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Sunday
Aug112019

More precious

Last year for my birthday, my lovely wife bought me a pocket watch. 

Pocket watch

I love it. I love the cogs, the colour, the weight of it. I love that it's mechanical so I never have to worry about it stopping on me. I love that it goes with my waistcoats, or just in a jean pocket. Love it. 

Unfortunately, it pretty quickly became apparent that there was a problem with it. The hour hand didn't stay in time. The minute hand would stay spot on, but throughout the day the hour hand would drift an hour behind, then catch up again. Or if I set it when it was an hour behind, it would drift an hour ahead and then back again. 

Now, I do like a challenge, and did I mention that I love this watch? So I did what any ex-engineer would do, and started googling for fixes. I pretty quickly found that the best fix for this issue was to change the entire movement. Although you could potentially just change out the damaged hour wheel, it's not easy. Potentially at this point I should just have taken it to The Clock Workshop, but where's the challenge in that? So instead I started looking for replacement movements. 

Well, you need pretty precise measurements to replace a movement like for like. So my first stop was to work out how to remove the movement and measure it properly. I had to find the tiny push button to remove the stem, then pull the whole lot out of the plastic mount it came in, and finally remember how to use my vernier callipers. Once I had my measurements (27.0mm diameter, stack height 6.8mm) I had to find a suitable replacement. 

This was when I made a second discovery about my watch. Not only was it mechanical, but this funky bit on the back that looks a bit like a challenge for Indiana Jones to run through means that it's actually an automatic watch.

Pocket watch

So in theory, it winds itself as I wear it and move. This also explained why I couldn't find the 'stop winding' point. Automatic watches have a mechanism to prevent over-winding, so you never hit that hard stop that you do with mechanical ones. 

I now had the measurements and knew I needed an automatic, three hand, 12 hour, skeleton movement in gold. I strongly suspected it was a chinese movement. I found Watch and Clock Parts, who stock the movements in the UK but had no pictures of the Chinese ones to compare to my watch. Fortunately Esslinger had more pictures (and some really helpful videos!), so I finally plumped for one to get it shipped. 

Swapping out the movement was pretty straightforward. Switching the hands across was a pain in the arse. I need better eyesight for that (or a magnifying glass!). And the last bit that was more finickity that I was expecting was getting the face aligned properly. But the movement is now swapped, and the watch is keeping good time so far.

Pocket watch

The watch face looks better aligned in real life, I promise.

Clarkie was pretty upset when she realised that the watch wasn't working. But it's actually probably given me more pleasure to fix it than just owning it ever would have. The new movement isn't identical to the old one (pics here, if you want to try to compare/contrast), but if anything I think I can see more movement through the watch now. And I know so much more about how it works - I love it even more! 

Wednesday
Jun262019

Streaking

App streaks, that is. So many of the apps I use seem to want to keep track of how many days in a row I use them. 

I mean, I get it. I've read about the Seinfeld Strategy. I use the premise of doing small things daily, as I said in this blog post. And I do like watching my numbers increase - who doesn't? And I honestly do believe that it helps to keep going. 

But. 

There's always something that comes up. Some reason that you can't continue the streak. Tomorrow, for example, we're going to play in a memorial golf day for a friend who died a couple of years ago. It's a 2.5 hour drive to get there - traffic willing, and the M25 is rarely kind, so we'll be leaving around 7:15 for an 11:08 tee time. The round will probably take 5 hours (give or take), then there'll be food, a raffle, an auction etc. If we leave by 18:00 it'll be a surprise and probably an error given rush hour traffic. By the time we get home, I'm going to be knackered - socialising has that affect, not even including the driving. So through no real fault of my own I'm going to end up breaking my streaks tomorrow.

This used to bother me deeply, particularly on Duolingo where they keep reminding you of your broken streak and offering to let you pay an amount of money to restore the streak. (It was always a disproportionate amount - I've never paid it.) 

It would bother me when this happened when I had no choice about it. So I started deliberately breaking the streak. Ridiculous? Maybe, but I did. And I felt better about the whole thing, except occasionally I would forget to restart my streak again. 

So I was thrilled to discover that Duolingo had introduced the brilliant idea of 'paying' for day-long and weekend-long streak freezes with in-app currency. They then warn you that the streak freeze is about to expire, so you remember to start up again. It's brilliant! Simple, a great use of in-app currency - and let's face it, there's nothing much else to do with it. Now my streak is 315 days and counting, and I'll 'buy' me a freeze for tomorrow and all will be fine. 

Now, if only my other streak-based apps would follow suit, maybe I'd manage to get a double-figure streak in some of those too!

Sunday
Jun162019

Out front

When we moved into this house, we got a blank slate of a back garden and a fully planted postage stamp of a front garden. That suited us fine, because one of the complaints my lovely wife had about gardening in the previous place was that we'd constantly end up on opposite sides of the house! So we concentrated our efforts on the back garden, and that's been completely worth it. 

In fact, we concentrated so hard on the back garden that I can't even find any pictures of the front garden. This is as close as I get.

Facade

It was pretty basic: two rows of hebe at the back, two rows of euonymus emerald and gold (I think). There was a tiny bit of euphorbia in there too. Plus three more euonymus on the left side of the front door.

It did the job of filling the space pretty well, but the hebes out-grew everything else and neither of us actually liked them. So I was challenged to come up with something better for the front garden. The main problem was that I wasn't sure what kind of look I really wanted out there. I knew it had to be low maintenance because neither of us want to spend masses of time on the front garden - which ruled out any kind of formal box hedge parterre kind of malarky. I also knew I wanted some fairly dense hedging at the far end at least, because the road is a bit of a wind tunnel and it would be nice to have a little shelter. But we still need access to the meters, which naturally are on the far side of the house from the front door. Oh, and the whole thing faces north-north-east, so gets very little sun - particularly in winter. 

I mulled for quite some time. Right through the best part of the year for planting. Eventually settled on a sort of a rough design, involving something big and dense at the far end, some smaller shrubs along the back (leaving space to get through for the meters), and mostly herbaceous stuff in front. We dug out all of the existing plants, and I moved three of the better euonymus (euonymi?) into a better position and started shaping them into something like balls. I moved a load of self-sown herbaceous stuff from the back garden, and we picked up a repeat flowering weigela and a variagated lesser periwinkle, just in time for winter. 

Come spring, we found some of the larger plants - a couple of portuguese laurels for the far end, some skimmia for the main bulk. Aubretia for spring colour, and more herbaceous perennials from the back garden. So currently it looks like this:

Front garden

It's... well. Young, I guess. The large plants are tiny, because they are cheaper that way and they take better. The euonymus haven't really taken the ball shape yet. The alpine strawberries and japanese anemone that I moved this year haven't quite taken yet (although the last couple of weeks of cool, wet weather has definitely helped!). Still, the euonymus have grown better this year than I've seen yet, and I think the bones have potential. 

So I guess this is something of a 'before' photo, really. Fingers crossed it matures well! Now, if we could just stop the neighbourhood cats using it as a litter tray...

 

Sunday
Jun092019

Aiding daily practice

I've been trying to do some things every day. Nothing strenuous, just to build a few things into my daily routine. Stuff like Duolingo for languages, the tiny number of press ups I can actually do, a spot of meditation with the Headspace app. Pretty small things. 

Some things fit better than others. My Duolingo streak is up at 298 days at the moment because it fits in my work lunchbreak, and I've just about managed to keep up at weekends too. I'll admit that the opportunity to buy 'freeze days' and 'weekend amulets' has helped with those days/weekends that I know I just can't, but otherwise I've been very consistent. I think it's helped, although I'm a way off fluent in any I've definitely improved. 

The press ups fit too, because honestly I can do 3 right now. I started at 2. That's not a 300 day streak, they are the latest addition. Takes no time, needs no warm up, just gets done around shower time. 

Meditation is proving significantly harder to fit in. I mean to do it when I get in from work, but sometimes that doesn't happen. And sometimes when it does happen, I get started, and then my lovely wife comes in from her job and shouts hello. We've had some success with me leaving a note on the stairs explaining what I'm doing, but I sort of forget. 

So I've made a flag. 

A message flag.

I've been looking at lots of slow stitching and visible mending and so on on Instagram recently, and figured I could quite enjoy making something a bit less practical than I normally manage. I mean, it still has a use. But the stitching is more decorative than really hard-wearing. 

If this works, I have plans for an entire series! There are multiple things we might want to flag to each other when we get in. And maybe, just maybe it'll help me nail that daily meditation routine.

Sunday
Jun022019

Long time no post

So, I stopped blogging.

Not deliberately, but somehow I just drifted off. 

I don't really know what to say - which is probably a lot to do with why I stopped writing! The words stopped coming. 

But if I don't write here I'm not writing anywhere, and actually, I kind of miss it. So. Here goes. A new beginning. 

One of the #aliums has a cluster of tiny spiders on it.