Archive for February, 2006


Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

I can’t remember what I was originally going to blog about today – luckily that doesn’t matter, as I’ve been rather overtaken by events…

I’m not sure what’s going on with those lovely people at the National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (hereafter NEBOSH): You’ll remember that from a combination of assignment failage, and assignment not-yet-doage, I’ve got two assignments still to do as part of my diploma course. I was expecting them to be set in April, with a July deadline for completion, however, on checking the website this morning, I found they’d been set already – yesterday, in fact, so I’ve already lost one day :-) – with a May deadline1. In the unlikely event that anyone’s interested, the assignments are here and here.

I quite like the look of the Module B assignment, and think I can do a reasonably good job of it: In fact, I’ve churned out the first draft of the introduction (worth 10% of the total mark) already. I’m not so sure about the other – some careful reading up, and going back over the course material, is called for. I don’t HAVE to submit these assignments – in theory I’ve got until December 2008 to pass all the modules of the course (three exams and three assignments), so I could just do the one I’m happier with now, and wait for a more Gottle-friendly module C assignment to come along. Against that, of course, is the principle that I just want to crack on and get it over with and get everything done.

The tactic I’ve decided on, for the time being, is to crack on with the module B assignment, and do the best I possibly can with that: As it’s a subject I know quite a bit about, and can easily research in my own workplace, it shouldn’t take too long. Then I’ll decide whether the remaining time before submission deadline would be better spent revising for remaining exam(s)2, or soldiering on with the other assignment.

In other news, Hippo Birdy to AndytheBear, whom I happen to know spent his birthday geocaching in London!

1 Gosh, what a long sentence that was!
2 Bearing in mind that until I get the results of the exams I took in January, I don’t know how many I should be revising for :-)

More Revision

Monday, February 27th, 2006

I’ve always found one good way of learning boring rote-type stuff, to be using aides-memoires: Luckily these are pretty prevalent in Health and Safety learning anyway – for example, the heirarchy of controls to prevent exposure to dangerous chemicals is “Eric Prevents Death”: Elimination of the dangerous chemical, Reduce the amount of the chemical or the exposure time, Isolate the chemical, e.g. in a fume cupboard, Contain the worker, Protective equipment, Disciplines (eg safe systems of work).

The only problem is, when you need to dredge this stuff up, knowing your POPIMAR from your IADIM and your CITE from your BUNDEBANGLE (OK, I made that one up).

Where generally-used mnemonics don’t exist, I try to make my own up: They’re not usually as snappy as the ones that have been thought up by proper trainers, but they seem to work. I therefore present to you, my patented mnemonic for remembering the tonnage of substances mentioned in column two of table two of the COMAH regulations:
Very Low Light Levels Exclude Special Lads, Specially Excluding Carbon Copies, Dangerous Drugs and other Cancerous Lesions.
Just turn words starting “Ex” into “X”, then the first letter of each word is the roman numeral for the number, except “Special” = 5000, which doesn’t have a roman numeral. Sounds complex, but it’s so silly that it’ll stick in my mind (I hope).

Dickering About

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Today hasn’t been that cold – according to my outdoor thermometer – but the wind has been pretty biting, and lowering the apparent temperature to a level where the best idea was to sit indoors cuddling the cat and slurping hot chocolate.

This plan fell down on three points

  • I had to drive the church minibus this morning
  • I haven’t got a cat – although I’m sure next doors’ would make himself available for cuddling purposes, if I asked
  • I haven’t got any hot chocolate

Still, the cold factor involved in clambering in and out of the minibus assisting the old fogeys to get on and off made me appreciate all the more, the chance to stay in this afternoon, so I caught up on a few odd jobs: I demoted myself to “The man with FOUR GPSs”, by throwing one in the bin that I’ve given up on getting going. I did some revision, read my book, and did some more work on my Hospital Radio Conference seminar.

So yes, you read that right – I neither geocached, nor went to the gym. I’m not obsessed, you know :-)

Oh yes, and the two eBay items I was selling for Chris sold today! Not for as much as I was expecting, but Chris seems happy. I’ve got to see about selling Holland next – apparently having the black bottom makes it very rare.


Saturday, February 25th, 2006

One of the things I really hate, is when I’m eating out and someone keeps coming over and asking “Is everything all right with your meal, sir?”. Leave me alone, you’ll soon know if there’s a problem, OK?

Luckily, the place where Mum and I usually go – and went today, which is why this is topical – never do that: In fact today they were so busy they hardly had time to draw breath, never mind bothering the customers. The chef had all the time in the world – he’s new, and while he was serving us he took time to ask what we thought of the place, what changes we’d like to see, and if we thought there was enough variety on the menu, although as we have the same thing every time we go, we may not have been the best ones to ask that question.

Following her health problems over the last year, it’s great to see my Mum really has her appetite back: She ploughed her way through a huge pile of food, only giving up partway through the plate of cheese and biscuits she had for dessert: Most of the cheese (Stilton, yum!) is now sitting in the fridge, having been “doggy-bagged” home.

I ate far too much, including a huge bowl of ice cream, so I made amends by spending the afternoon in the gym: I did my best session of the year so far, 1500 calories in 5 miles on the treadmill. So that’s the bowl of ice cream taken care of…

Ooh, and congratulations to my chums Rockin’ Rob and The Lovely Miche, on finding their 200th geocache this afternoon :-)


Friday, February 24th, 2006

…but it’s another geocaching blog!

As most of you know, I like to leave work early on a Friday and try for a geocache or two. There’s a mercifully short period through the depth of the winter when it gets dark too early – I’ve never enjoyed night caching – but that now seems to be over for another year. I’ve already done my target number of gym calories for the week, thanks to Sunday’s bonus session, so I decided to go for some satellite-technology-guided sport this evening.

I’ve wiped up most of the caches around here, in fact the ten or so nearest to home are nearly all ones that I’ve previously tried, failed, and decided to come back to later. Tonight’s was one such – I’d searched for The Cache of Bere in the Forest of Bere before, and thrashed around for ages without success: Tonight I got straight to the first stage without trouble, and the final stage wasn’t that bad either: Better still, I arrived just as the car park was closing, so after finding somewhere to park I had all the woods to myself – apart from two roe deer I saw crashing through the trees, and a rather spooky-sounding owl I heard near the cache location.

This morning I had a blood test, which was the usual thing…still, that’s it (hopefully) for three months :-)

Rubbish…Them, not Me

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

There’s a Hospital Radio conference in a few weeks.

You may wonder why I’m mentioning that: Anyone likely to be interested already knows, and in any case bookings are closed. But y’see, I’m driving the minibus which takes people on trips and things, and that’s where today’s story comes from. I’ll be renting the bus from a firm in Nottingham, and the last time I was up there, I noticed that they take bookings on the web. Since the internet is a lot closer than Nottingham is, I hit the web and booked.

I was a bit disconcerted that there was nowhere on the online form to make comments: I wanted to make sure the insurance declaration included the “I am a diabetic” statement, if you wait and tell them when you get there it causes all sorts of confusion. Not daunted, I sent my Nottingham agent along to sort things out.

“Oh no madam, there’s no booking for a minibus. The web booking thing doesn’t work for minibusses”.

Wonderful communication. Wouldn’t it have been embarrassing if I hadn’t checked?


Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Just in case you missed this morning’s update, I found my MOT certificate. It was in the envelope that I thought it was in, which in turn was in the briefcase that I usually leave at work. The moral of this story is “Don’t use envelopes containing important documents as notepaper to scribble down Derek’s new e-mail address”.

So, my new MOT certificate lasts until March 21st 2007, which is nice. It would have been nicer if it hadn’t cost so much to get it through – although over half of what I paid them was for the 24-month service they did at the same time, so I suppose it isn’t bad. Anyway, Gruntmobile is good to go for another year, and that’s the main thing, especially as I have some interesting off-roading opportunities coming up in the next couple of weeks :-) .

I ws going to add an “in other news…” but on reflection there doesn’t seem to be any other news.


Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

I hate it when I do something that reminds me that I’m capable of levels of rubbishness that even SimonG would tut and shake his head at.

The Gruntmobile is booked in for its MOT tomorrow. It isn’t due for another month, but by getting it in now, I have time to sort out anything that crops up – if I take the old certificate along, they’ll give me the extra month anyway, so it’s a win-win situation.

Except I can’t find the old certificate. I have a file neatly labelled “Car Things”, and it ought to be in there. I’m sure it’s with the insurance certificate, in an envelope labelled “Insurance 2005-2006″ – I put it in there when I took both documents to the Post Office when I taxed the car. What I did with it when I got home is anybody’s guess – logic says it ought to be with the receipt for the car tax, but that IS in the “Car Things” file.

I also hate it when I let the frustration of such things get me – well, frustrated and upset. It isn’t that big a deal – I’ll miss out on the extra month, but that’s all, and I can get a replacement insurance certificate from the insurance company. Jenny knows how frustrated and upset I was when she phoned me earlier – I actually managed a rude swear that offended even her, which takes some doing. I didn’t throw anything across the room though, which is an improvement on my normal performance: I even managed to not get sarky with my luvvly Mum (whom I MUST say, I love to bits) when she asked “Isn’t it in the “Car Things” file then?”

I also hate it when people ask me to phone them, in my capacity as an officer of a voluntary organisation, and only give me a daytime phone number. OK, I can get away with phoning from work – but he doesn’t know that.

Anyway, more cheerful blog tomorrow – unless the Gruntmobile costs about fifty million quids to get through the MOT :-(

EDIT: Guess what I found when I got to work this morning. Grrr.

It’s Simon’s Fault

Monday, February 20th, 2006

A conversation in the chatroom:

SimonG: What are you doing?
Gottle: Revising :-(
SimonG: Shall I test you?
Gottle: Ooh, go on then
SimonG: What’s the subject?
Gottle: Rasmussen’s model
SimonG: I’ve changed my mind, after a quick Google that looks too boring.

So, if I fail my exam, it’ll be his fault.

I’ve been having a read throught the syllabus for the module A exam…I thought I was starting to get to grips with it, but there’s loads there I haven’t done yet :-( . Even though the exam isn’t until July, I really want to crack on and get this stuff done – in April, I’ll be issued with two assignments that need to be handed in the week after the exams, and of course I might need to revise for re-sits of the two exams I’ve already taken. So I want my first run through of the revision material finished before Easter, when the exam results come out.

I’ve also got to revise the methodology of my audio-based revision system wot I blogged about last week: Some people have commented that it does work, others that it doesn’t. At first glance, it seems that the key to a successful method is to make it in bite-sized chunks, so that I’m only memorising little bits at a time. More research needed.


Sunday, February 19th, 2006

It rained today.

So, geocaches achieved – zero :-( . I thought of going and having another crack at one I’d previously failed to find, but the area it’s in isn’t nice enough to be worth getting wet for. Instead, I planned to do some revision.

Revision achieved – also zero :-( . I was talking to Mongers in the rubbish chatroom, and he expertly pointed out that revision would be boring, so instead I did some more work on a talk I have to do at the next Hospital Radio conference, and then went to the gym. Calories achieved, 1400 – woo!

The night’s young – I could still get some revision done. Or I could watch last night’s “Rosemary and Thyme” wot I videoed. Hmm

Direct Mail

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

I had a letter from Sainsbury’s this morning.

They wanted to tell me that the factory that makes Sainsbury’s own brand cat food had had a fire and had had to stop production: So that my feline friend and I wouldn’t be inconvenienced, they sent me some money-off vouchers for Whiskas. Since my feline friend died nine years ago, I’m guessing he wouldn’t mind too much about the lack of Sainsbury’s own brand anyway – not that he’d have been too keen on cat food, although I suppose if the chicken fillets had run out he might have lowered himself!

I’m guessing they mailed me because, just before Christmas, I swiped my Nectar card when I bought some Sainsbury’s own brand to go in the charity basket for the local RSPCA rescue centre. I hope it’s still there when I go back to use the money off vouchers :-)

In other news, today I washed the Gruntmobile, and then I washed the Gruntmobile mud off the drive. Then I had to scrub the pavement.


Friday, February 17th, 2006

One of the things that makes geocaching a bit of an extra challenge, is concealing what you’re doing from non-cachers.

It’s partly part of the game, but sadly there are many people out there who, if they found out about the existence of a cache, would steal or damage it just for fun. The basic technique involves having a good look around you before recovering the cache, and before putting it back again, but it’s also important to have a convincing reason for dawdling in the area of a cache. Some go as far as wearing a hi-viz vest and pretending to be surveying: I normally ponce around taking loads of photos – people seem to think that all sorts of odd behaviour is normal if you’ve got a camera in your hand.

Anyway, this evening after work, I managed two caches: First, and only just up the road from work, was Hocombe Surprise: Then I travelled a bit further afield to finish De-Ja Vous, a multi-cache I found the clues for ages ago, and finally got round to finishing today.

Then I went to the gym. Stupid steam room is still broken :-(


Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Well done to Shelley Rudman, Britsin’s first medal winner in the Winter Olympics. Shelley got the silver medal – much against the odds – in a sort of sliding-down-a-hill-on-a-thing-like-a-tea-tray-on-skates event, to the jubilation of her supporters in her home village of Pewsey. The BBC had an outside broadcast team at the Pewsey village pub, where the whole village had gathered to watch the final on big screen, and interviewed a number of them after she won. Sadly the comments were all a bit predictable, so here are a few that would’ve been more fun:

  • “How’s the atmosphere been in Pewsey this afternoon?”
    “Dunno, I was only passing and popped in for a drink. What’s going on?”
  • “How are you feeling right now?”
    “Great! I’m a traffic warden and I’ve just clamped your satellite truck!”
  • “You must be very proud of Shelley?”
    “Never mind that, get yer ‘and in yer pocket and get a round in, you’re the only one that hasn’t bought a drink all afternoon”

Never mind – I’m sure we can rely on the homecoming celebrations for some comedy. Anybody remember the shambles that the BBC and Falmouth between them made of Ellen MacArthur’s welcome home?


Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

I’ve been having an occasional look at “Strictly Ice Dancing”.

Regular readers will have guessed “An occasional look” really means “Not running screaming from the room when it comes on”, but that’s more than most of these reality celebrity rubbish things get. The “interest” comes from the fact that I used to be a skater – not just an ice dancer, but a committee member of the local club and of the Southern League, and on a small number of occasions a competition judge. I tell you this not to show off my athletic past, but to show that the following comments are based on knowing what I’m talking about…

The celebrities are rubbish. Really, really rubbish. The only one of them with any concept of dancing at all is Bonnie Langford…which you’d expect really, she IS a dancer…but none of them relly deserve the marks they’re getting.

I don’t think I’ll bother to watch any more.


Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

I’m having such an exciting time!

The one exam I have left to take is all about law and organisation: There’s no easy way to learn this stuff, you just have to slog your way through it…but I had an inspiration…

If I buy a new CD, I play it in the car non-stop, and after a couple of weeks I know all the words to all the songs. I can’t sing them, because I can’t hold a tune in a bucket, but I know the words.

So last night at Hospital Radio, I recorded myself reading a summary of the COMAH regulations, the chapter on Failure Mode Effect Analysis, and the section on the Turnbull Report: I’m now copying them onto my computer to turn into a format I can burn to CD.

If it seems to work, I’ve got loads of other stuff to do as well.


Monday, February 13th, 2006

I know I promised I wouldn’t blog about TomTom talking satnav again, but I had to share this from yesterday: Regular users of talking satnav – old or new version – will know that it has a habit of sometimes taking you down tiny little lanes barely wide enough for a car, with grass growing down the middle and the sound of simple ole country boys playing “Duelling Banjos” in the distance.

Yesterday I got my own back – I’d programmed it to take me from Race HQ up to one of the checkpoints, and all was going well until I realised that there was a mile of green lane that would cut off about three miles of road, and be more fun into the bargain! (For the uninitiated I should explain that a green lane is legally a road, but one the highway authorities don’t maintain: It may be tarmacked, usually by people who own properties along it, or it may not. All vehicles using it must be road-legal, taxed and insured etc, just the same as any other road.)

As I approached the start of the green lane, Diesel Doris instructed “At the end of the road, turn right”. I went straight on, onto the bumpy stuff. As we started to bounce around, Doris advised “Turn around when possible”. I kept straight on – there was nowhere to turn round anyway. Over the next half-mile or so we got increasingly desperate “Turn around when possible”s, and then she gave up. She was remarkably quiet until we emerged from the other end back onto the main road, but eventually agreed to speak to me again.

I know it’s only a computerised voice, but she can sound a right nag, sometimes.


Sunday, February 12th, 2006

No, I haven’t been doing an Omally cache – today’s main event was being a Raynet person on the Meon Valley Plod, a twenty mile cross country running event in the Meon Valley. The event started at the Hampshire Sustainability Centre, which has a cache in the back garden – well, it would have been rude to ignore it wouldn’t it? Sadly I ran out of time – I was on checkpoint one, and had to be on the course early – so that one lives to get me muddy another day!

After I finished on checkpoint one, I reverted to my second role of Search and Rescue person, which is where most of the mud came from: A green lane made a lovely – but somewhat muddy and potholed – short cut between parts of the course, and chucking muddy runners in the back ensured the inside was as dirty as the outside :-) . The cold weather and unexpected rain ensured we were kept busy running around picking up injured runners.

Of course, there had to be a cache somewhere in the day, so on the way home I stopped and found The Second of Many on the way home. And then it was time for a Chinese takeaway and a shower…the car can wait to be cleaned later!


Saturday, February 11th, 2006

Tomorrow is scheduled to be a long day.

With this in mind, I’d planned a fairly easy day today: A bit of pottering around getting the stuff ready that I need for tomorrow, then over the gym for a quick workout and a relax in the steam room. The last thing I need in the morning, is to discover that I’ve left some preparation task not-done today, so while I was having my Weetabix I made a list.

It filled the whole back of an A5 envelope.

Admittedly they weren’t all things that had to be done today, but most were, and the others were things like “Sort out eBay stuff for Chris” that I’ve been promising to do for ages, so I really ought to get round to them soon. By now – as teatime draws near – most of them are done, and I’m sitting in a comfy chair with the lappy on my knee working my way through the remainder and listening to Gary Moore on the headphones, courtesy of non-rubbish wifi-age :-) .

Now I seem to have almost completed a blog entry titled “Moan” without moaning…oh, OK then: Rubbish Post Office stamp machine was broken. And rubbish gym steam room was broken. I think it’s time for a ham sandwich and a glass of wine.


Friday, February 10th, 2006

First I was stuck for blogspiration.

Then during this evening’s caching I was stuck in the mud. That’ll teach me to jump into a firm-looking patch of ground with my ordinary shoes on. I nearly lost one of them.

It’s been a sticky old day really.


Thursday, February 9th, 2006

There was a story on the radio this morning, about how school-leavers going to university are ill-prepared for independant research, having been “spoon-fed” facts throughout their schooling. The report went on to bemoan the usual old chestnuts of students’ poor standards of spelling and grammar: The government mouthpiece described this as a “more deeper problem”. It must be worse than we thought.

I spotted another odd thing a little later: I was on the M3 at the time, and spotted a Police car approaching rapidly from behind, with a Christmas tree’s worth of blue lights flashing: I was already in the nearside lane so there wasn’t much for me to do, but everybody moved over to let them through: About a quarter mile ahead of me they pulled across the motorway onto the hard shoulder and put their flashing red tail lights on. The driver and passenger got out, swapped places, and drove off, this time without blue lights.

I expect it was some sort of driver training thingy, but it looked funny at the time.


Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has been sentenced to seven years in prison. I wonder how long he’ll actually serve? According to the BBC website, he becomes eligible for parole in 2008, although he may then be extradited to the USA to face charges there: I bet they won’t faff about with seven-year sentences.

It’s a shame – although probably a carefully-orchestrated one – that this comes at a time when some Muslims are protesting violently against Danish cartoons: It has been stated by many influential Muslims that Hamza’s views are only representative of a tiny minority of the Muslim faith, and his imprisonment ought to be heralding the start of a new era of peace between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities: Instead the faith is continuing to make just the sort of headlines it doesn’t need.

I didn’t find the cartoons especially offensive, but then as I’ve said in a previous blog, I didn’t understand them anyway – there’s probably something significant I’m missing. Either way, I’m sure the majority of decent Muslims aren’t supportive of the violence, even if they are upset by the cartoons themselves and think they’re wrong. Certainly, of the twenty or so Muslims I know pretty well, none are going out and burning anything down.

Violence just begets more violence, it doesn’t solve anything. Sadly, the way a handful of Muslims are behaving is probably giving racist extremists some excellent publicity material.