Archive for November, 2007

TGIF

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Bad news – South West Trains buffet cars seem to have stopped selling canned Bass :-(
Good news – they’ve started selling Tanglefoot :-D

The only Tangle with troublefoot is that it only cans one take and you don’t cain that it’s raring. Dissing pown, in fcat, by the time I came out of the station. Deep puddles everywhere, and I was wearing my trainers – remember the trainers I told you about last week, that have the huge split across the sole? Yep, those. Squelch.

Mind you, I came close to having a chance to make major improvements to the rail network yesterday, but I blew it :-( . In the chatroom, we’d decided to sack the government and take over the country: The Right Honourable Fluffy had made herself Prime Minister, and had let me be Minister for Public Transport, but she didn’t like some of my more extreme policies and gave the job to Sam instead. I think it was shooting dawdlers on Waterloo station concourse that did it.

I ended up as Minister for Salad instead.

Your Serve

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Last night was a bit of an adventure. I broke the internet.

To be fair, I don’t think I broke all of it, and I don’t really think it was me: I came in from work, with a long list of online-Christmas-shopping related things to do, to be faced with the internet equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death:
“Firefox cannot find the named server: Please check your spelling”.
Hmm. It wasn’t my spelling, and it happened with every website I tried to view except one. I’d seen exactly that problem before on Sarah’s computer, and the problem then had been the DNS settings. Check DNS settings…hmm, looks OK…try to access the internet through the other three computers…hmm, it doesn’t work on any of them either. Cycle the power on the hub/modem, and go for a shower while it sorts itself out.

Oh, it still doesn’t work – except for that one website. And no, I’m not seeing a cached version because it’s updating. Grr.

In the end I think it must have been a problem with my ISP, because the internet slowly returned, one web site at a time. Sadly Facebook was one of the last to re-appear, which is why Kathy has had to wait till this evening for me to play my Scrabulous turn.

And before you say it, no Rob, I didn’t call you. You’ve got more than enough on at the moment – and besides, Sally-J would’ve killed me :-) .

Nekkid

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Spotted in today’s TV listings:
“How to Look Good Naked: The team help a bride look her best as she walks down the aisle”. Blimey – weddings have changed a bit since the last one I went to.

Of course the main news story of the day is the just-announced above-inflation increase in train fares across the south of England. To be fair, as I’ve said before, the trains these days are a lot better than their reputation: They’re generally clean, usually pretty punctual (although the last couple of weeks have been a bit dodgy) and I’ve only once not been able to sit down for the whole journey, so I think that’s pretty good.

The internet edition of the Scummers’ Gazette broke the story this morning, generating the predictable range of comments: Generally the people who comment on Echo news stories are an excellent advertisement for euthanasia at birth, and most discussions quickly turn into arguments between “Denzil from Romsey” and a selection of people pretending to be him – it’s usually easy to tell which is which as the real Denzil from Romsey can at least spell both “Denzil” and “Romsey”. Today’s little fracas was based on the theme that if people don’t like paying train fares, they should go by bike. Remember this was a news story about trains from Southampton to Waterloo – that’s 79 miles on the train…

Alpha Yawn

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I learned something interesting today.

Have you ever done something daft in a moment of inattention, like fill a diesel car with petrol (as at least two of my readers have), or put something on the floor and tripped over it seconds later? Most of us have, and the good news is that it isn’t plain stupidity – there’s a psychological name for it, it’s called alpha sleep.

According to my extensive research, alpha sleep is when you’re doing something that you do so often, you’re on automatic pilot: fuelling up, walking through your kitchen or whatever. Unless something draws your attention to the fact that things aren’t as usual, you’ll do what you usually do: fill up with petrol even though today you’ve got the diesel company car, trip over the box that isn’t usually there, or whatever.

There’s also the “72″ rule: this is that your conscious mind can only maintain a certain number of bits of information, and for everyone, that’s between 5 and 9. If you’re cooking, for example, you might have to consciously remember that you need to check the pasta soon; that there’s a sharp knife in the washing-up bowl, and that there’s a cat sitting in the middle of the kitchen. Once the number of different-to-usual facts exceeds your number, your brain shifts something down to the alpha autopilot level, and you trip over the cat.

Well I thought it was interesting – it certainly explains a lot.

Jump to It!

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Someone I know quite well was asked to describe me recently, and included the phrase “happiest in casual clothes”.

I thought of that at lunchtime today, when I was getting ready for my daily walk to Mungo’s Sandwich Shop. Leaving my posh jacket on its hanger, I put on my favourite jumper (the 5 from Matalan one) and set off. I’ve got a horrible feeling that it may be a function of getting old, to like wearing jumpers so much. Not so much as when even your Mum tells you “You’re not getting any younger, y’know”, but that’s another story…but anyway, I’m sure that I always used to think that liking jumpers was a trait of elderly folk who’d turn into country and western singers at the drop of a stetson.

Still, there’s nothing wrong in liking jumpers, is there? And at least while I’m at work I do wear a tie…even if it IS covered with a jumper whenever I think I can get away with it ;-)

Also Nice

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Today was a pretty fab day: I had a meeting booked with some geocaching chums for pub, eating, and skittles! Sadly my chums Rockin’ Rob and Sally-J couldn’t be there – for reasons that Rob has decided not to blog about, so I won’t either – but we all had a good time. It was nice to meet up with Sarah and her new chap as well – and to return something of Sarah’s that’s been in Grunty for four months!

Of course there had to be a couple of caches on the way:
Duck Pond Dash was a bit of fun – anyone who thinks that roadside drive-by caches are always rubbish should try this one: A clever hiding place and some nice scenery to look at while filling in the log.

From there I moved on to Boots! – I had a look for this one, but there’s been a load of clearance in the area and it looked like the hiding place was gone. I got back in Grunty to move on, and changed my mind: One more look wouldn’t hurt, although if I’d remembered to bring the clue it would’ve helped! Still no luck, and back in the car and about to drive away when a car pulled into the layby behind me – it was my caching chums Qrang, and they DID have the clue – and suitably equipped, it took us about thirty seconds to find the cache!

And then it was off to the pub for much hi-jinks. And then home. Another good one :-)

Nice

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

While I was getting ready to go out this morning (the second time – taking my Mum to the Mucky Duck for lunch), there was a ring on the doorbell.

It was my Polish next door neighbour – well, one of them. Specifically it was the eighteen-year-old. I know that, because the first thing he said was “Hello, it’s my eighteenth birthday”. He then went on to explain that they were going to be having a party and potentially making a lot of noise – and presented me with a bottle of wine as an apology in advance! OK, it was alcohol-free, red, and sparkling – three things I don’t particularly like about wine – but it’s the thought that counts, and I thought that was rather nice.

And needless to say, I WILL drink it!

Other happenings today have been the haircut, the previously-mentioned meal at the Mucky, shopping for cheap trainers (I couldn’t find any I liked), a trip to the gym, and a quick visit to the Brightwater’s Real Ale festival. That’s what I call a full day!

Serves Me Right

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

I suppose it serves me right…

You’ll all know that I stayed late in London on Tuesday evening, to go to the BBC studios in Great Portland Street. Some of you will know that I’ve got a day out in London in a couple of weeks (two weeks tomorrow, but who’s counting ;-) ), caching and theatre-going with Rob and Sally-J.

There’s a webcam cache in Oxford Street, which we’re probably going to do while we’re there – but my route to the studio on Tuesday took me right past the webcam location. I decided that I wouldn’t log the cache – but I’d get a webcam picture so that I could log it in the future, if for some reason we don’t get it on the day.

Look what I got…

I wasn’t the only one having technology problems this week. Just before the train got to Winchester this morning, I looked up at the clock in the carriage, saw that it said “07:10″, and thought “Ooh, we’re running a bit early”. When we got to Waterloo, it still said 07:10.

Perhaps it’s their way of making the trains appear to run on time.

Bearly Believeable

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

First and most importantly – birthday congrats to my old chum Janny-poos. Hope the card arrived on the right day?

I was having a read through the reports of what various workplaces, within the grand organisation I’m employed by, had done to raise money for Children in Need. Among the raffles, cake baking and sponsored silences, one office had a ”Guess the name of Pudsey Bear” competition.

Am I imagining things, or is there an element of “doesn’t quite compute” there? I mean, I’m all for inclusiveness, and I suppose it’s only right to have competitions that even the hard-of-thinking1 can enter, but even the kind of people who think EastEnders is real ought to be able to get that.

Still, it raises some dosh for charidee…

1 Thanks to Stu for the loan of his figure of speech.

Radio Fun

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

One of the good things about working in London is the feeling of being “where it all happens”. As I walk over Waterloo bridge every morning I can look across and see the important buildings where decisions affecting every one of us are made every day.

And in the opposite direction I can see the Houses of Parliament!

When I first started in London, I determined to take advantage of all that the Metropolis had to offer – in particular the free tickets to recordings of BBC radio programmes. It seemed to me that already being in London, and the tickets being free, it offered an opportunity for high-value entertainment. And even if it was parrot, all I’d have lost would be a couple of hours. Needless to say, having the opportunity on the doorstep made it one more thing I never got around to.

Until yesterday.

My chum David had a spare ticket for a recording of the hilarious BBC radio comedy series “Buy Me Up TV”, and asked me if I’d like it. I’ve never been known to turn down something for nothing, so yesterday evening I spent a couple of hours in the BBC Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House, having a jolly good laugh. I suspect some of the funniest bits – like Greg Proops reminding himself that you can’t say “shit” or “f***” on the radio – won’t make it to air, but it was very funny all the same, and I’ll do it again.

Safe. Too Safe.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

It’s a bit old news now, but last week a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) was saying that the current risk-averse “cotton wool” culture is counter-productive.

I’ve always had a bit of a downer on RoSPA, since they’ve always seemed to me to promote risk aversion – see, for example, their aggressive promotion of the myth that exceeding the speed limit causes puppy dogs to die – but they seem to have got this one right. Anyone who’s been to one of my hugely successful talks on Health + Safety for Charities and Community Organisations will know that I’ve been promoting this viewpoint for years – that excessive safety precautions are not only an unnecessary nuisance, they’re counter productive. We’re raising a generation that thinks their safety is someone else’s responsibility – that’s never had to consider risk, or work out a benefit/consequences balance. It’s bad enough that they’re going to be totally unprepared for standing on two legs and walking around town, but even more scary is the thought that this lot are going to be working on building sites and in factories. And no idea how to look after themselves.

If you’ve read Sally-J’s account of the Lake District Cachepedition, you’ll know that one afternoon we found ourselves coming down a fairly steep rocky path in what could have turned into a dodgy situation: What kept us alive – and what’s kept me alive in dozens of similar situations – is an understanding of, and healthy respect for, the risk involved, combined with a sensible approach to doing what has to be done. None of us thought consciously of what we did as risk assessment and development of a safe working method, but that’s exactly what it was.

I’ve seen the future – I’ve seen how this risk-unaware generation will approach such things. Years ago I was walking in Snowdonia, on a fairly good family-friendly path, when I saw a sandal-wearing family heading off down what I knew to be a climbers path towards some sheer cliffs. When I tried to warn them, the response was “Don’t be stupid – if it wasn’t safe it’d be fenced off”. I think that was the same holiday that I helped rescue a clueless numpty – and his Yorkshire Terrier – from the Crib Goch ridge.

I’ll stop moaning now.

Wet

Monday, November 19th, 2007

I blogged yesterday about the floods in Southampton – I didn’t know the half of it. According to this news story, a Renault got into difficulty driving through the Dockens Water ford in the New Forest.

I know that ford pretty well, and often use it. Even after pretty wet weather there’s rarely more than a couple of inches of water in it, so either the driver was pretty useless, or there was an unusual depth of water.

If you haven’t clickied the linky for the news story, it’s worth having a look – not necessarily for the story itself, but for the comments at the bottom. The story is from the online edition of the Southampton Echo (or “Scummers’ Gazette” as it’s also known), which seems to attract…shall we say the more free-thinking members of society to its comment columns.

Oh well, it stops them writing on walls, I suppose.

Quest

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Now I know I’m pulling a bit of a flyer here – but has anyone seen notice holders like these before? I know where there are four of them, obviously – I took the picture – but I want to find some more, and I can’t locate a seller for them anywhere.

And no, there’s nothing at all engraved or embossed on any part of them. Not even a maker’s serial number.

On a more blog-as-diary type note – hasn’t the weather been vile today? Totton was flooded on the way to church this morning, and most of Southampton flooded – or at least, an inch or so deep – when I was going up to the hospital to see Brian this afternoon. I guess it didn’t help that my trainers have a great big split across the sole – it may be time to spend a fiver on a new pair.

Unbelievable

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I can’t summarise this news story for you – you’ll have to read it for yourself or you’ll never believe it.

Here’s yet another reason why the names and addresses of alleged sex offenders mustn’t be publicised: If this poor sad sap has got himself on the Sex Offenders’ Register for “molesting” an inanimate object in the privacy of his own room, then no-one is safe: They’ll be locking people up for thinking dirty thoughts, as soon as they can build a reliable dirty-thought detector.

Slightly more believeable is this one. Aww!

I don’t really spend all day trawling the news websites, honest!

The Goose is Getting Fat

Friday, November 16th, 2007

With more than a month to go, I’ve bought a Christmas present!

I’d decided what I wanted to get Rockin’ Rob for Chrimbo, and spotted that a shop not far from the office had one in stock, so I took a stroll in the clear crisp air at lunchtime. The assistant in Mungo’s Christmas Present Shop had never heard of the item in question, but luckily I’d taken a printout from their website to show him, and we got it sorted. The lady on the till wasn’t that bright either, but she figured the credit card machine out in the end.

Oh, and for Sally-J’s benefit – yes, it’s the thing we were discussing the other day ;-)

One down, only about fifty to go!

Bah!

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

I should explain my ”bah” at the end of Tuesday’s blog.

Generally, I’ve got nothing against trainspotters. They seen to be a pretty peaceable bunch who get on with their thing and respect the fact that other people have their own things to do. I don’t see the point of their hobby, but most of them probably wouldn’t see the point of mine, so live and let live, eh?

What I DO get annoyed about – well, one of the things I get annoyed about – is when a mass of people occupy the platform and concourse at Waterloo, oblivious to all the people who only want to get to their train and go home. It wasn’t only the train spotters, there were plenty of others as well, all standing around and clogging the place up like cattle on a public footpath.

And that was wly I said ”bah”.

Bang Bang

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

According to this news story, a chap in America has been injured while changing a wheel on his car. The cause was a wheel nut that just wouldn’t budge.

Nothing unusual in that – they can be a right pain to get shifted, and I’ve injured my arm before now, trying to loosen a jammed wheel nut. What was different in this case was the mechanism of the injury: When the nut wouldn’t undo, the chap decided that a valid mechanical technique would be to blast at it with his shotgun. Not surprisingly, he was injured by flying shot and debris.

It’s tempting to ask why he thought a charge of shot at six feet range would loosen the nut anyway: But the real question has to be, how did someone that stupid live to be 66?

Pub

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

I had a new experience today.

I’ve often noticed, when I’m in the bar coach coming home, that there’s a group who always stand at the bar all the way, even when there are seats available. They seem to have fun, so this evening I joined them.

They call themselves the 18:05 club – I bet you can’t guess what time train that is? They’re a pretty mixed bunch, and I think it’ll take at least a year or so before I’m part of the gang, but we know each others’ names now and we all had a good giggle.

We needed it, too – Waterloo was absolutely blimmin’ packed with tourists this evening. The last ever Eurostar from Waterloo left just after we did, and every gricer in the world had turned out to wave it off. Bah.

Cross-ing

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I’ve found out a bit more about those dodgy stats I showed you yesterday. They’re dodgier than we first thought.

The percentages are of all pedestrians KSId on rural roads in the survey period (a total of 4883), with the missing 83% made up of people crossing the road on pedestrian crossings (6.5%), people crossing the road elsewhere (63.4%), and people standing or playing in the road (13.6%). The mention of pedestrian crossings makes you question their definition of rural roads, but what really jumps out at me there is that it appears to be as dangerous to cross a rural road at a pedestrian crossing as to walk along it with your back to the oncoming traffic. Tufty would be horrified.

If you’re sad enough to want to read the original report, it’s here.

On the Right Side of the Road

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

There’s an article about the safety of rural roads in the latest Advanced Driving magazine.

Of course, it’s mainly about driving, as you might guess from the title of the magazine, but there’s a little bit about walking on roads without pavement too. According to the statistics, 11% of all pedestrians killed or seriously injured (KSI) on rural roads had been walking with their back to oncoming traffic – that is, walking on the left: 6% had been walking facing traffic. Based on this evidence, the magazine claim that walking on the right is obviously safer.

Our resident statistician Elly could probably find more, but I’ve spotted two things immediately wrong with these statistics: you’ll all have noticed that more than four-fifths of the subject group haven’t been counted. There may be a good reason for this, but it still makes the numbers suspicious. Less obvious is that with the numbers as given there’s no control. We don’t know what proportion of pedestrians who weren’t in accidents were walking on either side, so the numbers as they stand are meaningless.

Elly – any further comments welcomed!

I’ve long had my own theory about walking on country roads, based on years of experience first as a road runner, and more recently as a countryside walker. Sticking strictly to one side or the other is all right on a straight stretch of road with good visibility, but where the road has bends and visibility is obscured, the safe option is normally to walk on the outside of the bend: Imagine walking through a right-hand bend with high hedges on both sides of the road: if you walk on the right, not only can you not be seen by oncoming cars – and you can’t see them – but you can’t be seen that well by traffic coming from behind either. Cross to the left hand side and you can see further through the bend: You’ll see, and be seen by, oncoming traffic that much sooner, and as you get past the crown of the bend you’ll be seen much sooner by traffic coming from behind.

Of course nothing’s perfect, and on a very twisty road you’ve got to balance the improved safety of better visibility, with the extra risk of constantly crossing and recrossing the road. But most other things being equal, I’ll be sticking to the outside.

Through Autumn’s Golden Gale

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

I put my cache Blog Standard: The Blogger’s Bog back today. It was such a nice morning that I did the long walk, rather than just the short dash to the final location from a different car park. And then, rather than going straight back to the car, I made a circular walk past the location of another local cache – which is currently unavailable – back to the car, before heading off for hot chocklit in the tea room at the New Forest Otter and Owl Centre.

The sun was shining, the trees had their autumn colours on, and I even saw a group of deer. I have never felt that leaving the camera at home was such a stupid thing to do :-( . Still, I had a nice morning, even if I can’t show you any pictures.

More grey-kitten-related news: He has a brother, also grey, but with white feet. Aww!