Archive for the 'Thanks' Category

A Father’s Day Off

Posted by on June 20th 2010 in Celebrations, Just for fun, Thanks
Tags: ,

One happy Father, two generous kids, five well-chosen gifts.

The DVD just about completes my personal list of must-haves, and the kids loved every minute of it. Yet again, the scene with Rooney in the office handling two phone calls had me laughing so much that it hurt. Classic stuff.

I'm trying to conserve the consumables, but I never could resist a rusk.

Blogroll update

Posted by on January 15th 2010 in Blog on Blog, Blog on Site, Blogroll, Site update, Thanks
Tags: ,

This post by Martin prompted me to update my "GOTO" blogrolls to include a few more blogs and sites that I've bookmarked over the last few weeks.


Links added so far this year include:


They take the total to over 200 links, all supplied free-of-charge, none of them conditional on the target site having a reciprocal link.

I think I'll be having a links sort-out sometime soon - some of the dropdowns are dropping down a bit too much, so they need recategorising rather than culling. If you've any suggestions as to how to do this in a meaningful and useful way, feel free to let me know.

Anyway, feel free to have a mooch through the links - there may be a few that you've not seen before. If you find any errors or omissions, just holler and I'll get it sorted out.

Thanks for the heads-up, Martin 😎


Posted by on December 25th 2009 in Thanks

Well, that's me sorted for a few days :mrgreen:

Belt and braces

Posted by on May 2nd 2009 in A bit of a rant, Thanks, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Despite having the solemn promise about the replacement shed-panel delivery this afternoon, I just didn't trust them. Would you? Just letting things happen was getting me nowhere - I knew that I would have to make things happen. I'm good at that.

I called in unannounced at about 11a.m. and went straight to the back yard of the store to see what had happened to the replacement panel... it wasn't on the trolley... it wasn't in the goods-out area... it wasn't in the main store... it was back where we had found it on Thursday, buried under the rest of the bits of the other flat-packed 7x7. Somebody had been playing silly-buggers.

Back at the Customer Services desk I found the assistant that I had helped to sort out the panel on Thursday. He was genuinely shocked when I told him that the panel-swap had not taken place on Friday, and was gobsmacked when I showed him where said panel had ended up. He was apologetic to me, and we sorted the panel again.

I made it absolutely plain to him, and to everybody else within earshot at the tills and Customer Services desk, that I had had more than enough of this crap, and that the shit would fly fast and far very soon if I didn't get proper Customer Service. I even threatened to decorate the front of their building in a similar manner to the way that "Romanes eunt domus" was painted onto the walls of the Governor's Palace in Monty Python's Life of Brian. They thought that I was joking, but I wasn't.

He phoned the delivery contractors to find out when they would be arriving to do their pick-up - they would be there in about 20 minutes. We carried the panel to the goods-out area where I made him put a big instruction label on the panel, then I just stood there and waited - there was no way that I was going to leave until I had actually witnessed both the loading of the goods and the instruction of the driver.

After a few more minutes the van arrived and I watched the loading and the instruction - eventually I was happy enough to leave them to it, after I'd told them all about my shit/fan/impact prediction. I thanked the assistant and then went home to wait.

And an hour or so later, it was delivered. No ceremony, no recrimination, no hassle, just a bit of friendly banter and leg-pulling.

So here's a big thanks to Ben, the one assistant that had the balls to seize the horns of his dilemma, wrestle the beast to the ground and then stand triumphantly above it in his hour of victory.

Nice one, Ben!

Redox reaction

Posted by on February 19th 2009 in Thanks

Don't worry, it's not a chemistry-test!

The nice folk at O2 have been in touch to renegotiate the contract for my Xda Orbit phone. The timing was curious, as the contract's not up for renewal for another three months or so, but that didn't seem to bother them.

Anyway, a summary of the contract revision is as follows:

  • Calls: Increased from 300 to 600 minutes/month
  • Texts: Increased from 600 to 1200 texts/month
  • Web Access via Edge/GPRS/3G: Increased from "pay as you use" to Unlimited Free Access
  • Contract: Reduced from 18 months to 30 days rolling

And the cost for this lot?

They've reduced the monthly bill by 51%


It’s all in your head

Posted by on February 10th 2009 in Just for fun, Thanks
Tags: ,

On Saturday a fellow blogger alerted me to an excellent online mental challenge. It's called Zahada.

There's plenty of stuff there to challenge your grey matter for a good few hours - some riddles are so easy that you'll overlook the answer, others are really fiendish.

If you're tempted to have a go, here are a few tips that might be of help:

  1. Read the rules (you'll find them in level 1)
  2. Don't post the answers online
  3. Keep a record of your answers
  4. Some riddles have more than one answer
  5. Study the whole page, not just the obvious bits - some clues are "hidden"
  6. Think laterally rather than deeply
  7. Look out for bonuses

So far, there are two Phases. At the end of each Phase, you have the opportunity to add your name to the list of us winners:

Phase 1 Winners

Phase 2 Winners

Good luck. If you need help, just holler!

Thanks, George.  🙂

Only a thin covering on the top

Posted by on December 22nd 2008 in Blast from the Past, Pics, Rambling on..., Thanks

Jerome's been kind enough to send me copies of his pics taken during our walk around Cwm Idwal back in April this year, when we attended the OM Beddgelert Meet. Mountain-lovers will be impressed by the way he's captured the interplay between crag and cloud above the Idwal Slabs and Glyder Fawr, but my attention has been distracted by the degree of insulation-loss on the head of the beardy bloke in the foreground. No wonder it was a tad chilly on the top!

Thanks for the pics, Jerome!

Playing catch-up

The blog's now well out-of-date, so it's time to do a bit of catching up. Luckily for you lot, I'm not a stats-whore, so I'll keep things brief and cram everything into one or two posts so that there's not a pile of individual entries to wade through. Now, where to begin...?

  • After a weekend-long posting-restriction imposed by the SGL forum admin, on Monday July 14th I was banned. And yes, the ban is justified. After some unjustified comments made by some of the admin, I reacted, broke the rules and got what I deserved. My crime was to react by removing the content from some of my posts. Just mine. No posts by other members were edited by me. The official version is different, and sounds much more sinister - according to the ban screen, I am banned for "attempting to corrupt the SGL database", which is a bit like saying that I've attempted to eradicate all life from the planet just because I swatted an annoying fly in our kitchen. Luckily, there's no sign that I'll be extradited to spend the rest of my days confined to the Guantanamo Bay facility. Anyway, I deserved the ban, and I don't much care that it'll never be lifted, but at least I'll no longer be hassled by some admins who think themselves beyond reproach and who think that they never have to apologise for anything, even when they have been proved wrong. It's sad that they get the good admins (who are in the majority) a bad press.
  • Talking of things astronomical, I had a bit of a panic a while back when one of the scope mount's tracking-motors packed in. After an online chat with the retailer, arrangements were made for the defective items to be investigated and replaced. Everything's now fixed and working fine, thanks to the great customer service provided by Adam at Rother Valley Optics (retailer) and by Optical Vision Ltd. (importer).
  • There was a clear night here a week or so ago, so I set up the scope to test out the replacement motors and to let the kids have a good look at Jupiter. They were suitably impressed with the view, seeing clearly-defined cloud-bands on the planet and seeing all four of the largest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - the Galilean satellites, after Galileo Galilei who discovered them in 1610). After sending the kids to bed, I returned to the scope and had a reasonable visual observing session, finding M8, NGC 6530, M20, M22, Cr 399, NGC 6822 and a few others. The ISS passed over twice during the session, and there were a few meteors around. I didn't set up for imaging, so there are no pics. Since then, it's been cloudy almost every night.
  • Regarding other outdoors activities, there's precious little to report. I missed out on the Outdoors Bloggers' Dartmoor Meet because it was the weekend of my birthday and I didn't feel that it would have been right to bugger off for the weekend. Suffice to say that I got loads of nice pressies. :mrgreen:
  • I managed to fit in a drinking session with my friend Dave, who's a casualty of the recent round of redundancies at Thwaites Dumpers. He's taking it well, but there are a few folk I know from there who've been hit hard by the job cuts. I hope that they all get sorted out soon.
  • Gear-wise, I've been quite reserved about splashing the cash. I supplemented the money that I received as birthday presents in order to buy a SkyWatcher Auto Focuser from Steve at FLO, so that I don't have to faff about twiddling the knob by hand (go on, you make the puns). Even though it's not really auto (it's a motor with a control-box on a curly lead), it's a great bit of kit. Fed up with buying numerous adapters for allowing all sorts of electrical gadgets to be powered or charged in the car, we got a power-inverter so that we can just use the standard mains chargers/transformers instead. I should have bought one of these years ago - I must have spent a small fortune on car-adapters in the last few years. We had a day shopping at Go Outdoors and I didn't get any outdoors gear for myself - that must be some sort of record! Mind you, we spent a small fortune kitting out the other three for our summer holiday.
  • Blog-wise, there have been a few changes here. A few more plugins have been added, if you're interested they're listed at The blogrolls have been updated - quite a few additions, some moves and a few deletions - if you spot any cock-ups, please feel free to let me know. I've a few more changes in the pipe-line, but I'll tell you about them another time.

Well, that's all for now. There's more, but it'll have to wait for later.

Reservoir dog

Posted by on July 8th 2008 in Making stuff, Shiny new kit, Thanks

The first prototype fuel tank is now undergoing leak-testing.

Like most DIY gadgets, it's a doddle to make if you've access to all the bits and the kit to put them together. I'll take this opportunity to thank my good friend Nick, who lets me use his business premises and kit whenever I ask, in return for beer. Cheers, Nick!

The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1-off 185g tin of tuna flakes (this size will hold 200ml of fuel)
  • 1-off M8 rivnut and installing-tool
  • 1-off 11mm steel washer
  • 1-off M8 bolt (this prototype uses a steel bolt, I'm trying to scrounge a suitable plastic one)
  • Some solvent-resistant plastic film to make 2-off 11mm and 1-off 8mm sealing-rings (I used the flexible pouring-spout from a drum of thinners)

The method is as follows:

  • Remove the label from the tin
  • Use a trepanning drill-bit to make an 11mm diameter hole in the side of the tin. Standard-tipped HSS drill-bits mangle the tin
  • Remove the tuna, a straw's good for this. This is the most time-consuming part of the job.
  • If you don't mind the taste of swarf, eat the tuna
  • Wash out the tin
  • Put an 11mm sealing-ring, then the washer, then another 11mm sealing-ring onto the shank of the rivnut
  • Push this lot into the hole then use the installing-tool to fix the rivnut and bits into the hole
  • Fit the 8mm sealing-ring to the bolt to make a plug
  • Fill, seal and test

The good news is that you can't just pour out the contents - you have to gently squeeze together the top and bottom of the tin to pump out the fluid. Short controlled bursts, as the saying goes.

The bad news is that you can't get the last few dregs (approx 10ml) out of the tin, due to the depth to which the rivnut is inserted.


Right, now you've stopped laughing, here's what it looks like:

I'll let you know the test-results as and when. So far, it's looking OK.

Resistance was futile

Posted by on June 28th 2008 in Shiny new kit, Thanks
Tags: , ,

A couple of years ago we bought a cheap 2-pole dome tent for the kids to use on holiday, it was quite roomy and it had a porch with a prop-up flap that all 4 of us could fit under. It was OK for the price, but it suffered from condensation and took ages to dry out. I had a look at it the other day and decided that it was neither suitable nor serviceable for our summer holiday.

So, today we went web-trawling for yet another tent. The requirements were: 3-season, sleeps 2 with gear, one decent porch, sub-£100.

I remembered that Mike Bell, AKA The Doctor, had recently blogged about his latest tent, the Argos Semi Geodesic 2 Person Tent, stock no. 340/0717, so I had a good look at his report and figured that this tent might fit the bill, especially as it had been reduced from £69.99 to £34.99.

After a quick debate with Chris this morning, I went online and reserved the last one at the local Argos, and 30 minutes later it was on the lawn ready to be pitched.

Then the downer. One of the pole-elastics was frayed through. No matter, I got on the phone to the shop and they said that although I couldn't get a replacement from them, the next-nearest Argos had one tent in stock, and they would replace the faulty pole. I reserved that tent and went to do the exchange.

Well, the lad behind the counter must have been having a bad day. I gave him the one faulty pole and explained that it was the only bit that needed replacing, but after struggling to get the new pole-bag out of the package, then failing to untie the pole-bag pull-cords, he just gave up and insisted that I took the whole new set, at no extra charge, thus saving him from the hassle of doing the job right. Looks like that's somebody else who's owed a beer on my account.

20 minutes later and the replacements were back home. 10 minutes later and the tent was up.

So, what's it like?

Well, it's huge. The format's not unlike that of a Quasar, but it looks bigger. If it wasn't for the cheaper fabrics (polyester throughout, not a hint of rip-stop) and the cheap fibreglass poles, this would make a good year-round tent, I reckon it's probably good enough for year-round site-camping. The Argos ad lists the following features:

  • 1 room.
  • 1 front and rear door.
  • 4 air vents.
  • No see UM mesh.
  • Attached ground sheet.
  • Hydrostatic head 2000mm (That's the fly and the groundsheet).
  • Taped seams.
  • Tension adjusters.
  • Quick clips.
  • Weight 5.8kg.
  • Size of tent overall (L)460, (W)160, (H)120cm (I've corrected this info).
  • Size of each room 220 x 150cm.
  • Size of living space 220 x 150cm.
  • Height at highest point 120cm.
  • Packed size (H)20, (W)20, (D)56cm.

There are a few things of note that they've not listed:

  • Both porches are big enough to cook in (if you're feeling brave - the fabric's not fire-retardant), I reckon the Tilley Titan twin-burner with grill will fit in there no problem.
  • The air-vents are adjustable, held open by the semi-rigid spar or closed with the velcro tabs. A nice touch here is the gusset inside the vent, designed to prevent wind-blown rain from working its way up the fly and through the mesh onto the inner. This is a feature that the door-vent on my Force Ten Spindrift would benefit from.
  • All pole-sleeves are continuous.
  • It's a "pitch inner first" tent.
  • The groundsheet, which looks to be durable, is bath-tub style and it's properly reinforced and taped at the stress-points.
  • There's an all-round valance to which peg-out loops are attached, but there are also tabs between the fly and the valance, so the fly could be pegged out with the valance tucked away if not required.
  • There are 4 long fixed storage pockets in the inner, and a basic removable gear-loft too.
  • They say it's a 2-person tent, but it would take 3 adults + gear at a push.
  • There are many tie-in points to fix the underside of the fly to the poles to reduce flapping.
  • There's a spares-pack containing: 1 guyline with a runner, 1 spare peg, 2 spare pole-sections, 2 pole-repair sleeves.

As Mike pointed out, the pegs are heavy steelies and the poles aren't up to much, but minor details like that can be addressed (I've plenty of spare ally pegs, and some redundant ally poles which may fit after a bit of jiggerypokery). The guylines needed re-tying but that's to be expected on cheap tents, it's only a 2-minute job to fit them properly.

One more thing, something that I've never seen on any other tent - the porch poles pass through sleeves on the underside of the fly. This makes them a bit fiddly to insert, especially as the sleeves are quite narrow.

Anyway, it's up on the lawn awaiting the rain that we're bound to have because the hedges need cutting.

Here are a few pics:


It's a biggie. I've included a 5'3" stroppy teenager to give some idea of scale.


It's broad across the beam.


Looking up one of the vents.


The valance pegged out. Note the extra tabs where the valances meets the fly, they're for tying back the valances when you don't need to deploy them.


Quick-clip fly attachment with tensioner.


Loadsa room.


Looks good, eh? It's a nice colourscheme, no?

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