Kaboom went something in the house and all the wall sockets died, the sound of silence only returned once all cooling fans slowed to a stop. No noise from the boiler, the fridge, the TV. No music. No Google home. There was light but no rock and roll.

Investigations led to the house circuit breaker and the wall sockets having tripped. I went around and turned off many plugs. The sound came from somewhere in either the kitchen or the dining room so first suspect was the boiler. It is old and makes strange noises at times. Second suspect was the PC. It is young and lovely but loves those electrons. I flipped the circuit break back and some sounds returned – the fridge woke up and started making circulation noises. First plug to try turning on was the boiler. Click. All seemed normal. The boiler clock made its clicking noise and after a short while the gas started burning to warm the house. I was actually slightly upset it wasn’t the boiler, it meant the it was more likely to be suspect two and I do like my PC.

So, I crouched to power up the PC. CRACK and a flash. Everything turned off again. I had found my perpetrator. The PC was fucked. The flash seemed to come from the PSU and so I am hoping that once I can get the unit sent off it will be replaced and no other damage has occurred. Best case scenario is that the PSU alone went NFG and all the data is secure and everything else inside the PC is fine. A medium case scenario is that the power fried some of the processor or GPU and that’s under warranty and so that doesn’t really bother me. Worst case scenario is that some of the data drives are buggered. I won’t lose anything as it’s either all backed up or easy enough to redownload but it would take a couple of weeks to get everything back to normal.

So, I have some mild inconvenience at the moment. I’d just bought a new screen for the PC and I was looking forward to spending time flying around the UK in X-Plane. The PC also acts as my Minecraft server and so my current mega-build has been put on hold. Thinking about it now, I don’t think I have a backup of that world. If it’s gone then I suppose I’ll have a big shrug of my shoulders and start another. I’ll be sad for a while as I had plans and projects to complete but it would be fun starting again.

Annoyingly this all happened just as the UK enters another lockdown and so I’m not sure how long it will take the PC company to get back to me. It might be that they have to shut down for a while and so now it’s all up in the air and I’ll just be sitting here twiddling my thumbs doing my best to avoid ordering a PS5.

Gorgeous Morning
Gorgeous Morning

Cisterns and Ranges

I had a lovely time recently staying at Lydd Camp in the farthest reaches of Kent. I was there to attend a DDCT(E) operators course which was good fun and very interesting. The camp itself is steeped in history and has some “interesting” quirks. Needless to say that I passed the course, as did everyone, and it was fascinating watching the way things are taught from a military perspective rather than my normal civilian views on things. The SASC were very good in their delivery, which was to be expected. I might make myself a small crib sheet with the important stuff on it.

One night we [there were three from my contingent] went to the Pilot for food and it was lovely and scarily “local”. There was a fund raiser on for the lifeboat and we had some success with the raffle. The food was pretty good. It’s a shame we couldn’t see the landscape in the dark because it is haunting down on the largest shingle area in the world.

There’s a nuclear power station right on the coast and the powerlines ran close to the camp. They made a lovely crackling sound! Here’s a shot:

Lydd Camp Powerlines
Lydd Camp Powerlines

It’s important to thoroughly check out your accommodation when you get somewhere new and figure out the shower, toilet, and drying rooms along with where the emergency exits are. On such a reconnoitre I found a single toilet with a door that locked [some didn’t] and a seat which was attached [some weren’t] and a light that worked [you get the idea]. I was struck by the cistern in this little room. It had been painted many times but looked quite lovely.

Finch and Co Belvedere Cistern
Finch and Co Belvedere Cistern

After some extensive googling I can confirm that this “Belvedere” model cistern was made by Finch and Co in London and is most likely an original feature of the camp. Humans just don’t make stuff this interesting anymore.


I recently had my electricity and gas meters upgraded to “smart” meters. They aren’t that smart. All they do is upload my meter reading to the utility company at regular intervals along with this information being displayed on a screen. I look at the screen now and then but I do think that eventually I will turn it off. I know roughly how much I spend each day and it’s not really a surprise.

May Energy kWh
May Energy kWh

This graph shows the energy use each day with the lower darker bar being electricity and the light blue being gas. I have a gas boiler for water and heating along with a gas hob. The oven is electric. This can be translated into costs [at current market rates]:

May Energy Costs
May Energy Costs

At the end of May I went away for a while and I normally try to shut-down most of the energy using devices in the house. The physical process can take about 5 minutes walking around the house making sure that everything is shut down in the correct order.

If you look at the last week of May you can see low and consistent energy costs. Although no gas was used in this time period the monetary costs is the standing charge that I pay for the privilege of having a gas supply.

Minimum Running
Minimum Running

My daily energy use in a house that is mostly turned off is 2kWh. This accounts for the following items:

  • Fridge
  • Microwave clock
  • Oven clock
  • Modem / Router
  • ADS-B aircraft tracker in the loft
  • Alarm clock
  • That extension lead orange light

It is taking a while for my head to get around this bizarre and stupid unit the kWh. But here goes:

My house’s power usage at baseline is 83 Watts. A human during the normal day runs at about 100 Watts [as does a 100W incandescent light bulb]. Over the course of the day this ends up being 7.2 MJ. My house needs to consume about the same amount of food as a human to run at its lowest power consumption levels.

Wolfram Alpha has some lovely comparisons for energy usage, so 2 kWh is the same as:

  • ≈ 1.7 × energy released by explosion of one kilogram of TNT ( 1 kilogram of TNT )
  • ≈ 0.57 × average electrical energy required by an Apple iPhone 5 per year (≈ 1.3×10^7 J )

And my favourite is:

  • Relativistic mass m from E = mc^2: 80 ng (nanograms)

When I next go away it would be interesting to see how low I could get the consumption. To be fair, I could just turn the electricity off at the mains. But the only thing I could still power down is the ADS-B receiver and I like to keep that going because I can log into it from around the world.