An Ear in a Bag

(Warning: May contain traces of NaNoWriMo.)

I didn’t mean to go to the all-nighter, honest. Mainly because I thought it was on the 1st, which was a school night and hence not a goer, or at least not for me.
So, I rocked up at the first Write In. New coffee shop this year due to our previous haunt having closed down. Managed to find the place without too much fuss, which always helps, and was the first one there, so got to baggsie a non-wobbly table near the power sockets.

First impressions of our new home: Gloomy due to being a bit deficient in lightbulbs, toilets about a four on the FurrySquid Scale of Lavatorial Grimness*. Tea made using actual boiling water from an actual kettle, so reasonably drinkable once I’d got them to stop drowning it in milk. (This is important: quite apart from me being the sort of person who runs on copious tea, the coffee shop are letting us take over their upstairs because they’re expecting us to put a reasonable amount of money over the counter. So, lots of cups of tea get bought, and it really does help if it’s tea that can be drunk without making faces.) Cheese panini for lunch was nice enough. I was being good and avoiding the cakes, but various other nano-ers ate them and didn’t die. So, looks like a win, mostly.

And then we had the usual start-of-the-month announcements from the MLs, including “still got space on the Write Over, money to Cassie if interested”. Do I, don’t I, do I? Don’t really want to, need sleep, but am also very behind on wordcount … oh, sod it, you can always use your keyboard as a pillow for a bit.

Which was how I found myself handing over eleven quid to spend fourteen hours in a room containing:
– Seventeen writers
– One writer’s new boyfriend, who may now have been infected with the curse of nano himself.
– At least eighteen laptops
– One desktop
– Samples of every caffeinated energy drink known to man
– Some sweets pretending to be sushi
– Some more sweets pretending to be pizza
– Some actual pizzas (ordered at 2am by way of “lunch”)
– …. and an ear in a bag.

I kicked off with the horrible murder of some kittens. (And a whole family of humans, but this is the internet, so the kittens are the important bit.) I tried to sell my main character into slavery, but he got away, and I drank far too much brightly coloured caffeinated fizz, admired the ear-in-a-bag, and assessed the loos as being about a seven-going-on-eight on the Scale of Lavatorial Grimness.

I got caught up as regards wordcount at around ten to midnight, and managed to chug through the following day’s wordcount as well in the hours that followed, so by the time we all packed it in and went in search of breakfast (in another, completely different venue – Ok food, but loos only a two, which is well into “hold it in and go somewhere else” territory**), I was actually slightly ahead. So, job done, I think?

And the ear in a bag?

No, it wasn’t some sort of gruesome prop. It was still attached to a human head, which was still attached to the rest of the human. Who was asleep in the gigantic wheeled holdall she’d brought her desktop in (laptop bust, apparently), and only visible as one ear sticking out. Or, as we all ended up referring to her, an ear in a bag.

(*Which I will explain another time, but only if I’m really bored.)
(**Have since googled, and apparently the whole establishment only got one out of five for hygiene at the last inspection. Oh, well, I’m writing this on Tuesday, so if I was going to catch anything I’d probably have started spewing by now. I hope.)

Church on Sunday

Well, traditionally, one goes to church on a Sunday morning. So I did.

This was, however, for tub-hunting purposes rather than god-bothering. A generous handful of church micros in Worcester, plus side trips for a couple of others. Qualified for a challenge I’ve been looking at and made substantial progress towards another one, very satisfying.

Only one problem – I slid over quite impressively on the first one, and spent the rest of the day with mud all over my backside. Which is probably why the smartly-dressed parishioners of Worcester kept giving me funny looks. Oops.

Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted …

So … out for a little bit of a mini adventure, in the form of a first look at a couple of unusual DT combinations with high-ish terrain ratings. Neither likely to be quick, at least one falling (imho) into the “will need more than one visit” category. First one, took a few moments to work out which bits of the listing were actually relevant – a lot of it wasn’t, security by obfuscation as it were. Sussed it out eventually, off to next stage, info gained for next stage. Not really dressed for it, had only come for a bit of a look, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to investigate further …

First step: Ankle-deep.

Second step: Knee-deep.

Third step: Groin-deep.

Fourth step: Backwards.

Don’t mind having boots full of water, but I’d had to shove my phone – which isn’t waterproof – down my bra, and I wasn’t sure that would be high enough! So, didn’t get anywhere near final GZ, but now I know what I need to do by way of having a proper go at it.

Then another multi, less aquatic and more in terms of leg-breaking verticality. First stage was up a tree, spotted it easily from the ground, went and joined it up there, fished the second-stage instructions out of the pot … and then, suddenly, the instructions weren’t in the tree. Oops.

Thankfully they landed somewhere reasonably accessible, so all that happened was that I got to do the climb twice. Butterfingers.

Off to final GZ, or rather what turned out to be thirty feet below it. Came intending to do more of a recce than anything else because the tree climb certainly didn’t justify the terrain rating in its own right and the final looked to involve some interesting rope tricks. Had a good scout around, can now think of at least three ways of approaching the final problem and, again, know what kit I need to bring. Which always helps. My car isn’t infinitely large, and I don’t have access to a mule train for ferrying stuff to GZ, so I can’t just bring the entire contents of the kit cupboard, garage, toolbox, various friends’ kit cupboards, bike sheds and boat sheds, etc etc …

So, never really got to GZ in either case. But I made significant progress on both of them, and I had fun doing it. Happy days.

A tale of two megas

Attending the Geolympix was very much a last-minute decision. I had a ridiculously over-long walk the previous day, for which I can only blame GCC (no, it isn’t possible to walk to work in any reasonable timescale, but I got as far as Wolverhampton before giving up) and wanted an easy day out. So, Geolympix it was. Didn’t have time to do the “Big G” puzzles, but there looked to be plenty to go at without them, throw in some lab caches and the mega itself and there’s the makings of a decent day out.

And, indeed, it was a very good day out. Lovely parkland location, interesting monument. Event HQ was a roped-off area in the field with some tables and turdises (well, they usually look like the tardis, and they’re full of …), nothing fancy but it did perfectly Ok for the size of the event. The organisers had helpfully spread some of the lab caches out a bit – one was a fair walk away, and took me quite a while to get there because I kept stopping to browse interesting caches along the way. Lots of people out, but the size of the area relative to the size of the event meant we never really got the “join the queue for the cache” thing going on. The National Geocaching Awards made a good way to wrap up the day (not sure I agreed with some of the results, but these things are always a matter of opinion), and the pig roast was pretty good too. I can think of far worse ways to spend a Sunday.

And then, a week later, I went to the official Wales Mega in Llangollen.

First impressions: Loud. Busy. Lots of bouncy castles. Lots of people selling stuff.

Queued for and went round the GPS Adventures maze. Nice to get the icon (and I have to admit the obsessive nerd side of my brain was leaping around cheering), very polished and professional display, staffed by friendly and helpful people … and a great exercise in telling people things they should already know. If you have been caching long enough to realise that the maze is an unusual, sought-after tick, then you have probably been caching long enough to realise that, for example, you sometimes get caches in fake fir-cones, that morse code is A Thing, and that if the cache is described as “nightcache, follow the reflectors”, it’s probably going to help if you take a torch. In other words, it’s the sort of resource that would be absolutely fantastic for educating complete beginners, but how many complete beginners do you usually get at a mega?

Back out into the hordes in search of lunch and caches. Various options for the former (including someone who has worked out that you can transform cheese into more expensive cheese by serving it on old vinyl records, and who deserves to be introduced to the “we want plates” people, who will doubtless Have Views on what he can do with his vinyl), and not really enough options for the latter. There’s a big series of puzzles set for the mega, and they’re all drive-bys, which isn’t really something I’d go for on a warm sunny day (and especially not with a bazillion others trying to do the same thing), there’s another series several miles from the event with parking for a whole eight cars (so not on mega day, then), and there’s a very long series along the canal which really needs a whole day to itself.

I wandered off up a hill instead. Not many caches, but on the other hand I did get a reasonable walk out of it.

So, Wales was Ok, but, for me, the Geolympix was the little mega that could.

Oops, I think?

Out for a bit of an amble at the weekend (55k steps in GCC-land ::o), a few caches along the canal, and a slight problem … in that one of said recently-published caches was right on top of the final of one of my puzzles.

So I checked, as you do, that I had given the correct “Final” waypoint for the reviewer’s convenience – and yes, I had.

Contacted the CO of the newer cache, and he was very nice about it – not to mention deeply apologetic, despite the balls-up not being his fault. All sorted out now.

But it shouldn’t have *needed* sorting out … after all, doesn’t the review process cover this sort of thing?


Being mobbed by the crowding fans, hundreds of hands grabbing, shoving, offering bits of paper to be signed ….

No, I’m not actually famous, or at least not in any ways that I’m likely to have a crowd of adoring fans. And, after being mobbed by hundreds of school-age sponsored walkers all wanting their check sheets signed at once … I never want to be!

(Marshalling for a sponsored walk from a local school as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility thingy ie Huge IT Corporation Of Evil trying to convince the world that it’s soft and fluffy. I can think of far worse ways to earn a day’s pay than sitting in the sun waiting for groups of sponsored walkers.)

The madness begins …

No, not Gnu C Compiler. Global Corporate Challenge, aka 100 days of pedometer-tracked exercise-related insanity.

The idea is simple: wear the pedometer provided, try to knock out at least 10,000 steps per day, log your steps on the website. Work in teams, lots of mutual encouragement, employers pay for it.

However …
10,000 steps isn’t actually very far, there’s a public leaderboard, and humans are competitive. I’m aiming for a 40k average this year …. ::o)


Being watched …

My upcoming event (GC6DGMF) is now up to a whopping *four* will-attends. And has ten people watching it, presumably to see if anyone falls over a cliff, gets savaged by a man-eating sheep etc.

Come on, you ‘orrible lot! There’s been a previous event up Cadair Idris and hardly anyone died, honest …

Besides, there will be cake.

A new low

Out yesterday for a bit of a tub-hunt, and came across this:

This is supposed to be a geocache?

This is supposed to be a geocache?

Yes, it’s a cardboard tube. Well, half a cardboard tube. It is supposed to be a geocache.

Now, I’m sure there are parts of the world where half a cardboard tube would be an ideal cache container, but the wet, wet UK isn’t one of them. Other things that don’t (usually) work well as cache containers include plastic bags, takeaway containers, drinks cans and anything else that is neither waterproof nor sufficiently robust to withstand several months in an ivy-covered tree.

So, how do we assess whether a container is suitable? I’d like to suggest the following as a method:

(1) Select a suitable container. Fill it with toilet paper.
(2) Take the container, some money and a pair of large and fluffy walking socks to your nearest pub.
(3) Approach the drunkest person in there, and buy them another pint.
(4) Get said drunk person to put the socks over their hands, and, still wearing them, remove and replace the lid on your container.
(5) Without doing anything further to adjust the position of the lid, take the container home. (Don’t forget to retrieve your socks.)
(6) Drop-kick the container the full length of your garden. Leave it wherever it lands.
(7) A month later, go and retrieve it. If the toilet paper is still dry, the container is probably up to the job.