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SIBA 8 - Afterword

Here is the afterword for the final story in the SIBA series. The late '90s were when Buffy was a thing. Remember that? It was so popular it was practically simulcast in the US and on Sky One. And for the non-Sky crowd, BBC 2 later got Buffy (and showed the episodes in mostly the right order) and Channel 4 (I think, or was it five?) got the Angel spin-off.
So I guess it stands to reason that a story written in 1998 might feature vampires, just as a story written in the 2010s would feature zombies... except SIBA. I finished writing the story literally moments before uploading it (there's always one more tweak, isn't there?) and I had literally months to rewrite the story. But I kept with the vampire theme instead of something more "modern" like zombies because vampires never really go out of fashion (when Buffy got old, along came Twilight and True Blood (or something like that)).
This is because vampires have a rich mythology that zombies simply lack. Think about it. You have, basically, two types of zombie. You have the shuffling Romero type, and you have the epic World War Z type. The basic premise is that the zombie either wants to eat you or wants to infect you. Maybe both. And that's about it. Sure, you can have fun beating the crap out of zombies, but there's not really much point for Shaun Of The Dead did this semi-tastefully, while Cockeys vs Zombies went at it with gleeful abandon (seriously, if you've not seen that film yet, go watch it).
I have kept with the concept of the Buffy-style vampire (turns to dust, fetish for leather jackets) but made their primary weakness their incredible egos, that they simply cannot fathom mere normal humans being capable of killing them. I recognise that the Buffy turns-to-dust thing was done primarily for the reason of not having to deal with dead vampire bodies - I believe in the original story, they return "to their original form" when killed, which means the really old vampires would turn into a pile of bones and younger ones would turn into dead bodies. That would not only be pretty horrific for the protagonists (both SIBA and Buffy), but would probably make them lifers, if not shot dead on the spot. This can all be nicely handwaved away with the dust explosion and, look, no evidence whatsoever!

The original story ending was more "boy gets girl", and there was a car chase scene that made no sense, and James going into the cellar (with Chris) take up residence in a room full of coffins. The so-called heroes find it, stake the vampires within, story ends. Oh, and there are two "end of term" epilogues. I apologise to everybody who read it the first time around in '98, for that was a really really crappy ending.

We've already had a bit of character development from Amy in a previous story. This time she practically shines (and drops the only F-bomb in the entire series - bet you didn't expect that!). I really like the dialogue in the ending scene. And boy doesn't get girl, girl wants to go and be über-nerd. Other-girl gets boy. I think it is more realistic that way.
And rather than going into pages of fighting vampires, I decided to set the scene - what is coming may well be the deciding battle between vampires and humans. In effect, the protagonists have no other choice. They have to fight. They have to show what is happening, and get the message out. That may save humanity. Or not. What happens next? That's up to you. Let your imaginations run wild.


As I said right back at the beginning, the stories contain many real-life anecdotes thrown in. Now you know a little about the school fête, here's the first picture I showed you again:

There I am with my little stall. The coat hanger buzzer game. Just as described. ☺

There's plenty more I could say, I'm sure, but here I shall leave it. I hope you enjoyed the eight stories.


HP Instant Ink

I've given in and subscribed to HP's Instant Ink programme. For a fiver a month (actually €4,99 but let's be honest, it's a fiver) I get to print up to 100 pages (any content). Pages not used are rolled over (to a maximum of 100, it seems). I don't know if this is month per month or if unused pages accumulate (up to the 100 limit). I'll let you know.

So why did I consent to being tracked? The printer reports to the mothership not just current ink status, but also what sort of print job it is, what sort of device initiated the print (phone, tablet, PC), and so on. I would not imagine the printer to send thumbnails of prints. It is technically feasible to do so, but it opens up all sorts of privacy issues.
Why did I consent?

Simple. Economy. THe standard (not "XL") size multipack of unicorn tears costs around €25 and I don't feel as if I have printed anything much and yet the black is reporting that it is low. The Instant Ink programme adds up to sixty euros a year (a fiver a month). Sixty euros. That's just over two multipacks. And with the instant ink, I can print up to 1,200 pages (100 a month) regardless of whether they are black and white source codes, or full colour photos of... who's cute these days? I think the ink I've put in the printer so far made... oh, hang on. The printer can actually tell me this. I've made 206 prints and 6 borderless (those will be 10×15 photos), and many of those were printed at the "normal" quality setting, some at "draft". Very few at "high" quality.
206 pages and 6 small photos. And that's pretty much gone through two changes of ink. From the point of view of cost effectiveness, it's a bit of a no-brainer, isn't it?

I have decided that I would like the printer to sit on the desk over there and just "be available". A fiver a month for the peace of mind of not having to worry about when I'll be buying the next set of inks, for not having to think ahead so I don't run out of ink when mom wants to copy some piece of officialdom in quadruplicate, and for not having to grumble when I go into a shop and think that these scant few drops of ink cost more than a bloody RaspberryPi.

I have a nifty control panel that I can use to keep track of consumption:

My inks should be arriving "in about ten days". I'll let you know how I get on.

The only thing I don't like is that my printer has some sort of email system built in where I can send an email to a gibberish address, and my printer will print it. I have no desire to use such a thing, it would be nice if the Instant Ink could function without the email address support. But, hey, I guess the millennials might think it's cool to email photos directly to their printer?


Resuscitated Hope (adventures with a bread maker)

Went to a vide grenier yesterday. Got myself a bread maker for €10. I already have one, but I hadn't used it in years because it always used to make bricks - no matter what mixture I used, the bread would barely rise. I wanted to try again, and discovered that the internal pan was corroded.
So, vide grenier to the rescue. The pan in this bread maker was partly dirty and had scratches from the use of what I would imagine was a knife. Not great, but what do I want for a tenner? Examining the pan while cleaning it, it looked like she'd tried to make a cake or brioche and it had gone horribly wrong.

So I plugged it in and selected the "make dough for pasta" option. The cogs in the bottom started to turn. That was good. I selected the "bake" option and let it run for ten seconds before unplugging. I touched the heating element and it was warm. So that too was good.

Next up, give it a test drive. I had a pack of mixture with instructions that even I couldn't cock up. Here, look:

So I sort-of measured out the water (heated slightly in the kettle). The little beaker for the bread maker was marked up to 300ml, so I guessed that up to the rim would be around 320ml or so.
Then I added the flour mix. Selected the regular bread cycle, and let it run.

After sitting there doing nothing for a quarter hour, it mixed. A lot. As expected. However the mixture seemed rather dry. I double-checked the beaker. Yup, the water amount was good. I might be 10ml off, but that shouldn't be a big thing.
The bread maker sat in proving mode, and that done (like half an hour later), it started to mix again. Only this was a bit of a problem. The paddles kept jamming. So I gave up and threw in some more water (just pouring it from the kettle) and the paddles could turn better, but there was no way this looked like a useful lump of dough.

It was about this point that mom told me that flour comes in 1kg bags. Well, it looked like it was the same sort of size as a 500g bag of sugar.

Which, you know, might explain a few things.

So I reached in and pulled out some of the dough and threw it in the bin (the bread maker's capacity is 1.2kg, twice 750g would have been too much). I then added a totally random amount of water, and started the cycle all over again. All three-some hours of it.

I looked in the window and saw that the paddles were doing their job quite effectively, only what was in the pan now looked more like porridge than anything resembling dough. Oh well, I'd resign myself to having screwed it up.

While it was doing its thing, I opened up the older breadmaker. Well, the bottom could not be opened (security screws) but I noticed the metal lining of the heated area was screwed to the metal base, so it wasn't hard to remove the lining and get into the machine that way.

Here's the microcontroller inside the device:

A breadmaker I had a long time ago was based upon an Intel 8051 chip, and this, as you can see, is almost the same. It's an 8501 - but it is hard to tell if this is a real 8501 (256 bytes RAM, 4K ROM, 8 bit CPU core derived from the 6502) or if this is a more modern part with, say, a Cortex-M0 core?

Here's the rest of the top side of the control board:

Here's the other side. There's nothing that looks like a crystal, so the microcontroller must be completely self-contained.

The wires from the microcontroller go to an interfacing board that will switch the motor, and the heating element. I am not sure if there is any temperature feedback to the microcontroller, or if the command is "heat a little (for proving)" and "heat a lot (for baking)", and just let the element switch itself on and off as necessary to fulfil the required mode of operation.

Here is the back of that interface board (on the right), with the motor on the left. It is connected to the bread pan's paddle actuator by way of a toothed belt. And to the lower right of the photo, you can see the heating element. It is an element like in an electric oven, and it works by convection.
I seem to recall my motor could work at two speeds - the initial mixing was slow, the beating after the first proving was rapid. My current bread maker only seemed to have one speed, and either pulsed or ran continuously. Though, perhaps a dual paddle design is better so doesn't need to have two speeds?

Still, it is pretty impressive what is possible using just a motor, a heating element, and a small metal paddle that is about the size of two thumbs side by side. You'd have expected it to be pretty useless, not capable of not only mixing but beating dough.

I put the older breadmaker back together, then went and watched an episode of Veronica Mars.


I can now have an Alison Moyet moment. I'll never have that recipe agaaaaaaiiiiinnnnn!

Because, what was born of epic fail and sloshy not-porridge was the best bread I have ever produced in a bread maker. Look at it!

I cut off the end:

The bread was not perfect, it was a little heavy/stodgy, but given that it was basically born out of what would amount to "throw some stuff in the pan and see what happens", it has done remarkably well. The bread, with lashings of butter, saw me through the next episode of Veronica Mars. I would have finished the DVD, but I was tired so I went to bed instead.



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GAVIN WRAITH, 21st November 2017, 21:48
Congratulations. My first attempts to make bread were inspired by a friend, John Beck, who was in turn inspired by another mathematician. He used to put slices of apple in his bread. The Duskins used to put cheese in their bread. When they borrowed our house and could not find the pastry brush they used the tip of the cat's tail.
Mick, 25th November 2017, 11:07
::::::::::::::Yung Rik: Did you have a magnet sewn into your cuffs in that photo or was that just for SIBA? ::::::::::::::Instant Ink. If you get 100 pages each month and it rolls over to a maximum of 100 pages, excuse me for asking, but where's the rollover? What happens if you print 101 pages? Does the printer go on strike or do you get charged 10 a copy after that. I pay 896 per gallon myself. Okay, I only bought 50.7 ml (10.8 x 3 colours and a 18.3 black) Black tank was installed on the 16th. I hope it will last three years ;-) Did think about an eco tank, but quality reports were all negative. Will not buy HP again. Last but one broke down after 14 months, really cheap bit of plastic snapped off and it wasn't a cheap printer either. My previous printer was HP and truly aweful. Print quality okay if you could get it to load any paper. ::::::::::::Bread : Sure Homer Simpson has a word to say that sums up your bread adventure. (Not that I've ever watched an episode of that show)
Rick, 25th November 2017, 15:50
Magnet? Not sayin'. ;-) 
I think what they mean it's you can roll over a maximum of 100 pages (100 pages of that month plus 100 rolled over), so if you do three months of printing only five pages, you don't get to roll over 95+95+95. Your excess is something like €1 per 20 pages or something like that. 
When did your HP break? Stuff should be guaranteed for two years. Print quality isn't impressive, not as good as my old Brother. It is only slightly better than my DJ500 from way back when...
Mick, 5th December 2017, 02:07
It was a HP7280 bought in SEPT 2009. I really liked it. I thought it would last years, but it didn't. I dragged out my old Lexmark and used that until I bought the HP4500 in SEPT 2012 (which was terrible even by budget printer standards). My dad also had a HP7280 which lasted a little longer. 3 years at most though. Yep, HP is now off my shopping list.
Rob, 10th January 2018, 11:00
I have a love-hate relationship with inkjets. I love the flexibility, and the range of media, but I hate the fact that we print so infrequently that I waste most of a tank of ink in cleaning cycles before it works properly, if it does at all.. 
So, we mostly use laser printers! You can leave them months and they still print first time! Yes, the toner cartridges might cost a fair chunk of money, but they have such a capacity that they almost last forever!

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