Archive for August, 2007

PAT on the Head

Friday, August 31st, 2007

In the heady world of Health and Safety where I spend ny working hours, PAT stands for “Portable Appliance Testing”. In the world of electrical contractors – especially the less ethical ones – it stands for “Licence to Print Money”. Most people seem to have been told that by law, all electrical equipment used in a workplace must be tested annually, using an expen$ive bit of test kit and a highly-trained performing monkey maintenance electrician.

Needless to say, this is one of those myths put about by people who’ve seen the opportunity to make a fast buck or two from people who haven’t got time to check for themselves what the law says. The people who’ve been badly advised aren’t really to blame – if they’re paying for competent advice they’re entitled to expect honest treatment.

What I’m leading up to is that according to the expiry dates on the labels, the electrical equipment owned by my employers is due for retesting – all of it. So I’ve been through the list (it isn’t a short list), and come up with a few items that the test contractor wants to retest this year, that don’t need it – including a number that should never have been PAT tested in the first place. The contractors charge by the item – you could probably have guessed that.

In total – and I promise I’m not exaggerating here – if the contractors had been left to their own devices, they’d have tested 1845 unnecessary items next month. Needless to say, my boss, whose budget covers the tests, is pleased with me :-)

UPDATE: Since I’ve been asked a few questions about PAT, this website has some links to useful information.

Code

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Regular readers will be aware of the Gruntmobile Track and Trace pages, which you an find by following the link over on the right labelled “My Bits and Bobs”. I wrote those pages a long time ago, with some help from my pizza-scoffing chum Lord Simon of G for the tricky bits.

Yesterday evening I decided that I wanted to add a bit: I’m going walking with some chums on Sunday, and I thought that would be an ideal opportunity to test the backpack version of the tracker gadget. It took me a while – I had to read through what’s already there to remind myself how it all works, but if you look at the Gruntmobile trace page now, you’ll see there’s a link to the WalkerStalker, a name originally coined by my chum Mark the Buddhist, which gives you an idea how long this little project’s been hanging around.

It remains to be seen how well it’ll work: I await Sunday evening with bated breath :-)

Happy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I’m a bit happier about things today.

Those of you who know me particularly well may have discerned from the weekend’s blogs that things were getting on top of me a bit: in the next six weeks I’m involved in organising five Raynet events, one of which is on a weekday so is unlikely to attract too many volunteers: The weekend’s efforts, plus a couple of phone calls I managed to make during the day today, got a lot of that sorted and my “OhMyGodIt’sAllGoingToGoHorriblyWrong” level is back somewhere near normal, which has to be good :-)

Not only that, but I managed a decent walk at lunchtime: to Mungo’s Sandwich Shop for a BLT, which I ate in the park, followed by a mile and a bit through some roads near the office which I’ve not explored before. I even found a shop selling rather nice good quality models, including some Dr. Who ones, which might sort out one Chrimmy present ;-)

Life is on the up. Now I just need some sleep.

Where Did the Weekend Go?

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Blowed if I know, but it was a good one: Today was spent doing some sorting out for next weekend’s activity, then some Raynet work in the afternoon. It was just a WEE bit annoying that having got home I discovered I’d walked within feet of a geocache during the Raynet thing. Ah well.

This evening is Hospital Radio – I don’t normally do Mondays, but as it’s a bank hol I’m helping out!

That’s Better

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

After I blogged last night, I went for a ten minute lay-down and read of my book. I woke up at bedtime.

I must have needed it, because even after that it was a struggle to get up this morning. I HAD to go to church though, ‘cos it was the retirement celebration of our lady vicarette Maureen. After lunch I did a load of the Raynet work I should’ve done yesterday, while watching the Grand Prix, and then headed for my mate John’s house for a Raynet meeting to sort a few more things out.

Of course, if I actually passed by a cache on the way to John’s, it would’ve been rude not to do it, wouldn’t it? Lover’s Trough was only a short diversion, so it had to be done! Then we had our meeting and talked of all kinds of stuff, before Mrs John supplied us with a fabby roast meal, and Daughter of John supplied the dessert.

On the way home, I decided it was too nice an evening to waste, and there was another cache requiring my attention. I’ve been meaning to do Follow the Rules for a while – in fact it was my backup reserve cache the day I did my 700th. Today’s weather was a bit better than then, though, and it was a nice cache to do.

I feel a bit better about things today.

Rule of Nine

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Bank Holiday? My ostrich!

I had a shedload of stuff I HAD to do today :-( . It started with a haircut, then there was caravan cleaning and a day of Raynet paperwork.

Well, I had the haircut. He’s put his prices up – NINE QUID!!! And then I did some hoovering in the caravan, and found some postcards I last saw in there three years ago! Perhaps I should hoover more often.

As for the paperwork – well it still needs doing. I found nine caches this afternoon! Someone has placed a series of ten around the New Forest – sadly number two has already been reported missing, but the others are still there: It’s the “It’s not about the numbers – New Forest tour” series:
Number One
Number Three
Number Five
Number Six
Number Four
Number Ten
Number Nine
Number Seven
Number Eight

Hooray, Hooray…

Friday, August 24th, 2007

…I’m going on holli holli-day! And it’s going to be a proper one this time, without 7:00 AM get-ups and working like a hard-working thing until gone midnight every night! I LOVE doing New Wine, but I really need a rest.

Mind you, I’m not going on holiday yet – the Great Lake District Cachepedition is six weeks away, and between now and then I’ve got three Raynet events to do, another to help plan, and yet another to have input to (which will be happening while I’m away). But at least I can start the planning for it – in fact I did, this lunchtime.

The Ordnance Survey website is great, but for making sure you know which map you want you can’t beat actually looking at one in your hand. That’s why I found myself in Waterstones, over the road from the office, at lunchtime: This was a checking-expedition only – once I’m sure which maps I want I have a better (and legitimate) source that doesn’t involve paying retail price.

Which makes it all the more surprising that I left the shop fifteen squids lighter. Still, among my purchases there WAS a Terry Pratchett I haven’t read before, so that’s OK.

Late.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

I intended to post this yesterday, but my train home from oop north was delayed, and in the end I couldn’t be ostriched. Sorry about that…

Quite by chance, while trying to check train times I came across the Live Webchat page on the South West Trains website: this is the travellers’ opportunity to put questions to a senior manager of the organisation – it’s a bit of a shame so many people are wasting it on pointless whinging. Comments include (and I’m paraphrasing here):
“I got to the station two minutes after my train was due to leave and it had already gone! It’s not fair!”
“I got on the train without a ticket and had to pay a penalty charge! It’s not fair!”
“My train always gets into London two minutes late! It’s not fair!”

Whingers.

Anyway, I found myself today standing on the station in a little old northern town, browsing the magazine rack for something to while away a four-hour journey home: the choice was restricted to:

  • A selection of what are politely known as “top shelf” magazines
  • A selection of magazines normally read by people who think that David Beckham is interesting.
  • A selection of magazines normally read by under-10s
  • “Computer Shopper”, “Private Eye” and “Practical Gardener”

.

I ended up with “Computer Shopper” and “Private Eye”. I don’t like gardening.

Busy

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Today I got up and caught a train to one of our regional offices, and did some work. Then I caught the train back to Jenny’s.

And now I’m paying with kittens and contemplating an early night: Tomorrow features another train ride up North (yes, even further north than Jenny’s), followed by a mega train ride home.

It’s a hard life.

Headache

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

I felt a bit rough this morning – the Budweiser and Baileys last night (oh, and the wine) might have had something to do with it. It didn’t stop me and Chris doing a cache though!

Hole in One is the nearest one to Chris and Jenny’s that I haven’t done – bit of an odd cache, but there you go! Then we went to The Clock, a slightly fabby pub where in the company of Jan and Andy we ate FAR too much. And Andy and I had the benefit of the free bottle of wine :-)

And now we’re working to recover enough to head for the pub quiz this evening. It’s a busy old life :-)

First Class!

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Back in May, I blogged about travelling First Class on Midland Mainline: you might remember that I wasn’t impressed. Travelling to Jenny’s for this weekend I decided that everyone deserves a second chance – besides which, by some weird railway version of bistromathics, by buying in advance I got a first class ticket for less than the cargo class equivalent. Go figure. Anyway, I’d like to withdraw my previous comments.

The carriage was roomy and the seats comfortable, but in the field of on-board freebies they made me feel like the country cousin: We hadn’t even left St. Pancreatitis before they were coming round with the free copies of the Evening Standard, closely followed by free coffee, free orange juice, free cookies and free wine. Then more free coffee. Then MORE free coffee.

I could get used to this.

And now I’m enjoying Jenny’s birthday partay. There may be pictures – especially of the chocolate fountain – later :-)

Septic

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Excellent mystery-key-related news: I’ve remembered which padlock the key fits! It isn’t very exciting though…it’s the key to a padlock I use sometimes. If only I knew where the padlock was, that’d be useful information.

On a more serious note, today marks a couple of anniversaries: 25 years ago today, the CD player was invented. There isn’t really much to say about that, except that it may have run its course – digital re-writable formats like MP3 seem to be taking over for home and mobile entertainment purposes, and with digital music downloadable – and internet speeds increasing – I don’t suppose that buying music in “hard copy” form will still be around in another five years. There’s a prediction you can come back and challenge me on :-)

The other anniversary is that 20 years ago, Michael Ryan went on a killing spree around the quiet Berkshire town of Hungerford: There isn’t much to say about that either, except that it reminds me where I was that day: walking the South Devon Coast Path with my old chum Mark the Buddhist. We were having a rest day in Salcombe, and caught the bus into Kingsbridge so I could buy some ointment for my septic toe. Which in turn reminds me of the joke of the day:
“What do you give a pig with a septic toe?”
“Oinkment”

Oh how we laughed.

Happy Birthday to Yooooooo…..

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Well firstly – many happy returns to my old – and I mean that in a very sepcial way – chum Jenny. I’m really looking forward to the weekend’s geocaching – oops sorry, I mean the birthday barbecue! According to m’colleague Leigh (who read it on the New Zealand Meteorological Office website), it’s going to chuck down all weekend.

I’m typing this on the train at Waterloo station, waiting to go home: The carriage has been invaded by american tourists who are stinking the place out with the McDonalds they’ve brought on board with them, taking photos of each other, and generally behaving in a loud manner. I’m not sure where this train goes that’d be of interest to american tourists, but there you are. It’d be funny if the thought they were on the train to Heathrow…

And finally, no, I haven’t worked out what that key is for yet. Sorry, I know you’re all on the edges of your seats…well, Mr Hedgehog is, anyway.

Key Moment

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

I found a key on my key ring.

You may not be hugely surprised by that, but I was – this is my minimal key ring, which normally has my front door key and the one key I need for work. I’ve got other key rings which have my car keys, hospital radio keys etk etk, so I only need to carry around the keys I actually need at the time. Anyway, now there’s a third key, which looks a bit like a front door key, but is a little bit smaller.

I haven’t used those keys since I went on holiday (except to get in when I got home), so the surplus key has been there since then. It looks a bit like a padlock key, and has a letter “Q” embossed on it. I wonder how long it’ll be before I realise what it is?

The Return of the Long Trousers

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Back to work today, and as you may guess from the title, the first time I’ve worn long trousers since 26th July. Well almost – I DID wear long trousers one day when I went caching and was fed up with nettle stings and bramble scratches!

It’s been the usual back-to-work chaos, with two weeks worth of e-mails to look through – and in some cases even to do something about. Still, I more or less had my head above water by mid-afternoon so that wasn’t too bad. Hopefully by the end of the week, when I head north for two days running training sessions (and – entirely by coincidence – Jenny’s birthday party), I should be properly back on track.

Oh, and speaking of holiday caches – which I was up there in paragraph one – I told you there were some “fail to finds”: I’ve since discovered that one of them was removed by the cache owner before I went there, and another I’m sure isn’t accessible without trespassing. This seems to be confirmed by a picture posted on the latest log. The other two have been logged since I failed to find them, so they’re just my fault :-)

Ow

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Ow ow ow. My back hurts.

This COULD be the result of sleeping on a soft-ish bed after a fortnight of a caravan bed which could best be described as “firm”, but I like to think it’s a result of the activity of the day: I’ve given Grunty Gruntmobile her annual bath, followed by washing half a ton of best Somerset mud off of the driveway. I’ll clean out the inside another day.

I’ve also got the best of the Medical Team photos online, which you can see here. And because I love you all, here’s one of my favourites from my caching activity while I was there: This is the view from Lodge Hill above Castle Cary, and that white blob in the distance is the Bath and West showground and the tents of New Wine.

So it’s back to work tomorrow and a return to normality: At least the food at lunchtime should be better than at New Wine :-)

I’m Home…

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Hello chums, I’m home!

You’ll be pleased to know I had a fabby time: New Wine was better than ever, this year’s team were lovely to work with and I REALLY didn’t want to come home. Normally at the end of the fortnight I don’t want to go back to work, but you just accept that it’s come to an end: This time I could have happily done another fortnight. Ah well :-) . At least I learned some great new worship songs to teach the folks at Jenny’s church when I’m up there for her birthday next weekend. Heh heh.

Needless to say while I was there I managed a couple of caches:
A Load of Cock and Bull
Croscombe Hikers Part 2
Chesterblade Bottom
St Aldhelms Well
Would You Believe It?
Lodge Hill Ramble
Quick Tor at Three Ashes
Batcombe Bottom
There were also some fails-to-find, but that’s life! Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got 519 e-mails to work through…

Gotta Have Faith

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

There’s a statue of Sir Humphrey Davy – inventor of the miners’ safety lamp – in Penzance.

I don’t really know if that’s true: The statue was there last time I was in Penzance, but that was over twenty years ago – anything could’ve happened to it by now. It could’ve been sold to the Americans, pulled down as a health and safety hazard, or simply stolen as a prank by a stag party – although what kind of stag party would go to Penzance I’m not sure. One from Tintagel, perhaps. But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I believe it’s there.

Not that it matters whether I believe it or not: If it’s gone, then my believing it’s there won’t make it suddenly re-appear. And if one of you feloniously makes me believe it isn’t there, when really it is, my lack of belief won’t make it suddenly disappear.

I’ve heard people who disagree with my Christian faith say things like (for example) “God hates gay people, and I don’t want to believe in a god like that”. As an aside, there’s no biblical evidence that God hates gay people; there’s plenty of evidence that a small number of people who call themselves Christians do, but that’s not the same thing. My point is, does it really matter what sort of god people want to believe in? I spent the last ten years not wanting to believe that Tony Blair was prime minister – it didn’t change anything.

What I’m leading to is some correspondence in magazines that I’ve seen lately, debating which is the “best” religion – if any – for the world to follow: The conclusion seems to have been reached that it’s Buddhism, because Buddhists believe in tolerance and letting people do their own thing, more than any of the other faiths do. But surely that’s a totally false trail? I’m a New Testament Christian, and I believe in the truth of the New Testament: Rather than get involved in the detail of that, let’s simply put the whole New Testament into one lump and call it “Fact A”: Like the existence of that statue in Penzance, Fact A is either true or it isn’t, and my belief – or other people’s unbelief – won’t change that.

Likewise, truth isn’t altered by what people think is most appropriate for the culture of the time, or suits their particular need: I’d like to believe in a God who says “That bit about gluttony being a sin – that doesn’t apply to short bearded bald blokes called Gottle, OK?”. Sadly, that choice isn’t available – like Blair’s disastrous premiership, what I’d like to believe doesn’t change the way things are, one way or the other.

I’ve always believed that faith is a personal thing, and is to be respected by others: If anyone asks, I’ll tell them why I’m a Christian and why I believe what I do, but I’ll leave them to make their personal decision based on that, and on any other evidence they can gather. What’s important is that religious faith – like deciding whether or not to believe Blair is or was prime minister – should be a decision based on what someone believes to be true, however inconvenient that truth may be. It can’t be a lifestyle choice based on what you’d like to believe.

As another aside, Wikipedia seems to suggest the statue is still there. But we all know that Wikipedia can be even less reliable than my memory.

There IS Such a Thing as a Free Lunch!

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Back in my early days at the jelly factory I used to work for someone we all called ”Fat Boy Roy”, for reasons that were rather obvious: his name was Roy. Anyway, on my first day he gave me a piece of advice I’ve always tried to follow: “Never refuse an opportunity for free food at the company’s expense”. It’s the only FBR advice I ever did follow, so it seems only right to do it properly.

Since I’ve joined “the Civil”, there seems to be quite a lot of free food: Lunchtime meetings always seem to include lunch, and there’s usually some left over – and being part of the Corporate Services team (which organises lunches) means that I’m normally close by when the remaining grub arrives in the office. There’s even usually something that could be described as “salad”.

Having come from the private sector, I was a bit concerned that I’d get a reputation for overeating when the free food arrived. Luckily I’ve discovered a colleague whose prodigious free food intake I’ll be hard put to match. I’ll tell you more about him on another occasion.

Yet Another Book Review

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Last time I was in Nottingham, I was waiting for Jenny in Asda when I spotted a book on the cheap rack: “Someone Like Me” by Tom Holt. It’s a 90-pager from the “Quick Reads” series – ideal for a train ride.

I like Tom Holt: He writes sort-of comic adventure fantasy: One of his is “The Portable Door”, featuring the character Paul Carpenter, and containing one of my favourite book quotes of all time: “I sometimes think that ‘Paul’ must be the word for ‘idiot’ in some language that everyone knows except me”. They’re the sort of books you can read a dozen times and spot new jokes and one-liners every time.

So, I like Tom Holt, and there was one I’d never seen before on the cheap shelf. I bought it.

It rode around in my briefcase for a while, until the day I didn’t feel like doing any work on my own literary masterpiece. The best I cans ay, if it had been by someone I’d never heard of, I’d probably have thought “Hmm, not bad – I’ll read some of his stuff again”. As it was, I read it expecting Tom Holt, and was a little bit disappointed. I’ll give it another try – I might have just been having a bad day – but it didn’t grab me the way his stuff normally does.

If you’ve never read Tom Holt, try “Wish You Were Here” or “The Portable Door”. Don’t try “Someone Like Me”. Sorry Tom, if you’re reading.

No Really, I’m Normal!

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Israel, eh? I was lucky there – Jenny’s dad used to work for a company that ran pilgrimage tours, and she encouraged me to go. I had a fantastic time, and I’ll go again one day.

The second bit of luck was that I was there during the most peaceful time in Israel’s recent history. “Peaceful” is a relative term: there was a suicide bombing at a bus stop just up the road from the hotel, the week before we arrived. But compared to times before and since, it was peaceful.

In the week we were there, we visited Bethlehem, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee: we went to loads of places around Jerusalem including the house of Caiphas – where Jesus was held on the night before the crucifixion – and the Garden of Gethsemane. We also spent time at the Dead Sea and at the historic fortress of Masada, which’ll ring a bell for anyone who studied the “Cambridge O-level Latin” course at school.

Here are some true fcats about Israel that you might not know:

  • It’ll be a nice country when it’s finished: when I was there so much of it was being dug up, it looked like the M1
  • The bits outside the towns look a bit like North Wales, only with sunshine.
  • When you get off the plane to take your first deep breath of “Holy Land air”, you discover that airports smell the same the world over.
  • You can’t get a decent bacon sarnie – or indeed any kind of bacon sarnie – for love nor money