Archive for January, 2005

The Weekend Explained

Monday, January 31st, 2005

Eight hours sleep later, I’m hopefully going to be a bit more capable of telling you about the weekend’s excitement.

As you’ll be aware I spent the weekend caching on the Isle of Wight with my Hospital Radio chum Rockin’ Rob, and his girlfriend, the lovely Miche. The weekend started horribly early, since to make the best use of available daylight we were booked on the ten past eight ferry. Anyway, the weekend’s caches – not neccesarily in the order we did them – were:
Vectis N
Vectis W
Vectis S
Vectis E
These four – at the four corners of the island – between them provide the co-ordinates for our next cache:
Vectis C

This is a mighty series of caches and the last one isn’t at all easy to find, even when you’re in exactly the right place (well done Miche!), and we’d have been pretty chuffed just to have achieved these in our weekend. In the end, however, we also got:
The Ledge, a five-mile round-trip walk from the only possible car park, featuring plenty of mud and where Rob nearly ripped himself to bits on hostile flora, retrieving the cache from its hiding place.
The Longstone Book Swap, where it got dark suddenly while we were searching, and we’d probably have found it in a fraction of the time if we’d had daylight.
The Lungbuster, which was a good walk with stunning views even though we took the wimp’s way and drove to the car park on top of the hill (we were running out of daylight)!
We also did most of the clues for a big multi that wanders all over the island, so that won’t take much finishing off when we return.

Other highlights of the weekend were some fantastic pub meals, a nice farmhouse B&B (which we discovered was also the one used by our friends Anne and Brian when they went IoW caching), and some adventures with tractors on the narrow roads. Step stats for the weekend: 29650. Miles walked: About 15. miles driven: About a hundred.

That is all – except to say that this post would have appeared in half the time – and looked better – if WordPress wasn’t so rubbish in how it handles open-ended HTML tags.

Zzzzzzz

Sunday, January 30th, 2005

Just a short one from me tonight blog chums – if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that this was our grand caching weekend on the Isle of Wight, I’ve only just got home, and I’m sooooo tired! Those of you who follow the Chelsea Tractor Tracker will notice that it’s still in Cowes – I had to take the aerial off to go on the ferry, and I’ve been too lazy to put it back yet.

Anyway, we had a great weekend, and if you want to know more you’ll have to wait till tomorrow. Ooh, today’s pic shows Rockin’ Rob doing the maths and working out where to go next, at one of today’s caches. G’night all.

Smile!

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

Hello! I’m here to talk to you in Mr G0TLG’s absence. I don’t know how things worked under his regime, but I run a tight ship, so sit still and listen.

He posted his new passport photo yesterday, which reminds me of the unfortunate story behind my own. Such things are never very flattering, but mine is possibly worse than most. What happened was I went to get it taken in the presence of a chum, the two of us having a weekend exploring old Amsterdam in the planning. He’d already had his done, so was the expert in such matters, and as such I listened with interest to his advice on how best to capitalise on one’s dashing good looks to ensure a photo that wouldn’t be hideously embarrassing for years to come and leave me with a passport that I’d keep under lock and key and only show to the chap in customs if it was forcibly removed from my person, along with a morbid fear of going abroad for the next decade.

“The thing you have to understand about passport photos,” he explained, “is that no matter how cheery and jovial you look when it’s taken” – this was in the days before new regulations meant you weren’t allowed to smile (in passport photos, not everyday life, lest anyone who doesn’t keep up with the news like wot I do gets the wrong idea) – “the end result will make you look utterly dull and humourless, which will do you no good at all if you decide to submit your passport photo to dating agencies at a later date.”

“Oh dear,” I said, dismayed by this new information. “Is there anything I can do to combat this unfortunate side effect of passport booth technology?”

“There is!” he assured me. “What you have to do is wear the biggest, stupidest, cheesiest grin your facial muscles will allow. This will be transformed by the technology into a natural, carefree smile that will melt the hearts of any persons of the feminine gender whose pretty eyes should chance to fall across it.”

I took this advice gratefully, positioned myself in the booth, and stretched my face until I was displaying so many teeth I was in danger of being mistaken for a piano. Click! Click! Click! Click! went the camera, and I came out to retrieve my photos.

If ever you get a chance to look at my passport – and it’s unlikely that you will, because I keep it under lock and key and only show it to the chap in customs if it’s forcible removed from my person – you will see the biggest, stupidest, cheesiest grin that it’s possibly to fit on an average sized face, a freakish, unnatural and really quite scary expression that isn’t so much a smile as the early stages of a rare disease that causes your face to turn inside out. The advice I was given was, quite frankly, rubbish, and I’m amazed they let me back into the country. Which just goes to show really.

Friday

Friday, January 28th, 2005

My new passport photo. Form an orderly queue, laydeez.

Needless to say, the hospital appointment didn’t go anywhere near as badly as I’d feared. First I saw a nice nursy lady who checked I was still alive, and likely to be healthy enough to survive surgery, then she sent me along to meet the Swedish Surgeon. He looked nothing like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, and I was a bit disappointed that the conversation wasn’t along the lines of:
“Heredy hoody hirdy girdy Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, und geredy hooshty hafta consent form”.
Still, life is full of these little disappointments and the main thing is that the op will be scheduled for the near future, and they’ve promised not to call me in during the three weeks that would make my next course difficult (i.e. the week of the course and the two weeks leading up to it).
So that’s all the latest. Tomorrow night I’ll be in a B&B on the Isle of Wight, so guest bloggage is being provided by one of Blogdom’s most entertaining and witty writers: I bet you can’t wait.

Stupid

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

I did something mind-numbingly stupid today.

I’ve mentioned in several previous blogs my hatred of producing the period-end Health and Safety stats for work: To make things a bit easier, I’ve written myself a spreadsheet which enables me to type in nine figures, and it gives me ten lots of statistics, all neatly calculated and, in all probability, correct. This takes the place of a set of calculations which would previously have taken me an hour, so although the spreadsheet took some putting together (especially as it was the first thing I’d ever done in Excel1), it was worth it.

Anyway, with period end approaching, I thought it would be useful to make the spreadsheet do two more calculations for me: It would produce two statistics that I’ve never been asked for, but it would be really impressive if I was asked and I could produce them straight away.

It took me 45 minutes to write the formulae, type them in, and check and correct them so that I was confident they’d give the answer I wanted2. That was when I noticed that I’d just produced two columns of figures that were identical to the columns next to them. I already had the calculations in that would give me the answers.

On the plus side, tomorrow is the day I have my pre-op assessment at the hospital. And I’ve noticed there’s a cache I haven’t yet done on the route home.


1Excel is the work of the Devil, i.e. Microsoft. They used to let us use Lotus 123, which is much more user-friendly. Then “they” realised it was easy to use, so they took it away.
2Or at least, the answer to the question I wanted to ask. It was never likely to give the answer I wanted.

Better

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

I had a much better night’s sleep last night.

Thanks to all of you and your positive vibes and cyber-hugs and things: Today was a better day, Mum didn’t have as painful a time at the hospital as she was expecting, although she is still referring to next Tuesday (when she gets the results of most of these tests) as “gruesome news day”. Luckily my Aunt has turned up trumps again and has offered to go with her, so she won’t be waiting on her own for me to come and pick her up.

I had a better day at work today as well: The last two days have been taken up with tasks that could have been done by a performing monkey, which I find a bit frustrating when I’ve got plenty of proper work that needs doing. Anyway, I did some real work today, and there was a chicken curry on the canteen menu for lunch, so that was OK. Ooh, and I’ve got a LazyBlog blog typed up and saved as a draft, ready to entertain you one day when I can’t think of anything else.

Oh, and I checked the glove box: The tickets are there.

Nurgle, and other things

Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

I had a bad night last night.

Before going to bed, I managed to convince myself that at this Friday’s pre-op assessment, they’re going to tell me I’m wildly overweight (which, to be fair, I know), and they can’t possibly operate until I’ve lost three stone. Either that, or they’re going to give me an operation date in the last week in February – I’ve got a really important course the first week in March, and if I miss this one, goodness knows when I’ll next get a chance. So, I lay awake for ages going through all the possible things that could go wrong, and dreaming up the swearwords I’m going to use when they do.

When I finally got to sleep, I had the weirdest dream about my friend Gill, which was also a bit disturbing. And later in the day I was talking to my Mum: As I’ve told you, she’s having tests for just about every illness known to man (or woman) in the hope of finding out what’s actually wrong with her. Tomorrow she’s being scanned for cancer, and is convinced that the results are going to come back that she’s got stomach cancer.

I’m desperately trying to think of something positive to say. Oh yes – I had a really good session at the gym this evening…

Travel

Monday, January 24th, 2005

The Snowdon Fudge Cake still hadn’t set when I got up this morning – in all honesty, I don’t think it’s going to. Still, we have two batches of fudge plus one of peppermint creams to take to the Isle of Wight with us.

Rob was mentioning, in a comment on my blog of yesterday, that he had the tickets: In fact I’VE got the ferry tickets locked in the glove box of my car – or at least, Rob alleges that I do. He put them in there while I was putting my boots on on Saturday afternoon, so for all I know he could have not put them in there: Then on Saturday morning he’s going to accuse me of having lost them, beat me up until the cost of replacements falls out of my pocket, trouser the dosh and have a weekend in Paris with Miche on the proceeds.

Mind you, it’ll be better for all of you if I DO go: I’ve arranged some top-quality guest bloggage for Saturday night, so you’ll all be far better entertained if I’m not here. I’m not sure yet what to do about the blogs while I can’t type through having had my operation – I think I might get a few days worth of LazyBlog assignments, fill them out in advance and save them as drafts – surely I should have enough movement to be able to do the mouse clicks needed to post one on line every day?

Test

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

I don’t normally do online tests. But since Kouros posted his result for this one, I thought I’d have a crack:
You are .html You are versatile and improving, but you do have your limits.  When you work with amateurs it can get quite ugly.
Which File Extension are You?

It was rather nice in church this morning, everyone was pleased to hear that my wrist operation is almost upon me. Funny thing was, everyone has a friend who’s had it done1, and everyone’s had a slightly different experience: I can expect to be unable to drive for one, two or three weeks, and I can expect to be off work for two or three. It’s either going to be no problem and I’ll cope easily, or the simplest personal tasks2 are going to be a real trial. Oddly, the only person who was asking me about it, rather than telling me things, was a retired GP…

This afternoon has passed in a happy haze of sweetie making: Last night after blogging I knocked up a Snowdon Fudge Cake, which I haven’t made for years, this afternoon’s adventure was peppermint creams and brandy fudge. Next weekend’s caching trip to the Isle of Wight is at least going to be well supplied – in the meantime the fridge is bursting at the seams.

1“Carpal Tunnel Decompression”, for those who’ve not been with us since the beginning.
2Don’t ask. But I’d suggest you stay upwind for a couple of days after the op.

Fudge.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2005

This morning was spent making much mess, as I tried out my famous fudge recipe – you’ll be pleased to know it still works a treat, although stirring stiff fudge mixture isn’t recommended for someone with carpal tunnel syndrome. Ow. Ow ow ow.

After lunch…well, it was all RobTV’s fault really. He’d managed to lose his GPS, and I haven’t got round to selling my old one since I bought a new one, so I have a spare. We arranged to meet up so I could pass the spare over to him for the weekend, and where more natural to meet than a country park halfway between our homes – the fact that the geocache All Steamed Up has just appeared there was totally coincidental, although of course as we were there it would have been bad manners not to do it. And then I thought that while I was out it would be nice to drive down to Warsash and do another new one, Hooked On You. I made this into a nice circular walk of a couple of miles before struggling home through the football traffic (damn – I was trying to avoid mentioning the footie) to check that my fudge had set.

And further…

Friday, January 21st, 2005

I forgot to mention that I’ve got an appointment for my pre-op checks, ready for my wrist operation. It’s next Friday afternoon, and I’ve been warned to expect to be there a couple of hours. Luckily this isn’t the one I need lifts to and from – I can drive after this one, it’s the operation itself where I’ll need help. I spent most of today filling in the pre-operative assessment registration forms, involving such questions as who is my doctor, what is my NHS number, how big is my loo and most worryingly, what operation am I in for. If they need me to tell them that, it doesn’t give much confidence does it? I think I might borrow an indelible marker from work and write “THIS ONE” on my right wrist.

Also today, at the third time of trying, I completed the geocache Chark SSID: The first time I tried this one, I had an equipment problem, then last week I ran out of daylight. Got it at last!

Oh, and thanks to my good chum the King of Sweden, this comes from the “Now I’ve seen everything” box.

A Question

Friday, January 21st, 2005

I found my fudge recipe (see yesterday).

If I use caster sugar, when the recipe wants icing sugar, will it be a huge disaster?

Because I’m nice, and because I believe the world would be a better place if there was more fudge in it, but mainly to ensure I don’t lose the recipe again, I’ll share it with you now:

Paul’s Chocolate Fudge Recipe
100g / 3Żoz Dark Plain Chocolate
50g / 2 oz Butter
30 ml / 2 Tbspn Milk
5 ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Essence
425g / 1 lb Icing Sugar

Break up the chocolate and melt it in a bowl with the butter. Take off the heat and stir in the essence and the milk. Sieve the icing sugar into the mix, beating it as you go.

Blend thoroughly before turning into a greased 7″ tin, level with a knife and leave to set before cutting into approx 36 pieces.

It works well with peppermint essence instead of vanilla, too.

Fruity

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

Well, I went to the gym last night, and finished off my session with half a mile of jogging again. Today my knee’s been OK, as long as I don’t try to walk or anything.

I tried to buy some shampoo today: They seem to have stopped making the “Wheat and Rowanberry” variety that I like, and for reasons that I blogged about in the summer, I’m not buying “Mint and Tea Tree” again: I ended up with “Orange and Pineapple”, partly because it was on a two-for-one offer, but mainly because it was the only one I could find that wasn’t for dry, damaged, tinted, hand-coloured, greasy, frequently-washed or grey hair. While I was in Tescos I bought some sweetie ingredients – I’m going away for the weekend next week, and I plan to whip up a batch or two of my famous chocolate fudge to take with us. All I’ve got to do now is find the recipe, and hope I got the right ingredients – it’s been a while since I made any.

In all the excitement I forgot to get J2O – I suppose if I get desperate I can always drink the shampoo.

Productive

Wednesday, January 19th, 2005

I know the first thing you’ll all want is a Mum update.

She had her tests yesterday – the bone marrow thingies are generally a bit uncomfortable, but she got through it without the Entonox and didn’t feel as bad as she’d been warned she would. She’s got the morning pills, which were making her nauseous, sorted out, so she’s happier about that, and as a result she’s started eating properly again. So we definitely seem to be in an upswing – oh, and the next lot of tests is next Tuesday, so I got that wrong. Or is it next Wednesday? Not this Friday as I previously said, anyway.

Last night I went to the gym: I’m a bit restricted as to what I can do there at the moment, as until I get my wrist sorted I’m out of weightlifting, and also all those CV exercises which involve wrist and arm action, like the rowing machine or the cross-trainer. I never really liked the bikes, so that leaves me with the treadmill. Here I’m further restricted because, being even more overweight than SimonG, I try to avoid jogging because of the effect it has on my knee, which has been a bit dodgy since the end of my marathon-running days twenty years ago. So what I usually do is set the treadmill on the steepest incline I can manage, put the speed a little above a comfortable walking speed, and do that for as long as I can keep it up, about half an hour to forty minutes on a good day when the back or knees aren’t playing up too much. Anyway, last night I did my forty minutes hill-climbing followed by half a mile jogging on the flat – and I could still walk this morning!

Then after I got home, I dug my soddering iron out and made a lead to connect my magic new GPS to my PDA, for computerised moving-map plotting purposes, “assisted” by hoots and jeers of derision from the chatroom. It worked second time.

Poking and Prodding

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

My Mum had to go to the hospital this morning.

You’ll remember that she was taken ill on Boxing Day, and since then the medical profession seems to have decided to test her for everything imaginable, in the hope of diagnosing something: So far she’s had blood tests, an ECG, an ultrasound on her neck, and this morning it was a bone-marrow biopsy. At first she was told that she’d be OK to come home on her own – then yesterday (i.e. when it was too late for me to take today off work) she was told that she may be given Entonox, in which case she’d need to be accompanied afterwards. Luckily my Aunt stepped into the breach. Anyway, results for that take two weeks to come through – next lot of tests is this Friday, I think, although I must admit I’m starting to lose count.

In other news, Rockin’ Rob and I seem to have upset the Powers That Be at Hospital Radio: They’ve just woken up to the fact that we’ve been loading material on to the new system, despite the fact that neither of us has an access password to do so, and not unreasonably they want to know how we’re achieving it. Unfortunately if we tell them they’ll block the loophole – it would be a very easy one to close1 – and then we’d have to wait about ten months for the said Powers That Be who do have the appropriate permissions to do it for us, whenever we needed something new put on. I think we can stall them until we’ve got all the important stuff sorted.

1 So simple, in fact, that it’s pretty worrying that a) the loophole was ever left open, and b) they haven’t already worked it out for themselves.

Five Minute Blog

Monday, January 17th, 2005

I’m in a bit of a rush tonight – I actually had to do some work today, which meant that nothing really interesting happened. I tried to do a LazyBlog, but LazyBlog.org appears to be embrokified (I couldn’t persuade it to give me a new assignment). So, I’m sitting here surrounded by stuff I should’ve done by now and haven’t: Most of it relates to things for which I need information from people who aren’t here today, so it’s not totally down to laziness on my part.

Anyway, the whole point of the blog today is just to say: Mr Omally sir, I no longer think that that software you rcommended is a load of poo: Having got a full legal version, and spent all yesterday afternoon installing it on my PeeCee and PDA, I am now a convert.

That is all.

The Tao of Fish

Sunday, January 16th, 2005
This blog post fulfils the assignment The tao of fish at lazyblog.org. You can rate it here.

Although I’m not sure that “fulfils” is quite the right term here. Anyway, according to this website “Tao is a Chinese word which, loosely translated, means “way.” In the English spelling, the initial character is an approximation of a Chinese sound that does not have an exact English equivalent. The most accurate rendition would be a combination “t” & “d” sound, as in “Tdhow.” Many pronounce it “Dow”, as in “Dow Jones” (ie., to rhyme with “how” or “now”).”. So, now we all know how to pronounce it, and what it means, what exactly is “The Tao of Fish”? Well, of course we all know that Fish is the former lead singer of Marillion, and that his real name is Derek Dick, so at least he had the sense to get a better name before trying to become a rock star.

Following his career with Marillion, during which he penned the band’s massive hits “Kayleigh” and “Lavender” among many others, he branched out on his own for what can only be described as a disappointing solo career.

His latest work sees him team up with Miles Copeland (former “Police” manager) and, bizarrely, Rick Astley to produce an album called “Raingods with Zippos”. I can’t see me buying it. I don’t think I’ll be doing much LazyBlogging either, unless millions of people vote for e=me…

Update

Sunday, January 16th, 2005

Just added yet another blogging chum to the links over there. Jenny and Sarah T. will especially enjoy reading this one…

Three

Saturday, January 15th, 2005

Well, a generally quiet morning of mongoosing around and not much more really: I overslept, and it just went on from there. I did have a go at tricking SimonG into giving me the answer to a PuzzleDonkey question, but even though he’d only just got up he was too clever for me.

The afternoon, therefore, had to have fun and excitement and really wild things to make up for the morning, and I decided that this would take the form of geocaching. First on the agenda was Sophie’s Choice, a nice multicache wander around some wet bits of the New Forest, made even better by meeting a caching chum at the finish whom I’d previously only met on line, nobby.nobbs. Then on to Elmer’s Oak, a rather shorter walk, but no less wet! The last one for the day was Pine Path, a fairly easy one even though the GPS lost lock under the tree cover. Then to the gym to sit in the steam room for a while before heading home.

Overreaction

Friday, January 14th, 2005

I’ve blogged before about the reactionary hippopotami at the “Daily Mail”.

Current headline news, both in this and in real newspapers, appears to be that Prince Harry, the twenty-year-old second son of the heir to the throne, went to a fancy-dress party dressed as a WW II German soldier, complete with swastika arm-band. Apparently the only possible atonement for this heinous sin is that he should visit Auschwitz to learn of the horrors of naziism, and make a public televised apology to…well, to everyone who’s been offended.

Let me make it clear: I in no way wish to glorify or promote Naziism, or to underestimate the horrors of what the Nazis did (and still would do, given the chance). But for goodness’ sake, he’s a twenty-year old who went to a fancy dress party: Going dressed as a nazi doesn’t promote naziism, any more than going to a Vicars and Tarts party promotes Vicaring, or going to a Tramps’ Ball promotes SimonG. At least, I hope not – I once went on a charity fundraining pub crawl dressed as a fairy, so goodness knows what the Mail would say about me. If the papers want to tackle naziism, there are plenty of real nazis in the world still – but I guess they’re not such a soft target.

The Daily Mail have really gone to town, listing other actions of the Prince which are unbecoming of the third-in-line to the throne. These included:
1) Kissing his girlfriend
2) Having a friend who smoked cannabis (not smoking it himself, you’ll note, just having a friend who did)
3) Getting drunk to celebrate England winning the Rugby World Cup.
OK, I’ve never kissed Prince Harry’s girlfriend, but I know several people who’ve smoked cannabis and I got drunk when we won the cup (in fact, I watched the game on telly in a pub), and I really can’t see anything there that makes me a bad person.
And in other news, I went caching this evening, having another go at this cache, which was one of my two failures on Sunday. I got a bit further, and I now know the final co-ords (thanks Steve), but by the time I got there it was pitch dark and I only had a crappy torch with me. I’ll return.

Money Money Money

Thursday, January 13th, 2005

So, as predicted, I went to the meeting of the coal-hole club.

We have these meetings in Winchester, and the start time is finely balanced so it’s just not worth going home and coming back, especially as from work, home and Winchester are in opposite directions. So I normally stay a bit late at work, then drive to Winchester, find somewhere nice to have something to eat, then go back and sit in the car to listen to “The Archers” before going to the meeting.

The staying late at work is aimed towards not arriving in Winchester before the start of the free parking period at six. I’ve never known what would happen if I arrived just before six: Would the machine ignore it, would they charge me for the whole parking period, or just for the bit between when I arrived and the start of the free parking? Last night I found out – I got to the car park three minutes before the start of free parking and it cost me one pound bloody twenty.

Still, the pizza was nice, and the meeting went fairly well. Then on the way home I stopped off at work and did a surprise Health and Safety inspection, and then I went home.

And today I managed to book the accommodation for our grand caching Isle of Wight weekend: We’re staying here. Ooh, and this pub is at the end of the driveway.