Archive for September, 2007

Fudge

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I tried a new fudge recipe today.

I won’t bother with THAT one again :-(. The fudge still hasn’t set – in fact it looks a bit like cold custard. Don’t really know what I did wrong, I’ve checked the quantities and I’m sure I got them right. Ah well, we live and learn.

This morning I was spending money again – a nice jumper in Man at Matalan for a fiver, followed by twenty-five squid – yes TWENTY FIVE SODDING SQUID – on another at John Lewis.

And THAT was after spending nine pounds on a haircut. The weekend can only get better.

Train-ing

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I did an experiment yesterday.

I normally catch the 18:05 train from London. This is supposed to get into Southampton at 19:18, but can be a couple of minutes either side, and that couple of minutes makes the difference between catching the bus or having to wait for the next one – and that makes 15 minutes difference to the time I get home.

I’n usually at Waterloo in time to catch the 17:48, which is a semi-fast and only gets into Southampton a minute or two before the express. But that ought to be enough to be sure of catching the earlier bus, so I’ve often wondered if it would be worth trying – only being put off by the thought that getting on the train only a minute or two before it leaves, I’d be unlikely to get a seat, whereas on the express I not only always get a seat, I usually always get my seat – I guess you have to be a regular train-riding commuter person to realise how important that can be!

Anyhoo, last night I tried the 17:48. I got a seat – although the seats aren’t as comfortable as on the express – and I caught the bus. So that was a success and I think I might do it again. I went back to the normal train tonight – there’s no bar on the slower trains :-)

Maybe Get a Blister on Your Bum…

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

So how did you all get on with that little guessing game yesterday? You’ll remember I told you I had a blister on the base of my thumb, and invited you to guess how I got it.

Remember how I told you I spent Sunday working on an event in the New Forest? Most of that time I was helping on a drinks station, handing out bottles of water to passing runners. The runners like the bottles to either have the tops off, or loosened, to help them drink without breaking stride.

So, I have a thumb blister from opening 350 bottles of New Forest Spring Water. Life’s exciting, isn’t it?

The other news is that at long last I’ve got round to accepting all my friends invites on Facebook. I’m now involved in four games of Scrabulous – and at the time of writing, winning three of them!

Maybe Get a Blister on Your Thumb…

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I’ve got a small blister on the base of my left thumb. Can you guess how I got it? I bet you can’t. Guesses in the comments, I’ll give you the answer tomorrow. UPDATE – I’m right handed. That won’t help you to the right answer but it might eliminate a few wrong ones!

I had an interesting challenge today: it seems that our main server room – a room with such high security that even with my clearance, I’m not allowed in there unescorted – seems to have a problem with its electrical earth bonding. So I’ve spent a significant part of today lifting floor tiles and sticking my head down into the cable space to try to trace earth lines.

Still, as Flanders and Swann sang, ”It all makes work for the working man to do”. Well, the civil servant, anyway.

Puzzled

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I’m going caching in a couple of weeks with Rob and Sarah.

The area we’re going to has an amazing number of puzzle caches. And Sarah’s VERY good at puzzles! The three of us spent a happy couple of hours in the pub last night solving some puzzles, and from the e-mails we’ve exchanged this evening it looks as if we’ve all been continuing to work on them during the day. It’s fun to have something to work on on the train – and almost as much fun to watch the bloke sitting next to me pretending he isn’t trying to work out what I’m doing :-)

There’s still a few we haven’t solved though – I think we might need to go to the pub again. Quelle dommage.

That’s Over!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Today’s picture shows Grunty in the middle of flippin’ nowhere, as per usual :-)

We were working on the New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon – a 2 kilometer swim, a 90 k bike ride and a 20 k run. This picture’s near the 8 mile point on the run, and about a mile from the nearest tarmac: Not the most exciting off-roading – until I had to drive down the hill to the previous checkpoint: Steep, loose gravel, mud, the whole nine yards! The only thing that stopped me me was the bridge that didn’t look big enough for anything heavier than a backpacker and certainly wouldn’t take a Gruntmobile.

As I neared the point where I couldn’t drive any further, I met a school party doing Duke of Edinburgh award: As I drew level, I wound down the window and asked – as seriously as I could manage – “Scuse me – did any of you guys ring out for a pizza?”. Amazingly they took me seriously and told me they hadn’t. “Oh well, must be that marshal on the checkpoint up there then”

I think it’s bedtime. All this mischief wears you down, y’know.

What’s Going On?

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Good question!

Regular readers, who are used to daily entries appearing here come rain or shine – even if they’re sometimes cheesy cheating pre-written ones – will be wondering if something has gone wrong at Gottleblog HQ. Well, not really is the answer – but last night we had a Raynet committee meeting (bet you can’t guess what that was about [well, partly anyway]) and I’m now trying to sort out the final details of tomorrow’s event. It’s the last one I’ll be planning as group controller though – for the next one I’m on holiday, and the next event after that is after the AGM so I’m not controller any more!

There’s also a lot of monkey flying around in the world of another voluntary organisation I’m involved in – I’m just keeping my head down on that one!

In other news – I went to the gym again this afternoon. 57 minutes into an hour’s workout…the fire alarm went off! Luckily they let us in again pretty quickly, but I’d lost enthusiasm for those last few minutes :-)

It’s a Sign

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Southampton busses have a sign on the driver’s cab, just as you get aboard: It says
Our staff are here to help
Please show passes
purchase a valid ticket
or ask for fare information

I can see why they specify fare information – if it just said “Ask for information” some smartarse would get on and say “Please can you explain Fermat’s Last Theorem?”, and as we all know, there aren’t many bus drivers who could do that – generally it’s in the bus inspector’s course, and there’s never an inspector around when you need one.

What concerns me on that sign is the insistence on purchasing a valid ticket: what other sort of ticket is the driver likely to try to sell me? Of course it’s a bit academic – I’ve got a season ticket so he isn’t going to sell me anything, but you get the point.

Oh, and speaking of season tickets, I’ve reached another milestone in the world of the train-riding commuter person: Last Friday, my season ticket for the train had paid for itself, compared to the cost of a standard return every day. Until next April, all my train journeys are free :-)

A small triumph, but all mine own.

Hello?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

There was a lady on the train this evening making non-stop phone calls.

The funny thing was, she kept one call going all the way from Southampton Airport to Southampton Central – including the time we were in the tunnel. All the regular commuters were staring at her and thinking “We all know darned well you’ve got no signal in here, so why are you pretending?”.

“Non-stop phone calls” rather sums up this evening’s situation at Gottlegog Towers. Rather gratifyingly, people have been trying to change my mind about not being Raynet controller – even more gratifyingly they seem to have got the message that I’m not going to :-)

Unfortunately all that phone activity means I’m still no further forward with Sundays event planning. Arse.

Still Busy

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

It was a bit frantic at work today. Those of you who know where I work, and have watched the news, might have an inkling why, although there was other stuff going on at the same time to make things even more frantic!

Last night was a Grand Night Out: I went to the pub for a cachepedition planning meeting with Rockin’ Rob and Sarah – there was also Hunters Chicken and rather a lot of beer :-) . Such a shame that we didn’t get all the planning done and we’re going to have to do it again next week!

In an effort to calm life down a bit, I’ve decided that I’m not going to be group controller of the Raynet group anymore (if anyone in the group is reading this, you’ll be getting an e-mail about it later in the week!). There’s a number of reasons – political and organisational – added to which, I never wanted to be controller in the first place! So that should free up at least a little bit of time.

Probably.

Rubbish Romanse

Monday, September 17th, 2007

No, not romance – romanse. Or to be more accurate, RoManSE. It’s the Road Management System for Europe – I’m not sure why it’s in Southampton, if it’s supposed to be “for Europe”, but there y’go. Anyway, it’s a pile of poo.

It’s supposed to keep traffic flowing – if you look at the traffic cams on the Radio Solent website, they’re part of RoManSE. There’s also a stack of information boards around the city’s roads, that say things like “No Reported Problems” – except at the moment they normally say things like “London Road is being dug up, don’t even think about going there”. Part of the way they keep traffic moving is by making it easier to use busses – don’t laugh, it works in London – and so “BusTracker” is part of the system.

There’s a bus tracker terminal at the bus stop outside the railway station. You have a look at the screen and it tells you how long you’ve got to wait before your bus comes – apparently this knowledge encourages you to wait for the bus, rather than going home to get your car in order to drive home. Errrm, or something like that. The trouble is, it doesn’t work – when it says the number 17 (for example) is due, that actually means that the number 17 might be due, but it’s more likely to have been and gone sometime in the last five minutes.

And that’s assuming you get to see the bus information. There are three pages on a continuous scroll: Page one is information about how the system would work, if it did: Page two is busses due soon, page three is busses due later. The trouble is, page one stays on screen for ages, then in the time it takes to blink, two and three have gone and page one is back. And page two takes some reading – it doesn’t only show busses going in one direction, it doesn’t even only show busses coming past the station. Busses on this screen could be passing anywhere through the city centre and going in any direction: you need to focus just to spot whether the bus you want is on there or not.

Those signboards are interesting though: They’re basically the same as the old message pagers, but with a huge display. Somebody in RoManSE HQ sends a message to the pager, and it appears on the screen. And that means that it’s sent over a public radio frequency, and is almost certainly encoded in POCSAG, for which software is publicly available. Sounds like endless possibilities for mischief to me :-)

Long Day

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

That was a busy day and a bit.

Today was the New Forest Marathon, and we were providing the course communications. Last night m’chum John and I had to go down to New Milton and put up a Big Aerial, and we were much later finishing than we expected – hence no bloggery last night.

A substantial chunk of today was spent at the junction where the marathon route crosses the A35. The Police control the traffic, stopping the cars for the runners to go across, and letting it go again in the gaps between runners. Much honking of horns ensued – as if THAT would do any good – and there were a few unpleasant words directed at the nice Police Sergeant.

Still, the day went fairly well, no-one was injured – not by anything we were responsible for, anyway – and because the races started two hours earlier than normal, I was home just after five :-) .

And now it’s time to start planning next Sunday’s event. Looks like I’ll be missing the day out with caching chums :-(

A Bit Irritable

Friday, September 14th, 2007

There are some new signs at Southampton Railway station. They say “Passengers for the Boat Show should leave the station from the Platform 4 side and walk along the dual carriageway”. I think it’d be better if they said “Passengers for the Boat Show should stay on the station and get the next train back to where they came from. We don’t want your sort around here”.

Ahem.

Anyway, my muscles are tired, my feet hurt and it’s been a VERY long week! It ended well, though: I had my six-month review today, and my boss is very pleased with me. And our pension t’s and c’s have been upgraded, and it looks like we get our pay rise next month :-)

AND it’s the weekend!

Ooh. Aah.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

This course I’m on is hard work!

As I’ve blogged previously, we meet some interesting people in my work: Sadly some of them are interesting as in “May you live in interesting times”, and m’colleague Des and I are doing a course which will qualify us to teach certain self-defence techniques to our workmates. Needless to say this involves a certain amount of beating each other up, and I’m a bit stiff and achy. And I’ve got bruises, which in turn have bruises on them.

Still, it’s all good fun, eh?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

So anyway – Sunday, as I’ve already said, was a grand day out with some caching chums: Rob and Sarah (Paws for Thought); Sarah (Esscafe); Denise and Tim (DTJM) and Iain and Jackie (Pink Boots and Co), with occasional company from Tim and June, not forgetting meeting Paul and Judith at the pub! Once the early mist burned off it was a fabby day, will eleven miles walked, seventeen caches found and untold quantities of sweets and biscuits consumed – not to mention a fair amount of alcohol at The Fox in North Waltham, and a lovely salad back at Rob’s afterwards.

Those caches were –
Wayfarer’s Walk: The Poppy Field
Wayfarer’s Walk: Cottington’s Hill
Wayfarer’s Walk: For Down
Wayfarer’s Walk: North Oakley
Wayfarer’s Walk: Freemantle Farm
Wayfarer’s Walk: Sunflower Delight (Note to Tim: The clue is in the title! They’re sunflowers, not daisies!)
Wayfarer’s Walk: Great Deane Wood
Wayfarer’s Walk: Little Deane Wood
Wayfarer’s Walk: Crossing the Line
Wayfarer’s Walk: Deane Church (Note to Rob: it is VERY NORTY to be sitting on the cache while Tim and June are looking for it. Hee hee!)
Wayfarer’s Walk: Cheesedown Farm
Wayfarer’s Walk: At the Crossroads
Wayfarer’s Walk: Bull’s Bushes
Wayfarer’s Walk: Noushie’s Tea Party
Wayfarer’s Walk: South Wood
Motorway Mayhem J7 M3

Monday required a horribly early get up, as I had to be in London half an hour earlier than usual – I’m on a course all this week, but I’ll tell you about that once it’s over! Monday evening featured a pub in London for It’s Payback Time, an event cache organised by the three UK cache reviewers, and visited by no less a personality than Jeremy Irish – the man who invented geocaching – and his family. He seemed a nice chap…

And today I’ve been to hospital to visit m’chum Brian, who’s suffering with a collapsed lung. He’s in good spirits though, and his stories are as dirty as ever :-)

Another Grand Day Out (2)

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Another fabby day out with my caching chums :-)

I’ll tell you about the walk and stuff later when I’m not so tired – in the meantime the WalkerStalker tracker didn’t work so well today…

The only difference from last time is that I used a smaller aerial, so that has to be what’s made the difference. Ah well…we continue to experiment.

Images produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced with kind permission of
Ordnance Survey
and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

More More More

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

Following on from yesterday’s blog – on Wednesday evening I sent an e-mail to Chris, one of my New Wine chums. He’d asked for a copy of the team photo, so I sent him that and also a link to the Medical Team gallery.

This morning I had a reply from him –

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the pictures and links,. – I have lived a sheltered life and never heard of geocaching so was fascinated to see it and follow some links

Regards

Chris

Mwa Harrrr Harrr…“Geocaching – taking over the world one person at a time!”

In other news – I went to the gym this afternoon! I haven’t been for flippin’ ages, so I was pleased with my hour of CV work. Then I went and sat in the steam room for a while, and then to sit in the clubroom and enjoy a cold drink or a coffee. The cold drink machine was broken and the coffee tasted like dung – so nothing’s changed while I’ve been missing!

Another Convert!

Friday, September 7th, 2007

In the Health and Safety discussion forum I read, someone recently asked if there were any publicly available health and safety blogs: this prompted a discussion about whether a blog could serve a useful purpose correcting public misunderstandings of health and safety matters – like the PAT testing stuff I posted last week.

My contribution was that if a blog was only about health and safety, then only health and safety people would read it – precisely the kind of people who already know the stuff that such a blog would look to print. A better way would be for people who already have general personal blogs to occasionally post health and safety related items.

After I wrote last week’s piece on PAT, I posted a link in the health + safety forum as an example of what I’d meant.

I’m not sure how successful I’ve been at spreading the health and safety message, but I’ve had a comment from Heather (one of the main commenters in the original health and safety thread) saying that she learned a lot about geocaching. And I’ve had an e-mail from Hedley, who also came by that route – he’s going for his first cache soon!

Seekrit

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

A while ago, one of my loyal readers complained because I’d mentioned in a blog “Something really funny happened today, but I can’t tell you about it”.

I suppose it’s a fair comment: It IS a bit of a tease. The trouble is, we’ve all seen in the meeja – and some of us have experienced it personally – how bloggers have got into trouble, and even been sacked, for blogging about their workplace. That’s why I’ve made it a principal to never say enough in my blog that would make it possible to work out who my employer is. I know some of you know, but that’s different: As our good blogchum SB has found out, it’s not the readers you know about that are the problem.

The other thing, of course, is that I’m covered by the Official Secrets Act, which further restricts what I can tell you. It’s a shame, because I have more contact with the public than most health and safety bods, and some of them are really interesting people with fascinating stories to give me cheap blog material :-) . Maybe when I write my autobiography these things will be far enough in the past that I can get away with it.

In the meantime, I’m afraid, it’s stories about caching, and lunchtimes at Mungo’s Sandwich Shop.

Norty

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

According to a story on the BBC News website, the BBC have scrapped plans for an environment sepcial. The programme – which alleged comedian Ricky Gervais was apparently interested in presenting – was intended to encourage a mass “switch off” by viewers.

Well if Gervais was presenting, I’d have switched off, so it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to me.

In other news…I’ve been naughty, and it’s all the fault of regular blog reader Nobby “the Nobster” Nobbs. He was encouraging me at the weekend to spend money on a gadget – specifically a sirf-3 enabled Bluetooth® GPS. Not only did he encourage me in person, he followed it up with an e-mail about Maplin having it on sepcial offer. Mind you, Rockin’ Rob didn’t help – when I told him about it and said it was tempting, he replied “That’s not tempting, that’s compulsory”.

If I said Maplin gave me 5% off because I bought the ex-display model, would that make it less naughty? It seems to work OK, anyway. And I’m now once again the man with five GeePeeEsses.

Track

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Those who were with us on Sunday will remember the aerial sticking out of my rucksack – the big aerial that became a lot smaller when I went under a low branch :-(

Anyway, it was connected to the experimental rucksack-sized version of the Gruntmobile Tracker, aka the WalkerStalker. A tiny transmitter connected to my spare GPS, beaconing my position to the world every five minutes. Here’s the track it recorded:

In the time it was running it would have transmitted 55 beacons, of which 30 made it into the repeater network: Interestingly, the damage to the aerial doesn’t seem to have made much difference – the cessation of transmissions at the lunch stop is because the GPS batteries died, nothing to do with the radio.

So, broadly speaking the technology works :-) . Another trial this weekend.

Oops…forgot the obligatory…
Images produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.