Since I’ve not been able to contact Angus (where are you? Turn your phone on you moron 😉 I did some washing then went for a ride on my bike. I didn’t have any set plans about where to go, I just thought it’d be fun to cycle up the valley to Newlands Hause which is the pass over into Buttermere. Then, when I got to the bottom of the pass I thought it’d be fun to go up it so I could come back down. After all, on a bike, even a small hill feels quite hard and any chance you get to freewheel down something is good fun. What could be better than a long valley with a steep bit at one end.

Except I went down the other side into Buttermere. Very steep road… very steep. Especially the bits with 25% gradient on them. Although, I wasn’t reading the signs as I rocketed down the road, I was concentrating more on going around the corners in a controlled manner and not activating my bike’s ejection system – or the Front Brake as it is more commonly known. When going fast enough that your momentum makes a difference, any imbalances in your bike become quite obvious. I definately noticed the slightly buckled back wheel I have and the underinflated back tyre. Big knobbly tyres don’t help cornering either.

Oh well, seeing how I was then in Buttermere, I had to get out of the valley and go back. The road I’d just whizzed down didn’t look that fun to cycle back up. The only other way out of Buttermere is to go up and over the Honister Pass. This is a pretty steep road. At the bottom of the valley you are at 115m and at the top – a mere two miles up the road – you are at 356m. It wasn’t that bad really, but it was probably best I didn’t have a map else I would have probably turned around and pushed my bike back up the way I’d come.

By making use of my bike’s extra-low gear I slowly wound my way up the road, stopping every so often to look at the scenery and suck as much of the surrounding atmosphere into my body as I could. The road got shorter and shorter as my legs spun round for all they were worth. The extra-low gear is great; since it removes any strain on your legs, it is probably possible to cycle up the side of a house if the momentum is kept going. The only challenge to getting up the hill then becomes whether you can sustain the rate of peddling required to keep your bike upright. I was definitely approaching the stage where getting off and pushing would have been quicker. However, pushing bikes up hills isn’t something you do if you can help it 😉 and anyway, after a while the Slate Mine scrolled into view ever so slowly. Inch. By. Inch. A car passed me going not much faster, another one came the other way and I used them as a good excuse to stop and suck in some more air. Reaching the obvious Top I stopped and sat down.

You can be at the bottom in two minutes. An average speed of something around 30mph which is a speed that begins to feel slightly out of control on my bike. Every time I applied the brakes I had to fight the momentum trying to throw me off my bike. Damn you Newton 🙂 Down I went, into Borrowdale. From there it was just a long ride along the valley to the bridge that leads into Grange, up the road that goes around Cat Bells and then a short-cut up to Skelgill before going back down to the Centre. Not that that part of the journey is short. Seatoller is probably the half-way point in the route I took, but cycling down a valley and around a hill feels exponentially easier when you’ve just come into the valley the Hard Way.

Just over 17 miles in around two hours. Not bad for a random bike ride with no aim 🙂

I can now justify sitting in all evening writing my game 😉 People keep passing me asking if I’ve done anything all day, it’s funny telling them where I’ve just been 🙂

Getting back into it

This week was drier than the last. Most of it was spent riding along the roads and paths around here, learning the routes that the mountain biking activity will follow. It’s not much of a ride really, five miles according to someone’s odometer. It’s quite flat too, there’s a bit of a slow grind up the road from the Centre, but then it’s down and around before climbing once more.

Mountain Biking seems quite straight forward to run. You follow the routes, check everyone else is keeping up and stop at the shop in Braithwaite if they’ve brought some money.

Seeing how we were doing a lot of mountain biking this week, I thought it’d be good to take my bike out for a run. I’d not used it for at least two years, then taken it apart and stored it over Winter. When I arrived here, I put it back together best as I could remember. The gears even worked mostly. So in full confidence I’d have no problem, I set off with everyone else and CRUNCH! my bike’s rear derailleur neatly popped the chain off the top cog and jammed itself in one of the spokes. I’m not sure why my bike does this, but it did it once before while pedalling up a hill. I had to roll my bike down the hill back to the Centre and get one of their bikes to continue. I must have come off my bike at some time since my back wheel is buckled too. Later that evening I spent several hours in the bike shed cleaning the oil and goo off my bike in the hope of seeing if I could fix the mangled gears. Not being able to see anything obvious, but still having the rear derailleur banging against every spoke, I applied the brute-force-and-ignorance method of mechanics and pulled on various bits. It’s far from precision engineering, but at least when I go into first gear I don’t end up with the whole back end of my bike jamming up. One day I might buy a new rear mech for it.

My bike has rather nasty gripshift gear changers on it. Gripshift being that great invention that causes you to change gears by accident if you grab the shifter instead of your handlebar grips. Seeing how I’d just been paid, I thought going and getting some replacements would be a good idea. Keswick isn’t that large, but there are three bike shops in it. Today is one of my days off, so I woke up at a decent time, got ready and cycled off to town. It doesn’t take as long as I thought it might. There are some very inaccurate signs on the way that claim it is only 3 miles down the road, except that one and a half of those miles seems a lot shorter than the other one and a half. Whatever the distance, it took me 20 minutes and doesn’t involve any nasty hills in either direction.

I rattled through town and randomly picked the first bike shop I came across and found a handy lamp post to chain by bike to. No good having your bike nicked while you’re in a bike shop trying to buy new bits for it! A few minutes later I came out with a new set of gear shifters and brake levers and 60 less in my bank account. They were quite easy to fit, and came with the added bonus of new cables. The indexing is off, but I can change into my bike’s highest and lowest gears, so that’s all that matters – the middle ones being chosen depending on how hard the pedalling is going and are random anyway.

Earlier this week I had a chance to drive the Centre minibus. Having never driven one before, it felt quite odd piloting something so wide around the small roads of Borrowdale. The mirrors are important, they tell you how close to hitting things you are. You can see quite far ahead though, being higher than all the hedgerows, but it’s still a surprise when you meet someone coming the opposite way on the wrong side of the road. Nobody hit anything, but we had some near misses. Especially sliding between the two trees at the entrance to the Bowderstone carpark. The right-hand tree looks like it’s had many wing-mirrors bash against it.

Last night we had a real, live group to do activities with. They were some rugby club from Bury – once again proving that no matter where you go, you’ll always meet people who live near to where you do. They did an afternoon of short Centre-based activities, then some more in the evening. The kids were hyper and just wanted to run around and shout a lot, something they demonstrated in the evening. I made the mistake of going upstairs in the main building and quickly made my escape, the place looked like a warzone. Children, the contents of their rooms and other kiddie junk strewn around the corridors.

Slackware 8 and FTP mirrors

Well I woke up on Saturday and discovered Slackware 8 was out. I proceeded to try and download it through my flaky 56k modem (that keeps wanting to be a 9600 thanks to BT’s wonderful phonelines in our area – UNIX may be 30 years old, but that doesn’t mean I want to emulate a net connection from that time!). was OK for the first 6 hours, I managed to get about 70MB, but then the Americans woke up and tried doing the same thing.

My local mirror ( doesn’t have it all yet (there’s parts of the ‘slakware’ dir, but nothing in the ISO images directory yet), so I’m waiting for it to be available on

Technically this machine could download things, it is on a 2Mbit link, however we pay for our bandwidth and transferring 3 CD images would put us way over the limit (plus it’d still be on the wrong side of my modem – and the wrong side of Birmingham too!).

I can now ride one way up the big hill between here and my house in my bike’s top gear 🙂 I’ll try the other side today (the other side is steeper). The weather is still warm and there’s sun up there somewhere. I like it, makes a change from rain. Makes my herb garden grow too (the mint is taking over and it’s only been in there a week!). Had fun putting salt on the slugs that tried eating the corriander. Slugs and salt don’t mix, they go all… runny…

Back to writing this Windows program for work. It’s quite interesting really, I’m doing the entire thing on my own and it’s actually working! I have to demo it tomorrow (aaargh!)

It’s enough to shake the fillings out your teeth

It is sunday, it is sunny outside, and oddly enough for this part of the country it is also warm. I went out on my bike for a while, found the path along the top of the hill behind our house is open and went along it. 30 degree slopes with potholes in are quite fun to zoom down.

I also managed to compile kernel 2.4.5 with the crypto stuff. It took some effort. First I applied the 2.4.4->2.4.5 patch, then the international patch from kerneli, but the kernel failed to build (it moaned about the loopback fs code). I then patched my 2.4.4 kernel with the crypto stuff, then patched that to 2.4.5. It built!… but I forgot to enable ReiserFS so my machine didn’t boot. Eventually I got 2.4.5, the crypto stuff, and a booting machine! Now for some reason my joystick has stopped working. Typical.

I’m slowly updating the code behind this website. The copy on my machine lets you filter diary entries by month. I’m trying to work out the best way to restructure the downloads/code pages. I’d also like something that lets me visually draw HTML tables. Or I could learn CSS (that being “Cascading Style Sheets”, not the stupid DVD encoding algorithm that can be broken with 3 lines of Perl. OpenDVD!). I could make the effort to learn php_fasttemplate or something, but they look really complicated.

Freshmeat seems to be dead. This is a bit inconvenient…

Wish I had a permanent net connection, my modem doesn’t seem to be able to sustain two things at once. I might have buggered my firewall up though, I really should look into that.

c u l8r (and other bad grammar)

The BBC must be running short of ideas. There’s a TV program on about SMS. WHY?!. There’s now an ‘X-Rated’ version where they show all the ‘naughty’ SMS messages that are going round (which look great on a Nokia phone, but if you’re not a sheep and own a non-Nokia they’re totally meaningless).

Aww no! There’s two people who met each other over SMS. *gag* *puke*

I think I’ll buy a bike tomorrow. Walking to work is fine and everything, I just can’t be bothered walking home, and it takes too long (also I can’t spontaneously decide to take another route home and go as fast as I can down a steep hill). Halfords of all places sells one that seems OK (although buying a bike from Halfords feels a little like getting a PC from Dixons. 6 months interest free credit is quite nice though).