Month: February 2020 (page 1 of 2)

M:I-2… end of an era?

Back in 2012, I made a six-part Geocache, consisting of a series of electronic puzzles to solve.

I called it Mission: Impossible – 2  (it was the sequel to the original Mission: Impossible cache I’d made 18 years ago).

These puzzles were hidden around the countryside in a five-mile radius from my home. Each puzzle – when solved – would lead to the next, culminating in a final devious puzzle which – when solved – would unlock to reveal a logbook to sign and some cache-type goodies to take away.

As I had made it a Premium cache, meaning that only serious fee-paying cachers could play – and also because all the puzzles required batteries, which would need to be supplied by the visiting cachers – I never expected this cache to get a great deal of take up and thought it would probably only last six months or so.

How wrong I was.

OK, it didn’t get the amount of traffic a non-premium cache might have got, and a lot of people who did look at it (I could see how many, from the audit function that Groundspeak now sadly seem to have removed) possibly dismissed it due to the time it would take to complete – roughly a day: a lot of cachers are in it for the numbers and would rather get 6 quick wins in a day, than have to spend all day working for just one.

But, it was completed by a goodly number of cachers, who all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, judging by some of the logs:

“I would give this cache all 10 of my favourite points if I could! ” – L********61

“Wow Wow Wow.  done over 2 weekends with Morn.   we laughed we nearly cried at one stage…” – A***s T********e

“Stage 5 almost caused a divorce… Brilliant cache, great fun…”  – R****54

“Everything about this cache was extraordinary, innovative and impressive. ”  – Mr & Mrs M*****

“We had a lovely afternoon following the clues. I wish there were more caches like this one.”  – K****y + L***a

“What a sense of achievement to reach and complete the final stage of this wonderfully inventive multi-cache.” – A********s

“Ahha… Finally thwarted the Evil Professor Masher!! …  This is truly a great series, probably the best caches I have ever seen.” – G*****1

“This has to be one of the best (if not the best caches) I’ve ever found in my 10+ years of caching so awarding this a well deserved favourite point , would be more if I could.” – M*d H***r

“Caches like this don’t come along too often and giving it one favourite point just doesn’t do it justice. Tremendous fun…” – P******e

“BRILLIANT!, BRILLIANT!, BRILLIANT!……oh, and did I say this cache is BRILLIANT!!!” – The O****s

“You’re a genius Prof Masher and we salute you.” – The N***y C**w

etcetera, etcetera, as the King of Siam might say.

It was even nominated in the Best Cache category at the 2016 National Geocaching Awards (Britain & Ireland). It didn’t win (I don’t think enough people had played) but I was pretty chuffed to be nominated anyway.

But sadly, after seven and a half years, Mission Impossible 2 is no more.  Stage 2 went missing last year, so I reworked it to make the cache into a five-parter.  But then Mrs Masher found Stage 3 damaged beyond repair, when she was out walking the dog a few weeks back. As such, I have archived it, but sadly, stages 1 and 4 were stolen before I could even recover them.  Stage 1 was always a personal favourite, as it set the scene for the whole game. A short video of it can be seen here.  Use the password: Ge0cach3!  (Trivia note: the voice you hear, is that of our very own Mr Jones).

Mission Impossible 3 is almost finished and is nearly ready to roll out. I’ve spent the past two years building it – not the entire two years, obviously; just here and there when I had the time.

The theft and vandalism though, make me wonder whether I should bother (The original Mission: Impossible cache went the same way, fourteen years ago).

But, every so often I’ll take a read through those logs and be inspired to get it finished and get it out there.

We’ll see.

Who?

Today is Irena Sendlerowa’s 110th birthday.

But you both knew that, right?

Because Google told you.

Hardly a day passes, without Google’s homepage telling you that it is the birthday of some obscure person that you’ve never heard of (unless you are one of those that still uses Excite or Alta Vista, of course).

“It’s the 297th birthday of Louis Richaud, the little-known French impressionist painter, who died from syphilis sometime back in the eighteenth century”.

OK, I made that one up, but you get the gist: someone we don’t know or really care about.

Occasionally, someone of actual importance will get a mention: Da Vinci; Ada Lovelace; Abraham Lincoln; Tom Beringer.

Alright, maybe not Tom Beringer.

But, c’mon Google, you only need to find 366 well known dead people, to do this over the course of a year.

You could always google it, if you get stuck..

M… m… m… my corona 2

I’m ill!

I have the dreaded lurgi!

It’s probably just a cold.

I have flu-like symptoms: sneezing; chesty coughing; headache; just generally feeling shit.

It’s probably just a cold.

But, with this virus thing going about – Covid 19 as it is now officially known – one can’t help but wonder.

Because the symptoms are very similar.

The mind tries to re-trace the past couple of weeks, to see whether you have come in to contact with anyone from one of the countries listed as risky. Of course, you have no way of knowing for sure.

Except… I do.

One of my guys has recently returned from Thailand and I spent some time with him last week.

Thailand is on the list!

And he fell ill, last week.

But he got better.

So it’s probably just a cold.

Han Zup

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am currently on a training course.

It’s one of those that people sometimes refer to as “Death By Powerpoint”, or “Slide Deck Intensive”.

And  to my – I’m sure you’ll understand – great displeasure, a great deal of the slides are peppered with spelling or grammatical errors.

Because I have to, I started pointing out some of the more amusing ones, but, by the time we reached slide 6 I realised that, if I continued, I’d just look like a pedantic prick.

And even though I am, I don’t like the idea of people thinking I am.

And so, I have gritted my teeth through the rest of the slides… relying on my internal monologue about these heinous, linguistic mistakes, to keep myself amused.  OK, I’m no English Language professor, but I know that pipe has an ‘e’ at the end of it!

But, our tutor has another annoying little trait which is starting to niggle me: “I’ll hold up my hand and say that…”,  he will say, several times a day.  Which is a fine thing to say if you are admitting to something that you should hold your hand up to.

But he isn’t.

“I’ll hold up my hand and say that several water companies have been caught out by this particular piece of legislation, over the years.”

“I’ll hold up my hand and say that this type of valve is really designed for use in higher pressure networks.”

“I’ll hold up my hand and say that in the nineteenth century…”

etc

If he carries on, I might just have to hold my hand up and tell him that this particular peccadillo of his, is doing my nut in!

M… m… m… my corona

I buy a lot of stuff from China.

Just small stuff.

Electronic components, in the main.

Because they’re cheap and are all over a well-known auction site.

In the past, even the postman has moaned to me about all the “… stupid little packets from China…” that he has to deliver to our house.

One such package arrived yesterday: a small Bluetooth module for a forthcoming project.

“Is that from China?” asked Mrs M.  I nodded. “Well, make sure you wash your hands after handling it, she said, in obvious reference to the Corona Virus outbreak.

“Oh, don’t be daft”, I said very matter-of-factly, “It’s absolutely fine. There’s no way a virus could survive a three-week journey through the postal system.” I continued… as if I actually knew what I was talking about.

Then I took the package upstairs to the shack, where I stopped briefly in the bathroom, to wash my hands and spray some Dettol on it.

History lesson

I am currently doing a training course in rural Oxfordshire.

I have to leave home by 6am each day, in order to arrive there in time for the 8:30 start.

Then, of course, it’s another 2-hour journey home.

4 hours a day, driving!  In truth, it would be quite an enjoyable drive (I go cross-country) if it wasn’t for the A34.

It’s a pig of a road at rush hour. Always has been.

And the course? It’s pretty heavy. We’re doing legislation at the moment – not the most exciting of subjects… unless you’re a lawyer or something.

And, that log in the picture above? It sits in the corner of our training room. That is actually part of a water pipe from circa 1600 – although wooden water pipes date back as far as the Romans.

It’s quite possible that is where the term “Trunk Main” comes from, within the industry.

There ya go: you’ve learnt something from reading this drivel 🙂

Texting

I was sitting downstairs in the kitchen area at work the other day, having my lunch, when I noticed the young chap sitting next to me, texting on his phone.

His two thumbs flew over the tiny touchscreen keyboard faster than I could follow.

“That’s amazing”, I said.  As someone who is a pretty slow, two-fingered, typist on a proper keyboard and is so much slower on a phone keyboard, I was most impressed with the speed at which he was bashing out this text. “Do you make many mistakes typing at that speed?” I asked.

“Not really”, he said, turning his head to look at me, “Auto-correct will pick up any mistakes I make, but usually I’m fairly accurate”.

He’d continued typing whilst looking and talking to me. I looked at the message he had been tapping out to his girlfriend.

Perfect. Not a mistake to be seen. It’s fair to say I was a little in awe.

It has taken me twenty minutes to type this out.

I reckon he could have done it in two.

Blindfolded.

Best till last

Mrs Masher bought me an advent calendar at the beginning of December.

A big box, with a bottle of beer behind each perforated cardboard window.

Different beers from around the world.

And, it was a cracking selection because, out of the 24 bottles, I think there was only one that I didn’t enjoy (can’t remember which it was).

But last night, sitting in front of the telly, watching Spiderman: Homecoming, whilst balancing a plate of home-made enchiladas on my lap, I finished off the last of the 24 bottles.

Brewed in Assemini, a small town in Sardinia, this was quite possibly the pick of the bunch.

I’m quietly hoping for another advent calendar, this year!

 

Me n you

Saturday morning is when I do my grocery shopping up at our local Sainsbury’s (other retail giants are available).

It’s not a task I particularly dislike – packing it all away in the cupboards when I get home, is the bit that I hate doing – but often, before I even start the shop, I’ll take trip upstairs to the café, for a mug of tea and a toasted teacake. I think I’ve mentioned it here before. It’s my little treat.

What annoys me in this particular scenario though, is waiting in the queue. Waiting whilst people order their ridiculous coffees. I’ve definitely mentioned THAT before.

It’s reached the point where I won’t bother if I see more than two people in the queue: that’s a potential six minutes wait!

Today, there were 4 people in the queue, but I got in line anyway, because I just really, really wanted my Saturday morning repast.

The two people directly in front of me were together – a young couple – and they were talking incessantly about how great the previous night had been and how they’d never seen Simon as pissed as that before. Simon’s girlfriend had called an Uber for the two of them, but the driver wouldn’t take Simon because he was so drunk that he might have spewed up in the back of the car.

Apparently.

They jabbered on and on and then they reached the front of the queue.  “At last”, I thought.

“What can I get you?”, asked Here To Help Sally, resplendent in her orange and purple uniform that looked like it hadn’t seen a washing machine for several months.

The two of them looked up at the two large TV screens on the wall behind Sally.

The two large TV screens brightly displaying the menu.

The two large TV screens that they had been nattering in front of for the past ten minutes.

“Hmmm… I don’t know. What are you having?”

“Not sure. I might have an all-day breakfast.”

“Really? Do you think you can handle one of them?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should just have beans on toast.. What do you think?”

“How about an omelette?”

“Nah, I don’t fancy omelette… ”

ARGGGHH!

We’re not so smart

I had to speak to a customer yesterday, on the telephone.

He had rang into our call centre because he was concerned that the smart meter we were fitting outside his house, would interfere with his hearing aid. He had also heard that they can affect pacemakers… not that he had one, but he was concerned anyway.

Understandably so.

He wanted to speak to someone technical.

That’s me.

I allayed his fears and explained that the frequencies and power levels that we use, would be most unlikely to affect his hearing aid.  I’m pleased to say that he was calm and pleasant to talk to (not all customers who contact us are) and just wanted some information so he could make his own informed decision.

He rang back a couple of hours later saying that after talking to his hearing specialists, using the info I had given him,  he was now happy to have the meter fitted.

Happy days.  But it got me thinking: people read things on the internet and just assume that they are true, without doing any further research. There is actually a lot of misinformation on the web. There are websites dedicated to anti smart metering and many of them contain the wrong information or out of date information. Some of them cite research done by ‘experts’… experts that – when you look into it – have no credible qualifications for stating their ‘facts’.

Of course, doing your own research takes time, and talking with with people who actually know what they are talking about, isn’t always easy. It’s so much easier to Google it, click on that first link and take what you read as gospel.

The internet is a wonderful tool if we use it properly.

Sadly, many of us don’t.

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