Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Week 4 of training...

Well... It's actually going OK! The training profile from Help For Heroes is modest during the week, and then a bigger trip at the weekend. Fortunately the past few weeks have had enough dry and bright days to make cycling more of a pleasure.

Tomorrow is a "kit shopping" day. I've got by with a few new things so far (jacket, water reservoir, etc) but I need to get some more serious kit now:
* SPD's and shoes. Whilst I use toe straps, and they're pretty good. SPD's offer a more connected and fully driving connection to the bike. With 70 miles a day on offer in May every last percentage is going to be useful
* clothing - something with a little padding on the human/saddle interface is likely to be seriously beneficial!
* saddle. A commuting padded saddle is unlikely to be the best thing, so I'll be looking at a few razor blade options!
* computer. I spend my time on the bike calculating percentages of journey so far, likely arrival time at home and so on. A computer (well I am a geek!) will automate some of this and maybe I can spend a bit more time thinking about something else!
* handlebar bag. I've a small bag under the saddle, but once I go for longer training runs, I'll need a bit more stuff (food!) with me

What I can't get over is how much things have changed since the 80's...

And of course if you want to sponsor my Help For Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, Please click here

Monday, January 16, 2012

This may come as a shock to you... (a good one though!)

Over the last couple of years I have managed to lose some weight.  During the latter stages of 2011 I was trying to find ways of maintaining that loss, and maybe going a bit further.  I have never been, and never will be a gym bunny.  Been there, done that, got bored.  So what to do?

In November, I found that Help For Heroes were doing something interesting.  They have a bike challenge cycling alongside those who have been wounded, sick or injured in the current conflicts riding handbikes.  Adding to that, the ride is through the WWI and WWII battlefields of Northern France and Belgium, with some guided visits of the cemeteries and trenches from those wars.  If you've read this blog for a while, you will know that nearly 2 years ago, just before he died, I took my Pa to Albert to visit two recently discovered relatives - 1 buried at Bernafay Wood, the other commemorated at Thiepval - my posts at the time can be found here: Somme Trip

So the event chimed heavily.  Guessing a better option is most unlikely to turn up, I have now signed up to do the Help For Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride

My initial enquires were met with some entertaining medical questions that took a bit of sorting out!  But I have been accepted and have now started training and just entered my 4th week back on a bike after a break (with a small interruption) of about 29 years!

It's not going to be easy, but I am sure it will be fun (even if only looking back on it at the end of each day)!

The chance to meet the true heroes of our age, whilst visiting the place of sacrifice of so many in the previous century is too good to miss.  And I get the chance to find an interesting way to get fitter to boot.

So, why blog it?  Well, a) because the blog is there! b) because I hope to blog the experience of getting ready to do it, and to blog the ride as well, and c) (you guessed it), I'd like some sponsorship! Please!

There are some up front costs for the ride which Mrs B and I will cover, so if you sponsor me, please know that every penny you donate will go to the charity.  If you can Gift Aid 25% extra goes the Help For Heroes

So there's a couple of routes for donations:
  • At my Help For Heroes sponsorship page, you may be asked for you address - this is to allow Gift Aid to be recovered from the government (I will NOT get your address or email details).  If you wish, you can make your donation anonymous too.
  • But even easier is to text it - send “BBBR 83 10” to 70070, where the 10 is for a donation of £10. Replace with any suitable number :-).  Texters will get a confirmation back, and a URL to go to if they want to Gift Aid it.
The ride sets off from HMS Victory in Portsmouth, and (after crossing by ferry!) we cycle approximately 350 miles through significant WW1 and WW2 Battle sites in the Somme, before finishing in Dunkirk.

Any donations you make will be most gratefully received, and I look forward to reporting on progress, and most especially to reporting I've finished!

A bank's definition of crime

Last week one of my pieces of plastic was compromised.  More will come out later, but in the meantime I thought you might enjoy this.
During the course of a 2 hours on the phone today trying to sort out issues, I was advised that the bank does not regard a fraud as having taken place if their systems prevent (or their customers prevent) a fraudulent transaction from reaching a transaction on your bank statement.
So that’s it then, a crime is only a crime when it is successful.  We can kiss goodbye to all convictions for conspiracy to rob a bank.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Verified By Visa - a security joke. But, by the way, their normal UK landline is 0247 684 2063

If you use a credit or debit card online you’ll probably have come up against Verified by Visa or MasterCard’s equivalent.  It’s a scheme to have a frame in a browser page managed by the credit card provider (instead of the retail outlet) to do a password check.
I’ve always thought it security theatre.
It pretty much is.
Today a card of mine was compromised.  I performed a legitimate online transaction at easyJet at 12:02, with a card that has not been used online (other than at the Bank’s own banking site, and the DVLA) in over three months, or in an ATM since 25th October – it’s specifically for riskier online transactions which are few and far between for me.  Within a few minutes someone had my card details and the following transactions were attempted
  • 12:04pm (2 minutes later!!!) £5 at a wildlife park – this went through
  • At 12:07 just under £2k to a Barclaycard account (not mine) – this was blocked
  • At 12:20 86p at Experian – this went through
  • At 12:36 a second attempt at the Barclaycard account – still blocked
As this is the second time a card has been compromised so soon after using easyJet I’ll leave it to your imagination what I think of them.  Of course it is conceivable that some other route to compromise may have occurred – but this is the *second* time exactly the same thing has happened with a rarely used card used at easyJet.  So I know where I think it’s happening.
However, whilst this was going on I received an email from Verified By Visa at 12:35 saying my password had been changed – and if not to contact them on a premium rate number (which various internet reports indicate an extension hold time for profit).   See below (a couple of details removed) - would you think this was a genuine email or a scam?  Note especially the unmatched domain name, and the over 2 years old BT call fee statement!
So I binged the number (0870 156 6485) and found a normal landline number to call (and also verified it at Barclays own website).  The double advantage of the 0247 number is that I can use free mobile phone minutes as well.
The net result was that the card was eventually blocked.  But honestly – what is the point of a secondary layer of security on a system that can be completely compromised by someone with only the already used credit card details?
OK, receiving the email did give me a prompt that something was up, but very poorly due to the format, content and address.  But the fraud detection at the bank had already done that in effect by blocking transactions.  Shouldn’t the reset of the password at least require email confirmation or a known fact BEFORE completing?
FWIW the security question at the bank’s call centre were better – they picked a random DD or 2 that I pay and made me confirm details about the recipient/amount.  Now that was sensible.
Hacked off.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Gone in 2011, and almost instantly recognisable by just one name…

Watching the usual end of year review of those who have died during the year, and I was struck by the number of people this time who were identifiable by just one name…


Did you recognise them as I did?

But there's also a last one you wouldn't, Daphne - a great friend. Sorely missed.