Saturday 29 June 2013

Big bike bash round Highclere

At last - the servers are behaving, the weather is decent, my bike is straining at the leash ... so I went to Highclere, where there were a lot of caches, mostly on small roads. I wound up with 65 caches and no DNFs, but that was because I met Ron and Celia (Ailec Nor). Actually, I met them twice, we were doing slightly different routes.

First of all, I parked near the first cache that I did. I chose a nice quiet residential road, no yellow lines, and I wasn't near anyone's drive. While I was getting ready, a local trundled out of his house and called over to me. "Are you going to be parked there all day?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "There's a car park near the village hall, you should use that," he opined. Well, I hadn't seen this car park, and I already had my bike out and assembled, so I wasn't keen to move. So I pointed out to him that this was a public road, no parking restrictions, and I wasn't blocking anyone's access. "You'll be in the way later, loads of cars will park here." Oh, really? I took no notice of him, and he went away. I got back to the car for lunch, and again at six pm. Both times, there were two cars parked in the road, including mine. There was room for a dozen.

The first time I met Ron and Celia, they were coming back from completing a multi that I was just starting. Celia offered to guard my bike while Ron showed me where the cache was, which was just as well because it was 30 meters away from where my GPS said, and I probably wouldn't have found it.

One cache I'd spent 10 minutes grovelling for, Ron came along, reached up and had it in his hand.

Another cache, I somewhat misinterpreted the hint, but while I was doing the next cache along, the true meaning of the hint came to me, and I was Enlightened. And I went back and got the cache.

Another one, I rummaged for it for a long time, but eventually gave up. Later, I phoned Celia, and, of course, they'd found it immediately in a place I hadn't prodded properly. So I went back, and this time I had me +6 Stick of Poking, and found the cache.

So a good day out, but my back is feeling the strain. I'd guess I'll be OK tomorrow.

A package arrived while I was out - I was hoping that it was the new bike motor, but it was two pairs of trainers from SportsDirect, and another mug. The trainers seem to fit OK.

Friday 28 June 2013

More drives fail, and another motor ordered

Two more hard drives failed, in the same server! I'm starting to detect the faint odour of fish. I'll replace and reload them. But I'm wondering if there's some problem with that server.

I looked into the price of hard drives now. They come in at:

2tb £55.25
3tb £76
4tb £111

It looks like these 4tb drives are the ones to get from now on. My big boxes will take 14 drives, so that's 56 terabytes in one box. But I don't need to order any just yet; I have several 2tb and a couple of 3tb drives lying around; guarantee replacements for drives that failed. And, as usual for this field, the longer you wait, the lower the prices fall.

On the bike front - I've ordered a replacement 24V motor from Alienocean. The price was, I thought, very reasonable, but that's because it doesn't include the controller, throttle etc (which I already have). And it's just the motor, not the whole wheel. So I'll have to remove the old wheel from the non-working hub, and install it on the new hub, which might be a bit fiddly and time-consuming, but I'm pretty sure I can do a good job of it.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Disappointment from SportsDirect, server problem and more on the bike.

I got an email back from them after I complained. They only sent one pair of trainers, because they were out of stock on the others. Huh. I'd have been happy to take a substitute in colour, but they didn't ask me. I have no idea how they're going to do the refund. Not my problem, really.

So I've gone back to their web site and ordered another pair. Two more pair, actually, because the pair that did arrive, fits well and feels good on the feet.

I'd planned to go out caching today, but had to abort. Late last night, I discovered a bit of a problem with one of my servers, and didn't get to bed until 3am. And then Safehosts lost me access to the remote power cycler (they're using Smoothwall as their firewall, which crashed on them; I stopped using that several years ago, because of the problems I had with it), and it was 12 hours before they sorted that out. Speaking of ISPs, Daisy (who provide my leased line and messed up my reverse DNS recently) have been in touch, trying to persuade me to buy more of their services. I gave them to understand that I'd want to see a lot more reliability from them first. So they gave me a special number I could call for tech support. Nice of them, but I decided to test it, and when I phoned it, it was "this number is not in use ...".

I think I understand the problem with the new bike wheel and the old battery. I think the motor tries to pull so much current that some safety cutout operates. I have two ways of dealing with that short-term. The first is, when the ammeter on the bike shows the red light, that's telling me "too much" so I can ease off on the throttle before the battery cuts out. The second way, is I've put the switch that leads to the power cycler, near the front of the bike, so I can toggle it without having to reach back. Toggling it, puts the battery back on again.

In the longer run, I have two plans. One is to buy a new battery from the same place I got the wheel; that will give me a 30 AH battery (the ones I use now are 10 AH) which will hopefully be able to supply the full current, but that is one heavy battery; 25 pounds weight (my existing batteries are 7 pounds). But it will fit in the bike pannier, and last me all day. Because it'll be on the pannier, it'll be quick-remove, so that I can whip it off whever I need to lift the bike over an obstacle. And I have a quick-release electrical connection, made from a computer kettle-plug extension cable.

The other plan is to buy a new motor from Alienocean. But then I'll have to put the spokes and rim onto it. Which I'm sure I can do. But that will leave me with three motorised wheels on two bikes.

On bike.2, the rear wheel is starting to wobble a bit. New bearings needed, I think, but because that's not part of the electrical system, any bike shop should be able to help me.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Tuesday 25 June 2013

By bike round Southampton

I found a lovely spot for parking near the Riverside Walk, and set off from there. I did one long tour of the area, getting back to the car at 5pm for lunch. Forty caches done today, but several DNFs.

Monday 24 June 2013

More bike maintenance

First of all, my new trainers arrived. It's odd, though, I ordered two pair, and only one pair arrived, plus a free SportsDirect mug (hurrah, I like those!).  I suppose the other pair will be a separate delivery? I'm wearing the ones that arrived now, and they fit just fine. So, it looks like it isn't a silly idea to buy footwear over the internet.

I decided to fit a longer power cord to the bike, so that as well as being able to put the bike battery on top of the bike rack in the bag supplied, I also have the option of putting it a lot lower, in the saddlebags. This will make things more stable, of course.

Taking the bike for test runs, I'm finding that it will run at full power, but if I try to use full power to accelerate from start or from a slow speed, the battery cuts out (I'm guessing there's a safety cutout that thinks I'm pulling too much current) and I have to power-cycle the battery to get things working again. That's not a killer problem, especially as I have a switch in a convenient place to control power, but it could get annoying. So I'm looking into ordering a battery from the same Chinese place the wheel came from; I can get a 20 amp-hour battery for about the same price that I'd pay in the UK for half the capacity. And hopefully, it won't suffer from the cut-out problem. And I can ask them to send it airmail, for a small extra cost.

Back to bike.2, the one I'm currently using. I put new batteries in the speedometer, and while I was doing that, I noticed that the front tire was almost totally flat. I took the inner tube out, and, as I expected, the place where I had repaired the puncture (which I caused by putting the tire back on badly) is leaking.

The hell with this; I don't want a problem when I'm in the middle of nowhere, or even when I arrive at the start of my circuit and get the bike out. So rather than try to patch it again, I decided to put in a new inner tube, it's not like they're a lot of money (about £9 for the thorn resistant ones I like to use). I opened up a Kendra tube package, only to find that I'd used it to store two ordinary (i.e., not thornproof) inner tubes. Oops. Never mind, I have one in the car, and I fitted that, and this time I put the tire back on using my thumbs, not the tire levers which had caused the previous puncture. So then I went to order a couple of thorn-resistant inner tubes (because I like to have a couple of spares) only to find that my supplier only had one available. So I bought that, and asked him to tell me when he gets more in stock.

I also changed the rear brake pads; the front ones look OK. That's probably because I mostly use the rear brakes for slowing down, and I only use the front ones when I need to stop in a hurry, which doesn't happen often, or when I need to come to a complete halt. So they get a lot less wear.

Tomorrow, I'm planning a bike ride round Southampton, my first outing since the 17 mile circuit I did last week.

A wedding

This evening, ladysolly and I went to Jo and Neil's wedding, which was great fun. I met a couple of old IT folks there; one of which was exactly my vintage, and had used the same computers and programming languages that I had.

For me, the high point of the wedding was when the groom used a computer video display as background for his singing. His singing was pretty good, but the video display consistently showed just the bottom half of the screen, and I almost fell off my chair laughing. A useful lessing on "never trust a computer for anything important".

The food was good, and the wedding cake was excellent, but the sound was too loud. Maybe it's just me, but I found it so loud as to be actually painful, and had to go outside. Actually, it wasn't just me, several other people did exactly the same. I asked the band to amplify less, and they seemed to be turning a volume knob, but after they'd done that, it was still so loud as to be painful. Next time I go to a wedding, I'm going to take a decibel meter, and insist that the band stay within the health-and-safety maximum, which is (I think) 96 decibels, which is still very loud, but doesn't cause actual pain.

It was a very good wedding, however, and everyone had a great time.

On the way back, I passed a cache at a milestone, so naturally stopped off to sign the log.

Saturday 22 June 2013

New trainers

After my 17 mile jaunt in trainers, I had a large blister on my right foot. I consulted daughter.1 on this, and she thought that maybe my 20 year old trainers are ripe for replacement. Looking at them, I can indeed see that they're rather worn, as are two other pair that I have. It's so difficult to throw away things that seem to be working fine.

The walking boots I bought over the internet were a success, so I thought that I could probably repeat that with trainers, so I went to the Sports Direct web site and had a look. I bought two pair of size 11 trainers for £20 including delivery; one has Velcro fastenings, which I rather like, and the other pair has a quite snazzy look to them. Will they fit? Well, even if they don't, I'm only £20 down. But I think they will.

Friday 21 June 2013

The wheel arrives!

I ordered it on April 22, so it's taken about nine weeks.

And it is very pretty. The first thing I did, was weigh it. The old wheel was 8 3/4 pounds, the new wheel is 13 1/4, that's 4 1/2 pounds more. Ouch!  Especially when lifting over obstacles. The inner tube and tire adds another 3 pounds (I use very think inner tubes to reduce punctures, and kevlar-reinforced tires). And the 10 AH, 24v batteries I use are 7 1/4 pounds, for longish routes I also carry a spare in my saddlebags.

So I stripped the inner tube and tire off the non-working wheel, and put them on the new wheel. Then I put the wheel on the bike, and found that it wouldn't freewheel. That's a disaster, it means that if I run out of battery, I won't be able to use it as a pedal bike! But after I'd connected everything up, it freewheeled just fine - I don't know why it wouldn't at first. I then connected up the controller and various cables, switched on and applied power. The front wheel spun.


So I took it out again, and installed it the other way round. This means that the cables are all on the left, whereas before they were on the right. No problem.

Then I installed the bag that all the gubbins goes in, and discovered that one of the connectors was slightly too big to fit through the hole in the bag. So I disconnected the cables from that connector, threaded the cables through the hole and reconnected the connector.

I used the male plug from the defunct system to connect to the battery (wyhich is female), and wired everything to that, including the wattmeter that I'd got for this. To do this, my usual soldering iron didn't have enough power, so I got out my BIG soldering iron for the first time in many years, found it didn't work, found that the problem was there was no fuse in the plug, installed a 5 amp fuse, and it worked. And after tightening things, and checking things, I was ready for the first road trial, up and down the road outside my house.

I discovered a few problems. There was a purring noise even when I was freewheeling; I tracked that down eventually to one of the cables rubbing against the tire, easy to fix. And I needed to adjust the front brake, I think this rim is a bit wider than the old one.

A worse problem was that if I applied full power from a standing start, everything would shut down, and I had to unplug the battery and reconnect it to get power back. I solved that by adding a "reboot" switch near the battery bag, where I can reach it without having to open everything up, or even without getting off the bike. The switch was salvaged from a non-working PC power supply. But to make that work, I had to remove the wattmeter. Oh well. I'm not convinced that the wattmeter is really useful.

Then the throttle stopped working. After a bit of a struggle, I managed to take it apart, and I could see where the return spring had come adrift. It took me a while to coax it back into place, but now that's working fine. I don't trust it though, and it could stop working when I'm in the middle of nowhere. I have a cunning plan, however - the problem is the return spring, and I can use a rubber band as a throttle return until I get back to the car, so I won't get stranded.

There's a headlight that comes as standard, which includes the 5-LED battery condition display and a horn. Yes, a horn! It beeps delightfully, so I've taken the bell off. And I was able to install my PDA carrier at the front too.

My overall impression is that the new wheel has given the bike a new lease of life. The way that the battery bag attaches to the bike is that it rests on the back carrier and is held down by an elastic strap, so it's a bit less solid than the previous method, where everything was tightly controlled and couldn't wobble. And I don't like the extra 4 1/2 pounds of weight. But it's nice to have the beeper, the power display is much better and the headlight will be slightly useful in winter (not enormously useful though, because I'll still use my head torch).

The proof of the pudding will, of course, be in the biking. I'm not going to take it out just yet, I want to ride around locally a bit more first.

A birthday party

Daughter.1 is now half as old as I am; indeed, daughter.1 * grandson.1 = drsolly. So we had a birthday party at an expensive (I saw the bill) restaurant in London with daughter.2 and fiance, but without daughter.1's non-boyfriend (as in, "he's NOT my boyfriend").

We had lots of small dishes, and I pigged out somewhat; the weigh-in tomorrow will be horrendous. On the plus side, I've pretty much recovered from yesterday's exertions.

The wheel has been loaded for delivery tomorrow! I'll be here to greet it, as I'm not caching tomorrow. And I'll start installing it tomorrow in the bike that has the duff front wheel (bearings shot, motor intermittent).

Thursday 20 June 2013

Vat on the wheel

I got a letter from Parcelforce. The VAT on the wheel is £13.66, which I'm happy to pay, since there should be VAT on everything. There's also a "Clearance fee", which is Parcelforce charging me for doing the VAT administration, which I'm not so happy about, it seems excessive. Oh well. I've paid them both, so the wheel should be free to arrive any day now!

Wednesday 19 June 2013

17 miles on foot.

Ouch. Oo oo oo. My feet hurt, and I have a blister. My knees hurt, and my thighs will barely move, I'm walking like a penguin. Most of all, my back hurts, and that's just from walking. But I did it!

After I did the first dozen or so, things were going really well, so foolishly, I did a couple of extra ones in Lindfield. And one of them, that I'd thought was a trad, was actually a multi, so it took me a long way out of my way - hence the extra couple of miles.

It was a warm day - hot, even. And I was wearing my light coat, because showers were forecast (but didn't happen), so I went through a lot of water. About 2/3 round the route, I was passing a house as the householder was outside, so I asked him to fill my water bottles, which he did. People are kind if you don't ask too much of them.

As I went round, I noted the stiles that I would have had to lift over - about a dozen, mostly of average difficulty.

My strategy of wearing my trainers worked quite well. On the plus side, I didn't get highly painful feet, but on the minus side, I did get a blister. I didn't need the head torch - I went round in 9 1/2 hours, including the diversion at Lindfield and a few breaks for food and/or rest.

I saw this important notice.

So I did 73 caches today, and no DNFs. A great day out, but I'll be paying heavily for it tomight and tomorrow.

Reverse DNS vanished

DNS (Domain name service) is the thing that translates a name like into an IP address like rDNS (reverse Domain name service) is the thing that does the translation the other way round. You need DNS so that people can use names like instead of having to remember a stream of numbers. Reverse DNS, as far as I can see, is only used by some mail systems to prevent mail from being delivered if it came from a server that doesn't have rDNS. AOL, for example, do this, and very few others, because I don't think it has much effect on the flow of spam.

So, today, an email I sent bounced, and when I looked at the bounce, it wasn't the usual "email address doesn't exist", it was "no reverse DNS". What? WHAT???

I have reverse DNS, I know I do, I went to some trouble to get it working and make sure it worked. But suddenly I didn't. I tried "dig +trace ptr", but using the actual email address of the server, and it went into an infinite loop. What that is supposed to do, is display the chain of servers that try to do the rdns, and pass it on to another server that's delegated to do it.

And that meant that it's a Daisy issue. Daisy are supposed to delegate the rDNS for the block of IP addresses that I use to one of my servers, so that I can do the actual rDNS. That delegation clearly was no longer happening. Daisy supplies my leased line, and I'm not terribly surprised when they cock something up. So I phoned Daisy, got transferred to someone who knew about DNS and rDNS, explained the problem, and sent them an email giving details, and name servers, and explaining the problem. Then I went out caching, because there's not much else I can do.

I'm pleased to report that Daisy fixed whatever it was they'd cocked up, so I have my rDNS working again.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Tomorrow, 15 miles on foot.

Tomorrow, ladysolly will be playing bridge until 10:30, so I have a Late Pass, and I'm going to use it to do something fairly big.

Here's the plan, and it gives you some idea of how I make a fairly detailed plan for an outing (and planning is part of the fun).

It's the big new MBHW ring near Heywards Heath. The cache page says 14 1/2 miles, and that's about 5 miles more than I think I can do, so it's going to be tough. One of my biggest worries is my feet; if my boots hurt my feet, then everything after a couple of miles will be painful, the last 6 miles agony, and the only decent boots I have are my new boots, which haven't really bedded in yet. So I've decided to wear trainers for this, and hope that it isn't wet or muddy (the weather forecast is good). At least I won't be in a situation where each step is painful on my feet, a situation I've been in a few times. I'm expecting that the main pain will be my thighs, and it'll just be the pain of over-use. Another danger is my plantar fascitis, but I haven't had any symptoms of that for a long time. And I also had hip tendonitis, which put me out of action for a while, but that's been good for ages now. So I'm in good shape, and not entirely unfit (I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm fit) - losing 50 pounds has helped there!

I'll also need to carry food and water, three bottles should be enough, but I pass a pub in Ardingly at the half way point and another in Horsted Keynes at the 2/3 mark, so I'll be able to refill. I hope to leave the car at 10:30. Cache logs say it took them 7-8 hours, but I'm quite a slow walker, and there's 70 caches. If I do 9 per hours, then I'm going fast; more likely I'll do 6 per hour, so it'll take me 11-12 hours. Or maybe only 10. That means I finish between 8:30 and 10:30, and that means I'd better take a head torch, because it's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. And a spare PDA-GPS, because it would be so dreadful to lose that capability halfway round, and it's only a few ounces.

Why don't I take the bike? The bike, plus two spare bike batteries could easily cover the distance, and the bike would also carry loads of water, food, and anything else I might need. The problem is, when I look at the map, the route is almost entirely on footpaths, and lifting the bike (and saddlbags) over stiles gets very wearing on my back. Yes, I know you shouldn't lift with your back, and I don't, but even lifting with the legs puts a lot of strain on the back (and arms) because I have to lift the bike high to clear the stile or gate, and after about a dozen lifts, I'm running out of oomph. So it's 14/5 miles, on foot.

When I get back to the car, I'll be totally worn out, and on Thursday I'll be pretty feeble too, but on Thursday we get the train down to London to celebrate the birthday of daughter.1, so I won't need to move much.


To the dentist today for a root canal filling. These aren't as scary as they sound, or at least, not the way my dentist does the job. Drilling isn't as awful as it used to be when they used actual rotating steel bits; now it's all done with high speed jets of water. Well, nearly all - he does a bit of filing sometimes.

Anyway, the tooth in question had three roots, of which two were filled with dentine (tooth-stuff). He did the main one that had got infected, and then he did the other two. I can't imagine how fiddly this must be, but we used to use dentistry tools in the data recovery business, because the working parts of hard drives had become very small. At least we didn't need to worry about anaesthetic!

The tooth feels good and solid now.


One of my DVD readers has started acting the goat, so I want to replace it. And in doing so, I've discovered that IDE interfaced DVD readers are obsolete!

I need one for loading Linux onto computers; all the versions of Linux I have, are on DVD, and I don't want the hassle of having to switch to some alternative, if I can help it

My usual supplier Bluepoint don't seem to sell them at any sensible price, and my other supplier Aria seem to be selling mostly SATA DVD readers.

So I went to Ebay (where most of the offering is USB-connected DVD readers), and got one for £5.

It's scary. I remember when CD Rom's were considered to be the latest thing.

Monday 17 June 2013

Ashford again

Back to Ashford. But first - one of my servers failed. Inspection reveals that one of the hard drives thiks that it has zero gigabytes (actually it has 1000 gb). So I had to start off today with spending several minutes bringing up backups for that server.

Then, when I finally got out, traffic on the M25 was pretty bad, so a journey that should have taken 1 1/2 hours, took more like 2 1/2. Fortunately, this was going to be a long day out; ladysolly is playing bridge tonight, so I have a Late Pass.

But eventually, I got to Ashford. First I did a small ring; 8 caches plus a few extras. Then I relocated and did a lot of swanning about. I wound up with 36 caches, which isn't much for such a long day out.

Part of my route took me alongside the High Speed rail line, and I had hoped to get some great pictures of the train flashing past. It was not to be. So I took a picture of where the train would have been.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Windows automatic updates

I always knew that allowing anyone unfettered access to my computer would be a mistake. Even Microsoft. But allowing automatic updates does exactly that.

They did another automated update to my Windows 8 box yesterday. And iTunes stopped working. Again.

So I did a rollback to the system as of a week ago, and then I disabled automated updates.

What do I lose?

Mostly, I lose security fixes, fixing holes in Windows 8, and I lose the thing that detects malware. But I have a firewall, and that should stop external people getting into my Windows box better than the Microsoft efforts. And I don't use that computer for surfing the web or email, so it isn't going to see any malware anyway.

But why, I hear you asking, am I running Windows at all? That's because there's three "must-use" applications (iTunes, GSAK and Memory Map) that I use for geocaching, and they'll only work under Windows (I've tried using the WINE Windows emulator, and that wasn't good enough).

So, fed up with Microsoft's updates stopping iTunes from working, I've disabled automated updates.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Ashford outing

Today's Saturday, so I decided to go to Ashford. My reasoning is, the M25 will be lightly loaded, so I won't get stuck in a traffic jam. Plus, the weather forecast looked great.

I was right - light traffic. And the weather was pretty good, a couple of very light showers, otherwise fine.

I did two rings, the Birthday Bonanza, where nearly all the caches were fairy cakes and the final was a big cake. Very sweet. On the way round, I saw this delightful garden.

But to get to it, you had to go through this gate, which was kind of like a kissing gate, but six feet high, and rusted almost immovable.

And then I did the Ashford Amble, plus a couple of puzzles along the route.

One of those was "Encoded", a multi were each stage was a QR code. I found most of them fairly quickly, but the fifth eluded me, and eventually I gave up. But just as I was about to ride off to another cache, I realised that there was one place I hadn't looked, so I had a quick peek, and there it was! The final was easy.

So, 35 caches done today, and I'm bushed.

Friday 14 June 2013

Potato, potato

Two words, very similar in appearance and pronunciation - just the presence or absence of an "i", which means an extra syllable, so you can easily tell the difference when you hear them. But the meaning is completely different. Yesterday, I heard two people who I would have thought would know better, use "depreciate" when they meant "deprecate".

And while I'm on the subject, "affect" and "effect". Similar in spelling and pronunciation, completely different meanings. I so often hear one when the speaker probably means the other.

And finally, "defuse" and "diffuse". So many people either think they mean the same thing, or don't know there's two completely different words, or don't know the meanings of both.

I'm not going to bore you with the very different meanings of these words, you can look them up.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Computer woes

My Windows 7 auto-updated itself, and now iTunes can't see my iPhone. I tried rolling back the update, but it doesn't seem to have helped. How will I update the cache data on the iPhone now? I'll need to find a fix for this.

The computer can see the iPhone - I can access the pictures on it. But iTunes can't see it. 

And Anne says that she can't use her computer (which is a Raspberry Pi). I know why - it seems to have lost contact with the printer. Another problem I need to fix.

But before I could, I got a drop-everything problem - one of my customers has a malware-injection on 2438 of their html files on the server. I did a bit of googling, but I can't see a name for it. Not that it actually helps to know a name. Never mind - I can still get rid of it. I wrote a little program to cut it out, and I've cut my customer's access to the server. That's because the real problem is on his computer - he's gotten infected with something that uses his access to the server, to do the malware-injection. I've told him that he has to clean up his computer, then I'll give him the new password.

My new wheel is still awaiting customs clearance.

And I'm knackered from the last two days out, so tomorrow I'll be resting. I couldn't go out anyway, I have to have a blood test - every three months, they check that my blood has the correct degree of runniness, and adjust my Warfarin dose accordingly. In practice, I've been on the exact same dose for the last 16 years.

... later. OK, fixed the iPhone issue. I don't knw which of the things I did fixed it, but maybe it was ensuring that the Apple Bonjour service started automatically.

Chelmsford canter

I did three rings out east today. The first was Claire's Walk; I did a few others nearby for a total of 19 caches.

Then I did the Roxwell ring, another 20 caches.

And I wound up on the west side of Chelmsford, doing Grey's walk, which isn't a ring, it's various caches dotted around. While I was doing that, I saw a trig point. Here it is, nestling in the hedge. The countryside around here is very flat, of course.

Here's the view from the trig point.

51 caches done today, and no DNFs!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Two rings and a wheel

Cotterstock and Blatherwycke today; I did two rings. One of the caches I did, is one I've DNFed a few times before, but a recent log says it's been washed away (and was absent the last few times I tried it). So I replaced it.

The Cotterstock ring took me over a route I've been before. I guess a bunch of caches were archived to make room for this.

I also did a puzzle cache that required me to have made finds in 227 of the OS map squares. I checked, and I meet the requirement, so I grabbed the cache.

Great news! The wheel has arrived to the UK from China, and it's going through customs now. I'm guessing that I'll get an exhorbitant demand from HMRC, and when I pay that, I'll get the wheel in a few days.

While I was doing the second ring, I came round a corner on my bike and encountered a herd of 50-80 deer. The legged it, of course, but I was able to take this picture.

Today the pollen was bad for me; my eyes feel it, and I sneezed a few times. I get this every year at this time of year. It's not too bad, just a bit of a nuisance.

51 caches done today, and a couple of DNFs.

Weight report 54

15 stone 1 pound

Monday 10 June 2013

Whizzing around Watford

Sunday we went to London and saw daughter.1, daughter.2 and fiance, sister.1 and spouse, and grandson.1, so a nice quiet day.

Today I went biking round Watford. I did 40 caches, but I also had a large number of DNFs. I covered a lot of ground - I know this because I went through 2 1/2 batteries, and also because my back hurts.

And I saw the Warner Brothers studios at Leavesden, where the Harry Potter films were made.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Princes Risborough

We decided that today would be a light day - yesterday had left me quite tired.

To Princes Risborough with ladysolly; first we did a dozen Captain Jack caches, then a couple more nearer town, then ladysolly said her feet hurt, so I got on the bike (puncture was successfully fixed) for a couple of hours round the town - about 20 caches in total.

Friday 7 June 2013

Marching around March

First, a disaster narrowly averted. You remember I changed the front tire on my bike? Just before I set off today, I had a feel of the front wheel, and it was flat. It wouldn't actually have been a disaster to go out with that, because I have a spare inner tube and all the tools I need to change it, but it would have been quite annoying. Instead, I took bike.3, a 20-inch wheel foldable, the one I repaired the bottom bracket of a couple of months ago. Because bike.2 is out of action, waiting for the slow boat from China. Which, I understand, is still being rowed sollywards.

So, I didn;t actually march, I biked.

When I got to March, I did the Hereward Way, a bike ride along a drainage canal. Then I did another ring of about a dozen, and that was it - about 40 caches, but several DNFs. For one of the DNFs, I turned up at GZ at exactly the same time as a pair of workmen with spades, and they proceeded to dig up the local lamppost, in order to replace it. This lampost might or might not have concealed the cache, but if it didn't, I'd still be hunting for the cache about five feet away from two vigorous diggers. As I left, the mini bulldozer arrived.

At one point in my travels, I crossed the Meridian, always an exciting moment.

Actually, I crossed it twice, but the second time didn't have a nice monument.

While doing the second ring, I took the A47(T) instead of the old A47. That got me onto a dual carriageway with a central barrier, and by the time I realised that I needed to be 100 yards south of that road, it was too late. So do I carry on for several miles and double back at the next roundabout? Not on a bike, I don't. I got off, wheeled the bike back on the rather wide grass verge, then climbed over a nearly-impossible barbed wire fence (with the bike) to get to the old A47. 

Thursday 6 June 2013

Doctor and haircut

We're hearing a lot about NHS problems, especially A&E, but there's more. I visited my doctor today about a small lump on my elbow - nothing to worry about he said, after checking it. It's a cyst, he thinks, which is a small lump of fat that sort of coagulates and sits there for ever. Unless they get infected, in which case it's agony, antibiotics and possibly a small procedure, which is doctor-speak for operation when they think it's very minor. I did have that once, in my back, and it is very minor, but I can tell you it certainly isn't fun.

So before I went for my appointment, I checked the booking thing, just to check that it remembered my appointment (you might think that computers are infallible, but I know better). It covers the next four weeks, and lets you book a routine appointment (my little lump wasn't an emergency, of course). But ... there's no time slots available. If you went to the booking thing when I went there, you simply couldn't book an appointment.

I mentioned this to the doctor after we'd finished laughing about my little lump. He already knew. I pointed out that it's summer, his work is seasonal, and six months from now I can confidently predict that it will be winter. He already knew. I suggested that if they couldn't afford more doctors, maybe hire a nurse, because not everyone needs to see a doctor. He already knew, TPTB wouldn't hire a nurse.

Then it was his turn. Lipitol has just come out of patent, and the generic statin costs £1.75 per month, whereas the branded Lipitol costs £25 - would I be willing to take the generic? Yes, I would, I said. So he said, well in that case, I won't dial your prescription down to two months-wirth (I currently pick up three each time). I pointed out that reducing the prescription from three to two months, wouldn't actually save money - indeed, it would cost money because I'd be badgering the pharmacy 50% more often. Yes, he already knew, bt TPTB said that he has to do this. So I asked if, as well as ignoring this daft request, he could also up my prescription of Warfarin 1mg tablet from 168 per prescription, to 224, because otherwise I get a build-up of 5mg tablets that I can't use, because I'm on 7mg/month, which is one 5 and two 1s, so I need more 1s ... he agreed.

I don't know how they're going to solve the problem of having too many patients and not enough doctors, though. Maybe send more patients to A&E?

And while I was out, I did maintenance on two caches, and left a small larder of cache containers and log books for people who volunteer to do maintenance on the Chiltern Hundred when they go round.

And I stopped off for my annual haircut. There was nearly a dreadful disaster there, because I said "Take it all off" and she thought I meant "Shave my head", which apparently people do, but since I'm not going bald, no thanks. Fortunately, the misunderstanding was cleared up without anything awful having happened, and I still have my riah.

On the way back to the car, I popped in to Cartridge World, who told me that a refill for an HP Laserjet 6p would cost me £35. I didn't have the heart to tell him I could get new ones for less than that. And I visited the British Red Cross and bought five books for about £2 each.

Bike maintenance

While I was out yesterday, I noticed that the tread on the front (motor) wheel was looking very worn down, so I decided to change the tire. They cost only about £12, and that's for the kind that are Kevlar-reinforced and therefore more puncture resistant.

I also use "thornproof" inner tubes; what that actually means is that they're a lot thicker (and therefore heavier) than normal tubes. But I'm not racing, and I'm going over very rough ground sometimes, and I'm very keen not to get a puncture. Using the thicker inner tubes and Kevlar tires, I've not had a pucture yet.

So I took off the wheel, and removed the old tire. The inner tube looked fine, so I kept that. Also, one of the spokes had lost its nipple, so I replaced that, so that now I have 100% spokes. That wasn't easy - the nipple I tried to use was aluminium, and I couldn't see a way to get it into position so I could screw it into the spoke. So I found a steel nipple, which meant I could hold it magnetically to the screwdriver to get it onto the spoke. I tightened the spoke up, and then tried to put the tire on.

This is a folding tire - that means it doesn't have a steel rim, the rim is nylon, or maybe Kevlar. But that means that the tire is kind of shapeless, and I wrestled with it, trying to get it onto the rim for ages. Eventually, I decided to put the tire on without the inner tube in place, and when I had one of the rims of the tire in place, then I put in the inner tube, then I pushed the other tire rim into place, mostly with my thumbs, but with a little bit of help from tire levers at crucial moments. That worked a lot better.

The tire came from Asda, costing £11.48 (P&P extra). I'm already using one of these, and it's been fine.

Big day out

As planned, I went to Hanningfield Reservoir yesterday, and spent 11 hours caching.

First, I parked in what I thought was the car park for the nature reserve. After walking in a circle for ten minutes, I decided that it wasn't, and there was no access to the nature reserve. So then I parked in the right place, except that I followed the arrows for "4WD parking" which meant I parked a fair way from where I should have been.

No bikes allowed in the nature reserve, boo hoo, so I went on foot, and did all the caches in there except for the chirp, because I don't have chirpiness. That took about two hours; I walked about two-three miles (there's a puzzle cache in there too, which lengthens it a bit). On the bike, it would have taken half the time. Oh well. And the tracks were very bikable.

Then I relocated the car - the nature reserve car park closes at 5pm, and I knew I'd be back long after that. I parked near the reservoir, on a handy patch of grass. Then I got the bike ready, including all three batteries, both saddlebags, three bottles of water, the bike tools, sandwiches, spare GPS and a head torch. I wasn't planning to be back after dark, but it's better to have it and not need it than ... in the event, I didn't need the torch, or the third battery.

The first cache, number 1, took me 20 minutes. Most of that was spent in not understanding the hint. Number 57 was easy, but then I got completely stuck with number 56. I hunted for half an hour, and then gave up.

This was not looking good - it was now 12:30, and I really wanted to be back at the car before nightfall. Gulp.
But things picked up after that, and I was making quick finds for nearly all of them. There was one more DNF (but I was conciliated by finding a rather nice multitool not far from the cache), and a couple more that took a long time - longer than they should have.

I'd planned this so that when I got to number 16, I could bomb out and bike back to the car, missing out numbers 15 to 2, but things were looking good when I got to that point, so I pressed on. I do like to plan my day so that if something goes wrong, or even if everything takes longer than I'd hoped, I have a fallback plan, and I'm not forced to continue on.

I picked up five puzzles cache too; none of them were en route, they all needed a bit of a diversion. But as I was on the bike, that wasn't too bad. I usually reckon that when I'm on the bike, any time spent on the road is floccipaucinihilipilification, so a digression that is mostly along tarmac is not a problem.

I got back to the car at 8:30 pm, and sat drinking coffee and eating grapes, watching the sun go down and reading "Piece of cake" by Derek Robinson, a cracking Battle of Britain book.

I must have done about 20 miles, and when I got home, I was getting a bit of cramp in the leg. Also, the second toe on my right foot feels like it's been rubbing against something, so next time I go out, I'll wear a toe protector on it.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Not today, but tomorrow ...

I woke up today, I felt quite tired, and my back still hurt a bit from yesterday. So I went back to sleep, and had a quiet day.

But tomorrow, ladysolly will be out till late, so I will too. The weather is forecast to be dry (a it has been for the last few days) so I should get dry terrain - hopefully, no cloggy mud to act as a total barrier to bike wheeling. I'm planning to do a 14-16 mile route in Essex, around the Hanningfield Reservoir. Some 70-odd caches, but with an option to bottle out early if I need to. I'll be taking the bike, I think, and I'll carry two spare bike batteries, three bottles of water, a spare PDA, food and all the usual bike repair kit. I only hope that I don't have to lift that lot too often!

Still no sign of the new wheel from China - it's been in transit for five weeks now. A google search tells me that 30 days is about right. So, maybe this week?

Monday 3 June 2013

How I got blacklisted by the Jehovah's Witnesses

This all happened 20 or 30 years ago.

I was at home, programming up a flurry, and the doorbell went. I was a bit annoyed at the interruption - once your in the zone, with everything going well, an interruption like that is a bit like interrupting a juggler when he's got seven balls in the air.

So I went down to answer. It was a Jehovah's Witness, obviously oblivious to the problem he'd just caused. He wanted to have a chat with me; to his suprise, I invited him in and suggested that we study the bible together. Fortunately, he had his copy with him. And I went and fetched my copy.

"I'd like us to talk about the Flood," I suggested.

The thing about the flood, is that everyone remembers that the animals went in two by two, and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights.

But if you actually read the bible, they were cooped up in the ark for 375 days. And there were seven of each kind of clean animal, and two of the unclean. Although since the dietary laws came a long time after Noah, I don't know what "unclean" might mean.

OK, so now we work out how many large animals are on the ark - seven cows, for example, seven reindeer, seven red deer, seven moose, and seven buffalo ... you get the idea. And elephants (indian and African) and hippos, and rhinos, lions and tigers, oh my! And then we add in the fodder for all these for a bit over a year. Lions and tigers, of course, being carnivors, need meat, and freezing hasn't been invented yet, so we'll need more live animals to slaughter for them, and the fodder for those animals.

So we're talking about all this, and then we hit a bit of a problem. The ark wasn't big enough for all this stuff.

So my new friend explains that the Noah story is allegorical, it wouldn't have happened exactly like that. "Ah, I see," I say, relieved, "thanks for clearing that up."

And he left.

Now maybe you didn't know this, but some religions require their followers to believe that every word of their Holy Book is exactly and literally true. This gets them away from the messy situation where some of it isn't true, and then someone has to make guesses about which bits are true and which aren't, which rather negates the main value of a Holy Book. Plus you wind up with horrendous arguments about which bits are true and which are just a story. And when I say "horrendous arguments" we're talking religion here, so that means wars, and people being burned at the stake, and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition (which maybe you didn't expect), and fun things like that. Jehovah's Witnesses are one such religion that requires you to believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

So when my new friend got back to his church, he would have shared his new understanding with his pals.

Two days later, I got another visit. This time there were three of them, and my new friend wasn't one of them. I don't know what happened to him; the Witnesses don't have a Spanish Inquisition. So I invited them in for a bit of bible study - I'm always up for a nice bit of bible study. And we all hauled out our bibles, and started going over the Noah story.

The thing is, you just can't get a quart into a pint pot, and here were were trying to cram several gallons in. So we discussed and debated, calculated and estimated, and at the end of a long hard session of bible study, we divided 50-50; two saying that, well, it's Gods word, so it must be true, we just don't understand it because we're just feeble humans, and two of us saying "it must be metaphorical". I was one of the "feeble human" contenders, but that's a whole nastier problem than the bible being partly metaphorical, because if we can't understand the bible, then that severely limits its usefullness. And how can we know which parts we don't understand? It's a nightmare!

I don't actually know what happened next. I imagine the three of them went back to their church and started telling people one of those two uncomfotable theories. And I don't know what happened to my new friend. But I do know that since then I have never, ever been visited by Jehovah's Witnesses.

And that's how I got blacklisted by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Witchford wanderabout

A day out on the bike today. I set off, and heard a new bike noise coming from behind me. New bike noises aren't good, so I stopped to investigate, and after a bit of to-and-fro, I found that the tire was very slightly rubbing on the carrier. This is because I moved the carrier yesterday. And that was because it had become loose, and when I tried to tighten the bolts, I found that the thread wasn't gripping, so I changed it over to a different position. So I stopped on the track, got out my bike multitool, and raised the carrier by half an inch.

Then I arrived at the first cache, and spent half an hour not finding it. An inauspicious start.

But after that, I found lots and lots, even though for a few of them I had a long hunt. Until I got to the end of the circuit, where I DNFed the last one, and then DNFed the bonus. Maybe some other time.

Then I did another ring near Soham; 10 caches plus a bonus. One of the caches was a puddingstone in long grass. If I'd had a lawnmower with me, I'd probably have found it. Instead I did tiny steps around the area hoping to tread on it. No luck.

That meant that I was missing an important number for the bonus, but I made a guess, and found the ammo box.

After a couple more caches because they were there, I went home. I'm hoping to go out again tomorrow.

42 caches done today, and three DNFs.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Family day in London

Daughter.2 isn't here today, she's busy fomenting revolution in Turkey, or as she puts it "on holiday". But grandson.1 was in fine fettle, chasing bubbles that I blew. We watched Toy Story 3 and then 2, daughter.1 says she's played them 20 times now. My favourite part was when Buzz says to the villain "You killed my father" and he replies "Buzz, I am your father". I expect grandson.1 doesn't yet appreciate that bit.

I needed a day of rest after doing three rings yesterday. But I'm hoping to go back to Cambridgeshire tomorrow.

Over the last few visits here, my attempts to use daughter.1's broadband have been increasingly frustrating - poor connectivity and slow service. Today it was impossible. But I noticed that the wireless repeater wasn't getting signal either, and then daughter.1 said she wasn't either on her iphone, she was using 3g. So I moved my computer right next to the wireless point - still no joy. After a little thought, I rebooted the router, and after a minute or so, bingo! Everything is working great now.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Biking round the fens

I had a long day today, and a good day. It's not about the numbers, it's about the adventureI did three circuits.

The first was in Chatteris, 20 caches plus three extras.There, I made a big mistake when I started - I aimed for the second cache, and I went along a footpath next to the drainage canal. That soon turned into four foot high grass, and the closest I got to the cache was 50 meters - I realised it was the wrong track. So then I tried another route, going in to some sort of industrial site. That wasn't useful either - I wound up about 20 meters from the cache. So then I went to where I should have gone in the first place if I'd aimed for the first cache - a disused railway, which is one of my favourites for cycling on.

The second route was Manea, another 20-odd caches.  One cache was about six feet away from a wedding. I leaned my bike against a wall on the other side of the road, and casually mingled with the wedding party, said "Mazeltov" to the bride. The were dressed to the nines; I looked like something the cat dragged in, wearing my mud-spattered jogging trousers and my camo coat which as the advantage of not showing just how filthy it is. And a biking helmet, of course. They probably thought I was an eccentric uncle.

I spotted the cache, it was six foot up in a sign. So I casually leaned on the sign, and casually yawned and stretched. Then, turned away, I opened the container, signed the log, put it all back together, and did another yawn and stretch to put it back. I thought of asking if they'd mind me taking a picture of them all, but I decided not to, that really would be chancing my arm. Damn - I should have done that. Group photo!

So I got back on my bike and pedalled away before they could ask me what was going on.

The third route was Doddington; only a dozen caches, but entirely on tracks that weren't shown on my map, so I had to navigate by guess. While I was there, I was treated to a display of parachuting, and halfway through the display, I biked over a big white cross on the ground ... yes, you guessed it, I was at Ground Zero. How do I get involved in these things?

So a total of 54 caches today, and a very good day out. Here's some things I saw.

 Lucky them. I wish we had it.


And finally, a field of peas. I love peas. And beans.