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Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Spam! Lovely spam!
Even The Vikings Are In On The Act Now

For those wondering, the title of this article pays homage to Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

I, like millions of other poor soles receive bucket loads on un-solicited email messages each day. This is of course commonly known as Spam. It’s a fact of life which we are almost powerless to stop. I myself have 2 Spam filters running and it still gets through.

It has now got to a point where I receive more spam than genuine e-mail. On average I receive between 40 & 50 spam emails per day and I’m completely sick of it.

In general these messages fall into one of three categories,

  1. Phishing requests.
  2. Viagra or similar tablets for sale.
  3. Offers to invest in fantastic stocks & shares.
  4. Bogus job offers – This week from Norway, thus the Viking reference.
Phishing e-mails are ones that pretend to be from a bank and will ask you to confirm your bank details and passwords on-line. You will be told that your account will be suspended if you do not click on the link. DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK, EVER! If you do, one of two things will happen.
  1. You will be taken to a webpage that looks genuine, but isn’t.
  2. Your computer will be infected with some form of Virus.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – No financial institution will ever ask you to provide detailed information such as PIN numbers on-line. If you are in any doubt what so ever telephone your bank direct, using a number from your bill not any e-mails.

It is also worth mentioning that these crooks have even been known to phone people at home, posing as bank employees. Again be very suspious of such calls if they ask for passwords or PIN numbers. As before, phone your Bank, that way you can be sure that you are talking to the correct people.

With reference to the other types of Spam, they are just annoying and all get deleted as soon as they arrive.

My question is, how do I stop this junk? Is there a sure fire solution, except cancelling all my e-mail accounts?


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Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Cats In Need Of Good Homes

My Father-in-Law (Gould Bless Him) has now been in his own retirement flat having a lost his Wife suddenly nearly 5 years ago. Up until then he shared a house with his youngest Son. A situation which caused an awful lot of family tension. I’m not prepared to go into detail here, but suffice to say it didn’t work well.

As I mentioned earlier, he now lives alone and has of late become very lonely. I suggested to him some months ago that he should consider giving a rescue cat a new home. There are plenty that need caring for and it would be company for him.

Last weekend he decided to ‘extract himself from his arm chair’ (a family joke) long enough to
make a phone call to the local branch of the Cats Protection League.

A member of the local branch visited him and he was promptly approved as being suitable to home a cat.

On Monday we took him to a large house in Reigate Surrey to meet some needy moggies. We were shown to one of the many enclosures they have there and introduced to about 30 gorgeous cats. The poor things were so pleased to see us and I was only too pleased to make new friends. One particularly large 3 year old male was very taken with my Father-in-Law (god bless him). It was most definatly the cat that did the choosing, not the other way round. If you know cats, you will of course know that this is the correct procedure for an owner to choose it’s new human 8-)

Talking to the lady from the league, I discovered that all 32 of those cats were found living in a woman’s kitchen. She wouldn’t give anymore details, but I just read between the lines. As a branch they currently have around 140 un-wanted cats, which is particularly high for this time of year. The problem is that as well as the 32 we met, they also have another 45 recently rescued from another house.

I despair of people sometimes. I just don’t get it. What drives people to treat animals in such in-humane ways?

Any way, I had a wonderful time with these friendly felines and made lots of new friends. There were 2 which I hit it off with particularly well. One was a young black & white female who could take all the fussing I could muster. The other was a male orange tabby by the name of Bruce, who had the most amazing blue eyes. I had to be dragged away kicking and screaming. My wife even checked my pockets to make sure I didn’t have any of them hidden about my person.

My Father-in-Law (Gould Bless Him) will be able to bring his new friend home on Friday. He has to have his injections, be neutered and chipped first. The cat, not my Father-in-Law.

I can’t wait for our return visit. I must wear a large coat with hidden pockets this time. But don’t tell the wife.

These volunteers do a very important job in rescuing, nursing back to health and homing these and many more cats. They are a charity and rely on donations to do all this great work. Please give something if you can.

If you are interested in giving a cat a new home, they would be very pleased to hear from you. Please be aware that you are more likely to be offered an adult cat than a kitten. Details of there branches are on there website at - http://www.cats.org.uk


I’ve just notice that Cats Protection are holding a photographic competition. I have just the photo to enter with.


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HELP - I Just Want To Post A Letter!

This Monday the Royal Mail has changed the way postage costs are calculated and it appears that there is much confusion about the new rates. I think this has been summed up perfectly by Matt, the Daily Telegraphs resident cartoonist.

Nuff said me thinks.


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Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Road Vehicles & Animals Are Poor Bed Fellows

When I started driving almost 20 years ago it was not un-common to see squashed Hedgehogs littering the roads. These wonderful creatures were very common visitors to British gardens. We ourselves had a family of them living under our shed in the mid 1990’s, but we haven’t seen them for at least 5 years now. Recent research has shown that one of the reasons for their decline has been their terrible road sense. When did you last see one of these prickly wonders?

I myself am very proud to admit that in all my time as a driver I never run over one. However, I did once hit a fox on a country road late one summer night and I was quite upset about it at the time.

It is a sad fact that a huge number of wild animals are killed each year on our roads. With the rise of car usage there is little we can do about these road deaths, except to keep our eyes open and watch where we are going.

On my way to work each morning I ride along the A22-Caterham By-Pass. This section of road seems to be a particularly dangerous place for animals to be crossing at night. There always to be at least one animal corpse each morning. These have included Badgers, Gray Squirrels and a fortnight ago a Cat. I think seeing the Cat upset me the most.

As a Cat lover myself I know exactly how it feels to lose one to a road accident. About 10 years ago we lost one of our 2 cats in exactly this manner. That's her in the picture at the top. My wife and I were so distraught that we had to take time off work to cope with our loss. I ashamed to say that I have felt less sadness when loosing a (not so close) relative. Fortunatly her sister is still with us and forms a very big part of our family. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will have seen many pictures of her here.

The point to this posting is that I saw an unexpected deceased animal at the road-side this morning. It was a rather large brown rat. It’s certainly a new one on me. It wasn’t on the Caterham by-pass either. It was in the middle of a housing estate in Sanderstead Surrey, which I’m led to believe is quite a well to do area. I suppose it’s representative of the increasing number of rats that live around us today. We are told that here in the UK we are never more than 6 feet away from at least one of these creatures. Not a nice thought, I think you’ll agree.


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Monday, 21 August 2006

An Insane World Run By Idiots

I'd like to publicly welcome my good friend and travelling companion Paul to the world of blogging.

Please visit his new blog, An Insane World Run By Idiots , and make him feel welcome.

His first article, Complacency strikes again , is quite a powerful one and I'm sure it will attract plenty of comments and discussion.


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Sunday, 20 August 2006

Another Exciting Weekend ..... Not!


I finally got around to replacing my cam chain tensioner lifter after last weekends false start. I eve had some help from the cat. Well sort of.

Find the full story on my other blog - Chris & Pablos Tour The World.

In the evening we actually found time to watch two DVDs from Blockbuster.

The first was “Derailed”, starring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. It’s a story of adultery and black mail. Quite good, but I had figured out the plot after about 30 minutes in, which annoyed my Wife.

The second was “When Will I Be Loved” and it was total rubbish.


In the morning I went to the shops for bread & milk. The afternoon was taken up with watching the MotoGP on telly.

Not the most exciting of weekends, but at least it did rain …. too much.


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Thursday, 17 August 2006

Works Outing to Tower Bridge

Today my colleagues and I went on a trip to the Tower Bridge Exhibition in London. It was all in the name of team building and the fact that, as a department, we had successfully completed a particular project. It also helped that we made a good profit, which helped pay for the trip.

I felt a bit awkward about accepting the invitation as I didn’t work on the project myself, having only joined the department two months ago. They were fine about it all and happy to have me on the trip. I’m so glad I went back there after my “Wilderness Years”.

We left the office just after lunch and caught a train to London Bridge Station. From there it was a short stroll along the south bank of the Thames to Tower Bridge. I of course got I left behind, as I was taking photographs as I went.

The entrance to the exhibition is via the bottom of one of the taller towers on the north side of the bridge. We had a touristy type group photo taken before we all crammed into the lift, which took us to the top of the tower. Here they had a short film about the tower and models of the various designs put forward for the bridge. Obviously we could easily tell which one was chosen. One of them was quite bizarre, utilising four sliding platforms.

From here we walked onto the Eastern high-level walkway, which offers some fantastic views of east London. They have even provided small camera sized opening windows to allow un-hindered photography. A great idea and something I’ve not seen anywhere else.

All the way along the walkway there are display boards, with pictures and information about the bridge and its 117 year history. There were also glass cases containing various Victorian toys and games. At the southern end of the walkway was another film show about the bridge, a lift to the roadway below and the entrance to the western high-level walkway. The western walkway was much the same as the eastern one, again with pictures, information boards and views west of Central London.

We exited the southern tower via the lift mentioned above and found ourselves back out on the bridge at road level. On the pavement was a painted blue line, which we were told would lead us to the engine room and museum. Being in “Silly Mode”, I decided it would be cleaver to walk on the line no matter what. A bit childish of me, but that’s the sort of stupid things I do. As before I ended up getting left behind the main group. I was taking yet more photographs.

The entrance to the engine room and museum is located below road level on the south side of the bridge. There is another engine room, which is not open to the public, on the north side. Once in side we saw two steam boilers, which feed two steam engines. These are no longer in use as the lifting power was replaced with electro-hydraulic system in 1976. One of the engines was moving very slowly, but not with steam un-fortunately and the second was static. It’s a shame that they are no longer running, because a steam engine like this is at full pelt is quite amazing sight. Almost like a living creature. Quite beautiful really, but then again I’m an engineer after all.

The museum was full of various, long since disused artefacts and displays explaining the various working of the bridge lifting system. After a very quick dash through the gift shop, it was a short walk to the restaurant for dinner. On the way I got left behind for the third time.

After dinner a number of our party dashed to the front of Butlers Wharf for photos of the bridge lifted and closing. We missed the opening part.
I wandered along the south bank in the direct of London Bridge, taking photos as I went. By 7pm I had filled my memory card with no fewer than 148 photos, some of which you can see in this blog.

If you wish to see some more of the photographs that I took during my trip, please visit my Photoblog - London Catagory.


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Wednesday, 16 August 2006

22,000 Acres of South Coast to Become Protected

It is planned to protect 22,000 acres of Kent & East Sussex coastline in an attempt to protect the wildlife that current lives there. The area will streach from Dungeness in Kent around to Winchelsea Beach in East Sussex and will included a number of existing protected areas.

The area will be known as a Site of Special Scientific Interest or SSSI and will allow the area to be properly managed for the benefit of animals, birds and plants. Current residents include Voles water birds and a rare moth, which can now only be seen there.

This is excellent news for the environment and it’s most vulnerable inhabitants. It makes a nice change from all the usual death and destruction that the media feel the need to report.

For the full story, visit the BBC News Website.


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Tuesday, 15 August 2006

My Wife Wears The Strangest Hats In Bed


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Hunt on for 'ugly' Aussie sheep

From BBC News Website

Australian farmers are being urged to report any particularly ugly sheep of the prized merino variety so scientists can improve the quality of wool.

Scientists say the "random genetic mistakes" in ugly lambs can speed up the search for the genes critical in good wool making.

The "Xtreme sheep" campaign was launched after only 10 ugly lambs were spotted in this year's lambing season.

Australia's wool industry is worth about A$2.8bn ($2.1bn).

Ugly markers

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (Sardi) believes the ugly lambs could be key to securing the industry's competitiveness.

Sardi project leader Simon Bawden said lambs with "extreme and even undesirable features" can help unlock the merino's genetic library and "identify superior wool qualities".

The ugly markers include falling clumps of wool, wrinkled skin, odd fibres or no wool at all.
Sardi believes the lambs may be quickly culled, leading to the few sightings in this year's April-September lambing season.

"Before sending them to the abattoir, we'd like farmers to talk to us first," Dr Bawden said.

He said that by using DNA technology, scientists could help give wool more advantages in the competition with synthetic fibres by making it less scratchy and more shiny and stretchy.


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Chris & Pablos Tour The World

Chris & Pablos Tour The World

I've had a busy few days. Among other things, I've started a new blog specifically to talk about the motorcycle tour that my friend Paul & I will be embarking on early next month.

It starts by talking about where we are going, the preparations involved and when we return will contain interesting facts about what we did. I plan to take lots of photographs to help the blog along.

Please do pop along and leave you comments. You may even be able to help out with tips on what to pack and places we should visit.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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Thursday, 10 August 2006

Retro Snack Bar

Retro Snack Bar
Originally uploaded by DaveWilliams.

I saw this photograph on Flickr.com tonight and the title amused me greatly. It was taken by a photograper by the name of Dave Williams.

All his work is very good, but I particularly enjoyed his London set.

Check out his work at here.

And his London Set at here.

You won't be disapointed.


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Monday, 7 August 2006

Sunday, 6 August 2006

A Great Day for British Motor Sport

A Great Day for British Motor Sport

Another of my passions is motor sport. Be it the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), MotoGP, British & World Superbikes (BSB & WSB) or in this case Formula 1, I love it all.

Today the British Formula 1 driver, Jenson Button, won his first Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Hungary. This is so far the pinicle of his career, but hopefully not as high as he can go. Perhaps 2007 World Champion? Only time will tell.

Well done Jenson. See you in Turkey.


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Life at Trance-Elbow Towers This Week

It’s been a week since my last entry, in this time nothing of great note has happened in our lives. Just the usual everyday monotony, with one exception.

Because of the school holidays, I’m the only one who needs to get out bed at a specific time. Waking up is not something I do well. I have three alarm clocks, which have never been any use. They usually ring until either someone pushes me out of bed or the batteries go flat. This week everyone else has ignored the alarms and I’ve just been left lying there, comatose. As a result I’ve been late for work at least three times!

My friend Paul and I are off on a biking adventure next month and it has suddenly occurred to me that I’m far from prepared. I drew up a list of ‘Things to Do’ this week and it seems to go on for ever. Having made a good start of the planning side I’m now looking forward to it as opposed to the previous feeling of abject fear and my usual Ostrich impression.

Yesterday I have ordered most of the parts I need to service my bike, which I plan to do next weekend. I do as much of the maintenance as I can, because the bike shop charges £50 per hour. My time is free, when I can spare it. The service will involve an awful lot of bike dismantling and no doubt gnashing of teeth. One of the items I have to replace is a worn-out cam chain tensioner, which should be the most fun. The valve clearances also need adjusting, but I’m not brave enough for that, so she’ll be off to the bike shop. After all, they have all the right tools and do this sort of thing everyday.

I recently replaced my chain and sprockets. The bike shop wanted £250 for parts and labour. It cost me £96 for the bits and my time was free of course. The down side was that it did take me 3 days. Most of that time was used up cleaning off the build-up of old grease and crud. The degreaser I bought for the job was useless and I discover WD-40 was much better.

BTW - My Broadband has behaved itself nicely this week. Fingers crossed it will stay that way.

Adios Amigos

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