of buying any of them just for this) I didn’t. It was a fairly simple recipe and it all tasted good.

Categories
Out and about

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 3

My initial plan for today was to attend a talk on Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with a kite and lightning at Benjamin Franklin House.

However, one the other attractions I wanted to visit this week was the London Fire Brigade museum. This is only open Mondays to Fridays, and also happens to be closing down at the end of this month. When I found out that the only way to see this museum (at least in full, and without waiting a few years whilst a new museum is built) was this morning, I decided to choose this museum over the kite/lightning talk. [The Benjamin Franklin House is still on my to-do list, but it is open at weekends too.]

The museum is in two parts, the first part is based in the original fire appliance shed from the mid-19th century where there’s a selection of old fire appliances from the early hand carts to more modern fire engines. The first appliance we were shown was an 1860s manual pump that required 20 people to operate. Since there weren’t that many firefighters, locals were given beer tokens in exchange for helping out. Apparently it was very popular!

The second part of the museum is housed within the adjoining house, originally occupied by the first London Fire Chief, Eyre Massey Shaw. This had a more structured museum type structure with exhibits and placards, however since this was a tour we didn’t get to read most of it and were instead shown a few key items in each room. The tour I was on had some descendants of James Braidwood (Massey Shaw’s predecessor) so the tour focussed on some of these elements. There was also a current firefighter on the tour so there was some discussion over the bits that had stayed the same since the beginning, and the bits that had changed (seemingly for the worse – the tour was given by an ex-firefighter). The World War 2 room contained two shells. There used to be 5 until a previous tour noticed that 3 of them were still live!


Since today is Wednesday, Great British Bake Off day, I decided to make a pie. I choose to do ‘Winter Warming Meat and Potato Pie with a suet pastry crust’ from “Nosh for Graduates”. I mainly followed the recipe, however I substituted some of the water for beer, simply because I thought this would be good, but I’m not sure if I could actually taste it at the end. The recipe took surprisingly longer than expected. The book reckons about 55 minutes total, but I started about 6 and it was well after 8 by the time I was eating. Maybe I just need more practice. I also hadn’t noticed that it said “serves 4” and found myself with a lot more pie than I was expecting. I actually made 3 pies, two of which are now waiting in the freezer for another time.

The only other issue I had was in making the dough for the top. The recipe says to roll out the dough and lift it on top of the potato layer. I’m not sure if I had it too runny, but I definitely couldn’t lift it, and resorted to using a spoon to place it on top. It all worked out fine though, and it was another successful (if delayed) meal.