Wulf's Webden

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Thursday 18 September 2014
by Wulf


I don’t appear to get much spam on my own WordPress site, probably an indication of the kind of backwater it is, but the site I maintain for St Clement’s church has been getting quite a deluge recently. Certain pages seem to have made somebody’s nefarious list and so I get a handful of notifications each day that comments need moderating.

It doesn’t take long and, once in while, something comes up that isn’t spam but the ratio does feel like 99:1. I’m currently reading Rule 34 by Charles Stross where it looks like an anti-spam tool has developed to the point where it decides to take, erm, a more proactive approach to stopping spammers and part of me is seeing the attraction of the idea!

Wednesday 17 September 2014
by Wulf

The Scottish Question

It won’t be long now before people living in Scotland go to the polls and make a decision with far-reaching implications. It looks likely that the result will be a close one. Those campaigning for independence may triumph, engendering a massive and expensive set of changes both for their nation and the rest of the former United Kingdom, leaving a significant chunk of the population disgruntled and potentially dangerously angry if things don’t run smoothly. Alterneratively, they may stay in the Union, leaving a significant chunk of the population disgruntled and potentially dangerously angry especially if Westminster doesn’t make good on its promises. Two radically different paths but not dissimilar troubles.

I’m not Scottish but I’ve a wee feeling I wouldnae have to dig too far back to ken a link and there are certainly connections. I can see why I don’t qualify to vote on the strictest terms but, given that an independent Scotland rends the rest of the Union, perhaps there should have been a parallel vote. Independence if both parties clearly say yes, increased devolution and a re-run in a reasonable time frame if only Scotland wants to break free and putting the issue to bed for a long time if both choose no.

It also puzzles me that those who clearly are Scottish but currently living as expatriates, even in other parts of the United Kingdom, don’t get a say in things. There are many people who contribute to the wider economy, living in the UK but still retain significant ties to their homeland. How is that going to work out?

Earlier this year, Tom Shakespeare published a fascinating point of view on the BBC website, Taking England Back to the Dark Ages. In it, he explored the idea that, if the benefit Scotland breaking away is that it can run as a smaller, more agile independent state (with aspirations to the model of the Nordic nations), perhaps the rest of the UK could look back in history and break into the heptarchy of kingdoms that governed these islands 1,000 years ago. A few years later than he was at Cambridge I failed to get a place on the Anglo Saxon, Norse and Celtic Tripos but I do find the idea fascinating; furthermore though, I agree with his conclusion that while regional identity can be good, the issues facing governments are increasingly global and so we could do with less borders rather than more.

Perhaps the Scottish independence leaders truly believe they can pick up a memory of a nation that hasn’t existed independently for centuries and make something great of it that will benefit themselves, their neighbours and the world. Or perhaps they are just small fish who want a smaller pond so that they feel bigger, which is less quixotic but even less appealing.

People of Scotland, it would fine to see you having even more devolved powers and better still to see you contributing vital spirit to the United Kingdom as a whole, which is is yours as much as mine. Be canny as you cast your votes and may it be that we avoid the worst scenarios, such as the growth of a national socialist enclave or you becoming well and truly former United Kingdom dependent despite your desire to be “free”.

Tuesday 16 September 2014
by Wulf

Tiny Tim in the Fermentor

Yesterday’s wort, tomorrow’s beer (*) and so my Tiny Tim brew went into the fermentor today. As with my previous brew, I’m using the same 13l stock pot that I used to mash and boil in yesterday. It is an appropriate size and easy to clean. This time round I’ve got one of my two temperature probes inside the fermenting wort itself and one outside. The whole lot is sitting inside a dresser in the front room, the lower cabinet of which is now my homebrew cupboard, and it has stayed at a little over 20°C since I pitched the yeast and put it away early this afternoon, with just a small rise noted.

Original gravity was 1.042 at 21.5°C (which is corrected to 1.043 – my hydrometer is calibrated to 15°C), a touch over the target of 1.038. If I use the recipe again, I could probably afford a little more water to start with, although I’d rather be a bit high than drop too low.

Anyway, now to wait. I’ll be monitoring the temperature over the next few days and will also peek tomorrow morning to see if fermentation has kicked off. I’m using Safale S-04, regarded as a fast fermenter, so shouldn’t take too long.

(*) figuratively – “late October’s beer” doesn’t have the same ring although that is probably when it will be ready to drink.

Monday 15 September 2014
by Wulf

Brewday for Tiny Tim

With the chances of temperatures rising above the early 20s I decided this morning that it is time to get another homebrew underway. I can use my brew belt to boost the temperature of the fermenting wort but don’t have a fridge to lower it.

I’ve decided to try a 1kg version of Graham Wheeler’s clone of the wonder Timothy Taylor Landlord beer, which I have christened Tiny Tim. I’ve enjoyed a few bottles of Landlord in recent months so it will be interesting to see how the recipe comes out. I mashed 1kg of pale malt along with 53g of crystal malt in 8.8l of water, holding it at about 66°C for 90 minutes. At the moment I am nearing the end of the 90 minute boil that follows. Once I got the wort to boiling point, I added 12g of Styrian Golding hop pellets and another 4g and a generous pinch of Irish moss will go in ten minutes before the end. I’ll then transfer it to a heavy duty plastic jerry can and leave to cool overnight before setting the fermentation phase going tomorrow.

I’ve been using my Raspberry Pi and temperature monitor circuit to keep an eye on progress. This hasn’t been entirely trouble free as I discovered that it wasn’t fixed in its housing firmly enough to plug the two leads back in but, opening the box with a screwdriver, I was able to get that sorted. It has been easier to just watch the numbers scrolling by on my laptop (tail -f on the file that logs temperature data) than to keep going over and taking readings every 15 minutes.

I will report further on Tiny Tim as I make further progress. It does seem to have taken a long time to do the brewing but hopefully I will get another brew on before the cobwebs reappear and make better time.

Sunday 14 September 2014
by Wulf

Putting a Sock In It

I think I’ve found a solution to the feedback problems I was getting the Headway band pickup on my double bass. It isn’t very elegant but using a pair of socks to fill the two f holes greatly increases the headroom before feedback starts to occur. The band fits round the instrument inside a rubber tube and is less prone to feedback than some other forms of picking up the sound of the instrument but the huge body is designed as a wooden sound amplifier and, at electric gig volumes, has a tendency to get carried away.

What I need now is a neater method for plugging the holes and damping down vibrations but I think it is a useful step forward.

Saturday 13 September 2014
by Wulf

Looking Back for Open Doors

This is the Oxford Preservation Trust’s annual Oxford Open Doors weekend and St Clement’s is open for curious visitors tomorrow afternoon.

Architects drawing of the main entrance as envisioned in 1825

St Clement’s, Oxford

This morning I have been helping mount a display and this is one the gems that has come to light, an architects drawing from 1825. At that time, the old church situated on The Plain (just across Magdalen Bridge from central Oxford) was decided to be too small to cope with a growing parish, not to mention too close to the main road. A project was set up, headed by the curate (John Henry Newman, who later became famous for other things), and in 1828 the new building was opened its present site on Marston Road opposite Headington Hill park.

The development of the area did not proceed quite as expected and so the church remains rather set back from the main road and on the edge of the inhabited section of the parish. Originally, it was expected that there would be a network of streets and a public square in the area then known as Hackney Croft. However, the building was very close to what was shown in this drawing and has been given a Grade II* listing as an important example of neo-romanesque architecture (original romanesque work, from the 11th century, can be seen at St Mary’s, Iffley and a little at St Andrew’s, Old Headington).

If you are in the area, the church will be open from 2pm – 6pm. We are also open for the curious every week at 10:30am and 6:30pm for regular services but those aren’t so much times for wandering round drinking in the architecture (although you can after the service finishes) and the display will only be up for a week or two (with plans afoot for a WWI themed display in November this year).

Friday 12 September 2014
by Wulf

Today was a grape day

No, that’s not a typo. In the jungle that is next door’s garden grows a grapevine and we’ve allowed it to hang over our fence. Earlier this week we harvested the fruit and today I was processing it; grape juice, grape syrup and a jar of grapes in gin and sugar with a few cardamom pods thrown in.

That last one will need to mull for a while but the other two can (indeed, should) be used soon. I might use the syrup to try making something like turkish delight, as I couldn’t get any rose syrup last week.