Wulf's Webden

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Friday 24 October 2014
by Wulf

Delays in Oxxxford

I have christened my latest brew Oxxxford Beer, since it is based on Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale clone of Batemans XXXB. I haven’t tried the original but grains produce a strong and relatively dark wort that should turn out fine.

This brew sees two innovations to my regular practise. Firstly, I used spraymalt as I was short on grains. That does save the mashing stage although also works out more expensive. I can get spraymalt locally but grains take a bit more planning so it may prove to be a useful dodge when I have time to brew but not to top up my stocks. Secondly, rather than setting it fermenting the day after I created the wort (Monday) I left it sitting in a sealed plastic Jerry can until today. The wisdom of the internet suggests that wort can be left this way for a long time; if the container was sanitised and the wort was near boiling hot when added, it is a clean environment and some people have reported delaying the next stage for months.

Anyway, it is now fermenting away with some Nottingham yeast. Original gravity was 1.048 @ 18°C (which is corrected to 1.049), only a small amount over the original target. In my experience Nottingham is a fast working so I could be bottling within the week… and then I’ve got another experiment lined up.

Thursday 23 October 2014
by Wulf

Building it up

Another day, another task involving wrangling a text file to extract data and another chance to wield the might hammer of Vim to crack the problem. My starting point was a database extract with two columns of related identifiers which we’ll call A and B. I wanted to construct a line of HTML from each pair such that I can smoothly visit a page in an application to assess its contents. With just a few lines, this is easily done by hand but I’ve got fifty lines in this case. Fortunately, I also have the power of backreferences, which I learned last year.

The new trick I have added in the intervening time is a method of constructing the resulting scary looking statements step by step. Firstly, I search in a way that highlights the whole line. However, rather than using .*, which grabs everything in one chunk, I break it down into chunks that produce the same result. Rather than changing anything, I use an ampersand to simply repeat everything I found. For example, this morning’s data had a four character id consisting of two letters followed by two numbers, a tab and then another identifier, so I used:


Next, I can use escaped parentheses to group the chunks of my search and back references to return them:


Again, it doesn’t change anything but I am now poised to finish off by rearranging how I call the references. I can insert them into the HTML statement, repeating as I want (for example, one of the components is useful as part of the label and as part of the URL) and ignoring \2, which is always a tab character but necessary in the search to allow me to pick up \1 and \3 cleanly.

It has similarities to that game where you start with one word and by a succession of alterations to a single letter change it into another word. However, while that is an interesting mental challenge, it is a diversion and costs time. The kind of stepwise development I am describing, approaching the problem crabwise, is all about saving time, making sure that before I strike and change the data, everything is lined up and that the problem is a series of easy steps rather than one complex and involved one.

Wednesday 22 October 2014
by Wulf

Almost a Century

We were sad to hear yesterday that our friend Reg passed away in hospital during the early evening. Reg was our neighbour and we used to pop across to see him regularly, helping with a few chores but also enjoying his company. Reg turned 99 this year, which means he was almost a decade older than I am now even when I was born and thus was a living repository of experienced history. Although his health deteriorated sharply this year, he kept his mental acuity; indeed, when we first met him about four years ago, he was still driving and had only just retired from over 70 years serving as a leader of the local Scout troop.

It was remarkable to think that some of the youthful escapades he described to us (such as cycling from Oxford down to London for an overnight stay with relatives and forgetting to tell his mother) took place before my parents were born. He also maintained a large number of friends from his years in the Scout movement and we were far from his only visitors.

We won’t now get to see the telegram from the Queen that he would have received if he’d survived another year but, while we feel his loss, we are grateful that we had a few years in which to get to know this venerable and kindly man.

Tuesday 21 October 2014
by Wulf

Drinking Glue

Today I’ve made some labels for some recent things we’ve made:

Labelled jars and bottles

Garden Relish and Tiny Tim

Garden Relish is a chutney Jane cooked up yesterday, mainly using produce from the garden (natch). The Tiny Tim beer is the one I finished a month or so ago. I need to make some more labels for the Autumn Gold and I also brewed up another batch this morning (now cooling before going in the fermentor tomorrow), which I’m going to call my Oxxxford Beer (based on Batemans XXXB and using another Graham Wheeler recipe).

The labels are created using Inkscape, printed on our colour laser printer and then stuck on with milk. It sounds an odd choice when there are so many glues you can buy but milk (and specifically the casein protein it contains) is a well-established method for sticking on labels. It is used in such small quanties that it doesn’t smell and makes the label easy to remove later with hot water. Best of all, it is entirely organic and you can drink the leftovers, which isn’t true of glues that are sold as such. Just damp the label, press on and use a cloth to remove any excess. Job done!

Monday 20 October 2014
by Wulf

Made it!

I got through today’s gigs without too many wobbles and certainly nothing that derailed the rest of the group. Phew! I still have work to do on most of the songs (I came most unstuck misunderstanding the intro cue on one of the ones I thought was safest so can’t take anything for granted) but it was a step forward. The next outing looks like it will be 14 November – I’ll post more details nearer the time.

Sunday 19 October 2014
by Wulf

Pick Up Sticks

Another busy weekend! On Friday I was up early to deliver leaflets from my church down the St Clement’s parish end of Cowley Road. Top tip? Carry a small piece of wood to hold open letterboxes and encourage leaflets through and the job becomes much easier. We also revisited the garden we were at the previous week and took out the second, larger tree.

Yesterday I had another rehearsal in the morning and, in the afternoon, we followed a tip from some friends in Kidlington about another stash of wood that was available for collection. We’re part way through that one but probably have another trip or two to make… and some more storage to construct in the back garden to hold all the gleanings as they season.

Finally, today. The only wood I picked up was a couple of sticks dropped in the street by a nearby tree but I’ve been doing other things including removing leaves from gutters at the top of the church and driving down to Southall for curry with a friend. Time soon, I think, for a dose of sleep.



Thursday 16 October 2014
by Wulf

1e & 3e&

Looks cryptic? It’s the rhythm I have to play in one of the pieces I’m performing with Ben Mowat’s String Project at St Michael at the Northgate in Oxford on Monday lunchtime (free concert, 1pm). None of the pieces are entirely easy but this is bass intro to the one that is most significantly stretching me. I think I’ve got the intro and most of the first page down but that still leaves two pages with plenty of pitfalls to avoid! Still, I’m getting there and I’ve got the whole weekend to go for further practise.