Apr 262019

There’s something perverse about running out of mobile battery whilst sitting in a wheelchair or scooter with huge batteries. Various commercial products bridge that gap; the best of which is Cripple Concepts’ charger. These plug into the charging port on an electric wheelchair and provide a turbo USB charging socket.

These products suffer from some limitations however. Many of them (notably NOT Cripple Concepts’) give out too little power to charge a modern mobile phone. Many of them are expensive (CC’s $40 isn’t bad.)

It’s comparitively easy to create your own charger that is more powerful and versatile, and cheaper. You don’t need to know any electronics to do it either – if you can solder a wire onto a pin you can make this.

wheelchairdriver.com shows how to create such a USB adapter. I found his instructions invaluable (and wouldn’t have been able to make mine without them), but I have concerns about his creation. The first is heat dissipation: if doing similar with a high power charger, sufficient heat may be generated within the USB adapter to cause it to fail. I also think the connection to the adapter may not be robust enough to survive use and abuse. I would prefer a more powerful rapid charger. Also I would prefer a more “universal” product with e.g. 2+ USB sockets (and that also applies to the Cripple Concepts’ one.)

There’s an alternative, clunkier solution:

It’s clunky but cheap, powerful and useful.

The charger doesn’t stop the wheelchair being driven, like plugging the wheelchair in does. It has a negligible effect on the wheelchair batteries. My wheelchair has two 72 amp hour batteries and my mobile battery is 3.3 amp hours. So it can be used pretty much as much as you like without concern.

Parts needed:

1) “Neutrik” / XLR microphone plug.

Any will do. They are about £3 on eBay.

2) Cigarette lighter inline socket.

The cheapest way to get one of these is to buy a cigarette lighter extension and cut off / discard the plug end. However, I have discovered that those sockets aren’t very robust so break quickly. I advise against getting this very common socket:

Try to get one of these less common but more robust sockets:

They are about £4-5 if you shop around.

3) A cigarette lighter USB adapter of your choice. But NB: the adapter must work with 24 volts, not just 12 volts.

I use one that has two Qualcomm Quick Charge 3 USB sockets. This is about £2 delivered on eBay.

Solder the wires from the cigarette lighter socket to pins 1 and 2 of the Neutrik plug, as described on wheelchairdriver.com.

Strengthen the wire if you want, using heat shrink, hot glue or whatever. I also cable tie it to the wheelchair cable that runs to the control / joystick module, for extra strength and convenience. That way it’s always at hand.

Put the USB adapter in the cigarette lighter socket. That’s it, really, all done.

The only thing I also did however, is to find a way to keep the USB adapter into the socket. Reason being that otherwise it tends to work loose over time, which is frustrating – I’d discover my phone hadn’t been charging when I thought it was. Pushing the charger back into the socket does the trick until next time it works loose.

Over time I’ve discovered the best way is to use a metal bodied USB adapter something like this:

Metal USB cigarette lighter adapter


With a pair of pliers, I simply squeeze the body of this to deform it enough that it bulges and jams into the cigarette lighter socket. This is remarkably robust.

Previously, I drilled a hole through the cigarette lighter socket and the USB adapter (carefully, to avoid damaging its internal circuit board) and put a cable tie through. Otherwise you could glue the adapter into the socket etc. But this is a pfaf.

To use it: plug the Neutrik plug into the charging socket on the wheelchair. The USB sockets are now live and can be used for anything USB. In my case this is charging my phone, my Go Pro camera and/or my battery banks, and running a USB fan (I recommend the “Key Nice” fan below from Amazon) and/or Christmas fairy lights.

To charge the chair, simply unplug the USB charger and plug in the wheelchair charger.

AGM Activism: the 4,000th Living Wage employer – thanks to Share Action!

 Miscellany  Comments Off on AGM Activism: the 4,000th Living Wage employer – thanks to Share Action!
Apr 262018

We all deserve to be paid a true Living Wage: a fair day’s pay for a day’s hard work, calculated based upon the Cost of Living. That’s why in Summer 2017 I attended Croda International’s AGM, on behalf of Share Action.

I knew we may be pushing on an open door; and I’m glad to say we were: our approach asking them to consider Living Wage Foundation accreditation was well received.

As a result, Croda met with ShareAction and the Living Wage Foundation; and in March 2018, Croda became the 4,000th UK company to become Living Wage Foundation accredited!

Picutre: me on a bus

On the Bus to the AGM

So yesterday I went to their AGM to congratulate them on their achievement, and to ask them what benefits the Living Wage is bringing them.

Before the “formal” business started, I chatted with Group Chief Executive Steve Foots. He described the Living Wage as a “no-brainer” for such a people-focussed company; and he was glad to share the good news around all areas of the company. Tracy Sheedy, Group HR Director told me that Croda’s commitment to the Living Wage had resulted in increasing wages and compliance across other local employers, which is great.

Then the formal business began. I steeled myself to ask my question – the first of several searching questions from the audience. I introduced the subject, and asked:

In what way do you see this positive investment in your employees as helping to deliver your strategy for the years ahead?

a selfie

With Anita Frew, Group Chair of Croda International

Croda’s directors told me that they were very grateful ShareAction had brought the Living Wage to their attention. It shows the power of listening to shareholders, and they were very happy to move forward. On reviewing their workforce, they discovered that only 10 of their 1,000+ UK employees were paid under the living wage. This was unacceptable given their people culture, and something they sorted out immediately. Now they are working on making sure all their contractors also pay the Living Wage.

People are the most important asset to Croda, as it is People who deliver innovation. They’re proud to be “doing the right thing” and have noticed a morale boost, and the publicity it has generated has also been positive, particularly as they happen to be the 4,000th Living Wage employer.

Afterwards, I persuaded Anita Frew, Group Chair to agree to a selfie with me (thanks Anita!), and I celebrated with the Board and shareholders over posh nosh, in the similarly posh surroundings of the Pavilions of Harrogate.

I guess it just goes to show: Share Activism does make a difference!

May 292016

Back in July 2014, whilst on a day trip to Whitby, I ate at the Angel Wetherspoons’ pub. I sent this tweet.

Wetherspoons responded by pulling the CCTV of our meal and interviewing the waitress. They indicated that the portion size was within one standard deviation of the mean of their standard so they were content with the size of the portion. They accounted for my disapproval with the observation that I had been eating for precisely 2 minutes and 17 seconds when I took the photo, and stated that the waitress had testified that I had not indicated any displeasure to her at the time of the meal.

I was impressed with this commitment to customer satisfaction, so when I attended The Corryvreckan (Wetherspoons’ pub in Oban) whilst on holiday last week, I decided to support their analysis with the provision of data from another sample. This is therefore a comparative study of the size of Wetherspoons’ Steak and Kidney pudding meal.

meal diameter The diameter of the meal is approximately 18cm, on a patterned plate of approximately 25cm. The surface area of a plate of diameter d is approximately (πd2)/4, or in this case 490cm2. Of that, approximately 250cm2 was obscured by food or by the gravy pot, that being an occlusion of approximately 51% of the plate. This appears to be roughly equivalent to that of Whitby in 2014; though I note that the practice of providing a gravy boat may give the impression of more food than previously.
 The chips appear to be distributed on the plate in a pseudo-random distribution. The average depth of food on the plate is therefore difficult to estimate, but is perhaps a mean of 1 or 2 centimetres from the deepest point.  chup thickness
 pie diameter 2  The pudding varies in diameter between 7cm at its “base” (the top in this picture) to 10cm at its “top” (the bottom in this picture.) The pudding is approximately 6cm in height. Using the reasonable approximation of a cylinder of diameter 8.5cm, its volume can therefore be approximated using the formula volume=(πd2h)/4=340cm3. The density of cooked ground beef is approximately 1.03gcm-3, essentially indistinguishable from the density of distilled water at standard temperature and pressure (1gcm-3), so I estimate the mass of the pudding is approximately 340g. Comparative research of other single portion steak and kidney pies reveals that this is within an order of magnitude of expectation.
 pie height  pie diameter
 There were precisely 30 chips, varying in length between 2cm and 12cm, with a median length of perhaps 8cm. There was therefore approximately 2.4m of chip on the plate.  chip length
 chip thickness  The average thickness of each chip was 0.64mm. Given the presence of some outliers with tapered ends, I am estimating the total volume of the chips on the plate as being 240cm x 0.6cm x 0.6cm or 86.4cm3. Fried potatoes have a density of 449Kg/m3, or approximately 0.5gcm-3, so I estimate the total mass of chips to be approximately 43g.

Research indicates that the average portion of cooked chips is 200g, and that a few chips either way can make large cost differences. I frankly suspect some scrimping here.

 There were 169 peas. They averaged 0.45cm in diameter. The volume of a sphere of diameter d is (πd3)/6, so each pea measured approximately 0.047cm3. The total peaage was therefore approximately 8cm3.

The NHS states that the “five a day” portions of veg can include “three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables”. A heaped tablespoon is 30cm3. This is therefore about a third of a portion of peas on that plate.

The density of cooked peas is 0.68gcm-3. The mass of peas was therefore approximately 5.5g.

 pie level  The gravy boat is a new addition since 2014. The depth of the gravy is approximately 3.5cm.

The average individual portion of gravy is approximately 50cm3.  For the gravy boat to hold that amount, it would have to have a surface area of perhaps 14cm2. I estimate that the surface area of this gravy portion exceeds this and therefore we are on the up.

But not all the gravy got eaten, as I was not furnished with a spoon.

 The total mass of the pudding, the peas and the chips was therefore approximately 390g.

The average eating rate varies substantially by individual, food type and circumstances but is approximately 100g per minute. This meal would therefore take the average person approximately 4 minutes to eat.

Of course, because I was being sarcastic and pissing about with a camera and a ruler, it took me substantially longer.

  drinkheight  My blackcurrant and soda was approximately 11cm in height and the glass was approximately 5.5cm in diameter. Its volume = (πd2h)/4 = 260ml, or just less than half an imperial pint.
 But, of course, some of that was taken up by ice cubes. There were 5, with an average size of 1.5cm. The total volume of ice was therefore 5 x 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 = approximately 17ml.

In approximately half of cases, restaurant ice has over 1,000 colliform bacteria per cube (i.e. faecal bacteria) and is thus more contaminated than toilet water.

On average, there was therefore probably 2,500 poo-based bacteria in the ice cubes in that glass.

 ice cube size
 receipt length  The receipt varied from 19cm in length to 20.5cm, at a width of 8cm. The total surface area of the receipt was therefore 164cm2. At an assumed weight of 58gm-2, the paper weighed approximately 9mg – or approximately a billionth of the mass of this European oak tree.


I hope that this comparative study of the dimensional composition of my meal is to the exacting standards of Wetherspoons and contributes to their body of statistical analysis of their meal – and I look forward to their prompt analysis as to whether their Oban staff complied with Wetherspoons’ evil corporate penny-pinching control-freak bollocks.

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