January 2010 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

  1. January
  2. February
  3. March
  4. April
  5. May
  6. June
  7. July
  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

PHP was Broken (16th January 2010)

All my pages were serving the PHP source code instead of parsing and processing it to serve HTML Still not completely sure how or why this was the case. Here’s the .htaccess stuff which is now working.

# Process <?php ... ?> as PHP in HTML but not <? ... ?>:
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .html .htm .php
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php-source .phps
php_value short_open_tag Off

# Add character encodings to Content-Type headers:
AddType 'text/css; charset=utf-8' .css
AddType 'text/html; charset=utf-8' .html .htm .phps
AddType image/vnd.microsoft.icon .ico
AddType application/rss+xml .rss
AddType application/x-xpinstall .xpi
AddType application/x-rar-compressed .rar

Site Surgeon

Same issue but this time I took more care to identify the cause. Here was the original .htaccess line:

# Allow <?php ... ?>:
# Addhandler application/x-httpd-php .html .htm .php

This setup must have already been present in http.conf or something! Simply uncommented it:

# Allow <?php ... ?>:
Addhandler application/x-httpd-php .html .php

At least it was a simple fix. I removed the .htm association since I only use that for static files.

Snow Stories (9th January 2010)

My first Winter as a driver and I’m loving it! Snowy, icy conditions turn driving from a careful, observant errand into a manly challenge of skill and strength, with the comeraderie of motorists bound by a common purpose.

Luck of the Draw

Driving style plays a part but so do circumstances outside of the driver’s control:

Fairly small, light hatchbacks with modest power, front wheel drive, smooth transmissions and treaded tyres seemed to perform best. Top Gear often say how impressed they are with the modern small car. I agree and find it to be more and more true.

Sports cars and anything with low-profile tyres seemed vulnerable. Even expensive four-wheel-drive machines like the Audi R8! I saw a couple of SUVs and SAVs struggling in the conditions but they generally seemed to fare quite well.

After explaining the situation to a colleague at work, he remarked it was “good karma” that I’m helping so many people. Because, sooner or later, I’ll need a push.

Wednesday 6th January 2010

Left work at about 5:15pm.

Crookham Village is served by a road which is winding but fairly flat. However, at the end nearest to where I live there is a humpback bridge over Basingstoke Canal. The road is quite steeply uphill to meet the bridge.

There was a long queue when I was coming back from work. Could almost call it a tailback. I couldn’t see the cause for several minutes, due to the snaking bends in the road and tall hedge along one side.

Eventually I got close enough to see a car was struggling to get up the hill. It got quite near the top but then, where the gradient increased, it could go no further. When the driver got out and gave a big, pantomime shrug towards the other motorists, I realised he needed help.

Nobody in the dozen cars ahead of me got out to help. They were waiting as if it was a set of traffic lights. But clearly nothing was going to change! Their delay was being caused by their own apathy.

When my car got alongside the only driveway on the left, I pulled into it and stopped. Got out and jogged up to the car which was stuck. Helped push it up to and over the bridge. Driver thanked me and carried on.

After this another young man helped push the next car, letting air out of its tyres and advising the driver on technique. By the 3rd car another man had joined in. Since the next cars where being driven by them, they headed back to their cars. Just as well, since I was exhausted!

The cars I helped were:

Thursday 7th January 2010

Inexplicably, the car park at Fleet Railway Station was never salted, gritted or cleared. It now has a deep layer of permafrost, hard as concrete and polished smooth by hundreds of slipping tyres. Parking here is bound to cause you trouble at some point.


Unusually, a driver was leaving the car park. Had managed to reverse mostly out of perhaps the lowest and steepest space in the carpark but could get no further. With some rocking, clearing snow from under the car and going directly up the hill we got it out.

Just then, my train started pulling in! I gingerly scampered onto the platform, up 2 flights of steps onto the bridge, across it, down the opposing stairs and then along the platform my train was on to reach a carriage with seats available. Phew!

After explaining the situation to a colleague at work, he remarked it was “good karma” that I’m helping so many people. Because, sooner or later, I’ll need a push. And so it came to pass…

Massively Delayed Train

Was waiting at London Waterloo for about 1½ hours this evening. Every ½ hour, my train was cancelled. Then it was announced for Platform 9, causing a tidal wave of commuters for the same destinations to stampede onto…a very chilly and very empty platform.

After quite some time, an announcement said the train was cancelled. It said we should join the train on Platform 11. Once we had gotten to that train and sat on if for a few minutes, the guard announced it had no driver! Several minutes later a reserve driver got aboard and we were finally underway.


Rescued 2 vehicles from the car park:

Friday 8th January 2010


Deep snow now makes most spaces when you enter Fleet Railway Station look impossible to park in. About halfway down the snow seems much shallower but almost no cars were parked down there.

The reason? Someone in a black hatchback was repeatedly trying to reverse into one of the deeply snowy spaces just down from the open area. After some minutes they left their car in the middle of the access road whilst they shovelled snow.

Nobody could get past to the viable spaces because of this!

After some time I got out and walked a few spaces back. There was a sizable gap between two cars which had deep snow. But I figured I could ram my way into it and dig myself out come the evening. It looked flat, so there was no problems with having to drive uphill to escape from it.

This manoevre worked very well! Was a bit close to the car on my passenger side, though. So I went forward and reversed in again, giving their driver’s door plenty of space.

A BMW X5 (or similar) had seen me walk back and had reversed to give me acres of space. Maybe it thought I was going to turn around and abandon the car park?

Maybe I could have helped the hatchback get into the space. Frankly, I was so annoyed with their blocking of the access road that I would’ve rather given them a lecture than some assistance. I guess it was the heat of the moment! c{¦¬D


Whilst scraping the ice off my windows I noticed a silver hatchback halfway down the car park. It was partially obscured by a larger vehicle but was clearly having trouble getting out of the space. Nobody else was around and there was no way to see it from the main building, so no help was available. Apart from me, of course!

I jogged down and initially thought it was a BMW 1-series. But then the driver informed me it was front wheel drive. Once I got to the bonnet to start pushing I found it was a Mazda.

Somehow this vehicle was very hard to shift. Rocking it was necessary to build momentum but it was always trying to slide back into the space. The camber of the car park looked shallow but was deceptively steep, perhaps? We were also having to clear a lot of snow from beneath one side of his car, so maybe that was it.

We eventually scrabbled the car onto the access road. I jogged back to my car and the driver brought his car along to join me. Had to resume scraping ice of my windows but the other driver helped out, with a really effective de-icer spray.

Initially I thought leaning on the front wheels would give them the traction for me to get out. But this was not the case; so they other driver started pushing from the rear. This worked, although it took 2 phases to rocking to get both axles clear. My karma paid off!

Went towards the kebab shop and parked on the end of the layby before it. Looked quite slushy so I figured the grip would be fine. Went and got a half-pound cheeseburger with salad and chips then returned to my car with it.

When I tried to pull away the wheels span. So I rocked it this way and that, edging it around. Was’t making much progress. This is when I realised it was frozen solid and very polished!

Thankfully a couple of men offered to give me a push. We made some progresss but I got beached on the kerb. Managed to get back off again but just couldn’t get grip. After some more tries I exited the vehicle and looked all around it. Wasn’t beached on anything, there were just lots of very slippery bumps.

Now there was enough space in front of the car to try scrabbling it out forwards. When the tyres lost grip and span, the front was pulled around towards the road. Bit by bit we rocked and rolled it back onto the street. I shouted a thank-you to the helpful pair, waving my arm out of the window as I drove off.

Cashing in some more karma!

Next Week

Maybe I’ll try working from home. My good luck is bound to run out, after all.

Then again, the challenge and manliness of easing and wrestling cars back where they need to be still feels like fun, to me. It’s useful to the people I help, too!

Eventful Evening!

(This happened some time during the next week. Not sure exactly which day, though.)

BMW Driver (Stereotypical)

As I exited the evening train, a BMW was madly scrabbling back and forth, sideways across a group of parking bays. No rythmn or skill, was just blasting the throttle in 1st gear and reverse, unable to get up the camber of the road.

The stereotype for BMW drivers is perpetuated by people like this. Offering to help and getting him out, a task which he had failed at alone, seemed like a small way to affect the way he was doing things. Perhaps the help would be appreciated and he’d realise that finesse and throttle control was the effective way to overcome the icy conditions.

Unfortunately, the lead-footedness continued. Myself and a fellow commuter got our legs showered in cold, muddy slush by the angrily spinning rear wheels. We both swore at the driver and left him. By that time he was nearly at the access road and had enough momentum to reach it, slowly and noisily.

BMW Driver (Polite)

My car was quite close to where I was but there were many people now at their cars. So I walked down the carpark, intended to help anyone who might need it.

About halfway down, a woman was shovelling snow from beneath her BMW. She politely declined my offer of help, although thanked me for offering. Her shovelling was looking very thorough so I moved on.

Honda S2000

Right at the far end of the car park was one of my favourite sports cars. The driver was shovelling and chipping away at the snow, then slithering forward a metre or so, then repeating the process.

He declined my offer of help, as he was making progress. I pointed out this location was unlikely to be visited by any other helpful souls. He seemed quite happy to continue as he was, so I left him to it.

Mercedes in Reverse

Walking back down the car park, I saw a big Mercedes which sounded like it had the engine of a Messerschmitt. Apparently the owner had a 50 mile drive home, so I decided to try helping.

The car was extremely heavy and had sunk into the snow. Myself and a burly man struggled to move it at all, then noticed there was a pile of snow behind one of the front wheels.

After some time I left that driver and went to help other motorists.

Executive Saloons

Helped free another executive type thing, as I recall. It was towards the end where the station building is.

Another person was helping the Mercedes with the burly man halfway down. There was another little team beyond that, down the far end. So I started walking that way.

Around this time, the big Mercedes finally got free. The driver had help from 2 other people. They’d just chipped away at the ice and snow, creeping it backward bit by bit. Have to admire that perseverance!

Lost My Bag!

On my way down the carpark I realised my bag wasn’t with me any more. I vageuly remembered putting it down so I could shove the really heavy Mercedes.

After going up and down the car park, with the assistance of a couple of drivers, we still couldn’t find it. Eventually I went right down towards the station building and found it there!

Guess I had picked it up again and taken it with me, then set it down while heaving that other executive car out.

Hatchback with Scandinavian-Sounding Driver

Unusually, a small car was being dug out for a long time. But the driver and assistant seemed to know what they were doing so I had left them. Since they were still here, I now approached to lend a hand.

Their preparation work paid off, as we were able to shove the little machine back onto the access road in just a few goes.


This was parked next to the hatchback. It seems the assistant to the hatchback was actually the driver of this Saab. Not sure how easily it came out but we succeeded, one way or another.

Saving the Stragglers

The S2000 had made some progress but was still not quite on the access road. The camber coupled with rear-wheel drive meant it kept slipping sideways. The driver was painstakingly digging down to the tarmac each time to try and get up enough momentum.

The other driver had been clearing snow when I approached the S2000 driver for the first time. Again, as he seemed to have things under control I had left him to it.

With both cars still struggling to get out, I rallied the troops and got all 3 of us to team up.

S2000 Finale

We started by pushing this light sports car onto the access road, where it slithered down to the flatter area half-way down. I was alongside the tail, pushing it as much sideways as I was pushing it forward to try and keep the rear in line with the front!

Final Executive Saloon

The S2000 driver stopped and returned, so we could have 2 men pushing the final car while the driver gently reversed.

It was an automatic and he initially suggested leaving it in neutral. Once a vehicle is moving, the engine and tyres become an effective way to keep it going. So we told him to use reverse but just be gentle with it.

It worked, after a few pushes. Since this end of the carpark is quite wide, we also pushed him some way down so he wason the best part of the access road.

Getting Myself Out

The next batch of people were arriving from the train. I was covered in a cold sweat and feeling quite exhausted, so decided that was enough for me.

We stopped several metres from my car and I got it. Eased it into reverse and soon got some wheelspin. Dipped the clutched and started rocking it, then let the clutch right out as I felt it clear the ridge it had gotten stuck behind.

Once the wheels start spinning, it seems there are 2 viable options:

I chose the first option this time. One of the men had stood in front and helped push me back. Although somewhat inelegant it was quicker than resting each time. Once my Almera had scrabbled onto the access road, we exchanged thanks and I set off home.

Arriving Home

First thing I did was get out of my cold, damp clothes and wrap up in some cosy pyjamas and a dressing gown. Had a hot chocolate and started cooking dinner.

Socialising with strangers, physical activity and overcoming adverse conditions…all in all, it’s been quite an adventure for me!

Electric Beard Timmers Work (3rd January 2010)

Finally tried out the one I got for Xmas and it did a fine job. No cuts and an even finish. It’s about twice as loud as an electric toothbrush and the vaccum system works brilliantly to elminate mess.

It required going over the same area a few times. Even as my first ever experience with a device like this, it turned out much, much better than using scissors. Left my skin unmarked and if anything, made it feel nicer.

The exhaust from the vaccum did dry my lips somewhat whilst working near them. Gotta keep an eye on the chamber where the hair is collected and empty it during use. Seems to compact what it collects as well, so even this aspect is a good thing.

I’m very happy with it. Only improvement I want is for it to be much quieter. All those reciprocating blades and the fan to draw hair into the chamber mean such a device will always make some noise, though.

Flattened my Car Battery (2nd January 2010)

Had left my car’s dimmed lights turned on whilst I was working today. By the evening the battery was totally drained, so the central locking wouldn’t operate. Luckily dad drove the truck over, after collecting some jump leads, so we were able to get it going again.