Something New Every Day

A record of doing a new thing every day in 2011

Electronic Census (86/365) Sunday March 27, 2011

Yesterday was census day, and like the rest of the country I filled in what is mostly information with a bit of effort the government already knows about me.

The new thing was filling it out electronically on the Census website, which worked out very well. It was much quicker to fill in (my writing is very rusty nowadays) and the site was actually really well designed.

Rumour has it this could be the last ever census as it does seem anachronistic in this electronic era, and I can’t believe it’ll be the most efficient way in 10 years time to collect this information.

Walked to Holy Island (85/365) Saturday March 26, 2011

Yesterday me, Hilary and David (Hilary’s brother) went to a rather chilly Northumberland coast and walked over the sea to Holy Island.

Also known as Lindesfarne, Holy Island was the site of an early Christian community and is only accessible by road over a causeway that gets covered by the sea at high tide. We decided to park up on the mainland and walk the 3 or so miles to the island over the road.

There is a pilgrims route over the sands that is more direct but slightly crazy, the route just marked 20 foot high poles across the beach. There are also the slightly worrying safety stations along the way, which are huts which presumably are above the sea if you get caught by the incoming tide. We decided to take the longer route, although we only thought it was a couple of miles - which meant my dodgy knees were struggling on the walk back.We also had a nice pint in a pub in the village, and despite the biting wind had a really good day out.

Home broadband speed improved x4 (84/365) Friday March 25, 2011

When I got home on Thursday our broadband connection was out, and after further investigation our phones were out too. After going through the slightly ridiculous steps on the automated BT helpline, I managed to get an engineer out to look at the problem.

It turns out it was some problem outside the house - possibly a dog relieved itself on the junction box! - but after talking with the extremely helpful engineer I asked whether replacing our rather old internal wiring would help on our broadband speed. He did a quick check on the master line, and reckoned we could get up to 8Mbps which was a shock since I’d never got more than 1.5Mbps on a good day.

The engineer added a new master phone socket near where the outside line comes in, I plugged our router directly into that and already on I’m getting 7.05Mbps! This is frankly unbelievable, and is going to make a massive difference - I think mainly being able to watch MLBTV at HD rather than having to watch at poorer quality. Very happy!

Version 2 of Bedside Clock almost complete (83/365) Thursday March 24, 2011

I’ve been getting the train rather than the plane home on Thursday’s for a while now. If I book far enough ahead it does work out cheaper, I get an extra few minutes in bed on Monday morning and it’s easier to do some work. However it’s not as fun being stuck next to the same people for 3 hours on the London-Newcastle bit - especially one regularly smelly bloke who seems to be going to Edinburgh every Thursday too. :-(

This week I managed to use the time productively and have almost completed version 2 of my Bedside Clock app. I’ve now fully integrated the sunrise and sunset information I previously worked on, and now have added a change so the color of the display changes through the night.

What I did learn was how to make that change using a Brush in Silverlight, and also how to change images on the fly - neither of which were quite as straightforward as I  would have thought.

All that’s left to do now is to do a better location lookup implementation than the one I previously did, and I’ll be ready to release into the wild. P.S. The app is still getting a regular 40-50 downloads each day, and is up to 1207 total downloads as of today (26/03/2011). And to think I would have been happy with double figures!

Gave some money to busker (82/365) Wednesday March 23, 2011

It was what’s turning into a usual Wednesday. A long day at work, a couple of drinks afterwards and then worrying what the hell I’m going to do for a new thing. My emergency list generally involves computer-based innovation, but having taken some ale that wasn’t really an option. However as I was pondering this on the escalator down to the Piccadilly line at Piccadilly Circus, I started watching the busker playing away in the assigned spot at the bottom.

Now there is often someone playing there, and some of them are really quite good - even though often it’s hard to tell what is the backing track and what they are actually playing live. Anyway I thought I’d do something new and give a few pennies out for once, both because they were entertaining and it got me an entry for another day.

Bought an urban dressing gown (81/365) Tuesday March 22, 2011

Now I’m sharing a place with 2 flatmates, sometimes their partners and occasionally other friends, I thought I might invest in a dressing gown for wandering about the flat in.

Now I’ve never had a dressing gown before, and I suspect I’m showing my age but it’s brilliant! I got it from M&S and it’s really warm when I make the trek to the bathroom first thing. No idea how I spent so much of my life without one.

Before you ask, obviously it’s urban because I’ll only wear it in the city. I’ll continue to prance around in my underwear in the country :-)

Came 2nd in pub/sculpture quiz (80/365) Monday March 21, 2011

After a failed attempt on Valentines Day, I finally got to go to the pub quiz in Stoke Newington for the 1st time.

It was a really fun quiz, with the questions not too easy or too hard. We came 2nd after being pipped by just half a point, although we did get the bonus 3 points for the best foil sculpture which you can see in the picture.

My Close Encounters style “volcano” quickly got smoothed out and Josie and Mandy’s “Couple going to a ball” won the day despite strong competition from an excellent handbag and urinal made by another team.


Booked summer holiday in Scandanavia (79/365) Sunday March 20, 2011

Because I’m travelling up and down the country every week for work, we need to be a bit more organised about arranging my summer holidays than our usual leave-it-to-the-last minute way of doing it.

We had a great - if expensive - time in Norway a couple of years ago, so we’d decided to go back to Scandinavia this summer. We’re going to spend 4 days in Stockholm, then 4 days in Copenhagen, getting the train between the two.

I managed to save a bit using my large pile of BA air miles, and got a reasonable deals on what look like some really nice hotels in both cities so we’re really looking forward to our trip towards the end of July.

Home Made Jammy Dodgers (78/365) Saturday March 19, 2011

I fancied trying making some biscuits yesterday, and a recipe for Jammy Dodgers in The Times supplement seemed a great idea to try.

First glitch was the recipe called for some semolina flour, which wasn’t to be found anywhere in Hexham. However we guessed it was more for texture that anything so we substituted some ground almonds we had in the cupboard.

Hilary did a great job of cutting the hearts, and although they were more shortbready than shop bought Jammy Dodgers, they were pretty good.

Jammy Dodgers

Helped Motorcycle Crash Victim Outside Our House (77/365) Friday March 18, 2011

A very sensational headline, which makes it sound much more interesting than it was.

I was working in my home office when there was a big crash outside. Looking out the window I could see someone behind the car of Hilary’s friend Valerie (they’d gone out for lunch). Hard to see what had happened, but I assumed a cyclist had caught the car in some way so thought I’d head out to check.

Turned out it was a motorcyclist who’d somehow just fallen off without hitting anything! Me and another neighbour helped him and his motorbike up, and picked up some broken bits of plastic and glass which were now on the road.

We live on a corner at the bottom of a small hill, so he can’t have been going more than 15mph - the only conclusion is that he just fell off. How embarrassing!