Martin's Blog

from a Slovenian living in Wales

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Improving the chance you are reachable when on-call

Recently I have been on-call a lot – as a veterinary surgeon, of course. However the village I am staying in has very poor mobile reception, especially indoors so I have come up with a system to improve my chances that the clients can reach me when I am on call at home. I also do not have use of a land-line, but I do have a WiFi connection.

As often the case when staying in an area with a poor mobile signal the indicating bars can come and gome at will and I often end up with a nice stop sign that indicates I have absolutely nothing, zilch, nada of a mobile signal. Moments when this happens are impossible to predict. So how will clients be able to reach me if that happens?

I found a solution in FlyNumber and a separate voip provider. In my case Sip2Ssip however you can now use Fly Number as a voip provider as well. Not to be to technical, Fly Number provides you with a local phone number which you can use to redirect calls to a VOIP (voice Over IP) provider, which is a fancy abbreviation for a internet phone connection. This internet phone connection can be established for example on you PC, laptop or, even better, on you smartphone.

Prerequisites:

  • an account with Fly Number or any other phone number provider (however I found this one the best by far)
  • an account with a VOIP provider like Sip2Sip, Fly Number, Skype…
  • a WiFi signal with a working internet connection
  • smartphone

Basically I setup a new UK number (as this is where I live). I set the number up so that all calls get forwarded to an ITSP – I already had an account setup with Sip2Sip which FlyNumber recommended. I have a Samsung smartphone where I have installed Zopier and linked it to my Sip2Sip account. However after the recent JellyBean upgrade I seem to have got the phone to take incoming voip calls through Sip2Sip.
I am working at this current practice for 2 months so I went for the three month FlyNumber account but with no repeat subscriptions.
I also setup my phone to redirect all calls when I am unreachable to the FlyNumber I purchased.

So as long as I am logged onto the wifi in my accommodation – or anywhere else and if the mobile signal is lost, then my calls will go via voip to my mobile phone. Brilliant.

Update February 2015

I have been contacted by Fly Number about this post as they monitor any mention of their company on the net. They offered me three months credit if I put a link to them. Well as this was after I wrote the article and as I don’t get a lot of free stuff I said Yeah 🙂

Chikungunya what? Is that a local chicken dish?

Sun, Siyang et al., 2013

The Chikungunya virus / Sun, Siyang et al., 2013

Soon after starting planning my volunteer trip to Carriacou I was given advice about vaccinations I would require. These were basically for rabies and tetanus. As I was tested and proven that I already had enough anti-bodies against tetanus (Clostridium tetani) all I had to do was to get my rabies shots. Great. Cashed out over £110 for this and thought this was it.

Then later I heard about this Chikungunya virus that was causing issues round the world but it was also prevalent in the Caribbean. Turns out this virus causes a quite nasty disease. OK, not exactly ebola grade badness but can still be lethal in extreme cases and can also cause severe joint pain that can linger for months and even a few years. And, you guessed it, absolutely no vaccine for it.

Want to know more? optimistic version and slightly less cheerful version

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Image reference

  • Sun, Siyang et al., 2013 “Structural Analyses at Pseudo Atomic Resolution of Chikungunya Virus and Antibodies Show Mechanisms of Neutralization.” Ed. Werner Kühlbrandt. eLife 2 (2013): e00435. PMC. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.

Volunteering for the Worldwide Veterinary Service on the island of Carriacou

After months of preparation I will finally been taking a trip to the Caribbean island of Carriacou to do a few weeks of volunteer work for the Carriacou Animal Hospital (Facebook page here). The trip was coordinated in conjunction with the WVS (Worldwide Veterinary Service) who has offered me loads of support and guidance.

I have put over £1,000 towards the trip but the CAH, WVS and I are also looking for any charitable donations of veterinary medical supplies. Get in contact with WVS here: /www.wvs.org.uk/how-to-help/donate/

I have also created a JustGiving page where you can donate
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carriacou-mapThe island has about half the population of Haverfordwest – the town in Wales where I currently live. The 8,000 inhabitants that live on the island that could fit into Pembrokeshire about 18 times are known to be very pleasant. Carriacou is renown to be the safest and the friendliest island in the Caribbean. Not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that they are big fans of rum and they have apparently over 100 rum shops.

The CAH, ran by Kathy, Shurlene and Hans, is very active in the welfare of pets on Carriacou and performs a lot of neutering and spaying as well as everyday animal healthcare services. I will hopefully be reporting to you on how it all goes when I get there. And getting there from good ol’ Pembrokeshire will not be that straightforward. First I will have to drive to Gatwick (near London), stay over there as the flight is an early morning one. Then there is the flight to Grenada but it first stops in St Lucia, all the time I will have to bear in mind that I have to end up in Grenada and not Granada – a town and province in Spain.

After that I have to, again, sleep over as the flight is to late for me to catch the ferry to get me from St George’s on Grenada to Hillsborough on Carriacou. There is a plane shuttle between the islands but I would be late for that as well (its also a little more pricier). I figure after a long-haul flight I would have been sick and tired of hearing the safety brief and the knee crunching legroom. After that I hope to be picked up at the airport to end at CAH.

That is the plan. Stay tuned 🙂

Luggage FUBAR riding a motorcycle

Had a great trip to the Algarve recently and rented a Honda Shadow motorcycle for a week. On one of the last few days of my stay there I planned a trip to the south-western tip of Portugal – Cabo de São Vicente and Sagres. However all did not go well from my start in Albufeira. As I knew I was going to be on the road for at least an hour, perhaps 1.5hours I decided to strap my rucksack to the back of the bike and I used bungees to secure it. As my rucksack as well as other rucksacks have lots of dangling bits I decided to use a waterproof cover to wrap around it and make it more streamlined.

broken_sgs3

This is what my Samsung looked like afterwards

I checked several times during the trip that the luggage was secured. However then I didn’t for a while as I was confident everything was fine. Just as I crossed the Portimao bridge I checked again and with my horror only found my bungees where the rest of my rucksack was. I few chosen words were well placed at this point and I was horrified to think what all I had inside: my Samsung Galaxy S3 smart-phone, my Nokia C2, Canon EOS 450D, my spare glasses, contact lens case, wallet, passport, a small pump-spray and an insect lotion. Needless to say there was a few things in it that would a) break and b) get stolen and would be VERY missed. I was able to turn around at the next exit and was surprised to find my bag in the middle of the opposite lane just coming out of one of the Lagoa roundabouts, 7.5 km up from where I realized my luggage was missing. I the Portuguese police are reading this I promise I didn’t break any land speed records.

Well, the damage was sort of suspected. While I was quickly going through the sorry content of my rucksack a guy pulled up claiming he was (at least) one of the drivers who failed to avoid this unexpected obstacle in the middle of the road. He was driving a Mercedes so I know my bag was driven over at least once.

broken_nokia

This was the state of the Nokia phone. The LCD was out but the phone sort-off still worked.

Basically the insect lotion exploded and smeared itself equally over the inside of the main compartment. The chemicals in the lotion was apparently not very nice as it somehow discoloured the fabric of the rucksack. Of course the smart-phone was FUBAR. The screen as seen here and not turning on.

I was quite surprised about the Nokia. The screen was cracked and basically unusable but the phone still worked. The problem is that nowadays I call people by selecting them from a list in my phone-book so I don’t know any numbers by heart. My surprise cam when I saw my spare glasses. The plastic case they were in was COMPLETELY shattered – it was in lots and lots of tiny bits but the glasses them self were fine. A little smudged – nothing a quick clean didn’t fix. The frame was not bent and the lenses were intact. The only thing that was off was that one of the little plastic pads that sit against your nose had fallen off. I just popped it right back on. I am wearing them right now as I am writing this. Well done Silhouette for the frames and Essilor for the lenses 🙂

 

RCVS keen on sharing your data

During my recent review of my RCVS membership information online I came upon the main form in which you can amend various details like your address, contact info, qualifications etc.

However then I came to the section “Third party use of data” with the text

rcvs_third_party_info_sharing

The compulsory published information may be sold or supplied to third parties for non-statutory purposes (for example charitable or commercial use) and may be sent outside the European Economic Area.
If you do not agree to this, please tick the box…

Now this is making me feel a little suspicious. Not sure of this was there last year, possibly, but what business does the veterinary regulatory body have sharing my information in the first place. And what makes it worse is that NOT having your information shared is an OPT-OUT procedure.

This means that you have to tick that box in order to not have your information shared. If you forget to tick it then your data is free to be shared by the RCVS.

Like the RCVS does not have other matters that should make it think about its internal proceedings.

Naughty RCVS!!

Yet another energy provider

I have lived at my current address for last 6 years and started of using Swalec as my electricity and gas provider. Then found out they were ripping me off so I switched … only after I clawed back the money they owed me. Switched to EDF which had its own little scams. They failed to clearly explain that they will be increasing my bills by switching me to a Standard tariff if I used their smart meter.

So then I moved the lot to Atlantic, which had a nice standard tariff and must say I was quite pleased with them although this was technically the same company as Swalec, as they are both part of SSE.

Now, with the recent price hikes that have been going on (October 2013) I have decided to have another look for a cheaper deal before my bills go up. Partly because of the winter, partly because of the before mentioned price hikes. Now I know I was quite cross about the whole issue and I didn’t think switching providers would help but it seems it can help. I was listening to the uSwitch guy speaking on BBC’s Watchdog programme and there are apparently tariffs on the market that will be frozen for quite some time.

Turns out there was something for me. For the last year I have paid about £460 for electricity and gas. Switching to npower’s tariff I will not only save about £60-£80 (depending how if I calculated the new tariff based on my previous kW usage or £££ spent). Plus the tariff is frozen till 2017 but no penalty charges if I leave early.

Not bad as now I won’t be affected by the price hike but if, by some miracle, the prices come down or there is a better deal elsewhere I will be able to still switch.

So as the final message I would advise you to not wait for the government to impose any price restrictions on the energy companies anytime soon. Get yourself a better deal and shop around.

Riding the Honda GL1800 Goldwing

As the year has been coming to an end and winter seems just round the corner I decided to fill some of my inter-locuming days with a bit of biking. Hired a bike but this time something a little more comfy for the longer journeys – a proper touring bike with heated arm rests and seats would you believe it!! This time I rented a touring bike from the same Manchester rental company I used before. The bike was the marvellous Honda GL1800 Goldwing.

Started off in Manchester and then headed into a not very nice drenching storm. The rain was so bad I had to get off the road as I had problems seeing the road and other cars. Luckily there was a handy Asda carpark in Queensferry where I took refuge. The rest of the trip towards Pembrokeshire was fine, but I would still say it wasn’t really a good biking day. After stopping in Haverfordwest I travelled down the M4 and A34 to Hampshire to see relatives and then up to Northampton to meet a friend. Stayed in a local Travelodge there that I would definitely not recommend. Very dirt as seen from the photos below…

The next day on to the M1 and M6 towards Manchester.

The bike itself was great and much more comfortable than the Pan European. It also had loads more of mod-cons like heated seats, radio and it even had an air-bag. I didn’t know motorcycles even had that! One of the serous problems I had was with the windshield. It was positioned to high and once it got wet I had lots of problems seeing the road in front of me. I couldn’t get it to lowered and I thing Honda should have made it motorized like on the Pan European.

Winter warmth by croud sourcing

One thing to note to anyone attempting to hike up the Snežnik mountain is that the place is quite remote. If you set off from Ljubljana the road takes you past Postojna and towards Croatia and you then have to drive on a gravel road for quite some time to get to the Sviščaki village. From there the route takes you through a beautiful bear country forest.

About half an hour or so from the summit I walked onto this clearing where there was a lot of chopped wood. The strange thing is it almost looked like it was put there deliberately and to try to get hikers to each take one piece of wood up the Snežnik hut. To my surprise that was exactly what the logs were there for as described by this somewhat poetically inspired sign:

2013-09-03 15.28.08.resized

Če star si, slabe sape,
počasi štej naprej korake.
Če pa mlad si, poln moči,
daj na ramo si par drvi.

As the sign was touting me to pick up a log if I was feeling young I decided that I will pick up two, of course. Nothing will interfere with my ego at this point and also … no one was watching … and I also couldn’t brag to anyone … except to you right now on this blog. Hell yeah, it is my blood blog anyway 😉

When I arrived at the hut I was a little disappointed at how few other hikers have bothered to do the same log carrying as I did – you can clearly see on the photo just how few of the fresh-looking logs were taken up to the hut.

2013-09-03 15.56.49.resizedI took the trip back going north east and that is even more of a trek than getting to the mountain. Miles and miles of tracks through the deep forests of southern Slovenia.

Dodging storm clouds

I guess a lot of seasoned bikers are familiar this skill but I had to develop olit completely from scratch and it was up to necessity rather than fancying myself taking on a skill I might not use ever again.

During my few weeks biking in the US this June I got quite good at it.
What it basically is that as a motorcyclist you try avoiding getting wet by avoiding rainy clouds as they intercept your route. You do however have another choice which is to bd a fatalist and give in to nature and … well … get soaked. I preferred to stay nice and dry so I tried my best.
I basically learnt the hard way of what it felt like to drive through a cold front and come out the other side looking like something my mother would drag out if the washing machine after a good hours soak. I knew the storm was coming but really had no way to properly avoid it. I could either stay put in a nice warm and cosy (and pricey) hotel, I could try to outrun it or could try riding straight into it and shorten the suffering. I though at the time it was to panzy to stay in the hotel, I didn’t want to turn back and you really can’t outrun a cold front just to let you know. I have also already been to Wisconsin and I didn’t particularly want to go back.

So this is what it all looked like on my phone using a weather app showing the rainfall radar.

wpid-Screenshot_2013-06-09-08-17-59.pngThe red dot is where I was at the time so I could see that there wasn’t much weather on the other side of that wave of rain.

But I didn’t realize at the time that I was in for some good soaking that would last about half a day. I remember at one point stopping more out of desperation at this diner next to the interstate to get myself warm on a all-you-can-drink coffee and lots of yummy egg-soaked calories with some peanut butter on the side.
Seriously, I thought I was going to have to give up and find a hotel nearby and warm up for a week. But then it started to ease off the rain. Just a little at first. Far in the distance you could see the clouds getting brighter. Then half an hour later or so … a ray of sunshine here and there. After that it cleared up big time and once I arrived in Bismarck in North Dakota the skies were blue and the the air was hot.

Once I came close to the finish line of my trip I seemed to improve my wetness avoidance skills tremendously.
I was riding towards a small town west of Chicago and I had managed quite skilfully to avoid a few storm clouds in my path. At one point I had to leave the interstate I was on and to my surprise ended on the famous Route 66. A few friends asked me before I left on the trip whether I was going to do the ’66’, however this never in my plans. Well, did managed to get on it completely by chance.

Krim

If Krim is covered with clouds in the evening then there will be bad weather tomorrow. If its not then the weather will be fair.

Well, that what we were told and that is the knowledge we stuck by.

Krim is a 1,107m tall mountain on the southern outskirts of the Ljubljana moors. In all the years I have lived in Slovenia I have never actually been up it. I have been close, but never actually climbed it. Mostly it was because the Yugoslav army and after 1991 the Slovenian arm held a radio-relay station on top of it and access to the area was restricted. From the mid seventies to 1991 the top of the mountain was completely off limits to civilians. When I went up there in August 2013 there was not visible military personnel and not restrictions at all. There a few communication antennae up there and some of them have the military ‘keep out’ signs. But what makes the walk up this mountain even more of an adventure is the frequency in which you are very likely to encounter Ursus arctos – also known as the brown bear.

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