Journal Entries

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  • August 2021

    Sun, 19 Sep 2021 12:29:34 GMT

    For the first time since the start of the pandemic, I took a trip away from home purely for my own enjoyment, spending one night in Matlock before travelling back the next day.

    Much Ado About Nottingham

    Samathy and Lex invited me to join them for an outside showing of Much Ado About Nothing at Wollaton Hall, which had been on my places to check out in Nottingham more or less since I'd moved here.

    I hadn't seen Much Ado before, and this was a very traditional performance of it, so I didn't particularly follow the plot, but it was a lovely evening (if a little cold) towards the end, and I learned a great new location that was within cycling distance of me!

    Ice cream tacos

    I misheard Ems saying she was having "tacos with rice filling" as "tacos with ice cream" on a call with her and Tim, so the three of us ended up having taco ice cream night on the 13th, as you do.

    "Taco" in Norway generally refers to the tortilla wrap, so I had one wrap with vanilla ice cream, wafer, and chocolate sauce, and a taco shell with a slice of Vienetta in it, both with little ice cream foam sweets that had been hanging around since long before I moved.

    AMPDG: Movie Roulette

    For AMPDG this month I pulled "Movie Roulette: Go to the cinema at a random time and see the first film showing". I modified this for not-going-to-cinema times and used a Netflix random film generator I found on Google to pick a film for me.

    It came up with "The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants 2" so, while waiting for my Sainsbury's order with popcorn to show up, I decided to watch the first film of the two beforehand, just to get some enjoyment out of it.

    With that name, I was expecting pretty a pretty bad film, but the first one was good enough that I was in tears by the end. (The age difference between the protag girls and their love interests was uncomforatble though.)

    By the time my Sainsbury's order had arrived, Netflix had dropped the second film, so I ended up getting that on DVD! I set up purple-orange cinema lighting in my living room, got the popcorn ready, and curled up with my phone and laptop off.

    The second film was good, a pretty standard sequel. I'd recommend both to anyone who's a fan of The Fault in Our Stars and that sort of genre.

    Dragonfruit and Ginger

    The dragon fruit was getting mighty tall at the start of the month, and I was expecting it to start branching out. After watching a few youtube videos, I realised I needed to crop the top of it before it would likely do so, and the top was getting quite thin anyway, so it was an easy decision.

    I decided to pot up the cutting to see if it would root, though I think it was a little weedy. (At the time of writing, it hasn't done anything conclusive).

    The weediness was either because the top of the parent plant wasn't getting any sun when the sun was high (the window would need to be much taller to avoid that) and/or because I hadn't actually fed the plant since potting it up. As such, I got some liquid feed, gave it a good watering with that, and lowered the pot onto the floor, which had been my original plan but wasn't its starting point because the base of it wouldn't get any sun there.

    One of those two things worked because while it took the original parent cutting a half year to spring into action, the vine put out six branch buds within twenty days!

    I had to tighted the vine to the central pole to get the bottom two above the canopy, and accidentally cut into the flesh with the string, but it seems to have healed okay. The lowermost branch bud was still just below the canopy, so I brushed that one off; I only "need" 3-5 branches according to the dragon fruit vids anyway.

    Meanwhile, two ginger roots I had from my Sainsbury's order had started budding, which I've never seen before! I used one for cooking and decided to just see what happens if you plant a ginger - I might get a nice plant! Having seen wild ginger growing in Hawaii, it would definitely be impressive if it thrived.

    Matlock Overnight

    In a litmus test of how I might handle a longer trip, I booked a hotel in Matlock at the edge of the Peak District, and caught the train there after work on a Friday. On Saturday I planned to walk the scenic route to Matlock Bath, get the cable car to the odd attraction of the Heights of Abraham, and get the train back home.

    The walk took me along the River Derwent for a bit, through the public park in Matlock, then up and along a cliff-edge along the East of the river. The views were some of the best I've seen in a fair while.

    A section of the path was called Giddy Edge, and it lived up to its name, being a narrow path with a handrail running around an outcrop of rock that was otherwise a sheer drop.

    I nearly turned around and went for a safer-looking route, but went for it in the end and I'm glad I did!

    At the other end of the path was a No Entry sign, indicating a one-way system for Giddy Edge, which at least answered my question on what I would do if I encountered someone else coming the other way.

    After that, I had some fun exploring some crevices in the rocks that definitely didn't have "No Access" signs in front of them, though some of the deeper nooks had been properly gated up, the spoilsports.

    Yeah okay sign sure.

    Shortly after this I got to Matlock Bath, emerging near the railway station and the entrance to the cable car ride to the top of the opposite hill. I had a ticket booked on this, but not for a couple of hours, so in the meantime I explored the town, a weird place that had three fish and chip shops in a row, and plenty more nearby, despite being one of the furthest places in England from the sea. I bought some fudge from a fudge shop. There was also a beautiful walk up through the forested hillside above the otherwise uninspiring Lovers' Walk, where I had my sandwiches.

    I walked back to queue up for the cable car to the Heights of Abraham, a self-described "country park" on the hill across the river. I think "country park" is a bit of a stretch; there wasn't really any park land; just a small web of pathways with a restaurant, picnic area, ice cream shop, playground, and, anachronistically, a Punch and Judy show that actually seemed to be a draw.

    The cable car ride itself was nice (even though it was mandatory to take in order to get to the park; the walking route being closed "due to covid" which is a pretty flimsy excuse to push more people through the paid route, I felt) and, in fairness, not overly expensive compared to, say, the London dangleway.

    The park had caught my attention for the two cave tours they run. The first one was very good, with some narrow and low parts, a decent walk, and a nice large cavern at the lowest part. The second one was barely more than a crevice; the bits I've explored myself on the way here were more impressive!

    It started raining so, as is traditional, I bought an ice cream (salted caramel), and sat and ate that in my raincoat. Afterwards I took the cable car back down to Matlock station, where I waited for a train home.

    Overall I didn't find the trip too anxiety-inducing or overwhelming, though the train back from Derby was A Lot, as I unfortunately chanced into chuck-out time for a football game where Derby had been playing. On the back of that, I decided I reckon I'd be up to certain bits of travel again.

    Wild blackberry jam

    I spent an afternoon one weekend collecting a punnet of blackberries, and the jam I made with them turned out pretty well!


    I made three more coaster-sized dutch pours to go with the one I made previously, in different colours

    Upon drying, I discovered that some paints dry very transparent, so I'll have to bear that in mind next time!


    It was the Perseids meteor shower this month, so I decided to go to my local fairly dark open space after dark to see if I could spot any.

    Saw a very bright meteor on the way to the dark park near me, then at least two more in the next 40 minutes, and finally one on the way back home. Pretty happy with that!

    Also got checked in on by a group of teens who weren't sure I was okay, bless them. I guess I was lying motionless on the grass in the dark... oops? I'd mostly been ignoring people who walked past on the nearby footpath, but this lot managed to accidentally spot me with their flashlight. I think I gave them a bit of a jump.

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  • July 2021

    Sun, 15 Aug 2021 11:36:47 GMT

    Bit of a quiet month, but AMPDG got me doing a nice project, and I finally got my second covid vaccine!

    Vaccination 2

    It was the hottest day of the year so far, and a 30 minute cycle ride away, so I ended up wearing a very old vest, of all things. The test centre was much quieter compared to the first vaccination; no queue outside and straight to the nurse inside.

    I took my obligatory vaccination selfie right outside the centre; not the best photo I've taken of myself but here you go.

    I felt more-or-less okay for the rest of the day but the day after, a Monday, I woke up just aching all over, to the point I wasn't comfortable just lying on the sofa. Fortunately the side effects disappeared as swiftly as they'd appeared, and I woke up on Tuesday feeling basically fine.

    AMPDG: Tau Girl

    For AMPDG I picked "Behold! The Masked Wonder!: Create a superhero identity for yourself and use it to do something."

    With Tau Day the previous month in my head, and partly inspired by Emily's "Pi Avenger" from before I met her, I created Tau Girl, whose logo is a Tau symbol in a circle. For a skirt I ordered some material and made an elasticated circle skirt out of it.

    I also ordered a t-shirt to sew the logo onto and some coloured bracelets.

    I decided to create a secret identity of sorts too, by wearing a denim jacket I'd bought but wasn't sure really suited me, so hadn't worn again since, and go to the woods to do a photoshoot.

    I didn't think the photoshoot worked out as well as I'd hoped, so when I got back I took a little series of photos and turned them into a comic strip using a GIMP guide to create a drawn effect:

    All in all this was a nice combination of tasks, including more machine sewing practice (the skirt turned out quite well, though the fabric is a bit too see-through); hand-sewing (the tau symbol is a mess, but I wasn't particularly trying to do more than a quick job on that, expecting to unpick it later); and pushing myself a little to be somewhat conspicuous in public (I wore the jacket over the top walking to the woods, but the pink skirt was very much on display).

    Garden update

    Display all vegetables but my broad beans being a total flop this year, the strawberries and golden raspberries did particularly well this year. I'd taken the strawberries back last year, so there wasn't as many of those, but I got several punnets of raspberries across the summer.

    My sunflowers, planted for May's AMPDG, flowered near the start of the month and I think my choice of the "Solar Eclipse" variety was a very good one.

    Dragonfruit update

    At the start of the month I realised the Dragon fruit vine was growing fast enough that I'd need to complete the trellis that I'd only given a cursory thought to until now. I decided to go with the system I'd seen a youtube video do a while ago, which was to top the growing pole with a garden sieve for the vine to drape over.

    The (semi-)professional growers use 10cm-or-so thick beams of wood for the pole and construct a square top for their stuff, but I'd already committed to the coconut fibre pole, so I ordered the sieve, a 30cm aluminium beam to go through the centre of it, and some heavy duty picture frame wire to stop it toppling.

    You can see my efforts here:

    I would have preferred a ceramic pot for the plant, but at least the plastic one allowed me to drill some holes through to look the picture wire through. It also turned out the coconut fibre pole is hollow, so I wasn't able to just shove the rod into it and have it stay there (it would have fallen to the bottom), so I used some plasticine to hold it in place. I used cutters to create a hole for the vine to grow through:

    I have no idea if this will hold the weight of several vine branches draping over it, but it feels like a reasonable bodge!

    I got it done just in time; just a week later the vine was already through the top:

    Twitch streams

    I got the equipment together to be able to stream me playing on my old Megadrive onto Twitch, and I've been doing that sporadically on Saturday mornings when I've been up to it. If you fancy joining me, I'm at kapellosaur there, and twitch will send an e-mail when I go live.

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  • June 2021

    Fri, 09 Jul 2021 20:17:49 GMT

    Two bits of astronomy this month, as I watched the partial solar eclipse and, later, got up early to observe a sunrise solstice.

    Partial Solar Eclipse

    I had my eclipse glasses and camera with long lens all set up and ready, hoping for a glimpse of the eclipse on a morning that was increasingly being forecast as cloudy.

    Fortunately around the time of max eclipse, the cloud was thin enough to see the sun through for a few minutes!

    At one point it even cleared enough that I got to see the eclipse through a gap in the clouds with the eclipse glasses, so I was very happy with that.

    Solstice Sunrise

    Eleven days later, I set my alarm for 04:00 and walked up to my nearest hill for sunrise. The sunrise would be behind trees, but it was overcast anyway and besides, the exact time of the solstice was a few minutes before that anyway.

    I had to run up the final part of the hill to get to the top in time for the solstice, and got there with under a minute to spare.

    Despite being overcast, the sunrise lit up the clouds beautifully, and was well worth the early morning.

    Dragon fruit update

    The dragon fruit started growing aerial roots! This is apparently fairly normal, but I've given the cactus a good amount of water now because the soil was dry and i wondered if it was after more.

    It has been growing fast as always and had nearly reached the top of the growing pole by the end of the month.

    On the 5th

    On the 26th

    i was expecting the single branch to have finished by now, ready for another segment to grown from the top, but that hasn't happened yet! It just keeps getting longer!

    Art (and AMPDG)

    I've just got a couple of art this month, both made primarily on the same day, though the first one had an undercoat put down one week, and the AMPDG addition a week later.

    This was my first "dutch pour", still wet, where very liquid paint is blown with a hairdryer or a straw (or just the mouth)

    This was a little coast-size dutch pour, which I think is my favourite piece to date! The black and orange were mixed with floetrol from a previous bit of art, while the blue and white were just water.

    My AMPDG this month was to paint an octopus! The dutch pour was intended to go with it; I was aiming for something that looked watery, and ended up thinking it looked like a coral reef from above, so adapted the octopus accordingly. I love how it came out!

    I still need to varnish both pieces (I still need to order varnish, even…) but I'm planning to hang this one in the bathroom.

    Sunset Rainbow

    I saw a rare sunset rainbow! I don't think I've seen one before!

    Here's the view looking the opposite direction


    My garden veg has not been a success story this year, but I don't seem to be alone in this at least!

    I managed to harvest three cauliflowers, one of which had the tiniest head, and used the leaves from those and the three weedy spinach plants in a tofu korma, which was tasty! I ended up adding more frozen spinach, though.

    The sunflowers continued to grow, at least; more on those next month.

    Fruit-wise, the golden raspberry bushes are producing well (I suspect they actually liked the cold wet spring) and the strawberry plants are doing okay too.

    Finally, I harvested the beans. There was less of an aphid/ant problem than last year and I didn't have to throw away much. I got just under 500g of pods, which turned into 134g of shelled beans. That was enough to make one serving of broad bean pilaf, which was delicious as always!

    Sonic & Knuckles Badge

    I've started listening to Sonic the Comic the Podcast, a look back at the Sega comic that ran from 1993, and while I'm now going through the back-catalogue, I started at episode 50, which was covering the end of the Sonic 3 & Knuckles storyline. They were talking about a S3&K logo denim jacket the comic was giving away and musing that they could make their own one with an embroidered badge.

    At the same time I have had a black satchel I haven't been sure what to do with. It's been tucked away in the spare room since I got it, but I needed it to cart my laptop to a repair shop to have its screen replaced, and happened to lamenting that it wasn't more interesting.

    One search of eBay later, and:

    Well, I make it sound easy. This is actually the first bit of hand sewing I've done, and I ended up trawling through youtube videos and then calling Emily in a panic when the thread broke part-way around before actually getting it sewn on, but I'm very pleased with the final result!

    Being able to do this has opened up the possibility of sewing the badges I got in Hawaii's national parks onto something, but I'm not sure what yet! (This bag is a possibility, though I like the idea of it having solely the Sonc 'n' Kunks logo.)

    Short story

    Since moving my 04-in-04 short stories private in the hope of having them around as possibilities for submitting to a publisher, and the first short story publisher I'm aware of that has opened for submissions since is Fireside Magazine. None of my shorts this year were a fit for the themes they were after this time, so I decided to write another one during evenings using the techniques I've learned from 04-in-04.

    For the first time I can remember (in 04-in-04) I scrapped the first 500 words I wrote altogether, though they did help me worldbuild. Thanks to some feedback from Baz and Emily, I got the second version into a shape where I was happy to submit it on time. I'm not sure it quite has the poetic quality that the current editor of Fireside goes for, but they have a guest editor for this batch of submissions, so I have my fingers crossed they like it.

    It's a fantasy/sci-fi (who'd have just one genre?) currently titled The Way of the Mountain Witch and is around 2900 words (on the long side for Fireside, too, but anything less would have been merely a vignette I feel). I'll hear back from Fireside around August, apparently! Regardless of their response, it was a good experience.

    Sean and Aled at TanegraClifton

    Last but not least, I got to see Sean and Aled for the first time Samathy's birthday in 2019, which was lovely. They were visiting friends in Clifton so I cycled over to the South Side Of The River to join them for a socially-distanced walk along the river there. It was great to see them both!

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