Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Perfect Zip Tap Coffee

June 15, 2010

Vista busy cursor For years I’ve had to contend with dreadful coffee at work from the typical workplace coffee machine.  It claims to be a high quality “bean to cup” device. Well I don’t know what sort of beans they use or what the machine does to them, but the result is tasteless or worse.

Then some weeks ago we had a zip tap installed in our kitchen area.  In case you don’t know, a zip tap is a self-contained instant boiling water dispenser tap, installed into a work surface with just a tap and water drain area visible. The gubbings are hidden under the worktop.  For safety reasons, you have to hold a small button in at the same time as pushing on the lever that works the tap.

An obvious use of the zip tap is for making tea and coffee.  I bought a small jar of Douwe Egberts instant coffee and some semi-skimmed milk and decided to try it out.  Well, the result was a big improvement over the office coffee machine but not as good as I am used to at home, using the same brand of coffee.

I reasoned it must be to do with the water temperature.  At home, I wait until the water in the electric kettle is fully off the boil before pouring into my coffee cup, to avoid the taste of the coffee being seared out of existence by the boiling water.  Clearly, the water coming out of the zip tap was too hot, resulting in the destruction of coffee taste that I am so careful to guard against at home.

So I have changed my methodology.  I now grab an empty white plastic drinks cup from the office coffee machine and half fill it with boiling water from the zip tap.  I wait a few seconds then slowly pour that into my coffee mug, over the Douwe Egberts. I can then safely top up the mug direct from the zip tap.  That gives me the optimum combination of flavour and temperature.

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Undrivable drive

December 3, 2008

I was up before the birds this morning, intending to drive from my home in Hale Barns to Stockport station to catch the 6:44 train to London Euston. The weather had other ideas.

Our 50 foot drive slopes steeply downwards from street level to our front door. My car was parked half way up it, blocking our other two cars in.  I tried to walk up the drive to the car and instantly found myself doing a Torvill & Dean impression, but without the grace and without Ravel’s Bolero in the background. The drive was sheet ice. I teetered under the flecks of falling snow as far as the car, but getting in it with my laptop was an ungainly and undignified process, not to mention risky. I was lucky I didn’t break my neck.

There was no chance of going out again to spray de-icer. I turned the aircon on max, blower on full, heated rear everything, wipers on then waited for the inch-thick layer of knobbly ice on the screen to clear. All the while the seconds were ticking away, and my chances of making my train receding.

The screen finally started to show signs that it would soon be clear enough to see to drive, so into reverse using the rear camera to back uphill out of the drive. Very slowly and gently, but after a few feet the wheels started to slip and the car began to slide forward. I managed to bring it to a halt and ever so carefully tried again. No dice. There was no way it was going to find enough grip to get out of the drive, and all the while the risk of skeetering down the drive and crashing into the other cars.

I left the car, skated back to the house and called a taxi. They told me 7 minutes. I knew I would miss the train, so rang the travel agent’s 24hr emergency number. I explained to the lady on the line that I wanted to switch booking to a later train, but apparently Virgin Rail don’t allow access to their systems out of hours.

I arrived at Stockport to find my outbound ticket was worthless. My firm no longer allow me to book an open return (supposedly to save money) so I had had to book a specific train. I now needed a new outbound ticket – another £180.

The next train, the 7:13 was cancelled. The 7:23 had to carry two trainfulls of people. Even in first class people were standing for the 2.5 hour trip. All seat reservations had been cancelled in the circumstances, which worked out fine for me – I managed to get a seat in the melee. No hot drinks or cooked breakfast because the crew couldn’t get the trolleys through the train. The view out the window was XMAS card scene material. I tried to work but my laptop battery packed up after an hour. I had the computer plugged in but the socket was not working.

I ended up nearly an hour late for my first meeting, and the return leg was slow as well. The train manager told us over the tannoy (while we were near Tamworth) that there would be a delay due to a “defect on the track” and he would announce arrival times “at a future date”. I found his use of the word “date” a mite disconcerting given how the day had gone. The reality wasn’t quite that alarming; we were only 35 minutes late into Stockport.

At least it had been the right kind of snow, or things could have been worse.

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Hasta la vista, Heathrow Terminal 5

March 27, 2008

My wife and I were privileged this morning to be on board the very first domestic flight into Heathrow’s newly opened Terminal 5, and the fourth flight in overall. We were on the fairly empty 6am from Manchester.

We half expected a camera crew on hand to welcome us on completion of our historic flight. Bah! They couldn’t even muster a competent jetty driver or enough baggage handlers to get our bag off the plane.

We had a connecting flight to Barcelona departing Terminal 1 at 9.20 so thought we had plenty of time to kill over a relaxing breakfast in the Executive Lounge, given that our flight from Manchester had arrived on time shortly after 7am. We knew we should worry when the pilot “wished us luck” with Terminal 5.

We lost 15 minutes getting off the plane because the lady ground staff member could not drive the jetty straight, so it would not line up with the door of the plane. We then dashed to collect our luggage – we had not dared check it straight through to Barcelona, and how right we were!

Heathrow Terminal 5

The baggage reclaim hall (pictured) was virtually empty. Just a few hardy travellers and loads of BAA supervisors. No-one was getting the bags off the plane and no-one knew what was going on. It took the concerted effort of several supervisors to get some handlers out to the plane and retrieve the luggage. We had been waiting for the best part of three quarters of an hour and were getting frantic.

A quick dash on the Heathrow Express got us to Terminal 1 just in time to re-check our bag in for the Barcelona flight. Not an auspicious start for Terminal 5. I think for £4.2bn they might have managed to be more organised on day 1.

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Nagasaki Ground Zero

August 8, 2007

This post has moved to here.


Pusan’s pastel patchwork and punch-up

July 25, 2007

This post has been moved here.


Harry Potter and the Obliterated Forest

July 22, 2007

This post has been moved here.


China’s yellow sky

July 15, 2007

This post has been moved here.

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