Monday 30 April 2012

To Knotty Ash

Actually to Knotty Green. Isn't it a lovely day for getting up to your knees in mud and saying rude words? Thank goodness for the drought, I can't imagine how wet it would be otherwise.

A Captain Jack series - usually, he dots caches around, but in this case, there was a circuit to go round. I did it on foot, there were a lot of footpaths en route. But after I'd done the circuit of 25, there was a line of caches to do. Fortunately, that was along a bridleway, so I wasn't put in the unfortunate position of having to double back on foot. I took the bike.

37 caches done today, none of them particularly memorable, but it's the first time I've been out for a day's caching for ages.

Tomorrow, the needle!

Saturday 28 April 2012

Hip bursitis

I think it's improving. I saw another physio yesterday; she did the same poking and proding, and moving my leg around. She's not sure that it is bursitis, it might be an inflamed tendon, maybe. She gave me another set of exercises to do, but also recommended the Cortisone injection, so I'm set up for that on May 1st. I'm not usually nervous about needles, well, no more than you'd expect, but I'm thinking that this one is going to be huge and deep.

Meanwhile, I've had a rather splendid offer by email.

"Viagrow is the only pill that can guarantee fast enlargemnt... gain 10 inches in few weeks!
Best and cheaperst GROW PRODUCT in a super offer for you today!
It's so very easy - like 123!"

Ten inches sounds like a lot, I'm not sure that I'd want to be ten inches taller. I'd be ducking for doors, and presumably my feet would have to get larger in proportion.

I think I'll go with the Cortisone injection.

Monday 23 April 2012

Trip to Cornwall

In the last few days, we've been in Saltash, Cornwall. Here's how it happened.

Daughter.1 told us that she'd been invited to a wedding in Cornwall, but couldn't see how she could go, on account of grandchild.1. I suggested that ladysolly and I look after grandchild.1, at which suggestion ladysolly bit my head off. She rightly pointed out that I was volunteering her to do this, and she didn't feel up for it.

There was a certain amount of toing and froing, from which I was excluded, on the grounds that I hadn't a clue which way was up, and eventually I was informed of the plan. And thus it was that on Thursday, ladysolly and I set off in the cachemobile for Saltash, picking up lunch at a Services and a cache along the way. In Saltash, we stayed at the China Fleet, which is, I think, a golf club with accomodation attached. Ladysolly and I stayed in a small flat, daughter.1 and her entourage (spouse.1 and grandchild.1) stayed in a rather larger flat, next door but two.

There was wifi, and the wifi was good. I have my servers set up in such a way that I can do pretty much everything I do from my usual office, provided I have my Dell laptop and wifi. The great thing about the Dell is that A) it runs linux and B) it has a 1600 by 1200 screen, even though it's an ancient box that cost me under £200. So I was able to keep up with my emails, and do the small amounts of maintenance that need doing from time to time.

You're probably wondering where daughter.2 was. She was "glamping" elsewhere, which is camping but with more comfort. Don't ask. When she reported back the words "living hell" were used.

So on Friday, we all went to Plymouth, wandered around a bit (three more caches) and visited the aquarium. Saturday was the day of the wedding; ladysolly and I (well, ladysolly did about 99% of it) looked after grandchild.1 while daughter.1 and spouse.1 had the first day off babycare since grandchild.1 appeared.

Sir Francis Drake, not playing bowls.

 Ladysolly in Plymouth

 Not as big as the London Eye

Sunday we went to Looe (four more caches) and I had quiche for lunch, out of contrariness (the menu was 98% Cornish Pasty), and a couple of hours later a clotted cream tea. Well, you can't go to Cornwall and not have a clotted cream tea. Sunday evening we watched Toy Story 3, and on Monday the rain (did I mention it spent most of these four days raining?) got really heavy, and accompanied us on the way home.

A good time was had by all, especially, I think, ladysolly, who is now ready and eager to take on grandchild.1 for further serious babysitting duty. They're talking about Center Parcs Longleat.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

A long day

I went up North, to Kings Cliffe and did 72 caches.

First in the morning, a circuit of 30 caches plus three along the way. I lost my way a couple of times, but the backtrack needed wasn't far. There was a short shower along the way, but the weather was mostly fine. I only needed to lift the bike over a stile once.

Back to the car, and lunch, followed by a short drive to the next cache. On with the wellies, and into a river, under a bridge. I went across the river and back before I finally spotted the cache, smaller than I'd been expecting. I used my wellie-remover to unboot, that's so much easier than trying to pull them off.

Then here:

I've heard of a phone box being used as a library before, but this is the first time I've seen one. Very nice.

And then to the second circuit of the day. Somehow, I'd got the idea that it was a circuit of 20 caches; actually it was 25 plus a few extras. This was one of the extras:

I'm a big fan of Glenn Miller and the big band sound.

Along the way I picked up another cache, at a tunnel under a disused railway. It took me a long time to find it, because I muddled up East and West and was looking in the wrong place. But even when I got that sorted out, there were a lot more wrong places to look before I finally found the right place.

Round about 3pm it rained, quite heavily and I got a bit wet. Then sunshine, but at about 7pm, I got struck by hail!There were a lot of stiles to lift over on this circuit, half a dozen at least.

Back to the car at 7.30, for coffee and yumyums, and then off the tackle the last objective of the day. On the way there, I picked up a couple more, but when I got to where I was going ...

This was a puzzle cache, and you had to do an online jigsaw. I'd done that, it only took me about an hour, but when I tried to print out the picture, I did something wrong, and lost it. And I needed that picture, because that was what told me where to go to find the cache. Oh well, I thought, I can probably remember what it looked like, but that meant that I had to do the cache today, becuase my memory would lose that picture within a day or so.

So I went to where I thought it would be, and it wasn't there. Oh. It's now 8.30, and it's getting dark, and I've only got half a gallon of petrol left in the car - I decided to head for home.

But after a couple of miles, I jammed on the brakes. I'd just spotted something that looked very like the picture I hadn't printed out! And when I checked in the tree opposite, sure enough, there was the cache. Hurrah!

So now I really did need to head for home ... but on the way to the A1, I picked up a few more caches. And as I was going round the roundabout to get onto the A1, I spotted green neon lights about a mile away, which looked like ... yes, a BP petrol station. Filled up (I was down to the last quarter gallon at that point, although I should mention that I do keep a gallon can in the car for emergencies, so I wasn't being quite as silly as it sounds) and trundled home, getting back at 11pm (ladysolly had given me a Late Pass, because she was out playing bridge).

72 caches, and a very fun day out.

Monday 16 April 2012


I was phoned up by one of my suppliers, they were hoping to sell me additional services. Currently, they're selling me one particular service, for £7200 per year, plus vat, and I'm happy with the quality. So I said, before we can talk about additional services, I'd like you to give me a better price on what I'm currently getting from you.

After a week or so, they came back with an offer around £5100. Wow. That unwanted phone call has cost them £2000 so far. But you know what? My mum used to say to me "Always haggle." She could haggle ther hind legs off a donkey. You should always try to get a better price. So I informed them that they had competitors, and could they do better? "How much better" they wanted to know. "I'm not allowed to say", I replied.

So they came back with an offer of £4300. Which I'll probably take.

Always haggle.

I was working on the railway

Because the Night Mail cache stopped working. The Night Mail starts off with, you need to identify the poem (pretty easy). Then you have to run a railway, controlling it over the internet, and watching it with a web cam - that lets you gather some information that gives you the starting point for a night cache, where you follow the trail of fire tacks, while night trains pass fairly near by.

Someone emailed me to say it wasn't working. When I had a look, sure enough, it wasn't. Some checks with a multimeter soon revealed that the 16 volt Hornby transformer wasn't working any more. So I replaced it with a standard 12 volt one, and that gives enough power for the train to run. Meanwhile, I made the amazing discovery that I could get a replacement transformer for just £4.00; I was expecting to be stung for several times that much.

The Night Mail

Friday 13 April 2012

Burgess Hill trek

61 caches today, plus 2 DNFs, I walked about 12 miles, and I'm shuffling like a penguin now. My back hurts, my feet hurt and my thighs barely function. Ladysolly says I must be mad, but exercise is good for you, isn't it?

I was out for eight hours, and carried two bottles of water, which I really needed. But no food, so by the time I got back to the car at 18:30, it was time for lunch!

There were *lots* of stiles along the way, so I'm very glad I didn't try to go by bike, although my thighs are telling me that they need some down time now to recover.

Along the way, I saw some very fresh lambs.

Tiny, tiny lambs.

Later on, I saw this:

And I'm thinking, who needs to have it explained how to unbolt a gate? And if they're that dumb, would they actually be able to read? There must be a real story behind this notice, but I don't know what it is.

Monday 9 April 2012

Seder nights

On the first night, to ladysolly's brother, family and friends; excellent chopped liver, great chicken soup and a fine meal to follow; a pity I couldn't have any wine, but we all had a good time.

On the second night, to my sister and family, plus daughter.2 and boyfriend. More excellent chopped liver, more great chicken soup and a more eastern-type meal to follow; sister's husband is Sephardi, whereas we're Ashkenazi, so there's a slightly different tradition of food, and slightly different seders.

Plus much discussion of the Exodus, as per required on Seder nights; for example, is it right to assume that God has five fingers on each hand? Plus an estimate of how many jews left Egypt at that time; I went for 6,000, citing A) that they went to Egypt with 70 people (it says so in the bible) and a couple of hundred years later, assuming 3% per year population growth (very high birth rate, but also a very high infant mortality and short life span; plus Pharoah denied the Israelites conjugal rights, which would slow things down somewhat) would give you a number of around several thousand; and B) "as numerous as the stars in the sky" is about 6000, assuming that you don't have a telescope, which they didn't.

Then on the third day to daughter.2 for not-a-Seder with daughter.1 in attendance plus grandson.1, with angels on horseback and lamb with a really excellent dish of parsnips and several other goodies.

Friday 6 April 2012

Spring clean

Well, it's Easter, and a good time for a bit of spring cleaning. One of my keyboards had reached the point at which it was so filthy, I was starting to be reluctant to touch it, so it got the antiseptic spray and soft cloth treatment, and now is sparkling bright and squeaky clean.

And I thought, how about my phone, a Nokia 5800 running Symbian? The problem there is backups. I've been doing backups on it, but the backups go to the memory card on the phone, which is pretty useless if I lose the phone, so I've been copying the backup files to a PC. But. If I do lose this phone, I won't be replacing it with another like it. It'll be either Apple or Android, and they quite possibly won't understand the file format of these backup files. The important one is my contacts list.

So I did a bit of googling, and eventually discovered Nokia PC Suite, which I installed. That let me back up my contacts to csv and text format. So apart from the fact that it's truncated the names of people to what it thinks is enough (14 characters) I now have a backup that I can believe in (meaning, I can actually read it).

I also repaired my panniers, which after a few weeks use were falling apart. I used needle and thread to sew up the seams that were coming apart, followed by Duck (sic) tape to reinforce.

And I replaced the batteries in the bike computer - the thing that tells me what time it is, how fast I'm going and how far I've gone. But while I was doing that, I noticed that several of the spokes in my front wheel were loose, which isn't a good idea, so I used the spoke spanner on my 27-way bike tool to tighten them up.

Thursday 5 April 2012

A pogle down to Pompey

Well, not quite to Portsmouth. But nearly. 41 caches, including three puzzles and a sprinkling of multis. I biked for three hours in the morning; most of the rest were on foot. Most of the caches were in the "Novel cache" series; the cache setter makes the cache container appropriate to the novel, which can be quite fun. I also enjoyed an Ant and Deck cache, which was a huge ant glued to a piece of decking, with the cache underneath. Ant and Dec are two popular entertainers.

Freda the Freelander is still at the garage having a brake tube transplant. I used to do this sort of thing myself 40 years ago, when I ran a Morris Minor, but these days the car manufacturers make it very difficult to DIY maintenance. So I went out in the Volvo, a big heavy bus with a terrible turning circle. But better than vegitating at home.

I also saw the worst byway I've seen for a long time; I was barely able to get my bike down it, even wheeling it.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

How not to do sales

I was thinking of buying a couple more UPSes (Uninterriptible Power Supplies), so when Bluepoint called me while I was in the middle of a ploughed field, I wasn't as short with them as usual. I had looked at their web site a few days ago, looking for more of the Mustek UPSes I've bought before, but they only had 400VA models, and I wanted 1400VA at least, maybe even more.

So I told the guy who phoned me, "Yes, I am interested maybe in buying something from you, I want Mustek UPSes, but not the small 400VA ones that you have." He replied, "We have Mustek flat bed scanners."

You probably don't need me to tell you, even if you're not familiar with UPSes, that someone who wants one isn't going to be made happy by a scanner. And I told him so. "Go look up the larger Mustek UPSes, and let me know what you find."

He didn't call back. I don't know why. But next time he calls me, I won't be much interested in talking to him, because even when I tell him exactly what I want, he doesn't bother to sell it to me. He might, for instance, have offered me a different brand of UPS with a similar capacity and price to what I wanted. But he didn't.

So I phoned up Janine at Bluepoint (and if they ever lose Janine, they're in big trouble, because as far as I can see, she's the only person there worth talking to). She said they don't do Mustek now because they can't buy less than a pallet load. Well, OK, fair enough. But they do sell BPC (British Power Conversion), she said. But on the Bluepoint web site, they only offer small ones, up to 1000 VA.

So, still interested, I went to the BPC web site. No pricing. So I phoned up BPC and explained my interest. They said "Bluepoint" but I told them that Bluepoint only have their smaller stuff. So they said "But if you ask Bluepoint, they can get you the bigger ones" Duh. So why don't they put those on their web site? He also said "Fairline sell BPC stuff", but he didn't have their details. Google to the rescue, so I went on the Fairline, and yes, they do sell BPC stuff, but there's no info about range or pricing.

I got a bit shirty with the guy from BPC at that point. I explained to him that they aren't exactly making it easy for me to buy their stuff; I'd have to register with Fairline to find out more (which I've applied for, heaven knows how long that might take), and ...


If you want to sell stuff, don't make it difficult for your customers. Tell me what you have to sell, give me the technical specs so I can choose the right thing, tell me the pricing so I can think about the tradeoffs and compare with other products, and then let me order it.

Do NOT make me phone you to find out important information; I might be doing this outside your working hours. Do NOT make me jump through registration hoops in order to access a part of your web site with this information. Do NOT get in my way when I'm trying to give you an order.

I'll probably end up buying a Trust 1500 VA UPS; at least I can find out the price.

Here's some advice, if you're offering any kind of goods or services. Pretend to be an ordinary member of the public, and see how difficult it is to buy something from your company. If the answer isn't "dead easy" then kick arses until it is.

Monday 2 April 2012

Dude, where's my wallet?

Out to Peterborough today, for a total of 77 caches.

Zooming up the A1, hoping that I'd be able to score some petrol somewhere, otherwise I'd be sleeping in the car tonight and ladysolly would be livid.

I parked, got the bike out, loaded it up with batteries and water, and set off. In the wrong direction. After a few yards, I realised, and turned round.

At cache number 11, I was just signing the log when I realised ... I keep my wallet in a zipped-up compartment in my shoulder bag. The zip was open, and there was no wallet there.

Don't panic!

So I thought about it. Maybe it dropped out at one of the caches I've done so far - not too bad, there's only ten places I'd have to look. Then I remembered - when I bought my sandwich (note the singular, drsolly is on diet) I emptied all the change from my wallet into the tub I keep change in, and took the tub into the shop. I know I didn't take my wallet in. And I don't remember putting the wallet back into the zipped-up compartment. So, it's probably sitting in the car, on the front seat. And I did lock the car. I'm almost sure I locked the car. I hardly ever forget to lock the car. Gulp.

I decided not to go back, but to press on.

A bit further on, I noticed that my back rack had almost come off. Fortunately, I keep a screwdriver in my portable toolkit, so I was able to tighten it up again, but in doing so, I noticed that my lovely new panniers are coming apart at the seams. Needs repair! Needle, thread and duct tape. I'll do that tomorrow.

So I went round the route I'd planned, 34 caches, all on the bike, and when I got back to the car, I eagerly checked ... and there was my wallet. Whew!

So then I continued on the second circuit I'd planned, and enroute, I picked up a puzzle cache.

At the cache site, a quick find, but just as I was signing the log and replacing the container, up came a carload of dogs. A human got out with two small yappy doglets on leads, and then another human got out, followed by a flood of big dogs without leads over which he very obviously had no control whatsoever.

By that time, I was on my bike and pedalling hard.

It turns out that a man on a bike can go faster than a pack of dogs, especially if he has electric assist. I heard the human behind me yelling with increased desperation for his dogs to stop chasing me and come back. But, of course, they didn't. But I didn't care, I was well in front, on a tarmac surface, and no way was I going to stop. I left them behind eventually. I hope that their owner managed to round them up eventually, but it looked to me like he was likely to lose a few.

A couple of miles further on, I came to the Sutton Cross, but first:

I was so tempted to cross out the "is" and insert "are", but that would have been vandalising the vandalism.
If you look carefully, you can see me reflected in this.

I wasn't expecting this:

And here's the cross.

I completed the circuit, and by that time, I'd done about 60 caches. So I had my coffee, and then did a bunch of drive-by caches.

And as I was finishing off, I noticed that my brakes weren't working properly. Eeekkk! After a bit of testing, I decided that they were good enough to get home on if I was a bit careful, which I was, and I got home without any problems. And I did managed to score some petrol, but the price seems to have jumped up a bit. I'll have to have those brakes seen to. I don't think it's just a matter of topping up the fluid.

An excellent day out, with lots of adventures!