Wulf's Webden

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24 February 2024
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Feeder Found

Back in December, we popped over to the onsite shop of local bird food producer Brinvale, where we picked various items including a finch feeder, full of nyjer seed. Nyjer seed is meant to be a favourite of goldfinches, which sometimes visit our garden. They had spent a fair amount of time on the seed heads of various plants we had allowed to stand and we wanted to contribute more to their diet.

However, despite hanging outside near the other feeders, it seemed the finches weren’t the slightest bit interested. We might even see them on the other feeders but not the one set up for their beaks and with what is meant to be their food! We wondered if it was something about the design of the perches or the bright yellow colour?

A few weeks ago (the day after complaining on a family chat about the problem) we had one finch spend a bit of time on the feeder although not feeding. Then nothing and finally, this week, they seem to have figured out what it is for! They still haven’t flocked en masse but at least they are using it. As with all these sorts of things, it seems patience is key.

23 February 2024
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Sowing begins for 2024

Gardening hasn’t taken much time for the past two or three months but that is beginning to change. I’ve now got a bit of a plan for what I want to plant over the next few months and, over the last week or so, have started making sowings of things that either have a chance of getting in and out before later crops need the space (eg. lettuce) or which need a good long season to grow (eg. leeks).

22 February 2024
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Ocean Liner

If you saw yesterday’s post, about the updates I’ve made to my “Going to America” arrangement you might have spotted a rather grand painting in the background:

Ocean Liner

That took me all of five minutes to produce using, as you can see from the watermark, stablediffusionweb.com again. It uses the impressionism style and, unfortunately, it seems the site remembers the images I generate for a few days but not the prompts used to create them. This was something like “ocean liner sailing to usa with stars and stripes”.

One thing to note is, that although it was the blink of an eye compared to trying to create such an image by hand, I had to iterate through several progressions. My initial attempts began with the cinematic style and I mentioned showing a tuba player because that was the photograph I’d used with the first version of the music that I’d uploaded. I don’t think AI quite understands what a tuba is so I tried “concert band with stars and stripes” before deciding that I didn’t really want any musicians included. I switched to something about “sailing to america” (and changed to the impressionist style for a more painterly effect) and generated a couple with non-ocean going sailing boats before reaching the one you see above.

Yes, it is an “AI generated” image but it is important to remember that, although machine learning put the pixels together, the result you see still depends a lot on curation by natural intelligence. Credit – and blame – for AI creations still rests squarely on us humans.

21 February 2024
by wpAdmin
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Going to America More Slowly

Going to America – February Edition

A couple of weeks ago, Charnwood Training Band had a quick blow through the Dvorak piece I’ve simplified and arranged. It did sound unintentionally avant-garde at points and some of that will just have to be worked through. For example, even if I experimented to changing the key to one that is more familiar (D minor comes up more often than E minor), there would still be quite a few accidentals to negotiate to get some of the rich chords that flavour the piece. However, on reflection, I think some of the tempos I set pose unnecessary challenges (semiquavers flying by at 200bpm!) so I’ve created a new render with a few little tweaks.

Sometimes going too slowly is as hard as going too fast so the first adjustment is that the famous Largo (the “Hovis music” as it is now often known in the UK) has been pushed up to 70bpm to help those with sustained notes. The third movement was marked Molto vivace in Dvorak’s original and I had it set at 200bpm (one source suggests that this is the top end of Presto). We didn’t try it that fast but I was struggling to keep up even on the relatively simple tuba part, so that has now dropped down to 150bpm (Allegro or the very bottom end of regular Vivace).

That brought another decision. I had a large chunk of the movement repeated because it went by so fast. It seemed like a lot of work for something that would pass in a few blinks and, for the listener, it would have come and gone too quickly. At the slower tempo, it seemed more balanced to drop the repeat and avoid the piece running over seven minutes long!

Finally, the Allegro con fuoco (fast and with fire) has been dropped from 150bpm (the top end of Allegro) to an almost stately 120bpm, still just within the regular range but where it might be described as Allegro moderato instead. Hopefully, with less danger of tripping over our feet, we’ll still be able to imbue it with some fiery energy.

We didn’t have a rehearsal this week, due to half-term, but I think we’re due to try it again in the next couple of weeks and I’ll get to see if these alterations help out.

20 February 2024
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Blowing My Horn

When I got my tuba, I also got a trumpet and a marching euphonium (which looks like a massive cornet). Tuba is the one I’ve been learning properly but I thought I’d get the trumpet out today and see if the low-end experience has given me progress on the trumpet too.

I certainly can’t play trumpet just as well as I can play tuba, and it would probably be fair to say that I’m still some distance from playing tuba particularly well. However, I can now say that I can play tuba and I can get a range of recognisable notes out of the trumpet.

I only have so many hours in the day but what would I need to progress my trumpet skills? One step is to ask one of the trumpet players I know to check it out – is it a reasonable instrument to learn on or are there features which would be an impediment to even an expert. I also need to find out the process for tuning a trumpet. Which slides do I adjust? One has about 3mm of adjustment so I expect that is probably left alone while another has an attached ring and I think it is often moved up and down on the fly by expert players. Thirdly, what are the fingering patterns for a three valve instrument. My tuba has four valves so, even apart from the size of the instrument and mouthpiece, there are also other things that don’t transfer directly.

I haven’t got the ambition to become a full-on trumpet player but it would be useful to learn a bit more about it and also, as an ancillary benefit, get used to playing an instrument that is typically using transposed music instead of concert pitch scores.

19 February 2024
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Lamb Bhuna

I do like recipes on the YouTube curry channel Al’s Kitchen but they do take a bit of work to follow. It doesn’t help that the iOS YouTube app seems buggy when it comes to displaying the full description. I ended up having to take notes from the video although, having checked today from my Windows box, I can see that it should have been all there for me. Anyway, this is how I used Al’s video to cook up a bhuna using a boneless roll of lamb shoulder.

Step one is to boil 600g of peeled and quartered onions in about the same volume of water. That takes about 10-15 minutes to soften them after which the water can be poured off (and saved) and the softened onions can be pureed with a stick blender. While those onions are boiling, a further 300g of onion along with some capsicum pepper (he said half each of red and green – I used a whole pepper of each colour but setting the tops and bottoms aside) get prepared. All got cut into large slices and then flash fried in a small amount of oil, which softens them a bit but mainly adds some charring and colour. The onion peelings (except for the bases, which could contain embedded dirt) and the pepper offcuts got slow cooked with about a litre of just-boiled water, creating a veg stock for future use.

That is the preparation stage. Next comes cooking the onion puree in about 150ml oil along with 1 tsp salt and 1.5 tsp of sugar. Use a high heat and stir regularly (with the salt and sugar and all other additions, it makes sense to check you have them before you start and to weigh them out into containers before the main cooking starts). After eight minutes, drop in ginger and garlic paste (I used generous squirts from ginger and garlic tubes – I see the official recipe says 3tbsp), a bit of cinnamon stick and 6 cracked cardamon pods (I used the seeds from about 8 pods, most of which were quite old), cooking for another 2 minutes.

For the second block, turn the heat down low and stir in the spices. I used 1 tsp dried fenugreek, 1 tsp chilli powder, 2 tsp garam masala, another 0.5 tbsp garam masala (since I didn’t have tandoori masala), 0.5 tsp tumeric (I couldn’t figure out what deggi mirch was by listening to the video – it turns out to be a chilli and capsicum blend), 2.5 tbsp curry powder and about 1 tbsp cumin (the last not in the original recipe but I’ve still got a large bag of it!). Both the fenugreek and cumin were run through a spice grinder first. As well as the dry spices, I also put in 5 tbsp tomato puree, loosed with some water so it poured easily, the chopped meat and the reserved onion water. That was covered and simmered for another ten minutes, which might have been enough for the suggested chicken thighs but I ended up simmering for another ten minutes to cook the lamb.

For the final ten minutes, the lid is removed and the heat is turned up. The flash-fried pepper and onion from earlier is added along with a couple of quartered tomatoes and a handful of curry leaves (I think he used kasoori methi, which is dried fenugreek leaves but, again, that’s what I had in the cupboard). It is stirred regularly to reduce the sauce, which is the key characteristic of a bhuna.

Once done, I turned off the heat and mixed in some lemon juice (I could have used more) and, on my place, some chopped coriander from the freezer (Jane doesn’t like it). The meat was still a bit chewy but cooked and with a good lamb flavour. All in all, very successful and will end up doing the two of us for six meals (Saturday, Sunday and tonight).

If you want to compare to the original video, here it is:

18 February 2024
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We-dentity?

The sermon I heard today at church followed on from the one last week and had identity as a main theme. I wonder, though, if we make too much of each finding our “I”-dentity even when set in the context of an identity in Christ? So much of God’s message through the Bible is written to people (plural) and not individual persons. It was often delivered through named individuals but the message is often to groups and for the building up of the people of God – specifically the Hebrew people in the Old Testament and then to the church as the New Testament reveals Jesus as the Messiah and the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of God’s promise to us.

I am incomplete without Christ but I am also incomplete without the many others he has also called; my purpose is to be a healthy, functioning part of his body and not a piece cut out and set aside. In an age when many struggle with a range of conflicting views on their identity, perhaps emphasing our we-dentity and the importance of considering how our actions and choices help or harm those around us is an important theme?

17 February 2024
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Rosemary

I bought my first new plants of the year today, a couple of small rosemary shrubs. In Oxford we were spoilt with a huge, well-established plant that came in the garden of the house we bought but we didn’t take any cuttings. We did have another plant (bought, I think, even before we moved to Oxford) but that was always in a pot and finally expired last year.

Anyway, now I’ve got some replacements, all I need to do is figure out where to put them!

16 February 2024
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My New Favourite Local Business

I needed to pick up a couple of fastenings this week – screws for repairing some of the children’s chairs at church and some grub screws for my six string headless bass. I’d looked online at Screwfix, which has been my normal go-to for such things, but the chair screws were about £10 for 100 (I needed three and certainly not that many spares) and the grub screws were only available in a set for about £30 and I don’t think any of them would have been suitable. That’s when I remembered a friend’s recommendation for Charnwood Fasteners, which even nearer to me than my local Screwfix (although only by a couple of hundred metres).

You can probably guess from the title that I hit gold. They took one look at the sample screw and came back with a perfect match. The grub screws took a little longer but only because they had to check on my bass to gauge the width and depth (M6 and about 5mm long for future reference). I went for 10 of the first screw and was just going to get six of the grub screws but the chap suggested I might as well get 12 as they were inexpensive.

How inexpensive? My order came to a grand total of £1.50. In fact the only problem was that I only had a £20 note and they didn’t want to take a card transaction for such a small amount so, despite me being a brand new customer, they suggested I pop in and pay later when I had the change. I’ll see if I can break the £20 this weekend and pop back on Monday but they absolutely deserve this glowing recommendation. I know exactly where I’m headed next time I need some kind of fastener.

Don’t worry Screwfix — the power tool battery I also picked up this morning works very well so you aren’t entirely abandoned except for, well, screws and fixings!

15 February 2024
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Back out with the chainsaw

It turned out nice this afternoon (although raining again now) so I seized the opportunity to spend a couple of hours outside chopping up some more wood and splitting it down. I’m not sure whether my DeWalt batteries are losing a bit of capacity but, given they came with an oscillating multitool, I think I am pushing them a bit hard with the chainsaw, especially on larger logs.

Tomorrow I’ll pick up a bigger battery and see how 4ah gets on compared to a pair of 2ah ones.