After a couple of years of failed attempts, I’ve finally manage to secure a place in the 2014 London Marathon through my running club. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but it’s been a week now and I’m pretty excited and looking forward to both the race and the training. It’s probably a bit early to get into a full on marathon training program right now but I’m starting to increase the mileage slowly already with the aim of completing a comfortable half marathon or two this side of Christmas.
This weekend is the Winter Wolf Run, which should get me nicely into the swing of being cold, wet and miserable for the rest of the winter.
Last night I finally got around to finishing off a little bit of retrimming in the Mazda. I’d got fed up of the bulky interior door handles encroaching on the already pretty cosy interior, so decided to ditch them. To cover up the holes left behind, and also to improve on the dated vinyl door covering, I have recovered them in some cheap faux suede that I found on ebay. A small strap, screwed to the back of the door release lever, serves as the new door handle.
The cabin feels a bit more spacious now and has a nice minimalistic feel. I also added a layer of 3mm scrim foam underneath the fabric to give it a soft, slightly less cheap feel.
The blue matches nicely with the stitching on my gear lever and handbrake gaiters.
There’s more to come on the throttle bodies conversion too. I’ll update here as soon as I’ve taken a few pictures.
MX5 with GSXR 600 throttles
Just a quick update on the MX5. The GSXR 600 throttles have been assembled and attached and are now on their way to running pretty nicely.
The physical side of the install was pretty simple, mostly a case of bolting stuff up. The only real issue I faced was the routing and length of the throttle cable, which took a few attempts to get right. After a lot of trial and error and the use of some mountain bike parts to help the cable get round some tight bends, the cable now fits fine. The ratio of throttle plate movement for a given amount of cable pull is now a little higher that it was before, making the throttles very sensitive to small pedal movements. This can currently make the car a little difficult to drive smoothly in traffic and when parking. I have a plan to move the cable mounting point on the pedal to resolve this, but it’s not an urgent modification.
On the ECU side of things, the car is tuned and running well under most conditions. Startup and idle are smooth (the car sailed through its MOT last month) as is 90% of driving whilst the car is moving. Increasing the revs off idle is still a little rough, things go lean for a split second and stumble, which again makes driving the car in traffic a little laborious. Once moving, the fuelling is smooth and wide open throttle sounds great.
There are a few things that I rushed to get the car ready for the summer which I’d like to go back and revisit. For now I’ll just enjoy the sunshine though, when autumn starts to arrive I may take it all apart again and make a few small improvements. Amongst other things I think the head would benefit from a small skim. We’ll see.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking lots of the MX5′s engine compartment to bits in order to fit a set of individual throttle bodies from a Suzuki GSXR 600. Over the winter, while the car was in the garage, I’ve been collecting parts here and there for the conversion whenever I see them come up cheaply on ebay. Now the weather has improved and the evenings are getting lighter, I’ve started putting it all together.
To the right is a picture of most of what is going into the car. The manifold is an old MX5 inlet manifold that’s been cut down very short and had four small aluminium flanges cut out and welded on to mate up to the Suzuki throttle flanges. The throttles themselves have had the injector ports sealed up as I shall be using the original injector locations in the inlet manifold. On the underneath of each throttle is a vacuum port which shall be connected to a common vacuum block to provide a vacuum feed to the ECU, brake servo and fuel pressure regulator. The standard MX5 throttle cable should attach easily to the whole assembly and the Suzuki throttle position sensor should connect into the MX5 loom with only a small amount of rewiring. Other than that, I’m hoping it’ll all be a fairly simple process.
More updates to follow…
Here’s the snow map mentioned in my last post. The map shows geotagged, snow-related tweets collected over the weekend of 11th-14th January, normalised by the number of tweets per county taken in a separate random sample.
As usual, you can click, zoom and pan around the map in the usual way
As part of the background learning and research I’ve been doing for work, I’ve been looking into various forms of spatially referenced data and ways of presenting it over the web. In particular, I’ve been developing a tool in Java that will collect geotagged tweets from Twitter over a period of time, filtered by things such as keywords, hashtags or geographic bounding boxes.
Earlier in January, I collected a few days worth of tweets filtered on keywords related to snow, whilst the UK was experiencing its first snowfall of the year. The idea was to see how effective this might be as a means of gathering data on location-specific events. Over the period of a weekend, around 20,000 snow-related, geotagged tweets were collected and plotted onto a UK map.
Immediately it was obvious that the map was pretty useless as far as representing snowfall in the UK was concerned. The hotspots around the country fell firmly around large cities and areas with large numbers of Twitter users. To produce a sensible map, the data would need to be normalised against a control sample; a random collection of tweets collected over long period that could be used to highlight and therefore eliminate the effect of Twitter hotspots around the UK.
The corrected snow map will follow shortly (edit: here it is), but for now, here’s a map based on my control sample showing Twitter population density for counties across the UK and Ireland (plus a few other regions that accidentally fell inside my bounding box). You can zoom and pan the map as normal and click on each county to get further information.
Did a big old bike ride last week. Cambridge to London via some nice sweeping country lanes and then back to Cambridge again along the official London to Cambridge route. Apart from a few short rides for an hour or two here and there, it was the first ‘proper’ ride I’ve done on a road bike.
Surprisingly, legs were fine pretty much all the way, although I was starting to run out of steam for the last few miles. What I struggled with most was the pain in my arms and hands; I’m pretty sure my bars could do with being closer and a touch higher, although for the first few hours they felt absolutely fine.
Covered 104 miles in total, here’s a little map of the route.
So, I’ve been fiddling around with an Arduino board for the last week or two. It’s a small microcontroller board that you can dump your own code onto and it’ll run it stand-alone as long as it has a 5V power source. It has about 20 digital and analog input/output pins, so the possibilities of what it can do are pretty much endless with the aid of various small electronic components – read temp sensors and control your central heating, be a complete weather station that transmits its data over the internet, control a robot using accelerometers and wireless comms, etc.
Driving an LCD display is dead easy, so I’d like to build a little onboard computer for the MX5 to display some convenience type data such as outside temp, mpg, speed, distance etc. Logging things like accelerometer readings to an SD card is also reasonably straightforward (and about 100x cheaper than a track day data logger).
I’ve also been playing with the rFactor API and written some code into a plugin to output RPM via the PC’s serial port. I’ve also popped a bit of code on the Arduino that receives this data and illuminates LEDs accordingly.
It might not seem terribly exciting, but it’s a proof of concept in terms of getting data out of rFactor and into the Arduino. Next phase is to build a small electronic dash display, so I can get rid of all the on screen info from my monitor for a more authentic sim experience.
I’ve just installed a great new plugin here that makes it easy to add and keep track of recipes. It’s written by the guys at GetMeCooking and more info in the plugin can be found here. Here’s one to start off with…
Pulled pork baps
Slow cooked pulled pork, cooked in a homemade bbq sauce. Ideal served warm in baps but would also work well served with rice or potatoes.
- 1.2kg Pork shoulder
- 1/2 medium Onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 100ml Tomato ketchup
- 50ml BBQ sauce
- 100ml Orange or apple juice
- 50ml White wine vinegar
- 50g Brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Wholegrain mustard
- 1 Chilli, chopped
This is a great recipe which at first glance looks like it takes a lot of time and effort to make. However, the time spent actually doing stuff is minimal and the meat spends most of its time either marinating in the fridge or cooking slowly in the oven. It should make enough for six baps, or four if you're feeling hungry. Note that all the ingredients are approximate - if you prefer your bbq sauce hotter/milder/sweeter/more tangy then feel free to adjust the amounts accordingly.
|Mix all the above in a large bowl and put in your shoulder of pork, making sure it's all covered in lovely marinade. Cover it with some clingfilm and leave it in the fridge overnight. |
The following morning, pop it all in a casserole dish with a lid on and put it in the oven at a nice low 150C for 4 hours. After 4 hours, admire the smell in your house, take out the shoulder of pork and put to one side and pour out all the juice into a jug. With a pair of forks shred up all the meat and put it back into the empty casserole dish. Chuck out any big bits of fat or rind.
Spoon some of your sauce over the shredded pork in the casserole dish - about a third of it - just enough to keep the meat moist but you don't want it swimming in liquid. Put the lid back on and put it back in the oven (at 150C) for another hour. Check the meat half way through this step to make sure the meat isn't drying out and getting tough.
The remaining sauce in the jug will be quite thin and runny, so bring it to a gentle boil in a saucepan and let it bubble for about 10 minutes until it's nice and thick. It'll thicken even more as it starts to cool.
That's pretty much it. Serve up your pork into nice soft white baps, top with the homemade bbq sauce. Lovely.
According to the American Psychological Association the three most popular New Year’s resolutions each year are to lose weight, quit smoking and exercise regularly. I’m not particularly original and I don’t smoke, so as usual I am spending the first couple of weeks of January planning my training in order to become some sort of sporting god by the end of the year. It won’t happen, obviously.
Challenges this year will hopefully include both Milton Keynes half marathons and perhaps a triathlon. A new one for me though is rowing. I’ve signed up to enter Concept 2′s online leaderboard and monthly challenge league in the hope of keeping me honest and in the gym on a reasonably regular basis. Unfortunately their league season runs from September to July so I’ve missed the first few events, but hopefully I can post a time for each of the remaining seven events.
More details on the Concept 2 leagues here