N+1: Fat bike.

I've bought a fat bike. It's a big squidgy bundle of fun.

Human Interaction and Free Speech

I have not failed to notice the low frequency by which I am inspired and motivated enough to compose a blogpost. Judging from the various personal blogs I've read since the medium became popular, I believe there are two types of committed blogger: The Extrovert and The Diarist. The Extrovert seeks to invoke a response from their audience, to have an impact or to merely know that they are heard. The Diarist uses their blog as a way of organising their thoughts and memories in a more consciously-open medium than a traditional Diary. I don't believe either of these labels applies to me. In my offline life I tend to maintain a small number of close friendships rather than seeking a crowd of my very own apostles. I am generous and patient with these friends. The only diary entries I have ever completed were by obligation, in the form of homework.

I play bike polo

This June, my bike polo team 5G came 5th at the UK Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships in Birmingham. This was the culmination of five months of training and analysis since the formation of the team and personally, two years of playing bike polo.

My younger brother Osian (whose team Skull Attack came 9th this year) introduced me to bike polo on a summer evening at Maindy Sports Centre in Cardiff. Ten people on whatever bikes they had assembled with beers in hand and knocked the ball around a sloping court. My brother and I were sharing what had in a previous life been my first mountainbike, converted to fixed gear, and a heavy mallet made using a broom handle. I injured myself on that first evening. The ball went under my front wheel and with one hand on the bars and no experience, I fell forwards onto my hands, softening the blow of the uncapped bar end against my abdomen. I was back in play after two beers and that injury healed within a week. My sprained shoulder took three.

Bike polo has always been a social sport and the shorter hardcourt game and its informal setting encourages this aspect. The traveling circus that assembles at National Series events, championships and other tournaments such as the London Open will make you one of the crowd if you're willing to join in.

We'll even lend you our bikes.

A year in the life

My first observation for the last year would be that I've spent a very large proportion of my time doing things and hence less time thinking and almost no time writing.

What I had hoped would become the first in a series of posts on house ownership did not come to pass. I found that owning a house, especially a house in need of work, as a couple is a particularly stressful activity. In hindsight, moving to a new city, starting new jobs and building (or failing to build) new social circles would probably have constituted an adequately stressful workload for most people.

Intelligent Wi-fi Channel Selection

My home router is a BT Homehub 3, which is promoted using inaccurate language to describe the "BT internet signal" provided by it, allegedly more reliable than other ISP's "internet signals". Leaving aside the modicum of bullshit generated by the marketing department, The feature whereby the router intelligently chooses a wi-fi channel and monitors for changes in interference levels is a good idea, however I would like to see more user interaction with this feature.

Big news

Since my last post, a number of stressful things have happened:

  1. I successfully bought a house with my partner
  2. I project-managed 6 different tradesmen to get most of the work we'd planned done before the contract at our flat expired
  3. We gave a home to two cute but vicious kittens.

Each of these has taught me things which I may or may not remember next time I find myself in a similar situation.

When you first start house-hunting, people will tell you how long the process takes. This does not mean you have time to methodically achieve everything - the slow parts of the process are not the parts you have control over. Before you start looking at houses, go and shop around for mortgages and work out with the advisors what you budget should be, then start subtracting. You will be helpless to resist spending on your new home. Make sure your chosen mortgage company's advisor is friendly, contactable and prompt.

Plan some time off work to go and see houses, then go and see every reputable estate agent who advertises in your chosen area. Schedule all the houses into a relatively short period of time as the first nice house you saw may have already had an offer accepted on it by the time you finish viewings and set your heart on it. Don't ask for weekend viewings as they book up very quickly and travelling between appointments takes longer. Arrange for someone older and wiser to accompany you on a second viewing within a few days of your first to make sure you're not being overwhelmed by the occasion and are buying a lemon.

On skepticism

Skepticism is an attitude which consists of both curiosity and doubt. Skeptics typically spurn unexplained or unevidenced theories or received wisdom. Skepticism is considered a healthy trait in scientists and, I propose, an undervalued quality in modern society. I would class myself as a skeptic. Skepticism has received increased coverage in the past decade, partly due to increased debate in media-friendly fields.

Skepticism is not the same as denialism. Both label are frequenty misapplied: climate-change deniers are labelled "climate-skeptics" by the media, whilst proponents of various form of quackery will label those doubting their gospel as denialists.

It is a trait of many oppressed nations that the media is limited to prescribed news items or consored. This limits the ability of the population to cast doubt upon the reports as no evidence which might contradict the oppressor's position can be propogated. I believe that the freedom to enquire, challenge and thereby establish an informed consensus is key to a modern "free" society.

Those seeking some more evidence-based reporting with an occarional non-serious note may be interested in The Pod Delusion, subtitled "a podcast about interesting things".

What's sucking all that juice?

This graph represents the electricity usage of the Department for Energy and Climate Change over 75 days between June 3rd and August 17th 2010.

What has me worried is how they're expending about 50 - 80 kWh per 30 minute period at times when the office is theoretically idle. This appears to be about a third of their consumtion during office hours.

DECC electricity consumption
Data source: http://data.gov.uk/dataset/decc-live-energy-data

A Film Everyone Should See: Erin Brockovich

Tonight I watched a film which had previously passed beneath my radar, and made me feel very happy about the world in which we live.

Erin Brockovich is a film based on the true story of a real Erin, illuminating a tale of David vs Goliath concerning the legal case against Pacific Gas and Electric Company for ground water pollution over three decades in Hinckley, California.

Gas pipelines delivering Natural Gas from Texas to Northern California since its introduction in the Southwest United State require repressurisation stations approximately every 300 miles. Increasing the pressure in a fluid increases the temperature of the fluid, requiring the use of cooling towers, in which water is sprayed onto pipes so that evaporation releases the heat into the air.

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