Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Here is my parting gift to you all, before I go on my very long holidays. Looks like two crabs, but it isn't- the one on the left is the newly emerged and grown Sammy; the one on the right is his old shell. I now have to remove the shell from the water so it doesn't go yucky, and put it on the sand so he can eat it or something. It's good for him, apparently- lots of protein.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Obligatory post to let you all know what's going on, despite the fact that I'm exhausted.

I got a lift to work from my Grandad today as I had to be there so early, which was lucky as it meant I could get up later. When they said external test house, I assumed they meant somewhere in Bristol, but it turned out it was actually in Wales so I went with a man named John, one of the engineers, across the bridge. That was fun, even though I've been across it loads already. It was about an hour's drive to the test place, which was a good opportunity to snooze slightly... See the wonderfulness? OK, none of you are going to be at all enthusiastic about that, but it was all very interesting. The man who was doing the testing, whose name I do not know, took us (me and John) around the whole test house while the shakey machine was going, and showed us the different machines they can use to simulate environments. There are very accurate oven/fridge combination thingies which you can use to heat up parts of things to very high temperatures, or cool them with liquid nitrogen to very low temperatures, or if you're feeling particularly adventurous you can do thermal shock and drop something from 250 degrees to -80 degrees in about 2 seconds.

The man was very nice and explained how they all worked, why you would do different tests, and showed us some examples of what companies requested... you know the little panels you get in modern cars to turn on and adjust the air conditioning? Well that little panel with all its electronics is shaken on 3 axes (eg. up/down, left/right, forwards/backwards) for 6 hours each, 12 times over, to check it will be ok after 72 hours' worth of bumpy roads... I was also told that, rather worryingly, car components like this are often tested more rigorously than parts of aeroplanes. So, it's disaster if the air conditioning in your car fails after you've driven for a week across cobblestones, but who cares if a wing of a plane falls off???

I discovered the perks of the job today too- we got given a full cooked breakfast, which was, surprisingly, very nice- not burned, not squished (like MacDonalds' fried eggs, which are clearly mass produced) and worth whatever money the company had to pay for it. Also, we got a free lunch, so I had a wonderful piece of quiche. Mmmm, pastry!

Highlights of the day...
  1. While the tests were running, no input from us was needed, so after seeing round the test house we went and sat outside. Across the road we were by (still on the test house's land) there was a big tank of liquid nitrogen. The nitrogen gas evaporating from this came across the road in a pipe and blew out near the door. Because, as we all know, liquid nitrogen is very cold, recently evaporated nitrogen gas is also very cold (below water's freezing point) so in the areas where the pipe wasn't insulated a thick layer of ice formed where water vapour in the air first condensed, then froze to it. This lead to pretty stalagtites forming on the end of the pipe, which I broke off and used to cool myself down in the sweltering heat. Also, the end of the pipe was horizontal and blew out the very cold gas, so I sat in front of that and got nitrogen air conditioning. Well, it cooled me down..
  2. They gave me a resonance scan graph to keep! Yay! I know that means nothing to you (it is little more than a few squiggles on a graph, really) but I am proud of it.
  3. Foooooooooood

When we got back to Stirling's offices it was half past 3, so long before the end of a normal working day, but John said I could go as I'd been there since half past 7 (ish) anyway. My nan picked me up and I was home before 4, hooray. I then... oh goodness, what did I do with all that time? I don't know really, but at quarter to seven I went with my nan to her craft class thing- don't laugh, it was good. We were shown how to do teabag folding, which is useful as it makes pretty patterns. I was slightly faster than most of the older ladies- not that they were all old old, there was a good range, but I was still faster than them. Nah nah na-na nah.

Envelopes! That's where that lost in-between time went! And dinner, of course. And maybe an e-mail or two. Only 300 more envelopes to go, 200 tomorrow night when I am not busy, and 100 on Thursday before or after ringing.

Well, I think that's enough writing from me, a bit less than yesterday but still quite a lot!

Bonne nuit à tous xxx

Monday, July 17, 2006

First Day

I have returned, safe and sound, from my first day of work. Well, I say 'work', but I don't really mean that. I think I used more energy in cycling there and back than I did in working.

So, this morning I was up at 7 (well, 7:30 after pressing the snooze a couple of times...), feeling not very hungry due to odd nervous pangs in my stomach. Nibbled at some breakfast, then on the bike and off to work. Grandad cycled with me today as I've never done the route before, or indeed even seen anywhere on the route before. It was a very hilly route but that can't be helped- it does make me appreciate how flat Cheltenham is though!

Well, as we were going, I was looking out for road names, shop names and landmarks to guide me home again, and I managed to have the whole route fixed in my head... except for the last-but-one turning which I didn't pay attention to. That makes a rather large difference later in the story.

At the office I met the people with whom I would be working for the day (and shook many hands). I was given my own computer with my own comfortable swivel chair, and spent about 20 minutes reading through the company's website. They were then going to give me a circuit wiring diagram to update on a CAD package, but unfortunately nobody had any ideas where the original copies were. They spent a good couple of hours phoning back and forth trying to find them (the one guy who might know where they were was at the Farnborough Air Show and had no signal on his mobile) but alas, no luck. So instead they gave me the work that was planned for Friday to do today instead.

That consisted of reading through a 30 page long document, a user guide for one of their products. The product rights, including things like copyright, were originally owned by two companies, Stirling Dynamics (where I was working) and another whose name I cannot remember. Then something happened, to be honest I have no idea what, and the rights are now owned exclusively by SD. Basically I had to remove all trace of this other company from the document, eg. logos, addresses, initials in the header etc. Nothing difficult, just about 45 minutes of checking through.

After that, they were stuck. I walked to Sainsbury's (which had air conditioning, what a blessing!) and bought lunch- a sandwich, two drinks and a large bag of mixed fruit to last me through the week, hopefully. The rest of the day (about 4-5 hours) was spent eating through my lunch slowly, playing tantrix online and e-mailing people. Well, ok, it was a bit more interesting than that- I got to listen in on a conference call (on speakerphone) between the department I was in and another one, discussing which metal to use for a product casing. Stainless steel 343 or 393 or 348 or something like that... all the people talking seemed to know the exact properties of each type of stainless steel... I suppose it is relevant to their job. Someone suggested titanium, everyone laughed, then a bit later they realised it wasn't such a bad suggestion after all.

I also spent quite a while being nosy and reading things over people's shoulders- looking at all of their incredibly complicated designs for things (slightly more advanced than the cuboid-box-with-two-switches that's common in schools), but they were too busy working to be disturbed so I didn't really know what the products were.

At about 4:45 I was playing a game of tantrix when Chris, the man in charge of the department, came and said I was free to go when I wanted, and he was sorry that they couldn't find the papers. I finished my game and left, after thanking relevant people...

Cycling back was a bit different to cycling there. For one thing, going there was overall downhill, so obviously it was the reverse on the return. Also, I got lost. As I said, I didn't pay attention to the penultimate turning so I couldn't find that one from the main road. This led to me cycling in circles around an area I'd never seen or heard of before, and wondering why all the roads had the same name before realising that, wait, it's the same road...

When I got in my cousin was here, but she only stayed for a bit to watch TV. I wasn't very interesting to talk to as I was very worn out from the extended cycle ride home, and I was cooking. Not cooking as in I was preparing food, but I was so hot that my flesh began to cook. Maybe...

Chicken salad for dinner, nice and cold! Then I went ringing at the church nearby. When I got there, there were only 2 people- 1 ringer and 1 learner. The learner left within 5 minutes so the lady and I sat and talked for a bit about Cheltenham and stuff like that, and then about 20 minutes later another ringer turned up. We all sat around for a bit longer until yet another ringer turned up... a total of four, how magnificent! As there were so few people, the others were rather demotivated and we ended up only ringing twice. The second time surprised me a bit as I thought we were going to be lowering the bells (requiring no thinking, just concentration on technique) but then they started ringing a method, aaaah. Luckily I was able to hurriedly work out what to do, nothing difficult.

And now... now I am spending far too long writing this when I should be in bed. Tomorrow I have to be at work by 7:45 because I am going to an 'external test house' to test one of their products. It gets shaken around a lot, from what I can tell- first up/down, then left/right, then forwards/backwards. After each 'shaking'- 24 minutes- we have to test it to see it still works, I think. It will be interesting, because obviously I've never seen a proper test house before, and like the CAD drawings I believe it will be slightly more complicated than what I've done before. That tended to be in the range of 'Drop it five times. Does it smash? No? Good. It's fine then.' whereas this is perfectly calculated right down the frequency of the shaking- ascending at an octave per minute, if I remember rightly!

Right, lateness = tiredness, I am going now. Hope you haven't all died after that long post! More tomorrow (I heard that groan...)

PS. Kathryn- if everybody drops dead from boredom, I'll blame it on you, as you're the one who requested the regular bulletins :P


Just a short one as I'm going off to lunch soon...

I have arrived safe and well (and nervous, having never done this before). There's not much to say about this morning, I could tell you all about the job I did but it probably won't interest you much.

Lunch. That's interesting, though it involves leaving this comfortable chair... :(

Anyway, must go, more later.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Some people

It is wonderful how some people can be so helpful, even when they don't say a great deal. But, what they do say is enough, and the right things.

Oh, joy, joy, joy! That's how I feel right now! I feel like singing, except my sisters are sleeping and it would wake them up. That would not be joyful.


Friday, July 14, 2006

This, my dears, is a picture of a bell. By bell, I mean a proper English bell hung for change ringing. You see the bell is hanging from a bit of wood, and above that there's a long thin bit of wood sticking upwards? Well, the upwards pointing bit is called the stay. At the bottom of the picture, is another long bit of wood, which goes from one side of the frame to the other. That's the slider, as it slides from side to side. As the bell swings on the wheel, right up and over the top, the stay hits the slider and is stopped from going any further.

Anyway, the idea is that when you let the bell go up 'to the balance', eg. so its mouth is pointing straight upwards, that you don't let it go so far over that the slider is pushed to its limits, as this puts a lot of strain on the stay and it can snap...

So guess what happened to me last night???

Max's mum had a cricket committee meeting in Chedworth so we went with her as they have 6 fairly nice bells there. Last week, there were about 7/8 ringers + a Canadian tourist who came to watch, but this week there was just one man, plus Max and me. With 3 people, the choice of things to ring is somewhat limited, so instead of ringing the tower bells, we rang handbells. It's more difficult as you have to ring two bells at once, which can often be doing two different things.

Luckily, another lady turned up, so we went into the church to ring 4 of the tower bells. That was fun- because it's easier to see what you're doing with only 3 other bells ringing, I was able to ring some stuff more complicated than I can normally. Reverse Canterbury Minimus *nods*.

Then Max's mum turned up and we rang on 5 bells (hoorah) but unfortunately that was when I let the bell go up a little too far, and the stay cracked. Apparently it was breaking already, but that doesn't make me feel much better. It was quite incredible to watch what happened though- if you look at the picture and imagine the bell going clockwise, that'll give you some idea. Think of the rope. It wrapped around the bell, and just kept going, so it disappeared right up into the ceiling. And then the bell, with nobody to control it and stop it swinging, kept going 'dong dong dong dong dong dong dong...' sounding like a death toll or something.

Well yeah, that put me off ringing for the evening, but I had to carry on anyway. Then the ringing master took Max's mum, Max and me to the pub and bought us drinks, and a bowl of chips. Obviously he wasn't too annoyed at me (apparently they needed a new stay anyway). There was this cute little black cat who kept trying to dip her nose into our ketchup, so in the end I put some on my finger to feed to her. She wasn't too impressed after sniffing it, so she moved onto the chips themselves. I fed her one of them and she liked it so much she came back for more! Cute cute cuteeeeeeee!

Oh, before I forget, better pictures of Bananas:

I couldn't get the third one to work but here are 2 pictures, of him sitting and standing. I could take a picture of my present from Max, but it's ringing related so it would not be of interest to most of you :)

Anyway, 300 envelopes await me, au revoir...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bananas... finished! I would take a picture but I don't know where a camera is... wait a second, I shall find one...

There he is, in very poor quality because it's a rubbish camera. My mum has taken the good one because it's 'Watching Day' at my sisters' dancing lessons and obviously we need 5,000 pictures of small girls making fools of themselves.

Anyway, isn't he cute??? The picture does not do him justice, but he still looks adorable. LOVE HIM!!!

Oh yeah, and if I didn't say so before, I made that, all of it, every stitch. Considering I've never sewn anything before (except that badge onto my Explorer shirt... it fell off) I'm very pleased.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention! The reason I made Bananas- it is one year today since Max and I started going out. It seems a year has only made us crazier.

Like a social butterfly...

...or a social maggot, maybe. Yesterday was the sixth form barbecue at our school, an opportunity to meet lots of the new people coming to Pate's in September. Hoorah. I just love awkward social occassions. Shove 110 teenagers in a space only just big enough to hold them, when some of them don't even know anyone, and everyone's bound to have a great time...

Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it all that much. I talked to a few people (7.5, if you count the girl who said hi but nothing more) and they were all nice enough, just... none of them are like us, so it's unlikely I'm ever going to be good friends with any of them. A girl called Nicola was very nice, if a bit shy, and a girl called Lucy was even nicer, and somehow managed to have more ear piercings than Sam does, and a lip stud too. I never thought I would like someone like that but she was very friendly. Must stop being prejudiced against people, grrr :(

Must continue now with Operation Bananas as I have only about 6 hours to finish it and it's still in lots of pieces (some of which aren't even finished yet).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Shopping, shopping, shopping. I hate it. I hate modern fashions and overpriced everything. I hate being the wrong shape for everything.

However, I do love subway sandwiches, and I do love ice-cream, and I got both of those. Lying in Sandford Park in glorious sunshine, eating an ice-cream and reading a book = bliss. Coming home to add up just how much I owe my mum for all the clothes etc. I've bought in the last two weeks = argh.