Real cause for spooky phenomenon

Something happened last night which I found very interesting and I was trying to google the reason for it today, but without success – I assume because my search terms are so vague. I am a complete sceptic so I have no doubt the cause for the behaviour is explainable. It would have freaked out the superstitious though.

I was the only one to witness this. My five year was at the table but facing away and I didn’t really want to upset her. It only lasted about ten seconds.

Last night I was sitting at the dinner table and given a bowl of Miso soup. Miso soup is served in a light bowl similar to this … About ten seconds after it was put down next to me, the bowl moved by itself. It moved about 5 mm away from me and turned itself about five degrees clockwise in the process. This happened about five times in a row (same distance and turn) until it came to rest against another plate. Despite my moving the plate and watching the bowl it didn’t happen again.

The base of the bowl was probably wet and obviously the contents were very hot. Would it just be expansion of the moisture on the base? Just intrigued as I’d never seen it happen before and we eat such soup in such bowls multiple times every week.

Explanations welcomed.

Walking the Sandstone Trail – Day 2

(Day 2′s progress is mostly shown on with the final hour on due to Runkeeper going odd).

Day 2 was a very different day from day 1. The bright sunshine had gone and the day started wet and misty. However, my chance of having a proper breakfast for the first time in over a year cheered me up no end. We had less to walk on this day and we were taking things early so we didn’t actually get on our way until around 10:30.

27-Oct-2011 08:42, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
27-Oct-2011 09:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 320
27-Oct-2011 09:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

This was the first time we had walked in rain surprisingly enough. Most of the morning was spent in a steady drizzle which was a shame as the views from the first part of the day can be stunning – especially when you reach places like Raw Head, the highest point of the trail. Having said that – it was still pretty breathtaking.
27-Oct-2011 11:26, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 125
27-Oct-2011 12:03, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.5, 9.84mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160
27-Oct-2011 12:10, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 125

What became clear as we entered into the afternoon was that the second day certainly felt just as long as the first. I thought the first section of the walk would take around 2 hours but it actually took closer to 3.1/2. At one point when Hugo was complaining he couldn’t go much further I didn’t have the heart to tell him we’d not even got half way yet.
27-Oct-2011 12:40, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 4.0, 12.05mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
27-Oct-2011 13:04, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 125
27-Oct-2011 16:12, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 4.5, 14.8mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 400

On our previous Sunday’s walk we’d came across a Llama although none of us could remember at which point. Both of us thought we’d found it a lot earlier than, as it transpired, we actually had. Every turn of the corner we’d think we’d find him and repeatedly we were disappointed. By the time we did actually come across the fellow (Pearl Farm, Tushingham) we were 19km in and already planning a stop at the pub on the Llangollen Pub a mere 1 km further. We were both wet, tired and my feet hurt like mad. Imagine the feeling when, having reached the pub, we discovered it closed.
27-Oct-2011 15:58, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 160
27-Oct-2011 13:56, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 125
27-Oct-2011 16:30, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400

Hugo felt like his shoes were water logged by this point and the rain was pretty steady but there was nothing to do but keep walking where, 30 minutes later, we discovered the Horse and Jockey at Grindley Brook. This pub welcomes muddy boots and we virtually collapsed with joy to discover it open. A 30 minute stop turned into more like 45 (the beer was very good) and we then set off for the final stint of the journey which was fortunately only 3.55 km. The rain had also relented by this point and the beer had removed some of the pain from my blisters.

So easy walking down the canal into Whitchurch. It’s probably the dullest part of the walk (but I live by a canal, so maybe I’m just bored of them). The last part walks through housing until you arrive at a car park with a small monument to mark the end (or beginning) of the trail. Unlike the Frodsham part which starts in the high street this seemed a little disappointing but having completed it we were not complaining. Slightly odder was that then walking into the sleepy town of Whitchurch we came across a police van blocking the road and a group of policemen armed with machine guns. We were definitely back in civilisation.

27-Oct-2011 18:19, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
27-Oct-2011 18:37, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
27-Oct-2011 18:38, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400

So we finished the walk with an Italian meal. The girls joined us – wine and beer was drunk, pizza was eaten and legs were rested. I can recommend the Italian restaurant Etzio in Whitchurch if ever you have need of one.

All in all, a most enjoyable trip which Hugo seemed to enjoy although the pleasure of finishing was probably when he was at his happiest. We’re talking about our next walks already.

Things I learnt:

  • Don’t forget a small 1st Aid kit. Useful for blisters or unexpected accidents (fortunately we didn’t have any of the latter)
  • If your eight year old son needs to take a dump miles from civilisation, you need to preplan
  • Eating a guilt free full English breakfast is a wonderful experience
  • 27-Oct-2011 19:55, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250
    27-Oct-2011 21:08, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250
    27-Oct-2011 21:08, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250

Walking the Sandstone Trail – Day 1

A while back I came across the Sandstone Trail – a 34 mile trail that starts in Frodsham and finishes in Whitchurch. has the full info. I’ve always liked the idea of long walks and having done various stages of it Hugo and I decided to take the whole thing in two days.

26-Oct-2011 09:18, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 80
26-Oct-2011 09:18, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 80
26-Oct-2011 09:19, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 80

Our training and prep was pretty basic. Over the course of two or three months we slowly progressed from 90 minute walks to over four hours. We did our final walk before the full thing on Sunday October the 23rd – walking 18km in just over four and a half hours.

So on Wednesday, October the 26th we started from Frodsham High Street at 08:45 and set off. The full map of Wednesday’s progress can be seen at I had absolutely no idea how Hugo would get on. The first time we went from 90 minutes to 3 hours he suffered a lot from the increased walking (he ended up on my shoulders for a third of the way, which was good training for me). So going from 4.5 hours of walking to what turned out to be just shy of 8 hours (plus stops) was a slight worry. He did magnificently – two hours before the end he even started running, just to prove to me that he was definitely ahead of me in the fitness stakes.

This first day was cold but bright and sunny. The views from the top of Frodsham Hill were spectacular. From there we continued on our way at a brisk pace, taking a brief break on a bench in Delamere forest for some early lunch and a pot of tea at Summertrees Tea Room. Hugo hadn’t been well the day before but was still keen to try the walk but we ditched the idea of his carry a rucksack with him and we travelled light with the bare necessities packed into mine.

Sandstone on the Sandstone Trail
Sandstone on the Sandstone Trail26-Oct-2011 09:27, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
26-Oct-2011 14:16, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.5, 9.84mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 125
26-Oct-2011 15:42, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 100

26-Oct-2011 15:12, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 125
26-Oct-2011 12:44, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 125
26-Oct-2011 11:13, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 125

We were definitely flagging towards the end. You can see Beeston Castle from quite a way off and you tend to focus on it as it slowly draws closer and closer. Knowing that even when we reached there we still had another hour to go (and knowing a lot of that last hour would be uphill) definitely focussed the mind somewhat. But (for me) the prospect of a refreshing pint and (for Hugo) the anticipation of some new games I’d bribed him with kept us going. Just having passed Beeston we got bright sunshine and rain at the same time – leading to a wonderful double rainbow.
26-Oct-2011 16:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 80
26-Oct-2011 16:46, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 125
26-Oct-2011 16:50, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.0, 17.55mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 125

We finally reached just before 18:00. It’s a beautiful place to relax with a pint and get recharged for the next day. The photo below on the left is the view from the Inn.
26-Oct-2011 17:21, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 5.8, 21.6mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 250
26-Oct-2011 17:38, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250
26-Oct-2011 20:06, Canon Canon PowerShot A480, 3.0, 6.6mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 250

So all in all, a great days walking and we’d purposely done more the first day to give us a psychological boost for the next.

Moved blog from Google back to WordPress

I’ve moved my blog back from Google to WordPress. This will be my non techie site (although I’ve kept the techie postings from the old site so the links still work). will be the techie blog.

Configuring WordPress 3.1.x on Ubuntu Server

I’ve been doing the following

apt-get install wordpress
apt-get install libssh2-php

I don’t use the wordpress that’s installed (I install the latest from source) but it ensures all the necessary libs etc are installed. The libssh2-php is so that new themes, plugins can be installed using ssh rather than ftp.

>Conky Colors Calendar Glitch

>I’ve started using a Conky configuration created by Conky Colors on Ubuntu Natty 11.04. I noticed a glitch (no idea if this exists in other versions) that my calendar display was slightly corrupted. For today’s date there were some extra characters around the digits (putting it out of line with the other weeks in the month).

Simple fix, open up your conky configuration file, find the part in the calendar that reads “cal |sed”and change it to “cal -h |sed”. cal by default hilights today’s date. Putting the -h in stops it doing that.


>Been around the distributions recently and currently loving PinguyOS. As an aide memoir to myself, if you want to remove the notifications when pressing the caps lock key (which I do, as I’ve mapped that key to control), rm /bin/lock_keys

Thanks to the helpers on #pinguyos on freenode for the advice.

>RGB LED’s and Arduino


Quiet on the Arduino front for the last couple of week not helped by hospital visits. I received a week or so ago some RGB LEDs from the wonderful people at Oomlout, you can see them here. Damn cheap (three for two quid), easy to setup and pretty to look at. I was playing with a colour sensor a few weeks back so my next task is to get these lighting up based on the sensor readings.

A lot of my recent time has been spent on reading up on the PIC microprocessors. Played a little more with the Amicus 18 but I’ve ordered a PIC development board which should be arriving shortly and will see what I can do with that.



We have three children, ages 12, 7 and 4. None of them have ever eaten a savoury pie. Today was the day we ended that.

That is a Marks and Spencers’ roast chicken pie. Selina didn’t like it, Hugo and Alisa said they did but didn’t eat much of it.

We won’t be having another in a hurry.

>Arduino, Servos and SCADA


This weekend I was going to play around with servos and motors, but due to a missing diode I only got the servo working, displayed below. Yes, that’s a matchstick attached to it with Blu-Tac.

The processing language is actually very nice to play with. If I squint and pretend it’s Javascript then I can write in it without missing python too much.

The whole purpose of playing around with electronics is deep down I’d like to know a bit more about the factory floor hardware side of things. I’ve written a lot of software for factories but hardware tends to be black box stuff. When I couldn’t find the diode I needed I instead thought I’d see if I could get somewhere with an Arduino and SCADA. Turns out you can. You need some modbus client code from here and the Mango M2M system from here.

What was supposed to be hardware time ended up playing around a lot with Java, Tomcat and understanding what modbus is and does. But at the end of the evening (I packed it in early, I was whacked) I saw this on the Mango interface …

That ‘1’, in the Nodes found list, is the sweet smell of success. Next step would be to fit some sensors on the Arduino and get Mango to monitor them.