One Sean Bean DIES every 1.24 years – but YOU have the power to stop it!

SOLVED (mostly) #Kindle 3 instability, crashing, battery failure, losing charge: it’s the leather cover!

I wrote up my problems here, and you can read the comments to follow the developments and line of thinking.

I have the following symptoms:

1) My Kindle frequently crashes upon wakeup from sleep

  • I flick and release the power switch
  • there is a long, long pause
  • then a green LED shows
  • and then the Kindle resets (watch the progress bar as it boots, etc)

2) My Kindle drains its battery at a horrifying rate; I am very careful to switch OFF the Wifi when not in use, but last night:

  • I fully charged my Kindle
  • disconnect it from power
  • switched off Wifi
  • read a book for about 30 minutes
  • I flicked the power-switch off – the Kindle displayed one of its screensavers – and I went to sleep.

This morning I woke up, flicked the power switch on; the kindle crashed and reset, and the battery showed approximately 40% charge remaining.

3) My Kindle occasionally crashes/resets mid-reading, but crashes are far more common when “waking it up” after a few hours “off”

After a few interactions with Amazon I received a phone call from one of their tech guys – instigated by my demand for a replacement – requesting if I could try one more thing:

“Please remove the Amazon-brand leather cover that [I had] purchased for it.”

If this sounds weird be aware that the cover attaches to the Kindle via two metal clips, and the mountpoints into which it clips are wired to the unit’s battery; this is so that certain models of the Kindle cover can use the battery to power a LED reading light.

I do not have one of those covers but it seems that although my cover is passive something about the clips is causing leakage of current and consequent instability; this neatly explains why it could be apparently well-behaved all night and then crash spontaneously when I picked it up to start using it, and also explains the battery drain.

It was an instant fix – stability is back, but I am a still bit worried about the battery. It appeared not to take a full charge a couple of times since, but is now discharging so slowly it’s hard to measure if it’s been fritzed by this problem.

I am waiting for a callback from Amazon to find out what they intend to do about this matter – I shall be pressing for a Kindle replacement because I am not convinced of its ability to take a full charge, nor how much damage has been done to the battery cycle life. What to do about the cover I don’t know – perhaps a refund and a slipcase?

I don’t know if the lighted/active covers will suffer this problem – after all, they should be designed to offer electrical isolation?

how to cook the perfect soft-boiled duck egg

I have three kinds of neighbour: neighbours who are lovely, neighbours who are strange and insular and who don’t interact with the world, and neighbours who have screaming matches with teenage children in the middle of the night, feel their gardens are best planted with beercans and broken glass, and who set fire to their houses for amusement – or possibly as an artistic statement, I’m not sure.

Amongst the lovely neighbours are Gem and Charlie, and amongst their lovely traits are of occasionally gifting me with duck and hen eggs that are laid by their flock; the duck eggs especially are huge, a soft blue-white (well, duh) and with yolks so yellow as to be almost tangerine. Yellow is simply not the word, unless prefixed by “deep cadmium”.

Having experienced the birds at first hand I’d call the eggs “aggressively free range” given the fowls’ single-minded pursuit of exploring my garden (memo to self: maybe it’s about time you rebuilt the fence?) – but I forgive everything, everything, for the near erotic pleasure of these soft-boiled eggs on toast.

For me the perfect egg has a fully set white, and the heat is just starting to impinge on the yolk, thickening it to a syrup but without really setting it yet. Method:

Saucepan, three-quarters filled with water hot from the kettle. Pinch of salt. Serious heat on the hob. Boiling vigourously, tumults of hell-style.

Take up to two eggs (update: at room temperature) and for each work out which is the blunt, more rounded end. Using a substantial needle, pin or similar sharp point, drill a tiny hole in the blunt end. This allows the air-pocket to vent gas quickly without cracking the shell, when you drop the eggs into boiling water.

Set a timer; these timings are an estimate and subject to tweaking depending on egg-freshness, but they’re approximately what I use:

  • XL hen eggs: 4m20
  • M duck eggs: 5m10
  • L duck eggs: 5m40

Using a slotted spoon drop the eggs into the vigourously boiling water, and start the timer.

Make toast – Ideally fresh bread, butter at room temperature so it’s spreadable. Don’t faff about.

When the timer expires, use the spoon to remove the eggs.

DO NOT QUENCH THE EGGS IN COLD WATER – drop them straight into eggcups and serve immediately. Hack the top off and dip soldiers, or spoon the rich, unctuous goo over buttered toast, sprinkle salt and/or freshly grated pepper.

This works any time of day – with tea for breakfast, or a crisp white for a light, late dinner.

UPDATE: something different: poached goose egg, picture; if folk are interested in the method, let me know. [June 2012]

Brompton Carradice CarraDry Waterproof Bag Review

Since I got my Brompton about 3 years ago, I’ve used an S-bag for my regular commutes into London; it’s been a good bag, but the design flaws in it were evident from early-on and have only gotten more annoying since.

The main problems were:

  • The “shoulders” on the main bag opening, presumably meant to provide some structure to the bag when you pack-out the body, but actually preventing you from putting anything large into the bag.
  • The geometry of the front flap, which bulges curiously when stuffed with items, and seems generally to rest on-top-of (rather than covering) the bag’s body.

Example of the S-bag suffering bag-bloat:


This finally got to the point of vexing me, so I started to look for an alternative:

  • the NEW brompton s-bag
  • the brompton c-bag
  • the NEW brompton t-bag (formerly “touring” pannier)
  • the brompton o-bag (ortlieb)
  • something else

This led to a bunch of research and decisions; my eventual decisions were:

  • new S-bag? alas it’s great for a light day-trip but still awkward and not big enough for my stuff; I like the s-bag style yellow lining, though.
  • the C-bag? this was a really strong contender, not least because @bartbl has got one and i’ve been able to see it close-up; the yellow lining is a great idea, the materials good… but the waterproof zips worry me (i’ve seen things like that snag themselves closed, before) and there is an overall “chunkiness” to the materials and strap, which i didn’t really like
  • the t-bag? i also have a friend (@ids) who has one of these; they are huge and expandable, but the weird bulges, puffy netting and fabric roll-top have something of the fetish boudoir about them. Plus, I don’t know if it’s fair but to me the design smacks of “I’m going to get rained-upon and then take an age to dry-off, and I’ll be dripping on the floor for ages”.
  • and finally, the o-bag? Stupid, stupid amounts of money, and not particularly larger than the S-bag.

So I was stuck.

I found a couple of fabulously useful reviews of the c-bag on the net, mentioning the Carradice City Folder bag in the process. Chris Rust’s review of the City Folder bag sounded pretty rough, and from the pictures I would have agreed with him.


On a Canadian website (URL lost) I found discussion of the Carradice City Folder, including a video, and in the comments a reference to a waterproof version, this led me to the Carradice website, plus a few others, but I hadn’t found any reviews of it.

When next in London I visited Velorution, went through all their Brompton bags, found one of these Carradice Carradry City Folder bags, and bought it on the spot.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

To get to the meat of the purchasing decision:


  • Large enough, comparible to C-bag
  • Reasonable price
  • Waterproof and easily wipeable
  • Boxy, angular, and semi-rigid, but there’s no impediment to putting stuff into it.
  • Interior laptop-compartment large enough to take ancient Thinkpad, let alone Macbook Air.


  • No waterproof external pocket for quick access to phone, wallet
  • Internal laptop-compartment is permanently fixed; apparently in the non-waterproof version it is removable
  • Topmost seam tends to rub on knuckles when carrying through the handles; loosening the bottom velcro helps somewhat.
  • The center of the three built-in phone pockets is a bit awkward to use, since it velcros-over to shut the laptop compartment

There are mesh pockets on the CarraDry – two rear, one front, but Carradice’s own people say that these are only fit for light items like gloves and so forth, and I’d agree.

I found this out because I managed to tear one of the mesh pockets from the corner, with the lightest of finger-touches, taking my phone out. The material “ran” and quite a rent appeared, but Carradice and Velorution replaced it immediately and Carradice suspected a manufacturing fault. The replacement bag’s mesh pockets feel rather more coarse and stronger, so I’d agree.

Having experienced two bags I have found a minor random advantage that the first (faulty) bag had over the second: the centre phone-pocket is covered/closed by a strip of double-sided velcro. If that strip has fuzz on one side and hooks on the other then (assuming the bag is put together properly) you’ll have more options for how you close the laptop compartment on top of it.

Unfortunately on my second bag, the strip is fuzzy on both sides, meaning that both the laptop compartment elasticated strip (hooks) and the pocket velcro (also hooks) will not stick together.

This is a small nit, though.

IMG_7860 by alecmuffett IMG_7861 by alecmuffett IMG_7862 by alecmuffett IMG_7868 by alecmuffett

Overall I am very happy with the bag, and certain that I have bought the right bag for me. It’s not my “perfect” brompton bag, but it’s not far off.

How to join the French Foreign Legion

How to join the French Foreign Legion

Any man aged between 17 and 40 (although under-18s must have parental permission) can join the French Foreign Legion. You must travel to France for enlistment. According to its recruitment website, “Whatever your origins, nationality or religion might be, whatever qualifications you may or may not have, whatever your social or professional status might be, whether you are married or single, the French Foreign Legion offers you a chance to start a new life.”

You can join either under your own name or under a “declared identity” which you will retain throughout your service. This is to allow anonymity for those who want to turn over a new leaf. In the past the Legion was extremely relaxed about the provenance of its new recruits – however there are now background checks to ensure that wanted criminals are not given sanctuary. If you are approved after your medical, security screening and ” motivational checks” you will be eligible to sign your contract for a minimum of five years service. Your only realistic options for departure before then are death or desertion. You are entitled to 45 days’ leave a year and will receive a starting salary of £723 a month

[ Editor’s note: 15 August 2007 – I am closing comments on this posting since this blog is not actually a FFL recruiting website. Read the article linked at the top of this posting, guys. AM ]