Thursday, 22 October 2015

Blind Dog

This is on heavy rotation at the moment, great for working to. Swedish stoner rock from 2000, sadly the band no longer together but what a great album.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

PIC16F1xxx MSSP Interface...

Pro tip: if your I2C interface isn't working, don't forget to check that the ANSEL register for the port isn't set to "analog input". That'll be two days of frustration otherwise.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Friday Night Bikepacking Microadventure

My rucksack has oft been me pillow
The heather has oft been me bed
And sooner than part from the mountains
I think I would rather be dead

Unlike Ewan, I've been faking it for years. I'm not a proper outdoorsman because I've never bivvied out. Never slept under the stars, just in a tent. Bit of a fraud really.

So to celebrate a good year of cycling, having clocked up nearly 2000 miles this year, I decided to break my bivvying duck, load up the mountain bike, head out after work on Friday night and do some some overnight bikepacking. There was a favourable forecast for the evening and, with autumn in full swing, night time temperatures were only going to fall. It was go tonight or wait another year, so...


I've been inspired by a chap I know on Strava via the Triban Owners group, called Dave Roe, who has a good line in epic cycle touring adventures including cycling round Iceland and a retirement ride from Turkey back home to Fleetwood near Blackpool. Reading his trip report about his culinary adventures, battles with mosquitos and joys of summiting the Stelvio Pass made me want to load up my bike and head off myself.

Another source of inspiration is adventurer Alastair Humphreys whose undertakings include cycling around the world, canoeing the Yukon river and hiking the 118 miles around the M25. Adventures of this scope don't sit with the 9-5, 5 day week that we all seem to end up with. Alastair works hard publicising the concept of the "microadventure" - something that is challenging yet accessible.

You do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to do an expedition.
You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure.

Adventure is only a state of mind.
Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

We run a system of "Adventure Points" in our house. This is a way of encouraging the nippers to push themselves and try things that they wouldn't normally. For the promise of a chalk mark on a board? Pfft... Kids are mugs.

Still in the lead suckas!

It's a sliding scale. For example the kids get an adventure point for going camping or walking up a big (for them) hill. I have to go for a long walk or do a whole load of winter mountaineering to get just one. Because adventures are relative. Anyway, I need to stay one step ahead of the mob so lets go get another point!

For the promise of a chalk mark on a board? Pfft... mug!

Gearing Up

I'm a big fan of Alpkit gear - it ticks the boxes of light, simple, cheap and effective. They love their lightweight adventuring and bikepacking and have some great stuff for adventures. I used an Airlok Xtra drybag strapped to my handlebars with my sleeping stuff and jacket in and my faithful everyday commuting Gourdon rucksack for everything else. There's a Fuel Pod for my bar light battery and some tools too.

Other gear of note includes my PHD Minimus sleeping bag which weighs nothing and packs down to a ridiculously small size and is super warm. A pair of £5 fleece trousers that are the warmest thing known to man were stuffed in the bottom or the pack. Lastly, a big numb foam mat was strapped to my pack, rather spoiling the look of the whole thing...

I've used the website Lighterpack which is great for visualising just where the weight you are carrying is.

 Herman in the bike rack at work, ready to go!

The red dry bag and top tube bag are colour coded with the bike fork and frame details. I'm not sure what this says about me.


I picked my way over the tops on quiet lanes and crossing busy main roads to reach the foot of the track that goes over Barden and Embsay Moor. I've ridden this a couple of times with Karl but always in the other direction. A long steady climb with some nice views over Upper and Lower Barden reservoirs in the fading light. I stopped to eat a banana and shelter from the wind in a shooting butt by the track, feeling a little chilly in my base layer and windproof.

It started to drizzle as the dark arrived quickly (as is it's wont at this time of year) and I got quite cold on the descent into Rylstone. I had to have a cereal bar (trying some from Aldi, yum!) and a word with myself before starting the long climb to Weets Top above Malham. I reasoned that I'd come this far and I had all my stuff with me so it would be a shame to bail out now just because I was having a bit of a sugar low.

As with all low times, they pass and you get back into the rhythm again. The climb up to Weets was grassy and steady and not too hard to follow in the dark. The rain had abated and the wind had died down allowing me to warm up a bit. I was tired at the top but still abandoned the bike to hike over to the trig point for a sit down and a another cereal bar.

Down the track and road, past Goredale Scar and into Malham by front brake pads had decided that they were worn out and the spring was rubbing on the disc with a nice ticketty-ticketty-ticketty noise. I considered stopping to replace the pads (always carry spares kids!) but that would have meant getting colder so I pressed on, mostly using the back brake for the rest of the ride.

There was a little bridleway leading out of Malham that joined up with the road above the cove. I started down it but the fist sized limestone rocks that lined the bottom put me off as I was too tired to fight / push my way up a more technical trail so I just slogged up the road. I'd been on the go for 3 1/2 hours now and was starting to struggle.

The cove road out of Malham nearly finished me off so I stopped to shovel a load of fruit, nuts and oatcakes down my neck when I reached the bridleway turnoff. I started to feel a bit better after this, should have done it sooner.

I cracked on, slowly winding my way up and over Kirkby Fell and towards Stockdale Lane, reeling the summit in with my bottom gear and wobbly legs. The slippery, stony descent without a front brake or any energy was testing at times. I was very relieved to make the farm track and whiz down to the road.

Quite a challenging ride for me, especially with low energy and in the dark. Time to find somewhere to eat and sleep in that order!

Strava log

Bish Bosh Brew Bivvy

I'd had a look at the OS map before setting off and had spotted a couple of places that could be suitable. After a bit of poking around in a small wood with a stream running through it I found a nice flat spot next to a stream and underneath the remains of what looked like an old lime kiln. Nice and sheltered from the breeze, it even had a mobile signal so I could check in with Louise to let her know I hadn't yet been eaten by a curious badger.

After shooing some spiders out of the way and pulling on some warm clothes I got the stove on and climbed into my bivvy / sleeping bag. It was 10pm at this point and I was bloody starving! A mug of hot chocolate went down the hatch followed quickly by a couple of packets of meatballs in tomato sauce and a medicinal single malt - to keep the cold out you understand...

I was certainly warm enough in my awesome PHD sleeping bag and I drifted off to sleep looking up through the leaves, watching the Pleiades drift in and out of view behind the clouds and the odd plane blinking along.

I woke up at various times, once with a start when something flew down my neck, once for no reason and once when a pair of Tawny owls were hooting at each other and crashing through the foliage 5 metres above my head.

The next thing I know, my eyes are open and it's half seven and daylight. Good morning!

I'd certainly found a nice spot to camp, the leaves were all different colours and shades and it was all generally picture-skew.

I'd made a bag of muesli, milk powder, dried raspberry powder and sultanas for breakfast. Add hot water and away you go - yum - and more hot chocolate. Packed up, changed the brake pads on the bike (I was down to the metal) and rode down the hill into Settle. It was a lovely morning!

Arriving in plenty of time for the train I took the chance to get the worst of the muck off in the loos at Settle station, for my benefit and for my fellow passengers. The train was late coming in to Skipton meaning I missed my connection to Keighley so I pottered down the canal instead, enjoying the ride , the lack of hills, a couple of herons and a bacon butty from the tea van at Cononley. The butty was from the van, the herons were just bothering the fish on the canal and not in a sandwich. No sir.

Adventures are great, mountain biking is great, wild camping was great, but none as great as the shower I had when I got back home. Phew-wee I stank!

Friday, 9 October 2015

KTTC Game Night Report

Good session at Keighley Table Top Combat last night. First I played Dave at X wing with both of us flying Decimator / Phantom lists.

X-Wing Match Report

My list: "Is there an Echo in here?" (100 points)

Commander Kenkirk (60)
VT-49 Decimator (44), Emperor Palpatine (8), Ysanne Isard (4), Engine Upgrade (4)

“Echo” (40)
TIE Phantom (30), Rebel Captive (3), Fire-Control System (2), Veteran Instincts (1), Advanced Cloaking Device (4)

The idea with the Decimator was that it would fly around the edge of the board, trying to keep at range 2-3 of everything. Once it's shield are gone (which wouldn't take long) both Kenkirk and Ysanne will give it potentially 2 evades giving the Emperor more time to swing things in his favour.

Meanwhile, a high pilot skill Phantom is mixing it up in the fray, ending up who knows where, attacking first, obtaining a target lock, vanishing straight away and giving out stress to anyone who tries to shoot him. Echo was always given an evade token if he was in arc of a foe to ensure he survived as long as possible.

Dave was flying

"Whisper" (TIE Phantom) + Advanced Cloaking Device
Patrol Leader (Decimator)
2 x Academy Pilots (TIE Fighter)

So had a numerical advantage against my higher pilot skills.

This was the first time I had flown a large base ship and managed to keep it off the asteroids until Dave blocked me with one of his TIEs. He was targeting my Decimator and I was targeting his Phantom. Some early crits left my Decimator with no actions (bye Engine Upgrade) and a wounded pilot (bye extra evade die) but he managed to hang on to the end.

Echo flew well but a daft turn left me at range 1 of the opposing Decimator on an asteroid. Thanks to lucky dice and a bit of Emperor-ish fiddling he only lost one shield and went on to dish out some hurt to the Decimator.

I also kept forgetting to use my Fire Control System, Rebel Captive and missed two dice modifying opportunities with the Emperor. I was left with 2 hull on my Decimator and 1 shield off the Phantom when the last TIE fighter went down in a blaze of fire.

Advanced Cloaking Device is an automatic include on a Phantom, it really changes the game. They are such fun to fly as well! Dave was a very talented and sporting opponent and flew his custom painted ships very well.


I gave Jacko a tutorial game of Netrunner with my Noise MK II and NBN core only decks. He scored an early 4 agenda points but the Noise R+D mill got going and it was just a case of picking through Archives. A very quick game with poor card draw on my part with nothing but Cyberfeeders!

I then played young Jack, the same way round. I ignored his remote servers and just hammered R+D with Medium, getting up to 12 accesses. A couple of Demolition Runs later and I had the required agendas and he had 4 cards in R+D. Ouch.

I got poor card draw both games, and I'm not so sure about trying Magnum Opus for money as it didn't get drawn in either game but both were fairly quick. I suspect that the Noise deck wouldn't be so clever against HB with their punishing ICE.

Anyway I've ordered the Order and Chaos expansion to get some more juicy virus cards!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay 2015

Prelude in E(xcuces)

I haven't run for a long time, around four and a half months. The excuses are many and varied.

In the aftermath of the Fellsman my heels were very bruised and putting on my running shoes (in fact any shoes) was uncomfortable. A such, I was unable to capitalise on post-Fellsman fitness despite managing a run commute to work over the moors. Then I hurt my knee again by not doing my physio excercises and playing volleyball with nothing in the way of a warm up which set my back a few weeks. Then work got suddenly very busy and I was working 8-9 hour days for a few weeks. It's also been easier to put more cycling in than running with cycling to work every day.

etc etc and so on. Everyone has their own excuses, no one wants to hear mine.

Suddenly a wild post appears on the KCAC Facebook page from our fell captain JP (he got to the nickname first in the running club and it still causes me to double take) calling for runners to take part in the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay. I decided to put my name down as the highly enjoyable Open 5 adventure race season is starting soon and I felt this event would be the perfect re-entry into fell running.

The IHMR is a memorial race for a top class fell runner who died in the 80s after being knocked off his bicycle. All the big fell racing teams from the lakes are there - Ambleside, Borrowdale, Keswick as well as some of our local friends from Bingley and Calder Valley. Effectively it's a national competition with a lot of strong teams. And me.

Of course with a combination of crazy work and my first cold in a year meant my training was... sub optimal. I just hoped that my cycling fitness would get me round...

Race Day

I got a lift up with my Fraser and Lorna who was my running-mate for Leg 1. Lorna was quite travel sick on the way up and yet still managed to boss her way around the leg. If I'd have been in her state I wouldn't have been able to get out of the car, never mind up a hill - she's twice the man I am ;)

JP gave us our numbers, we chatted briefly to Ian Holmes (not many sports where you hang out with the ex-national champion pre race) and faffed around long enough to make it to the back of the start group on time.
"and-stick-to-the-path-through-the-field-don't-cut-across-the-grass-3-2-1-go!" - race organiser

Keen to make a good start, the field all set off like it was a 100m race. We settled into a steady pace about 2/3 of the way down the pack, making steady progress from Patterdale up to Boredale Hause, gradually reeling in a few pairs.

The weather was being kind to us - light cloud cover, low wind, dry underfoot, a good running temperature.

We eventually crested the hill and belted down the fun-runnable track to Angle Tarn and our first CP. The view was great and I was immediately reminded why I like fell running so much!

Thanks to some advice from a Bingley runner, we picked a good line on the approach to the main descent - a steep 45° grassy slope that was almost as easy to slide down as run down with a fantastic view towards the nose of Grey Crag.

We dibbed again at the bottom of this hill and then thundered down the track. My legs felt shot by this point, the pace so far and the lack of training really starting to kick in. I just grimaced, not even enough time to wipe the sweat, spit and snot (mmm....) from my face and tried desperately to keep up with Lorna to the finish line.

"COME ON PAUL, LAST 200!!!! COME ON!" - One shouty Tring runner to the other. Poor Paul.
"Well done Paul!" - supportive Lorna to poor Paul.

The runners were scattering walkers and marshals from the path as we belted down to the finish to frantically dib and pass the baton on to Dave and Paul for leg 2 who set off like men possessed.

We got spot kit checked by one of the marshals (who'd all done a great job as is pretty much always with fell races) so it's a good job Fraser had lent me his hat and gloves as I'd forgotten mine - that's how out of practice I am!

We chatted briefly to Caren who was on logistics duty before trotting slowly off down the bridleway back to the start chatting about fruit picking and analysing the leg. We passed a few of those lumbering behemoths of the countryside (D of E-ers) and a few walkers before arriving back at the start.

We were 54/70 on our leg taking 54:02 in total which we were quite happy about. We finished the relay overall in 57th place in 5:16:25, half an hour quicker than last year. Given that this was a national competition with most teams fielding their best runners we didn't feel too bad about our performance! Well done to the rest of the team Dave + Paul, JP + Owen and Gary + Richard.

The overall winners were Borrowdale in 3:34:53 - quite a difference. Those guys are fast.


The smell of bacon wafting from the tea tent was too much so a cup of tea and a bacon and egg sandwich were definitely in order. I had to drink my egg immediately to stop it going everywhere - perfect!

I had to have a second helping of cake - it was as big as a hill!

Fraser had gone for a loop on his bike down Kirkstone Pass and back up the Struggle and once he was back we headed off for home. All that fresh air and exercise had me puffed out and I slept in the back of the van from Windermere to Settle.

I woke up just in time to guide us in to stop at one of the best shops in the world - the Courtyard Dairy - so that I could stock up on Sparkenhoe Red Leicester - my favourite cheese that has been gracing my sandwiches this week :)

Post Mortem

My legs really hurt. Ouch ouch ow. Going to the KCAC social from the White Lion in Kildwick tonight to say hello to the pinnacle and try and work out some of the knots.

It's had the desired effect of getting me back into running. Thanks to t'other JP for the place in the team.

Overall results

Ben Mounsey's blog of the day

Strava log