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iPad-ness

The iPad is now finally released in the UK and thus can the local holy faithful of Lord Steve buy the latest sacrement and make sure that he can afford enough baby orphan stem cells to run the immortality tent that he regenerates in nightly. ALL HAIL LORD STEVE

I am turning my back on the holy one and am not buying one. I say that now, but my weakness for shiny things is famed and the constant “SHINY SHINY” tweets from my various acquaintances almost turned me to the buy side. Thom not having received his yet, despite an early preorder, was a final nail into the coffin of my resistance, as being able to purchase one in person before the one that he ordered a month ago arrived would be schadenfreude enough to run my sorrow powered anger engine for months. Needing to buy food and having the Waitrose at Westfield being my most accessible supermarket on the way home (and also purveyor of fine meats and boozes) was also not helping. It looked like all signs were pointing to shiny acquisition. However, I managed to do my shopping with only a quick glance in the direction of the Apple store (all good acolytes can point in the direction of the nearest Temple at any time) and on my return home I saw this in an email which has happily reinforced my resistance coffin with shiny adamantium:

To quote Token from South Park – I’m out.

…and so my endless childhood collapses a bit more

After the shock of seeing a shirt and deciding that it needed and iron last week (something that I have never thought before) it was only a small surprise that I looked in the mirror and decided that maybe my hair ‘style’ was maybe a little silly. As such I took the great step of going to a de-Samson’ing salon for a ‘trim’. This was part of the result:

Kidnapped!
I sent this to picture to my parents as a notification of the situation.
They didn’t seem particularly concerned

I’ve been hiding my actual ‘new look’ from the general public in an attempt to elicit more amusing looks of shock when I remove my ever present hat (even more important now that I have sunburn and cold to contend with…well, I did before but I was denying it), but for you special people who read this on occasion there is a sekrit image online showing my new beauty.

I ironed another shirt this morning. From it here it can only be a downhill roll to cardigans and keeping my bedroom tidy…

Confit Pork Belly

I’ve not done much cooking recently, but I was struck with a craving for things that were bad for me the other week and put together the following tastiness – Confit pork belly with creamy bacony lentils.

Ingredients:

Pork Belly (I used a bit that was about 1/2 a kilo)
Salt
Lard
Peppercorns
3 cloves garlic
Bay leaves

Lentils
Bacon lardons
Cream

How:

Heat your oven to about 140degC while you prepare the pork. Score and heavily salt the skin of your pork belly, making sure to rub it in the salt to all the slits you have made. Leave to one side while the oven heats up. Stick enough lard to cover your pork belly (about 3 blocks in my case, although I should probably have used 4) in a casserole dish and place in the oven to melt. When melted add the peppercorns, bay leaves and the garlic, lightly smashed. When you get bored of waiting/allowing the pork to salt, stick the pork belly into the lard, hopefully completely submerging it, and return to the oven for some time.

Porky goodness
Mine puckered up a bit during cooking, raising it out of the fat

I cooked mine for 3 hours, but 4 might have been even better. Once the cooking time is over remove the pork from the fat and place into a container deep enough to allow it to be completely covered in fat. Strain the lard into a jug and then pour over the pork, again hopefully completely submerging it. Cover and when cool place in the fridge. Leave for some time (I divided mine into two pieces and the first one lasted a week before I had to eat it, the other is still in there).

Porky goodnessPorky goodness

When you want to cook it, take the container out of the fridge, allow to return to room temperature and then remove the pork. Scrape any remaining lard off (although leaving a bit isn’t a problem) and keep it somewhere cool for next time you want to do this. Place the pork on a trivet and put it in a hot oven until it is at an appropriate eating temperature and hopefully has crisped up on top (mine didn’t) – hopefully about 45 minutes. While that is happening cook some lentils in water until tender and then add them to some dry fried bacon lardons and add a dash of cream.

Slice the pork belly and serve on top of a pile of lentils. Eat. Make “Nom” noises.

Confit pork belly with creamy bacony lentils

I think I needed the oven to be hotter when reheating as it didn’t crisp up on top. It might even need a quick fry skin side down before or after the second cooking. Either way, it was really rather good – the pork was meltingly tender, although another hour in the initial cooking might have made it even more so, and lightly flavoured with a hint of bay, pepper and garlic. The remaining piece that I have in the fridge talks to me on a daily basis, begging me to eat it. I will be strong for a while yet.

These are some of my favourite things – #46: Karaoke Circus

Karaoke Circus

There are many things in this world that make me happy, but one has quite recently entered my sphere of awareness – Karaoke Circus. Run by Martin White and Danielle Ward it’s a night of Karaoke accompanied by a live band, alternating between singers who have volunteered from the audience and comedians who have been invited along. That’s half of the name, anyway. The other half comes from one of the band members and one of the two judges (more about them in a moment) – Foz Foster and Baron Gilvan. They open the night and happen to be clowns…

The show runs to a fairly simple format, whether comedian or random is on the stage – person hits the stage, they are given a lyric sheet with words typed on in a font that is probably too small, they sing while the band (Foz on guitar, guitarlike things, saw and blown items; Danielle Ward on bass; David Reed (of the Penny Dreadfuls) on drums; and assorted others depending on who gets there) plays, they leave the stage and are then judged by Dan and The Baron. The Baron is Baron Gilvan, mentioned earlier, and Dan is normally Dan Maier, although Dan Tetsell has stood in for him at a couple of recent gigs (this month due to Mr Maier allegedly being thrown in to Eyjafjallaj√∂kull as an appeasement, an event that seemed less likely when he appeared on stage to accompany Robin Ince later in the evening). At the end there is a not bad prize for the best singer(s) of the evening, who then go(es) on to sing a final song of the evening. The bracketed plurals/singulars are due to the obligatory duet about halfway through – one man, one woman, one song that could throw them together in a fit of passion but probably won’t. This month’s was Stan, with Eminem and Dido parts up for grabs…

Simple. However, as Mr Howells stated in his post on a similar topic last year – Karaoke Circus is the best thing ever.

I’m not entirely sure why it’s the case, but I’ve been twice, both times when slightly down for one reason or another, and both times I have left full of joy and pleased that the world exists. I identified part of the reason while sitting under Shepherd’s Bush Green on Monday – the sight of Martin White (as seen in the photo above), flinging out his arms and going ‘Yay!’ with joy when The Baron (a notoriously difficult to please judge) says that he likes a song is enough to keep me happy for several weeks at a time.

Anyways, you should all go to see it. Every time. Unfortunately there is a small problem with that – it sells out. Every time. Normally within hours of tickets going on sale. Next time (June 30th – they generally run every other month) they’ll be at the 100 Club with a full orchestra and despite the extra capacity they’d sold out within a day. I bought a ticket as soon as I got home after last time and suspect I’ll be trying to buy one every time I get the chance.

Sign up to their Facebook page and await further instructions – with a bit of regular email checking around the beginning of every other month (apart from the July/August stretch due to the Edinburgh Festival being in the way) you too can be the proud holder of a WeGotTickets virtual ticket to see Karaoke Circus. It’s worth the obsessive clicking of the Check Mail button. 10 hours a day. For a month.

April Fool’s round-up

This year I have been surprised by the fact that I have actually been amused by more than one April Fool’s day website and as such I am compelled to post on this here blog with some linkies:

  • The Guardian – Olaf Priol’s scoop on Labour’s new election slogan – “Step outside posh boy”
  • Google – included for completeness, as Google doing April Fool’s is a tradition now, Google Animal Translate
  • Alinea at Home – Carol Blymire taking Falafel Shots, Hot Dog Airs and Pho on Pins on the road in her touring haut cuisine wagon.
  • Charlie Stross – making an unexpected move into romantic fiction after some focus grouping.
  • xkcd – there’s a command line interface up today, although I have cheated and looked at the code to find things. Type unix commands. Type silly things. Occasionally stuff will happen.

I tried to find something amusing from the Daily Mail website’s front page to post as an HILARIOUS joke so that I could say “and this isn’t an April fool!!1! Marvel at my edginess” but it was all too depressing.

Update: and there are more:

Obsessive attention to new hobby update…

So, my Arduino kit turned up, I finished soldering my LoL Shield and I’ve now been playing with it for a few days. It seems I like electronics.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

I’ve mainly been tinkering with the shield (getting the LEDs to do multiple brightnesses, moving dots around by using some buttons, display ‘images’ [at 9×14 pixels they all look like random dots] and do some basic scrolling of things) but have also had a play with the components in my kit. The guy who put together my starter pack has been writing a book on how to code for Arduino and it’s available as an in progress ebook under a CC license from his website – Earthshine Design. I did just submit what I think is a bug report (the circuit I made to control a 8×8 pixel display from his diagram didn’t work and I thought I could see the problem. My circuit didn’t work either though…I might have broken one of my shift registers) but it’s a rather good starter guide, and it’s definitely helping me out with learning how to do stuff, even if I haven’t got enough ideas on what to make.

So, if anyone has any ideas on what I can do with a couple of shift registers, a piezo speaker, some push switches, a temperature sensor, light sensor, whirly pot, transistor and a box of LEDs and resistors, then let me know.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Next up – scroll an image that is larger than the screen…

So(l)dering Update

LoL Shield
98 LEDs soldered in place. 28 to go.

This morning my wake-up routine was: get up, check work hadn’t exploded (I’m on call), make coffee, switch on soldering iron, solder 2 rows of LEDs (saving the rest as I’ve almost run out), think about going to Maplin at lunch to buy another electronics kit to build, wonder when my Arduino starter kit is going to arrive.

I think I might have a problem.

New Shiny!

Because I like buying myself presents, I seem to have acquired a new camera. Instead of the random bits of Oxfam related, light leaky, film loving, toy-ness, I ‘ve actually gone and bought one released within the last 6 months – a Canon Powershot S90. I blame DrPlokta for buying a GF1 (which I was tempted by) and others (who mentioned the S90 and thus tempted me. Thankyou), but that’s only to justify it to my rather miserly brain.

Anyways, as a review request has been put in, I suspect I may write more about it in the future. In the meantime, here is a mosaicy thing of testy photos:

mosaic2067f13751a63f121ccf2dc2530a2a36be1bde19

1. Vintage Tree, 2. Bishopsgate Tower, 3. Powah, 4. Finsbury Square, 5. Panamanian Golden Frog, 6. IMG_0001

In soldering news, I have now put together 28 of the 126 LEDs in my LoL Shield. I am now down to quite pretty and minimal soldering (about 3/4 of the time, the rest is big blobs of metal trimmed with wirecutters) and an average of a minute per LED. Jimmie, designer of the board, advised me to do a row of LEDs at at time – I tried that on the first row of the 5×7 grid of my last kit and it didn’t go well, so I’m being very slow for now…

The smell of burning metal

MiniPov3

I seem to have accidentally acquired a new hobby.

For years I’ve been intrigued by electronics but despite my Dad being an electronic engineer (in ye olden dayes, before he started selling wine instead) I never ended up playing much with hardware. There was an incident involving a soldering iron, a broken scalextric car and me spraying molten melt all over the place, but I suspect that my overactive brain has exaggerated the importance of that in my running from electronics.

Anyways, after a chat with a former workmate (who now lives in San Francisco and has started attending Noisebridge events) I found out a couple of things – 1) That there is now a London Hackspace and 2) Mitch Altman (one of the Noisebridge founders) would be over this month to do one of his soldering workshops. So, I wandered along and learned to solder. I grabbed one of the Adafruit MiniPov3 kits, stuck it together, pinched a pair of AAs off of someone and it all worked. Which is rather cool:

It’s got a serial port on the board and the controller is an eeprom, so I see some learning to code for an Atmel microcontroller in my future.

After my success with my first project (I was even complimented on my soldering and given a quizzical look and informed that I must have done it before…) I decided to grab a shiny thing – an Arduino LoL Shield, designed by Jimmie Rodgers, who was also at the Hackspace meet to show off his kits and talk about cool things. It looks like it may well be a good ‘you will now learn to solder by constant repetition’ project…so may LEDs:

I’ve got an Arduino starter kit (an Arduino, breadboard and Big Box ‘o components) on the way and have plans to try and do shiny things with electronics. Well, I say that, but so far my only plan is to make an iPhone version of the MiniPov that will do cool things with the accelerometer. In the meantime I have another kit to put together – a scrolly LED message thing picked up from Maplin when I went in to buy a soldering iron. Unfortunately it’s not got a programmable controller, but having a friend at work who used to tinker with electronics is useful, as I now know which PIC is the code compatible programmable version…

However, the coolest thing about the entire evening for me is this – after finishing my kit and thanking Mitch for doing the class, he grinned, said “You’re ready” and handed me one of these:

I can solder

Not only can I now claim to know how to solder, I can prove it – I have a badge…

The Cold North

IMGP4231

I went on holiday the other week, as is (not) often my wont, and spent the time being remarkably relaxed in the mobile phone signal free idyll of Aviemore in sunny snowy Scotland. We got a lot of snow shortly after arriving, replenishing that already there, and I even had the chance to do a bit of a ski. Well, I stood on some skis and travelled from the top of Cairngorm to the bottom of the ski-slopes, but to call what I did skiing is a bit of an insult to skiers.

Anyways, I may have also found a number of things to drink and write about, and took some piccies. Here is a lovely reindeer:

IMGP4509