Archive for December, 2006

Target Too

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

If you’ve been keeping a close eye on the “Gym Calorie Target” monitor thingy up there, you’ll know that I smashed through my end-of-year target – 100,000 calories – back at the end of September.

At the time – although I didn’t change the posted targets – I decided that the new end of year target would be 120,000. Since we came back from Yorkshire at the end of September I’ve been doing a bit less gymming – a combination of knackeredness and longer hours in the workplace. But this afternoon, I crashed through the 120,000 mark. Yay!

Other than a Raynet training session, that’s about all I’ve done today. I might go caching tomorrow – as long as the weather forecast is wrong :-(


Friday, December 8th, 2006

I was clever this afternoon.

OK, admittedly I started by breaking Jenny’s blog, but in the end I did something clever. I was in the process of deleting twenty million spam comments from her blog, when the database died. Basically the wp_comments section of the MySQL database had corrupted, which meant that comments were unavailable. It does that occasionally – if I knew why, I’d be even cleverer than I am. I used to have a bit of php called “repair”, which took about three seconds to run and did the job a treat, but unfortunately it got deleted when I upgraded the blog.

Keeping calm, I dropped into the chatroom, hoping resident MySQL experts Elly and Simon would be there: They weren’t, but Helena had some useful advice: “Ask Simon or Elly”, she said.

So, to cut a long story short, I Googled for a MySQL advice site, and sorted it all out myself. I’m clever.


Thursday, December 7th, 2006

I really wished, at lunchtime, that I was as brave as Stu, in the matter of taking photos of complete strangers in public places.

Now I think about it, that’s an interesting expression isn’t it? I mean, how could someone be anything other than a complete stranger? Could they be a partial stranger? “I’ve never seen that face before, but I’m sure those are Auntie Doris’s legs”?

Ahem…anyway, I was in WH Smiths at lunchtime. I spent far longer in there than I’d intended to. What sort of shop has all “Mum and Dad”, “Dad”, “Brother”, etc Christmas cards all together, but hides the “Mum” ones up the other end of the shop? WH Smith, that’s who. Still, I found what I was looking for in the end, and in the process spotted someone wearing what might be the most hideous outfit ever. Yes, even worse than me, the day I dressed as a teddy bear. This woman was wearing sort of baggy pyjamas: The trousers were made for someone a size bigger, and the smock-like top was made for someone about ten sizes larger than that. The whole ensemble was bright yellow – and I mean eye-searingly bright yellow – and covered in a pattern of black paw prints.

But the punch line – the reason I really wished I was brave enough to take a picture to share with you all – was that she was in the book section, browsing a copy of Trinny and Susannah’s “What Not to Wear”.


Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

A few days ago I mentioned that the “Royal Coffee” Stu gave me, was indeed as horrible as he said.

At the same time, Sarah gave me a couple of cans of jelly tea. They’ve been in the fridge since I got home, and last night – having “given it some” at the gym – I thought it’d be nice to have a refreshing cold drink with my tea. An ideal opportunity to try out my gift from my Leicescescestershire chums.

Not only was it – if possible – even worse than the Royal Coffee, but the remnants blocked the drain as well. I think I can see why Sarah was so keen to get rid of it. I’ve left the other can in the office fridge at work, labelled “This belongs to Paul, please do not steal it”. I bet it’ll be gone by morning.

There was something on the news this morning that I intended to rant about, but can’t for the life of me remember what it was. I must still be tired from the weekend :-( .

(EDIT: I remembered. It was about risk assessments for putting up Christmas decorations. One of the managers at our place insists there can be no decs put up until a competent person has risk assessed the process. I’ve refused to do the assessments because putting up Christmas decorations isn’t a work activity. I predict this impasse ending at the next Health and Safety meeting, on January 10th)


Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

Isn’t it odd how many of my blog entries are on the subject of “bizarre”?

But I had a really bizarre experience at the weekend: When I went up to Warwickshire for Trigs, I got a straight-through train1, but the return journey – because of trees down on the line, and scheduled engineering work – involved some rail-replacement busses, as well as trains. This is why on Sunday evening – after about 33 hours without sleep, remember – I arrived by bus at Winchester station, to catch a train back to Southampton. The bus dropped us at the London-bound side (i.e. the wrong side), but I realised – assisted by the signs – that as no trains were running north of Winchester it didn’t matter, and that all trains were using the same platform. Winchester was effectively working as a terminus until the line was cleared to the London side.

I was, therefore, a little confused when a train appeared from the London direction, everyone got off, and the train went into a siding. I guessed that there must be some sort of limited shuttle service running between Winchester and one of the minor stations this side of where the work was going on.

The train which had previously gone into the siding pulled into the platform I was waiting on, the announcer said it was the Southampton train, and we all got on, with me getting into an almost-empty carriage at the back. When the train pulled off in the wrong direction, I assumed we were going to a crossover just outside the station to get back onto the southbound track, before heading back the right way. DISASTER! The train gained speed and continued in the wrong direction!

And arrived in Southampton.

Now bear in mind, I’m pretty familiar with Winchester and know the layout of the railway station: The two car parks and platforms are different enough that it wouldn’t be easy to get them muddled up. But obviously in my sleep-deprived state that was what I’d done – although even thinking about it now, I don’t quite see how.

I guess at least it vindicates my decision not to drive. With my sense of direction that blown, I could’ve been touring Scotland by now.

1 Well, more or less straight through: To avoid the lines that were closed for engineering work it did Southampton – Reading via Havant and Guildford. But at least I got to Banbury without having to change.

Unsummery Summary

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Yes, it was Trigs weekend, and once again I was being the radio person for one of the rescue teams. This involves seven people – plus a heck of a lot of kit – in a seven-seater Land Rover, charging round the course solving problems and looking for lost walkers for twenty four hours: If you include travelling time to and from the event, it’s 36 hours without sleep, which is why you only got a brief blog last night, and why I went to bed at eight o’clock (and why I’ve got today off work).

The key feature of the weekend, of course, was the weather: As well as eighty-mile-an-hour winds, it absolutely carked it down with rain overnight, leading to the floods on parts of the course as shown in yesterday’s picture. At one point – at about three in the morning – it was raining so hard our driver had to stop as in spite of the windscreen wipers, we couldn’t see a thing! Just to make it interesting the wind brought down several trees over roads, so we often couldn’t go by the “normal” route to where we needed to get to.

I love Trigs weekend! In fact I’ve put my name down for next year already.

In other news, those of you who read Jenny’s blog will have noticed some changes: 34sp, who host the site, got a bit sniffy about the amount of spam comments she was getting – at some points the traffic was so high it was wiping out the server for other users :-( . They “suggested” that updating to the latest version of WordPress would solve most of the problem, so I’ve done that (note: I’d advise NOT upgrading to this latest version unless you have to, there’s a bug with the install process that, while it’s known about, hasn’t been fixed yet. I found a work-round, but it was a bit of a hassle). Unfortunately, using picture headers, and playing with the page layout, is nowhere near as easy to figure out as in the old version, so it may be a while before I get that sorted. Watch this space – or rather this space for updates.


Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Tour de Trigs – near the end. It had rained a bit overnight – in fact, it carked it down.

Painter Man

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I thought pictures like this were restricted to those rather Health-and-Safety obsessed websites. But I spotted this at work the other day – not at our factory thank goodness, this is the warehouse next door.

In case it isn’t obvious – the pic was taken at extreme zoom – the guy in the blue shirt is laying on the roof apex, leaning over and painting the gable, while the guy in the grey top holds on to his legs. Needless to say, no safety harness or line in sight, and I’m not even sure how they got up there. The ladder, the end of which you can see poking into the picture, was being used by another painter working further down, and it certainly isn’t long enough to permit safe climbing-onto-the-roof. And of course, that being an asbestos roof, they should be using crawling boards.

The other thing you can’t tell from the picture is that they’re a good forty feet up in the air. I haven’t even tried to think how many Health and Safety regulations they’re breaking here. This isn’t a back door fly-by-night company either – the warehouse belongs to a major chain that you’ll all have heard of. Worse still, given the nature of the business, I bet that warehouse is stuffed full of scaffolding towers and crawling boards available for rent.

Meanwhile, you’re getting this cheesy cheating pre-written blog tonight cos I’m away in the Midlands doing Good Works. Virgin trains permitting, I might churn out something about it tomorrow – unless I’m so knackered I go straight to bed…

Training Notes

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Regular readers will know that I’ve become quite a fan of train travel over the last couple of years.

It’s more economical for long journeys, it’s better for the environment, and with the occasional exception less stressful than driving. For events like this weekend – where I’ll be going home after thirty hours without sleep – it’s also the safer option. I nearly always buy my tickets from The Trainline, and have always been impressed with their service. Until now.

I bought my tickets for this weekend a couple of months ago, as soon as I knew the event was definitely on – the sooner you buy, the better the discount. The ticket comes with train times and everything, and in some cases the ticket is only valid on the stated train. Earlier this week, I was checking train times for something else when I noticed there’s engineering work this weekend, and the train that departs at the advertised time doesn’t arrive in Banbury until an hour after the time on the ticket. Since I have to attend the pre-event meeting, this is pretty important: It’s no big deal, I’ll just get the earlier train, but it’s lucky I found out.

The thing is, The Trainline must have a record that they’ve sold me the ticket with this train time on it: They’ve got my postal address because they posted me the ticket, and they’ve got my e-mail address because they e-mailed me the booking confirmation. It can’t be beyond their ingenuity to set up a system so that when engineering works are notified, they cross-reference to see if they’ve sold tickets for affected trains, and e-mail any customers involved.

It won’t stop me using The Trainline again, although I can feel a dodgy letter coming on: it’s just annoying that their customer service seem to have a hole in the middle :-(

The other thing I need to tell you today, is that yesterday I had my Big Scary Eye Test: This is where the doctor sends you a letter saying “Ha ha, you’re going to go blind because you’re diabetic, and I’m not because I’m not, so there!”, and you have to go and have pictures taken of the back of your eye so they can do further horrible things if you’re showing the first signs of any problem. Anyway, last year was the first time I’d had it done, and while there was nothing to complain about, the lady who did the test seemed more of an equipment-operator than a patient carer: Yesterday I was tested by Reg, who seemed to understand much better that the lump of meat on the other side of the desk was a real person and not just a laboratory specimen. I had the pupil-dilating eye drops (that bit was still horrible), he took the pictures, and then he showed them to me on his laptop and explained what I was looking at. “I’m not allowed to tell you it’s all clear until I’ve analysed the results back at the hospital, but I can tell you that if there was a problem, we’d be seeing something here, and something else there, and as you can see, we’re not seeing any of those things”.

I tried to get him to e-mail the pics to me so I could blog them, but he wouldn’t. Meany.