Muncaster Fell, then down to my mum’s

Our final day in the Lakes we thought we’d relax, take a nice short walk, something not too taxing and without too much height. That went about as well as usual, as we wandered up Muncaster Fell. Our map made us think that it was about a 600 ft climb, iirc, and then a faaaairly flat walk across the top – maybe losing a hundred feet, before climbing up, skirting the summit and then wandering down to a stop on the Ratty which would take us back home.

It turned out that the paths have shifted a bit, they now basically go to the top of the two peaky-bits (I mean, it’s not a very pointy fell), then wander most of the way down between the two, making the upy-downyness much greater. We made it longer trying to avoid the inevitable, and then when we had the chance to skip the highest point, we didn’t, because having come so far we thought it’d be nice to actually see the view from the trig point. It was.

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The next day was, leaving the Lakes super early and driving. And driving. And charging. And driving. And Driving. And Charging. And Driving. AND DRIVING. AND CHARGING.

Yeah, renting a shortish range slow charging EV may not have been the best choice. But, it did it, we did it. And we made it to Brizzle where we caught up with one half of a couple of wonderful friends and their kids. We chatted and caused child-related-ink-chaos (one of their kids discovered that the pen we gave them allowed them to draw not just on paper, but also on themselves! Awesome!), drank tea, ate cake and then piled back in the car to drive the last few hours down to my mum’s.

She had persuaded my sister to stay an extra night, kipping on the camp beds in the study which meant that we got to see my sis and her husband as well. It’s been at least as long since I saw her as it has since we saw my mother, so it was a really lovely surprise and lovely to catch up. They stayed that night and so the next morning we got to have a bit more of a catch up before they headed off to the beach and then home. We – Kathryn, my mum and her husband and me, obviously, then went for a long wander on one of my mum’s favourite walks at the moment. One where a wild flower and grass meadow she walks through has turned almost red as the seeds have reached readiness…

The next few days were chatting, eating and walking for the most part… Enjoying the Cornish countryside, taking in some of my mum’s favourite places. We headed over to the Dutchy of Cornwall nursery where we, of course, partook in a cream tea. My mum also got some lovely plants, because – well – otherwise they’d get lonely. And we got some really nice ideas for plants for us to get for our front garden. That evening we headed out on a bat walk – as the light fades, the bats come out from the trees on the rural roads near my mum’s house, and as you walk along they’ll flit around above your head. It’s a wonderful experience that we couldn’t safely have here in the US (‘cos, no rabies in the UK).

That next day the rain was intermittent and we mainly hung out at home, just heading out with my mum for a brisk walk and some pony petting. I took a bit of the afternoon as the weather cleared up to film the drive review for the car we’d rented, having promised Nikki I’d try and review it since it’s a car we can’t get in the US.

We grabbed our swimming cossies the next day and headed out to the coast. We first headed out to Hollywell, which is a popular beach for both surfers and swimmers – first having a bit of a walk down the head before turning around and coming back having realised that we would run out of time before lunch. Paramito, my mum and me had a quick paddle while Kathryn guarded stuff and did some drawing – the timing didn’t quite work out so Kathryn didn’t get a swim there (sadface), and we headed back to the pub for fish and chips. After lunch we headed over to Cubert Commons – and walked down to Poly Joke beach, where after some lovely paddling I was attacked by a Weaver Fish.

Well, that might be an overstatement. I was stung. My first thought was that I’d been cut by a sharp shell, and I started walking out of the water…then the pain just kept escalating. It crescendoed and then I decided to have a little lie down for a second as I felt a weeny bit faint as the pain eased. After a couple of minutes I stood up and we decided that maybe we should head back to the car because it might be a sting that needed checking – since I really had no idea what it was.

As we neared the top of the beach we checked my toe and it had gone unnervingly white, with the rest of my foot swelling a bit – before mostly resolving by the time we got back to the car. To be honest it’s still not 100% now, but it shows no signs of infection and there’s no pain when I apply pressure. It just feels a little teeny bit off. Anyhow, we think it’s a Weaver fish sting based on the symptoms… next time I’ll be wearing shoes.

On the 2nd we popped around town grabbing some of the things we miss that we can’t easily get in the UK. KP Skips, Eccles cakes, chocolate digestives… We also picked up some bits and bobs for friends and family here in the US. Then in the afternoon I made good on my commitment to film – with Kathryn helping as camera person (lucky, because the wind was fierce) I rattled off the walk around from the car and rapidly shot some more B-roll to drop in the review. I’ve rough cut that today and it’s…surprisingly not terrible.

That next day we spent a chunk of the day – the morning – playing a fun packing game. I repacked the lawnmower I bought so it might make the flight intact, and we played an entertaining game of shuffle the item. Our pre-purchasing things weighing of the cases suggested that we had tons of space. Our post-purchasing of snacks and treats meant that we had to shuffle things very carefully between them to get them under the weight limit. It took much longer than we’d hoped, but we still managed to get out in the afternoon to Goliatha Falls which we’d not been to before and which is very, very beautiful. Unfortunately for us it was super busy that day, but my mum got to clamber about all over the rocks and utterly terrify me.

Then our last full day we headed up to Cotele to see the gardens. While not the biggest or grandest gardens, they were definitely some of my favourites – being as they’re much more informal in their planting and the location provides for some really lovely views. On top of that it’s a rare National Trust property that I really would rather like to live in. Not all of it, that’d be far too much – but maybe a wing. NT – call me? ;)

We went with my mum and her husband out for a wander in the evening and during it, he pointed out something that we’d never noticed before. Kathryn had spotted that a slab of stone currently being used as a footbridge over a little beck looks like it was once carved with patterns, and we were chatting about whether it might once have been part of a grander building – maybe a church or an abbey that disappeared in the dissolution of the monasteries in 1530, or perhaps from some other grand building. And as we made our way up the hill, my mum’s husband pointed out that one of the dry stone walls on the walk was almost certainly part of something more… grand. While some of the wall looks like regular old Cornish dry stone wall, two sides and this particular corner are made up of much higher quality stonework, and the corner in particular is gently, but very evenly curved in the manner of the base of a tower or somesuch.

It’s fascinating because we’ve walked past it a bunch of times and had never noticed… we had noticed that the farm barn a little bit further down does feature at least one window that clearly came from something – maybe a clerestory window?

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The next morning bright and revoltingly early we started our trek back across the country to the airport… it was, despite COVID a remarkably okay flight and we made it into bed about 24 hours after we got up tired and weary but glad to be back in our own home.

Whin Rigg, Illgill Head and Burnmoor Tarn

Well, fairly astonishingly, we did it. Not only did we do it, but we did it in time to get down and (thankfully) get the train back to our studio apartment.

After some debate, we decided to take Wainwright’s advice, and instead of just heading up to Burnmoor Tarn, which had been plan A, we instead took ourselves up through Low Holme, and the Miterdale Forest before making our way up to Whin Rigg and across The Screes, before creating Illgill Head and making the (it turns out) incredibly steep descent to Burnmoor Tarn.

By this point we were both pretty tired, but there’s no point to bring pretty tired nine hundred feet and a few miles from your destination. So down we went the rest of the feet, our feet complaining intermittently and my sodden five fingers squelching away (to be fair, they started squelching in the Miterdale Forest).

To our amazement we did the whole thing in about seven hours, which means we got to knock the last couple of miles off the walk by taking the train again from Dalegarth to Eskdale.

We did, however, opt to treat ourselves to dinner at The George IV pub, which was…pleasant. Not amazing, but solid pub food.

Ravenglass, Muncaster and Mary

Tomorrow we’re planning a longer walk, so today we planned a more relaxed day of not walking.

Which meant that we didn’t walk as much, and also didn’t wear appropriate shoes for walking. Which may have been an error. At any rate we went to check out Ravenglass, where there stands the highest Roman wall in England. Part of what was once a Roman bathhouse, adjacent to what was a fort, although the evidence for that is mainly underground (and indeed under a railway line) – although a plaque conveniently tells of its existence and of the 1976-1978 excavation that revealed a little more of its secrets.

As it often is, it’s amazing to stand in these places that feel so human and so recognizable, and yet are so far distant in time from us. The stone arch way and block work making spaces that feel very relatable, despite the many centuries that have passed since it was constructed.

From there we headed up to Muncaster castle, a seemingly slightly tired attraction (well, some of the less popular bits). We watched them flying some birds of prey from their hawk and prey bird center, something I’ve never seen before which really drove home the beauty of these animals. They explained how poachers in various parts of Africa are poisoning corpses to posion the vultures, because the flocks of vultures reveal the poachers activity. That is a terrible side effect of poaching which is driving the vulchers to extinction — vultures, incidentally are incredibly beautiful. Anyhow, they explained about their breeding programs (hey, it’s okay that we’ve got animals in captivity! We’re doing good things! (Which was actually good to hear)).

The rest of the gardens were pleasant, but mostly seemed to be rewilding themselves. The old orchard looked like they’d put new trees in a few years back but now seemed to be unmaintained, and the gorgeous collections of Rhody’s are gradually disappearing into a more native woodland.

…except for the bamboo, which seems to be as per usual on a rampage.

Having meandered all over the grounds we headed to the church of St Mary’s in Gosforth. Home to a number of Norse artefacts (a Nordic cross with pagan imagery on the side, one free leaflet inside went to great lengths to explain how this was most deffo in celebration of the one true God — although several other leaflets in the church (which weren’t free and for which we sadly did not have money on hand) seemed to have a more measured tone that explored the presence of pagan and Norse religions.

Anyhow, that was a brief visit since the leaflets were something we only discovered after wandering around and looking at the objects which seemed to have little information attached, so we were just admiring them for their naieve beauty :)

Tomorrow is the day we’ve currently scheduled for our long walk. There’s been some debate, but we’re both tempted by one of Wainwright’s suggestions. Risky because we’re neither of us terribly fit. But it looks quite, quite stunning.

So we’ll see how that goes.

Holi-holi-day

So, despite my best efforts – well, perhaps my it turns out inadequate efforts to bring a keyboard to spur me into writing, it turns out my grotty cheap Bluetooth keyboard is dead or faulty. Its always been a bit odd, but connecting it today on day 7, I think, of our holiday – the first time I got around to getting batteries was yesterday – and it seems to be dead. It’s sending continuous zeros to the phone which doesn’t work very well for writing.

I mean maybe if you’re into a long string of zeroes, but for writing some kind of journal entry it’s kinda inconvenient. Also a bit annoying because I was hoping to get a bit of actual writing in and I’m unlikely to tackle that on my phone.

Annnnyhow, we flew over to Heathrow, with our fancy n95s on, because COVID. That, it must be said, really added to the je ne sais quoi of flying economy. After 9 hours of basically no sleep, no eat, occasional drink, we made it to London and forked out the nearly 100 quid for a taxi to Finchley where our hotel was. That was us trying to avoid another plague tube trip, especially given that we arrived on a 40 C day – record breaking again (actual wildfires in London), and didn’t really want to haul our cases through London on the tube, then on the train, in that kind of temperature.

The next morning our adventure began in earnest. A little late because the rental car arrived an hour and a half late, but we did eventually make it up to our Airbnb at Birley Farm in Derbyshire. From our base there we struck out on a couple of walks, the longest being about 5 miles, exploring a bit of the peak district I don’t think I’ve seen, and to which Kathryn had never been before. We took the time to visit Chatsworth House, which I don’t think I’ve been to in the past. Just the gardens and the grounds, obviously, although the weather was bad enough early in the day that we probably could have got away with a quick inside tour without it getting too COVIDy. The gardens are expansive and quite lovely, and in the grounds they had an interesting exhibit of Burning Man related sculpture. I’m still a little unclear on the exact relationship between the sculptures and burning man. There seemed to be some collaboration with Burning Man folks and local schools and artists, but the information they provided was pretty limited.

Then yesterday we brought the little rental EV up to the Lakes over Wrynose and Hardknott passes, which was a bit of an adventure, after stopping at Booths to get some provisions for our stay.

We’re minimizing inside time and contact with other humans in an attempt to reduce the risk of carrying COVID to my mum, and holed up in a little studio apartment in Eskdale, just above The Green station. Having done a couple of pretty long walks by our standards while we were in The Peaks, today we promised ourselves a gentle walk. Following along the banks of The Esk, we thought we’d meander to Stanley Ghyll Force waterfall if we felt up to it. Sadly one of the paths – the one to the lower viewing point – was lost to a couple of rock falls and is currently closed (possibly permanently, according to the sign). The upper viewpoint, which is very new and posh, was open though so we continued our treck up to the top. Of course it being us we decided not to come back down the way we went up, and taking our selectedly-revised-in-1980 OS map we decided to chart a course around the top and back down the other side.

That didn’t work – it’s possible that those paths were lost to rock falls at some point in the last 40 years, I suppose – but rather than do the sane thing we then decided to track across to Low Ground and then headed across to Whincop before following something that optimistically started out as a path before becoming marshland and then becoming “is this a sheep track”, and then experimenting with being a former path (the stile/climbey-over-wall thing was missing several rungs and looked thoroughly unmaintained and led to an area which was mainly just bracken and willful us going “well downhill is good”), before popping us out by a rather beautiful area that looked like it might once have been a small settlement now hidden beneath a woodland canopy.

Then a rather more intact stile later we found ourselves back on a clearly demarked path. All rather longer than we’d intended, but worth it to enjoy the remarkably good weather and the beautiful scenery.

Having survived our expedition we treated ourselves to a coffee / tea / cake at Brook House Inn before catching the Li’l Ratty back from Dalegarth. Something I think both our feet are grateful for.


I’m still – as always – struggling with the fact that while I adore this place, the scenery is stunning and I just feel so – settled – in this environment, it’s also incredibly painful that the TERFs have made it clear that I cannot come back to live here, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe Scotland, if they become independent, since the TERFs seem to have not caught on in the same way. But England? It’s simply not going to happen. And I never like having choice taken from me.

Add to that that the Republicans in the US have reportedly advanced a plan for legislation to forcibly detransiton trans adults if they get into power and things get a little angsty in my head.

Anyway, enough of that and back to looking at the pretty views.

Wow, that was a ride

So I decided that it would be nice to check the chickens aren’t hanging out on the ladder, stuck, if the automatic door closes early, which has happened before.

I’d like a second camera that shows a more wideangle view, and frankly, a third camera that is inside the coop. All of which are possible (although the power demands may be…pushing it a bit).

So, I thought, I’ll install a nice fresh OS on my Raspberry Pi 2B which is sat around collecting cruft, and I’ll pop my old USB webcam on it (because the PiCam I got draws too much power which is why this hasn’t happened ’til now). Easy.

Only no.

It’s taken most of my spare time from two days.

First up, the venerable Pi2 doesn’t have on-board WiFi. Easy, I thought. I’d already got a plan for this – I had a USB WiFi dongle. Only…when I added it, it didn’t work. After combining multiple things, and trying a wide variety of configurations (basically you need to configure both the network and wpa_supplicant and then fuck around for ages) eventually it randomly seemed to work.

It kept working through several reboots including a couple of power-cycles so I declared it okay. Then I installed Motion. That went okay. Except that for some reason with this camera, when it first starts if it’s in the boot process or running as a daemon, the image is corrupt. If you stop the service and restart it it’s fine. If you start manually it after booting, it’s fine. But if you start it as a service or within the boot process – it doesn’t work.

After about an hour of trying to work out what was going on or find some fix that would work, I gave up and decided that maybe I should just install motioneye which is what Nikki uses. Unfortunately, when I imaged the SD card…I actually imaged the SD card reader.

I didn’t realize, because I’m a pillock, so then I nuked the card to install MotionEye, which it turns out doesn’t talk to WiFi dongles. Doesn’t even give you a chance to configure a WiFi dongle. Just endlessly reboots.

So then I tried to put the stuff I’d done back on the card – and discovered that lo, I’m an arse. So then I started again this morning (after epically failing to get it working last night). After several hours of failure it randomly started working – and seemed to be working…and then I installed Motion, and it stopped working. Then it stopped detecting the USB WiFi. Then it would detect it but not connect to the network (which is what it was doing before).

After an hour or so of swearing at it I decided that maybe the WiFi dongle was faulty, and off I went to get a new dongle. I did a bunch of other errands, came home, and discovered that no, the WiFi dongle isn’t faulty.

Eventually I gave up and decided to pull apart my Mycroft prototype to yank its Pi3. That has *on board* WiFi.

Yay, I thought. I have a solution – only, yeah, it did work better. Configuring it through the raspi-config did work in the end. Getting Motion up and running was the same – and ended at the same point. It would be corrupt when it started.

Eventually my ‘solution’ to this (if you can call it that) was to add a script which starts motion, stops motion, then starts it again. Yes, it’s very very stupid.

However, it works.

Then I threw it into some food boxes. I have done some pretty ropey prototypes over the years, but this may take the biscuit. Or possibly the hummus and microgreens.

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But when all’s said and done, it is working.

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The chickens are, still, refusing to eat food from the feeder though, which is frustrating and concerning.

Eeeking it closer

I’m not going to talk about the US’s hideous slide into fascism because – what am I going to say? I’ve been harping on about it – as have most queer folks for ages and lo, SCOTUS decides to rip up precedent and rewrite the laws for a oligarchic theocracy. Quelle surprise.

We knew the Trump administration had installed a bunch of right wing apparatchiks on the court. The dems did sweet FA to fix it and now we have…what we have. Fuck knows what we do now, but the future isn’t looking terribly rosy for the US long — or even medium term right now.

Anyhow, to finish off from the last post – it turned out that the belt I installed on the record deck was, in fact, too small. Replacing the ~20″ one with the 21.4″ one seems to have cured – or at least massively improved the horrendous wow/flutter, although for some reason my speed sensor doohickey was being incredibly difficult to work with yesterday, so I’m not wholly convinced I’ve got the speed set right.

Getting the belt changed over was about as crap as I was expecting – it is fiddly as all fuck, and requires you to feed the old belt out through kinda looping it through this tiny gap. It has an access plate you can remove to help with getting the belt over the motor, but I can see no possible way of changing the belt through the access plate, so I end up taking the main cover off and partially stripping down the drawer. I get why no one wants to fix these benighted objects!

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Still, it’s entertainingly fun, and having got it working I’m enjoying the ridiculousness of it. Although connecting it through my cheapie preamp it has a hell of a lot of hum. So I’m gonna need to work on that. The HiFi would be really high-end at various points in time. I guess late 80s? I mean, I’m not sure when the RP-119 was introduced (I should have looked for some date codes while it was in bits), and the DA-1000 CD player is early 80s, but they were still pretty freaking expensive in the mid 80s… So, yeah. Just like our spice drawer would wow a medieval person, if I could travel in time a Hi-Fi buff would be super impressed by the pile of archaic crap I have collected.

Does make me a little sad that I got rid of my laserdisk, and my CED player. Should have kept them… mind, there’s no space for either. In fact, the record whatsit is going to have to undergo a redesign to shuffle these around. We need more space for vinyl (no? really?) and I would think the Hi-Fi stuff may have to live in a narrower shelf up above.

The house progresses. A little bit ago we got a heat pump installed to reduce our gas usage, add cooling, and have a more flexible answer to heating the house when the temperature keeps swinging wildly outside. We’d decided last year that a heat pump was going in, but this is the first job we’ve let someone else do, and I’m super grateful for it, because the weather has suddenly got very warm the last few days (30° c) which had previously made the house very, very warm. And at the moment it’s pretty pleasant in here.

Unfortunately, we hoped to go with an in-ceiling unit which would have been less… offensively plastic lump on the wall, but it turns out they have to be installed flat (who knew?) and we don’t have anywhere flat that it can go. So instead it’s at the end of the dining room.

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I mean, it’s above eyeheight, and it’s white, so it kinda blends more than it could. But next time? Next time we’re going to think this bit through more.

Of course there’s a next time.

We’ve also crept closer on the bathroom – it’s almost entirely grouted (really annoyingly I missed one groutline that I thought I’d done before where it goes from the floor to the wall. I could have sworn I grouted it, but apparently not. It’s only about a 1.2m long, but… yeah, I’ll have to do that this week.

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We spent a bit of time yesterday installing the sink onto the wall.

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The salvage – unused sink that we bought probably 3 years ago goes pretty well in our bathroom and, pleasingly, I managed to locate the blocks of wood I mounted in the wall when we did the framing, so didn’t have to come up with a mounting system for it on plasterboard. In fact, that went pretty well. I still need to plumb it in, which is my least favourite of jobs, but at least it’s just the one bend that I need (a 45° where it comes out of the wall, then it should — should attach to the drain from the sink).

That being in we spent a big chunk of time today trying to find a tap that we liked, and having realised that our medicine cabinet really doesn’t go very well in that bathroom we also spent a chunk of time looking at medicine cabinets. Us being us it took quite a while, but we eventually settled on an Italian design from the 70s (we actually like the 60’s version better, but it is marginally wider than the 70’s one, and the 70’s one was sliiightly cheaper).

The tap ended up, of all places, coming from Ikea.

I also took a brief look at installing the shower. I think I’m going to have to do some gnawing at the tiles to make the connector fit, but I’m thinking I might attack that this week. Then it’s just a final clean, seal, and it can go into service. Although I’d also like to get the trim in around the door, too. That’s a fairly complex job which I’m not… entirely looking forward to. I spent a few minutes sat down with bits of wood, and I now at least think I have a workable plan for how the trim will work.

I’d always known it would be a problem with the floor in the bathroom being significantly higher than the floor everywhere else (thanks to needing the concrete for the shower basin). Again, one of the joys of renovating rather than starting from scratch.

Still, I *think* it’ll work, I just need to grab hold of some motivation to finish it. Although I guess the SCOTUS ruling should be enough motivation, with them making very clear that the right wing already having started villainising and slandering trans folks, attempting to make us social pariahs and outcasts and remove us from public life, and doing so fairly successfully with their base in right wing states, they want to bring that to the whole of the US now. So fucking yay.

Anyhow, perhaps that will be a bit more motivation to get the house finished.

Who’s got two thumbs and (more or less) fixed her double sided record deck?

The B-side record scanning is still… unreliable. It sometimes seem to add its own vibrato to records just for shits and giggles*, but it’s playing records again – which it wasn’t capable of at all when it arrived.

I’m not really sure how it’d been so abused, I mean, I get how the belt turned to goop, but how it ended up with a broken stylus on one of the heads (I mean, it’s inside a box!), how it ended up with the draw position sensor bent out of all recognition (that might have been me disassembling, but I don’t… think so).

And now, just as if I time travelled back to medieval times (assuming I could avoid being burned as a witch straight away), then, if I arrived in the 80s, or early 90s, I’d look bloody flash.

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I mean, the CD player was nearly a grand new (I got it for under a ton). And these dual sided record decks were produced at the very end of the first life of record decks as a common hifi appliance. They were trying to compete with the first run of CD players, and yeah, were surprisingly good…

I mean, they’re no high end thing, but the sound output is reasonable, and it’s great for when I’m doing the dishes or whathaveyou. It pleases me greatly that the only thing that was bought functional in that pile was the amplifier. Everything else has been repaired by me or my lovely friend John.

Anyhow, this post was really useful in getting it going, although mine interestingly has the STY-144/STY-145 stylus, not the 133 or the 147 suggested elsewhere.

In other news, I have had a bit of a day – with 3 hours spent at Les Schwab for them to do a tyre swap (I have never missed Bristol’s little indie tyre place I used to use quite so much). It kinda blew the rest of my day’s plans out of the water.

But hey, I finally got that bit of adulting done. And I’ve ordered the belt I just discovered I should get.

* Apparently the belt might be the wrong size, the replacement commonly sold for it is apparently 20″ instead of 21.4″, and puts too much drag on the platter. So I get to take it apart again! And check the speed again!

It’s possible I finished a project.

I know, it’s a rarity. And is anything ever really finished? I mean… time breaks all things, so there’s always and eventually going to be a repair.

But in this case – the project in question is my Sharp RP-119 that has sat mouldering in our garage for a while. I picked it up as a duff’n off ebay because, well, mainly because I wanted one. I mean I wanted something in the double sided record deck arena with drawer loading and general ridiculousness. Since we have a vertical loading CD player, it makes sense that we should have a record deck that loads into a drawer.

Anyhow, I’d wanted one for a long time. Originally I wanted a laser record deck, not least because when I was a kid I asked my dad if such a thing was possible after he explained how CD players worked, and we concluded it was easily possible… and then they appeared in the world… But I discovered that apparently they are a nightmare (beyond the fact they’re waaaay too expensive for me, even broken). Then I heard about these – the double sided record decks that came out just as vinyl was preparing for its temporary dodo phase.

Unfortunately, they were also in general a bit rich for my blood. The deck we’ve got at the moment, my beloved Technics SL-6 cost a shade over $50, although somewhat more now it’s been serviced a few times. I think I ended up paying a little more for the RP-119, but not, I don’t think a lot more. It was however pretty foxed. When I got it, the gear that drives the drawer had broken (a standard fault) and the belt drive was completely rotted into sticky unpleasant goo, the platter was stiff and the tone-arm belt had perished.

My last but one attempt to fix it I documented here, which ended with it sounding dreadful, and the drawer being inconsistent about opening or closing. But since then I’d actually stripped it down a second time to try and get the platter better lubricated. Having done that, when I reassembled it, the platter was better but the bloody thing wouldn’t open the drawer more than an inch.

It needed some other bits doing, too, so I left it for a while my enthusiasm having died a bit of a death. Then yesterday I messaged my local audio repair place to ask if they could fix it because we have another record that we can’t play on the SL-6. Turns out modern coloured vinyl is frequently a bit warped, and the SL-6 won’t play anything that’s not basically perfectly flat. Worse, it turns out that you (apparently) can’t flatten coloured vinyl, so when, say, you get the last copy of a record-store day only release, and it’s on coloured vinyl, and there’s no download code. You might find that you can’t listen to the bloody thing at all.

So, I’m hoping that the RP-119 might be slightly more tolerant of slightly warped records.

Anyhow, I messaged them – the repair folks – who were very sweet, but said no. They said that these kinds of decks are basically a lot of hassle to get set up and the amount of time isn’t worth it. Which made me sad and somewhat dispirited. So I decided to tackle it again today. First up I decided to replace the horribly aged and damaged power cable, and at least the vast majority of the corroded and unpleasant audio cables.

Adding a couple of new holes to the back I slotted in two new gold plated phono connectors. Slightly ridiculous because the cable inside the player is still the horrible oxidised one, I just made it much shorter and soldered it on. Then I enlarged the hole for the mains cable and replaced that with a nice figure 8 lead.

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Being as I was feeling like I was on a roll, I checked the platter and hooked it up to a speaker… and sitting for a bit with lubricant seems to have finally freed it up. It didn’t sound like warbly garbage. The speed was way off (and is still, I need to print off some strobes to reset it, annoyingly).

But that just left the drawer, which was driving me batty. And then I saw it. Then I saw the little microswitch that didn’t seem to be touching anything and I twigged that it was twisted. Which mean that it was more or less always touching one of the contacts – and possibly could touch both of them. That meant that the poor wee beastie wouldn’t know whether the drawer was fully open or not, and would probably thing it was closed far too early.

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With just that one screw to remove, I took it out, futzed with it until it was pretty close to its original position (I’m guessing I made whatever damage it had worse when I was pulling the drawer out to lube the platter, but that it was already not quite right because it started off not working properly). At any rate, it now more or less seems to be working:

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So I’ve finally ordered the new styluses for it. Side B’s sensor seems a bit… less reliable. I’m guessing it’s probably full of dust, so I’ve also ordered a new air-duster (since my last one’s run out). I’m hoping then that it can go back into service and be entertainingly weird as a way to play records.

Breaking Cover

Well, it’s been a bit hasn’t it oh internet peeps. Not that I’ve been not on the internet, I’ve just been tired. So very fucking tired. I am heartily sick of being demonized for existing. I’m tired of not talking about it at work, at least most of the time.

But then I’m out-but-not and that’s tiring and tedious in and of itself. But feh.

I’m increasingly despairing of any hope of the US avoiding becoming a fascist dictatorship. I will be frankly stunned if the Democrats don’t lose their tiny majority in the midterms, then spend the next two years whining about how they can’t do anything because they don’t have a majority. While it’s true that they can’t, and that the republicans are deeply obstructionist, their complete failure to deal with the folks allegedly in their own camp has put paid to any hope of them not being routed this election time.

At least, that’s my non-pol-sci opinion. From what I’m seeing people are uninspired to vote – hell, I’m uninspired to vote for them and I’m super into elections and democracy – and trying to inspire people to vote for them, despite the rapid pyre of womens, people of colour and queer folks rights in republican states, and championed by republicans – it’s trying to persuade them to vote against something, rather than to vote for something. And that’s way harder.

I guess the tiny positive is sometimes I can drag that dismal mood into working on the house.

I spent yesterday and today cleaning the tile adhesive off the tiles in the bathroom, which we finished putting up a couple of weeks back. Then this afternoon I started work on the grouting…

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I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together. It’s been a complete pain in the arse, and a seemingly endless fight, but we’re finally approaching the home stretch, I think. I’m particularly pleased with how fancy the alcove is looking:

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Those basalt mosaic tiles were a complete f’kin nightmare to put up, but maybe they’re worth it. It does look pretty nifty.

Other house related news, we put up a greenhouse. It’s tiny and crappy, but it’s up. Hopefully we can get our plants in it. This spring has been astonishingly wet, even by Washington standards. It’s rained and rained and rained. As a result everything, plant wise, is definitely very behind. We’ve got seedlings in the house that need to be hardened out somewhat and then put in the greenhouse… but finding the right weather for that is proving difficult.

In other, other news, I have started running. I actually started back on March 16th, and then on Day 51 I moved the thread onto Mastodon, but also became way more erratic about posting things. It’s Day 65 today. And that means every single day for the past 65 days I’ve done core muscles exercises and run. Currently I’m running 1km, I keep thinking about increasing it to maybe 1.5km, but I can *just* fit a 1km run in before going to hospital-work.

I’d really like it if I lost some of my…unsatisfactory waistline… I’d like to have core muscles that were more than ornamental, but of course, building muscle without T is kinda hard. Not that I want any T. Christ no. But still, it’s frustrating that I can do this – like when I was cycling – and still not seem to build any muscle, or particularly lose fat. I’m eating way less, and eating less fatty stuff, and I have seen some of the extra weight I put on through the pandemic – and in all honesty – through too many bakery visits while building the house. But… it’s frustrating.

I’ve also been fucking around with…

…makeup. No, seriously.

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It’s been a long time since I did anything with makeup, and it’s kinda fun to futz around with it. I’ve been using it in my videos for Transport Evolved, and I… I’m enjoying it. I think that when I was with my abusive ex, she really was very negative about makeup, which is interesting because she did wear it sometimes. But then, hey, she was never terribly good at not being wildly hypocritical. Anyway, that combined with nervousness and ineptitude put me off. And the fact that I don’t think anyone should *have* to wear it.

But, at the moment I’m enjoying fucking around with it, so I am.

I’ve also continued to play around with making jewelry. I mean, it’s me, so these fascinations wax and wane, but I’m really enjoying it at the moment. I want to get good enough that I can maybe sell them as a hobby… because people keep asking where they can buy my earings from.

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So, in general, life continues, but I’ve no idea where we’ll be in a few years time because staying here feels increasingly unsafe. Like, WA, to some extent might be protected, although people are pissed off with inflation and taxation, and I can see them getting irritated enough, and people being ambivalent enough, that it’s not as safe as it feels sometimes. And it only feels safe in Oly. I sure as shit don’t feel wonderfully safe in between Oly and Portland. Out in the boonies where the Trump signs still fly.

I hate Washington Nazis.

I hate all Nazis, frankly. Fuck ’em. Well, punch ’em. That’s what you do with Nazis. Don’t debate them, they lie.

Being Away on Lopez

Day 1 (not counting driving up here)

It’s been a really lovely day. The sun’s shone, the light has been really stunning. It’s been a really wonderful introduction to Lopez Island.

The pandemic has made holidays a bit fraught, the concept of going somewhere – anywhere – away from home brings with it ideas about whether we should be doing that, can we do that safely, is it fair on the people in the area we’re going to?

But with the evidence about vaccination, with our general carefulness, it felt reasonable to take the punt on actually getting away. Initially we looked at Canada – hoping to scoot up to one of the islands that form part of the group that are part US – San Juan, and part Canadian. We thought we’d be hopping off the coast of Vancouver to an island.

But the pandemic had other ideas, and our five day vacation would require a plan for a 14 day quarantine stay – at the whim of a border guard. Being vaccinated we would most likely be exempt from that requirement, but we weren’t willing to take a punt on the border guard not having a good day and declaring that we needed to hide out for fourteen days when we’d both just booked off five. So we cancelled our rental and remade plans.

Disappointment at the time has become delight at being here. The century old farmhouse – is what looks like it was once a foursquare (apparently, though, its construction is peculiar to the island and is “frameless”, with a hip roof – both thing that one particular builder seems to have done). Despite a first – very cold – night, the heater seems to have manged to get the temperature up to something reasonable today, especially with the addition of the log stove in the lounge. Kathryn posited that maybe they didn’t have anyone staying just before us, so the house had got cold…

…which seems like a pretty reasonable thought. But it was bloody cold yesterday – and this morning.

Today I did my run – I’m on day 16 of running and core muscles exercises. Hell if I know whether it might finally stick after fortysome years of intermittently trying. But I’m working at it. Then after breakfast and a fairly relaxed morning we went to find Lopez Hill. The leaflet isn’t… entirely clear about where the parking is for the walk. Or it is, but the design of the leaflet kind of obscures that. So… we did some impromptu off-roading. Well, somewhat.

The leaflet says it’s down an unmaintained country road. And we chose the wrong unmaintained country road. Having got to a point where I looked at it and thought that we would struggle to get our two-wheel drive faux SUV over the large rock in the road, we turned around and made our way out and then realized that it was the correct road – but the wrong end of it. Having navigated around to the other end we made our way into the nature reserve and meandered around through some wonderfully peaceful woodland.

A stop for lunch at Vortex, and coffee at Isabelle’s Espresso, and then we mosied down the northernmost spit – another Friends of Lopez park – where we were met by the remnants of many of the reef-net fishing boats. The sea was wonderfully peaceful and clear… and just… Getting some time to just be quiet and listen to the world is exactly what I needed right now.

We spent some time absorbing the sounds of the sea washing up against the beach, and some more time poking around the slowly disintegrating remnants of the reef-net fishing boats which are pulled up on the shore and more and more becoming part of the shore.

Finally, and unsurprisingly, we headed to the bookshop ‘on the way’ home. The bookshop here is astonishingly well stocked for such a tiny island, and we walked away with… more books than perhaps we expected. Ah well, we can always build more shelves.

Day 2

We pretty much always attempt to get at least one day away from the car. Not that I mind driving, I actually like driving, it can be fun and can give me space and time to think. But when we’re away, particularly on a trip like this that’s got a fairly long (by British standards) trip to get here (add in that the ferry across to Lopez Island, this being COVID times we just stayed in the car). Side thought: this is going to be a pretty well documented experience of pandemic times. And human’s stupidity around pandemics.

Anyhow, so Day two was assigned the avoid driving day. We planned ahead the previous day making sure to grab stuff for lunch and dinner, and stuff for the day after. We, as usual, had a fairly relaxed holiday morning, munching on granola from home and local greek yoghurt – which incidentally was much better than the local greek yoghurt we get in Oly. We need to persuade our local coop to stock it because it’s actually greek like in its creamyness, unlike the stuff we can get normally which is greekish in terms of flavour, but the texture is entirely wrong.

We started off following the directions given by the house’s owner, which indicated a fairly simple walk to Chadwick Hill (which was apparently formerly known as Moar’s Mountain (or something like that – I forget, we saw the name at the Museum the next day but I forgot to write it down. It was previously named after the woman who lived at the base of the cliff face, in what was once a settlement there, but which has now pretty much disappeared. The only evidence we saw was the remnants of a car sticking up from the ground).

Anyhow, that walk didn’t entirely go as planned, in so far as the map indicated one fairly clear trail through the woods up to the highest point, at which we were promised views across to Mount Baker. Unfortunately (and I say unfortunately, it was a very pleasant walk all the same), it turned out that the woodland we were walking through contained many, many trails. None of which were signposted.

And it’s a small island so we were happy meandering and just vaguely heading in the direction that we thought we should… only… we emerged about an hour and a half later on the same path that we’d used to come in to the woodland. Having accepted the damning endightment of our navigational abilities, we chose instead to continue our walk down to Watmaugh Bay. Knowing that the weather was going to get less good as the evening wore on, we pootled onwards, spending some time watching the sea and the birds of prey that are so common here.

Eventually hunger and tired feet got the better of us and we headed back to cuddle up avoiding the weather and enjoying a toasty warm fire. I even broke out my somewhat rusty wood-chopping skills to split some (already part split) logs. The first day’s fire had been a bit of a failure because the last occupants didn’t bring in any kindling. I’d hoped, since the wood was clearly very dry, that we might be able to get the fire going anyway, but it didn’t work. It turned out that the owners of the house keep kindling in the woodshed (it’s in the instructions, obviously), and having pulled a few bits in the fire lit really easily.

A few rounds of Haggis and Hive as the weather became somewhat inclement, and lots of cuddling up on the sofa.

Day 3

Our day three plan took us out for more walking around the western side of the island, after a bit of time exploring the corporate centre ;)

We wanted to grab some more of the Lopex island wine that we’d bought the first day – a bottle to take home and some as a gift. While we could have headed up to the winery (which is an actual grow their own grapes kind of winery – a lot of the north-western ones are really making wine from grapes grown in the East of the WA), it’s…COVID time. So we didn’t really want to go hang out tasting wines somewhere. Instead we just headed to a local store and grabbed some, the other plan being to grab some of the pasta we’d bought the first day (which was really yummy).

Unfortuately, this second grocery didn’t carry the pasta (local-goods.com) but we grabbed the wine. We also treated ourselves to…treats. Holly B’s bakery providing some lovely Almond Butterhorns, as well as croissants for our Day 4 breakfast. We also checked out the “mall” – which is the local dump’s take-it-or-leave-it section. Separating out reausable things for local folks to grab rather than sending them to landfill.

Unsurprisingly we came away with…books. I nearly grabbed a network switch, but annoyingly couldn’t find the power supply. And while I could just buy a power supply from what I can find the cost of a power supply is essentially the same as the cost of a cheap switch these days. Since both the one I have at home (which has a British power supply) and this one were both cheap switches, it seemed a little pointless.

It was interesting to have a nose around tho’

We also saw a shop where they make really beautiful handmade knives from a variety of woods – downed madronas or woods sent from their friends around the world. We’re actually tempted to get a replacement for our most used kitchen knife which is, disappointingly a not-quite-the-cheapest ikea 365 knife. The handle on that has been disintegrating for years, and being as it was sharpened using the modern technique, not the old school two sharpened edges coming to a point (I recall reading about the fancy modern sharpening shape which doesn’t hone to sharpness so easily in a home sharpening doohicky), so the idea of replacing it with a really nice knife is quite appealing.

Then we took ourselves out to Shark Reef Park (a mile long walk out to a beautiful view of the ocean). Perching on the rocks at the end of the walk we watched seals ungainly ascent of the reef a little ways out through binoculars. Incredibly, Kathryn remembered to bring binoculars and remembered to bring them on the walk. A previously unheard of level of binocular remembering. I’d take credit, but I had nothing to do with it.

Shark Reef Park, incidentally, is entertainingly named because you can’t actually see Shark Reef from it, the view is blocked by another reef…

After that we meandered down to what was, I think, my favourite walk of the holiday. Iceberg Point. The views were just wonderful, and the sounds of the sea crashing against the rocks was soothing. We meandered out along the wooded inland path, getting to see rare flowers that grow only in these specific environments – a wild orchid – called a Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) and a flower called a Satin Flower (Olsyeum Douglasii). Up on the coast is a marker for a 1908 treaty with Canada regarding the location of the border – it’s indicates where the country border changes direction out in the sea…

The little white obelisk kind of reminded me of the OS markings up in the mountains in the lakes.

Anyway, it was just a peaceful and delightful day.

After some solid walking we headed to the village to get some fud – our first and second plans were foiled by COVID making one place which looked full but might have had space…being quite full. A lot of people were eating in a fairly confined outdoor space. A lot.

The second place we hoped had outdoor seating, which it does, but it wasn’t open at this point in the year…and we weren’t up for eating indoors.

So instead we had pizza…only we didn’t, because they had run out of dough. But instead they had a polenta bake with whatever pizza toppings we wanted. This turned out to be very nice, and the last remannts we had as breakfast along with our croissants the next day…

Day 4

The final morning was spent cleaning up the house. The requirements were incredibly minimal but we wiped things down anyway, and I put together a fire so the next occupants can just light it. We woke to a weather warning – starting at midday. Our ferry’s planned sailing being 12:45 (although we’re only just on it now at 12:50, so I’m guessing the choppy waters and higher than normal winds have delayed things a little.

We took a quick turn around a gallery before heading over, doing our usual art buying (don’t we sound fancy – but it’s pretty common for us to find something that we love from a holiday and bring it back, be it a painting or a bowl). This time it was a very cute painting of a little group of sheep. We might also get a knife made – there’s a place on Lopez island called Skarpari where they make some truly beautiful kitchen knives.

And our kitchen knives are mainly garbage – as I mentioned back in Day 3. So that would probably also count as art.

Photos are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49965961@N00/albums/72177720297915660