Hi! I'm Nick Murdoch. Most people come here for the tiffin recipe. I can't blame them.

Journal Entries

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  • August 2016

    Mon, 12 Sep 2016 18:44:29 GMT

    In August I babysat a bunny and defeated a sheep.

    The bunny

    I looked after my brother's rabbit, Toby, while he and his fiancée were on holiday. Toby is quite a grumpy rabbit but goes nuts when he thinks there's food to be had.

    He particularly likes dandelion leaves and basil.

    The sheep

    Emily, Tim, Pete, Matt and I met up to do the third ClueQuest escape room, and we won it with barely a minute left on the clock! The rough storyline is that you have to stop an evil sheep from taking over the world. It was extremely fun and everyone left feeling like they'd solved a good share of the puzzles themselves.

    We've now done "Missions" 2 and 3 (Pete & Matt did the first one with other people) and we'll organise Mission 1 at some point in the future. I'd recommend it, and if you fancy joining us, get in touch.

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  • July 2016

    Sat, 27 Aug 2016 15:55:32 GMT

    In July I swam in Hampstead Ponds and visited Chislehurst Caves again, and made a dinner using an ingredient starting with each letter of the alphabet. I also visited a couple of photography exhibitions and toured a vineyard in Devon.

    Science Museum and Britain from the Air

    We visited an outside photo gallery of "Britain from the Air" which had lots of aerial shots of various places, both countryside and towns. We also visited an exhibition in the Science Musum about William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented photography in Britain in the 1800s. There were some of his and his contemporaries' earliest works, along with some of his equipment. It was rather interesting.

    Hampstead ponds

    We also went swimming in Hampstead Ponds again. I jumped in, expecting the water to be too cold to lower myself slowly into, but it turned out to be very pleasant. I did a few laps of it before my arms tired and enjoyed the sun a bit while Emily, Tim and Matt carried on.

    Alphabet supper

    We hae been watching Taskmaster on the Dave TV channel recently, which is a pretty good series of comedians attempting unusual tasks. One episode featured a task where they had to name a foodstuff starting with each letter of the alphabet, then make dinner using them in two hours.

    This caught our imagination and so we got to it, and had Tim over as our judge/guinea pig. We agreed the ingredients should be items you would reasonably find on a shopping list or in a recipe. Here was my set of ingredients:

    That is: Apple sauce, Bicarbonate of soda, Chocolate chips, Demerara sugar, Elderflower cordial, Flour, Grapeseed oil, Harissa, Iceberg lettuce, Jerk spice, Kiwi fruits, Lemon juice, Maple syrup, Nectarines, Onions, Pomegranite, Quorn mince, Radishes, Salt, Tinned tomatoes, Udon noodles, Vanilla Extract, Water, Xanthan gum, Yoghurt, Zest of a lime.

    Here's my meal plan! It ended up looking like this:

    Emily made a prawn cocktail (with homemade mayonnaise), ratatouille with homemade bread, nectarine and chocolate mousses with raspberries, served with a fruit cocktail to drink.

    My "superbol" udon noodle / spaghetti bolognese concoction was a surprise hit, and Tim gave the overall win to me!

    Chislehurst Caves

    We visited Chislehurst Caves again on a warm weekend day, where it was much cooler. The tour guide was particularly engaging and after polling the group took us a different route to usual where we got to see a large ammonite fossil in the ceiling.

    Dad's 60th

    For my Dad's 60th birthday, he and Mum had arranged a hot air balloon trip, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to wind. As a substitute we had an ad hoc murder mystery weekend, using a box of character sheets with motivations and acting tips in it. Getting into character was surprisingly fun.

    Beforehand we had visited a local vinyard for some wine tasting. It was interesting to learn about how wine is grown in Britain (in short: in the south and in very specific fields with the right microclimate).

    We also found out that grape leaves are edible, and got to try a couple, which taste just like the skin of the fruit. Nom!

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  • June 2016

    Sat, 16 Jul 2016 18:54:43 GMT

    In June I saw the Lion King musical in London with Emily and her mum, created my own pottery pattern and painted it, and watched a thunderstorm over the City from Parliament Hill.

    Lion King

    We went to see the Lion King musical in London with Emily's mum. We had seats quite close to the front and my aisle seat paid off when a procession of "animals" came down the sides.

    The whole thing was very well put together, entertaining, and reasonably true to the film. The costumes and general animal puppetry were the highlight. I'd definitely recommend it!

    Pottery painting

    We took my parents to Art 4 Fun in West Hampstead, which is a pottery painting workshop. When we arrived we each picked an unglazed item of crockery from the vast selection lining opposite sides of the room. Mum, Emily, and I picked bowls of various shapes, and Dad picked a triangular serving plate.

    The staff told us the basics such as using the red pen whose ink would disappear during the firing and glazing process, and were eager to answer questions about how to achieve a certain effect. Emily used some latex mix for instance to draw out a frog, which pealed off after painting the rest of the bowl.

    Here's what we ended up with at the end of the session (clockwise from top right: Emily's, Dad's, Mum's, mine):

    It's difficult to imagine what the colours will end up looking like, since you're working off of numbered colour swatches, and all the paints are rather pastel-coloured before the glazing.

    A couple of weeks later we collected the final products, and now they look like this:

    After the painting we ate lunch at TooMai and then took a walk around Hampstead Heath, enjoying the view of Parliament Hill in the sun while a thunderstorm with a good amount of lightning crackled over the city.

    New laptop, since returned: a grumble

    I bought an Asus Zenbook UX303UB towards the end of the month, thinking it was a good price for a small lightweight, mostly silent laptop with a beefy enough graphics card to play Cities: Skylines, which I've been fawning over for months.

    It was a bit of a departure for me from using a mac for a laptop; I'm writing this entry on an 8-year old white plastic-covered macbook. But I figured Linux would be just fine on laptops after last attempting to use it on one over 8 years ago.

    As it happened, Debian installed pretty much fine. Gnome is even more frustrating than last time I used it (hi, Gnome 2) but it worked okay as a default environment to get everything up and running quickly. For the record, I had to install bumblebee after upgrading to sid for X to start, due to having onboard and discrete graphics in the laptop. I also had to disable fastboot in the bios due to a hardware and/or kernel issue to get sleep/resume to work.

    It played Cities: Skylines just fine, and everything looked nice on the matte screen (can these come back into fashion, please?). It was mostly silent except when taxing the graphics, and when gnome frequently spun up the hard disk to write crap to auth.log because apparently ambient light sensors are hard.

    The placement of the Fn key (with Ctrl on the far left rather than Fn, a swap compared to the Macbook and Thinkpads) was frustrating, and the Windows driver insisting on allowing light taps on the trackpad to click while Gnome insisted on only clicking with a physical press was annoying but presumably fixable with fiddling. (The trackpad scrolling was also much less responsive than on a Mac.)

    However, what caused me to give up and send it back was the keyboard, which had received good reviews elsewhere, but I found unusable as soon as I tried to do any good amount of writing on it (for example, last month's journal entry). It frequently missed keypresses on S and arrow keys as I apparently don't hit them dead centre. Perhaps it's the sort of problem that only people with a similar typing style to mine come across, but it was unusable for me.

    So, back it went under the site's two week return policy. I'm still waiting for a refund...

    While I'm complaining talking about Gnome, I generally like what they've done in terms of using the Mac's window model (Alt+Tab, Alt+` switch between applications, windows respectively), but the fact they haven't implemented all the /other/ Mac keybindings I am used to is boggling. Ctrl+click to right click, Ctrl+Trackpad-scroll to zoom the screen (Gnome /can/ do this), various gestures and F-keys to show and hide windows, and being able to hit Esc in the long-hold Alt+Tab menu are just the missing things I wrote down.

    So I'm not sure what to do about getting another laptop. I wouldn't even particularly care to replace my 2008 Macbook if it weren't for the fact that Firefox is dropping support for OS X 10.6 soon. Which is a poor reason to be forced to upgrade.

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