Thursday, 31 July 2008

All correct, moving on...

OK, nothing to do with buses this time, just a general burble :)

It's my last day on holiday with my partner today; I drive back to London again tomorrow, to go back to work, suffer the London traffic and passengers, oh dammit I need another bloody holiday!

Oh, and the dogs have caught on. Two marvellous German Shepherds, whose names I will change to protect the completely insane ;)

'Achtung' is a reliable, friendly, very observant dog, whose claim to fame is leaping into the paddling pool in the garden last week, while everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine - before the microburst rain, more on this in a moment - and liberally applying massive splash value to all assembled. Including drinks, food, et al. Clever muppit that she is, she then exited stage left at lightspeed, having probably realised that the resulting screaming, shouting, yelling, and towel hunting, was because of her, lol!

'Chunky' (because she's a few chunks short of a tin of Winalot!) is a completely nutty dog; friendly, curious, loving, and a complete coward, she'll race under the table and protect the carpet. You all know the type :) Yep, she even scares herself while barking at her own shadow! When the microbursts hit earlier this week, she outdid herself: She bowled me over as she raced back inside! Comments of "What planet am I on?" were heard for around a minute after the impact!

Microbursts: One moment it's clammy, hot, sunny, and there's no wind, the next you've ducked due to a massive clap of thunder right above your head, and there's a lake outside the front door, and both dogs are peeking out from behind your heels asking "Boss, what just happened?, oh, and the doggy toilet's full again!"

Anyhow, this morning, both dogs sussed that I'm leaving tonight. Chunky slept at the foot of the bed last night (not something she normally does), and this morning, Achtung was patrolling the bedroom as I had a lie-in, glancing up to me to check I was still there, and that I hadn't surreptitiously packed up all my stuff in the night. Satisfied that all was correct, she would glance at me again, and I'm damn certain she gave a nod each time as if to say "All Correct, moving on" before nipping out, probably to update Chunky!

I don't have pets at home, as I live in a flat (it's cruel to both cats and dogs to keep them indoors all the time when you're at work, in my not so humble opinion), so when I go back home, I really miss those two nutters. I miss my partner too, but that's a different kind of 'miss'; My partner can happily hop a train or coach (no driving licence!) to come visit me - not so the two lovable muppits disguised as German Shepherds!

Oh well... winter break coming up in a few months, a few weekends until then, and oh yeah, I may even be moved out of London by then!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Welcome to the Twilight Zone / Hotel California / Dimension Zod...

OK, I've just got back to my other half's place, after what was, until we went to come back, a very nice day out shopping and going to the cinema (Wall-E, go see it - it's hilarious! - here's a clip on IMDB for you to enjoy...), and now, thanks to Reading Councils apparently completely intransigent and arrogant Road Planning team, it's rant time...

Getting into Reading (the place, not the method of understanding the written word, although it's obviously related!) is a doddle; the signage is bang on, the SatNav makes it easy, and the parking is right on the shopping centres.

Just don't plan on leaving with ease, or at all.

Reading: Welcome to the Twilight Zone... or is that Hotel California? Or maybe the Dimension Zod?

OK, you park up at the Oracle Centre (for example). Four hours later, you pay he princly sum of five quid to free your car from their car pound - I mean car park, and then spend fifteen minutes queuing to get out of the damn place. And in doing so, you miss the ONE bloody sign showing you the way to leave town.

So, the Satnav bravely recalculates your new route to leave Reading by the town drain - I mean down train - and you wind up meeting every one-way street (head on), every changed priority road (SatNav: "Cross the traffic lights and go straight on" You: "I CAN'T YOU INFERNAL PILE OF ROBOTIC GARBAGE! FOR THE FIFTEEN BILLIONTH TIME, IT'S ****ING BLOCKED TO CARS!").

All this, until, finally, reduced to being a gibbering exhausted Human wreck in the driving seat of your car, a traffic warden notices you, takes pity on you, and taps on the window "Turn right over there, mate, and go straight on. Leads straight to the M4 at Junction eleven".

Cue a complete state of total utter and almost insane sobbing and screaming...

OK, I'm exaggerating a little. But not by much. It's enough to drive a man to drink, I kid you not.

It's like trying to navigate through West bloody Sussex. The road signs there are all screwed up to hell and back, and as informative as a hole in the head, too. I'm sure their civic planners of whatever they're bloody called went to the same school of DisInformation.

Reading, it's official. Your Council SUCKS.

One more place NEVER to move to!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

You couldn't make this **** up, I kid you not!

So, here I am, still spaced of mind and slacked of jaw.... and here's why...

I'm on a break from work, called Annual Holiday. So, I'm spending a goodly portion of it with my better half, who lives near Reading. Since I'm coming through Bracknell as usual, could, I was asked, I stop off at the KFC, and pick up a family bucket, please? Sure, no problem says I.


Everythings' fine and dandy, up to the point where I pull into the KFC. I ask for the 12.99 family bucket, only to be told in a vaguely French accent by the girl behind the counter: "Sorry, we 'ave no Chicken".


"Sorry, what?"

"We 'ave no chicken. We 'ave everything else, but no chicken".

"Right. OK, lemme wrap my brain around that for a moment. This is a KFC, correct?"


"Kentucky Fried Chicken, emphasis on that last word, Chicken. And yet you have no chicken".


"Right. Fine. Bye."

And that was that. I wasn't going to get into a silly and fruitless argument or discussion regarding the merits or otherwise of remaining open when one doesn't have the core item for doing business. I'll leave that to the snottygram I'll be writing to KFC Head Office in the morning.

But Ye Bleeding Bloody Gods On Sticks! No Chicken? In a K bleedin' F Bleedin' C?!


You couldn't make this stuff up when drunk!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Same place, different day... muppit parking version #3...

OK, here we are again, this time someone else beat the 4x4 to the prize parking spot.

If the cars pictured belong to you, please, drop a comment explaining just why you parked in such a completely inconsiderate and muppit-like way. I'm sure we all want to know :)

The red car got away with it - this time. The 4x4 is parked up behind the red job, by the way. Sorry for the lack of additional photos, I was a little late on the schedule, only had time for one hurried photo :)

Thursday, 17 July 2008

More muppit-like parking.

OK, those who recognise the place in the photos now know who I work for. Tough. There's 400 plus in my depot - now figure out who I am ;)

Anyhow. The four-wheel-drive tank shown in the photos here is parked in the emergency bus stop section of this branch of Sainsburys. That's right. EMERGENCY bus stop. Buses in both directions of travel call at the same stop (to the right, off camera, in the second photo), and if one breaks down, to allow services to continue, we have an emergency stop. Sainsburys learned from the last time, before they rebuilt the stop. Unfortunately, their staff, and this is an assumption here, have not: I'm assuming its one of their staff, as I keep seeing the same damn car parked in the same damn place, day in, day out, wherever I drive this particular route.

You'd think that Euro Parking would have put a fine on this muppit already, woldn't you?


It appears that if you work in this branch, you could probably park on the branch managers' foot, and get away with it.

Wonder how they'll react when a bus breaks down, and TfL uplift their cars for being illegally parked on a bus stop?

It happens, you know. Witness this photo!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Operation Get A Life is back on the cards...

OK, it's official: I've had it up to here with living in London; the original idea was to sell up, and with the profits of the home sale, find a better place to live without requiring a mortgage. This is now not an option; ten years ago, you could be reasonably assured that if you owned your place inside the M25, you could move out of London to almost anywhere in the UK, and move up a step in the property ranks without needing a mortgage, as the sale of your place in London would fund the new out-of-London place completely. This is not now the case, and hasn't been for "a number of years", and this was confirmed by the estate agent I spoke to over the weekend.

So, while I'm planning on getting out of London as rapidly as possible, buying a replacement home is now not a viable or realistic option. So, I'll be renting for a while, by the look of it. No problem, then: Thousands on thousands of folks do that each month, and while it is, yes, more expensive than a mortgage, it is, at least, available in the short-to-medium-term while I get my backside in gear, so to speak.


Now I have to address storage options. Yes, storage. You think a rented place is going to be as large as my current place? think again. Storage. And this is where it's gonna get hellishly expensive, unless I get creative. Much of my stuff I'll likely get rid of, and start afresh in the new place (at that time); the rest I'll either leave behind (for the new home owner of my current home), or store.

The Times on Saturday 5th July 2008 in the "Money" section, page 8, had an interesting article "Box Clever or brace yourself for a hefty bill". The upshot is that renting storage is - or can be at least - as expensive, if you're not careful - as renting central London retail space. Not a heartening thought, that. So, time to be creative. I have a couple of options, one free (whoopee!), one not so.

Free option: use a friends' spare garage space. Pros: Free, available. Cons: Relies on goodwill of friend, and you must be ready to shift it somewhere else rapidly if the space is needed by the friend for any reason whatsoever - it's his or her property that you're using as storage space, after all; furthermore, if you use this option, you must, at the drop of a hat, be ready to lend any and all assistance to said friend - they're doing you a favour, so obviously the reverse must be true.

Paid-for option: use as little storage space as you can: Get rid of the large items before you move, and pack the stuff you retain in as small a physical space as humanly possible - likewise, you must shift it into storage yourself as well: This means renting a van, boxes, and so on, and getting a damn good padlock, storage insurance, and so on.

It is not going to be easy. Especially as I'm planning to get out of London as rapidly and as reasonably as I can.

But then, nothing worthwhile ever IS easy, is it?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

So much for my attention to detail - a cautionary Radio Ham tale...

Well, they say we learn by our mistakes, don't they?

Here's a silly an easily avoidable fubar you can all relate to (if you're a radio amateur, that is)...

So, here I am, at my partner's place for some desperately needed depressurisation time, and also having taken along my FT-817 (a very portable lightweight two-way radio, which is able to operate over many different radio frequency bands), with my partners' permision, began to set up a test station for an evenings low-power (or QRP as its' known) operating.

So, with my 'Miracle Ducker' antenna (an expensive but promising portable all-HF band antenna system consisting a quite good matching box and a long "random wire" cable) in hand, I looped the plug end of the cable on the spike of the upstairs bedroom window opener to secure it, and dropped the coiled cable out the window. No problems thus far, and all secure.

Realising that the cable was too short to reach the other end of the garden, I also brought some paracord (the green string that the army uses with wild abandon, and that you can get in your local Milletts shop); one end of this cord I tied to the free (non-plug) end of the antenna cable. I then proceeded to attach the other end of the paracord to a tree, and haul the combined and heavy (there was the first hint) cable to a horizontal and slightly less than drooping position.

There was a twich, and a faing pinging sound from the window at this point, which was the second hint that should have alerted me to the impending disaster that was coming, but since the only cables I'd used before for wire format antennas had been military issue stuff that's very tough (for those in the know: Clansman dipole wires), thought nothing more about it.


The cable unhooked from the window spike; I was looking the wrong way, and there was a little wind which was causing the odd twitch in the line, so didn't notice any tell-tale sags or twitches in the line. At this point, the 'BNC' plug on the end of the cable hung up on the window spike. Not good.


The plug broke free from the cable, and the entire cable fell to the ground. This, I noticed, of course.

It was at this point I realised that I had a problem, but did not think I had much of one - attachment ideas often release when you don't want them to, after all. I just thought it was the embuggerance of having to reattach the cable to the window spike.

Wrong, of course.

When I walked back to the other end of the cable, what I saw caused the air to turn a wee bit blue (ok, a LOT blue). The centre pin of the plug, still soldered to the cable, was looking me square in the face. No sign, of course, of the rest of the plug. Wouldn't matter anyhow, as I had a busted plug on my hands, and no spares or even tool kit - the point of operating portable is that you shouldn't NEED a tool kit. So much for that idea, folks (and that's on the list now, too: Portable tool kit).

There was no bloody way I was going to be able to use the antenna cable this time over; it was well and truly buggered, busted, and fubared. Call it what you like: It was broken.

And I'd broken the damn thing.

Oh..... pooh.

NEXT time, folks, I'll use a slightly more robust antenna/cable set, that I'll construct beforehand. It'll be a random wire setup still, but with decently attached connectors and attachment hooks at each end. The only drawback? It won't be truly quick to set up. Ho hum.

Here's the moral: Trailing antenna cables are strong: Antenna connector plugs are most emphatically NOT. Next time, use either a proper fixing kit, or a dedicated outdoors antenna kit!

Here endeth the unfortunately rather annoying lesson!