Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Advertising standards again

Another of my complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority has been passed for further action. They'll be writing to the spammer and to the people who sold them the list, asking for evidence that their claim (that the list is 100% opted in) is true. Of course, they won't have that evidence.

It's only a pity that the ASA doesn't have any teeth.

Unlike me - I visited the dentist again today; he replaced the temporary filling with a permanent one. This included removing the old metal filling (which means it's a few decades old). I've been self-medicating it with Listerine to keep the bacteria at bay until now.

Bike maintenance; I replaced the old brake levers and gear changers with Shimano combined lever/changers, adjusted everything, and now I'm ready for an epic bike ride tomorrow, near Melton Mowbray. Epic, because ladysolly will be home late tomorrow (bridge and more bridge), so I can get home late.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Crime is down - maybe

I read that the crime statistics say that crime is down.

I don't know.

When I started doing serious econometrics, I discovered that before you can apply sophisticated statistical techniques to numbers, you have to get the numbers. And that getting them isn't as easy as I'd thought.

A simple example - if you look at the population of Germany in the 1960s, it suddenly jumps by a couple of million in (as I recall) 1963; apart from that year, there's a smooth progression.

When you look into this, you discover that suddenly they started including the population of Berlin, whereas before, they hadn't.

More generally, when you look at a time series of statistics (such as crime figures), before you can draw any conclusions, you have to look at how the numbers were gathered, and whether there's been changes in definitions, or in categories, or in how the numbers are reported, and so on.

I haven't yet seen an analysis of how UK crime figures are prepared, and of what changes might be affecting the year-to-year comparisons.

So what I say is ... maybe.

Westward ho!

West down the M4 to Luckington. First, two bike rides to collect 40 caches, then a loop on foot for another ten.

This footpath can only be used by people standing on their heads.

A bridge in poor state.

A total of 49 caches and 1 DNF today.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Little Baddow by bike

Today I was almost entirely on roads, and on the bike. I used 2 1/2 batteries and found 59 caches, and suffered 3 DNFs. There were a few spots of rain, but the main rain saved itself for while I was driving home.

While I was out, I encountered numerous Duke of Edinburgh groups, and while I was writing in one cache log, a couple of women arrived and started moaning about how their girls weren't there. As it happens, I'd seen their girls about 15 minutes ago and a mile away. "Thataway," I said, pointing.  I encountered them all a few hours later; they'd found each other.

I found this near a cache. I think the blue bag contains edibles.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Watts and volts

I'm still planning the build of the new electric bike, and I got to thinking about battery life. With most electric bikes, there's an indicator of how much battery you have left. In my experience, that shows "full" most of the time, and then when the battery is nearly exhausted, it quickly goes through 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 and then fades out. Nearly useless.

I'm thinking, that indicator is actually a voltmeter, with a few LEDs instead of numbers. So I've ordered a voltmeter to use instead. It cost about $2, and it'll show me the voltage numerically, as it declines from 28.6 to 23.5, or whatever, and I think that'll give me a better idea for what's happening.

And then I had another thought - what I really need is to keep tabs on how many watts have been drawn. The battery is 24 volts, 10 amp-hours, which means 240 watt-hours of energy. So I bought a wattmeter ($13) that will tell me the ongoing draw in watts (amps times volts) and the cumulative draw in watt-hours. My idea is, I'll set it to zero when I put in the battery, and the first time I use the wattmeter, I'll note how many watt-hours that battery can store. From then on, I'll know quite accurately how much energy it gives me. I'll also be able to correlate the "watt-hours remaning" with the voltage, so that then the voltmeter will give me more information than just the voltage. The watt-meter will go where the battery is; the voltmeter on the handlebars.

This is the wattmeter that I got. There's something that's on offer for about $2 that they say is a voltmeter and wattmeter, but I had a look, and I think it's only a voltmeter.

I also found a source for 24 volt batteries that are more than 10 amp-hours. The 10 ah batteries are £161 (I've been paying about £200). When I go out on the bike, I usually take two or three batteries with me (depending on how long the circuit is).

Amp-hours    £ cost   kg weight

10            161      5
12            187      5.7
15            213      6.6
20            239      8.1
30            323     11.3
40            369     13.6

That 40 amp-hour battery looks good! OK, it'll weigh as much as the rest of the bike put together, but for getting the bike over obstacles I'd remove it. In my experience, three 10 ah batteries last me the whole day, so 40 should be more than enough! It comes in two possible sizes, 360 mm long and either 100x150 or 80x195.

What will it do to the center of gravity of the bike? It'll make it a bit higher. But it'll lower the center of gravity of bike+me, since it'll be lower than most of me, and I'm most of the weight of bike+me.

The same people also offer a 50, 60 and 80cc two stroke petrol engine conversion for a bike. I *really* fancy that! I used to run a moped, so I know what it feels like. It would give a lot more power than an electric bike, and I'd always know just how much power I have left in the tank (which is half a gallon, enough for probably 80 miles).

Unfortunately, it turns the bike into a machine that can't legally be used on bridleways. And to use it on the road, it would need taxing, insuring and licensing. Legally, it becomes pretty much a motorbike. So it's not a useful proposition for me.

But doesn;t this look tasty!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Down south to the South Downs

On foot today, because the contour lines looked fierce. And that means two problems for a bike. 1) steepness and 2) non-arable land, therefore sheep, therefore stiles.

I did the Tottington Totter today; 8 miles and 44 caches, plus a few extra before and after, for a total of 50 caches. The route started at the top of the Downs, and then descended down to the plains below, threaded round there for some miles, then back up to the top of the Downs. When I was nearly at the top, I saw these:

 And when I was at the top, this view.

So, 50 caches today and no DNFs. And I'm pretty knackered, but that's OK because tomorrow I've been roped into a quiz, so I won't be going out caching.

Hey - I heard my first cuckoo of the year!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Another bike

My first folding electric bike had 24 inch wheels, and only six gears, but it did a good job. It was so good, I bought another one like it when I saw it on Ebay, for a good price; that gave me an extra bike, an extra battery and an extra charger. Sadly, that extra bike broke one day; the frame just cracked. Oh well. Spares.

The original 24 inch wheel folder carried on working, but the pedals were getting wonkier and wonkier; the ball bearings on the bottom bracket were obviously shot. The bike shop said it would be impossible to fix, because you can't get the parts. That's because the rear wheel bracket was very wide, to accommodate the motor, the gears and a drum brake (most unusual). So, I thought, if even Dees of Amersham can't fix it, that's that.

I kept it, because it still did actually work, although with a very wobbly pedal action. I wasn;t actually using it because of that.

I had another look at it the other day, and after huge effort, I got the bottom bracket dismantled; it needed a couple of hours of pounding with a hammer to get it apart. Then I went on Ebay to see if I could find parts. The axle was 160 mm, and the longest sealed unit I could find was only 131mm, but I bought it anyway, it's only £12. And I bought a replacement ball bearing set, because the existing axle seemed to me to be only slightly worn, so maybe I could fix it that way. Again, only £7. Bike parts are cheap!

Today, the sealed unit arrived, and I installed it. It turned out to be long enough, although I did have to bend an arm at the bottom of the bike to give the pedals enough room to turn. Then I adjusted the gears, because it wasn't getting down to bottom gear, and took it for a spin. It works fine! So now I have another bike I can use while I'm waiting for the replacement wheel from China.

Little finger

I saw the doctor today about my little finger. It isn't mallet finger; the droop isn't enough, but there's something up with the top joint. The cure is ... splint it until it's better. Which is exactly what I've been doing, but it's good to have confirmation from a professional.

The doctor was very impressed with the splints and finger stall, and asked where I got them. Ebay, of course. He also advised that I should take the splint off now and then and give the joint some gentle flexing, or it'll stiffen up. He's right, it had. But after a few flexes, it eased up.

This is blog number 500. I've been blogging for 16 months now, and I've got nearly three regular readers. But I'm doing it mostly for myself - it's like a diary.

25 followers, 32,000 pageviews, and although most accesses come from the UK, which isn't surprising, the second most significant country is China, which is very surprising. Why would Chinese people be interested in the ramblings of a geocacher and programmer?

Weight report 48

15 stone 2 pounds

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A busy day in Cambridgeshire.

There was a cache I couldn't do a couple of weeks ago, because I was arse-deep in snow when I tried to get it. I left it for another time - after the thaw. And today was the day.

First, I did the "Twin turbine trail". That's a bunch of caches where you're constantly within sight of a lovely pair of wind turbines. I did it on the bike; not the bike with the wobbly front wheel, but on its twin, which performed beautifully. So beautifully that I was able to do the whole circuit of 43 caches on only one battery! Having my right little finger in a splint was a bit of a nuisance, but worse was when I went over some very rough ground, and the vibration, transmitted up through the bike, was a bit painful for my poor finger. So I stopped, took off the large aluminium splint, and put on the small plastic splint, and then a glove on top to keep everything safe, and that worked well. I'll see the doctor about the finger tomorrow.

I got back to the car, and had lunch, and it was only 2pm. So I decided to to another circuit, this time the Winwick Wizz, 39 caches. That took me another three hours, so then I did a few drive-bys, and other caches. Over 80 caches done today!

Here's a notice I found a bit unusual

I imagine Fido dragging some huge branch out into the middle of the field, where the tractor and plough can't handle it and break down.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Jerome K Jerome on the subject of bicycle maintenance

From "Three men on the Bummel".

“Is the thing all right?” he asked.
“The tandem,” I replied, “is well.”
He said: “Have you overhauled it?”
I said: “I have not, nor is anyone else going to overhaul it.  The thing is now in working order, and it is going to remain in working order till we start.”
I have had experience of this “overhauling.”  There was a man at Folkestone; I used to meet him on the Lees.  He proposed one evening we should go for a long bicycle ride together on the following day, and I agreed.  I got up early, for me; I made an effort, and was pleased with myself.  He came half an hour late: I was waiting for him in the garden.  It was a lovely day.  He said:—
“That’s a good-looking machine of yours.  How does it run?”
“Oh, like most of them!” I answered; “easily enough in the morning; goes a little stiffly after lunch.”
He caught hold of it by the front wheel and the fork and shook it violently.
I said: “Don’t do that; you’ll hurt it.”
I did not see why he should shake it; it had not done anything to him.  Besides, if it wanted shaking, I was the proper person to shake it.  I felt much as I should had he started whacking my dog.
He said: “This front wheel wobbles.”
I said: “It doesn’t if you don’t wobble it.”  It didn’t wobble, as a matter of fact—nothing worth calling a wobble.
He said: “This is dangerous; have you got a screw-hammer?”
I ought to have been firm, but I thought that perhaps he really did know something about the business.  I went to the tool shed to see what I could find.  When I came back he was sitting on the ground with the front wheel between his legs.  He was playing with it, twiddling it round between his fingers; the remnant of the machine was lying on the gravel path beside him.
He said: “Something has happened to this front wheel of yours.”
“It looks like it, doesn’t it?” I answered.  But he was the sort of man that never understands satire.
He said: “It looks to me as if the bearings were all wrong.”
I said: “Don’t you trouble about it any more; you will make yourself tired.  Let us put it back and get off.”
He said: “We may as well see what is the matter with it, now it is out.”  He talked as though it had dropped out by accident.
Before I could stop him he had unscrewed something somewhere, and out rolled all over the path some dozen or so little balls.
“Catch ’em!” he shouted; “catch ’em!  We mustn’t lose any of them.”  He was quite excited about them.
We grovelled round for half an hour, and found sixteen.  He said he hoped we had got them all, because, if not, it would make a serious difference to the machine.  He said there was nothing you should be more careful about in taking a bicycle to pieces than seeing you did not lose any of the balls.  He explained that you ought to count them as you took them out, and see that exactly the same number went back in each place.  I promised, if ever I took a bicycle to pieces I would remember his advice.
I put the balls for safety in my hat, and I put my hat upon the doorstep.  It was not a sensible thing to do, I admit.  As a matter of fact, it was a silly thing to do.  I am not as a rule addle-headed; his influence must have affected me.
He then said that while he was about it he would see to the chain for me, and at once began taking off the gear-case.  I did try to persuade him from that.  I told him what an experienced friend of mine once said to me solemnly:—
“If anything goes wrong with your gear-case, sell the machine and buy a new one; it comes cheaper.”
He said: “People talk like that who understand nothing about machines.  Nothing is easier than taking off a gear-case.”
I had to confess he was right.  In less than five minutes he had the gear-case in two pieces, lying on the path, and was grovelling for screws.  He said it was always a mystery to him the way screws disappeared.
We were still looking for the screws when Ethelbertha came out.  She seemed surprised to find us there; she said she thought we had started hours ago.
He said: “We shan’t be long now.  I’m just helping your husband to overhaul this machine of his.  It’s a good machine; but they all want going over occasionally.”
Ethelbertha said: “If you want to wash yourselves when you have done you might go into the back kitchen, if you don’t mind; the girls have just finished the bedrooms.”
She told me that if she met Kate they would probably go for a sail; but that in any case she would be back to lunch.  I would have given a sovereign to be going with her.  I was getting heartily sick of standing about watching this fool breaking up my bicycle.
Common sense continued to whisper to me: “Stop him, before he does any more mischief.  You have a right to protect your own property from the ravages of a lunatic.  Take him by the scruff of the neck, and kick him out of the gate!”
But I am weak when it comes to hurting other people’s feelings, and I let him muddle on.
He gave up looking for the rest of the screws.  He said screws had a knack of turning up when you least expected them; and that now he would see to the chain.  He tightened it till it would not move; next he loosened it until it was twice as loose as it was before.  Then he said we had better think about getting the front wheel back into its place again.
I held the fork open, and he worried with the wheel.  At the end of ten minutes I suggested he should hold the forks, and that I should handle the wheel; and we changed places.  At the end of his first minute he dropped the machine, and took a short walk round the croquet lawn, with his hands pressed together between his thighs.  He explained as he walked that the thing to be careful about was to avoid getting your fingers pinched between the forks and the spokes of the wheel.  I replied I was convinced, from my own experience, that there was much truth in what he said.  He wrapped himself up in a couple of dusters, and we commenced again.  At length we did get the thing into position; and the moment it was in position he burst out laughing.
I said: “What’s the joke?”
He said: “Well, I am an ass!”
It was the first thing he had said that made me respect him.  I asked him what had led him to the discovery.
He said: “We’ve forgotten the balls!”
I looked for my hat; it was lying topsy-turvy in the middle of the path, and Ethelbertha’s favourite hound was swallowing the balls as fast as he could pick them up.
“He will kill himself,” said Ebbson—I have never met him since that day, thank the Lord; but I think his name was Ebbson—“they are solid steel.”
I said: “I am not troubling about the dog.  He has had a bootlace and a packet of needles already this week.  Nature’s the best guide; puppies seem to require this kind of stimulant.  What I am thinking about is my bicycle.”
He was of a cheerful disposition.  He said: “Well, we must put back all we can find, and trust to Providence.”
We found eleven.  We fixed six on one side and five on the other, and half an hour later the wheel was in its place again.  It need hardly be added that it really did wobble now; a child might have noticed it.  Ebbson said it would do for the present.  He appeared to be getting a bit tired himself.  If I had let him, he would, I believe, at this point have gone home.  I was determined now, however, that he should stop and finish; I had abandoned all thoughts of a ride.  My pride in the machine he had killed.  My only interest lay now in seeing him scratch and bump and pinch himself.  I revived his drooping spirits with a glass of beer and some judicious praise.  I said:
“Watching you do this is of real use to me.  It is not only your skill and dexterity that fascinates me, it is your cheery confidence in yourself, your inexplicable hopefulness, that does me good.”
Thus encouraged, he set to work to refix the gear-case.  He stood the bicycle against the house, and worked from the off side.  Then he stood it against a tree, and worked from the near side.  Then I held it for him, while he lay on the ground with his head between the wheels, and worked at it from below, and dropped oil upon himself.  Then he took it away from me, and doubled himself across it like a pack-saddle, till he lost his balance and slid over on to his head.  Three times he said:
“Thank Heaven, that’s right at last!”
And twice he said:
“No, I’m damned if it is after all!”
What he said the third time I try to forget.
Then he lost his temper and tried bullying the thing.  The bicycle, I was glad to see, showed spirit; and the subsequent proceedings degenerated into little else than a rough-and-tumble fight between him and the machine.  One moment the bicycle would be on the gravel path, and he on top of it; the next, the position would be reversed—he on the gravel path, the bicycle on him.  Now he would be standing flushed with victory, the bicycle firmly fixed between his legs.  But his triumph would be short-lived.  By a sudden, quick movement it would free itself, and, turning upon him, hit him sharply over the head with one of its handles.
At a quarter to one, dirty and dishevelled, cut and bleeding, he said: “I think that will do;” and rose and wiped his brow.
The bicycle looked as if it also had had enough of it.  Which had received most punishment it would have been difficult to say.  I took him into the back kitchen, where, so far as was possible without soda and proper tools, he cleaned himself, and sent him home.
The bicycle I put into a cab and took round to the nearest repairing shop.  The foreman of the works came up and looked at it.
“What do you want me to do with that?” said he.
“I want you,” I said, “so far as is possible, to restore it.”
“It’s a bit far gone,” said he; “but I’ll do my best.”
He did his best, which came to two pounds ten.  But it was never the same machine again; and at the end of the season I left it in an agent’s hands to sell.  I wished to deceive nobody; I instructed the man to advertise it as a last year’s machine.  The agent advised me not to mention any date.  He said:
“In this business it isn’t a question of what is true and what isn’t; it’s a question of what you can get people to believe.  Now, between you and me, it don’t look like a last year’s machine; so far as looks are concerned, it might be a ten-year old.  We’ll say nothing about date; we’ll just get what we can.”
I left the matter to him, and he got me five pounds, which he said was more than he had expected.
There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can “overhaul” it, or you can ride it.  On the whole, I am not sure that a man who takes his pleasure overhauling does not have the best of the bargain.  He is independent of the weather and the wind; the state of the roads troubles him not.  Give him a screw-hammer, a bundle of rags, an oil-can, and something to sit down upon, and he is happy for the day.  He has to put up with certain disadvantages, of course; there is no joy without alloy.  He himself always looks like a tinker, and his machine always suggests the idea that, having stolen it, he has tried to disguise it; but as he rarely gets beyond the first milestone with it, this, perhaps, does not much matter.  The mistake some people make is in thinking they can get both forms of sport out of the same machine.  This is impossible; no machine will stand the double strain.  You must make up your mind whether you are going to be an “overhauler” or a rider.  Personally, I prefer to ride, therefore I take care to have near me nothing that can tempt me to overhaul.  When anything happens to my machine I wheel it to the nearest repairing shop.  If I am too far from the town or village to walk, I sit by the roadside and wait till a cart comes along.  My chief danger, I always find, is from the wandering overhauler.  The sight of a broken-down machine is to the overhauler as a wayside corpse to a crow; he swoops down upon it with a friendly yell of triumph.  At first I used to try politeness.  I would say:
“It is nothing; don’t you trouble.  You ride on, and enjoy yourself, I beg it of you as a favour; please go away.”
Experience has taught me, however, that courtesy is of no use in such an extremity.  Now I say:
“You go away and leave the thing alone, or I will knock your silly head off.”
And if you look determined, and have a good stout cudgel in your hand, you can generally drive him off.

hmrc again

I needed to get the latest PAYE worksheet, form P11. Apparently, they no longer send it out on paper. You download a PDF and print it.

On the face of it, that sounds fine. But it isn't.

The paper P11 is large. It's roughly three A4 pages side by side. So I downloaded the PDF and printed it. It's still three A4 pages side by side, but, of course, like most people, what I have is an A4 paper size printer. And that means that the printing of P11 is so miniscule that you can't read it, let alone use it as a worksheet. So do they expect me to buy a printer that can handle paper sizes three times as large as A4?

Or did they just not think this through?

Biting the arm

I'm certainly no expert on football; my football experience happened 50 years ago, on the school playing fields, where the main objective was to stay out of the way of the ball as much as possible while freezing to death in inadequte clothing. Cricket was much better; it was in summer (football was winter), it was easy to stay out of the way of the ball, and you didn't freeze.

But I'm quite sure that, although no-one told us of a rule against biting players arms, there was an implicit rule that forbade it. I mean to say; it shouldn't be necessary to tell people not to bite other people.

I'm not shocked that some footballer has done this. And, from what I hear, it isn't the first time for him.  What shocks me is that the debate is about whether he should be banned from three games or seven.

If I were playing against him, I'd refuse to go on the field unless he were properly muzzled. I wouldn't ask him to be totally banned from playing; that's his profession, after all, and if he weren't allowed to play football for money, he'd have to get a proper job as a chef or a programmer. No - it's clear to me that the chap needs to wear a muzzle, just like a dog that has bitten people before. That way, he can continue to play the beautiful game, and yet opposing players will feel protected against his teeth.

And maybe they should also make sure that his fingernails are properly trimmed.

The wheel on the bike goes round and round.

OK, I've been to five bike shops now. Most of them don't do any repairs on electric bikes, the one that did sort of shuddered when he saw my front wheel. I'm thinking that this is definitely a roblem with the main bearing of the front wheel, and it can't be fixed, not by me, and not by most bike shops. So, the short term answer is to use the other bike, not a problem. The longer term answer is to buy a new front wheel.

So I've ordered a 24 volt motor front wheel from Hong Kong, and I'm thinking it'll take a few weeks to arrive. When it does, I'll try to use it with the same bike, and with my existing 24 volt batteries. The cost was £180 (I hope, there might be some custom duty to pay) which is pretty cheap, considering in includes the motor, the wheel, the controller, the throttle and other bits and bobs.

In other news (as they say), the toner refill kit arrived, which consisted of a bottle of toner and an incomprehensible and ambiguous sheet of paper. But I think I worked out hw to use it, it wasn't difficult, and I now have a cartridge ready to use when my existing one runs out.

Yet more news - I now have two finger splints (small and medium) and three mallet finger supports (small, medium and large). The small one is hopeless, the medium one is *almost* big enuogh for my little finger, and the large one is a fraction too large. The sizes on the things are 2, 3 and 5. I don't know how come I didn't get a 4. The finger splint makes me look like I have a bionic finger; the mallet support, worn in conjunction with a black finger stall, makes me look like a pirate. I'll be seeing thedoctor on Wednesday; he'll have a good laugh.

And then I decided to have a look at my older non-electric folding bike. Could I use that as the basis for the new bike? Advantage - it has disk brakes. Disadvantage - I don't see a way to put a back rack on, which would be needed for the battery etc. So scrub that for now, but maybe I'll have some thoughts later.

Then I decided to have another look at my old 24 inch wheel folder. I'd stopped using it because the bottom bracket bearings (that's what the pedal cranks are attached to) were very wobbly, and the bike shop said that the bearings couldn't be replaced because they were a funny size. So - step one - remove the bottom bracket. That was VERY DIFFICULT INDEED, and involved a lot of time spent bashing at it with a big spanner to get the right side off, then a LOT of time bashing it with a hammer and chisel to get the left side off. Any engineer will tell you - when in doubt, use a bigger hammer. But eventually, it yielded - must have taken me a few hours altogether, bashing away with my biggest hammer as hard as I could, because there really was nothing to lose, if I couldn;t get this off, then the bike would remain unusable. I pulled the crank out. The ball bearings, and the remains of the cage holding them, fell out, all over the floor. No problem, I wasn't planning to reuse those.

So, then on to Ebay. The crank shaft is 160 mm long, and there weren't any of that length. The best I could find was 131 mm. But the crank shaft looks pretty good to me, it feels like it hasn't worn.  So I bought a set of ball bearings, the races and the thing that screws in to keep everything in place. Cost, £6. Bike stuff is *so* cheap, especially compared to car stuff. I also bought a 131 mm sealed unit; maybe it'll be long enough (I don;t see why the existing one is 160 mm), and it'll only cost £12 to find out.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Bike maintenance

I didn't do out today. The weather was fine, but I ache all over from the previous two days exercise, plus I found it hard to stay awake on my drive home yesterday.

The wobble on the front wheel is really worrying me. I'm hearing a sort of grinding noise from the front when I apply power. So I got out the twin of the bike (when I bought it off Ebay, there were two in the package). The front brake wasn't working very well; I think it's the spring that pushes the brake off. So I replaced the assembly, and it seems OK now. I also added a bell; I can't understand why so many people ride without a bell; I want to be able to warn people when I'm coming past them from behind. And I pumped up the tires, replaced the left-hand non-folding pedal with a folder (I can remember a time when I needed to fold both pedals to get through a kissing gate), checked the brakes, gave it a quick test ride, and put it in the car.

I also did a bit of thinking about what to do when that one wears out. I think the wobble on the front wheel is probably unfixable except by replacing the front wheel, and since that has the motor, it means - new motor. Which is expensive. I'll take it round a bike shop or two, to see if maybe it can be fixed.

So I had a look on Ebay, and I think I've convinced myself that for my next electric bike, it'll be home-made. I did the same with computers; 20 years ago, I was buying them from Novatech ready-built, but after doing that for a year or so, I started to assemble my own. It isn't difficult. And you get exactly what you want, not what someone thinks that most people might want.

I can start off with the Haro bike I've already got - apart from the wobbly front wheel, I like it.  I can get a 500 watt motor for £180 (with controller and assorted bits). I like the thought of 500w; that's twice what I currently have, so it should help me more up hills and on the rough. I thought about getting a rear wheel drive, but that's got to be more difficult to install. And then the battery ...

Currently, I'm using 24v, 10ah batteries, and two of them pretty much lasts a whole day, with a third one being used sometimes, partially. So if I get one 24v, 40 ah battery, that should easily last the whole day. That would cost £373, and it weighs 13.6 kg, 30 pounds. So if I need to lift over a stile, it'll mean battery off first! Or a 30ah battery is £327 and weighs 11.3 kg.

36v batteries are also a possibility, then a 20 AH battery (equivalent to 30AH in 24v) would be £294, 11.5 kg. The advantage of 36v is that, from what I can see, they're more widely used than 24v. The advantage of 24v is that I already have an investment; I have three operational 24v batteries right now. But by the time I think more seriously about doing this, they might be getting old (and not holding charge so well). In my experience, at the rate of use I have, I can expect two, maybe three years from a battery.

So if I got a 24v, 40 ah battery, I could carry a spare 10 ah battery from my existing ones, although I think I'd soon discover that I won't ever need it.

These batteries come with chargers, running at 6 amps. So the 40 ah battery would charge in 7 hours, which means overnight, which is fine.

Still, as long as the current bike works, I don't need to take action on this.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wandering around Worthing

Today I went to Worthing; I do enjoy the South Coast. First I did the A2Z series; 26 caches in a loop on the South DOwns. I did this on foot, because when I looked at the map, I saw a lot of scary contour lines. Actually, it wasn;t too bad, but for quite a lot of it I would have had to walk the bike.

Then I went in to Worthing and roamed around on the bike. I've already picked over Worthing a few times, so mostly I was doing micros. Mostly Church Micro, but also a few curry micro.

When I stopped at one curry micro to get the info, a man called out to me "Are you all right?" So I said, "Yes, I'm all right. Are you all right?" "Yes", he said. "Good," I said, "then we're both all right." And I biked off before he could reply.

I wonder if I could do a Pastafarian Micro?

One place I visited was so delightful, I took a few pictures.

It's only a small area, but the locals have done a great job there, plus there's a bench for sitting on (and hiding a cache under). Just across the road, I saw this:

I can't help wondering who made the offer.

So I wound up with 46 caches today, and one DNF, and I'm cream crackered.

Also, the front wheel of the bike is quite wobbly, and is making grunging noises when I apply power. I think I'll switch bikes to the other one of the pair I bought.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pompey pilgrimage

Back to Portsmouth today - I really like that place! A bunch of caches has popped up since I was there a few weeks ago, and rain was forecast in Cambridgeshire, so I headed South. On the road going there, it rained a bit, but it stopped by the time I arrived.

I tried riding the bike using one saddlebag, with both spare batteries in that, but it made the bike feel slightly unbalanced, and then as I went along some rough ground, there was a horrible noise from behind me. I thought "puncture", but what had happened, was the saddlebag had come off the carrier and was dragging along the ground, which has left it a bit torn. Repairs needed!

In the middle of Portsmouth, I saw this:

So I did google her, and if there was anything once, it's not there now.

Later on, I saw a tree cosy.

Knitted, of course. And here's a couple of black swans.

I got back to the car at 6pm, had lunch (!) and tried to do a Wherigo, but by the time I'd worked out what I had to do, it was time to leave.

I found 46 caches today, including a couple that I'd DNFed last time I was here, but I also DNFed half a dozen.

And I found several Munzies, even though I wasn't looking for them.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The mirror cracked

One of my big servers has been crashing. I changed the memory, no luck. I changed the motherboard, still crashing. And then I realised that it was also having trouble starting up, so maybe the hard drive has a problem?

So I took out the hard drive, and put in an 8gb CF card as the system drive, and I installed Linux Fedora 17 on it (it had 11 before). And mirror stopped working. Mirror is a perl program that I've been using for donkeys years (15 or more?) and it works wherever you have perl, which is everywhere. So why doesn't it work now, on this computer? Is it Fedora 17 that's the problem? I don't know, and I'm not going to find out. A few weeks ago, I found rsync (available on all linux systems) which is somewhat better than mirror for copying a file system to another computer. So I'm using that instead, and I think I'll gradually move over to using that everywhere that I used to use mirror.


Yesterday, we went to cousin Lynda and Ian's joint birthday party, and as a surprise, they also announce that they've got married, after 33 years living in sin. The cabaret wasn't very good, but we all had a great time. We got home late, so I didn't go out today, and when I saw the rain lashing down, I was rather glad.

Tomorrow I'm planning to go to Portsmouth, because the weather forecast has it dry there. There's enough caches around the town since I was last there to keep me busy all day, so I'll park at the East end of town and spend the day on the bike.

The splint for my little finger arrived, but it was too small, even though I'd measured carefully. So I ordered the next size up (medium), and even that is a bit too small for my little finger! I'll try the "large". I thnk that the naming of these is all wrong, and also the quoted diameters. So here's a useful tip - if you're buying a splint for a mallet finger, try to buy it in a shop where you can try it on before buying. Also, I'm not really sure that "mallet finger" is what I have. We'll see what the doctor says when I visit next week.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

King's Cliffe on foot

I left the bike in the car today, and did a four hour walk on foot - that was because when I looked at the map, I felt that the bike would be more of a hindrance than a help. And I think I was right.

After I went round the circuit, I did a bunch of nearby drive-bys, for a total of 69 caches found.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Dentist and London

First of all, a trip to the dentist. Good news! The problem that I had last week wasn't a bit of tooth breaking off, it was a filling coming out. So he replaced it. He also did a temporary filling on another filling that came out; temporary because he wanted to xray it before doing it permanently, to check on what was going on in there.

Then some bad news; I went to the bike shop about my wobbly front wheel, and they agreed that it was the wheel bearing, but they don't do electrics. However, they suggested a shop in Chesham that does, so I went there, and they were closed. Although I donlt think they could have done anything either - I think a new motor is needed, and that would be *very* expensive. And I already have one, because I bought two twin bikes when I bought this.

Also, I have the electric bike I got first time around, and that has a 26 inch wheel, so I could use that. Only problem is, that runs on 36 volts, so I'd have to buy at least one new battery. I'm also thinking that I could probably replace the main bearing on my 24-inch-wheel bike, now that I've already done it on the bigger bike.

Then, with ladysolly, down to London to visit daughter.1 and grandson.1. Daughter.2 also turned up for a couple of hours, and she talked weddingiana with ladysolly.

Then we watched "Passport to Pimlico", an old Ealing comedy, and we were explaining about what it all meant to daughter.1 - post-war rationing, for example.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to go out again, to King's Cliffe, on a seven mile walking circuit.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Weight report 46

An extra weigh-in today; I stared at the scales with some horror; the figure on the right was 13! How did I suddenly put on 10 pounds? Then I realised that the figure on the left was 14. 14 stone, 13 pounds. This is the first time I've been below 15 stone since maybe 40 years?


Saturday, 13 April 2013

A pesky virus

Today, I had to deal with a pesky virus for one of my customers. There were over 2,000 instances of it on their web site, so I wrote a little program to check each file and do a repair. I recall doing the same thing 25 years ago for another virus.

This isn't the first time I've done this. What happens, is that the webmaster gets something malicious installed on their Windows computer, and then when they access their web site via ftp, the malicious something installs an exploit on their web site in all the HTML files (and in this case, javascript files too) that it can find. It's fairly easy to spot in a file (but it does try to hide itself a bit, by having a whole load of spaces at the beginning of the line, so many file editors won't show it unless you scroll right) and it's easy to remove from a file. But to remove it from 2000 files? I wrote a little remover program and ran it over the whole server (and some others). Only that one customer had the problem (and they have it on other servers too, servers that aren't mine).

I suppose this is just part of the business of using the web.

Do a google search for String.fromCharCode 0242d5 but DON'T click on any of the links. Most of them have the Google malware warning. There's 345,000 pages found. Here is more information about this thing.

Finishing Deene

Back to Deene today; the ring was 84, and I only did 50 of them.

It was a tough day; there was a lot of rain yesterday, so the ground was softer. But worse - quite a few of the tracks went diagonally across a field that was recently ploughed, and so I went around the edges of the field wherever possible, which added a lot to the distance (and to the effort).

I also went back to do one of the Trumpton caches, which I would have done last time I was here, except that I hadn't solved the puzzle then.

Biking with my little finger in a splint is a bit tricky; the problem is mostly about A) keeping the splint in place while I'm using my hand (I'm using a rubber band until the finger stall I ordered arrives), and B) wearing a glove while my finger is greatly enlarged by the splint (I used a fingerless biking glove). I think I'll have to cut the little finger off a pair of gloves that is already at the end of it's lifespan.

After finishing the ring, it was about 4pm, so I only had time to do a few extras before setting off for home.
So 35 caches done today, and one DNF.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mallet finger

I think I've diagnosed exactly what's wrong with my little finger. It's a condition called "Mallet finger". You get it when the extensor tendon at the tip of the finger is damaged. For example, when you catch a ball, but it hits the outstretched finger. I can't remember now when it happened, or how. But it's been like that for several weeks now, and I've not done anything about it, because the human body is mostly self-repairing if you just give it time. But in this case, it hasn't self-repaired.

The obvious diagnostic, is that the tip of the finget droops compared to the rest of the finger, and you can't straighten it. When I compare my two little fingers, there's clearly drooping there.

Treatment is either surgery (I'd rather not) or putting the finger in a "mallet splint" for several weeks.

Mallet finger

Hooray for the medical internet. When I had Plantar Fascitis, all my doctor could suggest were stretching exercises, which I did, with no result. But internet research found me the "night splint", and wearing that fixed it in a few days!

So, I've ordered a mallet splint, and a finger stall in case I need that to protect it.

Typing has become slightly more difficult, because I'm now typing with only nine fingers. That might not sound like a hardship for all the two-finger typists, but for me, it's a bit unnatural, and slows me down a bit. I might have to wear it continuously (including at night) for up to 12 weeks. Still, it'll be worth it, if the mallet splint fixes the problem.

What's the temperature like here?

It's always handy to know the temperature outside; that tells me how many sweaters I have to wear. And I thought you'd like to know too.

The temperature outside my house

This uses a heat sensor attached to a controller, which is polled by one of my servers. The data is formatted, made into a web page and put online. It's updated every five minutes.

Rain rain rain

I was going to go out today, but when I woke up at 7am, A) it was raining and B) I was still very tired and C) my back hurt - it usually does after a lot of cycling and lifting. So I went back to bed.

Sitting in the warm and dry today, I've noticed that it's been raining quite a lot. So I'm quite glad I didn't go out.

Plus, I had chopped liver for lunch!

Compression socks

In 1997, I had a DVT. Suddenly, I couldn't bend my knee. It was hilarious, until the doctor whisked me off to hospital and they injected something in my belly to de-clot me.

What had happened, was the blood in the main vein in my left leg, had clotted. And my heart was pumping the blood down, but it couldn't get back up. The big danger is that part of the clot could break off, and be washed though to the lung, and you can see how that isn't going to end well.

Blood is supposed to clot, on contact with air. That's why, when you cut yourself, you soon stop bleeding. Also, you can have internal damage (a bruise) and there's also a stop-bleeding mechanism there. If you're lacking that mechanism, then you're haemophiliac, and that's *very* bad news.

Anyway. I was out of hospital the next day, but it took a few weeks for the swelling in my foot to go down. And they tested my blood, and I have Leyden Factor 2 and Leyden Factor 5.

Leyden Factor 5 isn't rare, about 5% of Caucasians have it. But 30% who get a DVT have it, and these days, they normally test anyone who has a DVT. It's hereditary. If you have it, your blood is more likely to clot. I guess this is a good thing if you're active and under 35, because it means you're less likely to die of blood loss if you get a serious wound, and we're evolved to last maybe 35 years.

Leyden Factor 2 is less common, about 2% of Caucasians have it.

So the doctor prescribed Warfarin, used as A) rat poison and B) as an anti-coagulant. I take Warfarin each day, and it makes my blood thinner. So I'd better not have any bad wounds. If I get a scratch or small cut, it seems to heal the same as it did before I went on Warfarin, but if I have any sort of surgery, I have to go off it for a few days beforehand. No big deal.

Then, a few years later, I saw a doctor about something else entirely, and he was surprised that I wasn't wearing compression socks. That was because no-one had said I should. He explained that one effect of the DVT, would have been to mess up the valves in my veins.

There's a long distance between your foot and your heart, and that would mean that there's four more feet of blood pressure down at your toes than the rest of you. But the design of your veins has an answer for that - there's valves in the vein, and they relieve the pressure. But the DVT has damaged those valves. Down around my ankle, there's a spot that's a bit red; that's the blood pressure down there causing that.

Compression socks are advised after a DVT. So I started wearing them on the leg that had it. It's impossible for me to tell if it does any good, but it doesn't cause any problems. I have to buy new ones every so often; they wear out pretty fast. And so today I went on Ebay and ordered a bunch more, which should last me another few years.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Deene diversion

Back up to Cambridgeshire again. I'll be running out of these rings up here soon.

First, back to a cache I did yesterday. The cache owner has just replaced it, so I went back to sign the new log, and remove the container I left there.Then on to the "Deene and Back" ring. There's 84 caches in this ruing,  which is too much for me to do in one day, but it can be divided into three segments. I did two of those today.

Then I went to get Captain Flack, because I needed that to do the Trumpton series. And I ended the day in Brigstock, to do the Park Walk cache that had been missing last time I was there, and that meant I could do the bonus.

Everyone likes a good obelisk. This one is at Deene Hall.

If you feel the need to assert your coolness, then you aren't.

61 caches done today, and a Turkish for dinner, yum yum.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher

I was there.

I was there when the top rate of tax was 98%. Yes, if you made £100 more, they government took it all except £2. Of course, if you made a loss, the government didn't give you compensation. This distorts the risk of doing business.

I was there when the miners went on strike; we had electricity cuts every day and used candles, Hurricane lamps and a Tilley.

I was there then industry was put onto a three day week because of the miners.

I was there when the miners were saying "It's a difficult and dangerous job", and I used to think, well then, maybe we shouldn't be deep-mining coal?

I watched with disbelief as Arthur Scargill destroyed the miner's union, with only a little help from Thatcher.

I was there when the rubbish piled up because of the binmen's strike, and the rats had a bonanza.

I was there when the gravediggers went on strike and dead bodies couldn't be buried.

I was there when inflation was running at 30% per year, and the prices in shops went up every day.

I was there when a military dictatorship invaded the Falklands. And we took it back.

I was there when my hard-earned money was being given to lame-duck industries so that we could keep these loss-makers going - at my expense.

I was there when, if you wanted another black (the only colour) telephone and line, you had to ask the Post Office and wait six months.

And I was there when the Thatcher Revolution happened, the Rule of Law was substituted for the Rule by Unions, insane taxation was abolished, monopolies like the Post Office were abolished and state (the customer is a nuisance) industries were sold into private hands.

If you weren't there, you have no idea how it was.

And no matter how much the Lefties yell and chant, I don't hear any suggestions that we return to the   pre-Thatcher shambles.

Benefield and Glapthorne

Out on the bike today, I did three circuits around Benefield and Glapthorne. The ground is really firm and dry now, biking is so much easier than when it was soggy and wet.

As I was going through a field full of sheep and lambs, they decided to chase me, and followed me, bleating, until I got through the gate on the other side. Here's the sheep, seen from a distance, of course.

They were really loud, and if I were nervous of sheep, it would have been really scary!

61 caches done today, and one DNF.

Weight report 45

15 stone, 3 1/2 pounds

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Bike maintenance

Part of the fun of riding a bike, is doing the maintenance and repairs. I used to fix my bike where I was at college, then my moped, my motorbike and my car, a Morris Minor.

Cars today have become a lot more complex and electronic, and you need a lot more expensive equipment to do car repairs. But I can still fix my bike.

Today, I replaced the brake shoes; I seem to do that very frequently, and they did need replacing, because I could see the metal on the brake shoe. Then I adjusted the PDA carrier so it would let me slide it on and off more easily, then I adjusted the back rack to give a bit more clearance and move the saddle bags forward a little. Apart from the brake shoes, that was all procrastination - what I really needed to do was take the front wheel apart to investigate the wobble.

It was a bit of a struggle to get the motor apart; I'd forgotten that you have to remove the left hand nut. But I got it apart, poured out the water that had gotten in (left there, it will corrode things, and maybe even cause a short). I've ordered smoe gasket sealant from Ebay, I'll use that next time I do this. I cleaned out the inside with paper towels, gave it ten minutes from a fan heater to help it get dry, regreased and reassembled. One of the bolts holding the motor together wouldn't tighten; the thread is stripped. So I replace the bolt with a nut and bolt; it looks strange, but that's better than not having the motor sealed properly.

So it's all assembled now. And the wobble is still there. But I don't think I'm going to be able to fix it, unless I replace the motor, which is *very* expensive.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Coco the clown

Today, I visited the grave of Coco the clown, and did 52 other caches, plus two DNFs.

I was up in Cambridgeshire again, and on the bike. One ring of 33, then a few nearby, then another small ring. The front wheel wobble is getting worse.

While I was in Fotheringhay, I saw this church.

Impressive! It looks more like a cathedral.

One of the sheep wanted to show me her lamb.

When I was nearly home, I caught a glimpse of an urban badger.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

How to make an electric bike

I've had several bikes now, and a few electric bikes. So here's my view of what makes the best electric bike.

There's two main parts; the bike and the electrics. Let's start with the bike.

I prefer a folder, because I can get it in the back of my Landrover, without needing to put on a bike rack. And I like a folder that folds quickly and easily, of course. The one I use now, lets you put the handlebar downbar into a tube that holds the whole folded bike together. That's nice.

21 gears, because I'm doing rough ground and uphills. Actually 18 or 24 would be just as good; the important thing is to have a low bottom gear and a high top gear, and a few in between.

I think I'd like disc brakes. I currently have caliper brakes, and they work (and I get through a lot of brake pads), but I've heard that discs are better.

I use a bracket to mount the pda holder on. That's so I can put it on and off quickly; I found that leaving it on leads to it getting broken when I fold the bike and put it in the car.

A back carrier and saddlebags. The saddlebags carry all the tools I'll need to fix a puncture in the middle of nowhere, including a spare inner tube. Also water, and any other emergency stuff I might need, such as my head torch (that also has a red rear lamp).

The tires are kevlar-reinforced for puncture resistance, the inner tubes are the heavyweight puncture-resistant type, and I line the tire with a gel insert as a further puncture defence. I just don't get punctures.

I have front and rear shock absorbers. They're very cheap and not very good, but I think they do help a bit with the rough ground.

A bell; that's so I can politely warn walkers that I'm behind them and about to go past them. What I don't want, is a walker suddenly spotting me coming from behind them, and moving quickly in just the wrong direction so that I collide.

A wooden spatula, so I can get the worst of the mud off when the bike clogs with prehensile mud.

I carry a *substantial* bike lock in the saddlebags. If I go out without the saddlebags, I carry a smaller bike lock. And in the car, I have a *really* heavy-duty bike lock, in case I need to lock it somewhere risky. The reason I carry a bike lock, is that sometimes I want to chain the bike up and walk a couple of hundred yards, because the terrain to the cache is really bike-hostile.

Folding pedals, to help get the bike into the car. I prefer the type where you squeeze the pedal to fold it, rather than the type where you push the pedal in.

In the car, I carry a spare inner tube, a spare tire, more tools, spare pedals, spare head torch, electric pump, spare brake shoes.

Next, the electrics. I have a 250 watt motor. That's the legal maximum for road use in an electric bike. I'd really like 500 watts, or even 350, but heigh ho. This motor runs from a 24 volt, 10 amp-hour battery. So that's 240 watt-hours. What would be better, would be 36 volts and 10 AH, giving 360 watt-hours. Even better would be 36 volts and 16 AH, giving 576 watt-hours. You can even get 36 volt, 18 AH, giving 648 watt-hours, that's 2 1/2 times as much as the batteries I use now. And you can get 48 volt, 15 AH batteries that's 720 watt-hours, and that's probably the best you can now get, but not many people sell bike motors that run at 48 volts. These 48v, 15AH batteries weigh 5.8 kg; the 24v ones I use are 2.7 kg

I have three of those 24v 10AH batteries; I find that each one lasts 3 or 4 hours, but (of course) it depends on how much I make use of them. People often ask me "How far will it go", but the answer is, it's a bike, you can pedal it from Cornwall to Scotland. So far, I haven't exhausted all three batteries. Although I have failed to take enough batteries with me on a trip, and needed to pedal the last couple of miles.

By the way, batteries don't last for ever. When people extol the cheapness of the running of an electric bike, they don't usually take into consideration the cost of the batteries. I'd guess that if you use a battery every day, you might not get much more than two years out of it. They don't just fail, though - they gradually hold less and less charge.

The bike has a throttle. Some electric bikes use "pedelec", which means that the motor cuts in when you pedal, and stops when you stop pedalling. I prefer not to use that, I use a throttle. There's two types of throttle, the twist grip and the thumb throttle. I slightly prefer the thumb type, but the twist grip works fine.

I carry two pair of gloves; a very light pair of fingerless biking gloves, and a heavy sheepskin pair. When biking, I *always* wear gloves.

And helmets - I have three. One is a biking helmet with open slots, the kind most people use. The second is more wrap-around, it's the skateboarding-style of helmet. I use that when it's too cold for the first kind of helmet. And the third is a Biggles-style flying helmet; made of leather and fur lined. That's for *really* cold weather.

An electric bike is heavy!  You have the weight of the bike, plus the weight of the electric motor, which is (roughtly) a solid block of copper. And the batteries are heavy; before I lift the bike over an obstacle (such as a gate), I take off the panniers (quick release panniers are a good idea), and sometimes remove the in-use battery too. If I've had to do a lot of lifting during the day, my back feels it! But many kissing gates can be negotiated by folding the bike.

You don't need insurance for an electric bike, and you can be quite young and still ride it; 14 is the minimum age. There's no upper limit. You don't need to take a driving test; for most legal purposes, an electric bike is pretty much the same as an pedal bike. I don't think a helmet is compulsory, but you'd be daft not to wear one. And gloves - I've come off the bike quite a few times, and if your hands are unprotected, you can get a nasty graze. I also like to wear my camo coat, for protection, unless it's really much too hot for that.

I hope this helps people thinking of going electric!

Warmington and Oundle

It was warm and dry today. Ladysolly couldn't go out because of her foot, so I went out for a bike ride in Cambridgeshire. First I did "Elton and back", a series of 23 caches. Then a few of "Warmington and back", I seem to have done most of these already. And finally, I biked alongside the river Nene, so called because it's located northeast of me. I replaced a record number of caches that weren't there but it was obvious where they should have been, and nearly ran out of spare mircos. I used up two batteries and made inroads on a third, but I'm sufficiently untired that I can go out again tomorrow.

A total of 53 caches and one DNF.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Out with Ladysolly

Out with Ladysolly today, because it's warmed up a bit. We did a ring of 15 with a bonus, and met two groups of cachers as we went round. Then a few extras, and then home. Ladysolly has a raw toe from something rubbing on it, so she'll be resting tomorrow.

The weather was amazing, compared to recently. At one point, I recorded a temperature of 15 degrees!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Bike rack replaced

What with the lost filling, and the very late hour at which we returned from the in-laws-to-be (which was a fun evening) I bottled out of going out today. However, the day wasn't lost. The new bike rack arrived, so I spent a happy couple of hours replacing the broken one.

Also, I've been juggling IP addresses on servers. I have a HUGE number of internal addresses; I use 10.x.x.x, so I have 16 million addresses I can use. But I can only use those internally, because anyone who wants to, can use those same addresses. My packet transit provider recently introduced a charge for IP addresses; they now cost me £2 per address per month. I have 17 servers there, plus the firewall. Plus there's three addresses I have but can't use (network, broadcast and router) so that's a total of 21 addresses. You can only have a power of two, so I have 32 addresses.

I already use the firewall for network address translation, translating the external addresses into my internal 10.x.x.x addresses. So I've extended that. I'm planning to manage with only 16 addresses, of which 13 are usable. The outside world only needs to be able to access six of those servers (the others are backups) so need nine addresses; I'm reducing my IP address bill to 16 addresses, thereby saving £32 per month. Result!

Crisis in the NHS

I have a filling that's come out - at least, I hope that's the problem, and not another lost fragment of tooth. So I called my dentist to have it repointed, and I was quite surprised to hear that the soonest he could see me (unless it was an emergency, which it isn't, and it isn't causing pain) is ten days from now. This must mean that his practice is running at 100% capacity.

So I thought, I'll book a trip to the doctor to show him my little finger, which after a few months still is the same. And I'll book it for the same day, two birds etc.

Ten days? Forget it. The first available time slot is two weeks from now! And when I looked in more detail at the dates after then, I found that my doctor's practice (which has several doctors on one site) is also running at 100% capacity.

Neither of my problems, filling and little finger, are life-threatening, and I suppose that if I had something seriously wrong, they'd fit me in somehow. But when I compare the situation now, with how it's been in the past, it is distinctly worse.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Snow, pedals and the lightness of being

I was at home today, becasue A) yesterday knocked me out and B) it's the Visitation to the In-laws-to-be this evening. So I missed the snow that's been falling all afternoon. I'm not used to snow in April. It must be the Global Warming.

I sneaked in an extra weigh-in this morning - 15 st, 1 7/8 lb. A new record low!

The replacement folding pedals for my bike arrived, so I went to fit them. But the pedal spindle should have a flat area for the spanner to grip when you screw them in. These don't have that! I screwed them in using the nut that holds the ball-race in place, but that's not very satisfactory; when the pedals tighten as they're used, I'm not sure how I'll be able to remove them. I spoke to the vendor; he offered me a refund, or a replacement with pedals that do have flats. As I've already fitted them, and to avoid the hassle, I accepted a pair of brake cables as compensation.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Nassington, Wansford and Yarwell

I did two rings today in one long bike ride, and then a few extras to end with. It was cold (again), but we've not had any rain for a while, so the ground was fairly dry. There still quite a lot of snow lying around. And it's the 4th of April! When will it thaw?

The front wheel of the bike has developed a slight wobble. I suspect it's the bearings, and that could be a big problem, because that's the wheel with the motor.

I needed to do several lifts over stiles, and several more stiles needed me to fold the bike to get it through. But the worst part was a byway, which is currently closed to motor vehicles (I'm a bicycle) and which is so rutted, I had to wheel the bike.

On the way home, I did a cache at the north end of the M1 where it joins the A421 (Bedford bypass) which I;ve been seeing each time I go this way, and which I wanted to eliminate.

All the walking and lifting I had to do has left me pretty tired, and I'm glad that tomorrow I can't go out caching because we're going to dinner at our in-laws-to-be.

64 caches done today, a good number.

Near the end of my day out, I was doing a church micro, and I was in the middle of standing there, signing the log when a car drew up, and the woman inside said to me "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, thank you."

I don't think that was what she was expecting, so she continued.

"We do a neighbourhood watch round here".

""Yes, good idea," I said, "everyone should do a neighbourhood watch."

Another unexpected responce. So she drove off. What was she expecting? "I was thinking of stealing this oak tree, but since you've got your eye on me, I won't".

I was hoping she'd ask me what I was doing - I had my answer all prepared. "I'm acting suspiciously", I would have said.

But she didn't.

Weight report 44

15 stone 3 pounds

Face recognition

I met someone the other day who recognised me; he said we'd met a few years ago. I hadn't a clue who he was.

This happens to me a lot, and I've been thinking about it. I don't think it's because I'm famous, because I'm not. I've never been on Apprentice X-Brother. I think it's a deficiency in me.

I read that a few people can't recognise other people at all, and I don't have that problem, but I'm thinking that maybe there's a gradation here, whereby some people are a lot worse at facial recognition than others, and I'm at the end that's not much good.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Lutton and back

Up the A1 again today, but first a short stop to do a cache that's been niggling at me for a few weeks. On the way up the A1, about two miles north of where I join it, there's a cache that's right next to the road. The cache page says that you can't do it from the A1. Why not? I stopped at the layby near the cache yesterday, got out of the car and had a look around. And today, I parked again in that layby, hopped over the Arnco, across the ditch, under the fence and found the cache quickly. On the way back, I didn't need to worry about the fence; the fence just wasn't there for several yards. All entirely legal and safe.

Then on to the main event of the day, "Lutton and back". This is a circuit of 50 caches, but looking at the map, I thought it would be a major effort, involving a lot of walking, maybe fields that jam up the bike, and an exhausted cacher at the end of the day. It wasn't as easy as the terrain yesterday, but neither was it quite as bad as I'd thought it might be. Only two stiles to lift over, and although I did have to walk across a few fields that had been ploughed and harrowed (which often leads to terrain that clogs the bike so badly I can't even walk it), in this case the bike stayed wheelable, probably because the ground has dried out a bit.

Although in doing one cache, I wound up hip-deep in snow. The snow was filling a ditch of unknown depth, and I had to get across it to get to the cache. So I stepped onto the snow, and tamped it down until it felt firm underfoot, put my weight on it, and it held, so I moved onwards. And then the snow gave way, and I sank about four feet downwards. I managed to struggle out. But I didn't find that cache.

After doing the ring of 50, I had lunch in the car at about 16:30, and that revived me enough to do another half dozen caches. So a total of 57 caches today (and the one DNF).

I've never seen a cache hidden in one of these before.

In the background you can see the Morlock transmitter, and in the foreground you can see my bike, resting.

And here's a sad sight.

Oh well. At least there's a cache there.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Summer time on the Raspberry Pi

I guess I've been spoiled. All my computers automatically adjust their time between GMT and BST at the right date. But the Raspberry Pi doesn't. Here's how you do it:

dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

Then choose Europe, and then choose London.

A big day in Alconbury

75 caches today, plus one DNF -  a big day.

The reason it was so big, was that I spent the whole day on the bike, and the going was good; indeed, quite a lot of it was tarmac. First I did 50 caches in the "low road loops", then I climbed a five bar gate to get a DNF on "Up or down", then another 17 on Abbots Amble (where I met another cacher going the other way round), then a few from the Boughton series, and finally a puzzle cache I've tried and failed on before, which takes you to the middle of a bridge, and then you're left to guess which of the four corners the tiny cache is hidden. I got it on the seventh corner.

It was cold today, but not too badly cold. My fingers were cold when ungloved, but inside the sheepskin gloves they were fine. Later on in the day it warmed up slightly. No rain!

I saw some patches of unthawed snow still around.

And no mud! I don't need to pressure wash the bike.