Gavin Shoebridge – an electric vehicle nut, a keen environmentalist

                Electric Car Conversion Blog By Gavin Shoebridge

April 16th, 2018 at 7:40 am

Coffee with Gavin and Jacques – episode 2

Coffee Gavin Jacques podcast

Our conversations are unplanned, as you can tell by their un-professionalism

Well, we recorded another of our inane conversations during our Monday afternoon coffee.

In this recording of complete nonsense, Jacques and I discuss Belgian and New Zealand music, a mystical Dzi stone which I wear around my neck, trying on clothes, and how we have the amazing ability to both annoy and entertain the other patrons at Eleven Books & Coffee in Bratislava.

This time I decided to leave the lapel microphones at home and instead I aimed the recorder’s inbuilt microphones at Jacques and myself, hoping it would sound better than last week, while still capturing the great atmosphere of the cafe. You can be the judge.
So, once again for your listening pleasure/disdain, and at the mercy of the other cafe patrons, we started recording our stupid, meandering conversations.

Enjoy/despise by pressing the play button below. You have been warned.

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April 9th, 2018 at 7:07 am

Coffee with Gavin and Jacques – episode 1

Coffee Gavin Jacques podcast

We try to look intelligent while the cafe patrons try to look enthralled

It’s Ivan’s fault. He runs Eleven Books & Coffee in Bratislava and suggested we actually record the nonsensical conversations that Jacques and I have every Monday in his establishment.

So, for your listening pleasure/disdain, and at the mercy of the other cafe patrons, we started recording our stupid, meandering conversations.

Enjoy/despise by pressing the play button below. You have been warned.

Note: We wore lapel microphones yet I didn’t have them turned on. Next time… :)

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February 23rd, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Speak Slovak free language course

I put together this Speak Slovak free language course to help people learn the basics of the Slovak language.

It covers the essentials of the language in an easy to understand way, along with more than five hundred common words and phrases spoken by a native Slovak speaker, first spoken slowly, then at a more normal pace.

I initially offered this Speak Slovak language starter kit for $19 and the response was positive, but I soon realised I could help Slovak learners like yourself much more by making the whole thing completely free.

As well as a beginner’s grammar guide, it includes carefully pronounced common words and phrases to help you get around Slovakia. Additionally, each of these words and phrases are included as MP3 sound files which you simply download to your phone to play back at your leisure. The audio files are in both English and Slovak, to make finding them a breeze. You can also delete the ones you don’t think you’ll need, and focus on, for example, greetings or perhaps asking for wifi in a Slovak hotel.

To download the Speak Slovak free language course, click here.

My only request is that if you find it useful or enjoyable, let me know in the comment box below. That’s all the thanks I need. :)

I wish you a great day, or as they say in Slovak, Prajem vám pekný deň! (pronounced pry-em vaam peck-nee dyen)

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January 21st, 2018 at 12:44 am

Making my cheap camera slider

An example of a professional camera slider
All the TV shows are using camera sliders lately days, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and make one myself – on a budget.

I just needed two things: a couple of curtain rails from the home improvement store and a very slow-moving electric motor.

My 30 RPM electric motor from eBay

The motor cost around $4 from eBay and can run off various voltages. A 1.5 volt battery will allow it to run super slow, while a 12 volt battery will put it into overdrive.

Then I just glued a small plastic reel (from a spool of solder) to an RC car’s wheel, which happened to fit the motor’s shaft perfectly.  Then I gave it a bucket-load of silicone rubber sealant. :)

Looking gluey…

The next part is simply a box on which the camera sits on top of the curtain rails.

My little GoPro-like camera is super light and therefore the slider box doesn’t need any wheels or feet. It’s simply too light to drag or leap about. Keeping it simple for the win!

Super simple!

I did plan on giving it some slider material to make it flow smoothly along the rails (one guy said using Velcro was ideal as it has very little surface area) but it turns out that because the camera is so light, the whole box slides along the rails effortlessly.

My €15 camera slider!

The incredibly cheap final result!

Here’s a little video clip of the unit in action:

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July 29th, 2017 at 3:24 am

Using vinegar to remove limescale from a showerhead

We had some maintenance done in our main bathroom a few weeks ago and during that time we were using the guest bathroom. No problem, right?
Well, when we were able to start using the main shower again we found a problem…

(You can click on any photo on this page to see it in full size)

As you can see in the above photo, all the lime scale that was already in the shower head seemed to have hardened and clogged the holes in the showerhead.

Here’s a close-up view of the nozzles, blocked by hard limescale:


Don’t panic if this happens to you because the solution is cheap and simple: vinegar!


I went to the supermarket, bought a few bottles of vinegar, then submerged the showerhead in vinegar and left it overnight.
If you can’t remove your showerhead for whatever reason, don’t worry. Just tie a plastic bag full of vinegar up and around your showerhead for a few hours.

The result:


The next day (wearing gloves because vinegar stinks!) the hard limescale had turned to a sludgy deposit and most of it fell out, leaving most nozzles clear and free from obstruction.

As for the remaining clogged nozzles, I simply reinstalled the showerhead and the pressure blew out whatever soft sludgy deposits remained.

Good as new:


It’s a cheap and eco-friendly method to clear limescale from a blocked showerhead and I hope you find it useful.
Also, feel free to use and share any images from this website. Attribution would be great, not it’s not essential. :)

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July 22nd, 2017 at 7:09 am

Building a mid-range virtual reality gaming PC

A friend of mine brought his Gear VR virtual reality headset over a few months ago and I was hooked. Although it was only mobile phone-based virtual reality, with limited movement and very low resolution, it stirred me into finally upgrading my six year old laptop; something I’ve been meaning to do for years. The problem is, I needed to do it on a budget…

Gaming PC enthusiasts won’t like this choice.

My first decision was what kind of case I would use. Now, call me old and boring, but “gaming” cases with flashing lights are not my style. I want a moderately-sized, unobtrusive case with clean lines. Fortunately, that meant I was able to save €80 already, as this charcoal-grey case which suited my tastes was only €24.

The power supply, fan and solid state hard drive arrived.

The next purchase was a “Keep Out” model FX700V2 power supply. At 700 watts, it seemed as if it would be offer more than enough for my machine running at maximum settings, and it was only €46. Alongside is my solid state hard drive; a 500GB Samsung SSD 850 Evo Series SATAIII device. It was quite expensive at €174, but it had excellent specs and (most importantly) I had a €100 voucher for a store which sold one.

As for the motherboard in the photo, it’s a MSI Gaming M3 B150 board, which I chose because it’s capable of handling two virtual reality graphics cards in the future, should I wish to upgrade. Best yet, this future-proofed motherboard cost €110 which wasn’t bad. I could have spent a lot more.

I should “Feel superior” apparently.

Those images on the bottom-right of the power supply worry me… Am I going to turn into one of those “PC Master Race!” people? Please tell me I won’t. Lie to me if necessary.

Good progress so far.

This computer build took me several months because, rather than save up and buy everything in one go, I bought things as money appeared. This gave me the opportunity to buy different parts from many different retailers to obtain the best price, but also it meant I installed things carefully and slowly, and read all the manuals. Something I wouldn’t do if I was excited and desperate to get it going the same day as I built it.

RAM it up your… case.

In the meantime my RAM arrived. After researching, I found out there’s typically no detectable difference between splitting RAM up into multiple 4GB slots, or just getting one big
16GB DDR4 2133MHz chip… so I got one big chip at €119. Not a bad price and I can drop in the same size and type of RAM again if need be.


Alright, I said I didn’t like “bling” and flashing lights, but the RAM did look a little dull. So, I splashed out and bought one of these gold-coloured RAM covers to make it look nice. I know, I know, I’m shallow. It does look better though, right?

More red than Simply Red performing in the red light district.

Although it had no CPU or graphics card yet, I fired it up out of curiosity. And oh boy, talk about a red light district. I can’t decide whether it’s gaudy or cool. At least the lights aren’t flashing.
I don’t know what it is about gaming PC gear and the obsession with LED lights. I mean, they don’t make it go faster. Did I mention I’m old?

The main component in a gaming PC: the graphics card.

The thing is, the graphics card is one area which you CAN NOT cut corners if you want to play the latest games in 1080p with high frame rates, as well as connect a virtual reality headset. At €570 this MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GAMING X 8G card cost more than my old laptop when it was new.

Houston: we have a problem.

So far everything had fit perfectly into my computer case, but the graphics card was an exception. It’s an absolute monster-sized component, extending to the very end of the motherboard.

That’s a little snug.

In the above photo you can see that this is one of the two auxiliary power cables which my hungry graphics card needs to operate. Unfortunately, they don’t really fit with the “shelf” of the case being so close to the top of the graphics card.

Well, it fits… technically speaking.

Well, I guess it *fits*, at least technically speaking, but it’s pushing on both the case and the card however.

This I don’t like at all so I think it’s time to break out the hacksaw!

That’s relieved the pressure.

It’s not exactly beautiful, but it could have been worse. The largest benefit of this (literal) hack is that I was able to keep my nice, clean, affordable mid-sized case.
In the meantime, more weeks passed while I saved for the next component, which would be an expensive one…

Aha, so THAT’S the reason I’m poor.

My processor arrived! This is a bit like the heart of the computer, and while not as important as the graphics processor, it’s something with which you’ll not want to cut corners. It’s an Intel Intel Core i7 7700 LGA1151 processor, and according to a processor benchmark-test website, it’s the best bang for buck I could afford at €266.

Be careful during this part.

Despite the processor installation looking like a complex procedure, I found out that it’s actually really easy. Just take your time and double-check everything’s around the right way, then lower the arm and the processor connects. Thank God.

My heat-sink arrived.

My heat-sink and fan combo arrived. It was a generic heat-sink & fan combo which cost €19 and seemed to have positive reviews.

We’re pretty much done here.

Not bad. Not bad at all. The physical installation is complete in terms of the case, and the result is clean and minimalist; just the way I wanted it.

Hidden: the way I want it.

One of the reasons I wanted everything to fit into a medium-sized (dull) case is because I always intended for my computer to sit inside my desk cupboard, so that I wouldn’t see any cables. Basically I wanted the power and upgradeability of a desktop, but the cleanliness of a laptop. I think this is a good compromise, though I did cut a fairly large hole in the back of the cabinet for airflow and when gaming I open the cupboard door.

Wireless mouse & keyboard!

To add to the clean look, my wireless “gaming” keyboard and mouse arrived. This combo was remarkably cheap at only €24, but it looks great. You do get what you pay for though, as the keys were a bit clunky and sticky for the first few weeks until they loosened up. They’re good now, thank heavens.

So, let’s get this thing fired up.

See any cables? No? That was the plan.

It works! It woooorks! And not a cable in sight! I bought a fresh copy of Windows 10 64-bit for €74, and everything installed perfectly. By the end of the first night I had installed War Thunder and was enjoying 1080p at over one hundred frames a second.

The total cost is €1545, which is a hell of a lot of money, but I’ve been told this isn’t that high, comparatively for a gaming machine.

At the risk of bragging, this machine is the fastest thing I’ve ever used: it takes twelve seconds from pressing the “On” button to boot up, load windows, and show Google as my home page.

The best part? As the construction was built over five months as I saved money, I didn’t feel the impact as heavily compared to buying everything in one go, or on a loan/credit (please don’t do that).

Now I’m working my PC hard, playing all the usual games, while saving for the next and final piece in the jigsaw: an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The good news is that since I’ve started saving, they’ve both fallen in price!

So, if you’re thinking of upgrading your PC or building your own, don’t be scared! i haven’t built a computer for 15 years so I was scared how everything would have changed, but in reality it’s now easier than it’s ever been. Everything’s colour-coded and the plugs only go one way. Thank heavens.

Alright, time to play. PC Mas- no. I promised myself I wouldn’t. :)

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January 11th, 2017 at 2:00 am

Inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone and ghost town of Pripyat

I took a visit inside the Chernobyl 30 kilometre exclusion zone in the winter, then moved on to the ghost town of Pripyat, which was evacuated following the nuclear power station going into meltdown in April 1986.
Click on any image to see it in full size. Video at the bottom of the page.

Geiger counter in Chernobyl

Radiation levels: safe

After passing the military outpost, I entered the “exclusion zone”, 30 kilometres from the reactor core which went into meltdown three decades ago. The first stop was a small settlement; a collection of homes and a shop.
30 years after the accident, my meter now shows radiation levels around normal; safe for habitation.

shop in chernobyl

Open all hours.

A small convenience shop which fell victim to looters once the area was evacuated.

Neighbours attempted to nail their doors closed.

Neighbours attempted to nail their doors closed when they had to leave. This was no match for the looters.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Ripped up floors in every home.

The floors in these homes were all ripped up by looters (and army soldiers) searching for hidden valuables, considering the occupants had to leave in a matter of minutes.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation


This is the entry sign to the small township of Chernobyl, about 14 km away from the nuclear power station.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Paying homage.

A statue created by the firefighters which are still based there today.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Gone but not forgotten.

The statue pays tribute to those who died; not only firefighters.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A radioactive wonderland.

A dead lunar rover sits among its comrades. These were some of the remote-controlled machines used to remove the dangerous debris from the power station.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A harsher environment than the moon itself.

They all malfunctioned under the extreme radiation and rendered useless. These ones were able to be decontaminated as best as possible and placed on display. Obviously, don’t stand next to them.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A billboard for no one.

A lonely billboard offers its old product to an empty street.

communist stars

Remnants of the past are welded to this security gate.

These are the gates to a once-secret radar facility. Ukraine has had an anti-communist signage law in force for some time, with communist stars and symbols long since removed. This place is an exception, however.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

They’re watching me.

The faded face of a Soviet officer stares at me through the snow.

chernobyl radiation warning sign


Despite the warning, I kept moving towards a large structure I could see through the mist.

radiation meter warning Duga radar

Things are warming up.

As we approached the enormous “Duga radar” I noticed my radiation meter beeping a lot. I took it out of my pocket to see that things were warming up.

Duga radar chernobyl

It’s beyond enormous.

The Duga-1 radar is the largest metal structure I’ve ever seen. It disappears into the snow.

Gavin Shoebridge

Straining to see the top.

It was hard to see the top of the radar due to the sheer size and the snow falling.

Duga radar

The Duga radar is quite massive.

Although it’s not active any more, it’s too radioactive to do anything with it.

duga radar

Left, right, and up: it’s bigger than it looks in the photo.

The “Russian woodpecker” as it was known, disappears into the mist.

duga radar elevator

Elevator to nowhere.

The Duga radar is so enormous it even has its own elevator.

school in chernobyl

No classes today.

I made my way to other abandoned buildings. This one was a small nursery school.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Broken plates and broken dreams.

Despite the radioactivity, looters left their mark on anything and everything.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Out of order.

Anything not bolted down was removed and sold elsewhere in the country. Poverty makes people do desperate things.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Quiet chaos.

Only silence and radiation fill the halls of this building now.

Chernobyl nuclear power station statue

A commemorative statue stands in front of Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The infamous site of the nuclear reactor which went into meltdown.
A statue pays homage to the accident. It’s eerily quiet.

chernobyl nuclear power plant radiation Geiger counter

The site is still very much alive with gamma radiation.

It’s quiet except for my Geiger counter telling me to leave immediately. The reactor core is in front of me, inside the new shell and crumbling sarcophagus.

New Safe Confinement (NSC) at Chernobyl

The New Safe Confinement (NSC) covers the Chernobyl reactor building and core.

This is the new airtight dome which was slid over the crumbling sarcophagus. It’s the largest land-based movable object ever made. It was slid into place in November 2016.

При́пять Pripyat sign

При́пять (Pripyat): the sign as you enter the ghost town.

Above is the entry sign to the town of Pripyat. It was only 16 years old when the clocks stopped.

Pripyat hotel

Pripyat hotel: No vacancy.

No vacancy: the hotel in the main square of Pripyat.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Nobody’s watching.

Walking through the side streets of Pripyat: no power, no water, no human life.

Restaurant pripyat


A local restaurant.
Today’s special: Iodine-131.

Pripyat city, Ukraine

The city is a time capsule.

A time capsule: even the communist crest remains atop of this empty high-rise.

trees nature pripyat chernobyl

Man versus nature.

Steel, brick and concrete is no match for nature.

looting chernobyl pripyat

Last one out; rip out the lights.

Anything and everything was tugged at and ripped out by looters hunting for scrap metal to sell.

bumper cars chernobyl pripyat ghost town

Bumper cars sitting idle.

The iconic bumper cars in Pripyat’s never-opened travelling amusement park.

bumper cars pripyat chernobyl ukraine radiation

Sitting idle for three decades.

No sounds of children laughing. No signs of life at all. It’s so deathly quiet.

radiation meter chernobyl geiger counter pripyat

An invisible enemy surrounds me.

These bumper cars may no longer be active, however they remain highly radioactive.
I can see I’m not welcome in this environment.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Lights out.

Looters even removed light bulbs to sell, despite their dangerous radioactivity. Thousands of radioactive household items appeared for sale across the country by looters, from televisions to toilet seats.

Ferris wheel in Pripyat

The iconic Ferris wheel in Pripyat

There’s no fun to be had at this amusement park.

Chernobyl ferris wheel

A testament to man’s ability to create and destroy.

The weather added a gloomy, surreal element to my visit.

 Pripyat football field and race track.

The Pripyat football field and race track.

The football stadium in front of the field and oval race track.

30 years later: the Pripyat football field.

30 years later: the Pripyat football field.

It’d be a bit hard to play football in this football field today. Nature will always win.

Chernobyl swimming pool

3… 2… 1… nothing.

The iconic swimming pool sits empty in the freezing air.

Pripyat swimming pool

Don’t jump.

Today, only snow fills the bottom of the pool.

empty building chernobyl

Is anyone there?

It was surreal to see apartment blocks all around while knowing that no one was watching me.
Not a single soul.

basketball court Pripyat

The basketball court.

With the windows smashed or taken to sell, the bitter cold envelops the basketball court, causing the wooden floor to rot.


The boulevard of broken dreams.

I spent one day in the exclusion zone which surrounds the nuclear power station of Chernobyl. It was fascinating, surreal and depressing. I’ve been thinking about it for days afterwards. The day has left a lasting impression on me and I’d encourage anyone to see it for themselves.

Here are a selection of interesting video clips from my visit inside the exclusion zone:

Please feel free to share and use these images & the video! I’d love it if you credited me, but it’s not essential.

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