Archive for November, 2009

Murder Most Agreeable

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Last weekend, PF and I were feeling a bit Winter-blues-ish: a variety of things had stopped us going geocaching lately, weather has generally kept us indoors and we haven’t managed as much “us time” as we’d like: we resolved that this weekend, we’d do something to make us giggle.

So we headed for a murder mystery weekend in a quaint old country hotel. PF has done a couple of these before but it was a new experience for me, and what fun we had. Over the weekend there were three murders, a quiz, a talent contest, a posh dinner and of course a denouement where the identities of the crims were revealed and prizes awarded to those who’d guessed closest.

Our fellow detectives were an interesting mix: One couple were really into it, interrogating all the characters, and eventually winning first prize for the best solution. Another chap was the “computer nerd’s computer nerd” – so much so that I wondered briefly if he was a secret “character” rather than a participant, but no, that was his real personality. He insisted that one character had to be the murderer, based on a really obscure bit of computer knowledge that only that character would’ve known. The fact that the scriptwriter for the mystery wouldn’t have known it didn’t seem to trouble him. Oh, and there was an apple juggler (a pretty good one) and a tae-kwan-do exponent as well.

All of which inspires me to share this excellent joke with you:
Where do you go to recruit a private detective?
The Ideal Holmes Exhibition

Ratty Ratty Bang Bang

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

M’luvvly Purple Fred and I have just enjoyed a real fabby weekend, which I’ll tell you about tomorrow when I’ve got my thoughts together and had a few hours sleep! In the meantime here’s something I didn’t get time to tell you last week…

We had some IT problems at work last week. We lost all IT contact with our regional offices, leading to a day of mass confusion and stress for the communications boys. We had outside engineers working in the server rooms (with the associated stress and extra work for the Security team), and in the end one of the engineers diagnosed that some muppet digging a hole to mend the drains had sliced a fibre optic cable.

It turned out to be not quite that simple. There were no drain works anywhere on the cable run between us and the exchange.

Luckily, when the outside engineers turned up with their test equipment and their spanners, it turned out to be a problem they’d seen before. When fibre optic cables were first used for telecommunications, they were steel sheathed, presumably to stop them being sliced by muppets mending the drains. But the moderm ones are sheathed in a Kevlar material, intended to serve the same purpose but without making the cable inflexible. The problem is, apparently, that London’s rats have learned how to tease the Kevlar fibres out of the shielding, and once enough shielding is gone, the weight of a rat sitting on top is enough to rupture a fibre optic cable. The rats use the fibres for nesting material.

So, in an amazing demonstration of Darwinism, London’s rats are now making bulletproof nests.

Going Home

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I told you yesterday about the fun I had at the BBC Radio Theatre on Monday night: I didn’t tell you about the fun I had going home.

In theory it should’ve been easy: a short walk to Oxford Circus tube, then four stops down the Bakerloo line to Waterloo – it’s once you get to Waterloo that the fun starts. Network Snail have spent shed loads of cash on a new tunnel from the underground station direct to the platforms, so you can go straight to your train without mingling with the hoi polloi on the concourse. And to make sure this expen$ive facility stays in good condition, it’s locked off 20 hours a day.

So, I arrived at Waterloo expecting the tunnel to be shut, and one entrance to it was – but round the corner there was an open gate, even equipped with a “To The Trains” sign. I set off down the tunnel – wondering briefly why I was the only one – and discovered that all the doors leading to the surface were locked. Further and further I roamed – at one point I think I was under the Imperial War Museum – before finally locating an exit via the Jubilee Line platforms. It was the furthest I’d walked all day…

Christmas Watch: The Jewel in the Crown, and Sitar’s Indian Cuisine, both have their Christmas decs up.

Quote

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I wasn’t here yesterday.

Yesterday’s blog entry was a cheesy cheating pre-written effort, as I spent yesterday evening at the BBC Radio Theatre. The event was a recording of two episodes of Quote Unquote, the Radio 4 panel game about quotations. M’luvvly Purple Fred, whom I love loads and loads, had organised tickets, but in the end she couldn’t go – so I had to laugh and applaud enough for both of us.

The panel was pretty good: Ken Bruce, Dr Ben Goldacre (who I know many of my readers appreciate), Kwame Kwei-Arman, and some lady columnist I’d never heard of. She was the only fly in the ointment, enjoying the sound of her own voice far too much, but it was still a cracking good evening out, and I must do it again soon – preferably with PF next time.

We’ve applied for tickets to two further shows already. I’ll let you know how we get on :-)

Tramp

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Remember how I told you that the lovely Purple Fred has cast me as a tramp in her latest production?

I had a text from her on Friday: “We’re doing dress down today for Children in Need, so I’m wearing your jumper”. Do you think she’s trying to tell me something?

Good news, m’favourite Purple Person – I still haven’t spent the five pound Matalan voucher. I could get a couple of top-quality new T-shirts?

Oh, and I should’ve mentioned in Saturday’s blog about Christmas – I’ve also had my first mince pie of the year (courtesy of the HR team’s Children in Need cake sale) and several cups of Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee.

Merry Christmas Everybody

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

…But first, Me asked yesterday “I have to ask…what’s the four-digit hex number at the top of the page?” Don’t know, because I’m not seeing it – is anyone else?

Anyway, since Tuesday, when I was told I was being a bit premature for starting on my Christmas cards, I have:

  1. Received my first Christmas card of the year
  2. Seen the first Christmas lights of the year (on the roof of Pimlico Plumbers just outside Waterloo)
  3. Seen the first Santa hat of the year (on Waterloo Bridge on Wednesday)
  4. Seen the first party of drunken revellers in Christmas costumes (on the Aldwych on Thursday)
  5. Seen the first Christmas tree in a public building (in the courtyard at Somerset House)

And five weeks today is Boxing Day…Happy New Year!

How I Dun It

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to post a few pictures of how I did the ham radio installation in the new car – partly because I want to do that with every gadget installation, to keep me honest and give me an incentive for doing it neatly, and partly because the Patriot Owners Website like to see stuff like that, and by getting a blog out of it as well I’m getting twice the return on my effort!

The aerial is a dual bander for 2M and 70cm, mounted as you can see on a K44 mount attached to the roof rails. The original mounting bolts that came with the bracket were nowhere near long enough and I had to change them.

I plan to get another K44 to go in the mirror image position on the other side of the car and carry another aerial…but more of that when it happens.

The FT8100 radio is obsolete now, which is a real shame as it’s a nice little bit of kit. You can see here, it fits neatly by the driver’s right knee (for non-UK readers, remember this is a right hand drive car), and the aerial cable (black) and power cables (red and black) vanish up behind the trim. Although the cabling is quite visible in this picture, they’re normally obscured behind the radio.

The mike hanger is attached to a ventilator mount to reduce the number of holes drilled in the car!

This picture with the door shut shows just how perfectly the radio fits the available space.

At the moment the power cable runs behind the trim and comes out just by the cigarette lighter socket where it’s plugged in: When time allows, I’m going to run power straight from the battery, so the radio isn’t controlled by the ignition switch.

The other outstanding job is to find somewhere unobtrusive to mount an extension speaker. The radio’s built-in speaker is on the top face, so the sound is a bit obscured especially on AM, having a proper forward-facing speaker would make a big difference.

Busy Busy Busy

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Well, I’ve been hugely busy.

I wrote some Chrismas cards this evening – I know many of you will agree with Purple Fred that it’s insanely early to be writing Christmas cards, but I want to get the ones that need to be posted done nice and early in case the Communication Workers start playing silly devils again. Oh, and I’ve started sorting the gear I need to take on the big Raynet in a couple of weeks time. As I explained to PF – whom I love very much – packing gear usually involves at least a couple of hissy fits running around and yelling “Where have I put that, and why can’t I find it?”. If I’m going to do that, I’d rather it was a couple of weeks before the event, and not half past eleven the night before!

And I’ve bought three Christmas presents and I’m partway through sorting out a fourth.

Meanwhile there are some longer term projects that have been on the back burner for rather too long that I need to get sorted –
– getting Evie B fitted with a towbar
– getting the caravan booked in for the annual service
– making a start on the winter caravan jobs before it gets too cold to want to get over there
– studying for my environmental qualification
– sorting out my application for Chartered status
– finishing the stats for New Wine that I promised about six weeks ago.

And that’s why blogging’s been a bit sparse lately :-)

E-bay Gum…mark 3

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

I was over at the home of Purple Fred…whom I love very much…this weekend. On Saturday afternoon we were just thinking of sorting lunch when there was a knock at the door.

(Purple Fred’s doorbell doesn’t work)

“Hello” said the lady standing there, “I’ve come for the corner table”.

That was nice, except that we didn’t have a corner table for her. Some rapid questioning unveiled that she’d bought a corner table from someone called Diana on Ebay, who’d given PF’s address. Diana isn’t PF’s real name…come to that, it isn’t mine either…so we invited the lady in to sit out of the cold while we tried to sort things out. She was no sooner sitting down than there was another knock at the door.

(PF’s doorbell still wasn’t working)

“Hello, I’ve come to dismantle the bed”

We were planning on sleeping that night, so this was disturbing news – anyway, you’ll have guessed that she too was looking for Diana. Luckily Diana had not only given an address, she’d given a phone number as well, which PF promptly rang.

“Hello,” she said, “I’ve got some people here who’ve bought some stuff from you on Ebay. Where are you?”

There was a voice on the other end of the phone.

“No, that’s my address, we need to know where you are”

It turned out that Diana was house-sitting a friend’s house for the weekend, and selling the contents on Ebay, hence why she’d made a mistake with the address. But she was only over the road so we were soon able to have corner-table-lady and bed-lady on the way, and by the time pushchair-lady came a’knockin, we were old hands at the game.

Then we went out and avoided any more callers…and bought a rubber chicken.

Swine!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

I’ve been invited to an International Swine Flu Conference.

The conference is in London next month, and promises a number of expert speakers, as well as exciting break-out seminars on subjects like “Mass fatality management planning” and “911 call center services” (sic). It’s all arranged by an american firm, and payment (in US dollars by “check” or credit card) is required when booking.

As usual, the small print is worth reading –
– the conference is in London in three weeks time – but the actual venue hasn’t yet been confirmed.
– the T’s + C’s of booking include the following gem: “If for any reason (the organisers) decides to postpone this conference…the conference fee will not be refunded, but can be credited to a future conference”

Well that’s not at all suspicious then.

Snap

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

So, I told you yesterday that I’d bought a new camera.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while. My Nikon is starting to show signs of wear, and makes some horrible grinding noises whenever the lens moves. Plus of course, the 5 megapixel resolution that was pretty good when I bought it, looks like pretty stone-age technology now!

My requirements were:

  1. Within budget…well, duh!
  2. Runs on AA batteries – I know not every photographer agrees with this one, but in the last year alone I’ve had three cases of battery-induced stress, which wouldn’t have happened if I could’ve gone into a shop and said “Please sell me some batteries”
  3. Compact size – again I know that this tends to be a bit of a trade-off with quality, but if I’ve learned anything at all about photography it’s that a camera you’ve got with you gets better pictures than a camera you’ve left at home.
  4. Preferably use SD cards for storage, as I’ve got loads of those already – if not, at least something that’ll plug straight into my computer without an adaptor

Within these broad basics, initially the Fuji Finepix S1500 seemed to offer a decent specification for the budget, but some of the online reviews were disappointing. Comments from those reviews eventually lead me to the Canon SX120 IS.

I’ve only taken a few indoor shots so far – I’m not exposing it to the world until the belt pouch and screen protector I’ve ordered have arrived. In the meantime, these at least give an idea of the zoom range…


Full wide angle


Full zoom

And here’s a full-size crop of a zoomed picture, showing resolution: It comes from the rabbit’s ear just left of centre.

Footrest

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Being a Health and Safety professional involves a wide range of skills that you might not at first think.

Today, for example, I spent a significant amount of time fitting a spare footrest on a wheelchair. Which raises two interesting questions:

  1. How can it take a professional person with letters after his name forty five minutes to attach a piece with two moving parts, to another piece?
  2. How did a wheelchair – which rarely gets used anyway, and has never been outside the building – lose a footrest?

In more normal work, I’ve also been up and down twelve flights of stairs – twice – doing my monthly inspection of the fire exits, and sworn quite a lot at Microsh**e software, finishing the latest revision of the Health and Safety manual.

I also bought a camera, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Oo-er!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I had a letter from Tesco Clubcard today.

It said all the usual stuff…clubcard points blah blah, here’s your voucher for a quid off stuff blah blah, get extra points when you buy milk blah blah. That’s a little bit odd, because I only had a voucher letter from them recently and I don’t normally get two that close together.

Much, much odder was the fact that when I looked at the letter again, it was addressed to my Dad – who died years and yeards ago. Wherever he’s spending money to earn Clubcard points, I don’t want to know about it.

On reflection, I think it’s even worse that wherever he is, there’s Tesco…

Dramatic

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

M’lovely Purple Fred – whom, as you know, I love very much – has persuaded me to play a role in the latest dramatic epic wot she is directing. I’ve only got about six lines, but it’s a melodramatic character, so I get to do plenty of arm-waving and shouting. And I’m playing a tramp, so I largely get to wear my own clothes.

So I’ve learned my lines and now PF is teaching me how to say them. And we spent part of today shopping for a rubber chicken, which has to be dressed up to look like a duck.

Amateur dramatics is a strange, exciting new world…

Oh, and at this morning’s weighing, I’ve lost just over two pounds since last Sunday.

Jersey

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Yesterday I said “Hopefully after 6 PM Thursday, the old number – the one ending 748 – will be the only one.”

I don’t know what I was thinking there, but I should have said, the number ending 783. Anyway, I’m hoping that by this time tomorrow the whole number-moving-across thingy will be done and dusted.

Right, I promised you a blog about Jersey, didn’t I? The whole trip – with Purple Fred, Mini Fred and Aunty of Fred – was based around a sepcial thingy to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Durrell Wildlife, what used to be called Jersey Zoo. They’d arranged a package deal including the hotel, behind-the-scenes tours of the zoo, a sepcial dinner and show, the whole nine yards. The days at the zoo were certainly full – there was plenty to do, maybe even a little too much – and we saw gorillas, orangutans, meerkats, snakes bugs and creepy crawlies.

Bug

Here you see a creepy crawly sitting on PF’s hand.

We also went panning for gold, at a place where we also saw this rather famous car.

James Bond Aston Martin

We visited a castle and saw falconry…or more accurately, hawking

Me and a hawk

And then before coming home we found some caches! A tirung, but greatly fun, five days.

Improved

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Today was one of those days when you’re well enough to get out of bed, but not well enough to go to work – although I have to say I woke up at about thre o’clock this morning with a back pain too severe to move, even the distance necessary to get my back pain tablets. Hmm. Hope that doesn’t happen tonight, I’ve e-mailed my boss to tell her I’ll be in tomorrow.

Anyway, I haven’t wasted my day on daytime TV – I have:

Finished the Lake District Cachepedition webpage

Updated my caravan’s blog to show all the trips it’s done to date (including a rather fabby Eddie Stobart picture)

Sorted out the transfer of my old number to my new mobile phone – on which note, I’ll probably lose phone service for most of changeover day, which ought to be Thursday this week. If you need to get hold of me between 9 and 5 that day, use the work phone number if you have it – otherwise try both old and new numbers. Hopefully after 6 PM Thursday, the old number – the one ending 748 – will be the only one.

Eaten enough to prove my appetite has returned

Listened properly to Black and White by amazing Southampton-based prog rock guru Lee Abraham all the way through.

OK, I did watch Eggheads but I still think I’ve achieved a bit.

Tom ‘n Dick

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Today has not been one of my better days.

Not to make you shudder with the gory details, I’ve been in bed with some sort of illness. I’ve crawled out of bed long enough for a bowl of soup and to knock out a quick bloggy goodness, and now I’m going back to bed.

Yuck. I hate being ill.