May 2010 in the Life of Ben (Blog)
Family Pizza then Cycled to Beacon Hill (30th May 2010)
- Dad has made new doors to the garage.
- I oiled my bicycle.
- Drove to pizza place and got brought a take-away back home for mum, dad and I.
- Let it settle and got changed into scruffy clothes.
- Took bicycle out and tyres felt a bit squishy.
- Started riding it down the driveway and they looked very soft.
- Checked pressures and they were barely 25psi.
- Inflated them both to a little over 50psi, as their range is 45–65psi.
- Left at about 7:15pm.
- Explored lots of totally new routes, finding little reservoirs and technical tracks.
- Saw a heron in the shallows of the reservoir, possibly the heron from Basingstoke Canal?
- Went to the top of Beacon Hill, which is hard work but an awesome view!
- Saw lots of rabbits, including a fairly tame black one which I imagine is an escaped pet.
- Came back parallel to the main road, which leads to an extremely big, steep but seemingly resurfaced track which I hurtled down!
- Saw a deer which sauntered off after I chatted to it for a few seconds.
- This goes around a turn and quickly gives way to older track and then unsurfaced ruts, so I had to react fast and brake hard!
- Got back at about 9:45pm!
- Felt great, showered, then straight to bed for an easy sleep.
- Bank Holiday tomorrow and another day off work after that. Lovely.
Refuelled Car for 5th Time (30th May 2010)
Seems that I must have missed a refuelling near the start of 2010. So I’m counting this as the 5th.
Opening times for the garage don’t seem to be online anywhere. But it was a glorious day, no queues and the road from Fleet to Aldershot is pretty sweet. (Parts of it overlook parts of where I would go cycling later this day.)
Cycled from Dusk into Twighlight (21st May 2010)
Rode towards Tundry Pond via Basingstoke Canal, just as the Sun was setting. Looked amazing as it set above rolling fields bordered by rustling trees and singing birds. Sun was fully below the horizon as I headed back. Saw a deer, possibly a fox and several bats along the way.
Took the roads through Crookham Village, turning left to Crookham Wharf. A few cars had their headlights on.
Realised this was the wrong rode to reach Tundry Pond, so headed back to the village.
Towards Barley Mow, then Turn Left
Cycled through the village and out the other side, along what turned out to be quite a long route. Got to the triangular junction on the way to the Barley Mow. Turned left here, instead of my usual straight on. Had an inkling that left took me back towards the canal, on a long road to a canal bridge near Tundry Pond.
This road was longer than I thought. To the left there was an open field, previously grazed by Fresian cows. Looked like the archetypal illustrated packaging for milk or possibly butter. On the other side, a little further along, saw a smallish, reddish, four-legged creature moving slightly in a field. Could only think it was a fox.
This road has a long, gentle climb which starts at the triangle and seems to go on for ages. Eventually it levels out, then becomes a gentle downhill. Popps up a final time to reach the top of the bridge. It was the one I had expected to reach, where Dad and I had cycled to last weekend.
“Now, who would live in a house like this?”
Light was fading quite markedly but I could just about see the big manor house on the hill. This looks out over some large private fields towards the pond. So I knew I as in the right loop of the canal.
Opposite the bridge is a storybook dream house. Generously sized but traditionally domestic rural architecture, with a couple of horses grazing behind in a small pasture with a larger paddock and another grassy area beyond.
I wonder what people do to afford such a place? Pretty sure it was built since I’ve been living here. Maybe even during the past decade.
A youngish couple were sat on a bench looking across the canal towards the sunset. Were they the occupants of the house? Had they build the bench? They were on foot and it was dark, so I reckon so.
Very soon I arrived at the bridge to Tundry Pond. Rode over it and hauled my bike over the style. Freewheeled down the track to the pond.
Quickly noticed a pair of tents and some fishing stools. Then noticed a little, squareish, wooden dingy being awkwardly paddled a little way out into the water. Seem to recall some signs that it’s for private fishing only, so these may have been residents or guests.
Stayed for a short while to watch the purple sky and white swans. Then noticed a hoarde of small, hovering flies were gradually lowering towards me, like planes in a stacking pattern waiting to land at an airport. Swatted at them a couple of times but they were determined to get near my face, so I decided to head home.
Insects are one thing I often forget about Summer and the great outdoors. Of course, they are an essential tier to the food cycle and whatnot. But still…could they maybe try to be less annoying about it?
Got an acute cramp in my left foot as I started pedalling up the narrow track. Last experienced this some months ago, not sure what the cause or cure is. Eventually it went away by itself and stayed away. Something to do with a nerve?
The couple were still near their bench, now standing at the edge of the canal. They had picked some plain white flowers from a nearby hedge and were sharing them. Quite a touching scene to cycle past.
A little further along, the Heron was by the bridge at the end of the long road. It flew up, somewhat ungainly, like a large helicopter taking off. To avoid flying all the way up over the tress, it settled for loping along the canal. In the direction I was heading.
At least 3 other times it took off as I approached. Maybe it doesn’t mind. Maybe the intelligence of a Heron is too low (or the shyness too high?) to fly a bit higher and go over me, back the way I had been.
My bicycle needed oiling and the transmission was starting to make a faint but continouos sound, halfway between a squeak and a whine. As the sun had now set I thought I saw some very fast, black shapes flitting across in front of me.
Was I attracting bats?!
At one point something brushed past the back of my hair, startling me. As if it were a horror movie! This incident may have been a large moth because subsequent bat sightings were far more aware and agile in turning away from my path.
Had a couple of pretty gruelling weeks at work. Along with the idea to go for an evening cycle, my decision to head straight home on Friday was pretty simple.
Laughter, shrieking and Hallowe’en-style chase sounds were coming from a field behind another picture-postcard house. Either a family, a slumber party with chaperones or a get-together of neighbours from the Zebon Copse area are my suspicions.
Reminded me of the activity and excitement from my junior school days. Also, to a lesser extent, senior school and 6th form. Relatively carefree, just as we’re always told but unable to believe at that age.
Much nearer to home and another party was getting into full swing. Was just down the road from me and was taking place outside, in the large garden of a bungalow at the end of a road. Seemed like a smaller gathering of young adults from the pitch of the voices. But still there was shrieking and laughter’I miss that.
Home for a Late Dinner
It was about 10pm when I got home. There was still plenty of light to see in the open but a few places of the towpath had been very dark. Slight differences in colour and the sound of my wheels on the worn surface guided me along the towpath.
Had dinner near quarter past ten, thoroughly glad I’d gone out. Albeit by myself.
Cycled with Dad to Embankment Repairs (15th May 2010)
The water level has been lowered by about a metre along a 2 mile stretch of Basingstoke Canal. The downstream end is at Crookham Wharf, which is easy riding distance. We found the far end beneath a road bridge.
There are two room-sized Diesel pumps at the Wharf. Only 1 of them was running and was surprisingly quiet. The level seems to be constant because at the far end, water is gushing into the blocked section.
While heading home we stopped on the bridge which overlooks the Wharf. An echeolon of young ducks were storming down the lowered section towards the barrier. Lots of debris, small and large, had accumulated by it. We thought they would stop and go back but no, they plough straight!
Their beaks were zipping back and forth just beneath the surface, like the way crabs process entire beaches of sand. We guess there’s some sort of food trapped beneath it but are mystified by how they knew from so far away that it would be there. Maybe they found it some days ago and revist it every evening?
Either way, they were entirely comfortable being near the throbbing of a large pump and beneath the occassional traffic going over the bridge.
The sun was starting to set, setting the horizon alight with rich yellow and orange. A variety of scattered clouds reflected different segments of the rainbow, as if an artist were practising in the sky.
Little Technical Updates (2nd May 2010)
- Project Cerbera homepage
- Now has the blog’s sidebar.
- Blog homepage
- Now has the 10 most recent entries with the first block of content.
- IRC Logs demo pages
- Now have a better ending to their
<title>text and a
:hovereffect on table rows.
PC Troubleshooting for a Neighbour (1st May 2010)
My neighbours reported their Internet was running very slowly or badly to my dad. He relayed the message and I went over to help, while lunch was being cooked. I fixed it!
- Transferring Internet connection from BT to Virgin Media.
- Previous had BT telephone and Internet
- Had modem connected with Ethernet leads, all seemed correct.
- No router and no need for one as other PC won’t be put online.
- Small company in Fleet had built the PC and installed Norman security on it. (No, not Norton.)
- Virgin Media engineer had connected up the cables and other hardware.
- Neighbours had installed the Virgin Media Security software as well.
- Entire system was extremely slow.
- Start menu took 50 seconds to open!
- Parts of the screen would not refresh after dismissing the screensaver.
- Neighbours confirmed both these symptoms.
- Task Manager opened some minutes after I had pressed Ctrl+Alt+Delete.
- Was followed a while later by the All Programs list, which I had tried to open minutes earlier. It was blank for many seconds until it became dismissed by my actions from more recent minutes.
- Task Manager listed dozens of processes, a couple occassionally used more than 1% but less than 10%.
- No obvious stuck on 50% processes and HDD light was hardly coming on, so the glacial pace was quite mysterious.
- Security was running at startup?
- Right-clicked the Norman system tray icon and it eventually appeared, minutes later.
- Context menu for Norman has an item called Stop on-access scanner.
- Clicked this and after a few seconds the HDD started thrashing like mad.
- After a minute or so the Virgin Media Security window appeared.
- Many seconds later the HDD light stabilised and the system was now properly responsive again!
- Windows Security Center noticed that there was no Anti-Virus installed.
- It detected the system had more than one and that they were disabled.
- Windows Firewall was also disabled, so I enabled that for belt and braces.
- Once I had uninstalled Norman, the Security Centre noticed that only Virgin Media Security was present.
- Virgin Media Security says it includes Anti-Virus and Firewall.
- I began uninstalling the Norman software.
- It had several questions which had to be answered in the Uninstallation wizard, one per page with no indication of how many there would be.
- It only displayed the progress button after the answer was selected.
- Button were centered with the cancellation button below the progression button.
- Neither of these was named Next or Back.
- The text for the question was very large, possibly Arial, wrapping across a few lines.
- The size of the wizard window was huge and mostly empty space.
- Required a restart after uninstallation.
Uninstalling BT Internet
- There were 5 applications listed in Set Program Access and Defaults.
- A restart was required after uninstalling 3 of the 5, which I was doing one by one.
- Another restart was required after the final one, which failed to initialise some sort of browser component and triggered the IE8 JScript debugging options.
- Clicking Yes to the near-incomprehensible message the debugger displays results in some pseudo-IDE giving a screenful of code with a breakpoint at the failed line of code.
- Incredibly scary for typical “always click Yes” users, no doubt!
Refinements & Extras
- Explained everything I was doing in a running commentary.
- Homepage in IE8 was some Virgin Media landing page; changed that to Google’s UK site.
- Removed the Virgin Media Security shortcut from the desktop.
- Ticked the context menu option from the system tray which prevents the main Virgin Media Security window from being displayed at startup.
- Showed how to use simple SUM formulæ in Excel.
- Created a Photos folder in Outlook Express.
- Removed the Quick Launch shortcut for Outlook 2003.
- Removed the Start Menu frequently used applications item for Outlook 2003.
- Logged into their Virgin Media e-mail account via the webmail interface.
- Reassured them that PCs work fine with thousands of e-mails, photos and other files on them.
- They are also fine with lots of programs installed, so long as the programs play nicely with each other.
One Good Turn Deserves Another
As well as a nice cup of tea whilst I was there, my neighbours gave me an Easter egg and a generous fee. It was less than a professional PC repair person would tend to charge for doing only the essential parts of the job, so I feel fine about accepting it.