Last weekend I cycled out to Earl Shilton. I’d intended to go as far as Market Bosworth, but turned around early. Next week, I go further. It’s definitely trickier getting out of Leicester to the south, you have to navigate across the M1 as well as the A563, and there’s an awkward zone of suburban sprawl in-between the two.

motorway

Once you’ve crossed out of Leicester, there are patches of open countryside. Here’s Thurlaston, and the village church.

thurlaston_church

I really appreciate how quiet the little country lanes are around here, and the occasional cars which do pass you are fairly relaxed. This is really how the road network is supposed to work - fast traffic sticks the motorway, leaving the back-roads free for cyclists, horse-riders, tractors, and journeys between villages. I got very frustrated with quiet back-roads in Sussex, often busy with cars who’d left the trunk roads for a quick shortcut across the countryside.

Earl Shilton looks like a village from outside, but it felt more like a suburb, I had a hard time understanding it until I realised that it extends westwards and is deceptively large. It’s what some geographers would call ‘liminal space’. On the way in you pass an airsoft gun warehouse, a machine workshop selling tractor parts, a laundrette, a bargain booze bottle shop; it’s half-rural, half-urban.

earl_shilton_centre

I counted three churches, some more traditional than others.

church_sign

There’s also the Earl Shilton Building Society, a local bank.

earl_shilton_building_society

According to their website, the building society has been around since 1857, and they moved into these premises in 1940.

On the way back, I decided to take this bike path, running alongside the A47.

road_to_leicester

It started off well signposted, fully separated from the road. Then the path merges into the road, then it disappears altogether. In the end I managed cycling on the main road, I had to, but it wasn’t exactly a fun experience.

Leicester has a lot of this, disconnected cycle paths which appear at random places and then lead off into nowhere or disappear when they meet a large road. I’ve got a strong feeling that none of the road planners actually tried to cycle from Leicester to Earl Shilton. I imagine they just had some space left on the side of the road and painted in a cycle path; and when that space runs out, the cycle path runs out too. Although it’s well-meaning, it leads to a crippled cycle network and doesn’t much help cyclists.

On the way back I cut across a series of fields near New Lubbesthorpe and went under the M1 just south of the Leicester Forest East Services.

underpass

It was a bit stinky in that underpass.

The weekend before I cycled to Houghton on the Hill. Here’s my bike on the road around Leicester airport.

airfield_bicycle

Yeah, Leicester has an airport!
Houghton is okay too. It’s relatively easy to cycle to from the university.

The week before that… I cycled to Thrussington, north of the city.

thrussington

The most curious thing about that trip was the Wreake Valley Academy building.

sixth_form_college

It’s built like a tegart fort, the angled walls of the ground floor surrounding an enceinte above, in the form of a flattened pyramid. And it’s an unexpected place for such exciting architecture.

I also went past the small industrial estate on the waterside again. This is a printing company.

wilkins

There are some people in the university (in the geography department) who are keeping an eye on the redevelopment plans.

We had some foggy weather, the upper levels of the Attenborough tower were shrouded in mist.

foggy_campus

I also bought a mechanical keyboard. After years of seeing people evangelise the benefits of mechanical keyboards, I finally went ahead and got one for myself. I justified it as a measure of convenience, it was a hassle to keep plugging in and unplugging my keyboard every time I wanted to use my Raspberry Pi. Much better to just buy a second keyboard.

I’ve followed the keyboard.io project since their initial kickstarter, and that would be my ideal ergonomic board. Unfortunately, the Keyboardio Model 1 costs $329. A similar keyboard, the Ergodox EZ, costs $325 without customisation. I have some disposable income, but I don’t have that kind of money.

So, I looked into assembling my own keyboard from parts, buying the PCB, key caps, a 3D-printed case, and soldering the key switches to the board myself. However, after calculating the total cost of the parts, it was still more than I’d be willing to pay, with the added risk that I might mess up the build.

Thankfully, there are a few chinese companies who produce comparatively cheap keyboards under a variety of obscure brands. The one I got is from Drevo, it cost £50, and I like it so far.

I’m well aware of the consumer fallacy that an expensive camera will not make you a better photographer, an expensive bike will not make you a better cyclist… and a mechanical typing keyboard will not make you a better writer.
Still, it does have fancy RGB lighting effects.

It has the equaivalent of Cherry brown switches, at least, they’re brown-coloured, at that price I’m guessing they’re not actual Cherry switches. The brown switches are amazing for typing, and absolutely terrible for precise, well-timed keypresses. That’s fine because I’m going to be using this board for work, not playing games.

One of my colleagues showed me their fairphone.

fairphone

It’s all modular, you can take the screen off by hand.

I’ve been listening to Vasilis Papakonstantinou lately. Here he is singing ‘third world war’ at the KKE’s 100th anniversary festivities.

Lastly, here’s a decent video of Sasha Brydon talking about landlordism in the youth parliament.