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Below are 10 entries, after skipping 20 most recent ones in the "Ben Harris" journal:
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It's not all bad.|
On the other hand, I do like mid-winter feasts and shiny decorations,
travelling halfway across the country to see my family and going for a walk on
Boxing Day. I just have to get through the rest of December first.
I hate this time of year.|
I really dislike December, and this one is more annoying than most even befoe
it's started. I dislike buying Christmas presents because they're a colossal
waste. Anything that people actually want, they're quite capable of buying
for themselves, so I get to spend ages trying to think of something marginally
less than completely useless to give them, the result of which will be, at
best, mild disappointment.
I dislike work Christmas dinners, because they involve spending time at work
without actually getting any work done. Inevitably everyone has more important
things to do, but instead we get to spend an hour sitting around while a
restaurant demonstrates how difficult it is to serve twenty people at
I dislike the fact that all of this is happening when it's cold and wet, when
both of my bikes are broken, and in a month that's a working week shorter than
most so there's even less time to get everything done. The fact that the end
of the year is a popular place to put deadlines doesn't help.
I dislike the fact that I can't get out of any of this because, even though the
entire system is horribly inefficient and we'd all be better off if no-one
bothered, it's very selfish for any one person not to bother because then they
get all the (maegre) benefits with none of the costs.
Finally, I dislike the fact that I woke up at about six o'clock this morning,
have been generally annoyed since then, and now have to get up and go to work.
Retrophotography and garlic|
A couple of months ago, I acquired myself a second-hand medium-format
twin-lens-reflex camera dating from about 1963, with the intention of working
out whether medium-format film was a sensible medium for me. The test rolls of
colour film that I've fed through it have had various problems which I'm still
working out how to solve. Yesterday, though, I finally got a roll of Delta 400
back from Jessops and scanned it with Verity's scanner, and I was surprised to
find some actually decent pictures. I don't think they qualify as "good", but
they do at least suggest that I might manage something worthwhile with that
On an etirely different front, I grew some garlic this year. Trying to grow it
in the front garden, shaded by a cherry tree and the house, was probably a bad
idea and the bulbs came out rather small. Happily, they respond well the
Clare's technique of sticking unpeeled cloves into the garlic crusher and
squishing them out of their skins, so it wasn't too much hassle for me to put
five bulbs into last night's stroganoff. Next year's garlic will be grown in
the back garden.
<http://bjh21.me.uk/pictures/2008-08-04_coastpath/> (the first twelve pictures)
The garlic isn't on the Web.
It must have been Birmingham, but it's over now.|
As practice for a 200km ride next month, I've spent a few Saturdays recently
cycling out to places from which I could get a train home to Cambridge. First
came King's Lynn, which was only 80km, but into the teeth of a vicious headwind
which made it feel much longer. Then there were Norwich, which was fine apart
from a little too much A11, and Ipswich, which was by far the nicest of the
rides so far.
Then, last weekend, I set off for Birmingham New Street. Since walk-up tickets
for the journey home were so expensive, I got an advance ticket with a cycle
reservation for the last direct train of the day, at about half-past eight in
the evening. My minimal research suggested that I'd have to cover maybe 160km,
which shouldn't take me more than nine hours. As it turned out, I covered
190km, and arrived at New Street with less that half an hour to spare. I
suspect my routing may not have been as direct as various mapping Web sites
assumed. Still, if I can manage 190km at an average of 19.6km/h, I think 200km
at 15km/h should be easy.
Incidentally, for anyone needing to get to or from the centre of Birmingham by
bike, I can recommend NCN5 (the Rea Valley Route). I suspect the time I lost
detouring to pick it up was easily made up for in not having to pick my way
across the city.
Holiday, photos, broken bikes. The usual.|
As is now becoming traditional, Owen and I went off for a week of
station-collecting in May, this time in and around Bristol. "Around" in this
case encompassed a good deal of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Gloucester, and a
little bit of Wales too. Owen took lots of photos of stations, and I handled
the logistical problems of actually getting to all of them in the time
available. I took some photos of my own, but they were on film (my DSLR being
in Slough being cleaned) and so have only just appeared on the Web:
Before and after the holiday, I took some pictures around Cambridge, but
they're more geography than art really:
Having got back from Bristol, I was full of enthusiasm for working out next
year's trip. We've mostly exhaused the Severn and Solent rover, and Owen
didn't want us to go somewhere he could get to on a day trip, so my current
thinking favours somewhere in the north-west of England, where there's a
reasonably cheap weekly rover ticket and plenty of stations.
I tried to finish getting my blue bike roadworthy at the weekend, which should
have been trivial, but while threading the chain around the rear derailleur I
noticed a suspicious-looking mark on one of the dropouts which turned out to be
a crack, or more accurately a break. I could get the dropout replaced, but
there are at least two other repairs the frame could do with, and a couple of
more fundamental problems, so I wonder if it might be time for a new frame.
Unlike getting the old frame repaired, buying a new one opens up huge new
opportunities for faff and dither. I need to decide who should make it, what
kind of geometry it should have, what it should be made of, what braze-ons it
should have, and eventually what colour it should be. I think I've decided on
most of them, though the colour is still uncertain.
One of the many strange objects living under our stairs is a clear acrylic
juggling ball. At the weekend, while others were playing Puerto Rico, I took
some photos of it. Then I realised that something refractive and spherical
could be used as a lens, so I removed the lens from my camera and tried taking
photos through the juggling ball. It couldn't focus to infinity, and had a
habit of fouling the mirror, but it did work to an extent.
The second optical silliness came as a result of a walk round Cambridge on
Saturday, when I kept finding myself using the wide end of my normal zoom lens
and wishing I had something wider. Now I do, in the form of a faintly insane
Sigma 10-20mm zoom. It's really quite wide.
A curious thing I noticed last night: leaving aside investments, the most
expensive single thing I've ever bought was my HP LogicDart, at a shade over
five hundred pounds, back in 1999. I surprises me rather that I've managed to
reach the age of 31, and a faintly ludicrous salary, without ever buying
anything really expensive.
Maybe I should buy that Zeiss lens after all, just to push the record up a bit.
For some reason, the last couple of weeks have seen me lusting after a nice bit
of curved glass. More accurately, after quite a lot of nice bits of curved
glass. It's not that my current lenses are particularly inadequate; it's just
that there are even nicer ones out there, and they could be mine for only a few
As an interim measure, I'm trying to borrow from my father the lens I used
until I got my own camera at the age of 18. Perhaps I'll find that being stuck
with a single focal length for landscapes is just too restrictive, in which
case I may as well stick with the current zoom lens, since more expensive zooms
don't seem to be much better in ways that I care about.
Experimental Fruitcake No. 2|
This is not, despite several suggestions, an album title. Instead, it was a
cake to take to Clare's pancake party. I had intended to try Verity's mother's
rather strange recipe, but making a cake for Clare that didn't contain black
treacle just seemed wrong. So instead I made some small changes to No. 1,
putting back some of the flour (Dove's Farm gluten free) and adding extra milk
to try to make up for the flour's absorbancy. Also, there were whole glace
cherries for roundness. The result was pretty good, but the texture was (as
might be expected) a bit of an unsatisfactory compromise, probably not helped
by my taking it out of the oven a bit early because I wanted pancakes. Still,
it wasn't significantly burnt and the whole cherries were definitely a good
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