Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

March 26, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for March 26, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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March 22, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Home Farm at Temple Newsam

Pig and piglets

On Saturday, Christine, Elizabeth and I went to the Home Farm, part of the Temple Newsam estate near Leeds. It’s a working farm with many rare breed animals, that is open to the public for visits. And, with it being the springtime, it was also full of cute baby farm animals.

Although much of the Temple Newsam estate is free to access, including the parkland, gardens and an accessible adventure playground for kids with disabilities, entry fees are in place for the farm. But it’s free for the under-5s and it’s only £3.60 per adult, and you’ll probably spend over an hour there so it’s not too bad. There’s also an additional playground that’s only accessible to those who have paid to enter the farm, and a lower field with donkeys.

Goat and kid

Elizabeth, at three months old, is a bit too young to appreciate the farm (and she was asleep most of the time anyway) but it’s great for families with young kids. Most of the animals are willing to be petted, and there are information boards and staff on hand to talk about the animals. Many of the animals are ‘rare breeds’ – breeds that are less common in British farming, and, in some cases, under threat. The pigs, for example, are British Saddleback, Tamworth and Middle White breeds, and the sheep include Manx Loaghtan which are native only to the Isle of Man (although I don’t think any where publicly viewable when we went).

With it being the Easter holidays, I expect the farm to be really busy at present, but it’s well worth a visit, as long as the weather is okay. There are some indoor bits, but most of the farm is outside so it’s probably not the best way to spend a rainy day. Also, if you’re pushing a pram or wheelchair like we were, be aware that there are a lot of uneven cobbles, and that the farm is on a hillside.

March 21, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Vaccinations

Photos of Elizabeth

Elizabeth is now 12 weeks old, and has had her first round of vaccinations. These should have been given at 8 weeks, but our town was flooded out at the time when she was born and this included our GP surgery.

The first round is four individual vaccines. One of these, the rotavirus vaccination, is given orally as drops, but the rest are needles. These are the 5-in-1 vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib), Pneumococcal, and the brand new Meningitis B vaccine which Elizabeth is fortunate to be eligible for. Sadly some older children aren’t and there is pressure for it to be made more widely available.

Elizabeth wasn’t very happy about the needles, as you’d perhaps expect, although it can’t have been worse than the various blood tests that she had in her first week of life. She had jaundice when she first came out, and this require regular blood tests to keep in check. Some pre-emptive Calpol (or rather generic-brand Paracetamol Suspension for Infants – it’s the same thing) hopefully helped and she soon calmed down. Later on, she was a little feverish, but more Calpol helped and she has been fine since.

Whilst we didn’t really ‘choose’ to vaccinate Elizabeth, there is no way that we would have opted out of her vaccinations. Christine and I are both in favour of vaccinations and the protections it gives people. I always have the ‘flu jab every year, which I get free because I’m asthmatic but also because ‘flu is horrendous. Christine gets it free as well, as she is professional healthcare worker.

By ensuring that Elizabeth is vaccinated, we’re not just protecting her, but others as well; not everyone can receive vaccinations, either because they’re too young or have compromised immune systems. Herd immunity is important.

Her next round will be in a few weeks, when she’ll have the 5-in-1 and rotavirus vaccines again, along with Meningitis C. Whilst it won’t be a pleasant experience at the time, it’ll be far better than for her to contract those diseases.

March 20, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Lumsing USB Desktop Charger review

Lumsing 40W 5-Port USB Desktop Charger

The folks at Lumsing have asked me to review their 40W 5-Port USB Desktop Charger. It’s an AC adaptor for USB devices, but whereas most just have one USB port, this one has five, allowing you to charge or power five devices at once.

That’s quite useful for modern households where people have more than one mobile device that needs charging. I, for example, have my iPhone, which needs charging every night; my iPad, which needs charging every other night; my Fitbit, which needs charging weekly, and various other Bluetooth devices and batteries. Rather than using several different AC adaptors, this desktop charger lets me plug them all into one wall socket.

In the box is the device itself, and an AC adaptor with a cable that’s around a metre long. Again, this is useful as it effectively extends the range of your charging cables by an additional metre – handy if your wall sockets are not in convenient places.

Lumsing 40W 5-Port USB Desktop Charger

The total current output across all five ports is 8 Amps, with each individual USB port outputting up to 3 Amps. That’s enough to charge two iPads and three other devices. It should also charge devices quickly, thanks to its high current.

Whilst it is bigger than most AC adaptors – to be expected, as it has more USB ports – it’s still quite portable and suitable for travel. Whilst the UK version ships with a standard UK ‘type G‘ plug, as you’d expect, it can handle input voltages from 100-240V.

The Desktop Charger is available from Amazon, for £12.99 in a choice of colours – I reviewed the orange one but it’s also available in black, blue and silver. And, until the end of Friday, you can use the discount code ‘UMA32KEA’ to get one for £9.99, saving £3.

March 19, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for March 19, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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March 15, 2016
by Neil Turner
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The Guilty Feminist Podcast

The Guilty Feminist Podcast

Hi, I’m Neil, and I’m a feminist.

A cursory search of my previous blog posts suggests that I haven’t really talked about feminism on here in the past (this bit about one of Caitlin Moran’s books was all that I could find), but both myself and Christine strongly believe in the equality of the sexes. With this in mind, last night I went to a recording of The Guilty Feminist, a weekly podcast hosted by stand-up comedians Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White.

The Guilty Feminist is a relatively new podcast with the sixth episode due to be posted this week. Each episode is recorded in front of a live, fee-paying audience, and focusses on a particular topic. Last week was advertising, and this week will be about exercise. Last night’s recording, at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, near Manchester, was for two episodes, on womens’ magazines and on self-worth. There’s always a special guest and Sarah Millican, one of my favourite stand-up comedians, was at the recording I went to. She founded an online womens’ magazine called Standard Issue (which I read from time to time) and she explained her reasons for setting it up on the show.

I’ve been listening to The Guilty Feminist since it started, having been aware of Sofie Hagen from some other projects – she has her own podcast called Comedians Telling Stuff and she’s won a couple of prestigious best newcomer awards over the past couple of years. It’s a good show – around 45 minutes, with a mixture of stand-up and discussion around the topic of the week with the special guest. Because the audience pays to see the recordings, there’s no advertising or plugs for Audible or Squarespace, or requests for donations, which is refreshing. And there were free macaroons for the audience too, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to bring Christine with me to the recording. We weren’t able to arrange any childcare for Elizabeth and, as the show was being recorded, it wouldn’t have been appropriate to bring her with us in case she became disruptive. So, it was just me, on my own, in a predominantly female audience. Still, I had a good time and was really pleased that I went.

The shows that were recorded yesterday will go out at different times – the first in a few weeks and the second in the summer. I’ll tweet about them when they’re up, but in the meantime, you can listen to the other episodes on iTunes. There are further recordings coming up – one tonight in London, and then some in Denmark and Australia – and I’d recommend checking them out.

March 12, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for March 12, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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March 5, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for March 5, 2016

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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March 3, 2016
by Neil Turner
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Bankfield Museum, Halifax

Bankfield Museum

On Tuesday I posted about Kate Lycett’s Lost Houses exhibition at the Bankfield Museum in Halifax. It was our first visit there, and whilst the main reason for us going was to see the new paintings, we also had a look around the rest of the museum.

The Bankfield Museum is essentially the main museum for the borough of Calderdale, including Halifax and the other towns of the Calder Valley. Its best known collection is that of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, but there are also some smaller exhibits about toys and the history of the area. In particular, there’s a focus on Edward Akroyd, who built the museum and the surrounding estate, known as Akroydon. There aren’t many interactive exhibits so young children may not find it as interesting as, say, Eureka which is down the hill from here.

Bankfield Museum

One room is set aside for various miscellany in the Calderdale Museums collection. Sadly there’s a lack of detail about most items, but certain items of interest are listed, such as a narwhal horn or the ashtrays from Halifax’s now-closed Odeon cinema.

As well as the Kate Lycett exhibition, there is also a small temporary exhibition on time travel – and yes, there is a TARDIS on show.

The Bankfield Museum is not in Halifax town centre, although it is within walking distance – albeit up a rather steep hill. You can also drive there, or catch the 576 bus from Halifax or Bradford. Entrance is free, and it’s open Tuesday-Saturday (and bank holidays). Set aside a couple of hours for your visit.

March 2, 2016
by Neil Turner
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App of the Week: White Noise

Screenshot of the White Noise app on iPhoneSome people need complete silence to sleep, and, generally, I like to sleep in quiet environments. But occasionally I have trouble sleeping, usually because I can’t ‘switch off’ – my brain gets stuck thinking about things over and over, stopping me from getting off to sleep.

One thing I’ve found that helps is having some artificial background noise in the room, and White Noise is an app for iOS devices that can generate so-called ‘white noise’. You can choose from common background sounds such as crashing waves, a flowing stream or wind in the trees, and then leave your device to play in the background whilst you try to sleep. Concentrating on the sound usually distracts me enough to get me to sleep if I’m struggling. I originally downloaded it to encourage Elizabeth to sleep, although we’ve generally found that if she won’t sleep it’s because she’s hungry.

The app has a few more advanced features. One is a timer, so you can set your device to play white noise for a period of time and then turn off (when you’re hopefully asleep). You can also create playlists, if you want to mix up your sounds, or select a ‘mix’ of sounds.

A premium version costing £1.49 removes in-app advertising, and lets you download additional sounds, but I’ve found the free version to be adequate for my needs.

White Noise is free from the App Store, and is a universal app for iPhone and iPad.