Rest days…

After gruelling physical and psychologically demanding sessions it’s understood to be wise to take some rest and recuperate.

I expected to spend my Saturday having a reasonable lie in. After all, I’d spent the preceding 5 days training full on from 9:30 in the morning (sometimes earlier for warm-up riding) till 6pm or later (when practising teaching) with just an hour for lunch.

However, I woke this morning at 6 am fairly bright eyed, having slept the stress free sleep of the entirely worn out, yet happily successful winner of the 5 days of testing. I tidied the flat some, and did some laundry, but then felt a little edgy…

I decided that maybe I’d pop up to the snowy hill to put what I’ve learned through its stress free paces, with no-one watching who is actively assessing me. After all, I’d already paid up for a month’s riding so any slope time was just getting more for my money. So up to Hemel I went, figuring a couple of hours would be fun.

I booked in for 4.

On the slope I had brief snippets of conversation with the wonderful staff there who’ve got bored of seeing my face in recent weeks, but they laughed at me for a) even being there and b) whilst doing so suggested that I could do some of my 35 hours of shadowing.

So that’s that, my rest day consisted of being on snow for 7 hours, and taking part in teaching for 4.5 of those.

I think I may be an addict.

Teaching is *awesome* fun.

What I did on my holidays, by Caitlin.

I booked a week off work quite a while back and started prepping for something I’ve come to care quite deeply about over the last two years.

There was this video that got taken when I was on a skiing holiday, it’s been linked here for two years and loads of people have looked at it.

So, just coming up to two years later this week of work came into play, because it involved more work than I’ve ever put into one week in my LIFE, cost me a few hundred quid and has possibly given me trench foot.

Anyhoo, I’ve got this:

…and I’m a snowboard instructor*

*I need to do some hours shadowing and a few bits of paperwork still.

My issues with Skyfail. (A recurring issue in personal ranting)

As an outspoken proponent of girls being basically hard to separate from boys in terms of accomplishment potential, and of boys being similarly hard to extricate from girls in terms of fundamental activity proclivity it might seem strange that I like Bond films.

I do. They’re wonderfully stupid. They’re superhero films. They have wonderful recurring themes. They’re terribly easy to watch, they’re not taxing.

The good are good, the bad are terrible. Everyone is a bit camp and the women are devastating, vulnerable, dangerous and every bit as interesting as the men.

I think my personal favourite is Pussy Galore, who whilst being supremely capable and efficient is incapable of preventing her collusion with the *super*human Bond. He’s not a man, he’s not normal, he’s not a representation of any kind of real thing. His ability to win over women that way is supernatural and a wonderful plot device.

Bond is quite capable of dressing like a bat when the call arises. With an impossible fall, he opens a cheeky parachute. If a diamond hawser is needed, one comes out of his watch. If he needs plastic explosives, he’s got a little toothpaste kit that does the job. The impossible becomes possible by dint of the little things that are rooted in either Q’s farciful arsenal, or in Bond’s innate magic.


On to skyfail however:

When Bond gets shot off the roof of a train by an armour penetrating round from a high velocity rifle into a fricking RAVINE from the top of a bridge; there is no parachute, there is no light aircraft to skydive into, there is no explanation of his survival. He would have bled to death before he even hit the bottom, let alone survived the impact. Crap.

Turning up full in full product placement with a small scar is an insult to the final good films in the canon (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and whatever the second one was)

The bond girl.
This ANGERS me. She’s wheeled out in a casino with the drugged stare of a whipped whore. Afraid, utterly, of her handlers. She’s not in collusion with either side. She can’t change affiliation. She’s PAINFUL.
Barely 14 seconds later she pops up on a stupid island with her gay captor who clearly has no interest in her whatsoever (he’s gay, so he’s not sexually involved with her) and he clearly views her as utterly expendable.
A mute Mr Bond watches the execution of our inspirat^w… I just can’t.

The Bond/evil gay man interchange. I saw this in the cinema and my spine *crawled* as the audience broke into spontaneous embarrased chuckling as the two characters faced off over a game of wank the biscuit in a “server room” in a desert with no cooling, or fan noise.

“Q”… Bloody Q. I last saw “Q” when he was peeing in his pants as Nathan Barley attached a car battery to his ear lobes. It’s all well and good that Pingu managed to get out of Shoreditch, change his jumper and get a job south of the river. But *seriously*. He stands in the middle of a room, connecting a “Scary evil computer” into his LAN with a very techy two etherweb cables.

Now, after it’s completely owned his network from within, he then decides that it would be safest to use the software running on it (which has just cracked his network) as a trusted navigational and diagnostic tool to assist Bond doing whatever he’s doing during that drawn out sequence of mouse trap style trap triggers all of which just fail to do anything significant.

That’ll do for that bit.

Nearly there…

Bond falls through some ice in a frozen lake. That’s fun, that’s dramatic. However I don’t know how he got out. It’s notoriously difficult to climb out of a frozen pond but yet we don’t get to know how he did it… Did he use the flipout ice pick cufflinks Q gave him (nope), did he get a lasso out of his tie and catch a tree? Jet boots? We just don’t know. DULL.

That dude who lives in the big scottish house? He’s kickass… He’s WELL ARD. and he can use shotguns… but even though he’s WELL country, he doesn’t seem to realise that waving a fricking TORCH around on a dark moor will give away his location to those people who HAD A HELICOPTER A MINUTE AGO!!! HELLLLLOOOOOOO.

Crappest plot device I’ve ever seen. It relies on the ignorance of a VERY capable character.

Then finally, as a last two fingers to women everywhere, our Bond murdering field operative decides that a nice desk job and 2.4 children would be lovely because… “ooh, outdoors… it’s a bit scary”

You killed the bond car, you bastards.

Adventures in falling over on film

I bought a go-pro hero3 HD black edition, or whatever other combination of additional names should be added to the tiny camera to make it sound more slinky.

It comes with some of the toys like a wireless iPhone app that can preview video from it and change its settings which is a bit easier than pratting about with morse code on the poor thing’s three buttons. It also has a wifi keyfob for starting and stopping filming which I managed to stuff up so it’s not talking anymore. Anyway, that’s not the point of this post. The camera isn’t *trivial* to get going, but it does make nice pictures.

They ship on a little plate guy like this:


The accuracy nutters amongst my readership will note that that’s a Hero2 but I couldn’t find a decent picture of a 3 so you’ll have to deal. I ruined my base plate before I took a photo of it.

I wanted to play with low and mean shots from my snowboard looking backwards, hoping to catch rooster tails of snow on turns. I’d read that suction mounts are useless on flex boards and that the sticky feet tended to suffer a little in the extreme cold and could pop off, again because of the flex in the boards. The helmet mounts are sold because the lid doesn’t bend all the time.

So, after some thought about options, I remembered that this thing shipped on a nice wide panel… It survived shipping so it can’t have been too flimsy in there. So… 5 mins with the duct tape that all drummers should have within reach at all times and you have this:

Ghetto gopro mount system

I snuck out onto the snow at the dome, a bit nervous that I’d get told off for an experimental mounting system or for running a camera in a private space; bolted up the lift, banged record and went off the top. This is my first run of the evening, so it’s not fast, it’s not wild, it’s not airborn and actually it looks *crap*, but it proves the concept. the board was out in the dome for 20 mins before the camera came off, and it was damned hard work to peel it up. I guess it bonds good!

gopro board mount test from armyofcaitlin on Vimeo.

Hurrah. I think I might trust that on a mountain for a day. I’ll leash the camera to my binding so that if it *does* come unstuck it’ll at least bounce along with me.

bonus rare video of my face sneaking into shot there too.

Sports fitness…

…what the hell is it?

Now, I’m a pretty standard unfit person. I drive a desk 8 hours a day, walk to and from the train when I use it, I run upstairs and stuff but Y’know, I get out of breath doing it.

When I started snowboarding, I was rubbish. I went really slowly and sat down a lot. In fact the first improvement I noticed in my body from snowboarding was that I grew triceps! You do a lot of pushups when you’re learning to snowboard 😛

I kind of have been incredibly fit in the past, I used to do up to 3 paper routes a day, kicking off at the illegally early for an under-16 5am, and covering up to 15 miles of loops around the village I grew up in which spread itself in the area around a dam system. Consequently you had to start at the top of one side of the gully the dam was in and then ride up the other side. If you were lucky you could swoosh down one side and swoosh back up the other, unless you had to deliver to that *FUCKING* house at the bottom of the dip. Anyway, long story short, all that biking meant that I didn’t really notice anything other than the inconvenience of sports, or the time it took to get to a friends house.

Sadly I’d cracked on with anorexia at 12 or so, before I’d even got near a decent biking routine; so I survived it, getting out with aerobic fitness but the absolute minimum muscle to get the job done.

At school I was a signed up nerd, with only my awesome drumming to keep me out of the gutter of the terminally uncool. Consequenty sports passed me by entirely, I never once took part in sports day and believed that physical stuff for fun just wasn’t allowed for me.

Since I left school, I’ve done a bit of skiing, I did trampolining up to an almost competitive level which is how I got my broken spine and I’ve finally got into snowboarding which is the first time I’ve felt like I had a sport I could call *mine*, that I connected with and wanted to do just for me, just for the feeling.

Over the last two years I’ve got fairly decent, in fact I’m just waiting for the next available course to have a go at qualifying at being an instructor. But the *fitness* to really improve entirely eludes me.

As I got better, I found I could wear less and still feel warmer, riding aggressively keeps you toasty, but now I’ve reached the level of freestyle and longer riding hours I’ve hit a wall. And it’s a solid one. I don’t have the first idea how to keep the fitness I need to ride and extend it. If I take a week off riding, it takes three weeks to get back into it and it’s soul crushing.


Raspberry Pi GPS tinkery

I’m playing with making a vehicle position and tracking logger for various reasons, not least if I forget where I left a vehicle it’d be fun to ask it where it is and have my phone tell me how to get back to it.

So I’m messing around with the bu-303 GPS mouse from my car pc project of a million years ago, a raspberry pi and an orphaned sony ericsson phone which as yet doesn’t have a sim but I know can eat AT commands up its usb hole.

So far I’ve found that the rasperian distro is a bit stroppy with the gps out of the gate. It’ll start gpsd on boot and on insertion of the bu-303, but although gpsmon is quite happy to talk to that arrangement, some of the other tools are less happy.

I’m currently looking at xgps x-forwarded to my mac after killing the autorun gpsd and manually running it as root with:

gpsd /dev/ttyUSB0

This lets cgps and xgps get at the data. It may of course be a horrible security problem, but the gpds has come up as running as nobody looking like:

gpsd /dev/ttyUSB0

rather than:

gpsd -F /var/run/gpsd.sock

I’ll go init script hunting for trying to make that work right on insertion. I just wanted to leave this here in case anyone else gets similarly a bit stuck.

More to come later, perhaps.

Thing to do whilst waiting for pedals to turn up…

… It’s been months since I’ve snowboarded. Last time I did I got concussion falling off a stupid box and split my helmet. I’ve been a bit skint since and so boarding took a dive.

So, being less skint and looking to the future again I’m working on a plan to pass my snowboarding exams to become a teacher. I’ve booked onto the first little step, which is an assessment of my riding to give me a programme to work on to get my riding to a standard that could be considered for the exam. Woo.

I figured I should find my feet a little before I go do that because no-one wants to look like a stunned duckling if they’re trying to pretend they’re anywhere near a teaching calibre. Anyway, nothing beats slope hours for getting your shit together. Also something about fitness, I’m so so so unfit.

Long story short, I did a backwards day. I rode as little as possible regular and everything I could switch. I went on the fast lift switch which involves catching the Poma from behind your back. I got my speed high enough switch to make my eyes water, and spent a good while screaming “back straight”, “get low”, “flex and extend”, “hands in line”, “look where you’re going, not at your feet”, “blah blah blah” inside my head.

I should get to go on a Snow Holiday soon as well. Which would be nice.

I have placed an order for a Fiendmaster (a Dallas Rangemaster spinoff).

It’s a germanium transistor overdrive circuit available via Joe who’s awesome website is over at

I plan to get into designing my own desires at the earliest convenience, but there are a bunch more general principles I need to get into my head before I can really get into that.

Anyway, so far this is an astonishingly cheap way to get access to boutique hardware at silly low prices, since I’m a talented assembler they tend to come out well *smug*.

So, there were a few quiet days in which I did not die.

I did plug the amp in, wedge the black wire of the multimeter into a nook and get on with safely single handedly testing the fear voltages. I had to wait till $Landlord was around because I didn’t know where the breakers for the electrickery were. With his great advice about where the rings were and which were the most expendable I was good to go. We have a NO SUNDAYS rule which I’m entirely content to abide by. Basically if there are no shops open from which we can get the bits to repair whatever we broke then we cannot afford to risk sitting in the dark till Monday. I hear it happened once during Sunday doorbell maintenance.

So, I got some lethal voltages detected in the correct places and found I’d earthed something that wasn’t supposed to be earthed (silly girl) and unearthed it. No components had taken a dive though, I’m going to claim any cooking that I did adds to the sound of the amp.

From there it was a mad rush to get all the rest of the bits forced into the tiny chassis of the “Catamp Catnip V1” as it may end up getting called. Sort of looked like this:

The leg bone is connected to the...

The second valve socket isn’t actually sorted out there, but it’s about 5 components away from completion. 5 components shouldn’t take long to get in thought I, but how wrong I was. They weave around each other in ways that are astonishingly tricky to arrange and to hold for solder. Often with two components entering a post from opposite sides where they can easily drop out whilst you’re holding your iron in your teeth and using an eyelid to poke the solder into the join. Also in order to keep insulation material on the earthing wiring, I ended up using a 4mm long bit of wire for a pin to pin contact. There is probably an easier way to do it than that. Happily I negated the need for a second 4mm wire by double sleeving a resistor leg and sliding that all the way through two pins. *phew*.

On plugging in there was complete silence and some confusion from me. After a couple of hours brain scratching and checking continuity I decided that assumption is the mother of all fuckups and that I should revise my understanding of the pinouts of the input and output sockets.

This got me to the position where I could get a bit of hum out of the amp, but no shreddy guitar sounds. Aboo. Wiggling the valves in the socket (is that sane?) got me some splutter, crackle and radio noises. Which whilst fun were a little disheartening for a tube noob with little debug skills.

Anyway, long story short after a LOT of plugging in and out of valves, VERY close inspection of joints and an hour and a half with some cooling tea and a multimeter I found the solder joint I’d cocked up and fixed it. Valves back in, heaters running and knobs half cranked I nearly blew my face out Marty style:


So, as of today I’m running this guy as a mini half stack, RG550 into a POD1 (in leu of the overdrive stompbox I’m going to be building next) into the G2 amp head, into an Orange PPC 108 cab. It absolutely SCREAMS. I’m going to get my Logic Pro rig together over the next week or so and shove an SM57 in front of this setup and see how large it sounds. It’s LOUD.

Turbo half stack.


So, I write to you from my new sky lair. After having been routed from the safety of my bunker defence.
I had been grumbling that having a soldering iron in one flat and living in the other was a bit of a barrier to getting on with project amp m/ >.< m/ but since I'm writing from the sky lair I'm in the same place as the now cooling soldering iron. So what's been going on? I welded up the power board, then realised I'd left out a resister *facepalm* so I glued that one in right where the bolt which secures the board is supposed to go. Neat job, caitlin. No matter, I'm sure it's quite fixable. It looks like this: (missing resister not shown) Power supply board

Then I got on with connecting up the switches, fuses, all important ground connection and all the earthing wiring for different bits and bobs.

Argh. 240v

At this point, I’m duty bound to plug it into the mains and do some testing for specific voltages at particular points in the chassis and on components, but right now I’m too scared. Updates/death to come.