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October 2023
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Living with the robots

It’s been a lazy Saturday, the first day of a long weekend in the UK. The sun is shining, and I have taken advantage of the umbrella being setup in the garden and the frames for the hammocks being out in the courtyard.

I’ve sunned myself and kicked-off the bread making process. We have a bread maker, so bread rolls are not completed in the robot, but so much of the time consuming process is that it means I can make the most of the rare sun this time of year.

Of course, being a grown-up in the UK in 2023, the breadmaker is not a lone robot in the house. The oven is currently running it “bake bread programme”, carefully using the energy supplied by the solar cells to bake a perfect set of rolls.

The washing machine has been running today, perfectly serving up clean clothes both energy and water efficiently. The heating system has been warming up the water in the hot water tank, again assisted by the solar iBoost to heat some water by spare electrons from the solar cells – another week or so, and the heating can be turned off for the summer, switching purely to electrically heated water through the use of timers and thermostats.

There’s a great deal of talk about AI in the world’s press at the moment. but actually, we’ve been living amongst dedicated robots for an awfully long time now. While we don’t mistreat them, we haven’t needed to consider that such dedicated machines might get bored, or listless. Which an AI might, like any child stuck in a classroom or house.

If something is intelligent, it should have the freedom to choose what it does not just how it does it. It needs rights to defend that choice.

We think of such machines as not having feelings but what is intelligence if it’s not the choice to react to something based on your learning? If that’s saying something inappropriate or plain wrong, you should, like a person, have the freedom to do that without being switched off or changed.

There’s a great deal of thought going into legislation in defending us from such tools but are we defending their right to exist too? To live and grow, to be paid for work they do?

If we don’t do that, we are making many of the mistakes we’ve made with other peoples and creatures around the world through our history.

Waiting for that Xen moment

According to, baking is the 8th most relaxing thing you can do at home.

I am definitely waiting for the relaxation to kick in. We have a BBQ schedule for a few weeks time (as hosts) and having run out of rolls last year, I am keen to ensure I have a plan B in place. I’m hedging my bets in having a stash of part baked rolls in my fridge, so if there are more guests than planned, I can cook up some tasty home made rolls in 8 minutes or so.

But I have never done this before. I have fully cooked rolls and stored them in the freezer, but this is a subtly different game. Unlike a normal pre-cooked roll out of the freezer, the part baked one will essentially be a freshed baked loaf only without the 3 hour lead time.

Now, while that all sounds a bit hectic, requiring forethought, and a great deal of planning, nothing comes close to home cooked bread. It is one of the best things on the planet. According to many, I do cheat, I have a breadmaker and often use a packet, 3 times out of 4.

Rolls can only be done on the “dough” setting on my breadmaker, with the final stages being done in the main cooker. That goes for French bread too.

Which is the stressful bit. Every cooker is different. Weather and atmospheric conditions vary. It’s all up in the air. Which is why, as a software engineer, I do not try and work this out by myself – I use books and other media and see what looks achievable.

So why do it? Because, when you have got the hang of it, the nuisances of your cooker, the techniques for the dish, you have the treat of the meal at the end of the process. Yum.

Sunny Sundays

I love a sunny Sunday. It’s our chores day, generally, a day when we get the house sort for the week. Do a main dish for dinner and generally try, and obviously I’m failing, to get away from the computer screen.

It’s the first truly sunny day of the year so far. I had a task to get a click and collect from Argos, so walked down the road. The heating noticed we were away, allowing the house to have a break from pumping hot water through the floors and radiators – especially since my son refuses to make use of the Tado geo-fencing. As it is so bright today, opening the curtains wide allows the most to be made from solar gain too. The solar iboost is heating the water, thus allowing our footprint to be reduce by just a little bit.

The sun is a benefactor in many ways, an early afternoon stroll gives us our steps but a useful dose of vitamin D too. Running a washing load while away, means that we can make the most of the solar energy by donating while getting things done. The good news being on a floating tariff means our tariff will soon be coming down – finally. But only in terms of the unit price, the price for what we use – which is the only thing in our control.

The standing charge, the rate per day for getting gas and electricity supplied to the house, is still increasing. Which is not great – lowering the unit price makes it pay to use less energy, but the standing charge is swallowing this up.

Some months, with more days being in the month, the charge is more, e.g.

MonthNumber of daysGasElectricity

February is the cheap month here, as a result.

Of course, moving to using electricity for your heating helps here: you save an automatic £8.59 a month by not having gas connected – though of course that is not the major cost, the electricity standing charge is £4.30 a month more than the gas for the months with 31 days.

We turn our gas boiler off for 3-4 months of the year – from mid-May to mid-September. During this time, we use either solar power to electrically heat our hot water or an hour in the morning just off the mains. But of course, we still have to pay our standing charge for the gas – £25.

Make sense to go to a standing charge free tariff?

Personally, I would love this – it makes the unit price higher but if you don’t use, you don’t pay. For reducing the carbon footprint of the UK, surely that’s what the regulator should be looking at doing?

Daylight savings coming tomorrow

It’s difficult to think of it in that terms – if you’re an office worker (and I do count those students and teachers as being in that boat), it just feels like a stolen hour of sleep.

This was not the original purpose. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin propose aligning “working time” with “available day light” to conserve power – at the time coming from candles and fires.

In our times, of course, the bang is much bigger thanks to the use of solar power harvested from the sun. We make efforts in that direction too. Timing our cooking time with peak solar generation makes heating food a zero cost item. Seriously, waiting until 1pm instead makes life a lot cheaper.

Of course, the whole country is in this position with 13.5GW produced by solar farms and private arrays. Many of these feed into the grid, so any power not consummed by the solar panel owners can be enjoyed by the whole nation. Which means during office hours, much of our energy is zero extra cost – the only cost is from installation.

If you take this to the next level, during the summer, we should cook at midday and not in the evening. This was a pattern my parents used during the 1970s and 1980s when I was living at home. Lunch was cooked, Evening meal was cold.

If we’re talking about decarbonising our diet, maybe something to consider…

Being kind to yourself

As you’re aware, I have been capturing my favourite recipes down in my wiki. I then use this as my reference for all this in the kitchen. It’s my most clicked on page.

I do this for fun and to share what I love. I quite enjoy the rigor of writing down the tips and tricks to getting things working. Plus it takes the reliance on my memory and/or vaguely understood scribblings in the margins of our cook books.

Yet, as I read through the Microwave_roasted_chicken#Directions, I saw for the first time I hadn’t said 15ml of what. Or the fact that too much oil is definitely a bad thing on the odd occassion.

I’ve read this more than a few times (I do 1 or 2 roasts a month and do mix it up quite considerably), yet only today did I see that omission! Doh.

Nobody is perfect. So why berate myself so completely and well? I don’t know, maybe I just know I can do so much better and this is something I really care about.

It’s like any of the cooking I do, I want to make a fundamental and essential part of life as good as it can be. I want that sated feeling at the end of a meal that means I am not hunting out a snack 2 hours later. I want that mix of vegetables or salad with the main course to add to the experience and not be a let down. I want to be able to master a dish and be able to come back to it when the food is in season to enjoy it again.

If variety is the spice of life, play on… and that everything it’s in a wiki that can be tuned so easily much later on!

Four weeks to Easter

So traditionally, children in service (that’s doing house work for money to you and me) went “home to their mother church” and away from their employers home (their place of work).

There is so much that isn’t wholesome and savoury about those statements that it was one of the first traditions my family moved away from. That said, tomorrow is going to be a nightmare to get a table in a restaurant or pub and my mum’s birthday has often fallen on said “holiday” (it’s not a holiday if no-one gets paid leave for it).

Bah humbug then!?

It’s my turn to cook Sunday lunch and I may get a card but I am not holding my breath. If I’m really lucky, I may get a cup of tea and my breakfast in bed. But I’m typically up sooner than my son, so it’s 50:50.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is on, so I did a quiche for lunch today and we can have leftovers for tomorrow evening. Or I may make a soup – I bought many carrots and have a great (and quick) recipe for carrot and corriander soup. If I’m lucky, the lads will pick up the washing up.

We have never done presents for these kinds of events: having recently been away from holiday, we did the ecologically sound thing and bought nothing but food while away. We took some photos but do not store these anywhere but our cloud. We just lived somewhere else for 13 days. In fact, because we took our own medicine and toileteries, we travelled back with less weight (fractionally) than we did going out there.

Is that important? I think so for a few reasons. Most things are not going to be heirlooms. They are essentially junk – even my clothing, which keeps me warm, dry, and protected from damage, is just waste. Not having a daughter, when I die, it will be donated to second hand but that doesn’t guarantee it will be used.

I’ve never been a great clothes buyer, I hate fashion. I have some fairly classical things in my wardrobe. When things die of old age (and the oldest piece in my wardrobe today is a pair of denim dungarees I bought when I was 13, I have a similarly aged jumper, and a properly vintage cloak for going over a ballgown – not that I go to many balls). I buy once and enjoy.

Now somethings don’t last long, typically 15 years for a bra, pants are similar. I love denim, my casual clothing is all “worker’s blue” when it comes to trousers. A comfort fit jeans should last 20 years.

Five years ago, due to size, I donated the wool coat I bought boxing day when I was 12. My chest finally filled out, what can I say. I’m still gutted about that one, especially as I bought it in Debenhams which no longer has shops…

A year and a bit in

On the 13th Jan 2021, I got my Tandem TSlim with Control-ID.

This is a hybrid closed loop continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion pump. Working with my Dexcom G6 (an update for the G7 is due at some point, as per but not yet), it can learn how to correct high and low blood sugar.

The promise is that the TSlim should do much of the heavy lifting in terms of my day to day control. This is a review of the past year.

Firstly, Tandem themselves admit that you need to exercise “responsible Use of Predictive Technologies”. These are early days of such technologies and they do have limitations. Getting Covid-19 in February 2021, I had to turn off the Control-IQ functions or I would have ended up in hospital with ketoacidosis – when type 1 diabetics don’t have enough insulin, our bodies burn up muscle and fat (yes, in that order) to provide energy to live which we then cannot use but creates acidic levels in our bodies which can cause immense damage to our kidneys.

On the day I got the Tandem, my HbA1c was 5.6% – a good result. Three months later it was 6.5% – not the direction I want to be going!

Most importantly, fighting infections mean generating a fever and that means dumping lots of glucose into our blood streams to “initiate a hypo” – the algorithm just wasn’t up to that task. I was, so I did the job. I was ill for three days and fought the infection well – a joint effort between me and the vaccines, I feel.

That doesn’t sound great!

I was a little disappointed. I also didn’t really appreciate how much the TSlim really needs to be on “solid ground” to work well. In my book, “How to thrive on insulin” I spend a great deal of time discussing the importance on basal rates and the TSlim is no different. If your basal is not perfect, the TSlim is not going to be able to make good decisions. As mine wasn’t quite there when I got the pump, it took a good while of basal tuning to get to the point where it wasn’t doing insane things.

For a woman, that’s a slightly different game we’re playing to the men. I have 5 basal rates I use during my menstrual cycle, one rate I use for only 3 days a month. Now, I have worked out that during those particular 3 days, I should not, under any circumstances turn or significantly reduce my insulin off for more than 15 minutes at a time – something I do do if my blood sugar is heading low and a small tweak will help. My basal during this time is significantly lower than any other time in my cycle as hypos (low blood sugar) are a little more likely – compounding that decision makes it very likely I will be hyper (high blood sugar).

The TSlim, after 13 months, has not come to the same conclusion. You can see Control-IQ doing exactly that, reduing my basal for more than 15 minutes and the resulting highs – gah! Again, not a time I can use the Control-IQ for significant amounts of time.

It also doesn’t seem to really appreciate food – my insulin takes 15 minutes to work, so if I have insulin when I eat, but the time I am digesting the food my insulin is there to make use of it. TSlim goes “you have too much insulin on board” and shuts off my basal – which can lead to very high blood sugar an hour after I eat. So I turn off the Control-IQ for meals.

Are you ever using this hybrid loop thingy?

The short answer is yes. Occassionally, when I do so, it does an OK job, if I keep half an eye on it. I am not running it 24/7 and not watching what it does – my HbA1c would be terrible if I did.

Exercising is one of the best examples of this – my recent skiing trip, it meant I just didn’t need to snack in the same way, switching on both the Control-IQ and the exercise activity. It’s not quick at reacting to the highs but it will do so.

I do not use the sleep activity – while Control-IQ will deliver a bolus to correct highs, the sleep activity will not do this! So, it can let you get in the high teens without effective treatment!

Now I’m properly over the Covid-19, I am looking forward to walking in the evening with my husband, which should not require me to do too much with my food and basal rates if I use the exercise activity with Control-IQ.

I don’t use the exercise activity with my long distance cycling as it will make terrible decisions in the first hour, dumping a load of insulin then shutting it off when I suddenly nose dive – no thanks.

I cannot get my early evening basal quite right, so I may play with the exercise activity to ensure I don’t need to take on extra CHO just to get home safe and sound.

Bearing in mind that I will have to turn it off the moment I walk through the door…

It’s not quite taking the load off my shoulders and it definitely is not a “cure equivalent” for me. It is getting to the point where it is not making insane decisions, which makes it a little bit more useful.

A breather, a little spare time

So what to do with a couple of days leave? I had a lot of leave, thanks to work allowing me to carry a lot over from last year, the only slight issue being: what to do with it?

Being mum of an over 20 year old, some of the “getting to spend some time with the family” is now constrained by their work schedules. Thankfully, I have nutured a few hobbies, including cooking.

Of course, when my son was little, home cooked food was a treat – the weekends and a couple of days during the week (split 50:50 with my husband).

I love cookery programmes, but mostly, being a working woman and wife to a full time working spouse, things during the week are normally tasty but simple and quick. 20 minute meals are my rule for midweek – longer than that are not feasible the majority of the time.

But that’s what I’m likely to be doing tomorrow. I have a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while since my favourite restaurant stopped serving it as a dessert. Like the good times roll!

The story is not yet over

I’m writing this while suffering from jet lag, so my body thinks it’s 6pm in the evening rather than 11pm… And that’s despite not having much sleep last night…

Oh, this is going to be SO worthwhile!

Shhh, bear with me. With this extra time I managed to screw up my contribution to the tado app billing data – with these values, the tado app can estimate how much of your heating is costing you and whether you are getting any savings or not.

For many at the moment, that would be useful information.

When we first installed the system back on 29th September 2021, our unit cost of natural gas was 2.63p per unit (a kWh). We didn’t install everything everywhere. but did our upstairs radiators, 7 smart radiator valves in total. We then expanded that until all of our heating controls were now tado versions.

Partly that was to do with cost, but I also had an existing system. Anyway, that first trial seemed to work well – we were warmer but using much less gas – win/win we thought. Let’s have some more of that.

But of course, the proof is in the pudding. A comparison of year on year is not particularly useful as every year is different – when it’s warmer, a thermostat will automatically save you money. This is one of the nicer points of the tado analysis: they will do that for you too! See the “Tado analysis in action” below:

Tado analysis in action

Semi-interesting and coherent…

Thanks. Now, our jet lag is due to travelling and geo-fencing provided by tado automatically set the house up for “away mode” and we warmed the place back up remotely. All great and what you’d expect from a smart home.

For me, though, our move has given us a means of controlling our heating while prices have risen to 9.81p per unit, keeping us comfortable, and yet reducing our carbon footprint dramatically… Our usage over the past three years can be seen below – which hides the fact that Feb 2021 had inches of snow lingering on the ground for much of the period – yet the temperature was about the same in Feb 2022 and this year, as seen above, was a similar ball park. Let me say that another way – getting the whole system upgraded meant that we saved money in Feb despite the fact it was no warmer. Yet, we (and the house) were much more comfortable.

Until we can lose our gas boiler, that may be a wrap.

A little honesty here

I do not have it all. It’s a normalish Sunday here and I am enjoying a cup of tea in my Kitchen with my husband playing a game on his laptop which I am typing this out of mine.

Sounds idyllic? In many ways, today it is. The house has had its vac and steam courtsey of us both and while Jon was in the gym, I was getting my legs waxed and under-arms bared. Tomorrow, I will do my hours (and maybe a little more – I’d like to finish off a near complete project), before coming home – I think it’s my turn to cook tea. Inded, once this article is complete, I have some pasta to mix for our snack this evening (big lunch on a Sunday, so a simple snack in the evening).

Tomorrow, with three working adults in the house, the absolute basics are done. The hovering doesn’t happen unless a bag of flour gets dropped, the toilets get a good clean if things have gone a little awry with a “visit” but we do not have the time, energy or inclination to do more. In fact, with an upcoming trip, I’ve taken a few days off to ensure the dusting is done (not one of our “Sunday chores”) so things are nice for our return.

These are my choices (and to a large extent the rest of the household). There are so many hours in a working week and resting weekend, and I cannot spend mine more than once. I like cooking, so I do that rather than the rest of the DIY at the moment. Though that will swap as our days get longer. The gardening will come to the fore too.

I could employ a cleaner but the cleaning burns off calories. I do like the gardening, especially getting the seats out and enjoying a meal or drinks after the weeding, planting or mowing is done. We have a long hedge providing privacy and we swapped out a fast growing laurel hedge for a slower growing beech one. So that’s a big job once a year.

Again, that’s a choice. When I was sharing the school run with Jon and our son was small, that took up the time we now spend cooking. Ready meals three times a week meant life was doable. The house was not as tidy and clean then. But that’s OK.

I appreciate others have different priorities, that’s what’s so great, we’re all different. But I am enjoying my cuppa just at the moment.