Bread - "Lame" or bread slashing thing

A "lame" (pronounced in the first part of this), or "bread slashing thing" is a razor blade on a stick.

It's really important if you want to make those nice textured loaves that are slashed before baking, like baguettes.

I found a knife did a poor job, and I keep my knives sharp. The problem was their thickness rather than their sharpness. A scalpel worked a bit better, but was still too thick.

I thought I'd make one, and it worked really well. It's what I used on my last loaf, with the 5 overlapping cuts.

I started by wrecking a disposable razor. Safety glasses are important here, bits flew all over the place.

Really, really, really, sharp bits.

Wear glasses.

If you get a razor stuck in your eye, I bet it really stings every time you blink.

Wear glasses.

Next step was to trim it into a shape that I thought would work. My aim was to minimise friction as it cut into the loaf.

Scissors worked to shape the blade. The thin blades cut like thick paper.

The to make a handle, I cut the end off a chopstick...

And split it with a steak knife.

I made the split long enough to hold a decent amount of the blade.

And glued it in place with super glue.

It works really well.

I think the secret to the slashing bit is bold confident strokes.

Here's a picture of a totally unrelated ball of dough in a glass of water.

120 Things in 20 years is all about boldness and confidence. And bread and a lame. And a glass of water with dough in it.

Entomology - green caterpillar to moth

A while ago I put a few green caterpillars into a jar to watch how they went about changing into a moth.

I've always thought the green caterpillars that ate my aquaponics garden were from the white cabbage moth. The ones that fly around during the day.

But last night in the hours just before dawn, the jar on my desk suddenly erupted into life and out flew this.

In this part of the world, this is one of those crazy moths that love flying around lights at night.

I don't know how they get anything done.

It seems they do this because they normally navigate by the moon. When using the moon for navigation, you can fly in a straight line, or very close to a straight line, by just keeping the thing up there and a little to the left or whatever. If it's up there and a little to the left, and you veer off a bit to the right, it becomes up there and a little more to the left. So you turn left a bit.

The moon is so far away, that even though it's moving as far as a moth is concerned, it's a pretty stationary object in the sky. Perfect to act as a lighthouse.

But when you fly past an artificial light thinking it's the moon, you see it change it's position, so you turn a bit, but it's still changing position, so you turn a bit more. You end up flying around and around until you vomit or die.

If your flight plan happens to be to fly almost exactly at the moon, and your moon is a candle, you don't even get to the throwing up stage. You just die.

So I had a look in the jar and saw this.

I cant tell if this photo of the moth's old home is interesting or not.

I'm guessing it's a little bit interesting.

I should really pt the camera on the one on the left and watch it emerge, but instead in the interests of bread, I just put the jar outside.

120 Things in 20 years - Entomology - green caterpillar to night time moth. Who knew.

Thinking - Annoyed at myself

For ages I've held the belief that time travel is impossible based solely on the basis that if it were, there would be people from the future all over the place. Being irritating, and buying up all the shares in Miscosoft and 120 Things in 20 years.

And tourists.

Doing exactly what we would do if we could go back in time.

From fire, to the gun, to nukes, it's a given that eventually everyone with a screwdriver will eventually have the tech to make anything that can be made.

That was always my proof for why time travel was impossible. If it was possible, someone from the future would have come back and stolen my teeth or something because of some kind of future shortage of calcium... whatever.


Someone interested in CERN made the comment that, like the telephone, perhaps time travel needs a second handset to be useful.

The first phone wasn't very useful until the second one was made.

"Hello? SalutonAhoy hoy'? Nope it simply doesnt work. It must be impossible."

What if people from the future cant come back to the past until a time machine is invented, and we leave a note to the future saying where it is, and when it will be switched on?

I still don't think we will be seeing visitors from the future, but I'm kicking myself for not thinking about the possibility that the only reason we don't see them now is because we haven't got around to building the other end of the connection.

How can I form an argument against something without all the facts?

Let that be a lesson to me.

When trying to learn 120 things in 20 years, and thinking about being annoyed at myself, I sometimes get annoyed at myself.

Bread - Scoring or slashing

There is a lot of different reasons given for why we slash bread before putting into the oven.

Many claims involve letting steam out.

I'm finding it almost imposable to tell truth from fiction, so I did a stack of tests for myself, and this is why I think it's done.

I made a loaf that ended up looking like this.

By far my best loaf to date.

It was bread by any standard.

In fact I wouldn't change anything if I wanted to make this style of light white bread.

Luckily for me, for the first time, I took detailed notes of the amounts and durations etc. so I actually have my first recipe.

I will eventually follow some recipes, but for this first stage I want to know why people used x amount of this and that, so I wanted to do the tests myself. I just enjoy exploring, even where it's already been explored. From everything I've read, it's all about very accurate measurements if you are trying to make a particular kind of bread.

I'm finding it pretty easy now to make bread, but I haven't yet tried to make a particular kind of bread.

No doubt that will be an entirely new challenge.

But this post is about slashing the bread with a razor just before putting it into the oven. And it really does need to be a razor. I found everything else pulls the bread and doesn't really cut it decisively, and it's done at just the wrong time to be being rough with the dough.

My loaf had to go into my container with a lid, and it had already risen to the point where, if it went up too much more in the oven it would touch the lid.

If I had left the bread un-slashed, it would rise pretty much equally in all directions. Probably a bit more out, than up because of gravity.

And probably an un-slashed loaf would rise a bit less overall because of having the restriction of its own outer skin.

If I had slashed the bread with a cut across the top (pictured left), I should expect the deepest part of the cut to burst up and become the topmost part of the finished loaf. The sides would "rise" sideways less because all the rising would go up.

What I did was to make 5 cuts around the outside.

I hadn't tried 5 overlapping cuts like this in any of my tests, and really wanted to test my conclusions of those tests.

I figured this should give me the desired result, a well "risen" loaf, but one that didn't go up too much.

I should also point out that the dough was also originally shaped so that it was a flatter wider disc, rather than a high ball, so not all the final shape was due to slashing.

But after the loaf was cut and put into the oven (250c preheated with 4 cast iron plates in the bottom), the first few minutes saw the loaf starting to change shape.

At first the top rose a bit, and the cuts opened out a little.

But within 5 minutes, the top had stopped doing a lot, but the bottom most point of each cut started to fold up, and out.

The top outside corners followed an arc that created all the sideways "rise".

At one stage there was a step where the top was flat, and the cuts formed 90 degree angles. It would have been a funny looking loaf if it had set in that shape, but the lid was on so there was lots of steam in the container, so the outer skin was still flexible enough to keep growing out.

The result was almost a perfect dome, with a continuous shape without any steps or obvious cuts, just different colour and texture to mark the history of it's unfolding.

It looked like this on the inside, and the first picture of the post, shows the interesting colour and textural variations on the crust...

The best part is that this is the first loaf that turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Some previous loaves have turned out bready enough, but I didn't really have an idea of what kind of thing I wanted to create. With this loaf, it's light and fluffy white bread like you might buy as a knot roll, and every single one of those slightly larger holes is in exactly the right place :)

Perfect (to my biased head).

I'll just double check the recipe before posting it, because I had to keep adding flour to my original mix and as a result, some of the flour was added later during the kneading. I don't think it was so late that it will make any difference, but I'm make it again with the final amounts so I don't lead anyone astray by posting a fluke recipe that cant be duplicated.

120 Things in 20 years scoring and slashing bread - I just noticed the pentagram I created (I was too busy seeing what looked to me like fish tails), and no, this post is not part of a secret coded Illuminati conspiracy message, so if you just add the word DELETE to the subject line of any emails, I can filter them straight to the junk folder. Everyone wins!

Aquaponics - Carrot

I pulled up one of my carrots prematurely to see if they were developing into something carrot looking, or were going to look like Elvis.

Something I read ages ago in a dirt gardening book mentioned that you should plant carrots in deeply dug soil that had old fertilizer added. If you had too much new fertilizer the carrot would branch out seeking the nutrient, rather than going straight down looking from nutrient.

I think my carrots are going to be carrot looking.

Obviously, it's early days yet, but at least they haven't started to go crazy yet.

I suspect that even if they do they might still be good to eat, because they will be all nice and clean and fine to eat without peeling.

Besides, I'm happy to eat Elvis shaped carrots if the ebay market has dropped off for rock star/deity shaped vegetables and pictures on toast.

Aquaponics - Tomato problem

I haven't been into my grow house for a few days because I've been too busy making bread.

But today I went in and although everything is ticking along just fine, I found two odd leaves on my tomato plants.

One looked like this...

Very distinct purple veins.

Sometimes tomato plants have this a bit, and the photo didn't really capture how different this leaf is from others.

It's quite attractive actually, but is no doubt the harbinger of some exciting new tomato drama.

The other interesting leaf looked like this.

It looks a bit like normal old age in a tomato leaf, but this is a new leaf, on a new shoot.

I think this one might be nitrogen deficiency. The water has become cold, and the fish have nearly stopped eating, so there might not be enough nutrient.

I don't really have enough fish for my system.

120 Things in 20 years. That's the plan anyway. But for today, it's an exciting new aquaponics tomato leaf problem.

Bread - Loaf 5

I think this last loaf worked really well.

But first, a correction to the last post.

The bit that read...

I read somewhere that if you take the number 44, and subtract the room temperature in centigrade, you are left with the temperature the water should be. (presuming your flour is at room temperature)

Should have said,  "Take the number 54 and subtract the room temperature AND the flour temperature, and you are left with what the water temperature needs to be."


This latest loaf, loaf number 5 worked really well. 

I think. 

I haven't tried it yet because I'm risking taking it to a friends house for a dinner party. 

It was made the same way as the last loaf except this time I preheated the oven properly with some cast iron the bottom to try to get some heat under the loaf.

The other difference was that I removed the plastic handle, and lid handle from a deep non-stick frying pan to act as a backing tray. This meant there was a much smaller gap between the dough and the cover (the last time I used a large bowl) , and as I result, I think I got more steam. 

I didn't add any water, but the dough contributes a bit as you can see, with the lid steaming up. 

This is after their final shaping, and after a few minutes of rising. 

This is what they looked like after their final rise, and just before slashing and being put into the oven.

This time I saw an extra rise in the oven for the first time. I'm not sure if it was because the loaf was in a container, and had nowhere to go but up, or if it was the steam, the hot iron at the base, or something I haven't understood yet. 

My 120 Things in 20 years loaf number 5 worked as well. Two in a row is a lot, lot better than one in a row. 

Bread - Success

I did make bread.

It wasn't perfect, but I've bought worse loaves from supermarkets.

The final product looked like this.

There were a few different steps I took from the last loaf I tried.

I read somewhere that if you take the number 44, and subtract the room temperature in centigrade, you are left with the temperature the water should be. (presuming your flour is at room temperature)

[Edit from the future - That should read "Take the number 54 and subtract the room temperature and the flour temperature. ]

It seemed to work. And I think I got a quicker rise as a result.

This time I just gently mixed around two cups of bread making flour with a cup of water and a few pinches of salt. I stirred it in a bowl for probably a minute or so until it looked like this.

I covered it and let it rest for 20 minutes.

I've read that this can save a bit of work as the flour absorbs the water by itself. I'm guessing this activates the yeast as well.

The next step was to kneed it and with this loaf, I flattened it out a bit and placed it back into the bowl.

The hole in the middle is where I stuck a spoon handle to see how deep it was so I could check later and better judge that it had doubled in size.

It's a bit tricky to tell, and I think I had previously let it more than double.

It only took 40 minutes to rise.

The kneading is very important to get right, because it causes the gluten in the flour to turn into long chains. These make the dough springy and stretchable. One way to tell if your dough is sufficiently kneaded, is to stretch out a window between your fingers. If its done, it doesn't break, and can be stretched to being see-through. This is important, because it's this stretchability that allows the carbon dioxide that the yeast create, to be trapped in little bubbles. Or big bubbles.

I'll show you the window thing when I can get my dough in good enough condition to do it.

So after it had doubled in size I shaped it by pulling the sides into the centre.

This creates a smooth membrane on the outside of the loaf on what will eventually be the top. This is also important, because it shapes how the loaf will rise.

Because it isn't going to be in a loaf pan, the only thing holding it together is the tightness of the outer skin.

I collected all the pulled in sides and made sure they were pinched together to stop the loaf splitting in a way I didn't want it to.

I think those tears are a fault, and indicate that I should have kneaded a bit longer.

The final step is to gently cup the loaf, and drag it slightly towards yourself to really stretch the top membrane.

It's a bit difficult to describe, but you use your little fingers to tuck in the bottom, as you pull it a centimetre or so towards yourself, then rotate it and do it again until the top is tight and smooth.

The drag from the counter on the bottom means that the top is stretched.

I then placed it on some baking paper and onto a cake cooling tray that will go with it into the oven.

I put it onto a dinner plate, covered it with an upturned bowl, and left it to do it's final rise on the coffee machines cup warmer.

I slashed it with a very sharp blade.

A razor is best.

But then realised I hadn't preheated the oven.

The slashing should be done just before entering the oven, but because I wanted to preheat the oven, this pic was taken a few minutes later, and you can see it has risen a bit more.

I cook my bread in a very, very old convection/microwave. The microwave bit is not used. I cant imagine what that would do, but I'm guessing the result would make nice shoes.

One of the problems with this tiny oven, is that it heats from above.

People who know this stuff use a clay baking tile in the bottom of their oven, and preheat it until it becomes really hot. This means when you put your bread onto it, the bottom is instantly given very high temperature, and it should start to cook from the bottom. This in turn allows the top to rise even more as it hasn't yet formed a crust. As soon as a crust forms the loaf cant expand unless there are cuts in the loaf, or unless the loaf tears.

I don't have a baking stone, so to try to get some heat under them I put some cast iron 1970's steak serving hotplate things in the oven.

Then I started freaking out because the loaf was still changing and starting to flatten out, so I put it into the oven even though it wasn't yet hot.

The result was the top cooked before the bottom so in the end, just before bringing it out I turned it over for a few minutes.

I cooked the loaf with the stainless steal bowl over the top and added some water to the cast iron things.

Bread making ovens have steamers to add water to the environment. This keeps the top from forming a crust and allows it to fully rise in the oven. The bowl and water can do a similar thing, and in my oven at least, the bowl also stops the top from burning.

After the first 20 minutes covered by the bowl, I cooked it for another 20 uncovered.

The first 20 minutes was at around 220c and the last at more like 180c.

The result was bread.

You can see in the top slice that there are some irregular lines. I think they were formed while I was shaping the loaf, and they are a little denser than the rest of the loaf.

But a close up reveals that it really is bread.

It looks like bread, feels like bread, smells like bread, and tastes like bread.

120 Things in 20 years - Success! I made bread!

Bread - I think I made bread

Bread - Nearly

With my new pack of yeast that isn't dead, things are looking up a bit.

Now all I need is some heat control.

And some bread making skills.

But I'm getting there.

My new yeast made a big difference to the size and speed of the rise.

This is it just after the kneading, and in the time it took to find the camera I think it had started rising already.

According to the time stamps on the photo's, this is it half an hour later.

Everyone says let it double in size, but judging if something this shape has doubled in size is a tricky thing to do. I suspect I'm letting it go to far.

This might mean that when I knock the air out of it and shape it for it's final rise, its already done it's dash, so this time I stopped it sooner than the last time.

I knocked it down gently to remove the really big air pockets, and folded it into its final shape.

I don't really know what I'm doing here, but it seems to have worked anyway.

I don't really know what I'm doing anywhere, but  I guess what I really meant was that I didn't really have a plan here.

I shaped it and slashed it and it turned into something that looked like it might turn into a loaf.

The problem is, I think the slashing was meant to be done just before the oven.

There's a lot of stuff on the net about the slashing part, and many people say it's to let the steam out.

Others say its to allow it to rise in the first stages of baking.

Looking at pictures of loaves that have been slashed, I think I agree with the people who say it facilitates rising. At some stage I'll do an experiment to find out, but I have to wait until I can make bread.

From what I can see of a finished, slashed loaf, it seems the deep cuts put into the bread just before baking, allow the bread to expand like a concertina. The final expansion of the bread seems to occure in such a way as to make the lowest point at the bottom of the cut rise up and become the surface of the bread. This seems to allow a considerable expansion in the oven where there might be a restriction caused by a crust forming on the outside of the loaf. The cut can still expand, because the edges and bottom of the cut can break under the stress of the expansion. 

Keep in mind, this is just what I think, so don't quote me. It's just that there are too many reasons given on the net for me to be sure. 

Unfortunately for me I messed up the loaf when moving it and it went flat and looked miserable. 

So I let it rise again for a bit and it looked like this in the end just before going into the oven. 

Apparently another important way to get that last little bit of rise in the oven is to make sure there is lots of steam involved. 

I cant make steam without destroying my little oven, so I thought I'd try putting it into this slightly damp terracotta bowl, and drop a lid over it.

I've read that to make the steam, you preheat your oven to flat out, and then turn it down after the first few minutes to something more like 180c.

I started flat out and then just left it flat out. 

I'm new to this. 

It worked pretty well given everything I did wrong. 

In the end I flipped it over and cooked it on low for a while longer because the bottom was so obviously under cooked. 
The result looked like this.

Not so much artisan as amateur, and way too heavy, but it is actually bread.

It even tastes like bread.

A close up reveals that it's a little dense all over, but particularly dense at the bottom.

Actually the close up doesn't revel it very well at all. It's a bit worse than it looks.

We've been toasting it to give it a little more cooking as it's a little doughy, but it is being eaten.

And that means it qualifies as a success.

Live yeast makes a difference.

Who knew!

At 120 Things in 20 years, sometimes bread nearly works

Bread - Yeast

So it seems yeast is a bit important to this bread making caper.

I made another loaf this morning and it once again looked ok, didn't rise much, and tasted like glue.

This time hard glue.

It looked like this...

Actually it didn't taste like glue, but rather, tasted like really dense and chewy air.

You can see from the picture it didn't really rise, and I think I discovered why.

This is a glass of warm water with three teaspoons of sugar, three teaspoons of flour, and a teaspoon of the yeast I've been using after it's been sitting for about half an hour.

And this is the same concoction after 10 minutes, but with a freshly opened packet of yeast. The stuff I've been using has been sitting in a jar for a few years.

Apparently it goes off.

Given that the point of the yeast is to eat sugars and excrete carbon dioxide and alcohol (the alcohol evaporates out of the cooked bread but adds to the flavour), it's probably important to not be quite so dead.  The carbon dioxide gets trapped in the bread dough and makes all the bubbles. This makes the bread rise and makes it light and fluffy. So dead yeast, it turns out, equals poorly risen bread.

At 120 Thing in 20 years, we learn from our mistakes when making bread with dead yeast. That's all welll and good, but I'm hungry.

Epic adventurer - Murray river trip update

The story of Bullwinkle, the 4.3m racing catamaran.

Each of the different Bullwinkles are all the same hull - a 4.3m Sundance cat (locally built heavy fibreglass) deep displacement hulls (no centreboards)

Bullwinkle I was an old racing cat bought with a friend a long time ago. During one trip out we caught a snook because we decided to trail a vane and snook lure out the back (always a safe thing to do because the the fact that the ancient boat weighed more than the rest of the competitors put together, coupled with our lack of sailing skill meant there was never anyone behind us.

Bullwinkle II had the mast and rigging removed, an electric outboard, a large deep cycle battery added, and two milk crates to sit on so I (the other owner gave his half to me after leaving the country) could cruise and go fishing for up to 6km at walking pace. The main problem with Bullwinkle II was that everyone that saw us out on the water came out to check on us because we were sitting on what looked from a distance like the roof of a sunken boat.  (but thanks to everyone that did come and check on us - especially the guy on the jet ski that came all that way) You have to wonder why as they got closer they didn't wonder why we would be fishing from our sunken boat, but anyway, we appreciated the offered help.

Bullwinkle III had a 3.5 HP two stroke engine and a stack of aluminium poles as guard rails. The poles fit into 25mm(a guess) polly fittings so I could use the T junctions to screw everything together and hold it all down with rope.
It also had a wooden floor in place of the trampoline.  It also sported two deck chairs an echo-sounder, and a steering wheel made of an old pram wheel and a few pulleys to operate the original rear rudders. It was able to move at a top speed of 17 kph. Which is actually plenty fast enough when you are only 6 inches out of the water, and pretty good for a displacement hull.

Bullwinkle IV is a work in progress but will be aquaponics powered :)

Once again powered  by the electric trolling motor. - DONE

SatNav and Depth Sounder (and all required safety gear Except self inflating life vest) -DONE

Self inflating life vest - TODO

And perhaps some small safe (perhaps downwind only) amount of sail - TODO

It will have a 230 watt solar panel - DONE

Hopefully some supplemental wind generation as well. - TODO

It will have a comfortable but small and lightweight black swivel office chair that will operate the rudders - NEARLY DONE

The motor will be set 1/3 from the front between the hulls for ease of operation ie near the chair (it doesn't steer from that position, other than very low speed positioning for docking etc. For docking it can move dead sideways or in any other direction as required - you actually can steer it from there but at a great loss of forward power) The shaft will be cut and rotated 90 degrees so the accelerator twist is intuitive like a motorbike with reverse in the opposite direction

The chair steering will have a nylon grippy clutch so I can get off the chair and it will maintain it's course. -TODO

It will also have at least 2 x 6m lengths of PVC NFT tubes that will collect water from front facing tubes when the boat is under way, and run Murray river water (very nutrient rich from farm runoff and whatever else we pour into it. - but nearly food grade ie it's often used as Adelaide's drinking water) The water will be licked up at the front, run through the NFT tubes (planted with salad greens) and then the slightly cleaner water will be dumped into my tiny wake.   - TESTED - NEARLY DONE

I'll need a dead man's switch that kills the motor if I'm not on the chair or if I dont hit a button every 5 minutes when a buzzer goes off.  That way if I fall in it wont be the end of the world. (self inflating life jacket at all times - it's a short swim to the bank but I long walk to recover your boat if it just keeps running until the sun goes down and the battery goes flat 2 hours latter) - TODO

There will be some kind of fish keeper that draws water from the river when under way, but that I can hang over the side into the river when at rest so I can keep fish fresh. It might not be needed, because the river always provides carp at a pinch and I find them quite reasonable food if you you cook the crap out of them and eat them as they get crunchy with chopsticks directly from the grill. Their high fat content makes for quite nice crunchy bits and their gamey taste is helped a bit by smoke and over cooking. The chopsticks means the fact that they have all those free floating bones that aren't attached to anything are no longer a problem.  - NOT YET THOUGHT THROUGH

UHF Radio - DONE

CB radio - TODO

Backup lightweight camp stove - DONE

Navigation lights - TODO

Some kind of area boat lighting - just a 12 volt LED  trouble light or two from a automotive store under the solar panel  - TODO

20+ amp MPPT Solar Charge Controller  - TODO (as soon as I figure out how to get around the cost - 120 things in 20 years is supposed to be self funding and I need to do some creative accounting to perhaps sell myself the fish I catch or something :) )

Green house/rain shelter - TODO (perhaps optional as the solar panel will add a roof, and I might just have some clear plastic rolled up under it to make a rain shelter if needed, but if it's raining, I'll more than likely just pull in to the bank for the duration because I wont be making a lot of power anyway.)

Night time accommodation will be onshore via a swag -DONE
with an option to stay on the boat via a stretched canvas over the front section of hulls just in case there is nowhere decent to sleep, or I stop in a town. -TODO

Water purification will be via a small still to be used on a camp fire, and perhaps a small solar still on the boat . If that doesn't work I might have to buy a reverse osmosis device -

Campfire still - DONE

Solar still - TODO

Big hat - DONE

Time lapse camera or web cam or something - TO THINK

120 Things in 20 years, where we learn the most difficult thing to add to the Murray river trip epic adventure todo list is "Make list of things I've forgotten".

Thinking - Abstract power projection in modern youth

When baking bread I started with a disclaimer, and it felt kind of good. I thought I'd drop in another one to see how it felt to insulate myself the second time around.

Sometimes when writing, life presents an easy way out whereby one can hint at a story that doesn't exist in order to create a sense of mystique where really there is none. I didn't want to do anything too controversial on my first attempt, so I choose to imply that there was something secretly more interesting than a mango to use as a rubber band yo-yo. I warn the reader in advance to ensure there is no offence at my deceit.


When I was a kid, we used to get a green mango, and the endless rubber band from inside a golf ball. (I'm not sure if golf balls (or kids for that matter) are still made that way)

You took perhaps 15 feet of rubber "string" and threaded it through a green mango. Then you could do some crazy yo-yo style action, and [insert your own preferred adjective here]  it around by 50* feet from side to side.

It was a good thing.

I think boys like torches and things that fire darts and bullets around, because it allows us to project power and general influence to places beyond our immediate reach. ie a mango based yo-yo/intercontinental ballistic missile.

Perhaps young girls do as well, but I've never been one, so I cant claim to know.

Those among you who are alert may note that generally speaking, I've also not been other young boys, so really cant speak for them either.

But I still recommend a good torch as a present for any young man who doesn't have one.

We love them, and no age is too young or too old for a decent torch.

Turn to the nearest man and ask them if their life would be slightly better if they owned a better torch than the one(s) they currently own.

Having read my exciting exposé, I feel confident you will remain unsurprised
Those of you in the know, will also be aware of the fact that the amazing yo-yo like devices in question weren't really made with green mangoes.

That just wouldn't make any sense.

Thinking abstract power projection in modern youth? 

Think 120 Things in 20 years - What was the subject again? 

*Numbers depicted may not reflect reality

Fraudster - Over unity- free energy - seeks investment

There's gravity induced heat in my lunchbox, and it didn't cost me a cent

This post is for someone named SuperVeg, and involves a challenge I made to invent the impossible a few days ago. Due to using all my money on better things, but mostly due to not really being into bets I cant win, the bet is for bragging rights only, and is open to all. The reality is, after I issued the challenge...

I'm going to run "over unity" through the invention engine and see what it comes up with.

As it's ultimate and final test, I bet (bragging rights only ) that it can come up with a device that you cant fault :)


I thought it might actually prove to be useful as a test of a fail condition.

For some years now I've been working on a formalised problem solving technique. It involves instructions, and processes to attempt to find a solution to a given problem. I call it "The Invention Engine". So far it's largely responsible for most of the inventions in this blog. You can see the difference between the ideas I have and the problems I pose and run through the invention engine. The invention engine ones seem to work.

But it wont this time.

The Invention Engine works like a flow chart or computer program. I put a problem in one end, and a solution falls out the other. So far the process is all in my head, but at some stage I'll publish it. Much of the invention engine itself was created by posing problems and running them through the unfinished engine. That's my favourite bit about the entire endeavour.

One problem with a system designed to find solutions to problems, is that there is no way of arriving at a position where the engine should report that something simply cant be done. I understand this will be an impossible hurdle to overcome, but thought I should put the question through the engine itself anyway.

How can I create a system that can test for "must fail" conditions?

The results of that inquiry required me to put a few different ideas through a test to see how they faired. The best test I could come up with was one that I knew would fail.

I ran a few known impossibilities like tuning water into beer and perpetual motion. I also ran free energy through the engine. Free energy and perpetual motion tend to go hand in hand, but they are not the same thing.

Perpetual motion is impossible because someone named Newton made a law against it. All the good things are illegal. There is an aspect to the universe that tends toward refusing a free lunch. But there are some ways to dodge around the system.

For instance, a hydro electric power plant uses the potential energy of a stack of water sitting high up in some mountains to generate electricity. If you had to pump the water back up the mountain after you generated some electricity from it, you would end up with an electricity bill. Electricity generating companies hate it when they get a bill at the end of the month because it makes them look incompetent. Luckily there is a convenient natural system to get all that water back up the hill for free so you can do it all again. It's kind of free energy, and its also kind of perpetual motion. If you stuck the entire system in a glass dome, it would keep working. But it uses the sun to power it. It's the sun that sticks all that water back up into the tops of the mountains. Evaporation looks free, but it comes at great expense. If I had to pay the power bill for the sun, it would really put a dent in my lifestyle.

Dents aren't free. And sometimes you just don't have a handy river sitting high up in a mountain.

So this entire free lunch electricity generating thing looks like a winner in the "things that are bound to fail if I run them through the engine" competition. I can ask the question and test the system in a hope that the methods I have identified really will let me know when something simply cant be done. I haven't actually identified a method of identifying that a given thing is impossible, but I have to start somewhere.

What I do have is some half baked ideas to test.

So I ran "I want some genuinely free renewable energy that doesn't require the sun to be there at all". That should at least give me a proven "no can do" to test my ideas against.


I got this instead.

please stay with me on this if you are someone who can string together a thought that can hold up to scientific scrutiny. I'm happy to have this fall over, but cant see where it does.

All good perpetual motion engines need a decent name so I'll call this one Bob. Or Bob 3000.

Find a 200 metre high hill.
Build a cable car system on it.
Stick five liquid refrigerant filled gas tankers on the down cable at regular intervals, and five empty gas tankers on the up cable.
Attach a few generators from the turnstile at the top of the system.
Run a gas line from the bottom of the hill to the top.
Plug a compressor into the gas line at the top of the hill.

Generally speaking, the plan is to generate electricity from the potential energy stored because some liquefied gas is sitting at the top of a hill. In this respect, Bob 3000 is a lot like a hydro electric power plant. The generators are placed on either the top or bottom pulley that carry the cable, or both as is convenient.

To get the gas back to the top of the hill, we release it into a large diameter gas line at the bottom that is already filled with gas. When it turns from a liquid into a gas, it fills the gas line. The gas line is a sealed system that allows the liquefied refrigerant barely enough freedom to only just turn gaseous. ie it remains under a great deal of pressure even when in the pipe.

As the full gas tanker moves down the hill it weighs say 100 tons.
The empty ones weigh, for the sake of mathematical ease, 20 tones.
So we have 500 tons coming down the hill and 100 going up.
Now lets call 400 tones falling from 200 metres approximately one shi?load of energy (where one shi?load is a unit of measurement known only to me)

Compressors use a stack of energy to compress gas, and tend to be not very efficient. But the plan here is to start with gas that's already almost a liquid, so we have a bit of a head start.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch, so lets say it takes two shi?loads of energy to compress the gas back into a liquid at the top of the hill to make the system keep moving, and it produces only one shi?load of power.

1S - 2S = (grumpy shareholders)

But here's the bit that the invention engine spat out on the third pass...

Just triple the height of the hill.

Normally if you were, say, pumping water back up hill to use for hydroelectricity, if you double the height of the hill, you double the energy costs to the system, but in this system the additional costs almost amount to not very much at all. A bit of friction at each end of the cables, and some in the pipes is about all. The gas in the pipes almost finds its own way to the top of the hill. The compressor still uses almost the same amount of energy. The only real difference is the weight of the cable. And the additional weight on the upside is counteracted by the additional weight on the downside. The result is thrice the power generated, but with only a tiny additional energy cost.

Our shareholders now see 3S - 2S = (happy shareholders + that Nobel prize I've always wanted, and some serious karmic credit for giving away a multi-trillion dollar invention and saving the world)

Now as I said, I'm happy for this impossible invention to be knocked over, and fully expect it to be. To this end I have invited a few people to do so. But I personally cant figure out where the problem is. I'm actually really keen to learn where it lies.

Even the invention engine cant find a problem.

It will be the invention engine's first failure, but as stated the final solution was supposed to be impossible, so please, I invite everyone to find where it falls over. Even if all you have is a vague feeling, drop in  comment or send me an email so I can explore it a bit.

You'll have to guess my gmail account as your first test.

120 things in 20 years - taking fraud into the realm of honesty with "Fraudster - Over unity- free energy - seeks investment" posts.

Bread - Hope Loaf

Just a word of warning for anyone new to this blog (and me in general). I have no idea if this is going to work or not. I'm making it up as I go along, and as many of the things I do fail as succeed. So if you're doing a fundraiser, thought you'd make sixteen hundred rolls to sell for a dollar each, and feel it might be important for it to work the first time, this may not be the place for you.

I started watching some videos, and reading up on bread, but got to that inevitable stage where I just have to have a go and see what happens.

Sometimes you just cant really tell what everyone is on about until you at least discover which bits are important, and which might just be decoration.

So I thought I'd make a small white bread loaf.

Actually this is unfolding in real time. Just like that old hit TV show 24.

But with more bread.

So if you get bored at any stage, try opening four different windows and read four different pages of my blog simultaneously.

So far this has happened...

I started with some bread making flour.

I thought all flour was for making bread, but some must be for cake or for mixing with egg and throwing at politicians.

I secretly suspect it's all the same but I know a politician, so I'll find out later and let you know  the truth of it all.

It seems like a pretty rational thing to do to place the ingredients into a bowl, but I saw a video where someone just mixed on a slab of wood.

I thought they looked slightly more like they knew some kind of secret, as compared to the others, so I went with the slab of wood method.

[Note from the future - It turned out to work just fine. (the mixing that is. I have no idea yet about the loaf) ]

I made a bit of a well in the centre and added some yeast.

See the way I worked "well" in casually, just like someone who knows stuff!

That's about a cup of flour and I'm hoping, exactly the correct amount of yeast.

And a pinch of salt.

You cant really see it, and you cant really tell how much I added, but I kind of liked the textural quality of the photo.

I've read a few bread recipes over the last 24* hours and I am amazed at how much salt everyone is adding.

My little loaf has a pinch, but I've seen recipes that call for a tablespoon for a dough to make two loaves. Unless there are radically different sized table spoons in some parts of the world that I don't know about, it seems a little too much.

The next step, or at least my next step, is to hold the camera in one hand, and slowly add water with the other, whilst squishing it all together with the last, in the hope that it turns into dough.

Which surprisingly it did a bit.

Then a bit more.

I kept adding a splash of water as the hand full of dough picked up more and more of the flour.

After a minute or two of adding water and poking the dough around, it seemed to be taking shape.

From this point, I just worked it around a bit and picked up the remaining loose flour from the slab, until it looked like this.

Its a bit like dough, but a bit crumbly in texture and seems to be something made of flour and water. That is you can still see the flour.

So I started kneading.

Unfortunately I started kneading like my school art teacher told me to knead clay, so I'm not sure how that's going to work. [Note from the future - The bread is currently rising, and I'm researching the next step and find that I should be kneading slightly differently. From what I can gather I should be kneading, then rotating, then kneading then rotating. But who knows.]

After a while it looked like this.

It's seems to be starting to take on a different texture, and seems to be much more unified and less floury.

I figure I'll knead until it stops changing.

I got bored (tired) and felt that this was as good a time as any to stop.

I think it's worked so far, although it seems a little stiff.

Perhaps more water should have been added, but I don't think I can add it now so I'll just stick with what I have.

I shaped it as lovingly as I could and made it nice and smooth on the top by gathering the dough and pulling it under itself.

It's a cold day here today, so I turned Mrs 120 Things in 20 years's coffee machine on.

For some crazy reason it has a cup warmer on the top, but as it turns out, this might be just the place for making my dough do the rising thing.

I put cling wrap over the top because the internet told me to.

Those of you who read this blog regularly, will know that I think that if a job's worth doing, it's worth taking it's temperature, so I stuck a digital temperature probe in with the dough to see what I could see.

I'm not sure 22c is warm enough.

So I thought I'd put my latest theory to the test - That being that the house wouldn't burn down if I stuck a stack of tea towels over the coffee machine's cup warmer.

Only time will tell, but at least I'll have an ongoing record of the temperature thanks to the digital probe.

That should at least help with forensics.

Having covered the apparatus, I thought I'd do some quick research and see what temperature I should really be doing this rising thing at, and have decided that 25c or so is about right, so I wasn't so far off after all.

Also it seems that covering it with towels hasn't done anything. I'm guessing that's just because there must be a thermostat in the coffee maker that holds the temperature at 22c.

We live and fail and learn. But the house didn't burn down.

Which is nice.

It's later, and I've returned to my bread to see the temperature is now sitting at 28c, which I think is still within the good range for the yeast.


Having unwrapped it, I don't think it's really done a lot as far as doubling in size.

Perhaps it did something else while I was away instead.

I followed my shallow research's advice (my research was shallow, I don't have a shallow researcher**) and knocked the non-existent air out of it, and then shaped it into something slightly longer, thinner, and more numerous.

And now I wait.

And peek.

And wait.


It's later still - I just had another peek and it appears to be working. The only (and obvious in hindsight (but I wasn't really expecting success)) problem, is that if they rise much more they will turn into a single loaf. For this reason I've decided a "Hope Loaf" is now a thing, and will always be made out of four equal lengths, formed together into a single square loaf representing something important.

And square.

I've been doing yet more research in the waiting time, and it seems that the last thing you want to have happen is for a skin to form on your dough as it tries to rise. Apparently it restricts it's ability to move freely in four dimensions. I think perhaps my loaf was just too firm and didn't have the required give, but during the second kneading and shaping, it seemed a bit softer and a little looser. I've heard the word "rest" tossed around in recipes and online, so perhaps it's one of those things that  should be listened to.

As usual I'll let you know if it turns out to be important.

I changed my mind. Not about letting you know, but about the bread,

I got a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to get the final mono-loaf out of the bowl, so I removed them individually while I still could, and laid them out on top of the coffee machine on some baking paper. That way I can transfer them to the oven without having to pick them up.

As you can see they got a bit distorted, but I think they will bounce back.

They seem softer again. Perhaps as their structure is broken up by the air bubbles, it's weakening it, but it really seems wetter.

But remember, I have no idea what I'm doing.

For those of you who are temperature interested, the temperature of the stainless steel cup warmer is 32c when tested directly on the surface.

! > I'm baking

Drum roll please......

I made this...

It tastes almost exactly like glue!

120 Things in 20 years - Bread - Hope Loaf. You have to start somewhere, and visuals are as good a place as any right? Right?

*Now might be a good time to divide the screen into 4

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