First go at making sausages.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now and finally got round to it today. I decided to make some of Cumberland sausages, using a from the recipe from the forum at sausagemaking.org.

Here’s how I got on.

First of all I made up the spice mix, enough for 10Kg of meat, though I’m only making 2Kg of sausages this time. With Cumberland’s being my favourite sausage I figured I’ll be making more soon enough.

Everything laid out, free-range pork from our fabulous local butcher, breadcrumbs from my home made bread and the spice mix.

My ebay Kenwood Chef that I stripped and renovated, fitted with a mincer, which made short work of mincing the par-frozen meat.

Everything minced and then ice-water, spices, breadcrumbs all mixed in and left to rest.

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I realised that this sausage would be way more than the two of us could eat in one sitting so I split it into two.

Then I carried on with the rest of the mix.

I ended up with a few rings. One is for tomorrow’s breakfast, one’s going to the freezer for next weekend and the others are going to my mum, Em’s mum and my brother.

The bits remaining in the mincer that wouldn’t come all the way out was immediately fried up and munched with great pleasure.

All in all, this was great fun and they taste amazing. I’m thinking I might get a manual sausage stuffer for a bit more control and I’ve learned that different brands of herbs are very different in weights. Bart’s dried sage is much less dense than Schwartz for example.

Start of a fun hobby here, now to figure out the next few recipes to try.

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, and one last thing. Rip Steve.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

The misfits.

The rebels.

The troublemakers.

The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.

You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,

disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.

Because they change things.

They invent. They imagine. They heal.

They explore. They create. They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

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Robins

We’ve been putting food out for the birds over the winter to try and bring more to the garden. A pair of robins have become semi-tame, waiting for us each morning when they know we’ll put meal worms out for them. We now have a feeder on the kitchen window too that they come to. This morning I grabbed the camera and got a few quick shots. I need to play with the settings a bit, as the depth of field is too shallow but it’s amazing how close they come to us now.

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Fitted some LED lights to the bike panniers

Had my panniers fitted up at Vern’s a few weeks ago and, now that Steptoe has fitted the new gearbox, and my finger is healed from cutting the end off (these things are not related) I’ve finally got round to wiring in the lights I bought for them.
You can lose a bit of visibility of the indicators due to how far back the panniers are and the shorted indicator stalks, so I decided some extra lights wouldn’t go amiss. I bought some 3-way LED light panels which fit nicely on the outside edge of the panniers, they cost £30 for the pair from Ribblesdale Auto Electrics
I wanted to wire them neatly but also to be able to have the wiring disconnect easily on the occasions that I take the panniers off. This won’t be often, as my bike is my day to day drive (don’t own a car) but for servicing etc it’s handy and I didn’t fancy having to unwire things.
I bought some 4-way supaseal connectors and some 4 core cable, and fitted the connectors. Good crimping pliers make this job a whole lot easier. I bought a set that actually curl the crimps over gripping the wire, rather than the ones that just crush the crimps. Much, much better, should have done it years ago. I also bought some small cable glands to seal where the wire enters the panniers. I used a step drill (thanks for the tip Vern) which was much easier and neater than using various drill bits.
The connectors will be ziptied to the pannier frames, I just need to drill a small hole in the frame to run a ziptie through to keep things in place neatly
From the pannier frame, the wires run under the tailpiece to the rear light pod and indicator, where they pick up the indicator/tail/brake light feeds.
To pick up the indicator connection, I ran the wires into the indicator pods and crimped new connectors to the positive terminals.
I took the light pod off and fed the wires through the rubber grommet, keeping everything neat.
The wires to the rear lights are quite short and I considered extending them but found there was just enough length. I have one of Tecno’s rear LED light inserts which you can see the back of here.
I had a spade doubler of the correct size for the ground terminal, so fitted that and just put a spade connector on the end of the ground wire feeding the new lights. Unfortunately I didn’t have one that fitted the slightly smaller brake/tail spades, so fitted new spade connectors and crimped the new and old wires to them. The wires to the rear lights are quite short and it was very fiddly getting the light panel back on.
Inside the pannier it was a case of just trimming and connecting the wires from the bike to the light units. Slightly more awkward for me as I’m a bit red/green/brown colour blind and the wire colours in the 4 core were red/green/brown/white and in the light units red/orange/brown/white.
I actually had to get one of the guys working on the road outside to confirm I’d got everything wired correctly before soldering.
Connections are twisted and soldered
then covered in heat shrink
For now I’ve taped the cables to the pannier with some duct tape, but I want to pick up some aluminium flashing tape as it doesn’t tend to go nasty and sticky with age.
So, how do they look?
Running lights
brake lights
indicators
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New post, new subject.

So, I haven’t posted for ages, life and work got in the way. I’m going to try and post a bit more this year, on whatever subject comes to mind.

I’ve been doing a bunch of work on my motorbike recently, so figured I’d post up some of it as much for my own benefit to keep a record of stuff I’ve been doing. This won’t be of much interest unless you’re a biker but here you go, how to convert fog and spot lights to HID bulbs for more light and less power drain. Handy for the winter months.

Continue reading

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Transparent Lobbying

When I lived in the US, I was appalled at how commercial interests seem able to alter government policy at their will, corporations are now so powerful that senators have to bow down to them if they want the support of their workers to gain re-election. For a great insight into how it works, I highly recommend Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which is disturbing in many ways but the lobbying of the food industry and how it has shaped US politics is scary.

Recently, the Digital Economy bill here in the UK seems to have shown how powerful it is in this country, with MP’s voting on issues that they plainly failed to understand, making statements in parliament that caused geeks like me to stare dumbfounded at our screens in sheer incredulity at the lack of knowledge they displayed with their pronouncements. Discovering that secret lobbying is perfectly legal here just continues the old ‘cash for questions’ legacy which suggests that if  you have enough money you can change/influence policy.

Well, with a general election just 4 weeks away, the action group 38 Degrees which helps engage people with making changes to issues that affect the UK, are encouraging people to write to their candidates and ask about their opinions on secret lobbying. I’ve been encourages and inspired by my friends to try and become a bit more politically involved so this is the letter I just sent off to mine. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, reply I receive.

Dear Sir,

after the recent debacle of the Digital Economy Bill, where it became ever more apparent that the MP’s voting on the issue appeared to have little knowledge about the issues involved, as seen in their clear misunderstandings of digital terminology and ignorance of what’s actually involved in putting their proposals into practice, it seems to me as though there is considerable lobbying pressure from financially motivated businesses pushing for laws that are only in their own commercial interests and not in that of the public.

Looking into this recently, I’ve been appalled to find that, right now, it’s perfectly legal for companies/interest groups to secretly lobby the government and that there is no way for the public to stay informed about this. Given the size of some corporate interests, I find this very worrying and believe it to be completely undemocratic. It continues in the vein of ‘cash for questions’ and suggests that if you have enough money you can influence parliamentary decisions.

With the general election just a few weeks away I would be interested in your views on this and whether you would state whether you intend to oppose secret lobbying in the future.

Thank you for your time,

Justin Peer.

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Brilliant quote.

One of the blogs I follow is by a remarkable young lady, named Jill Homer, living up in Alaska who’s feats of endurance cycling make my triathlon exploits seem like sunday afternoon outings. She has cycled the course of the Iditarod dog sled race, more than once. This summer she cycled the Great Divide mountain bike route from Canada to Mexico (2,700 miles) in an astonishing 24 days. She has a wonderful approach to life that I admire greatly, but today she posted a comment that stopped me in my tracks because it resonated so much with how I currently look at my life.

“I don’t want to ever become the kind of person who doesn’t dare to fail and fail spectacularly. I don’t ever want to be unwilling to approach the unknown. I don’t ever want to live a life free of risk.”

Too often we are afraid to attempt things because of worries over how we might appear to others or too ourselves. It’s a timely reminder and one that I intend to write out and put up on my notice board. Thanks Jill, for reminding me of how important that is.

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Yet more praise for Vodafone.

It’s been a while since I posted and, once again, I’m singing the praises of Vodafone. My contract ran out a few weeks ago and I’ve been waiting to see what happened with my work before I renewed. I phoned Vodafone yesterday and asked how much they could get my monthly bill down to if I didn’t get a shiny new phone, and they said £19.57, which is pretty good.

However, one of my friends pinged me about an offer with O2 where I’d get the same deal for the same cost, but with £100 cashback, bringing the 12 month contract down to £11.57. Much as I’d love to stay with Vodafone, that’s a significant difference. I told the customer service guy (Matt) this, and that I needed to keep the cost down as I’d recently been made redundant (which is why I didn’t go for the new phone) and he said, ‘hang on a moment’ and went off to talk to someone.

When he came back it was with a very interesting offer. Apparently Vodafone have a customer retention unit that are authorised to make occasional extra special offers to customers who would otherwise leave the network, and that they could get my bill down to £14 a month, on a 12 month contract. I was happy with that and I get to stay with Vodafone for another year.

Now, the thing that struck me most about this is that not many people know about the retention service, but it’s there and obviously something they will use to keep their customers. They’d rather get less money and keep a customer than have them go elsewhere.

Think about that for a minute, let it really sink in.

How many companies do you know that are as committed to keeping their customers and keeping them happy. Given the appalling level of customer service that is the norm in the mobile phone world, the personal stories I have from T-mobile, who I’d never, ever consider going back to, and the stories I hear from friends on O2, this strikes me as a rare and precious thing. Customer service that is there to help customers, treat them respectfully and maintain the brand loyalty.

We always complain when we get crappy service somewhere, but we don’t often give praise where it’s due. Over the past two years I’ve been with Vodafone they have repeatedly shown that they have an attitude to customer service that is second to none in the mobile phone market, at least as far as this customer is concerned.

So I’m telling everyone about it.

Peace, out.

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$8k for 40 acres!

Over on my other site I’m blogging my project of building a tiny off-grid house and that has recently brought John Wells to my attention, as he’s also building a tiny, self-sufficient house but he’s out in Texas, where I lived for several years a little while ago. I’m enjoying reading about his adventures, and thought you might too. He’s just posted a poem on YouTube that sums up what he’s been doing and I hope he won’t mind if I link to it here. You can learn more about his project by visiting The Field Lab. The most surprising thing is that he bought 40 acres of land for $8k, oh for the big open empty spaces where land is cheap.

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Steve Jobs: "Whole Earth Catalog was Like Google in Paperback, But 35 Years Earlier"

This isn’t new, but I just ran across it the other day and it seemed relevant and interesting, especially where he says the Whole Earth Catalog (1967) was “…like Google in paperback”: Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech in 2005. Following is the last part of a very short speech:

“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Thank you all very much.”

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