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Welcome to www.paul-marsden.com

This site is the place where, as a compulsive but mostly unpublished writer, I can go public with anything I want to share with the world.

It has also been a showcase and testbed for Sites4Doctors, the GP website package I began selling to practices and some other organisations in 2004 after leaving my web management job with the NHS. S4D was in continuous development until March 2013, based on feedback from users and my own experience of working on this site.

Instant web publishing is a joy for anyone who loves writing. With Sites4Doctors, it was as easy as using your favourite word-processor.

In November 2009 I wrote a detailed description of how the Site Management System worked, with an optional peek into the underlying code. You can read this, with or without the techy stuff, starting from the Website hosting and development page.

The end of an era - and a new beginning...?

Observant readers will have noticed the use of the past tense in the preceding paragraphs. This is because I finally wound down the S4D service in March 2013, at the age of 70. 

For a while I toyed with the idea of closing my own site down too, because the idea of getting it into shape and keeping it going without the site management system was pretty daunting, but that seemed too drastic. Read about this version of the site and why the changes were needed...

Sadly the site search and the Latest updates page have had to be sacrificed. I'll try to keep the section below up-to-date with any additions and significant updates.

I'm writing on the 6 February 2014, and can now say that I have a usable editing platform and have got back to using the site as notebook shared with the world. The foodie and mobile phone stuff, at least, is now being updated pretty frequently - see the first four items in the box below.

Highlights

Problems after eight years with the ankle replacement
After five great years, part of my ankle implant failed, but was successfully repaired on the 18 May 2011. After less than a week I was fully mobile. Full story.
Then, in Summer 2014 there were two other problems, but this time it was my bones rather than the implant that failed. First, the other ankle became really troublesome and turned out to be too far gone already for a replacement. But before that could be dealt with, the bones around the original replacement suffered a pretty catastrophic collapse. That was repaired in September 2014 and we started looking at the planned fusion of the left ankle. Foiled again: the work done in September had failed yet again and needed urgent attention. Nevertheless, I persuaded my consultant that I needed the left one fixing first because the right one was fine as a 'good foot' for rehab but the left one wouldn't be. The fusion on the left ankle was finally done on the 30 September 2015 amd the right ankle managed very well and 'the good foot'.
I've been keeping a
PDF diary of developments  rather than a web page, and this has become quite an epic as it starts early in 2014. As of the 21 December 2015 - the day I got the cast removed from the left leg -the diary has a picture: the x-ray of my left ankle fusion!

Beyond digital TV
The digital TV minefield (see below) - my quest for a really good way to watch and record TV - settled down about a year ago (I'm writing this in the 11 June 2014). Recently, though, some new questions cropped up, triggered by the fact that our 32in Panasonic Viera LCD telly, bought over seven years ago, has started to play up and may soon need replacing. Smart TV is the (fairly) new thing, and I started investigating TV's that behave like tablets. Then I was tipped off by our tech-savvy grandson Barney about  smart TV boxes - cheap but very powerful Android computers that plug into an HDMI socket and connect to your wi-fi network and from there to the Internet. The obvious advantage is that a spanking new smart TV costing several hunred quid is likely to go out-of-date technologically fairly quickly. A super-quality full-HD LED non-smart telly connected to a £45 Android device can be updated far less expensively. I have ordered the box - with an awesome specification - for just over £43 post-free, and will report my progress here...

Home-made yogurt - update 22 May 2014
Read the whole story of my home-made yogurt or, if you are already making your own, just the following tip. I've found that whisking my freshly-chilled batch leaves it rather grainy. For no particular reason, I recently decided to pour off the tablespoon or so of clear liquid from the top of the Thermos before pouring the yogurt into its container. Result: a much smoother and creamier product. Why? I have no idea!

Sourdough focaccia!
The 5 May 2014 saw my first three sourdough focaccias emerge from the oven. Not only was I delighted with them, but Patricia - who had always been a bit unhappy with the sourdough flavour - ate them with relish too! My sentimental attachment to artisan flour from local windmills has taken a hammering from Allinsons' Very Strong White Bread Flour. It feels like treachery, but this is a truly amazing flour producing a wonderfully elastic dough.

The Great Mobile Phone Saga
There used to be an excited bit here about my new mobile phone and how great it was to be using Acorn technology again after all these years and to have found a really brilliant Linux-based computer in the form of a smartphone. I must have taken that piece down in a fit of pique when the phone went phut. Now I'm getting sorted out, so you may be interested in the whole tale - or just the most recent developments. I now have a lovely new Samsung Galaxy SIII (also with Acorn's ARM technology at its heart), and I'm really impressed...

A busy week  on the food front - 6 February 2014
This has been a pretty productive week, with the year's first batch of sourdough bread, a fresh batch of yogurt and a third attempt at cold-smoked salmon (all the previous attempts have been edible but need work!). The chaos of Christmas is finally over and life returns to whatever passes for normal!

New information on home-smoking fish - 8 March 2014
As far as I know, the only page I lost when transferring my content to this new site was the one on hot-smoking fish. I've just started cold-smoking and have begun a new page to record my exploits. To my amazement and delight, I'm already producing 'ordinary' smoked salmon of far higher quality than some that I've bought! The method is still a bit haphazard, but each batch is an improvement on the previous one.

Sourdough bread - update 20 October 2013
The baking goes on. The latest report (and the first new 'real' content in the new version of the site) is on an experiment to 'clean up' the culture. This and the bread batch that follows will be found at the end of the Sourdough 2012-13 page.

We live on a lump of rock
I started writing this page on the 13 June 2013. It's an attempt to bring together a lot of the science I've learnt over the last few years in a fairly easy-to-read form, so I've aimed it at our grandchildren. It will be interesting to get their feedback on whether it really is easy to digest!

Digital TV and broadband - update 13 May 2013
My broadband speed from BT has improved lately, showing an average of around 4.5Mbps. However, I’m now waiting for the installation of an Infinity 2 package - superfast fire-optic broadband! So the time has come to get BBC iPlayer and its equivalents from other channels running on the Humax FreeSat+ box. The 4-meg speed should be fine, but fibre - wow! I’m now also waiting for a starter kit of PowerLine adaptors, which will give me an Ethernet connection between the Humax and my BT router. This will be reported in an update to The digital TV minefield, but meanwhile I can report that yesterday (3 May) afternoon I received the kit, plugged one unit into the mains and via Ethernet into my BT router, and repeated the process at the other end with the FoxSat box. The BBC1 red button showed ’BBC iPlayer’, which just worked - true Plug-and-Play! Eventually I found ITV Player too, not on the red button but just as a channel (903). Last night we used the iPlayer for real, dishing up old episodes of ’Octonauts’ to calm the grandkids down. It worked fine!
Today the BT engineer came and installed my infinity package. Unfortunately the new HomeHub had to be installed near the BT master socket, which happens to be in the sittingroom. Hard-wiring this to my desktop PC with and Ethernet cables (as the old one has been connected for years, would need a lot of wall-drilling and loft-crawling, so - having established with the old Toshiba laptop, my smartphone and the Kindle that the wireless performance is far better than before, I'm considering ordering a wireless dongle for the desktop machine. Meanwhile, I’m writing this on the laptop, which is doing fine...
In the end, I discovered that I could get a flat ribbon Ethernet cable. I ordered a 10-metre one and ran it under the carpet to the desktop machine in my office. Problem solved.

Update 21 March 2014
Different online broadband speed checkers produce quite a range of upload and download speeds. http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/, which I've used for ages, currently shows an incredible 166 Mb/s download and 15 Mb/s upload speeds. These arent reflected on my PC because other local factors get in the way, but it means I can use the higher quality setting on
BBC iPlayer with no hiccups.

My Canon EOS 300D and Windows 7 - update 30 April 2013
On the 3 October 2011, I reported that I’d reconciled these two ill-matched partners simply by changing the camera’s communication mode from ’Normal’ to ’PTP’ (peer-to-peer?). Windows 7 now saw the camera as just another removable disc, so no software was needed.
Last week - disaster. After all these years the camera stopped communicating via USB - one day fine and the next day nothing. This morning I connected two elegant card readers bought from Amazon (a multi-function one for £3.99 and a dedicated Compact Flash one for £3.30), inserted the camera’s Compact Flash card (not compact at all!) and saw a new drive labelled ’EOS_DIGITAL (E:)’. File transfer was much quicker than with the camera.

Life, the universe and everything
After watching the BBC’s
The Seven Ages of Starlight and learning about neutron stars, on the 8 November 2012 I added some new stuff to my quest for a non-counterintuive explanation of - well - everything. Thanks to quark stars and quark matter (still theoretical), I seem to have arrived at a pretty convincing model of an oscillating universe - and maybe stumbled on a clue to what dark matter might be! On the 13 November, a BBC news story threw yet another cat among the pigeons, and me back into my ongoing dispute with scientific orthodoxy. Then on the 20 January 2013 The Observer published a short item on the newly discovered Huge-LQG, which really shook things up. Probably even more momentous was the release in March 2013 of a new and far more detailed map of the cosmic microwave background, revealing features that ’challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the Universe’.

Two colonies of bugs in my fridge
A one-day sourdough breadmaking course at The School of Artisan Food on Sunday 13 March 2011: learned a great deal and brought home bread and sourdough starters that are still breeding in the fridge after over two years - and getting better! Read about the course and the bread I made during 2011. And the latest recipes and news, try Sourdough bread 2012/13. The technique - and the bread - have been improving all the time, and after just over two years I think I finally have a recipe to stick with (latest news 21 May 2013).
Since the 10 January 2011, I have been making yogurt in a Thermos flask at least once a week, each innoculated from the previous one and going well after over two years. Read the whole story, with the latest update from the 8 May 2013.

Talking of food...
The two items above reflect that I use the web rather than a notebook to record my cookery experiments. Along with many of my favourite recipes and techniques, they’re all in The Online Cookbook.

Back to infinity
I’ve just watched the Horizon programme, To Infinity and Beyond, again and added a bit to what I wrote about it just over two years ago...

Looking back on Quantum: A guide for the Perplexed
I just re-read the page I wrote after reading Jim Al-Khalili’s fascinating book, and was pretty chuffed with it. It’s here...

Rant No 1
Pay the Murdochs for F1 coverage? No way! Read my complaint to the BBC.

Rant No 2
There are some serious thoughts on Government IT cock-ups at the end of the Politics page. They were shared with Henry Porter of The Observer (reluctantly) and Sir Alec Jeffreys, inventor of DNA profiling, and fed back to the Department of Justice. My thoughts on capital punishment are on the same page (please read this, Mr President!).

Rant No 3
Why I thought I’d vote NO but didn’t in the Alternative Vote referendum - my arguments with myself and thoughts on the coalition...

Latest news on human origins
A useful article in The Observer on the 19 June 2011, a new book not to be missed and a suprisingly effective BBC1 series - see The diary of a wandering mind.This and almost all other science is dealt with in the more accessible A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, which I found surprisingly good.

More general bone problems?
My exercises for stiff necks, shoulders, backs and legs - a workout that really helps when these old bones are punishing me

The Digital Switchover
This happened in our house years ago, with the basic Sky package. Then came DVD-recording, Freeview, DVD-RAM discs - and now a Freesat PVR. Follow the saga here...

My best mate for some years from about 1960...
...with whom I lost touch around 1975, has a fascinating and rapidly-growing blog with lots about folk, jazz and Brazilian music, and even bits about me!

Sous-vide cooking -- My magnificent muesli -- Government IT cockups -- The most amazing butcher

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; until March 2013  a professional web-developer but now - finally - retired.

In June 2005 the static content of the original version was transferred to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and was developed and maintained there until April 2013.

In October 2013, following changes to 1&1 hosting which made continued use of the SMS impossible, this version was captured as static HTML. It is now being maintained using