Monday, 31 December 2007

The End Is Nigh...

...well, of 2007, at least!

Yes, another year is under our belts like unwanted weight from too much Christmas indulgence ... and now its party time all over again!

For those of you that can't get out to party, here's a few things to keep you amused for the night, assuming you only started reading this about ten minutes to midnight!!!





In the meantime, whatever you are doing to see the new year in, have a fun and safe night and have a...

Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Cost of Christmas

Why, oh why, do I let myself get caught out every Christmas?!

It seems that, as well as over-spending on presents for the family, I should really be putting money aside for the inevitable Christmas breakdown, too ... in addition to my hob's attempt to cook the worktop, my washer-dryer has given up the ghost for the fifth time!!

Ironically, the insurance company contacted me back in November to ask how it was doing and I told them it was doing fine, so they sent me the paperwork to apply for another year's insurance ... I think they thought they weren't going to have to pay out!

Mind you, so did I :-(

So, it looks like I'm going to spend another couple of weeks wearing old clothes I hardly wear because I can't get them washed ... good job I haven't been able to take them down to the charity shop yet, otherwise, I would need to buy them back!

I guess that also means I'm going to have to buy an airer for all the wet clothes that keep getting stuck in it...

With all this, the almost-full credit card, the holidays being planned for the new year and the long list of gadgets I keen to get my grubby mitts on, perhaps I should have accepted the job offer the boss made.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Petrol Patrol

Its certainly worth getting up at 5:45 in the morning to go and get petrol before the masses get going for the day!!

I was half-set to go into work by train today, so put my alarms* on really early in order that I could at least check out the petrol station before heading for a train.

As I pulled into the station, I could see yellow boards and black-and-yellow tape wrapped round the various pumps, as though a row of half-wit Daleks had crashed through a police barrier and had succeeded in getting tangled up in the tape. But things were hopeful as there were two vehicles sitting by pumps, so I figured there must still be something available.

It turned out that these were the only two pumps and all they had on offer was the super stuff that costs a fortune ... 106.9p per litre ... about ninety percent of which goes into government pockets, never to be seen again!

Figuring that it could be a while until they refill their tanks, I decided to fill up. It has to be the most expensive fill-up ever for my car at £47! Usually, I can just scrape it up to £40 :-(

Such an early start meant that I wasn't thinking straight ... and I headed to work! What a muppet! I could have headed home and had another hour's kip before heading into work, but no, I had to just carry on and ended up in work just after 7:00am.

Pleb.


* Note the plural! I have a clock radio with two alarms on it, a phone, and a battery operated thing that yells at me if I don't get up .. and which has suffered more spankings than my monkey ... *cough*

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Apple Grumble

Trying to rehearse a play when your head is overheating and your sinuses are fighting the Battle of the Bugs is not recommended!

A couple of days ago, I appear to have picked up this year's winter bug from someone in the family and have been fighting it off with a combination of paracetamol (which I rarely take), and hot honey and lemon ... with a shot of Jack Daniels, of course!

I thought I was doing pretty good at keeping it away, but tonight it tried real hard to get a stranglehold on my system, turning my brain to mush so that all my sentences came out wrong and I suffered from more giggle-fits than ever before ... my leg now has little welts on it where I was pinching myself to stop the laughter: lucky I bite my nails or it would look like I'd been attacked by a Christmas Elf with nail clippers!

The chuckling disappeared pretty quick when I discovered that, for the second night of trying, all the petrol stations are out of petrol. After getting back from the family visit on Boxing Day with just under a quarter of a tank left and finding them all empty, I figured they would have filled up by today.

Ha! As if! That would require planning and organisation!

The pumps are still empty and I have less than an eigth of a tank left - barely enough to get me to work and certainly not enough to get me back again. So, assuming the trains are running - and I hear a rumour that they are not - it looks like an exceptionally early start to get my lonely, sorry, backside to an empty office in Tring for a handful of hours of doing sod all.

I could use the time on the train to study my lines or some tech stuff, I'm just no good at getting up at that time in the morning ... well, not consciously anyway!

What with suffering from this bug and having to expose my red cheeks to the cold morning air, it will be interesting to test that old idiom: an apple a day keeps the doctor away*.


* Okay, extremely ropey link to the post's title, but I couldn't think of another way of getting it in there! Though I guess I could have grumbled about not getting any of my Mum's apple crumble over Xmas!

Christmas Cheer

Isn't it amazing how time flies?! One minute you're packing to visit family, full of festive cheer and the next, you're back in work and full of festive flu. Ahhh, Christmas!

It's been a full week since I had the opportunity to bash away at a keyboard so, to start with, I must apologise for not wishing you all a Merry Christmas! It was purely because time was against me. So, belatedly, I hope you all had an excellent break and managed to spend some quality time with the people that matter most to you.

Well, I don't know about you, but when Santa emptied his sack under the tree there were a fair few goodies for everyone. My list of goodies included the boxset of Heroes, Season 1 ... yay ... some photography books, Season 6 of Family Guy, a new watch and a fridge magnet telling me how other people are having sex on my behalf!

Well, someone's got to, cos I'm not getting much!

So, who out there had the most intriguing presents? Or did you receive something that made you realise that the giver walked into a shop with their eyes closed, picked something up at random, and wrapped it just for you?* The weirdest present gets ... um ... naff all actually, but it would still be good to see how the competition hots up, so get commenting!!
* * * * *
On another note, this Christmas has given me some time to mull over some work issues.

I don't know how many of you recall, but earlier in the year I was offered a Directorship. However, due to a lack of any kind of job spec or consistency in the offer (one minute being told by the boss he can't afford to pay me more, and then when I turn down the offer, telling me he would have paid me more, as one example), I turned it down ... several times.

Then one day we had a meeting where I told the boss that I had turned it down because he hadn't defined the role and that I needed that definition. So he sent me to a life coach who helped to sort my head out ... and write my own job spec for the role!

Last week, I finally sat down with my boss and told him that I didn't think I was right for the position as I would need to put in extra time that I am not prepared to do at the moment. His response was that he has never asked me to do the extra work ... which he hasn't, he's just put pressure on me by increasing my workload and giving me nigh-on impossible deadlines which can only be achieved by working overtime.

It appears that he was expecting this, as he said that he agreed that if I hadn't made a definite decision to take the job after all this time, then I obviously wasn't ready for it. However ... and this is the killer ... he will still expect me to do the work that the role would have entailed, but it would just be without the extra pay and job title!!!

He then followed this up by saying he would sort out my ADA pay increase for the end of January ... what's the bet that it doesn't get back-dated to last July?!?!

So, it appears that I have little choice but to take the job ... assuming he is still offering it ... and to give up my personal life once again.

Strong-armed once again into a job I didn't want ... its getting to be something of a habit.
* * * * *
Anyhoooo, think happy thoughts!!

2008 is less than a week away and is scheduled to bring us a lot of interesting stuff ... most notably for me is that February will see the 10-year anniversary of when I moved into my pokey little flat! 10 years - totally crazy!!!

I had always thought I would move on within 5 years, but I seem to have gotten settled, despite the desire for something bigger ... which I can't really afford with all the price increases over the past few years.

Perhaps that should be a new year's resolution, to pick up sticks and leave the area for good ... but then, who keeps new year's resolutions? Anybody?

Well, whether you keep resolutions or not, I hope you all have a great party night and that the new year brings the best life has to offer!

Cheers!!


* For me, this is covered by the fact I received a scarf. I never wear scarves - apart from the fact I'd look like more of a tit than normal, I heat up really quickly, making it totally redundant.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Mid-week Distraction!

After discovering yesterday that we have gone full circle on a customer project and are having to return to the very first approach we took six months ago ... and having the dread build up at the realisation that we are about to have exactly the same conversations that we had way back then ... it was a nice distraction when my cousin sent me some links to a couple of places on t'internet.

Top of the list is GearCrave and it's list of Top 10 Most Useless USB Gadgets Of All Time, from a USB Vacuum to a USB Snowman. Unfortunately, missing from the list are those can't-do-without delectables, the USB Humping Dog, the USB Rat Race and the USB Panic Button.

How many of you have actually bought any of these? If you have, I bet you've only bought them for other people as presents, haven't you? You evil bastards!

Closely following the tat-craze, came a rather imaginative interpretation of the Karma Sutra by a Flickr user called cszar. If you want to find out what two T-800 Terminators can get up to, check out his T-800 set - its excellent!

To finish with, why not check out (un)Facts, which had my colleague and I nearly wetting ourselves with laughter with such gems as:
Anyway, whilst you're all having a chuckle, I'm off to rehearsals: for the first time since starting this play, we have to do the whole thing ... and preferably without books!

My body is complaining at the thought already!!!

Monday, 17 December 2007

Ho, Ho, Flipping, Ho

Every year, I swear I'll start the Christmas shopping in November. Then November comes and I think, "It's too early! Go away!". Then I end up bouncing around the Christmas crowds like a pinball, entering shops only because I happened to be aimed that way.

A couple of years ago, I went to Bluewater about a week before Christmas and was amazed at how clear it was. Ever since, I've been going back there to get the majority of the Christmas presents.

So, in preparation for the long trip round the M25, I decided to fill up with petrol the night before. There was a fair queue at the garage, probably due to the weekend protests that were taking place, but I kind of expected that so switched the engine off and waited for the lady in front to fill her car.

Good job she wasn't the driver. After putting the nozzle back in its holster, she disappeared to the passenger door ... with the tank cap still hanging off the open cap door!

I figured she must be coming back to finish up.

Nope.

As she walked away to pay for the fuel, the car started moving forwards. I immediately had visions of fire jetting from the tank (daft, I know, but my imagination knows no bounds!), and went to either flash my lights or honk my horn ... the trouble is, I couldn't decide which and couldn't remember how to do either. I ended up just staring at the steering wheel, gob a-gape, waving my hands in air like a newborn.

However, the best was yet to come. After telling the driver that his cap was hanging loose, and sorting out my own fuel, I came out of the shop to see the lady approach my car, try the passenger door and then peer in through the window and wonder where everyone had gone to!

Life must be a ton of fun in that household! Bless.

Well, it was a darned early start on the Saturday and I somehow managed to get up and out of the house by 7:40 ... I can't even do that on a weekday, so something of a miracle really. After arguing with TomTom about which route to take, I headed off and managed to get parked up outside Marks & Spencer at bang on nine o'clock - pretty good timing, if I do say so myself :-)

It all started off quite nicely, buying a book for my sister and a couple of bits from Hawkin's Bazaar for tree presents. Then I got stumped. As far as the kid's were concerned, there wasn't a single shop where I could buy the bits I had planned to buy. No Argos. No Toys R Us. It was only later that I realised John Lewis might have had what I was looking for.

Nine-and-a-half hours I was there for! Nine-and-a-half hours of wandering around in circles ... literally ... and the first seven of those were less productive than a Eunoch.

At some point, I seemed to change from a clockwise to a counter-clockwise route ... in fact, I might have done this several times, as I became more disoriented the later it got ... but I refused to leave until I had bought a reasonable number of presents off the list I had.

Somehow, I managed to get a few bits from around four o'clock and finally felt like I could leave without feeling it had been a wasted journey ... though this was probably aided by the banging headache I had developed.

Another argument with TomTom about my return journey and off I set, not allowing her to nag me into a different route off the motorway. It was like having my ex-girlfriend back in the car with me. Perhaps I should change the voice...

After all of that, and with a vague sense of achievement, I think the highlight of the day had to be when my cousin called me to ask if online finance agreements are usually backed up with paperwork.

It seems that, whilst attempting to find out the details of the credit agreements, he 'accidentally' placed an order for a brand new iMac and iPod Touch! I can just seem him explaining that to the wife now!!

I think there is only one way out of that one: "But I bought it for you, dear!"

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Torchwood Heroes

It seems that there are some people at the BBC who have a sense of humour!

If you're a fan of Heroes and/or Torchwood, you should love this little clip they've put together!

Cheers, Clarky, for pointing this one out.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

60 Seconds of Fame

Any budding Spielbergs out there fancy 60 seconds of fame?

Well, if you do, those wonderful BAFTA luvvies, in association with the colourful Orange, have opened up a competition to the public (I'm assuming they do this every year?), called 60 Seconds of Fame.

Basically, it is your task to script, direct, produce and upload a film of no longer than ... um ... 60 seconds ... geddit?!

I wouldn't mind doing something like this myself but there is soooooo much to be doing that I just do not have the time so, for anyone who does want to do it be aware that a) the film has to be based around the theme of "Unite", and b) you have to get your skates on as uploads are only being accepted up to 5pm on 4 January 2008!

Good luck if you decide to go for it and let me know when you post anything!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Nearly nobbled by the trinkets

Anyone remember my little encounter with Tring Betty?

Well, I'd just about forgotten about it - though I'm still wary in Marks & Spencer in case she pounces on me again. Which is very daft (though very human), to link a person or event with one particular place when that place actually has no bearing! Its not like she stalks the aisles of M&S looking for people to chat to.

As I found out yesterday.

I wandered into Tring's rather excellent little card shop, House of Cards, on the lookout for some Xmas cards for the family - completely off guard - and that's when she caught me, just by the Xmas trinkets, disguising herself by wearing a hat, of all things!

At first I thought I was going to escape, but then she started with the same stories as last time and I knew I was in for another session. Thankfully, the staff in the card shop were much friendlier than the M&S bunch (who kept looking and frowning at us, like we were about to rush out with armfuls of food), and one of the girls came over to see if they could help Betty find what she was looking for.

Never look a gift-horse in the mouth, as they say. So I paid for the cards I'd succeeded in picking up and legged it from the shop, mouthing a thanks to my rescuer on the way, my Damsel in Shining Armour!

Grrr, sexy!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Weekend Mix

If you ever want to see a movie without being disturbed, see if you can get into a late night showing!

I really fancied seeing The Golden Compass and figured it would probably be really busy. However, the local Vue cinema had a late night showing I thought I'd try out ... at 11:20pm. Perhaps not the best time to watch a film if you're already tired from the week's activities, but better than being surrounded by noisy, jabbering, spotty little oiks who can't keep quiet for longer than 30 seconds.

Figuring that since there was a late show it was anticipated to be quite busy, I headed there a little early to get the good seats ... from which there was a helluva selection as there was nobody else there!

As it got closer to the movie starting, I started to realise it was pretty much going to be a private showing: by the time the film started, there were only seven of us watching. Either the film isn't as popular as they were expecting or people really don't like staying for late shows.

So, what about the film?

Well, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I really enjoyed reading Northern Lights and as such I guess I had quite high expectations; on that basis, perhaps my disappointment is a little unfounded.

That said, there are two gripes I have with the film:
  • the CGI occasionally suffered from a lack of fluidity, making some of the scenes obviously fake: this always ruins it for me, especially when it is so good in the rest of the film. It's almost like they ran out of time...

  • it suffered a little from the Eragon-syndrome: a bit of action/plotline, followed by epic voyage scenery shot, followed by dropping you back into new action. Its a very lazy way of cutting a storyline down, and sometimes you're left feeling that you've missed something between story parts.
Okay, I know its aimed squarely at older kids and, as such, I don't think these points will affect their enjoyment as much as it would an adult, so these comments are somewhat moot. However, I will probably watch it again when I am more alert and can take it in a little better!
* * * * *
Some people around here are a little too eager for Christmas and present-wrapping.

Earlier on Saturday, I decided to pop to ASDA to get a few bits that I had run out of and needed urgently, and spotted this car all nicely wrapped for a new owner!



See, there is comedy all around us, its just a case of finding it ... or creating it! :-D

Which actually gives me an idea ... in theory, you could wrap a car in cling-film, graffiti all over it, film the owner freaking out, then show them they can peel it off again. No harm done.

Hmmm, move over Beadle ... oh, you already have!!
* * * * *
How many of you have received a card in the post from Royal Mail informing you that they are holding a letter or parcel where not enough postage has been paid?

Well, I had one such letter a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't going to collect it as I figured that if the sender couldn't be bother to pay the full postage cost, then why should I fork out for it. However, when I got a card for something that needed signing for, I figured I might as well collect that too.

£1.16 it cost me! And what was it? A couple of A4 pages from an exhibitor at the Home Building and Renovating Exhibition that I attended earlier this year with my cousin.

The guilty party? A company called Hinges & Brackets* that, surprisingly, sells ... um ... hinges and brackets.

As I've been a bit short-tempered recently, I decided that I would respond to them and attempt to get my money back. So I wrote a polite yet succinct letter to the company, enclosing the envelope as evidence, not really expecting anything.

Last Friday, I received this:


No comments. No notes. You think they were making a point with the sellotaped coins?! :-D

Still nothing from Martin McColl and, as expected, nothing from PC World about my rather negative feedback.

Perhaps they could learn something from this company...
* * * * *
Yesterday, I finally got off my widening backside and sorted out my wireless connection and, joy of joys, not only does the PC connect wirelessly to the router now I've scrapped the software that came with it, but my PSP can now too! Hoorah!

Online gaming, here we come!



* For the older ones amongst you, this does not refer to those terrible English ladies Hinge and Bracket!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Boycott: No. 2

Okay, so who's next on the list?

PC World.

Why?

Last night I visited their Watford store down by Bushey Arches, after popping into Comet and Currys to see if I could find a suitable hob unit to replace my knackered one. As I was in the area, I thought I would have a look about to see if there was anything I could get for the pooter: I was in half a mind to buy a joystick for a couple of the games I own.

As always, when I am on a general browse for spending money, I went up and down each aisle, stopping when I saw something of interest, whilst at the same time talking to my Mum on the phone about possible Christmas presents for people. It was one of those half-hearted shops where you're attention is divided, so you just wander.

I got about one-third of the way around the store before storming out: everywhere I went, their security guard was several feet behind me. Just to be sure I wasn't being paranoid, I stopped halfway down an aisle as he went past the end and, sure enough, within a few seconds he had come back and was watching me.

I was livid, so livid that I very nearly said some rather offensive four-letter words whilst talking to my Mother ... in fact, writing this all down is getting me angry all over again!!

How dare the arrogant SOB treat me like that! I have NEVER stolen anything and never intend to, so to be treated like a criminal really, really riled me.

So, boycott number 2.

Unlike the Martin McColl complaint, I have not e-mailed PC World ... as they have provided a nice little feedback survey that I took great delight in completing!

Why not take the opportunity to complete it yourself?! I'm sure they would appreciate any feedback. >:->

Oh, and on the subject of Martin McColl, just over a week ago I emailed them back to ask why I hadn't received any kind of communication from them. Nothing. Nada. Totally ignored me.

I don't like being ignored.

BTW:
Anybody like the new header image?? I wiped out my Flickr account forgetting the header was stored there, so I spent last night sorting this new one out. The image is one of many I took of Rydal Water in the Lake District, the one day I got up early enough to be sitting by the water before the Morning Chorus started. Mad.

Junkette

My friend Cath is a sweet, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, demure young lady ... and is capable of innuendo that would make your Granny blush!

She is also a total radio whore!

On Tuesday, she went with her mate to play with Michael's Bubl├ęs at Wembley Arena, and then hung around stalker-style to capture the young gent before he could escape. Whilst waiting for him to show his face, she phoned Simon Beale at Heart 106.2 FM to explain her dastardly plan ... to wait.

As she had already been waiting an hour, Simon asked her to call back but managed to call her back first, and here is their conversation:






Sorry, we can't play the audio for you here!


Apparently, she calls Heart a lot and can often be heard chatting Jamie Theakston up in the early hours when phoning up for iPlay!

Tart.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Brumm Brumm

The weekend just passed saw the final stages of the FIA World Rally Championship held in South Wales ... and I was there to see it!

This was my first rally and I have to say that I quite enjoyed it ... though if I wasn't attempting to take photographs I would probably have gotten bored. Sorry!

Four of us headed up to Crychan for the first run in the morning and luckily got there early enough to get a decent parking space. It was a bit nippy, but keeping my hands in my Craghoppers when I wasn't taking pics helped keep me warm.

All-in-all, with the camera set to high-speed continuous shooting, I came away from the morning with a whopping 444 frames on the card! Of course, that doesn't mean any of them came out any good!

After arriving back home this morning at 1:20am and unable to sleep, I decided to download the pics to my PC and have a quick scan through for a couple of semi-decent ones to put onto Flickr. Here's a couple I quickly adjusted ... hopefully I'll get the chance to go through them properly at some point:





I know, nothing amazing there, but this was only my third motorsport event ... I really need to get myself the lens I've been promising myself and get out there to practice more!!

One thing I have come to realise is that sports photography is quite sadistic in a way. If you're not hoping to capture any decent pics of jumps, then its the crashes and prangs that make the interesting photos ... and what you end up hoping to see!

By no means do you want the occupants to be injured, but catching a shot of a car rolling makes for a far more interesting photo than one that's just whizzed past with no dust clouds or body parts* flying through the air.

* I'm talking car body parts here!