Archive for October, 2009

Trick?

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I was at my Mum’s house for the “trick or treat” hours this evening.

I know opinions vary on trick or treat, and I’m expecting a variety of comments, but one way or t’other it isn’t going away, and it doesn’t seem to do any harm – certainly around our way the participants are polite and have put effort into their costumes, so it’s a fun evening for them.

Anyway, the bell rang, I opened the door and it was the little girl from over the road, escorted by her Mum: I complemented her on her costume, gave her a mini bag of sweets from the stock my Mum had laid in for the purpose, and they went on their way. Half an hour later the bell went again, this time with three slightly older children. They got a bag of sweets each – which they refused.

“Sorry, we’re not allowed sweets, but thanks anyway, goodnight”

Have they missed the point a bit?

Back

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Did you notice I’d been away?

I’ve been on the Island of Jersey, with Purple Fred, Mini Fred and Aunty of Fred: We stayed in an hotel, had two days at the zoo (including behind-the-scenes trips), found caches and panned for gold.

I also discovered that the law about scaffolding is different on Jersey.

I’ll do a proper blog later…I haven’t even logged them caches yet!

Nick

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

BNP leader Nick Griffin was on the telly Thursday night.

Friday morning’s papers were full of how he made himself look stupid, and how he showed himself for the bigot he is (hypocrisy for the day: the Daily Mail calling him a bigot wins the Pot/Kettle Award for 2009). I wonder how far in advance of the programme those stories were written?

Yes, he was caught out in some factual inaccuracies – politicians of all parties regularly are. He was caught out by policies his party used to hold and has now turned away from – politicians regularly are, especially on Question Time.

I don’t like the BNP policies – not many people do – but at least they have some and they believe in them, unlike the party that won the last election (it doesn’t seem right to call them “the ruling party” under present circumstances), who long ago abandoned their manifesto promises and now just stagger from crisis to crisis making it up as they go along, with increasingly ridiculous attempts to cover up for their last ridiculous attempt: it’s a bit like the end of The Italian Job would’ve been, if it had gone on for fifteen years and Charlie had left the bus to go and be an anti-robbery sepcialist with the Italian police, and the Benny Hill character had been put in charge.

So were the BBC wrong to invite Nick Griffin on? No, in my opinion. He’s an unpleasant person with unorthodox views, but enough people agreed with his views to return him as an MEP: the mainstream parties have to take those voters seriously, and find out why they’re embracing extreme policies.

And the people who didn’t vote last time need to see who they let in.

Birthday

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Well, thanks to those of my readers who’ve sent birthday wishes – and sepcial thanks to the texters, who haven’t had a response yet :-( . The change over of phones is dragging on, so those of you using the old number come through to a tatty old phone which doesn’t display names: As I’m rubbish at remembering names and numbers, I’m having to guess – but I think those texts are from Jenny (easy from the context), Sarah T (easy from the syntax), Rob and Sarah (easy from the use of the term “Duuuuuuude”), and Jan and Andy (easy from the fcat that they signed it “Jan and Andy”).

It being my birthday, I went to Krispy Kreme at lunchtime to get duffnuts for my colleagues: I picked up two boxes of twelve KK doughnuts and went up to the counter to pay.

“Are these to take away or are you eating them in the store sir?”

OK PF…now I really know I need to lose weight.

You’ve Got My Number

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

I decided to keep my old mobile number – the hassle of telling everyone I know my new number was a lot less than the hassle of porting the existing number across, so that’s the option I went for. Mind you – it looks like that could take a while so I’ll be stuck with a temporary number for the time being. If you’re a regular contact, look out for a text message with my new number, although I’m having a bit of trouble getting numbers off my old SIM card. I had a text from Jenny this afternoon (I’m using my old SIM in my Mum’s phone) and haven’t been able to reply to it!

And now I’ve got an eighty-nine page instruction book to read…and a suitcase to pack for next week…and I haven’t even unloaded the car from last weekend yet! Where does the time go?

Phone

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Well, I’ve ordered my new mobile phone.

I looked at iPhones – but to be honest, all the things an iPhone can do, I don’t really need a phone to do. OK, it would be fun to have a phone that’s got all those apps, but not enough to make it worth the extra cost. I also considered a Blackberry – the technology is old enough to be pretty de-bugged and some of the features could be useful, but then I remembered that people use them on the train as a badge of honour – “Look how important I am, I can’t afford to be out of e-mail contact for even a moment”. I’m not that important and don’t want to be.

So I settled on a Nokia 6303. It has the same features as the Sony Ericsson it’s replacing, it has the lowest proportion of negative user reviews, and it was free. And I should have it tomorrow.

Change of Plan

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

Tonight’s entry could be subtitled So much for that idea.

In last week’s piece about mobile phones, I commented “To cut to the chase, it looks like the best phone for what I want, within a price bracket Iím prepared to pay, is the three-year-old one Iíve already got.” That was before the events of this weekend.

One of PF’s cats likes to drink out of glasses of water – and she seems to have a particular liking for the one I leave on the bedside table overnight. Since I’m not partial to taking my morning tablets with a glass half-full of cat slobber, I normally cover it with PF’s alarm clock, which is heavy enough to not get knocked off the top of the glass, and exactly the right size to fit. Unfortunately this morning we had to be up at stupid o’clock to go to a boot sale and the alarm clock was needed, so I cast around for something else.

My mobile phone was handy, and just the right size to go over the top of the glass. And the water in the glass was just the right size to totally submerge the phone, when it fell in! I fished it out straight away, and took the battery out, but even now the display isn’t working properly and a couple of the buttons don’t work – specifically the make call/answer call button, the end call button, and the number six.

I’ll be researching new phones again tomorrow. In the meantime my SIM card – which does still work – is in my Mum’s new phone and she’s using the old spare one. So now it’s me that’s got the phone that’s “ideal for the elderly”

More Money

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Having failed to pay the council some money online yesterday, I also had to pay Purple Fred some wonga. The reason for this is a blog entry on its own, but we’ll say for now that she’d paid my gym membership and I had to pay her back.

That at least would be fairly easy: I’ve been doing e-banking for some time; I’d paid her some money online recently, and the bank website has a “pay someone I’ve paid before” option – all I had to do was log in, select that option, click on “Purple Fred” and give her the money.

Except her name didn’t appear in the drop-down list. The payment I made recently was on the statement, so I know it went through, but without any useful details that would enable me to make the payment, like an account number. The only thing for it was to go back to the beginning and choose the “pay someone new” option.

“You have been logged out for suspicious operation”

Charming. Luckily – unlike the council payment – I got it sorted in the end. But why can’t online payments – or anything else for that matter – be easy?

Money

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

I had to pay some money online today.

My Mum’s fridge/freezer died in a rather terminal way: Luckily it’s insured, so she took herself straight round to her favourite electrical shop and ordered a new one, secure in the knowledge that the insurance company already had a cheque in the post. Then she came home and phoned the council to arrange for the old one to be taken away…

The taking-away, of course, has to be paid for, so she agreed with the nice council lady on the phone that as soon as I got in, I’d pay online. That was never going to work, as the nice council lady didn’t give her a reference number or anything, but I had a brave attempt. When that predictably failed, I started from scratch and booked a new collection online. That all worked OK until I got to the bit where I had to pay for it.

The website crashed.

So we’re probably going to get two lorries turning up, to collect two fridge freezers, and neither collection has been paid for. It can only get more interesting from here.

Ring Ring

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

I’ve taken a brave plunge into the big scary world of mobile phones.

My Mum needed a new phone, which was what prompted this courageous step by me: she really wanted a simple one that just did phone calls and texts, with none of the posh bells and whistles like cameras and MP3 players. I found her one with nice big buttons and an easy-to-read display, although she’s a bit dischuffed that it’s advertised as being ideal for the elderly – she’s only in her seventies for goodness sake!

While I was sorting out the mobile communication technology, I had a look at getting one for me. I’ve had my current one for nearly three years so I must be due an upgrade. I want mainly phone and texting, with an occasional look at the internet and taking the odd photo – but it’s never going to be my main camera or internet tool, so doesn’t have to be hugely good at these things.

I spotted one that I thought would do the job – but then read some user reviews and decided against it. To cut to the chase, it looks like the best phone for what I want, within a price bracket I’m prepared to pay, is the three-year-old one I’ve already got. I will be changing provider – I can get some excellent cheap call deals if me, Purple Fred and my Mum are all on the same network – so I’ll just get my phone unlocked and put a new SIM in.

I haven’t decided whether to keep the old number: I’ve had it a long time and it would be a bit of a pain to have to tell everyone I know a new number. But a lot of people have that number who I’d prefer not to – I still get calls from dodgy salesmen I last had contact with in my previous job – so it might be worth the effort.

Top of the Tree

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Y’know my lovely Purple Fred, whom I love very much?

Well, mega congratulations from me to her, on achieving the top qualification in her profession :-) . She’s worked really hard for this, and now she’s made it.

I’m not quite sure what it says about me that my girlfriend’s a Chartered Fellow, but I’m real proud of her anyway. Well done PF.

That’s Entertainment

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

In the space of three days I’ve been to the theatre in London’s West End, and to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster.

On Thursday, the lovely PF and I went and saw Avenue Q in London: we’d heard varying reports, and we were a bit concerned that some people had said they make jokes about subjects that we didn’t really think should be joked about. The posters – never a reliable source of information I suppose – said things like “Pant wettingly funny” and “We laughed so much we nearly died”. Well we’re both still alive and neither of us wet our pants, but I don’t think either of us stopped laughing all the way through. Yes, they touch on virtually every touchy subject there is – two of the songs are called “Everyone’s a little bit racist” and “I’d still be your friend even if you were gay”, but it’s all handled in a way that makes you think “Actually…yeah”, and I think you’d have to be exceptionally easy to offend to find anything not to like.

Having said that – don’t be fooled by the fact that half of the characters are puppets. In the middle of the first act there’s an amazingly funny sex scene with two of the puppets, and this definitely ain’t a show for the little ones!

This afternoon we went to the latest Pixar epic, Up. I learned – as I’d always expected – that when you’ve only got one eye, a 3D movie looks just like 2D, and I’m not really sure what age group it’s aimed at: It’s obviously mostly a rollocking adventure suitable for all ages, but there’s a couple of bits that younger folk would either not understand, or be upset by. Having said that, no-one anywhere near me seemed disturbed by it, so maybe I’m worrying too much. Either way, I enjoyed it, and so did the people of all ages in our party.

I’m involved in something theatrical this Thursday too…there may or may not be bloggage.

Shine On

Friday, October 9th, 2009

In my piece on Quentin Letts’s book “Fifty People who Buggered Up Britain”, I referred in passing to Graham Kendrick and his composition Shine Jesus Shine. OK, it isn’t the most exciting piece of Christian music ever written, in fact if I’m honest it’s pretty wet – which might explain why it’s hardly sung any more, being passed over in favour of modern songwriters like Matt Redman and Brenton Brown. Letts would have no truck with them either, blaming the “happy clappy” movement for all that’s wrong with the Church of England. I’ve always thought that bishops who don’t believe in the resurrection, priests who believe that children’s work has no place in the modern church, and priests who believe that children’s work is the only important thing in the modern church, have all contributed to the church’s problems, but Quentin Letts is entitled to his opinion.

Those who criticise modern church music say it’s all about people enjoying themselves, and what God wants to hear is the older stuff. Personally I think God’s iPod has got rather more gigabytes than mine, and if he wants to hear Our God Our Help in Ages Past in three-part harmony with full orchestration, he doesn’t have to wait for it to be sung on Earth – which is lucky, given that I only know of one place where the original is sung, most churches having rejected the original in favour of the bowdlerised “O God Our Help…”, a product of Victorian churchmen who thought “Our God” far too familiar.

Letts also criticises “modern language” (i.e. anything newer than 1611) in church services, saying “People don’t have to understand what they’re saying to be comforted by it” (I’m paraphrasing, I left the book at work, but that’s near enough). I don’t know about comfort – but “Amen” means “I agree” in any language, and I’d feel pretty darned uncomfortable saying that to God, about something I hadn’t understood.

Fifty People

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

I’ve been reading “Fifty People who Buggered Up Britain” by Quentin Letts.

I bought it thinking it might be fairly amusing, and with the chapters in alphabetical order it starts off promisingly enough, lambasting Bliar, Brown, Beeching and Boyson, before moving on to dodgy MPs and various media executives, including the ones responsible for Big Brother and EastEnders. He’s obviously struggled to reach his fifty, though, as his ire is also directed at various Church of England officials, Graham Kendrick (the songwriter responsible for Shine Jesus Shine), and Howard Schultz, the man behind Starbucks.

Now I’m no fan of Starbucks. When I first started working in London, the novelty of having a coffee shop close by was attractive – and I must admit that being a Starbucks regular (and even having a Starbucks loyalty card) felt very metropolitan and a bit top-flight. I soon realised that their coffee was well overpriced – and I didn’t actually like it very much anyway. It’s an expensive way to get a scalded tongue, a caffeine-induced headache and a sour taste in the mouth.

But I don’t really think it’s fair to accuse Starbucks of Buggering Britain: they may be on every High Street, and they may have driven traditional “Caffs” out of business – but that’s a symptom of a problem, not a cause. People didn’t go to Starbucks – and keep going back – just because it was there. They went because they preferred Starbucks to the traditional alternative: maybe they liked the metropolitan chic, maybe they just preferred the more hygienic surroundings – either way it seems a bit unfair to blame the man who’s provided the preferred service. It seems a bit like blaming the Wright brothers for 9/11.

I’ll just stick with making my own coffee – it’s cheaper that way, and tastes far better.

Yellower

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

The admirable Scott – in a response to my “Yellow Vulture” rant on Sunday – said “I like the plan, but in principle, rewarding people for obeying the law is the precipice beyond which lies a very dangerous slippery slope. Pretty soon, Iíll be asking for my income tax for the year back if I manage to get through it without killing my boss with a salad fork”.

To be honest, I never expected anyone to take one of my rants seriously enough to come up with plausible reasons why it’s not a good idea – although for the record, I prefer to think of it not as a reward for obeying the law, but rather as compensation for the inconvenience. When I pay my road tax (or “Vehicle Excise Duty” as it’s correctly known), there’s an implied contract that in return, there’ll be a road network for me to drive on. When the roads fail to meet an acceptable standard – such as idiotic speed limits imposed for no reason – it isn’t unreasonable for sensible law-abiding motorists to feel aggrieved.

Everyone knows that the road system needs maintenance, and no reasonable person complains about practical measures to ensure the safety of those carrying out the work. But it doesn’t seem unfair to expect the work to be done as quickly as possible, to reduce the inconvenience to the minimum. And after all, if a set of roadworks makes a stretch of road so dangerous that it’s necessary to almost halve the speed limit, shouldn’t the work be done as quickly as possible to return the road to a safe condition?

Of course the real reason why the idea would never work is that no sensible person would trust a government agency with their credit card details. It would only be a matter of time before some halfwit in the Ministry of Stupid Mistakes took everyone’s PIN numbers and posted them on Facebook by mistake.

It Takes a While

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

You’ll have noticed that blogging has been a bit touch and go lately.

I’ve been spending most of my spare on-line time sorting out the gallery page for the Lakes Cachepedition 2009 – rest assured it should arrive soon. Although I’ve got a stack of stats I’ve promised to produce for someone by the end of this week, plenty of gadgets to install in Evie (including the rather fab roof bars which arrived today) and some equally fab time away. So maybe the gallery isn’t going to be forthcoming all that soon :-)

Then of course there’s tending my Farmville farm…I know it’s a bit daft but I love the way the animals jump up and down when you pet them…

This evening I renewed my prescription season ticket on line. I bought my first one last year when I’d just gone on to three different tablets a day, and it was just about worth having. Now I’m on six different tablets a day and it’s definitely a saving :-) But why is it so complicated? The form is two pages long, and asks for information that no-one knows about themselves – and if they’re me, can’t remember where the bit of paper is that they wrote it down on.

I’ll stop ranting now. There may be another Evie blog tomorrow.

Home, Home on the Range

Monday, October 5th, 2009

My luvvly new car, the sainted Evie, has a number of features that I’m not really accustomed to. One of those is a clutch and gear lever, but we’ll draw a veil over that for now, and concentrate on the range meter.

If you’ve never seen one of these, it’s part of the dashboard, and combines the amount of fuel in the tank, with the average consumption, to give the distance you’ll be able to drive before refilling. It’s quite useful – I’d never have left Hertfordshire yesterday without filling up, were it not for the friendly “226 miles fuel remaining” notification.

It can be a bit confusing though – it works from the current average fuel consumption, which of course is better at some times than others. Which has the effect that you start your journey, having done some “round the town” driving, with 226 miles left, and after 20 miles on the motorway you’ve still got 226 miles left.

I love technology!

Yellow Peril

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Those of you who drive regularly will probably have experienced average speed cameras by now. They’re big yellow cameras up a pole at the start and finish of motorway road works, and often partway through as well. They recognise your number plate and time how long it takes you to get through the temporary speed limit, and if you’ve done it in too short a time, you get a nice little fine in the post, and points on your licence. Apparently these devices are known as “Yellow Vultures”.

Coming home from the Far North1 this evening, I passed through three sets of road works, each guarded by yellow vultures – and being the only one awake in the car, I started to have one of my “when I rule the world” musings…

So, when I rule the world, you’ll be able to register a credit card with the authority that runs the yellow vultures: If you exceed the speed limit when there’s work going on, the fine automatically gets charged to your card…however, if you stick to the speed limit at a time when there isn’t actually any work being done, you get the cost of a day’s road tax refunded to your card. Given that it seems that road work only gets done for a couple of hours a day, five days a week and never within two weeks either side of a bank holiday, most drivers could get their whole road tax back over the course of a year.

Alternatively, of course, all that money going back into the taxpayers’ pockets, and therefore being unavailable to pay MP’s dodgy expenses2 might inspire someone in authority to see that the roadworkers actually get on and get the bloody roadworks finished. Either way, motorists win.

Amazingly, I seem to have had a flight of fancy which is less bizarre that the Prime Munster’s latest wheeze.

1 Hertfordshire
2 Or mine, come to that…