Beeswax processing

As a beekeeper, you end up with a lot of brood frames which need replacing, wax scrapings and mappings from when processing honey. Melting these down by heating up with water will not remove the impurities such as propolis, dead bees and other waste. An easy way to both remove the wax and as a first stage filter would be to heat the frames or whatever in a black box sealed under glass.

This was an unused double glazed roof light, the back sealed with a piece of wood and the inside lined with aluminium painted black. The box was tilted to point at the sun, and the bottom edge was lined with aluminium foil to collect the wax.

Further processing

The wax/tin foil mix was was then heated with water to melt it into a more convenient shape and filter it some more. One trick is to put the dirty wax into an old pair of tights and heat up, the was will liquify and escape to float on the surface and the debris will remain behind. This is great, but some debris float to contaminate the wax. Using the same principle of a cafetière, I make this press to keep the debris on the botton whilst the wax cools. The filter was cnc cut out of aluminium plate

To make this ( yes, our floor was dirty )

48v narrowboat electrics

Hopefully this week, we will finalise the purchase of Elysium. I have a medium term plan to convert her to hybrid power using a 48v motor as well as the Lombardini 20HP diesel engine.

Elysium ( her name might change ) currently has a 12v system configured as below ( circuit drawn with kicad ) :

This is all fairly standard. However, Elysium’s 12v system needs upgrading and I have plans to convert Elysium to a hybrid diesel electric drive and will need a 48v high capacity supply for this. So, the questions is – should I install a 12v system for the short term or a ( complicated ) 48v system for the long term ?

Below is the proposed solution. I like Victron kit. The engine’s existing 12v alternator charges the cranking battery and the 12v/240v inverter feed one mains input to the quatro, the other being from shore power/generator. This has the minor advantage for being able to charge the 48v battery bank to its full capacity ( 14.4 bulk charge ).

The disadvantages are the unnecessary complexity, especially creating the 12v for the fridge, bilge pumps and comms radios. The design feels unsatisfying. In order to charge the 12v battery bank, both the quatro and the 12v charger will need to be running, with the power loss that entails.

The next image is a slight modification where we add a fictitious 48v input 12v 3 stage battery charger, I’m not sure these exist.

Of course the upgraded 12v only system is easier, it will just need replacing if I move to 48v propulsion :

So, that’s it for now.

On feeling down – depression

I’m writing this during the winter early in 2021, during a pandemic. There are a lot of reasons to feel down, but that is not quite the answer.

*** If you are feeling depressed, please seek professional medical help. I’ve tried it and it works, eventually ***

I can think of a lot of reasons to be down

  • The expectation of friends, never being able to fulfil them
  • Feeling in pain for much of the time
  • Nausea and vomiting from migraines and RA medication
  • The impossibility of being in a job that I love, which happens to be killing me
  • Things I am avoiding doing
  • Worry about the future
  • Guilt about the past
  • Current political and social trends

Well I could go on, but all the above things don’t add up to depression for me, they create stress, frustration and often the energy to get on top of them but not depression.

My experience of depression is when everything, even small things seem insurmountable, there is no end in sight where things might improve, there is no point in trying and there is no hope.

I’m not feeling like that as I write this, but I have been there and I have friends who are there at the moment. I am hovering on the edge though. I can feel myself :

  • catastrophising – when you take any small irritation to the logical end, then further into fear and hate, and sometimes beyond. This is a bad place. It almost seems fun at the time, it really is not, and I am now very good at stopping myself
  • avoidance – not answering emails, phone calls. Hiding from friends and family because conversations will not go well.
  • Doom scrolling – read twitter, Facebook, BBC news. Find threads that you know will make you sad, but gleefully read all the bad stuff from trolls
  • finding things to buy on eBay or Amazon that you’ll probably never use
  • loop listening you music that takes you down

This is a great place to consider what would help to bring me back out. How can I help someone who is already down there.

  • I know this sounds a bit wishy-washy, but it works for me. I have a thought experiment. I’ve been given ¬£100,000 and I have to spend it on other people. Which friends need it most ? What would they really like but cannot afford ?
  • Try to remember a time when you were really happy. Who you were with, what you were doing, see if these memories make you smile, or even cry.
  • If you feel brave, then think of the worse case scenario. If you job is *so* terrible, then just leave. Would that be so much worse ? Can you afford it ? Have a quick look at recruitment sites
  • Be with friends. Quiet friends who will give you space to talk. Friends who have been there and have survived
  • Avoid people who are consistently negative, they are dangerous when you are feeling down

Migraines, more migraines and then Nothing..

No photo description available.

I have had migraines on and off since my late 20s, my mother and sister both have migraines too. I wanted to blog a little about my migraine treatments over the last 30 years, the successes and the frustrations and what seems to be coming next. I am worried that once this is on the internet, a prospective employer would never hire me after reading this. So far, I have managed to do my job because have been blessed with understanding Employers and some really exceptional line managers.

Lets go back to the late 1980s. Working hard, two young children, taking turns with my partner to go clubbing in London. I noticed that my hangovers seemed to be getting worse, so that even a taste of alcohol would start off a day of debilitating headaches with sickness. It took me a while to realise these were migraines

Giving up alcohol seemed to help, but there is a huge list of possible migraine triggers.

  • Chocolate – gave up for 4 months, no effect
  • Caffeine in general – gave up for 3 months, no effect
  • dairy – vegan for a month, same migraines
  • citrus fruit – I’m pretty sure that orange juice invokes migraines

Migraine vs Headache

I get headaches as well as migraines. Sometimes a headache will morph into a migraine over time.

So what’s the difference ? For me, I classify a headache as pain without any other migraine effects, see below. The pain of a headache can be more than a migraine but somehow easier to cope with.

I used to worry that my migraines were not really bad. For instance with a low level migraine, I could still work, socialise like a real human being and laugh. I could find distraction in a low level migraine, usually involving concentration and appear ok, albeit a bit tired and grumpy. The downside was that concentration often leads to worse migraine outcomes.

I then found this paintable, and it made so much sense

Image result for pain scale

So, with a headache you get

  • pain

Whereas with a migraine I get

  • pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tinnitus
  • Intense sensitivity to smells
  • Awful taste in my mouth ( this is my biggest migraine indicator )
  • fatigue
  • light sensitivity
  • lack of concentration
  • physically clumsy
  • emotionally clumsy and sensitive

Its usually better for me to be away from people. I can still work, but am horrible to be with.

Next blog post will be about the medications I have tried to help with migraines, but for now I’ll quickly give my experience of Candesarten

I was very sceptical about yet another daily drug to try in order to help my migraine symptoms, but as I had to stop sumatriptan injections I really had no choice. I started 8 mg around Christmas 2017 with little improvement in my migraines, then went up to 12mg in January. My migraines just stopped. No migraines for over a year but then they came back. It was a very nice year..

linux systemd common commands using systemctl

I first used slackware Linux in the early 90s, possibly, and have used Linux quite extensively since then.

The init/service management has changed a lot over that time, from editing /etc/rc.d now to systemd. I have struggled to keep up. So here is a terse set of commands to help me when I come to add or manage services on a Linux box that uses systemd

List all the systemd units ( no need to run as root )


List all systemd units, type that have exited

systemctl list-units –type=service –all –state=exited

Show the status of a unit ( you can start, stop, restart, refresh instead of status )

sudo systemctl status owfs

To add a unit:

There seems to be two places that the systemd UNIT files exist.

System installed files are in /lib/systemd/system

User installed files are in /etc/systemd/system

..and there are sometimes symlinks from one to another

to create a new systemd unit called j2

sudo systemctl edit j2.service –force

UNIT file layout

Description=1-wire filesystem FUSE mount

ExecStart=/usr/bin/owfs -c /etc/owfs.conf –allow_other %t/owfs
ExecStop=/usr/bin/umount %t/owfs


Enabling your new systemd unit

sudo systemctl enable j2

Covid-19 Astrazeneca Vaccination

Because I have a supressed immune system ( Methotrexate etc ), I was given the Astrazeneca Vaccine first injection today on the 12th of February 2021. The outside temperature was -1 C.

I parked at the Newmarket Racing Centre, where the Rookery Medical Practice have set up their local Vaccination Hub.

The Volunteers and Staff were wonderful. I was directed to a table to gel my hands, another table to confirm my name and then to a station to be injected. The injection was painless. Either the skill of the medics has improved, the needles have become finer or my sensitivity to pain is minimal. As I had driven to the vaccination, I was asked to wait for 15 minutes in the cafe before heading home. I was prepared with a warm cloak.

So, back to the staff and volunteers. They were working in a building with lots of ventilation, windows and doors fully open as it should be. The cafe seemed to be providing as much coffee as they could drink, there was donated chocolate and the cafe provided cups of hot water just so that the volunteers and staff could get the feeling back into their hands.

Seeing the people today was inspiring

Methotrexate Injections

Methotrexate is a treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. The standard way forward when you are diagnosed with RA is that your Rheumatologist will run you through a set of medications

  1. Hydroxychloroquine
  2. Methotrexate 15mg orally
  3. Methotrexate injections
  4. Humera

I’ve currently progressed to the Methotrexate Injections

Meth Injection

The manufacturer has a website with a video of how to use it :

It was almost painless to use, much less painful that the sumatriptan injectors for migraines that I used to use. I did feel odd afterwards and was glad that I was in bed, the next day, Tuesday was nauseous and Wednesday was the usual migraine and generalised pain ( 4-6/10 ). Better by Friday I hope.

This is a 15mg injection, this should start to have an impact on my inflammatory markers ( ESR and CRP ) soon, but I have to keep an eye on liver breakdown protein to make sure that my liver does not take too much damage ( it can regenerate ? ). My Rheumatologist will increase the methotrexate injection amount as necessary. Blood tests every 2 weeks.

My adventures with methotrexate

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis early in 2020. This was unexpected as I thought my increasing aches and pains were due to fibromyalgia/CFS or something. I was a little sceptical about the RA diagnosis but went with it as my Rheumatology Consultant knew far more about this stuff than I did.

My blood test inflammatory markers ESR and CRP were both elevated, and I had a whole body scan after being injected with a radioactive marker, highlighting areas of bone damage.

After trying and giving up Hydroxychloroquine which make me rather tired and irritable, I was put onto Methotrexate. Interestingly, in the weeks between stopping Hydroxychloroquine and starting Methotrexate, my RA symptoms became much worse with general ache averaging 3/10 and specific pain up to 8/10.

I’m currently on my 6th dose of MTX ( 6 tablets ) and the effects are very unpleasant

  • nausea/vomiting on the 2nd/3rd day
  • Vicious migraine on the 3rd/4th day
  • appetite loss for most of the rest of the week ( this is good )
  • no noticeable effect on RA symptoms

I’m going to try for injectable MTX, and if that does not work, then some other DMARDs

All of this does seem to be the standard route for treating RA, trying cheaper/safer drugs to start with and then work on to the more difficult ones. Trying one drug, feeling terrible, stopping, feeling terrible, trying another drug does take a toll on the patient especially if they are trying to maintain a full time job.

Stopping the RA treatment is not really an option, as RA permanently damages the body, not just the joints but heart, lungs and other organs. If I’m not effectively treating the RA, my body is deteriorating.

So, my inflammatory markers : ESR is 53 ( normal = 30 ) and my CRP is 9 ( normal = 5 )

I’m waiting for these markers to start going down.

Buying A Narrowboat in lockdown

Before the second covid-19 second wave and associated lockdown hit us in December 2020, I had looked at a number of narrowboats with a view to purchase.

Of course I found a narrowboat that seemed solid, albeit rather scruffy. She had an odd engine, reverse layout and a cruiser stern. She ticked all the boxes and we could just afford her.

Unfortunately, when I saw her at the brokers near to Heathrow, it was pouring down with rain. I had a brief look outside, and good look inside but no view at all of the engine. After some consideration I put in an offer, negotiated and it was accepted dependant on survey and river trial. I fully expected to be there to chat with the surveyor after the survey, and visit during the buying process to measure things up.

Then we went into the second lockdown. We were taking lockdown seriously so a trip to the brokers was not possible, and the broker forbade it.

The boat was taken out of the water for a full survey and I had the report that evening. There are issues, but nothing terrible.

I’m just rather uncomfortable taking the purchase forward on a narrowboat that I have only seen once, in the rain.

Anyway, to put this in context, I realise I am very lucky to be able to sell our motorhome and buy and narrowboat during the pandemic, when so many people are suffering.