The power of radio

Seems it’s possible to melt high temperature “microwave safe” glass… In a microwave.

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New safety feature - Molten glass handle

You’ll notice the handle has melted. It was glowing red. The handle being the bit you take hold of so the boiling hot milk doesn’t burn your hands…

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"Microwave Safe" hmmm
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Wormhole opening in...3....2...1

That wasn’t a farce, honest.

The fridge died. We found a new one on Facebook for £35.

To fit it in the kitchen I had to unplug it. To unplug it the dishwasher needed moving.

To move the dishwasher I had to unplumb it. Doing that meant moving the washing machine.

Then the fridge was too wide, so I had to remove some of the kitchen counter.

But now it works and we have cold food again.

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The old fridge

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Windy Whitby

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We’re camping in Whitby. It’s sunny but very windy. The kind of windy that turns tents inside out.

Fortunately ours is still the right way up, but the forecast is for stronger wind tomorrow. I’m getting used to waking up at 2,3 and 5am to intense loud flapping now and sleeping on a bed that is comfortable providing you lie in exactly one position all night.

A £6 experiment in loft insulation and heating bills

£6 of loft insulation from B&Q

The house I live in gets a bit cold in Winter, and no matter how long I run the heating for the upstairs rooms just don’t seem to warm up that much compared to downstairs.

Of course in Summer upstairs is like an oven, and the loft is equally extreme in its temperatures – being either inhospitably cold in winter or unbearably hot in summer.

B&Q (with the aid of some sort of government “save the carbon” type grant) sells rolls of loft insulation for the insane price of £3 (or £2.98 for the value stuff which doesn’t look as thick) so I thought I’d buy as much as will fit in the boot of my car and see if it makes any noticeable difference to the temperature of the house.

Existing insulation that doesn't go all the way to the eves

Before adding the new insulation I had to reposition and repack the existing pink fibreglass-based material. It looks to have been installed quickly by a previous occupant as it didn’t go all the way to the walls. It looks like they didn’t buy enough since after poking it around with a pole (to avoid getting fibres stuck in my skin) it fell between the joists and had even larger gaps.

Existing insulation that doesn't cover all the floor/ceiling

One useful and possibly intentional design was that each roll of insulation was long enough to run the length of the house, and three rolls side-by-side was enough to cover the ceiling between the outer wall and where the loft boards started. My loft has been boarded out for storage so if the place still feels cold I might see if I can cheaply buy insulated boards to put down too.

Before I added this insulation the house usually drops down to around 12-14C overnight when the heating is off, providing a wonderfully cold and damp atmosphere for growing mould behind cupboards. I’ll see what it’s like tomorrow morning with the new insulation in place.

I need drugs

So, it turns out I have oral thrush, which is interesting. In the mornings it feels like someone has carefully dried out my nose, mouth, throat and then rinsed the whole thing with some stale beer. It’s quite unpleasant really, but in a non-specific way; nothing really hurts, but it’s just … not right.

I went to the doctors and after poking a torch in my mouth he happily told me it was thrush, and that some lozenges will sort it. One prescription later … I don’t have any lozenges. The local pharmacy has none and says there are “manufacturing problems” so they can’t get any either. Tomorrow I will try the Tesco across the road from school.

Today at work it was decided that a fire drill would be a good idea… five minutes before morning break. So the whole of break was spent stood on the astroturf with some rather irritated children. There were also quite a lot of worms, quite a lot of screaming girls, and lots of boys playing with the worms.

There are now less worms.

Car Boot Goodies: Apple Pro Mouse

It is Sunday, that means it’s car boot day, and since it was dry the car boot was quite large. Amongst the junk I managed to buy an Apple Pro Mouse for £3.

The Apple Pro Mouse has two major failings; 1) It has one button and can only function with one button and 2) Its cable is really short. I am right handed, the USB ports on my Macbook are on the left. The cable reaches, but only just. In OSX problem 1) can be overcome by pressing the control key for left mouse (but you still don’t get a scroll wheel, leading to comical stroking of the mouse) and 2) can be solved by not moving the mouse very far from the computer.

It has that crap Apple cable that gets all kinked inside. I don’t know how Apple make cables, but they all kink in horrible ways. I saw my cousin’s Macbook charger melt its cable after it became twisted inside to the point where the outer covering came off.

Coming soon in the short series “people’s crap I bought from the car boot” – Some 70s “How things work” type books and a 1940s army infantry guide that says I’m forbidden from publishing its contents. I also gained another Amiga (when the economy collapses, I hope these become legal tender, I have quite a few now) and a new cordless phone. In return I got rid of a mini fridge and some breakfast bowls. I can also get rid of a table and weird Ikea shelf thing.

Right, I’m off to learn how to prepare a minefield and what the correct way to do a beach landing is.

Macro photos of silicon wafers

Silicon wafer with three PC88 radio valves

Thanks to the wonders of eBay I now own three silicon wafers of some description, and because they contain microscopic detail I decided it’d be good to photograph them.

Focusing the camera was really hard, it’s bad enough getting a manual lens to focus but when the thing being photographed is so small it can’t be seen with the naked eye it requires a lot of trial and error. I also bought some old radio valves for a few quid off eBay too and decided to compare the two. It’s fun holding an entire wafer of ICs in one hand and having a single valve in the other.

Here is one of the wafers with some circuitry laid down in a regular pattern. The eBay bid says it was Intel memory of some description, but the wafer contains no visible writing to identify it. If I had a microscope I’d probably find something to read that’d identify it. The chips are arranged into small squares varying between half a centimetre and less than two millimetres across. I really like the edges of the wafers where there are half complete circuits due to the shape of the wafer. If these were processors, each one would be worth a hundred pounds or so, and the edge contains about 100 defective half made ones. A lot of the middle ones probably didn’t work properly either.

It’s hard to appreciate just how small the traces are on the surface, fortunately one of my hairs fell out while trying to get my camera to behave and I took a photo of it on the surface of the silicon wafer.