Jan 052014
 

As most will know, the weather in the UK hasn’t exactly been kind over the last few weeks, rain and wind damaging people and property.

In all that time I had no inclination to get out Geocaching! What with woodturning, work and Christmas, I was either too tired to head out or just really couldn’t be bothered to battle the inclement weather.

There’s always an exception and today was that day.

Timeline of the afternoon of 05 January 2014:

1530 I am sat at the PC, editing the newsletter for Portsmouth and Southampton Mini Owners’ Club, ready for release to the members before the meet tonight.
1532 Notification email arrives showing a new cache has been published.
1532 Read the email and realise it’s “Captain Cache” and is 2.2 miles from home.
1533 *In a whiney begging voice* “Rach, a new cache has been published up the A32, can I go for it?” “Yes” comes the reply. Literally 45 seconds later, caching bag in hand I am getting in the car.
1540 Arrives at parking for GZ. Jump out of the car and walk down. I am only using the iPhone for this and am a little nervous of the coordinates*.
1544 Awe crap, there’s people coming. Put the phone away, tie the shoe laces that were thrown on so quick they weren’t done up.
1544 *Voice from behind me* “Are you looking too?” I smile and respond affirmative. “Thought so, the second shoe lace tying gave it away”.
1547 Signing the log, having luckily gone the right way and found the cache, I introduce myself and the other cachers turn out to be Issi Noho, a name I have seen on lots of logs but the first time we have met.
1600 Having said goodbyes and headed our separate ways, I am now at home, calming from the excitement of the hunt** and putting the kettle on.

1700 I have published the Mini Club’s newsletter, updated my caching stats (via GSAK!) and am now writing this post.

Thanks to the CO (The Harley Rebels) for the cache. They’ve only been caching 4 months and have found almost as many caches as I did in my first YEAR!

28 minutes from publication to being back home in the dry. 15 minutes from publication to FTF – hat has to be a personal best for me!

* Coordinate nervousness – when you are hunting a new cache by a fairly new cacher, you haven’t found any of their caches previously and you’re not sure if the coords are accurate or not.
** Yes, it can be an adrenaline rush when going for FTF and it can take up to an hour for me to properly calm down after the event!

Nov 292013
 

Monday 25 November, midday, my house.

Bumbling around the internet (and Facebook) doing nothing in particular, I received a message from SurfaBoy (LJ – my co-host on the podcast) asking what time we would be recording the show. After some to and fro we decided that we would go find some geocaches before recording. The decision was to go and walk the Botley (PMO) series of caches, a walk of around 2.5 miles and 12 caches to find.

Now, we are becoming well known for wearing the non-too-subtle clothing whilst out caching and today was no different. I wore my usual harlequin chef’s trousers. LJ was a little more subtle:

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Classy huh!

The series was great fun, we got to shout at a train. Unfortunately I can’t embed the video from Instagram so you’ll have to click through and find it on our instagram page. In the meantime, here#s a photo of the traintracks running up to Botley station:

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Right at the end of the series the previous 4 cachers had logged “did not find” on the cache, for various reasons – too many muggles, dark, needed to pick nose etc. This photo is our proof that we found the cache:

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It wasn’t supposed to look that scary, but LJ’s “Instagramming” of the photo makes me look even worse than normal!

A great fun little series that saw me hit a milestone – my 700th cache find. Not a massive amount by any means but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed finding (nearly) every one of those 700 caches!

Aug 302013
 

When the Social Media sites first launched (think MySpace rather than Facebook) they were considered kids and hipster hangouts.

Along came Facebook and social media became truly mainstream. Twitter? Well that’s just for geeks to talk about their latest geek hacks isn’t it?

No.

Whilst its popularity has never, ever, been in the same level as Facebook et al, the 140 character messaging service. Has been popular since the first days of text messaging. With the advent of smartphones twitter stuck with the 140 character limit and minimal/no advertising. This makes it much more appealing to many who hate the heavily advertisement supported Facebook. Me included.

Yes, I hate Facebook. Yes I am on there but mainly due to the podcast, and not for the games and myriad stupid applications to help one procrastinate.

Recently though there has been a subtle change in the way twitter is used.

A while ago I bitched about the quality of Virgin Media’s products on twitter. A “social rep” saw my tweet, responded and sorted my issue.

Yesterday, at work I wasted nearly 20 minutes on hold to the Dell Pro Support (DPS) line. Wanting to whine about it, I turned to twitter.

In their hold message DPS mentioned their twitter account and I though it would be good to whine at them. I also posted a pic of my issue, saying “all I want Is a new hard disk!”

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Not expecting any response as this was just a flippant comment I was rather surprised to see a response asking me to follow and the DM the computer’s ID tag to them @dellcarespro (they have a non pro feed too). With nothing to lose, I DM’d them (and followed) with the ID and my email address.

A lovely man called Alasdair pinged me an email asking for a couple more details and a new hard disk would be delivered via courier, next working day.

That Hard Disk arrives this morning, is now in the computer and I have a happy user again!

So, if you’re stuck on hold for 15 minutes and the company happens to mention a twitter account, give it a go.

By the way, if you’re on Twitter, follow me (@yesthatfinch as in “yes, that Finch!) and then find your local police twitter account and follow them too!

Apr 282013
 

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0620 am, Sunday morning and it is bloody cold!

The above image is from my current position in my hammock. Unfortunately I underestimated the temperature drop over night and I spent the night shivering in a vague attempt to keep warm.

I spent much of the night contemplating whether to unzip the sleeping bag , Len over the side of the hammock and empty my somewhat full bladder. I didn’t for two reason – 1. I suspect it isthe warmest part of me and is aiding what little warmth I do have and 2. It is too bloody cold!

I think I have to spend some time working on the cold setup for the hammock. A better mounting method for the under quilt (the blue the in the photo), a better inner sleeping bag, remembering the roll mat will, of course, help too. Probably the best thing I can do is remember it’s still April (-1 C last night) and not camp at all until at least June.

I shall now put a crap load of clothes on and go light a big fire to try and hold off the frostbite in my fingers…

Apr 212013
 

Yesterday, 20 April was International Geocaching CITO Day.

CITO Stands for Cache In Trash Out, where Geocachers will get together and (traditionally) clear the rubbish from a particular area, often in partnership with a local authority. For Example,

A group of cachers went to CITO Event and this was what they collected in just a couple of hours:

That’s a truck load of trash! Photo by Richlay

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Cache On Wheels’ CITO event at Holton Lee near Wareham in Dorset.

Holton Lee is a unique, secluded part of Dorset where visitors can get away from the stresses of life and find time and space for personal growth through access to the arts and the natural environment. All the facilities at Holton Lee have been designed and built to ensure that they are accessible to everyone. Whether you are interested in holiday accommodation, a wedding venue, artists’ studios, exhibition space, conference rooms or just a walk in the beautiful surroundings, Holton Lee has it all!

Holton Lee does have it all, including 20 Geocaches placed on wheelchair friendly paths in two rings of 10 caches.

The Holton Lee event embraced another side of CITO which is preserving the environment. With the help of Geoff, one of the site staff, we planted 20 or 30 trees and bushes, all native species, in a small area. Although we were 90 minutes late arriving (I was intending to be there at 10am…) we (Rach and I) were welcomed and I got to plant an ash tree in what has been dubbed “Cachers’ Corner”.

I will add more photos to the gallery when I have pulled them from the camera. :)

A new series of 10 caches (Holton Lee 2 series) were published at 1pm and after a spot of lunch off we went to find the caches as a group. Except that the group very quickly split up when the main group of walkers with kids and geodogs heading off for the First To Find honour. Being in a golf cart (playing chauffeur to Cache On Wheels) we hung back a little for Paul who was struggling to walk. We managed to get hold of a Tramper (all terrain buggy) for him and followed the main group in our own time. You can read the logs from our adventures on my Geocaching Profile.

For me this was the most fun part of the day, a great laugh racing the Tramper and the golf cart, sometimes the slowly slowly route through muddy water just doesn’t work and you have to floor it!

Thanks to Heather for inviting us, we hope to be at the CITO event in June too!

Apr 132013
 

Clash of Clans is all about building your base, defences, Elixir (E) and Gold (G) Collectors and, of course, attacking other players’ bases.

For many this is the most enjoyable part of the game. I tend to average 50k G & E with attacks, mainly due to careful selection of the base I want to attack. Just occasionally there’s a player who doesn’t understand how to protect themselves for their level. Usually they are the ones who see the Trophy Count as the most important part of the game. It’s not. Look:

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This is my best haul of the game so-far. The base was really easy to attack too. Put down some archers as “distraction” for the defences, wait a second or three, run the wallbreakers in, then the giants. Wait for a few seconds for the giants to start attacking the defences and then send the goblins in. After that it’s simply dumping the rest of the archers, putting the clan castle in last and if nothing pops out of the defender’s clan castle, use the lightning spell if you need/want to.

Here’s my troop list:

  • 50 Archers (level 4)
  • 5 Wall Breakers (level 3)
  • 9 Giants (level 3)
  • 75 Archers (level 3)
  • Lightning spell (level 2)
  • Whatever your awesome clan mates have donated to your castle. In my clan this can be anything from level 4 barbarians to a Dragon!

The most important thing to remember is to choose your attack carefully!

Apr 122013
 

*not really…

We – Chris, LJ and myself have become known for bantering while recording the UK Geocaching podcast.

I feel that a little humour and banter relaxes the presenters and enables us to chat about the subject rather than sounding like we are reading from a script in a monotone nerd voice.

That scripted monotone voice is perfect for getting technical details across, but an informal situation like ours would make for really boring listening. I could point you in the direction of that type of podcast but I am not that mean.

We had a comment on our Facebook page yesterday that said the listener thought there was too much of the juvenile banter and not enough about Geocaching.

I understand what he meant exactly and am grateful for the honest feedback. I went back to the latest pod and listened again. If we took out all the banter the show would be about 45 minutes instead of the 90 minutes that it was this month.

However, taking out all the juvenile stuff would make the show exactly what I don’t want – scripted and boring.

I think I just need to watch out for the amount that I leave in the show and be lots more judicious with the delete button when editing.

I also need to slap LJ and stop him playing on his iPad when we’re recording…

Apr 112013
 

This is my first tip for Clash of Clans, an iOS game (free to install an play with optional in-game purchases).

When designing your base, if you are worried about trophies, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this design:

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It’s not a major thing, but an attacker managed to take 4 trophies (and get me a 12 hour shield) without even breaking through a wall.

How? He deposited 180 archers around the outside of the base and took out everything outside the wall.

I had positioned all the collectors and builders hits etc thinking it pushes the spawn point further away from the walls and stuff I wanted to protect. Unfortunately this also had the effect of pushing everything outside the range of my canons, archer towers and mortars.

Thankfully this is easily fixed by moving everything back against the outside wall, bringing them under the protection of the defences.

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Baddabing baddaboom, thirty seconds work and the job’s a goodun!

This will not stand up to the dedicated attacker with dragons, pekkas and the like but it’s a pretty bloody good setup for most attackers.

Apr 112013
 

One of the first cars I owned was a 1988 F plate Citroen AX GT. Actually, I think it was my third car.

It wasn’t a bad car, a little quirky with a plastic boot with only glass connecting it to the body of the car.

It was also really noisy when driving it. Wind noise mostly. That was simple enough to sort, turn the stereo up!

Jump forward 20 years or so and I am currently sat at the local Citroen garage waiting for the MoT to be completed on the work van.

Wandering around the showroom I had time to take a decent look at the DS3, a VTi120 DStyle Red. It’s black with a red roof and red accent pieces. I have to admit it doesn’t look bad and reminds me of the fun I used to have driving that old AX GT.

Then I stuck my head inside.

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The photo above is of that accent piece in the interior. In this case it is the dashboard, what everybody will see when they are sat in the car. I don’t know how well it shows up in the picture but the orange peel effect in the paint just shows that Citroen still do not believe that the little things matter. With just a little more prep and colour sanding this orange peel would disappear and make the whole thing more pleasing to the eye.

A bit of pathetic nitpicking? Probably, but if they want me to spend £15,660 on a French quirky car they have to do better than this.

Apr 092013
 

But Mostly…

Contrary to popular belief, I do have other interests. I realised whilst scrolling through some old posts earlier that I come across as a bit of a one trick pony. Ok, 4 trick – Caching, computers, bushcraft (which I write far too little about) and Scouting.

I have always thrown myself fully into any particular project that interests me, often to the detriment of most of my other hobbies. For example, I got my Ham Radio licence back in March and since then I have spent much time (ok, most…) reading about Ham radio, antennas, rigs and theory on the internet. As yet I haven’t actually pressed the PTT button on a rig and called CQ. This is hopefully going to change fairly soon.

We have also started the setup of the Fareham West Scouts Amateur Radio Club. We realised whilst running a night activity for the District Scouts that not having our own communications system is something of a drawback when we have 10 checkpoints and no easy way to contact all of them. Yes, we could use mobile phones but that can get expensive very quickly.

The idea now is that through the club we can run Foundation courses with the exam to qualify leaders (and eventually young people) to be able to use Amateur Radio for point to point comms. Although the course will cost £40 or so per person and the equipment setup costs are not cheap, in the long run it will be cheaper to have club equipment (handhelds and mobile rigs) that we can issue to licenced amateurs for the duration of the event. First course is due to run in July with up to 15 attendees. I am really looking forward to the course!

In other news, Clash of Clans on iOS (iPad) appears to be taking over my evenings and any other spare time I have. Seriously, if you have an iPad, you really need to get this game! I will be posting tints and hips that I have learned over the last few weeks…