Random Geekage

Got my first covid jab this afternoon.

Feels like the day after a wasp sting, dull ache but nothing to write home about. I got the Pfizer/BioNTech variant of the vaccine which has wonderful flu-like side effects that may or may not kick in soon.

Date: Tagged with micro / covid

Went for a wander with my partner to explore some of the local area.

Made a brew with a woodgas stove.

Making a cuppa on a wood stove

A good day.

The Itinerant Engineer has posted about owning your own computer.

To writ:

I want a computer that can be completely autonomous when I want it to be, but which can also be used to communicate securely with anyone on the planet without being observed by a third party. I don't want to be spied on by Microsoft or Google. I don't want the NSA intercepting my conversations or even their metadata. I want complete autonomy and privacy without having to resort to workarounds that have been invented to give me back some of the control I should have had in the first place.

I agree completely and would add on that mobile phones should be the same way. We carry around these fantastic devices capable of computational feats that would be unimaginable last century, with near instant access to the world's information and yet, we are bombarded with advertising and have our data hoovered up and sold.

Running on snow is an experience.

The surface moving beneath my feet is an interesting sensation, particularly when climbing or descending hills. Had to take my time, a solid 6 minutes over my regular 5k run.

I've had to crack open a Waterbrick for actual use.

The property next door has suffered some sort of failure with their water. There was a constant stream being ejected from under the gutter and required the fire brigade to force entry to see what the issue is. However they couldn't stop it so the water was shut off at the stopcock outside that property.

For reasons unknown to me, this block of flats is also served via this stopcock, resulting in zero cold water pressure.

Naturally, I have prepared for this.

I can continue to enjoy my morning brews until this gets fixed.

A change of pace for my commute.

Worked in the city for once and thought it would be good to try getting the train in

Passed my Intermediate exam a few days ago.

Privileges have been bumped up to 50 watts in most bands and I'm allowed to play about with some microwave stuff. New callsign is 2#0GJA, where the # is dependent on where in the UK I'm operating. For Scotland, I'm 2M0GJA.

Another weekend, another SOTA activation.

A nice 2 pointer up Meikle Bin, using Scott's Bandhopper dipole and pole. Managed to work a station in Germany which was pretty cool.

Me working some stations. Photo taken by Scott.

Made my first SOTA activation today.

Met up with my friend Scott (MM7CWE) and the two of us schlepped up Moncreiffe Hill in Perthshire. After throwing a tarp over a bench at the summit, I got my Xiegu G90 radio set up with the SuperAntenna set up for 40 meters and after some faff with the slider coil and the ATU, we got started. Scott set up the spot with the SOTA Spotter Android app, I called CQ SOTA a couple times and after about 30 seconds or so, we had contacts rolling in.

Xiegu G90 sitting on top of a 7.5Ah battery

SuperAntenna with a standard Scottish view

Scott underneath the tarp

Didn't get the locations of all of them sadly, however the one that sticks in my mind was a gentleman from Bristol, which is a good bit away. Pretty impressive since I wasn't pushing all that much power.

After a spot of lunch, I took down the SuperAntenna and put up a dipole that Scott has kindly given to me. We had a bit of a tune around the bands. Scott showed how to use the ATU and SWR functions on the radio. Managed to pick up someone in Italy who was doing a contest which was pretty amazing.

Safe to say I have the bug now, we are going up another hill next weekend.

Passed my Foundation Amateur Radio exam.

My freshly minted callsign is MM7KIG, hope to hear some of you on the air.

Thanks to Essex Ham for the course and to Dave Wilson, M0OBW for invigilating the remote exam.

Update 2020-11-19: I've since passed my intermediate exam

Cycle up a hill.

Cycle back home.

Date: Tagged with micro / cycle

Quick bike ride

and a shakedown of a new commuter setup. Since switching to the TAD Fast Pack EDC, I've had to commute with my pack on my back which makes for a moist time. My former GR1 setup could be hung on the pannier rack with a little modification but I can't replicate that with the Fast Pack.

Pig Monkey posted about Rok straps earlier so I picked up a pair and went for a quick ride with my usual commuter loadout strapped to the rack. Some minor movement but otherwise pretty solid.

Anti-social distancing, because staying in the flat is lame.

We went out to the west coast yesterday. Annoyingly there were still people there.

Date: Tagged with micro

Don't unpack.

Pull it out and put it back. Be ready to leave at a moments notice. “Vanish before you’re there.” --Moat Group

Date: Tagged with micro / quote

Started reading "Say Why to Drugs" by Dr. Suzi Gage.

Dr. Gage first came to my attention via Scroobius Pip's Distraction Pieces podcast. She then started her own podcast, Say Why to Drugs and has just released a book of the same name which basically collates the info given in the podcast into print form. It aims to give a good overview of the various substances consumed by humans - whether legal or otherwise - and does so without judgement or bias. Covering what the substance is, what it has been used for historically, what the intended effects are on the body and the potential side effects it has.

The book is very accessible with minimal clinical language and I think it should be required reading for high schoolers, or even earlier. Certainly much better than the puritanical "drugs are bad" approach I had at school.

I've started using GPG again, albeit in a minimal sense.

I've started using pass as my password manager, having exported the database from KeepassX. Pass is basically a wrapper around GPG for the purposes of securing your passwords. The files are plain GPG encrypted files which means no weird database format to worry about. Additionally I am using a GPG smartcard as the store for the private keys so that physically needs to be plugged into my computer to do anything password related.

I'm not so bothered about using GPG for email purposes, still to date the number of emails from Facebook that were GPG encrypted is much larger than the sum of all other GPG mail I have received (and probably sent for that matter). So I'm going to use it opportunistically. My public key is available if folk want to help me beat Facebook.

Got into a minor Lego build session.

Sets 21309 (strangely missing from the UK store) and 10266.

Date: Tagged with lego / micro

Brake maintenance was well overdue.

I'm not the best at bicycle maintenance and repair but needs must. My front brake has been squealing on and off. Compounded with my lack of finesse at adjusting the caliper lead to one pad being a lot more worn than the other.

The rears are fine for now but they are on the todo list for completion in a few months.

Winter has hit the UK, temperatures have been low for a couple weeks now.

My flat isn't the best insulated or heated so it can get a bit parky, especially in the morning. Cold enough that my Dr Bronner soaps go opaque as opposed to the usual translucent.

Better get the heating on.

I'm trying to use the bike more, lessen my dependence on the grid.

Had a delivery arrive at a collection point and figured I would have a go at cycling out and back. The box was bigger than expected but I had just enough slack in the bungee cords to get it secure.

I have been swithering on getting my Foundation license for a few years now.

The one time I went to an amateur radio club meeting, the main business was that the name was not representative of the location the club was meeting at. Which you can imagine, was not that exciting.

However, I came across Julian OH8STN's videos which centre around amateur radio as a means for disaster resiliency and that has piqued my interest again. As a result, I picked up a Yaesu FT-817ND from eBay which seems like a solid bit of kit and I have been told it is a decent radio, especially for beginners to the hobby. I haven't used it much, mainly to confirm that it turns on, transmits and receives so more experimentation will need to happen.

In the meantime, it needs charged.

Cycling early in the morning is the best.

Much like running there is a distinct lack of vehicles, people and general noise which makes for a very pleasant ride.

2 hour blast out to Bathgate. Got the first train back home with about 10 seconds to spare.

The bikes I have had in my life have always had flat bars. Until now.

I decided to swap my Jones H-Bar to drops in an effort to improve fitness and aero, maybe shave a few seconds off my commute time. The overall width of the bike has dropped quite significantly which will improve manoeuvrability and make getting it down the hall at 04:30 much less of a hassle.

The Dissect Podcast is not afraid to cut away to the heart of the matter.

The podcast is a long form discussion (with a significant number of rabbit holes along the way), primarily focused on fitness and nutrition. The hosts are not afraid to tell it how they see it (with a hefty amount of not politically correct crude humour and cynicism) from their point of view of being highly advanced athletes in a number of disciplines.

If you have several hours free and want some knowledge bombs about being fit and healthy, give it a shot.

Today is world backup day.

A Pelican 1200 case holds my redundant backup drives.

8TB of storage goodness, media mirrored and system backups managed by the OS.

Another 3TB drive in the background as my daily backup and media storage drive.

A convenient format to lug if I need to hightail out for whatever reason.

Reading comments on websites is known to be bad for you.

Thankfully, ytget lets me download all my favourite subscriptions from Youtube without having to delve into that particular realm of scum and villainy, thus keeping my headspace a lot cleaner.

Date: Tagged with micro

Naomi Wu posted on Twitter a guide on forcible entry by the New York Fire Department.

The guide primarily focuses on how to get rapid entry to a premises on fire using various implements, as well as an overview of different doors and locking mechanisms. Obviously it is meant for legal rapid entry to save lives but also unintentionally gives ideas when looking for a new home or how to secure your current front door from people trying to gain unlawful entry.

It also reminds me that I want a Halligan bar, more useful in a post apoc situation than a crowbar.

My commute to work by bike is fairly tame.

The way back however, gets a touch scary at times. Especially the bit with 20 or so meters of unprotected pavement next to a dual carriageway with 40 ton artics barreling towards you at 60+ mph.

The first week of December 2015 brought a massive storm to Lancashire and Cumbria,

causing severe flooding which resulted in a loss of power to 61,000 homes and businesses. The Royal Academy of Engineering put out a report of the situation (mirror) discussing the situation:

Most homes in the affected area have gas-fired central heating with the control system and circulating pump reliant on electricity, so had no heating. Many homes have all-electric cooking and thus were unable to heat food. There are few high-rise buildings in the city but all lost power for their lifts and some upper floors lost water supplies. After 30 hours without electricity, many households had to throw away at least some of the contents of their freezers.

The biggest impact on most people was that few knew what was happening. By looking out of the window, it was obvious that there was a widespread power cut but none of the usual sources of information – TV, internet, text messages or social media – was working. Although there was FM radio coverage, many people did not have a suitable battery- powered radio and reporters in the area had serious difficulties in communicating with their studios.

Vulnerable groups, including those relying on electrically-powered medical appliances and residents of care homes, were more seriously affected.

I've been a double edged razor user for well over a decade now.

I find the shave to be much more pleasurable than the multi-bladed cartridge monstrosities, not to mention the cost is much reduced.

The main issue comes when it is time to change the blade. Have a fairly sharp (not so good for shaving but will still mess you up) blade - covered in scraped off skin and possibly blood depending on how badly I shave - to be disposed of.

Simply throwing the naked blades in the bin is not suitable. The hazard to anyone down the chain is too high. Similarly, putting the blades in the cardboard container they came out of is also not great.

I thought about the sharps bins you see in hospitals and clinics for needles and scalpels and wondered if there was a consumer version.

Small enough to sit on a shelf and enough capacity for at least a decade of shaving. Clearly marked as hazardous and easily sealed for future disposal into a suitable waste stream.

Cold morning.

Run harder.

Date: Tagged with run / micro

Been commuting for 3 out of 4 shifts on the bike this week.

It would have been 4 for 4 but tonight is night shift, no way am I cycling home 7.5 miles after being awake for 24 hours. My ebike makes the commute much easier and a lot more fun. Aside from nearly running into an idiot who pulled out on me. And having to do a ninja landing after my front wheel hit an edging stone at the wrong angle.

Checking over my bike found that the rear tyre was pretty flat.

Given that I have already replaced the inner tube last week I thought an investigation was in order. Cue inner tube in sink of water with resulting bubbles. A detailed look at the inside of the tyre revealed the culprit.

Time to patch this tube too.

Managed to fix the missing page links in the header

so I decided use that opportunity to make some changes and update some things. The Reading list has some more books, Now got tweaked and I added an About page with some contact details.

Date: Tagged with micro / fixing

Manchester -> EMFCamp.

See you there!

Glasgow -> Manchester.

Van loaded up and on the road again.

The trick with running

is to get into a slight zen/dissociative state. Let the subconscious take over the movement of your legs and have your conscious go elsewhere. Whether it be plans for the day, thinking about things that could have been improved or just plain idle thoughts.

Heading down to Newcastle with the work for a couple nights.

They seem to like me for the last 3 gigs at the weekend so I'm getting free transport and accommodation for 2 more gigs. Might even get some sightseeing done.

Way aye man!

Going to EMFCamp again.

Missed the last one because of a friend getting married but this time, for sure, I am going, along with a bunch of good friends. Should be a blast.

While scoping out a secondary route to work

I made a slight wrong turn. While my bicycle may be competent on most terrain, it does have a bit of trouble going through unforeseen mud pits, causing me to stop and flail to avoid falling.

Thought I would spice up

my usual morning run. Stuffed an improvised 9kg(20lb) ruck plate into my bullet ruck and went out on the 5k loop. Started huffing almost instantly and sweat was dripping off 1/3 the way round.

Still got a good time, just under 32 minutes.

When in a (sub)urban environment, early runs are best.

So much quieter at 05:30 than it is at 07:30. Virtually no people to dodge around, no cars to watch out for.

Just done my first ever 10km run.

Sucking wind hard. Got 3/4 of the way round my usual 5km run and decided to go all Forrest Gump.

I tend to shy away from politics but this is a pretty big thing.

Margaret Thatcher IITheresa May has formally invoked Article 50. 2 years of negotiations before Scotland get dragged out of the EU. Unless Indyref2 happens.

I now have a Jabber/XMPP account set up.

Adding to the menagerie of comms systems I am on, you can now contact me at kevinisageek at jabber dot otr dot im.

Been off the bike for far too long.

Went to cash a cheque and found myself very unconfident at riding, especially in traffic. Doesn't help that the main road to go anywhere is a dual carriageway, nor does the lack of cycle-friendly paths around here, nor the lack of good places to lock up to.

Excuses I know. Need to make an effort to cycle more and become less dependent on refined dinosaurs.

Maps, as well as books, are to be hoarded.

Say what you will about having Google Maps or OSM, paper maps are worth their weight in gold, especially in grid down situations.

Since moving to Coatbridge I haven't been out on my bike.

This of course, is unacceptable. So I had a quick look on Google Maps for some low traffic routes and found a way onto NCN 75. Fun wee blast along the canal.

Crossfit is one of the quickest ways to put your ego in check.

Look at the WOD, think to yourself "that looks easy, no bother." Halfway through the WOD, you reconsider. Finish up, you are humbled by the weight.

One of the great things

about having a 110 Defender hardtop is the ability to stick a bicycle in the back and have it be completely protected from the elements, as well as not having to partially disassemble it to get it in.

Coffee

Home for the night.

Not been on the bike for months.

Shocking behaviour, I know. Needs to change. Went up to the co-op for some salad for dinner in an attempt to arrest the dependence on the Land Rover. Legs are burning, throat is raw. Only a 2km trip. Caught a midge in the eye too. Must get better.

Currently reading "Moods of Future Joys" by Alastair Humphreys.

It is the first half of his autobiographical account of the 4 years he spent traversing the globe by bicycle on a slim budget of £7000. From London, through Europe, the Middle East and down the east of Africa.

Mornings come peacefully on the road. I wake slowly with the daylight, turning in my sleeping bag, adjusting the bundle of clothes that act as my pillow and dozing off once or twice until my head is clear and ready to begin the day. I lie still and listen to the sounds outside my tent. Sometimes birdsong, sometimes whooshing vehicles, sometimes water, sometimes silence. I unzip the tent door and feel the fresh air on my face. I check the weather and particlarly the wind: strong winds can seriously spoil my day.

What do you need to survive on the Pacific Crest Trail?

Turns out, not a whole lot.

“This was not a typical backpacking or camping trip—there is no real time spent in camp, per say. You’re not sitting around and roasting marshmallows and singing songs. You eat for functional purposes—not for the experience of eating. At the end of the day, all you want to do is set up camp and get to sleep so you wake up and do it all over again. So bringing books, Kindles, or other luxury/recreational items that have nothing to do with survival or with walking very clearly becomes superfluous.”

Running downhill

is one of the best things in the world. So fast and easy. Running on the flats is tolerable to acceptable. Uphill sucks.

Anyone want a pull?

HAM -> EDI

Deutschland, ich bin in dir.

EDI -> HAM

Made it to Chicago.

Long day, still got more to go. Bloody timezones.

GLA -> DUB

Started reading The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross.

First dead tree fiction book in several years. More occult computing FTW!

I swear I'll stop with The Laundry Files stuff at some point.

New bike hardware.

Got a rear pannier (which will act as a mudguard), front mudguard and a decent pump.

Bike is looking sexy. Plus I can cycle in the rain without getting my arse soaked by water thrown up by the rear wheel.

Reading TFM does work.

Fixed my bike. At least it shifts between all 3 ranges now, albeit with some delay at times. No chain rub though which was the reason for the faffing. Time to get my cycling on!

Home safely on the bike.

No breaks, no one ran me over. Still no Bikeyface though.

Also need to adjust my brakes, the levers are a bit flappy.

Made it to work on the bike without dying.

Helmet also fits in my backpack. Great success!

Dreading the ride home though. Bloody hill.

Going to Gencon!

Gonna see all my Illinois buddies and nerd out at a tabletop gaming convention.

Just come across the idea of microadventures.

No trips to the other side of the world, instead, going for more local trips. Gotta try this at some point.

Anyone want a tow?

Arrived just in time, nice 4 meter tow strop and 2 shackles. Want to get my winching on.

Now that is a socket.

Its massive!

Britpart, hmmm....

Got me a GoPro!

Will hopefully start shooting some video.

Date: Tagged with GoPro / micro

Got me some new bling!

Bring it on winter!

You know you're in America when

you get handed a whole bunch of firearms to have a look at just after waking up.

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