Twitter hotspots

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.

London to Cambridge bike ride. Twice.

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.

Interfacing Arduino with rFactor

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.

Pulled pork baps

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

Serves 6
Prep time 12 hours
Cook time 5 hours
Total time 17 hours
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc Serve Cold, Serve Hot
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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Optional

  • 1 tablespoon Wholegrain mustard
  • 1 Chilli, chopped

Note

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.

Directions

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.

Concept 2 rowing

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

MX5 Trackday @ Stowe, Silverstone

MX5s at Stowe circuit
My Roadster

A while back I posted that I’d just picked up a new Eunos Roadster (MX5) and that photos would follow shortly. Well, over a year later, here are a few.

I attended an MX5 trackday this weekend at Silverstone’s Stowe circuit. It was the first time the car has really been pushed hard since I’ve owned it and I’m pleased to report that it handled the day well. The Roadster is well suited to Stowe’s short straights and twisty nature. Handling was spot on – this car is so easy to steer on the throttle, even in the wet – and the car kept up with most stuff through the bends. The straights were a touch frustrating though, lots of cars in attendance were either bigger engined models or fitted with turbos or superchargers which left me pretty much bottom of the pile in terms of straight line speed.

The car feels a little exposed on track in standard trim, a proper roll bar/harness bar and a decent seat with harnesses would be nice. More power would be great too but it would be difficult to justify the cost of a supercharger conversion when the car only cost £1000.

Mazda On Track are running a day at Brands Hatch in December which I’d like to attend. I’ll have to see how money is looking in the run up to Christmas.

The rest of the MX5 trackday photos are here in my Flickr stream