I take no credit for having 'invented' this, but it's so simple to do that it would be daft not to share. The acrylic sheets cost £3.50 from eBay (including the postage) and the bolts and wingnuts about the same from a local shop. It took a couple of minutes to put together and will save endless amounts of future faffing about with hand-squeezing, improvised weights and kitchen roll. Well worth the 'effort'.
2 x 6mm acrylic sheet, around A5 size (210x148mm)
4 x 8x100mm bolts with matching wingnuts (washers optional)
Drill four 8mm diameter holes in each corner of the acrylic sheets, around 20mm in from the edges. Put a washer on each bolt then put the bolts through the corner holes. Screw on the wingnuts. Done.
To use, simply put your tofu* between the sheets and lightly tighten up the wingnuts until it's held in position. Put the press on its edge on a plate and give the wingnuts a twist or two every minute or so until the tofu offers up a fair bit of resistance but doesn't split, then leave for another few minutes to drain completely.
*For extra-chewy / absorbent tofu, freeze it first then allow to defrost before pressing.
It's been a while in the making, but the "Dirty Squatters Compilation: Music For The Homeless" project is now ready and available for download. Featuring two CDs worth of music, one full of punk / hardcore / crust / grind and the other with ska / dub / folk / spoken word, there should be plenty for every revolutionary spirit to enjoy.
The comp is dedicated to the memory of Gary DS (2000 Dirty Squatters etc.) and the family and friends who were tragically killed with him in a car crash in 2011. Gary and the band were stalwarts of the punk / squat scene and are fondly remembered by this old punk.
The minimum donation is £3 per disc, from which two quid goes to the two groups being supported (Punk 4 The Homeless and Squatters' Action For Secure Homes) and the other quid towards the physical release of the comps, with any extra donations going straight to the homelessness projects. Once enough money has been raised for the pressing, you'll also get the hard copy sent to you too (of course, this depends on enough people buying the download in the first place).
There are some mighty fine artists contributing to this, and the folks behind it have put in a lot of work to get to this point. You shouldn't really need to think twice about clicking the download links. So don't waste brain power, just do it.
Download part 1
Download part 2
For anyone who, like me, is still using Windows XP (because my PC is pretty old and XP works great on it), support from Microsoft will end on April 8th next year. From that point on, there will be NO more security updates issued. Your system will be open to any hacker who decides to take an interest. Software developers are also less likely to keep developing / updating XP versions of their programs.
For many people, the new Microsoft 'alternative', Windows 8, is no alternative at all. If you've got an older machine, you've got little to no chance of getting it to run. It also looks like crap as far as I'm concerned.
But there is another alternative which you've probably heard of if you've hung around geeky anarcho types, which is also free and open source (FOSS). It's called Linux.
In the past, Linux would've been a tricky proposition for the average computer user. Not any more. The latest versions (a.k.a. distros) include several (fairly) user-friendly alternatives. If you've ever installed / upgraded Windows, you should have no problem with them. These distros allow you to create what's known as a live DVD. Simply burn the .iso file you've downloaded on to DVD, restart your PC with the disc in the tray and then try it out. You'll also be able to make sure that things like your wifi and printers work OK (and, if they don't, Googling the problem may well get you an answer).
If you like the version, simpy follow the instructions to install it from the disc, usually nothing harder than double-clicking a desktop icon and filling in a bit of info. And if, after installing it, you later decide you don't like it, uninstalling is about as easy as inserting a new live DVD and repeating the above process (although you may want to learn about formatting and partitioning your hard drive - it's not as scary as it sounds and ultimately worth getting to grips with anyway).
I've been trying a few Linux distros over the last week, to see what works best for me and my machine. I was pretty impressed with Linux Mint,and it's definitely worth giving a go. The main version of Mint is based on a Linux operating system called Ubuntu. Ubuntu is stable and, like Mint, has a well-established development team. The main 'drawback' for beginners is that, when an update is released, the update process can appear a little daunting. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it looks, and there is a very good guide on the Mint site.
The Mint team have also produced a version that is based on the Debian operating system (which also has a well-established development base). Mint Debian offers a simpler updating method - stable updates are released around every 6 months then installed automatically using the Update Manager program included. But I get the impression the Mint developer community is much smaller for this version, although still pretty good.
Mint has been around for a while and it seems likely that it will continue that way, making it a good choice if you want a long-term option for your operating system.
However, if you're a bit adventurous (and you're a punk, so that's a given), I'd also suggest giving SolydX or SolydK a go (the 'X' and 'K' refers to the two desktop environment options, Xcfe and KDE, available - see note below). Solyd is based on Debian, but the Solyd developer team release monthly updates that have been tested by them for stability and security. After running Solyd for a few days I've fallen in love with it, so much so that I've removed Windows XP completely from my PC.
Solyd is the new(ish) kid on the block and there's always a chance it could falter before it really gets going. However, the people involved have a good pedigree, having previously worked on the Mint team, and I'm hoping that it comes to more people's attention so that the developer / user base grows because I'm selfish like that.
Of course, for the price of a DVD and a bit of time, you can try out as many Linux flavours as you fancy. It's even pretty simple to install several different distros on your hard drive (e.g. you could have a simple version for everyday PC tasks, and a specialist multi-media one (like KXStudio or AVLinux) if you're a musical / arty type, so you can go with whatever mood takes you).
Old punks learning new tricks. Take that, society!
Note: the different desktop environments offered as downloads (Cinnamon, MATE, KDE, Xfce etc.) mainly affect the default software packages that are installed, how heavy they are on your hardware and the look and feel of the desktop. Some (e.g. Cinnamon) work best on newer machines, while others (e.g. LXDE) will breathe new life into an old desktop.
Loads of these little chap(esse)s are bouncing all around the garden right now, despite the spawn taking a fair amount of punishment during the cold snap in early spring. Frogs like to eat slugs, which is great news for any gardener (but not so good for the slug).
Tags: Urban Jungle
Having finally got a fully functioning full-sized oven for the first time in years, I've returned to breadmaking and baking with a vengeance.
Making your own bread is pretty quick and pretty easy, and most of the actual time involved is spent waiting around (drinking tea, smoking, listening to punk rock, that kind of waiting around). I can knock up a loaf of bread in less time than it would take me to walk to the shops to buy one. And I can customise it to suit my particular fancy of the day.
This is a ciderfied adaptation of a beery bread recipe I came across years ago. The end result is a roll with a nice crust, a soft and chewy inside and a slightly herby sweet-sharp flavour.
500g seedy grainy bread flour (the one I use is 20% seeds and grains)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried sage
A grind or two of black pepper
2 tsp fast-action (instant) yeast
Around 300ml vegan cider (a fruity medium dry is ideal)
1 tbs sunflower oil plus a bit more for the kneading
1 tbs malt extract
Mix the flour, salt, sage and pepper together in a large bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and mix again. Add the tablespoon of sunflower oil and briefly stir through, then make a well in the centre of the flour.
Pour in about half of the cider and add the malt extract. Use a spoon to start to bring the mix together then get your hand in there and start squidging it together properly. Add more cider until there's no dry mix left and it's formed a ball. The dough needs to be soft but not too sticky.
Now to knead the dough. Describing how to knead would be a bit long-winded. Luckily there are a couple of great vids with instructions on the BBC website, one that describes using oil instead of flour to stop the dough sticking to your worktop (sunflower oil is fine for this mix), and one that goes through the 'how to' basics. Using these methods, get kneading. You need to be fairly lively about it if you want to get great bread, so don't slack! I find this dough takes around 8 mins to get there, but your mileage may vary.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces of roughly equal size and shape into roundish roll-shaped balls. Put onto a lightly oiled tray or unoiled silicone baking sheet, roughly equidistant apart, and cover with a piece of lightly oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise in a warm room until doubled in size (around 2 hours in my house).
Heat the oven to 220°C, placing a metal tray in the bottom. Remove the clingfilm and place the rolls on the middle shelf. Pour half a cup of water into the metal tray and quickly close the oven door - the water produces steam which makes the rolls go crusty. Bake for 10 mins, reduce heat to 200°C and bake for another 10 mins. They should be now lovely and brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Great with something smoky and pickled inside (some sort of vegan 'bacon', salad and Branston is about as good as a bread roll gets) or with a bowl of my smoky cider casserole. In the last pic, I used some piri piri hummus and salad which hit the spot nicely.
Tags: Baking, Bread
Flies. Maggots. Nasty.
Except they're not (well, sort of). Without maggots, we'd literally be neck-deep in crap. And there are many flies that are pollinators. Flies like this common greenbottle (Lucilia sericata) that was feeding off of the forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) whilst flitting about the garden today.
Not only does this fly do a good job of spreading the flower love, its offspring have a penchant for rotting flesh and have been successfully used for treating really manky wounds.
OK, so it's literally got shit breath (as have some humans I know) but perhaps you should think twice before going to swat one in future (if you're the sort of Neandethal who does that sort of thing). A world without flies and maggots would be a far more disgusting place.
Tags: Urban Jungle
I've taken quite a few pics over time of the local flora and fauna (with the occasional not-so-local shot too), in large part thanks to the fact that the wildlife-friendly garden I've created either features or attracts 'em in. I like looking at other people's pics of such things, so I thought why not share the ones of my own that I like? No reason whatsoever, so here's the first.
This is a common whitethroat (Sylvia communis), who spent a fruitful half-hour this morning flitting around the slightly dishevelled post-winter garden (good bug-hunting territory). It's a new birdy in the garden too, so another one to add to the tick list (of course I have a tick list, I'm a bloke).
The pic isn't brilliant but, given that I had to take it through the kitchen window at maximum optical zoom, it's not too shabby either.
Tags: Urban Jungle
The evil old hag is dead. Last night we partied in the streets. Today I had the happiest hangover ever, made even more enjoyable by the arrival of Chumbawamba's long-anticipated anti-tribute to The Thatcher. If you didn't pre-order it, it's too late to get one. But don't despair, I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on the chance to dance to the Chumba's final greatest hit - grab a FLAC version here or the mp3 one here. The password for both folders is theoldpunk.
On a more sombre note, MediaFire recently killed my account after allegedly receiving a couple of DMCA takedown notices, thus also killing all the links on this site. I'm not convinced about MF's claims, as the notices involved a couple of tracks that I KNOW the copyright owners were cool with (I have a suspicion that MF are just killing any obvious music-related accounts regardless of copyright issue, expecially if they're popular). However, the effort involved in arguing the case legally is just too much fucking hassle. So, for the moment, you'll need to request a re-upload for any dead links while I consider my longer-term options.
And sorry for the quietness of late, but that's just how I roll sometimes. Rest assured I've been having fun on a regular basis.
Tags: Chumbawamba, FLAC, mp3, Thatcher