Travel note: Caledonian Sleeper power sockets

I was researching power sockets on the Caledonian Sleeper before my recent weekend at Ben Nevis.  There is some doubt on the net about how much power you can get out of a Caledonian Sleeper compartment shaver socket.   Here’s what I found out:
  1. The sockets are 110/220V - looks like they’ll fit US and 2 pin euro plugs.

  2. There is one socket per compartment. You might be sharing if you are sharing your compartment.

  3. You can easily charge a phone with the shaver socket. That was no problem at all.

  4. I could charge my Toshiba Chromebook, but only when closed.  It is, to be fair, a pretty low current charger.  A big laptop charger probably wouldn’t work.

  5. You'll need a US or Euro 2 pin 

You can find more gutsy UK 240V 3 pin sockets in the Lounge car.  There are a bunch of people wanting to use them, so you may have to wait.

Note that there is no WiFi on the train, and you’ll spend a good amount of time without any 3G on the northern parts of the trip.  But the views!


You've already bought your last fossil-fuel car

We've just spent a week trying out an electric car.  This was the last confirmation I needed.   It is clear that the petrol / diesel powered car is on the way out.  Let me explain my thinking:

  • A basic electric car is mechanically simple; A battery and an electric motor.  There's no large metal box full of mechanical parts in which fuel explodes. There's no complex ignition, exhaust, or cooling systems. These cars are easy and cheap to service.
  • The complexity comes in charging and taking charge out of the battery, and in getting efficiency from an electric motor.  We're doing a lot of society-wide work on battery technology (like, in smartphones/tablets/everything). I'm expecting significant improvements over the next few years.
  • The fuel cost per mile or kilometre is say between 1/5th and 1/10th of that of petrol or diesel.
  • Battery charge density and therefore range is improving fast, as is charging speed.

Better organised and complete charging infrastructure will emerge.  Electric car range will increase.  Doubling of  the currently ~100 mile range to 200 miles will make most journeys feasible.  I'm confident people will get very interested when the fuel and maintenance costs of electric cars start to become clear.

That's seems to be at most five years away.  At that point, a petrol/diesel car might start to seem an expensive luxury.  Petrol/diesel resale values may fall sharply.   Fuel use will start to decline.   About 60% of the total energy used for transport is personal vehicles.  This would hurt fossil fuel providers, so maybe holding those fossil fuel shares is not a good long term bet.

So, right now, here are my tips for surviving the change:

  • Don't buy a new petrol car. Look out for a bad resale price in 5 years, especially for an ordinary car.  Are you buying your last petrol car ever?
  • Don't buy a new electric car just yet. Lease an all electric or plug-in hybrid for a few years. There will be annoying and adventurous times as long distance charging networks stabilise. Allow the basic electric range to double (to say 200-250 miles) then consider a purchase.

We've just arranged a lease on a Nissan Leaf. It should arrive next week.  I'll update how we get on.


Disclosure: I hold shares in Tesla Motors. I'll benefit if you buy or lease one of them.

Leaf image from wikipedia.

Mud on my boots

Sometime I arrive in my London office with mud on my boots.   For some that would be dirty or uncivilised.  Us humans have paved over the world to make it safe and mud free. Bringing mud indoors makes a mess.   I do have a change of shoes at the office in case they are just too bad.

The mud has become a symbol for me: a peek under the pavement to the un-human-conditioned world we all derive from.  Think of clean paved streets as a virtual reality, a human construction.

I care about the mud on my boots because I care how the mud got there.  My commute from suburban Brighton to Charing Cross in London begins with a twenty minute walk.  A walk through woods, across a fieldy park, up past some apartments and then along a stony track beside the railway.  This walk through relatively unconditioned nature helps me construct myself before the human-conditioned world of the streets, trains and city take over.

I’m learning to finesse the way that I construct myself daily.  I’ve begun - as of this spring - stepping outside as almost the first act of my day, only pausing to set the kettle boiling or making a first cup of tea.  This seems to be a statement of:

‘I am.

I am here.’

as some unconditioned ‘truth’.  The radio - breakfast - dishwasher - internet - conversation - shower - shit - busyness inside doesn’t get close to this. I don’t stay outside long.  It doesn’t feel that deep or special but it is compelling.

I began this once I realised that nature sits at the core for me.  The deeper I look into myself, the more I contemplate motive, fear, agency and narrative there is the image of me in nature in my mind.  At the beginning, me sitting in the mud in the woods.   This is a beginning to take all thoughts from.  A humbling, inclusive place.  Me in nature.

I’m grounded with mud on my boots. I think that is the quick version.

How to remap the # (hash) key on Apple UK keyboards in OS X

Given how useful the # key is, it has always annoyed me that on the standard UK Apple keyboard, getting a # key requires keying Alt-3 to get it to appear. 

If you are doing web development with jQuery or writing shell scripts or python, you end up using this key a lot and Alt-3 just doesn't work for me.  However, on the left of the recent Apple keyboard, there is the § key.  I've never used §, I guess somebody must.  

Anyway, so I went and found Ukelele, a keyboard layout editor, and modified the keyboard map to put the # where the § used to be, and the result is what I call the BritishLHash keyboard layout.

How to use this:

  1. Download the file, and put it in your ~/Library/Keyboard Layouts folder.
  2. Open Language and Text in System Preferences
  3. Select the Input Sources tab
  4. Tick next to the BritshLHash keyboard.  This makes it available as an input source for you.  And also Tick Show Input in the menu bar
  5. Find the little flag in the menu bar.  Pop it up and change it to BritishLHash.

That's all there is to it.  I've been using this mapped file for a year or so, and it works fine in OS X 10.5 and 10.6.

Or if you want to meddle with key maps and propose changes, have a look at the GitHub repo: grasuth/britishlhash.

Note: this is a repost of the original article on this that I posted in 2010.

Standing to work

Once back in the late nineties, I did my back in a bit.  I’m sure it was lifing large granite rocks for the too-big garden or maybe it walking walking my baby daughter around and around the loungeroom at 3am.  Now I can’t remember what I did.    

The result was sitting down hurt a lot; standing was fine.   Off to Ikea.  At the time, they had a desk that you could assemble so the table top was high. I did.  And I got to rather like standing up while working.   I kept it up for maybe a year, then moving house and circumstances meant that desk had to go and I’ve been sitting.

Fast forward to mid-last year. I’m setting up my new office/study at home in the old loungeroom.  I don’t really want a great big desk even if it does glide up and down electrically or something.  I’ll cover it with paper and USB stuff. I want something that I can stand at that holds a laptop at a good angle.  Like.. a tripod stand or something.

This is a solved problem if you are a musician.  I found this thing on Amazon in the UK:  Quik Lok LPH/003 Tripod Laptop Holder (~ £70).  This is a pretty solid tubular tripod that has a tilt-able shelf to place a laptop.  

So for this thing to work, it has to be sturdy enough to handle a good lot of typing and be able to get a reasonable tilt to get the laptop display up.  Turns out it is.  This thing is solid.  The only thing you can't do is lean on it, which I realised I used to do a lot for my old standing desk.  I think that is a good thing.

I manage to get a good tilt on the base of the laptop but still the screen is below my eyes.  And I'd like some more screen anyway.  So now we have to jump from musicians tools into trade-show display tools.  Some sort of computer-monitor or TV stand or something wall of shelf mounted?

So, I needs something with a stable VESA mounting that can support at least a 24" display.   I looked around a bit and then found this Allcam TR940 TV floor stand (~£60). This has a VESA mount and a big but sturdy tripod.  I was hoping that this tripod and the laptop stand's tripods would fit together somehow.  They do fit.

So the combo gives me  a laptop at a good typing height and a good sized display directly in front of my eyes when I'm standing. It takes up minimum floor space, it easily moves to another room or packs away. And best of all, the laptop stand is perfect for karaoke apps :-)

Note that I never stand for all of a work day.  Half a day I guess. My house has tables and sofas and spaces to sit on the floor as well.  I move around a bit.  I find that when standing I am more animated in conference calls and also more easily distracted. Sitting I'm more fixed in mind and body.   More concentrated, potentially dull. Different styles for different settings.

It works for me. Avoiding horizontal surfaces means there are less places to pile up papers, dust, broken bits of tech. So deal with those now rather than putting them down.

Here's the resulting setup.  It works very well for me.

Why "All these things"?

I'm not just naming a collection here, I'm making a statement about all the things.

I was travelling and thinking and writing a bit last year and ended up thinking a lot about Animism (we visited Bali, Japan, Australia).  For years I've been wondering about urban, modern versions of animism and paganism -- where the gods are the things around us, or the gods animate the things, or some such.  At that time, and still in my thoughts, things are animated and more alive than I've ever considered them before.

I was also thinking about how human-centric everything seems.  The incessant humans babbling about themselves.  Even reviewing Buddhism I keep finding that there are humans everywhere, in everything.  Well not absolutely always.  An awful lot of the time.  The assumption that the human experience was the most important thing was starting to pale for me.

So what of non-human-centric spirituality?  I think for a bit and come up with something like: 

Here is my new religion.  It has one rule.  Respect all the things.  

It sounds flippant at first glance.  However, it seems practical and liveable as a philosophy and ethic.  I'll write more about this later. 

Starting again

I'm restarting this blog from a fairly clean slate.  I first made a blog on a few years ago on Posterous.  On Posterous closing, I moved that to my own Django-based blog.  And now I'm shifting stuff again -- into Posthaven.

I'll re-add links to a few key posts along the way. Most old posts will be binned; can keep track of history on those.

New posts here will be technical & thinking.  Perhaps occasionally large thinking or even inclusive political / strategic / future oriented stuff.  I'm not really sure.

I'll also be covering a range of product and software development issues, particularly Agile methods, over on another new blog of mine, Heart Agile.