Archive for December, 2005


Saturday, December 10th, 2005

I’ve bought a new shiny!

Actually, that’s only partly true – it’s second-hand, so probably isn’t all that shiny, and although I’ve handed over the folding spondo, I haven’t actually got my greasy mitts on it yet.

My PDA had been showing signs of battery-dyingness recently: It doesn’t hold its charge very long, and as soon as I plug in the WiFi card, it lasts about thirty seconds and then dies. I bought a new battery – complete with free torx driver, which I thought was a good deal – but as soon as I got the back off, I realised this wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought, and there was a good chance I was going to wombat up the whole thing in the process. So, I did a bit of research on replacement units – what do I want?

  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Running some variant of PocketPC (because of all the software I’ve already got)

Unfortunately, the options that offer all these functions ring up”expen$ive”, and since the unit is going to be used for geocaching, I have to accept that it’s going to get dropped in the mud at some point. The compromise deal was to buy Rockin’ Rob’s spare PDA: It comes with Bluetooth built in, and takes the WiFi card I’ve got. It’s also visually identical to the one I’ve already got, despite being three versions higher up the range.

So, once I’ve got the new one in my hands – Monday evening, hopefully – I can put the new battery in the old one, knowing it’s not a disaster if I do break it. Assuming that doesn’t happen, I’ll have a good unit for important things, and a unit that’s quite good enough for geocaching and won’t cause too many tears if it vanishes to the bottom of one of the bogs in the New Forest.

It’s tradtional when you have a network to give each of the units a name, on a common theme: So my desktop is called “Garfield” after my last cat, who was huge and a bit lumbering: The laptop is called “Titch”, partly in memory of Jenny’s lovely cat, and partly because it’s smaller than Garfield. I’d already called the PDA “Button” after one of Jenny’s new kittens, because it’s smaller still – so the new one, twin of the first, will have to be “Pickle”!

Poses and Accents

Friday, December 9th, 2005

I’m not one to criticise others’ choice of entertainment – really I’m not – and I usually avoid the 95% of british television that I don’t like by the simple – yet somehow genius – tactic of not watching it. But “Strictly Come Dancing” – dear God, how much longer? It isn’t only Saturdays, it’s every flippin’ night, and I’m sure they’re now just showing the same stuff over and over again.

Anyway, to today’s topic: Michael Rosen, on the fabby Radio 4 show “Word of Mouth” today, was talking about accents, and it reminded me of something I noticed last weekend: The other members of the team I was with were all local to Banbury, and at one point were mimicing the local dialect: It included a sound I’d previously thought peculiar to southern Hampshire, a broad lilt on the “ow” sound as in “round”. It’s a bit difficult to describe in writing, a sort of “Eh-ah-ow” sound, but Benny Hill does it several times with”ground” and “round” in “Ernie”.

It just goes to show, doesn’t it?

Letter Again

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Some of you – those of you who read these ramblings on the RSS feed, for example – may not have seen the comments on yesterday’s blog: To ensure that everyone gets to see the comment by “Sinfin Teacher”, I’ve reproduced it here.

I know the situation very well as I work at the school. The issue was never the cross, it was the chain. She could identify herself as a christian as several other students do by a cross lapel pin or a fish pin. The school has a lively, flourishing Christian Union which meets every Tuesday in my classroom. She has never been. We have regular Christian asemblies to mark Easter and Christmas and special events when our local church runs its bi-annual mission. We also have a prayer room running during Ramadam to allow fasting students to rest and last week had a concert for Diwali in aid of the Pakistan earthquake. Students from every group in the school took part. Sam did not even know which church she was nominally attached to when we asked her to get a priest or minister to say that he wanted her to wear this as a symbol of faith. Incidentally the other students are outraged as they say she bought the cross only a few weeks ago in a local shop. A a massive storm in a tea cup causing upset in a school recently said to have good racial and religious harmony in a recent OFSTED

The letter has still gone – it was posted four hours before the comment appeared – but how do I feel about it now? Pretty good, actually: Based on the information which was in the public domain at the time I wrote it, every point in the letter holds true, and this experience won’t stop my campaign to wave the flag for Christianity in the future. By blogging about it, I’ve not only learned more about the situation, but provided an opportunity for someone at the school to make an unedited statement – although I suspect my blog doesn’t get quite as many readers as the Sky News website I linked to yesterday. Hopefully this post will at least be seen by those interested enough in the situation to do a Google search for “Sinfin”, which I guess is how Sinfin Teacher arrived yesterday. And I HAD already said (in comment three) that if the issue had been the length of the chain, rather than the cross, I’d have agreed with the school :-)

Sinfin Teacher – thanks for your comment. Hopefully you’ll return occasionally and see that we’re a fairly friendly community in this blogring; if you do come again, please leave an e-mail address so I can respond personally and properly – it won’t appear on the net, the only person who’ll see it is me. And thanks to everyone else for their comments too!


Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

I blogged last month about political correctness, and described a minor councils functionary as being “…terrified of offending non-Christians, but is quite happy to offend Christians. I don’t have a universal answer to this – although a good first step would be for more Christians to make their mark and complain.”

I’ve believed for ages that Christians should complain when the boundary between “not offending non-Christians” and “persecuting Christians” is crossed: Believing it is all very well, but it has to start with someone and that may as well be me. So this evening I’ll be posting – along with 50 Christmas cards – the following letter:

The Head Teacher
Sinfin Community School
Farmhouse Road
DE24 3AR

Dear Sir

I was dismayed to learn, on Sky News last night, of your school’s action in banning a Christian pupil from wearing a crucifix at school.

While it’s true, as your Deputy Head Mr Jones stated, that the wearing of religious symbols is not compulsory for Christians, acts of Christian witness are compulsory. Many Christians – including your pupil – choose to wear these symbols as part of their witness to the world. Your school’s decision to prevent Miss Morris wearing her cross displays an intolerance to Christianity which many will find offensive, and which would never be permitted were it to be directed against any other faith.

As a Christian I am deeply concerned at the failure of many offices of state to support Christianity, and I urge you most strongly to reconsider your decision and permit Miss Morris to display her symbol of faith.

Yours Faithfully

The original news story is here.

Edit – please make sure you read all the comments to this post, especially that by “Sinfin Teacher” (comment 9).


Tuesday, December 6th, 2005

So…how I spent my weekend…

As I’ve already told you, I was being the radio operator for one of the rescue teams on the Tour de Trigs walk – which, contrary to what I told you last week, is a 50-mile overnight hike centred on Banbury, with a 30 mile version for the juniors. The rescue teams charge around the countryside in Land Rover Defenders borrowed from the Community Relations department at Land Rover, and work from 1 PM Saturday to 1 PM Sunday – which is why I’d decided in advance to take the train as I’d be too tired to drive home afterwards, and in spite of the train adventures related yesterday, that proved to be a good decision.

Half of the team I was with were the same as the team I was on last year, which was fun, they’re nice. We had a good 24 hours of charging around in a circle around Banbury, including one area (where I’d done some geocaching on one of my Stratford trips) where I knew the course better than the actual rescuers on my team, and was able to give them useful advice. We assisted a couple of walkers who’d been injured, but our main function was carrying out safety checks, making sure that overdue teams weren’t in serious trouble and were just slow or a bit off course – although we made ourselves a bit unpopular with a couple of teams when we explained that the road they were walking along wasn’t part of the route, and they’d have to take the muddy footpath over the hill instead! We also put in a couple of impromptu surprise checkpoints, making sure that the walkers were complying with all the safety rules – wearing hi-viz armbands, lights at night, carrying spare warm clothes etc. Everyone was OK – although a surprising number were wearing their armbands under their coats – but apparently a couple of years ago a team was disqualified, having been through the pre-start kit check with all the requisite safety gear, then a mile down the road meeting up with their support crew and swapped their rucksacks for much lighter ones with hardly any safety kit at all.

Like most events, there’s an amazing number of volunteers involved in Trigs – thirteen checkpoints, five rescue teams, three recovery teams (minibusses which take retired runners back to base), medical, communications and catering teams manning the race headquarters, and probably a load I don’t know about. This year we also had the Mayor of Banbury – who’d only been booked to come to the prizegiving – out visiting checkpoints and race control between midnight and four in the morning, including welcoming the winning team home at half past three! It’s a great thing to get involved with, and I’m looking forward to next year already!

And finally – and nothing to do with the weekend at all – happy birthday to both Mort and Plaid Dragon, and happy wedding anniversary to MMM and MMD :-)

Good Training

Monday, December 5th, 2005

I know you’re all keen to hear about my exciting weekend…maybe later. For now, though, an eyewitness account from Banbury railway station yesterday afternoon: We spoke to eyewitness Mr Gottlegog.

I arrived rather early for my train – two hours early, in fact, and I’d only just missed the train that was two before the one I was booked on. I checked with the ticket office that I could use my ticket on any train – you can’t always, with bought-in-advance cheap tickets – and started to sort my bags out. At which point, the two-before-the-one-I-was-booked-on train arrived, running five minutes late, and I made my big mistake of the day – I couldn’t be ostriched to run across to the other platform with half-packed bags flapping, preferring to sit with a cup of coffee and my Sudoku book and catch the train an hour before the one I was booked on, as I’d planned.

That one-hour-before didn’t turn up – it had suffered a brake failure just outside Leamington Spa. Worse, it was blocking the Southbound line and until it was shifted, nothing else could get through. After a series of promises from the station announcer – most of which proved to be as reliable as Tony Bliar’s manifesto – things eventually got moving just before four o’clock, by which time I’d been there for four hours, when the broken-down train was towed into the station and everyone got off, the train then being towed into a siding and dumped. The next train in was a local service which bizarrely also offloaded all its passengers and went into a siding.

At long last, the train I’d been booked on arrived, three and a half hours late. The station staff had announced that the other two cross-country trains which had also been held up, would be in as soon as this train left, but needless to say three trainloads of people all bundled to pile on – I decided that I wasn’t going to spend two hours playing sardines on an overcrowded train, and stayed in the warm waiting room to see what happened – what happened was that five minutes later, the other two delayed trains, joined together to make one übertrain, arrived. Loads of people tried to pile on at the front, I spotted a door with no-one getting in at the back, and got in there.

Of course, when two trains of that design are joined together like that, the driver’s cab of the second means there’s no aisle between the front half and the back. Which is how, with the front of the train packed to bursting, I ended up sharing a buffet car with three other passengers :-)

Needless to say, there were a lot of lobstered-off passengers at Banbury: one woman had made herself especially unpleasant, shouting and swearing alternately at station staff, and at the Virgin Trains Customer Services telephone centre, calling them incompetent liars and all sorts of nasty things. Now I can get nasty and angry and shout with the best of them – I’m going to produce one of my carefully-crafted letters to Virgin Trains Complaints Department later – but there’s no point being rude to people who aren’t at fault and don’t have the authority or means to do anything about it, especially when the broken-down train belongs to Virgin Crosscountry and the people you’re shouting at have got “Chiltern Trains” written on their unforms. While she was making an exhibition of herself, I struck up a nice conversation with an elderly couple called Jean and Peter, who were catching a train to Southampton to see their daughter, and later with a young lady called Emma who was on her way home to Swindon after spending the weekend with her parents. Strangely, for all her nastiness, Mrs Shouty got on the same train as me, and got where she was going just before me – but only because her destination was two stops before mine. I’d like to think she noticed that her unpleasantness did her no good, but I bet she didn’t.

The truth is that trains will sometimes break down, and when they do, it takes a while to sort out and people are inconvenienced. For all that Virgin Trains have a bad reputation, it’s the first time I’ve had a problem with them and I’ll use them again. nonetheless, because it’s apt, and to reward you for reading this far, here’s a Virgin Trains joke:
You know why Virgin Trains are so unreliable? They don’t go all the way, and the driver has never done it before.



Sunday, December 4th, 2005

I promised yesterday that I’d try for wise words today – sadly I’ve now been out of bed for 37 hours, so the only wisdom I can manage is to get some sleep. So for now I’ll just share this gem, a PA announcement from the train conductor:
“Ladles and gentlemen, if you’re leaving the train at Southampton Airport Parkway, please take care as the station is rather dull”


Friday, December 2nd, 2005

I don’t know what’s happening in the rest of the world, but it’s getting a bit windy down here.

It doesn’t really affect me, but this afternoon was spent teasing some colleagues who are off on a booze cruise to Luxemburg: The coach leaves the factory at half past midnight tonight (conveniently 15 minutes after the nearest pub shuts), then they’re driving through the night to Dover to catch the 05:30 ferry. And there are forecasts of gusts up to force 10 :-)

I mentioned a couple of days ago that last night we had an event at church – it was a youth-oriented rock concert with two Christian bands, TBC and TheBandWithNoName. TBC have been before, I described them last time as a bit like a Christian version of the Spice Girls, except prettier. And the can sing. And dance. So not much like the Spice Girls at all. They were the opening act, then after an hour of them TheBandWithNoName came on and did an hour of heavy rap. My function was to be the first aider for the event, and I only had one customer, one of the TBC girls with a small cut on her finger.
“How did you do that?”
“Oh, punching one of the boys”

You may also remember that Jenny wasdue to get her kittens yesterday: I sent her a text halfway through the gig:
“Woo! Rock gig at church. It’s VERY loud!”
She replied
“Woo! Mental kittens. They’re VERY naughty!”

Apparently at that stage, the anti-kittens-climbing-up-the-chimney defences were being sorely tested, and when she rang this morning, the kittens had had about four hours sleep and were back to charging around the downstairs, bouncing off things like furry pinballs and clambering over everything.

No blog tomorrow – I’m going to be sitting in a field in the pi….umm, pouring rain somewhere in Warwickshire. I’ll try to supply some wise words on Sunday, if I don’t fall asleep and miss my train stop on the way home.

Number Crunching

Thursday, December 1st, 2005

It’s the first of the month! And while for SimonG readers that means an exciting story, for Gottleblog readers it means the monthly site statistics roundup.

Yet again, the search string tallies reveal something horrible – specifically that “horrible” is the most common search term bringing people here. In fact in November 303 visitors to the site came here following a Google search for “horrible”, with another 40 wanting “horrible pictures”, “horrible images”, “horrible pics”, “horrible image” or “horrible picture”.

“Better late than never” brought 15 visitors, and various permutations on the theme of short fat and bald got 20 more, including 4 who wanted “short bald and annoying”. Bizarrest entries were – with each getting 5 hits – “Dartmoor Colin pees sheep” and “Sport bottle mouthwash container”.

The site averaged 67 hits per hour through the month, and 294 visits per day. Once again the identifiable servers were those belonging to Stu + Sarah, Marie + John, and Kitty Hawk – Andy the Bear seems to be no longer viewing the site from work.

OK, you can all go and read Simon’s story now :-)