Pages tagged “geeky”

17 Dec 2023

Times Table Hack Stars

Time will tell if this was good parenting or not. Finn has been saying he’s interested in coding. We’ve enjoyed building games together (he loves setting up cheat codes in the little scripts). It seems to work best if I code and commentate: although he likes getting the machine to do his bidding, the details don’t seem so interesting to him. Anyway, Finn has also been obsessed of late with an online times table challenge shared at school.

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26 Jun 2023

Long, crustless hypotenuses

Branstonnaise is a new one on me: I’ve just discovered the third high-entropy food product to feature on this blog. It has prompted me to share a recipe for a sandwich. Ultimate Cheese is its name, and Sarah invented it while we lived in New Zealand. It doesn’t contain Branston pickle, but it does contain mayonnaise and another brown, tasty sandwich sauce. Note: the recipe is opinionated re: bread colour and cheese form (sliced over grated).

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26 Jun 2023

Standing up a prototype

24 hours with an upgraded standing desk at home and I’m really glad I went for it. But I wanted to write a few words about prototypes, minimum viable products, and describe my original standing desk for posterity. It started during Covid, working at home for many consecutive days. I made the most ergonomic “normal” desk I could, balancing a laptop on a pile of books to bring it to eye level.

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31 Jan 2023

Optimising the FA Cup

The early rounds of the FA Cup are great fun to watch. This year I followed from the 3rd Qualifying Round. My team is Liverpool and they don’t even enter the competition until January (on current form, they may exit the competition before February). So instead, I like to follow a reasonably local team, but to provide some sort of journey through the Cup, without early termination, I pursue an unfaithful support-whoever-wins system.

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06 Jan 2023

In praise of Sellotape dispensers

I can’t use “sticky tape”, as Blue Peter used to call it, without the tune of “Monmore, Hare’s Running” playing in my mind. Recently though, I’ve been singing the praises of a related stationery item: the Sellotape dispenser. Originally purchased during the home-schooling days of Covid lockdown, ours is a satisfyingly heavy, weirdly shiny example. We noticed that Iris would choose Sellotape as the solution to nearly any problem, and has always spent happy times making little pockets, books, junk models and rule-defying origami structures, all featuring the rage-inducing, finger-fuddling adhesive article.

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13 Apr 2022


Inspired by Green Planet, in which some wonderful sped-up plant proliferation is captured, I’ve been working on a little hobby project. My very own “timeslap” (this is Finn’s name for timelapse, and I think it’s a big improvement). I had been looking for an excuse to get a recent Raspberry Pi and try out the HQ camera module. My first idea was to capture the spring emergence of the leaves on the big lime trees outside our house, but a better opportunity presented itself: Mum and Dad have been having their garden “done” over the past few weeks.

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04 Apr 2022


I had at least an hour and a half this morning to contemplate this feature request. Apple, Google, are you listening? Here’s something I’d like my smartphone to do, please: “Good evening. It seems you have travelled away from home at a popular time of year for holiday making, accompanied by your family members, to a well known tourist destination. You’ve connected to a hotel’s wifi and I’ve noticed several transactions from the bar of a licensed premises.

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07 Sep 2021

Sparking a thought

I heard today that someone I work with was struck by lightning! They are fine. A peculiar feeling has sprung up inside me: I really want to know what a lightning strike feels like. Not to the extent that I am going to go out and seek electrocution, for obvious reasons. It’s a mixture of curiosity and awe with quite a lot of envy. Mostly I’d like to be able to tell that story first hand, I think.

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05 Apr 2021

No power tools or tools kept in this van

Seen on the back of a van a while back: an inverse pedantic notice. The set of all tools includes the set of power tools, right? Save yourself some words! On a Venn diagram, there is nothing in the “power tools” set which isn’t also in the “tools” set. Then again, it might be better represented as an Euler diagram. I particularly like this example of an Euler diagram: British Isles Euler diagram - in fact it was while researching the overlaps between British Isles and United Kingdom that I first entered the set of people who realise that lots of so-called Venn diagrams are actually Euler diagrams.

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02 Mar 2021

An escape room for developer teams

I can’t help it: I have an insatiable desire to program computers to do things. My latest hobby project pretty much assumes that others do, too. In response to covid-imposed remoteness, seeing dev teams struggle with coherence and the strain that teams get subjected to in such circumstances, I built a thing. I’d had the idea for a little while, and I might well have missed the boat here (lockdown has been full on, my coding time limited), but hey.

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28 Feb 2021

Sula Sauce

Heinz have hit a sweet spot with this product in our house. That’s right: another high entropy cupboard product. Or should that be fridge product? No longer does Iris have to mash two sauces together to create her world famous “Sula Sauce”. I already have a world view that divides food into “better with mayonnaise” and “other” so I am pretty much right in the traction beam here. Iris shares my love for the white stuff and first tried mixing it with ketchup years ago, so the big corporations are playing catch up here.

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13 Jan 2021

Scribble school

As part of a covid lockdown, we have already had a remote Christmas and for lots of people schools are closed at the moment. We have two full-time worker parents in our family and that means “screen schooling” is all too prevalent. Recently we have launched an experiment with my parents: I thought it worth a write up. A lot of what I could find online was either aimed at teachers running classes, or very basic tech grandparenting (“try a video call instead of using your telephone”!

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04 Oct 2020

The Owl and the Cowpat...

…went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green spreadsheet. I’ve written before about my love for wiggly lines. Well, I had occasion earlier this week to draw a wiggly line quickly in Microsoft Excel. Delighted to spot this little vignette. (I know it’s an XY scatter plot not a wiggly line but this was how it first appeared)

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24 Sep 2020

Feedback Loops

The most popular post on my blog (at the moment) is a how-to post about locking a VW Passat without activating the alarm. It gets a respectable amount of traffic and I’m always pleased by a small drip feed of grateful messages I get through my contact form. This post is another Volkswagen related how-to. Although I suspect it won’t generate the same traffic levels because it’s even more niche. Who knows.

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20 Sep 2020

The Mozz law of pricing

When I were a lad studying science I always dreamed of having a fundamental constant named after me, or maybe a unit or a law. Not that my achievements would even register on the scale: I’m certainly not claiming I’ve ever got near Planck, Newton and other such giants. The name of Gauss (Johann Carl Friedrich, that is) kept coming up during my lectures: he seems to have earned quite some naming rights.

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20 Sep 2020

Now with added entropy

I’m currently working my way through this jar to make room in the cupboard for a jar of honey and a jar of tahini. I admit to being slightly perplexed by the seeming increase in items for sale which are just two other things mixed together. Salted butter is an oldie. Admittedly, I couldn’t make salted butter (easily) from salt and butter in my cupboard/fridge, but then I never consume butter in solid form anyway.

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20 Aug 2020

Le Condimentâle

We discovered a new type of cheese while on holiday this year in France. In fact, you could say we invented it. If you own a campervan or are a keen camper you might have been introduced to the concept of “Condimental”. I won’t reveal the name of the friend who shared that word with me, but in our family we had already independently begun practising this slightly nefarious and gently thrilling collection activity.

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27 May 2020

An idea before its time?

Amused to read that a company is showing off a smartphone app that enables remote fans to influence sports games (Guardian link). Warrington Town had this idea over 20 years ago. It was called InteractiTown. Admittedly it doesn’t work any more, but still.

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09 May 2020

Lockdown Shakeup

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything on my blog - and lots has happened since I busted my ankle over 6 months ago. The biggest being lockdown - I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy running a home school at the same time as both parents are working full time, but we constantly remember that we’re very lucky in the grand scheme of things. At work the small team I work in have been livening up sprint-end review meetings with a bit of dressing up.

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11 Jul 2019

What type of typist are you?

Sharing a desk-photo of a diagram I’d drawn for work recently, I noticed the lamentable state of my keyboard in the margin. I can make out the places where my fingers rest when I’m using the keyboard, and the tops of the keys are all shiny and, well, grimy. A forensic investigator could probably glean all sorts of information from the wear patterns (not to mention the crumbs, dust and other detritus).

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05 Jul 2019

Video time travel

In my previous post about spherical photography I mentioned how pleasing I find it that recording in all directions captures things you wouldn’t otherwise capture. And how you could shoot action, and then frame it later. (by rendering a spherical video into a normal video that tracks the desired subject) So I have to share this thing, shared from the internet recently by my friend Dan. A couple of tourists are recording a spherical stroll round a Mallorcan town.

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29 Jun 2019

Polar co-ordinates rule OK

After a recent save-up I found myself in a position to buy a new gadget, and excitedly ran (I actually did run, as I was training for a 10k) to the Apple Store. It wasn’t an Apple product I was collecting, though: an Insta 360 One X was mine, and I couldn’t wait to get using it. Having been given a VR headset as a very generous leaving gift from Owlstone, I had already begun to explore taking 360º (technically, spherical) photos, using Google Street Map app on my phone.

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05 Jun 2019

From Warrington to Wennington

A blog post about finding myself. I recently calculated my geographic mean, so Sarah and I undertook a mini-adventure to visit the actual spot, which at the time of writing is somewhere near Wennington, Lancashire. Taking advantage of a very welcome short break from being parents, we made a little detour off the route between a wonderful restaurant and me Mum and Dad’s house, and stumbled, climbed and squelched our way to the middle of Mozz.

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18 Feb 2019

FaceTime → EarTime

In our house we’ve spent countless hours on video calls to distant family members. Being able to see the other side of a call is amazing: we actually live in the future, right? You can wave at someone hundreds of miles away, show them your new favourite toy, ask them how their garden grows, or - if you’re under six - show them the inside of your mouth. It’s very engaging, but Iris and Finn are completely accustomed to it - so much so, they have come to see a roughly-weekly FaceTime session more like a routine form of telepresence than a call.

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18 Feb 2019

A watched kettle never boils...

…so I’m not sure whether this see-through kettle in a shared workplace really did take forever to reach 100ºC. I was watching, and it took ages. I used the state-change staring time to remember a physics supervision from university, and how much I enjoyed learning about the sound of a kettle. I listened to the transition from a scratchy, higher pitched “cavitational crackle” to a mellifluous, quieter bubbling as the process advanced.

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20 Jan 2019

Saucy chat

I visited a burger restaurant in Islington with workmates recently, and a very wide-ranging conversation included quite some discussion of sauces. We compared favourites and tried to remember the differences between them all. It occurred to me that being able to compare one sauce’s recipe with another’s might be a fun geek project in git. So, here is the result of a hour’s wikipedia research and some tapping at a command line on a train ride:

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16 Jan 2019

First foray into fintech

Challenger banks are quite the thing these days. I am a big fan of both Monzo and Starling. I wrote a python script (publicly available on github) to help me save some of my day-to-day cash into one of Starling’s “spaces” (their word for savings goals). I’ve punched in how much I want to start each month with, and how much I’d like to leave at the end, as a buffer.

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28 Oct 2018

Am I on time?

Is there something which will tell me - while I’m riding a bike - whether I’m on time for a train? Even if I could find the right app, fiddling with a smartphone isn’t an option: it’s already cold enough in Cambridge that I’m wearing gloves on my pedal-based commute. My Garmin Edge GPS offers “ETA”, can be operated with gloves on, can follow a track and offers “training mode”, all of which seems promising.

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22 May 2018

I remain a Northerner...

…sort of. Not so long ago I realised that I might not be a northerner any more (statistically speaking). I have a bit of an accent, I have my dinner at lunchtime and my tea at suppertime, so this came as a bit of a wake-up call! I’ve lived in Cambridge since undergraduate days: it’s the place I’ve spent most time living, and round about now I’m passing the point at which it’s been my home for 50% of my life (so far!

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28 Sep 2017

Primal urge

I love this video from Numberphile about a prime number with 1,350 digits (and some other special visual properties). I can’t believe I studied at Trinity Hall for four years and didn’t know about this. A custom prime number with the college emblem “ASCII art”-ed inside it? What could appeal more to my geeky brain? I’m enjoying all the Numberphile videos. Within a very short time the number had been extracted from the video and other clever people had been inspired to post creative and original responses.

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07 Aug 2017

Horizontally Challenged

I like views. On our recent holiday we stayed on top of a hill and spent hours looking out at a particularly nice one. From the photographed bit of Tuscany, the furthest point that can be seen directly is about 27km away: a distant hilltop just visible past the shoulder of a closer slope. I pondered the distance because, just before going on holiday, I had discovered beyond horizons, a website dedicated to photography of very long distances.

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13 Feb 2017

How old is that gannet?

Yesterday I caught the last official day of “Tracking Animals” - an exhibition at The Hunterian in Glasgow curated by my good friend Nicky. Iris pressed her four-year-old nose to the glass of the display cabinet and peered at the taxidermied seabird inside. “How old is that gannet?” she asked, prompted by discussion between myself and her grandpa about its plumage. This preserved individual was, specifically, a teenager, in gannet terms; it’d been chosen to illustrate and augment the other articles on display about GPS tracking of this species’s wanderings between colonies.

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13 Sep 2016

I missed my pocket

I’m without my smartphone for a few days after it had a close encounter with some tarmac. I’ve lost a few superpowers: the ability to use Whatsapp and online banking. Most annoyingly I miss the ability to switch the lights on and off in my kitchen. That’s only the case because we were using flic buttons to do it via Bluetooth (after another domestic mishap in which we lost our light switch).

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14 Aug 2016

Home Honing

I reckon sharp knives are safer than blunt ones. Same with scissors - including children’s scissors. It’s a slightly dull and messy job but I enjoyed getting our kitchen knives back to their best last night in front of the TV. Sliced a few grapes to celebrate a great gold medal in the Women’s Team Pursuit from the velodrome in Brazil! Pedantry note: I am aware that honing and sharpening are different…

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19 May 2016

Mozz family metadata

I’ve written before about the lengths I go to to keep photos safe. I don’t miss the ceremony of dragging out a physical album, ostentatiously blowing the dust off and crackling through the pages. Not for me - gathering round an iPad or a screen is just as good if you want to make an occasion of it. My entire photo collection is over 13,000 photos at the moment, growing rapidly thanks to Iris and Finn.

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14 May 2016

If you work with Python you should try Jupyter notebooks. A particularly nice service I was introduced to recently is - which sets up a notebook server for you, installs whatever you need on it, and lets you (and anyone you care to share a link with) run python, from a web browser. Your code becomes reproducible and tinkerable by anyone, anywhere, without the usual barriers of clone, install, set up.

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18 Feb 2016


I’m enjoying being an alpha tester for a new bank card at the moment. You know how you sometimes spend money on your debit/credit card, then check your balance, but the transaction hasn’t shown up yet and you have to mentally remember to subtract it from the number you see on the screen? Assuming, that is, your bank has a usable app. Another example: “SMS alerts” consisting of a weekly gibberish message at 8am on a Tuesday morning.

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07 Aug 2015

Physical Web for Presenters

I was at a very interesting meetup (Cambridge Internet of Things) yesterday. Alongside a thought-provoking presentation about online privacy and cloud computing, I learnt about the Physical Web project. Scott Jenson explained the aims and the activities that are well underway. I’m a geek, I get excited by such things and my mind runs ahead. As I watched people holding up smartphones to capture the projected slides, presumably to grab details, it occurred to me that giving a presentation might be a great physical web use case.

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11 May 2015

Reinstalling the dolls' computer

I couldn’t live with Windows XP on the computer in the dolls' house. System reinstallation now complete!

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14 Jul 2014

More inconsistent signage

I chose not to interpret this sign in line with the UK official Traffic Signs Manual, Chapter 3, which says: “Prohibitory signs … are circular and have a red border. The red ring indicates the prohibition; diagonal bars are used only on signs which prohibit a specific manoeuvre” Just sayin'… (see earlier rant) Photo from Churchill College, Cambridge.

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27 Oct 2013

On thermostats

Crawling into a cupboard with a headtorch and squinting at an LCD display while repeatedly pressing buttons isn’t much fun. Until recently, this was the only way we could control the central heating in our house. So it was with some pleasure that we upgraded our house’s thermostat. We now have a Heatmiser wifi thermostat, and we are truly living in the future. We can: reprogram the heating without needing a headtorch turn the heating on/off/up/down from any network-connected device tell the system we’re away for the next x days, and have it save fuel check on the system from anywhere Being able to “make fire” from miles away feels like such a step up from a caveman rubbing twigs together!

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