Monday, June 29, 2009

Tiki Bar Gains Fridge

K bought a fridge for the car recently - it will keep the contents 20C below ambient - it also warms to around 60C if needed. It uses a solid-state heat pump making it quite economical. It just plugs into the 12v car socket to work. Best but - she also bout a 240v mains to 12v transformer - so we can use it in the Tiki Bar in the summer :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sailing Holiday

Dad turned 60 last week and to celebrate we went sailing in the Greek islands on a 44 foot Bavaria yacht. We had a great time and I managed to eat calamari every night apart from one.

Day 1: Flight left on time - S remembered which airport we were leaving from. Arrived in Greece mid afternoon and made it to the Alimos Marina an hour or so later. After some fun finding the yacht (there are hundreds in this Marina) we went through the various checks and forms before being haded the keys. Kids sent to fetch supplies whilst the adults did the paperwork. As a result we returned with way too much beer :) We spent the night on board and dined at the nearest taverna.

Day 2: The engines started at some ungodly hour - Dad could wait no longer. We slowly edged out of the marina before being able to set sail on our way to our first stop on the island of Egina. Lunch was spent swimming whilst moored near a small taverna. We spent the night in Perdika and ate lovely seafood in a place owned by a man who spent half the year working on big ships and the rest of the year in the taverna. The table-clothes had maps of the island on them - which proved useful for plotting the next day's adventures.

Day 3: We awoke and had champagne with breakfast whilst wearing silly hats and sang to celebrate Dad's birthday - much to the amusement of the other boats. We left on a tip from the previous night for a bay a few headlands along where we stopped for lunch and swimming. In the afternoon we sailed south for Methana where we had a birthday meal amongst the occasional whiff of sulphur from the mountain.

Day 4: We left Methana and headed back north searching for a bay. In then end we went most of the way around the 'island' until we discovered the small port of Vathy. Here we enjoyed a fantastic lunch whilst watching a cat stealing fish from a recently arrived boat. That evening we headed across the bay for Epidavaros - we moored in the bay and took the tender into port for dinner. S hit another boat on the way out, nearly fell in on the way back and received applause from the nearby diners.

Day 5: We left mid-morning and caught light winds heading east. At one point we were under sail at 1.5kts - all of us in the water behind the yacht (on auto-pilot). Unusual but fun. We managed some serious sailing today as the winds hit force 7. The girls were hanging on for dear life at the bow whilst the boys winched and tacked from the stern. That afternoon we moored at Agistri to avoid the high winds that had built throughout the day. We found a taverna for lunch that didn't do calamari - but this was more than made up for at the evening meal when we found a taverna owned by a fantastic lady that cooked us a feast.

Day 6: Caught the bus to Skala first thing for provisions. We sailed north for the island of Salamina and had lunch in a bay on it's south coast. By evening the wind was picking up so we stowed the two anchors we had out and headed west to find more shelter. We moored in Kanakia and ate a a strange taverna where our food came out a piece at a time over a 90 min period. I had finished before others had started. We spent a rough night as the winds shifted about.

Day 7: We set sail at first light to try and find shelter for some more kip. In the end we spent a lovely few hours in a sheltered bay near Ais Klab before heading back towards Alimos. We arrived back at the marina mid-afternoon and decided to take a trip to the Acropolis for a culture hit. Entrance was €12 each - apart from me - free with student card! We had our last meal back at the same taverna we had first eaten at.

Day 8: Taxis at 09:30 and off the the airport. A 40min delay to the flight but back in good time. Exhausted - but a fantastic holiday.



Friday, June 19, 2009

Energy Saving

A small package turned up in the post this morning from our energy supplier. It clips into the mains supply and wirelessly transmits to this monitoring station. We can now see exactly how much energy we are consuming at any one point and historically what we have used.

K took one look and immediately turned off all the lights :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

SkyHD Installed

Huzzah - today the Sky man came and installed HD for us - not quite the 3 month wait we were told to begin with. One small problem though - my sky account is showing as £1M in debt so they won't turn the HD on!!!! Turns out this is a known bug with Sky's system. Took an hour or so to remove the £1M charge from the account and now I have glorious HD :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tumble-dryer Dismantle

K was away last night and I got bored - so I took the tumble-dryer apart to try and fix it (the timing mechanism had stopped). Took an hour to disassemble and 4 hours to fix and put back together. Think I fixed it in the end - only time will tell...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Primrose Hill

k, L and I went to Primrose Hill yesterday for a picnic (link in title) and farewell party for one of K and L's friends. It was fantastic weather and a great view of town. I even played some frisbee...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Encoding for AppleTV

I've been encoding some old 720x576/1.25 AVIs in order to get them on my AppleTV. This has taken a few attempts - here's what I've learnt (I'm using Handbrake):
- max resolution is 1280x720
- max framerate is 24fps
- max bit rate is 5Mb/s
I'm using the H.264 codec and am using Handbrake's 'decomb' filter to remove the interlace artifacts. They show up in the ATV as HD content and actually look pretty good.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Whilst I was out on the mountain-bike K decided to make some cupcakes. They are very chocolaty and covered in all sorts of sprinkles.

Only problem is eating them all before they become too old - anyone want to pop in for coffee???

Thursday, June 04, 2009

T's RS4

T popped in at lunchtime to show me his new toy - a black RS4! What a car too - looks mean, feels solid and sounds awesome. There's a 'S' button on the steering wheel - when you press it the exhaust valves open and the seats move to grip you more. We took it for a little run, the speed is amazing (0-60 in about 4.5s). It pulls like a train despite being naturally aspirated. I now have major car envy...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sky+HD - 3 months!!!

We ordered Sky+HD to compliment our new TV. Got an email the next day saying there is a 3 month wait. I phoned and asked if they were serious - they are! I did get a month's free subscription as compensation though....