Tuesday 29 May 2012

Facebook spam

I just got a spam from a "friend" at facebook, so I phoned up the number given. She explained that she was sending an email to all her "friends" to tell them about her financial advice service.

A say a "friend", I think I met her once at a geocaching event, but I don't remember, and when she offered "friend" on facebook, from the "friends" we had in common, I guessed I must know her. Probably. Serves me right for being too trusting.

Well, I do know one way to stop getting spam from her in future. I think Facebook call it "unfriending". Her freedom of speech is nicely balanced by my right not to listen.

Monday 28 May 2012


My fax machine ran out of ink. I know this, because A) I received an illegible fax and B) the display on the fax machine said "replace ink cartridge".

So I went to Bluepoint to buy a new cartridge, and lo! the price is £18 which is not much less than I paid for the machine. No thanks. I have a cunning plan.

I took the old cartridge, made a little hole in it, and injected printer ink into it from a kit I bought last time this happened. It was easy to do, not much mess (I put down paper, and I'm sure the black will come off my thumb in a week or two). I put the cartridge in, and the display continued to say "replace ink cartridge". So I swore at it a bit, and that seemed to do the trick. I copied a page to make sure it's working, and I'm all set now. These ink kits cost about £10 and there's enough ink to repeat this a few dozen times.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Boiling in Banbury

Out today with ladysolly to a ring near Banbury, the first time I've let her out for several weeks (on accout of my hip). The temperature was 28, which is very close to ladysolly's melting point. Plus I was wary of my hip, so we did a ring that claimed to be three miles (and turned out to be more like four). Ladysolly didn't melt down, but my hip was complaining loudly by the time we got back to the car - it seems I have to take this a bit more gently. So it's back to caching on the bike, which I know is OK, having been out on Friday for the whole day on the bike.

Then on to a pub event - not a lot of people there, but a good time to be had. 24 caches done today.

Friday 25 May 2012

Biking around Pinner

And Eastcote and Ruislip.

First of all, Freda wouldn't start, because I'd left something draining the battery for many hours. So I took the Volvo, and only just made my appointment in time.

A visit to my gum dentist today, and I scored very high marks - so much so, that I don't need to be inspected for another year. And while in that area, I visited Ruislip Lido to do the picture multi there, which was very good, but I got two DNFs on the trads there.

And then I did a bike tour of Pinner, Eastcote and Ruislip. The weather was great (I've slightly caught the sun on my arms) and I zoomed around the roads bagging cache after cache. A very good day out, and then on to the Rickmansworth Aquadrome for some more whizzing around.

The bike performed well, but I have to replace the back brake blocks and tighten the spokes a bit.

When I got back, I found that drive f of Dovda had totally failed, which is good news, because it's been acting a bit umpty for some weeks now, and the total failure makes it easier to replace (because it's easier to work out which of the 15 drives it is).

The hip, I'm pleased to say, is still good.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Weight report 4

17 stone, 8 pounds

Holmer Green

Out caching today to Holmer Green, a circuit on the bike. My hip was sending me slight messages as I reached the end of the circuit, so I decided to leave it at that. 21 caches done today.

I've decided not to have the big cortisone injection. All it does, it reduce the inflammation and stop it hurting, and since that's already happened spontaneously, I see no point in having unnecessary treatment.

But here's a neat thing. As well as the private scheme, I'm also in the NHS system. I went private because by paying a few hundred pounds, I could get done a month or so sooner, and my ability to walk is easily worth that. But my NHS case is still slowly wending its way through the system, so if the inflammation problem is back by the time the NHS springs into action, I can go with that. But I suspect I won't need to.

We used to get this sort of thing in the data recovery business from time to time - a drive would arrive, we couldn't find anything wrong with it, we stripped off the data to floppies and sent that back to the delighted customer. We used to say "the postman fixed it".

And I've placed a new cache. On the way to replace the "Latimer Phone Box" cache, I saw such a lovely place for a cache, and found a very interesting hide for it. And, just to make it more difficult, I've made it a puzzle cache called "telnet 143".

The coords given are false (that's always true for a puzzle cache), there's no description and there's no hint. Let's see how long that foxes people.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Bicycle maintenance

In October, 1967 I bought my first bicycle, for £5 at the cattle market in Cambridge. I had no idea what I was doing, and I couldn't even ride a bike. I learned to ride it on the way back to my digs, and not long after that, I started to discover the delights of bicycle maintenance. Fixing a puncture. Replacing the gear changer. Mending the brakes. Installing new cotter pins.

That bike was still going strong when I sold it on leaving Cambidge, for £5. By then I had a moped and a motorbike; a Mobylette (£17) and a BSA Bantam (£30). And I discovered the pleasures of motorbike maintenance.

Shortly after that, I bought my first car, a Morris Minor (£80) and started to learn about car maintenance.

The techniques are the same - understand what has gone wrong by understanding what it's supposed to do, working out why it doesn't do it, and fix the problem. With the car, it was clutch cable, brake pads, radiator leaks and carburettor issues. With the help of a socket set, assorted spanners and a Morris Minor mainenance manual, I could (and did) fix anything that went wrong, including one hairy incident in Wales when one of the wheels came off (it turned out to be a steering arm that had come apart), and in the middle of Wales, using only the tools I had with me, and a spare part swapped for a spare wheel at a nearby house, I was able to fix the car and get home.

Today, I don't think I can maintain a car. It's designed so that I can't. You have to get software from Landrover, and they aren't going to let me loose with it (and I expect it costs a major bundle).

But I can still maintain a bike.

It's all changed since 45 years ago, of course. You don't replace the rubber brake pads (costing 10p), you replace the whole brake shoe (costing about £1, so not really much difference, after you allow for inflation). But you still have to adjust the cables afterwards.

I don't use a dynamo-powered front light any more, with the feeble glow that was just enough so that people could see you coming, but don't even think about lighting the road ahead enough for you to see anything. I now use a 3 watt LED headlamp that makes it bright as day in front of me. Cotter pins no longer exist; the pedal arms are keyed to the crankshaft. I haven't had a puncture since I fitted A) puncture resistant inner tubes and B) gel strip between the inner tube and tire, and that's even though I'm riding over bridleways and worse, with thorns everywhere. The three Sturmey Archer gears that I had (and I was lucky to have them, I had no idea about gears when I bought the bike at the cattle market) are now 21 derailleur gears, most of which are either too high or too low to be used, which is fine by me, because it means I have enough gearing. And, most of all, electric assist means that my 63 year old knees can cope with what my 17 year old knees handled easily.

But when I was out yesterday, I found that when going down a not-very-steep hill, my brakes weren't sufficient to stop me, and I had to drag my feet on the ground to stop, not a satisfactory solution. So yesterday, I spent a very happy hour replacing the totally-worn-down brake pads on the front brake.

I can still maintain a bike.

More Daisy

So today, I got an email from X telling me that Y "has put this on her to-do list". And that, of course, was like a red rag to a bull.

Here's what I replied:

"It's on my to-do list" ?

This is for something that will take her about 30 seconds to do. It would have been quicker for her to do it
than to add an entry to her to-do list.
And when does this bubble up to the top of her list? Christmas?

You guys at Daisy have some serious organisational problems.

Question 1 - is this provision operationally feasible?
Answer 1 - well, it has been for the last two years, and nothing changed.

Question 2 - is Internet Privacy a sufficiently creditworthy company for us to risk supplying them?
Answer 2 - well, they've been fine for the last several years we've been supplying them.

Question 3 - is Daisy Group capable of doing the necessary administration?
Answer 3. Clearly not. Not within a month or so, anyway.

I sent this email to X, to X's manager Z, and to P. P is the Chief Executive of Daisy. I got his name from their web site, and I got his email address by guessing that, as all the people at Daisy that I've dealt with have then he would too. And you know what? It doesn't matter if that is his email address or not, the idea was to explode a firework up Daisy's collective arsehole.

And it worked. I got a phone call from Q to tell me that this would be all completed by close of business toady.

We'll see ...

 ... later ...

Y sent me an email, which includes page one of the contract, and is missing pages 2 and 3. Page 3 is the one that has their signature. So I emailed her, X, her boss, X's boss and the CEO to explain that, no, actually, I *still* don't have their signature on a contract.

And they want me to fax back a signed copy of their "Certificate of Acceptance". I'll put that on my "to do" list.

 ... later ...

Actually, pages 2 and 3 were there; she sent me a layered tiff, and I had to strip off the top layer to see the second.

... Later ...

You're probably wondering who X, Y, Z, P and Q are. Well, I had an email from W, threatening me with legal action unless I removed names and email addresses from this blog. Why? They didn't say.

Monday 21 May 2012

Back in the game

Out today, for the first time in yonks. I took it easy, though, not wanting to overstress my hip, so only 23 caches. On the bike, using my new battery (which performed brilliantly) and around a circuit that involved a couple of lifts at stiles and a neat finesse to avoid a couple more stiles. Then in to Chesham to pick up another half dozen, then back home. The hip was fine.

Sunday 20 May 2012

The opposite of "Ow"

Yesterday, I was in terrible pain. My mouth hurt from the gum boil, my leg hurt from the tendonitis, my calf hurt from a bout of overnight cramp and my ankle hurt because it wanted to (it feels like a couple of the bones aren't sitting right), I have no idea why, it just does that occasionally.

Today? Bliss.

My mouth is fine, courtesy of the NHS, my ankle has fixed itself (it always does that, shortly after it starts hurting). But best of all, the tendonitis that has been plaguing me for the last six months, has gone!

Why? I don't really know, but I've had a total absence from caching (meaning, from walking) for the last few weeks (and that hasn't been easy, I'm getting withdrawal symptoms), and maybe the lack of tendon aggravation has just allowed it to heal itself. Maybe going off Warfarin helped? Maybe even the Erythromycin that I'm taking for my gum helped, but I don't see how, it's too soon, surely. But you know what they say about gift horses. I'm not complaining, because my hip isn't.

So, you know how when you stub your toe you say "Ow". Well, I'm saying the opposite of "Ow".

Saturday 19 May 2012

Bless the NHS

I went to bed last night with a bit of a twinge in my jaw. I woke at 2am with a full-blown throbbing pain, and I didn't get much sleep after that. It hurts a lot less when not horizontal, so I spent most of the night sitting up, reading.

At 8am, I phoned my dentist, and the recorded message gave me the number of the emergency dentist. I phoned that, and discover that they opened at 9am.

At 9.01 I phoned again, and a nice lady took my particulars, and said that a dental nurse would call me back within an hour. 45 minutes later, the dental nurse called, and went into a lot more detail about what hurt, and then invited me to call round as soon as I could get there.

Which I did; 30 minutes drive to Aylesbury, easy parking, no waiting and a couple of forms to fill in. There was a real dentist there too, and she listened to my story, had a look, and went into action. First, some anaesthetic, but it was just a dab-on thing tasting of bubblegum. Then she nudged at the swelling on my gum with a cotton wool stick (she might have pricked it first, but I didn't feel it), absorbing the bad-stuff, and after a few minutes, it was "Rinse now". Cost £17.50. All done, then off to Morrisons to get the Erythromycin antibiotic prescription filled, free as I'm over 60.

So now I take the antibiotics for a week, and phone my usual dentist for an appointment first thing Monday; he'll probably see me at the end of the week, but I rather think that by then, it'll all be over, because it seems that it's a gum infection, not a tooth, so (hopefully) no drilling required.

Bless the NHS. Americans have absolutely no idea. They could have the same thing, but they don't.

Friday 18 May 2012


Yesterday, I posted about my interaction, or rather lack of it, with Santander. Today, I ready that Moody's has downgraded the credit-worthiness of Santander (and several other Spanish banks). The Daily Mail fed the fire with this article. 

Obviously, my blog didn't cause this downgrade.  I don't have that many readers - just two, last time I looked.

But a spokesman for Santander UK reassured customers that it was 'completely autonomous' from its parent firm, adding that 'money raised in the UK stays in the UK'. So that's all right then. But I still think they need to buck up their follow-ups on sales enquiries.

Thursday 17 May 2012

No sale

On May 10th, I filled in an enquiry form to O-C Group, to get a free trial of their service. The next day, I got an email back from their Hubert O'Donoghue, asking for more details, which I gave. "If you can send on the above details I will organise for the free trial which should be set up within the early part of next week."

From May 11 to May 17th - silence.

That's how not to follow up an enquiry from a potential customer.

Do you think I'm going to chase them up on this? No, because if that's how they handle a sales enquiry, imagine how bad must be the service that actual customers get.

A few days ago, I got a letter (on paper) from Santander, "I would welcome the opportunity to work with you". So I phoned Mr James Kelly there, and asked him what the cost would be, if I had an account with them, of paying my suppliers (I need to make a couple of dozen payments each month).

From then till now - silence. "I would welcome the opportunity to work with you". This is obviously a new meaning of the word "welcome" that I haven't come across before.

And the leased line saga with Daisy? That's still wending its dismal way onward. I escalated it to Daisy Management, so maybe there's some movement happening now - at least, I'm getting more emails from them. I told them that, somehow, other vendors have discovered that I'm in the market for leased-line service, and I'm getting contacted by them, and although I verbally agreed to go with Daisy a month ago (yes, a month ago) the fact that I don't have any actual in-writing agreement from them even a month later, makes me feel free to go with someone else. Apparently they have to check that I'm creditworthy (I've been paying for their service for the last 15 years) and that the installation is technically possible (it's been installed here and working for the last two years). You'd think that this would count for something. Daisy, it would appear, are trying their very hardest to rule themselves out as suppliers for my leased line serice.

Here's how I work. If someone contacts me with a sales enquiry, they get an email back immediately, answering their questions and inviting further discussion. If I don't hear from them within a couple of days, I send a follow-up email, asking if there's any information they need from me.

You see, customers are rare and precious; difficult to find, and difficult to retain. If you don't look after your customers, someone else will, and if you don't respond to sales enquiries, you won't get any new customers.

Is this the secret of business success? No, but forgetting this the secret to failure.

No jab

Today was the big day - my cortisone injection, preceded by a local anaesthetic, which made me think that this was going to be a big, deep needle.

So I rocked up, go my sonic scan, and yes, it's a tendonitis. But no-one had told me to go off Warfarin beforehand, so the jab was postponed until next week.

I know that medicine isn't an exact science. But I do think that someone should have told me before I turned up to go off Warfarin for a while.

So ... next week, we do it all again.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

No phone number

When you buy something on the internet, you're often dealing with a company you've never heard of. Sometimes you're dealing with someone you know, such as John Lewis, or Harrods, but all too often you're buying from a complete stranger.

How do you know if they're kosher?

You can't go by how professional their web site looks - anyone can spend £50 to get a nice-looking web site. But there is one important test that you can apply.

Do they give a phone number?

In my experience, every reputable company will give a contact number that you can call. If a company doesn't give a phone number, then that doesn't mean that they're scammers, but certainly scammers are reluctant to give a phone number, for obvious reasons.

So I make it a rule - I never buy anything from a company that doesn't give a phone number on their web site.

Monday 14 May 2012

Happy birthday, Charlie

Up to London yesterday with ladysolly to celebrate the first birthday anniversary of grandson.1.

Grandson.1 had a great time crawling with all the other babies, daughter.1 had a great time getting sozzled with all the other mums, ladysolly had a great time playing with grandson.1 and I had a great time sitting quietly in the corner, drinking champagne and reading my book. I only emerged once, to join in a mums discussion of "I was hoping for a boy" and "I was hoping for a girl", to interject "I was hoping for a dog", which they seemed to think was hilarious. It's the champagne.

Daughter.2 was there also, of course, and did something very brave. When I went back to the buffet for third helpings, she confiscated it, citing "You're on a diet", which is quite true. So instead, I grazed quietly on salad.

Grandson.1 is almost walking now, I think, but he's so good at crawling that the incentive to two-legged perambulation isn't there. But he must be feeling the imperative, and there are big advantages to being on two legs - you move faster, you see further and it frees up your hands.

Friday 11 May 2012

Fun with servers part two

Well, after 13 hours, the scan still hadn't completed, so I contacted them the next morning. It turns out that they had a problem at their end. I guess their server was down.

So I started the scan again, and ... it worked, but my server failed the test. There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and then I did more research in the BEAST vulnerability. And I came up with a different configuration to handle the BEAST (and also handle another problem that changing servers had thrown up, the TRACE vulnerability, but that's easy to handle). And that didn't work. And I did a lot more research and thinking, and now I think I really understand the issue, but my third try didn't work either.

At that point, I was feeling really bad about this. I've spent two days, mostly on this one problem, and still no solution.

So I trawled round the internet again, and I came up with a wonderful discovery - there's a web site that will test your Secure Server for vulnerabilities, free of charge, use it as much as you like. I say wonderful, because one of the problems I was wrestling with, is that I pay for these tests, and I only have ten to use, with four servers to test. So I can afford just five failing tests on my secure server and then things get tight. And also, each test was taking an hour or two (because they only do a full server test). The site I found did it in half a minute!


And the second break I got, was I noticed what I was doing wrong - I'd done the change in Apache globally, but not in the virtual server that was the Secure Server. So I fixed that, tried it out with ssllabs, and it worked! Let joy be unconfined. Calloo, callay.

So I was able to get my Secure Server properly certified. And, before I had a chance to do the other servers (which I was almost sure would pass, since I've got the Secure Server through), Ann came to me and said "Can we do the online tax now?" which I fancied doing about as much as I do having a long blunt needle stuck into my right thigh (which will be happening on the 17th). But I knoew that if I shirked this, she'd be unhappy, so I did it.

A couple of hours later, the online tax was done (they don't make it easy unless everything in perfectly standard, which it rarely is), and I could get back do PCI DSS certification, and as I thought, the other three passed easily.

So then I got a communication from someone in the industry. Apparently, the major banks are refusing to deal with the BEAST. They're leaving ciphers in place which can be cracked by the BEAST, and hoping that it doesn't actually happen, wihch it probably won't. But it's an interesting situation where the big credit card processors are deliberately refusing to pass the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

Which brings me back to what I said in my previous blog. Security theater.

 ... so I tested the server run by Barclays. "This server is vulnerable to MITM attacks because it supports insecure renegotiation"

Fun with servers

Every three months, I have to get my computers checked for the PCI DSS, that's the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Which is meant to ensure that naughty people don't steal credit card data from my systems.

Of course, it doesn't work; huge thefts of card data still happen despite the PCI DSS, I read about them all the time. But SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, or at least something must appear to be done. Cynics call this "Security theater".

Still, who am I to say "nonsense"? Against the likes of Visa and Mastercard, I am floccipaucinihilipilification. So, every three months, I have to get my servers scanned. And that means now.

So I did. And it came back with problems; two new security issues have been discovered on my server called Vicky (actually, on pretty much every server in the world), and to get a pass mark, I have to do something to stop them affecting me. Specifically - have to upgrade my web server Apache to 2.2.22 or later, and also deal with a problem called "BEAST", which is a way that the encryption of credit card data between my server and your browser, can be broken. And if someone breaks that, they can steal credit card numbers en route. which would be bad.

So I started off by upgrading Apache. That's free software, and easy to get, so I got version 2.4.2. And, wouldn't you know it, but they've changed the way you compile and install it, to such an extent that I couldn't find a way to do it, and after a couple of hours, I said "Blow this" (or worse) and went for 2.2.22, which compiled and installed much more easily.

BEAST wasn't so easy to deal with, and I spent quite a long time trying to understand the problem and googling, before I finally came up with the answer. The answer, oddly enough, is that I have to use a weaker encryption system, but one which isn't affected by BEAST, which only breaks block ciphers.

So I did all that, and resubmitted Vicky for a scan, and the scanner came back with oodles of problems, all of which boiled down to, I needed to use a more recent version of OpenSSL (because in rebuilding Apache, I'd used an older version). So I got that, and tried to use it to make my Apache, but I just couldn't work out how to bring it in.

Time for Plan B. Plan B was to use Linux Fedora version 16 (I've been on version 9, four years old). So I installed a server to be called Vicky using that, and was pleased to see that it was using Apache 2.2.22 and a sufficiently recent version of OpenSSL. I then spent an hour configuring it to have the same stuff as the old Vicky. Configuring Apache to be like the old Vicky wasn't easy, because they changed the way configuration files work (again). Plus there were lots of other things to set up. Then I tested email.

I have a really complicated email system. I have three email servers, plus I use AOL (it's free, and really easy to create accounts, so you can make an AOL account that you're only going to use for a short time, and stop using it when the spam gets bad, although AOL have decent spam filters). I have a server (called Sadie) which goes to each of my mail servers (Mail1, Mail2 and Vicky), and to AOL, and a few other places where I have bits and bobs of email, and collects my mail from all of them, despams it, and sorts it, and I get it all in one place. Vicky is one of my mail servers, so I tested that it was working by sending an email from AOL to it (because to test email, you need to send an email from "outside"). The email didn't arrive. Aaarghhh. So I spent an hour fuffing about before I finally realised that actually it had arrived.

But my email collection wasn't working. For that to work, I run an IMAP server on Vicky (and my other servers), and Fetchmail on the server I read email from. For IMAP services, I run Dovecot. Dovecot has been fine for me for years, but now? I couldn't connect to it. I couldn't even connect to Dovecot from the server it was running on. So, back to Google. And this one took a *lot* of googling, but finally I found out that it was in the configuration of Dovecot, which they've changed (of course), and now the default is that Dovecot won't let you connect to it unless you're "localhost". It was very easy to change that once I knew what to change and that configuration file it was in, so I did that, and now Dovecot works. Hurrah!

But Fedora 16 numbers users from 1000 upwards, whereas Fedora 9 numbered users from 500 upwards, so I had two different user numbers on the old and new systems, so it thought I was two different people, and quite rightly wouldn't give either access to the other's files. So I sorted that out by renumbering user numbers and changing file ownerships.

So I now had a Vicky that would, I hoped, pass the PCI DSS scan. So I tried to scan it.

Thirteen hours later, the report from Comodo (the scanning service) was still "scanning". Time for some technical support. I tried their "livechat", but that only does SSL issues, so I emailed them. They emailed me back giving me a ticket number, when I tried to look at the ticket the login system wouldn't accept the username and pasword that was working for their PCI DSS system, so I emailed them again. That got me a password that did work, and I can look at my old tickets, but I can't see the current one. So I emailed them again, and at this moment, I have no reply.

So I phoned their UK number, and the folks there can't help with this, I have to wait until the Americans wake up and get to work.

And you know what? I bet 99% of people taking credit card data over the internet haven't dealt with *either* of these problems yet. Especially BEAST, which is a pig of a problem.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

New battery and new power supply

I decided to treat myself to a new battery for the bike. I have two good batteries; of which one needs a lot of babying. And three batteries that are pretty much knackered, good for maybe one mile. So I did some research - can I put new cells in a knackered battery? It looks difficult. So I looked at the cost of a new battery, and it turned out that buying from (who, I have to say, look like *the* e-bike supplier in the UK) is about the same cost as importing from China or Spain, if you include carriage cost. So I bought from them, no fuss, no hassle, battery arrived in two days. Sorted.

One of my key servers stopped working. I have an alerting system that tells me about such things, and it started sending me emails. So I hastened down to the Data Center (my garage) and smelled burning. I pulled the server off the rack, and it was clear what had gone wrong - the power supply. The fan that is supposed to keep it cool had locked solid (they do that after several years).

I replaced the fan, and the power supply worked ... until I plugged in the hard drive, and then it died. Well, it isn't worth trying to fix a power supply, they're so cheap, just a fiver or so. So I replaced it, and everything is working fine now.

Getting the needle

I've got a date for my jab, 17th May.

I've been pretty much at a standstill on caching, because walking is painful, on account of my hip bursitis (or tendonitis), and that's very frustrating. Sitting down is fine, but walking hurts; sometimes more, sometimes less. And standing still hurts. So when I walk, or when I stop and look for a cache, it's constantly painful, and that isn't conducive to going out.

I'm to get a local anaesthetic in my leg before the jab; that's telling me that without the local, it would be *very* painful, which means that even with the local, I'm not looking forward to it ... except that my reading on the internet says that I get pretty much immediate relief from the pain, which will be welcome.

Fingers crossed.

Monday 7 May 2012

Saturday 5 May 2012

A Knight cache

Last night, I (accompanied by SimplyPaul, Figures and Heffalump007) did one of the best night caches I've done.

It started with an excellent puzzle, solved with help from ladysolly, who pointed out that it would be a good idea to read the cache page.

Then out to find it, with SP, Heff and figures. I was glad that I'd brought the big UV torch, I don't think that one of the little keyring jobs would have sufficed.

So I climbed over a stile and set off in the wrong direction, only to be called back by the others. And we followed the fire tacks. Then we spotted the first double tack, and fanned out to look for what we could find. SimplyPaul found what we needed, in a place I that I'd said couldn't possible the possible, and we pressed on. After that, it was a matter of following the trail and finding the info at the double-tacks, until we finally wound up at the triangle of tacks.

Finding the container took a while - a very sneaky hide! Then we followed the instructions, getting back to a place we'd been before, and then a bit of projection, and finally SimplyPaul located a big ammo can. Left small torch, TFTC

An excellent cache, well done.

Thursday 3 May 2012

More hip

Down to the doctor again, so he can do the same examination that he did before, only this time privately, so he can refer me for a scan. Same diagnosis.

Since he did the same examination as three days ago, he could have saved us both a bit of time by just sending me the bill but not doing the exam, but I suppose that would be unethical. Or would it?

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Too much drsolly

I got on the scales last night. 18 stone, 5 pounds. That's 257 pounds, or 117 kilograms. And that's too much.

Something Must Be Done. And the only thing that's going to work, is to eat less, and cut out some of my favourites altogether. Exercise is a good idea, but I'm already doing as much as I can, by going out caching.

Being so badly overweight is not only bad for my health, it also must be bad for my hip problem, which doesn't hurt when I sit or lie down, but hurts when I put weight on it. So putting less weight on it must be a good idea.

So how much will I lose? Well, a bit of research on the net says that my ideal weight is 178 pounds, that's 12 stone 10 pounds. So I could do without 80 pounds.

Just so we know what 80 pounds is - if I tried to lift 80 pounds, I'd be running a strong risk of putting my back out again. Or, so put it another way, my bike weighs about 40 pounds, so that's two bikes. No wonder I struggle to get over stiles.

So, I ask again, how much will I lose?

I don't know. It depends on how long I can live without all the nice things to eat. Right now, I'm looking at a hot cross bun, but I'm not going to eat it.

Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted here.

The first cuckoo

Today I heard my first cuckoo.

I went out caching near Wycombe, intending to to a loop on foot, then one on the bike. But the first one I did looked bikable, so I got on two wheels and trundled round. It's still very soggy underfoot (will this terrible drought never end?) which made it tougher, but I got round without serious problems. While I was going round, I heard my first cuckoo of the year. That's always a great harbinger of summer.

By the time I got back to the car, my hip was giving me much gyp, so I decided to leave the second loop for another day, and did a few odds and ends instead. Cache of the day was the grossest cache I've ever done. I've done a few caches that are hidden in fake dog poo, inclulding one quite large one where the hint was "under a log" (but it didn't say what sort of log it meant). Another one was in a dog poo bag, hanging on a bush. This one wasn't fake dog poo, it was something much more horrible. I won't spoil it for you by telling you what it was, or which cache. But well done the cache setter.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Talking to Barclaycard, and seeing to my hip

I needed to talk to Barclaycard recently, to clear up a minor matter, involving a payment of £5. It turned out to be surprisingly difficult, but I have learned some useful things.

1. When you call them, you get to talk to a robot, which has it's own script, and you have to follow it before you can get to where you want to. And then you get a menu of several choices, and you need to choose one of those.

No, you don't. Press 6 and you're talking to a human. Or so they told me.

Not quite true. I tried it, and spent 15 minutes trying to talk to the person I talked to last. Their robot took my card number, and my age and home phone number. Then I spoke to Rajish, who needed to take the same info again, because (he said) their robot didn't pass that over to them. So then I asked to speak to Richard Moir (he's in the Complaints Department, and is wonderfully patient and polite, ideally suited to the position he's in), and he said I couldn't. And after a bit of discussion, he said I could. Hold music. More hold music. While this hold music is playing, I'll tell you the other two things.

2. They'll tell you their first name, but not their last name. Jasmine wouldn't even tell me what department she worked for. But you can ask for their company number. For example, Ashish is BEUXAK7, Sumit is BEUSXT4. Rajish is 9570. I like to take the names of people I speak to, because so often I get asked "Who did you speak to before".

3. When you're sitting quietly having a cup of tea, and the phone rings, and someone claims to be from Barclays and wants you to give them personal information so that they can verify you - how do you know that it really was Barclays? Answer - you don't. It might be someone naughy, fishing for your ID info. So, what  you can do, is get their name and ID number and call them back, but not on  a number they give you (obviously), but on the number which is on your credit card, because you *know* that's this number really is Barclays.

Or, you can have a pre-agreed password with Barclays, set up at a time when you're certain that you really are talking to them (for example, you called the number on your card). And then, when they call you, they have to give that password before you'll go through their identification procedure.

I set this up. But when Richard Moir called me, he refused to give it until I'd been through their ID procedure, which rather begs the whole point of the password.

So I insisted. I made it clear that we weren't going any further with the call (he'd called me) until he gave me that password. And eventually, he gave in. And from now on, that password will be used each time they call me. Problem solved.

More hold music. Meanwhile, I'm still trying out calling Richard Moir. It's been 20 minutes now, and I think I'm going to hang up, or I'll be late for my hip appointment.

So I hung up, and went to get my hip seen to. The clinic was in Aylesbury, and after driving round the roundabouts a bit, I found it, and parked in the station car park. The pay-and-display machine said "fees according to the notice", but there is no notice. So I tried giving it £1, £2 and £3, pressed the button for a ticket, and each time got my money back. So I gave up, and just parked, hoping that their pay-and-display inspectors are as dilatory as their machines.

 I saw a very nice Dr Griffiths, who thinks it's probably tendonitis rather than bursitis (the symptoms are very similar). And he thinks I should have an ultrasound scan before he applies a needle; it's better to treat the exact position than get approximately near to it. So we set up an appointment at Stoke Mandeville for this. He explained that this would take a month or so, and then a few more weeks before they send him the result, and then I could make an apppointment to see him again and that it was entirely possible that by the time all this has happened, my hip would have sorted itself out.

Two more months. Hmph. This has already been going on for seven months, of which the last two I've been trying to see if I can get treatment for it, and it's about as bad now as ever.

So we discussed "going private". Same service, but a lot quicker.

I do think the NHS is wonderful, and entirely suitable for many purposes, but as far as my hip is concerned, it's been two months since I decided to seek treatment, and all I've had so far is a diagnosis by a physiotherapist who recommended stretching exercises, and a referral by another physio to Dr Griffiths. My hip isn't a big problem - it's one I can live with. It doesn't hurt if I'm sitting or lying. But when I go out walking, it does hurt, and I like going out geocaching, and I really do need the exercise. So, I'm "going private".

Some excellent news, though. Dr Griffiths told me that I won't make things worse by going out walking! And more good news - Richard Moir offered me £10 as compensation, which I accepted (although when he offered me a second £10 I refused, I'm not sure why, maybe I felt I didn't deserve it).