November 2021



It’s been pretty mild for the season, but as we passed the middle of the month it was time for the boys to start wearing their coats out on walks.

I’ve bought a couple of extra latch clips to poke through the hole in their coats from their harnesses, otherwise it’s a right faff putting their leads on.

Heat pump

Back in April I got a quote for a heat pump system from local specialists H&D. It then took ages to get an electrician to put the external supply in place, then a further wait for an install date.

I went for a Daikin multi split system, with outlets in the kitchen/lounge/dining room (for heating in the winter), master bedroom, and office (for cooling in summer). Thankfully it was all done before the cold weather came, so we’re now able to enjoy a warm room in the evening without having to put a fire on.

The installers did a really neat job, inside and out:

Heat pump outside

Though there’s no hiding the ugliness of the external unit.

I’ve yet to see the impact on my electricity bill, but it’s claimed that the pump will give 3-4x input energy as heat, so I should get 2kW of heating for 500W of electricity.

I now need to wait for the summer to see if the cooling is effective and quiet.

So far I’m impressed with the system, but it does raise some practical questions about the proposed wider use of heat pumps in place of gas boilers…. That pump is ~6kW, my boiler is 24kW, so I’d need 4 pumps to produce the same output, which is a LOT of big boxes on the wall outside. There’s also a prevailing view that prices will come down and efficiency will go up as more people buy them, but these things (whilst new to most Brits) are commodity items in warmer climes that already sell by the millions.

Green Earl Grey Tea

When I gave up coffee in 2004 Twinings were doing a big marketing push for their flavoured green teas, and so I’d often get samples thrust at me on my commute to the office. It worked, I found that I really liked their Green Earl Grey. Sadly Twinings don’t do it any more, but thankfully Waitrose were selling an (almost) identical blend, so I had a reliable supply of my daily starter. Until they stopped, and my stockpile ran down…

I’ve been able to get some of Taylors blend, which I switched to the first time Twinings stopped making it, but it’s not as nice (too much green, not enough Earl Grey). So I’m now using the Nothing but Tea blend, which comes loose, meaning I have to make a pot each morning. It’s a faff, but worth it for the taste (though that’s not notably better than what I’d been getting from the Waitrose blend). I’d switch back to Waitrose (or Twinings) in a moment if they started making it again.

DIY jobs

Our house is coming up on 20 years old, so we’re at a stage where things routinely wear out or break. This month it was…

Garage door

The wire on one side of our Cardale door snapped. Thankfully pattern replacements are cheap and readily available. I was able to get CD45 cones and cables for £7.95 from Amazon, along with a punch to remove the old securing pins. Getting the parts was the easy part though. Fitting them was a bit of a nightmare, firstly because the pins took a LOT of hammering to remove, and then I had to release the tension from the spring system to allow the mechanism to be moved away from the wall to switch cones; followed by lots of re-tensioning afterwards. Hopefully it will be another 19 years before I need to do that again, though I fear the door itself might rot before that (despite my best efforts at repainting every few years).

Toilet seat

Last time (about a decade ago) the hinges went on the Roca Giralda seat in the downstairs loo I replaced it with the fancy ‘soft close’ version, which if nothing else seemed more robust than the regular version. But it turns out that the hinge caps are made of plastic, and they don’t last for ever. I thought I’d need another whole seat assembly, but they sell replacement (metal) hinge caps so I just got a pack of those (at roughly a third of the price of a whole seat). I suspect those new parts might now outlast the other components around them.

Aerial Amplifier

The TV in our bedroom started playing up, first with dropouts, then no signal at all. Although the TVs in other rooms still seemed OK it became clear that the LabTech distribution amplifier installed when the house was built 19 years ago wasn’t performing as it should (as bypassing it returned a perfect picture again). This was the easiest fix of the month, a new SLx Amp arrived next day from Amazon, and it was a few minutes work to unplug the old one then wall mount and plug in the new one.

Of course I took apart the old amp to see what had gone wrong with it. Nothing obvious. No burning or bulging capacitors. It made me wonder what makes a bunch of mostly surface mount transistors ‘wear out’ over time, and it turns out the IEEE has the answers. Though if I was betting on it I’d go for the 7815 rectifier being the culprit, as it was (literally) taking all the heat.

Raspberry Pi

After 4 years since backing the Curious Chip Pip on Kickstarter mine (serial number 0030) finally arrived.

I’ve not had the chance to properly play around with it yet, but I can think of all sorts of things to do with a Pi powered device in a handheld gaming package

Aeron chair

I bought myself a used Aeron back in 2014, and it’s served me well. I got a second one a couple of years later for the loft conversion office, but that disappeared into my daughter’s room during lockdown. So there was a gap to be filled, and I work from home all the time now, and when I took a peek at the Herman Miller site they had a Black Friday Sale.

The new lumbar support system seems nice. Everything else is pretty much what I’m used to (including the slight axis wobble that I always thought was down to age with my used chair, but seems to be an inherent flaw).


I’ve read a LOT more fiction than usual this month.

Anne Currie asked me to do a launch day review of Heliotrope, which meant finishing Dystopia X and Mars Insurgent. When launch day came I had only just started on my advanced review copy. Things hadn’t been helped by the launch of Charles Stross’s Invisible Sun, though I devoured that in a matter of days – I’ve loved the Merchant Princes books and then the Empire Games sequels.

Back to Stross again now with Dead Lies Dreaming, which is off to a great start.

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