Sunday, February 26, 2006

What a Greenie!

After a couple of weeks on VOIP, I admit it's not the land-line beating technology I had hoped. There's 4 second lags when you send an email whilst on the phone, I've had two calls unexpectedly end for no reason, and I've had to unplug the box several times because there was no dial tone (assumed it had 'crashed'). But when it does work, I can call anywhere in the world for 1p.

My current favourite pasttime is eating peanut butter on crispbread while watching Bless This House with Sid James then George and Mildred on Paramount Comedy for 2 hours.

I think I may have had my first fraud on eBay. I sent off a cheque for a radio microphone to a company in Northern Ireland with a feedback of over 100 positives. After the guy had cashed the cheque and about 2 or 3 weeks of nothing arrived, I checked his feedback again and it's had about 6 negatives about things not arriving, which he's responded to by saying there's a postal strike where he is. He's a non-registered user now due to all this negative feedback. But I can't stop this cheque now 'cos he's cashed it. But of course, the ever-helpful (not) HSBC bank say nothing can be done, but if I am sent a cheque that I bank the funds can be withdrawn from my account if there's anything wrong with the cheque up to 6 months afterwards! Where's the fairness in that!?!?!

After a day of consideration, I've decided to only purchase one promotional item for the company. A biodegradable pen made from maize. Alright, 250 of them then. I don't think I would ever have been able to give away 1,000 plastic Bic pens. There were a few offers on with the printing companies where I could have bought several items for the same amount, but ultimately naff scratchy pens that don't write get chucked out! So I'm pooling my brands together into one with one pen with one URL. The pen biodegrades totally within 3 months of being put in landfill / ground. Very green, eh?

There's quite an odd change to overnight television on ITV1. No more Prisoner Cell Block H and low-budget music features. Now there's non-stop Quiz Mania. Essentially, a live presenter hosting a telephone game show where viewers call a premium rate number costing 60p each time, to get the chance to guess the answer to the puzzle on screen. Puzzle makes it sound complex - it isn't. But not every call gets through to the studio. "Set you limits" the presenters say. "For this game I'd maybe call 15 times to get through" they say. Yikes! £9! I need to be in the telecommunications biz. Anyway, last night they gave away £10,000 then £25,000 within about 30 minutes. There's no adverts (even though this is in itself a huge 4 hour advert), and Quiz Mania has its own Sky Channel. But it just has "ITV1 has sold out" written all over it!

I DO NOT get the new ITV1 idents AT ALL. Totally random and leaving me more dismayed than 'seared' with their brand. And on one of them, when a black car drives past, you can see the film crew in the reflection on the door!

My old hospital radio station called me the other day and asked if I wanted to present a show again. It's been about 9 years since I last hosted a show, which was in their old studios. They've since moved to new posh ones.

The central heating test is now over. We're keeping it on all day with the radiators turned down slightly, as it's actually slightly cheaper than having on a timer for mornings and evenings with the fire on all day.

Let's see what next week brings!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Plastic shopping carts. In my opinion, what every supermarket should have. And not just made of normal plastic, but Durethan, a recyclable thermoplastic which doesn't need environmentally harmful surface treatments (such as galzanising or painting). I saw these first in a French supermarket and was very impressed. 100% recyclable, very strong, modular, doesn't damage parked cars....I can't see why we're still using metal trolleys in the UK!


I think it looks pretty cool as well! (available in any colours).


Today's Annoyances - so far!

I've just given a cat some great excercise - running away from me as I chased it down my drive, then realising it had no where to go, double speeding it back past me and over the road. Little shit leaves muddy paw prints on my windscreen all the time. Cats have no regard for property boundaries and dislike them immensely. Have you ever seen a "guide cat"???

Then I get a phone call from 0191 420 6693 where someone just sighed and put the phone down. Charming! Try calling them and ask whan their problem is.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This Morning's Annoyances

That's another thing that gets on my wick.

When people email you and sign it something like "Mr. G. Thomas". What the hell is wrong with using their first name?!?!

Also, these bloody internet companies who have 0870 telephone numbers, and "Customer Service" departments, when it's really a student in a bedsit on his own.

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Pirate Bomb". 2006. Pixels on screen.


Sunday, February 19, 2006


I'm now feeling very smug with myself because I've painlessly become one of the VOIP phone generation. I bought a box for £30 that plugs into my router and which I plug my normal phone into. It means I can call virtually anywhere in the world for 1p per minute, and don't have to have my computer on to do it.

I was under the impression that I was at work today, but have had a holiday at the last minute. I have lots to do - and the unfortunate thing is that when I have lots to do, I do nothing. I look at all the jobs but never start any of them with gusto.

It was so cold last night at 10pm that I had to scrape not only the windscreen of my car, but also the inside of the windscreen! There was frost all over everything. Luckily I had a new chamois. Then when I went to get petrol the BP garage's lights were off and the man looked paniced - I think there was some sort of issue with the power.

It still appauls me to see website design companies offering allegedly professional design services when their own website looks like it was created by a colour-blind dyslexic amateur. Terrible!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No News For Ever!

I had a smashing night out with work colleagues. There *are* nice people out there in the world, and it's nice to know that I work with them.

I've laughed so much these last few days with friends that my cheeks ache. That's a good ache to have! I've also won some expensive Bose speakers I've wanted ever since I went to Warwick Castle a few years ago, so that's good too.

Is letting go of a helium filled balloon classed as littering? The argument could be that you accdentally let go of it, and of course unlike, say, a wrapper, it floats away, unable to be practically caught and disposed of.

No news week has turned into no news life - I'm not missing it, and felling better for not knowing anything. Due to my descision last week, Sky News anchor Eammon Holmes has quit to present This Morning. Apologies for any more inconvenience I have indirectly caused!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic Opening Ceremonies

They're probably the one global television event when people around the whole world feel united in a wanton urge for a world united in peace and harmony.

I love 'em, and the spectacle they are is often quite breathtaking. Goodness knows how much planning and rehearsal goes into them, but it was surely years for the Athens Olympics - the technical and artistic imagery worked so well together.

It's funny how almost every radio presenter has their own radio production company doing voice-overs, jingles and sweepers. But you've got to think, there's a lot of time in-between songs on the radio, and they just sit there thinking "I could have my own company doing this...". Innit though?

The germination of the new business venture has occured and it's now in the planning stages. It's going to be "peeerrropa mint", as my friend Sam would say, in all her innocense.

One thing I've noticed about my new smaller desk is that although 1/4 of it is now covered in papers, the pile is deeper than it would have been on the old larger desk, where it would have covered a greater area. Otherwise, all is good. It's a bit too close to the corner though, so when I spin round in my chair things fall of shelves and suchlike.

Do you ever see any airships around these days? The last one I saw was about 8 years ago, and it didn't half zip along when it wanted to. I want a go in one.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pens or pads?

It's been quite a busy week so far. A few orders from some big clients, and a review of the order tracking system with my suppliers which should lead to improved accountability.

I seem to have the most after-sales service bother from the Americans. For whatever reason, they seem to love leaping in without ever reading the instructions - rattling off email after email asking questions whose answers are IN THE INSTRUCTIONS. On Sunday I mananged to stop one from permanently damaging his kit as he was about to fit a piece of the repair kit where it shouldn't go! In the past they've started hacking away at tubes with scissors that they shouldn't have. It's like running a creche sometimes, it really is.

I also had a spot of bother with a supplier who had it in their heads that I was collecting a pallet of equipment from them, even though I'd paid £180 to have it sent to Southern Ireland. I'm always a bit miffed by the incompetence of some of my suppliers and their ability to deliver goods.

I'm helping one supplier to re-design one of their popular products, which even they admit looks a bit manky at present. They have someone in one day a week to do CAD stuff, but I thought I'd give them a list of improvements that I think would benefit the unit. It will be interesting to see the finished design.

The non-paying client has paid now, after a withdrawal of service for a week. Maybe I should have done that in August last year!

I thought I'd get some promotional items printed for the business, but can't decide whether pens or pads would be more useful and therefore remain on the client's desk for longer. Or do I go for coasters or mouse pads?

I'm still laughing at the target audience of ITV4's advertisers. In one ad break there was an ad about road safety for teenagers, an ad for a sex phone line for 18+ and an ad for denture paste.

I'm also thinking about selling this very domain name -

Saturday, February 04, 2006

No News Week

Whether it's compassion fatigue, frustration, annoyance, disbelief or a mixture of all four, I'm getting sick of the news. Too much attention given to loonies and plights of an idiotic few. So I thought I might try an experiment.

I'm will NOT watch television news, listen to radio news and read newspapers for a week. I'll see how easy it to do first, and if successful will continue for another week.

I need to compile a number of 3 minute songs to play in place of the news every hour, as I tend to have the radio on all day. Another little project for me! Some sort of accurate automatic hourly switcher may be good too.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Loyalty is dead

A few years ago I was a website designer for a EU project that supplied local businesses with IT consultancy, a PC, database systems, training and a website.

It had funding to last one year. It had 24 members. I did websites for all but a few members, but only a handful ever managed to get their act together and give text or photos about their business to put onto their website. One that did found their business turned around in a matter of months, with new orders and contracts.

In the end I got a bit sick of waiting, so started putting detailed information such as 'how to sex a ferret' and 'jam making tips' on sites for solicitors and accountants to give them an impetus to submit text for their site to replace it. Several years on, it's still there.

Funnily enough, none of the members were interested in having me complete their websites after the project had ended. To be honest, I'm quite glad some of them didn't, as they were real pains in the arse. Others phoned me up for advice and tips thinking I was still obliged to provide them with the service for free. That's the thing about website design - everyone knows a brother in-law or son of a friend who will do it for a tin of biscuits.

The two lumps who were supposidly applications developers (but mis-read their job description and assumed it meant eating pies for a year and waddling around seeing how much work everyone else was doing) never actually finished anything they worked on. So on hand-over day it was rather embarrasing for them to look back on what they'd spent a year doing. I worked with someone whose wife was working with one of them and warned him about what a total lazy bag of shit she was. Their laziness, quite frankly, shocked and appauled me. You'd assume they'd get a poor job reference, but you know what office workers are like in this country.

Saying that, I did two commercial websites for proper companies outside this project and this area, and still two years on, neither of them have given me anything to put on their sites. Thankfully though, they have paid me. Unlike one client I'm having bother with at the moment. It's the first time it's happened, and I'm still shocked that a sweet old lady can blatantly lie on the telephone and say she's writing the cheque out now - TWICE!

Needless to say, I had the last laugh when I pulled the plug on the site and their email service last week.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Further to a previous post, this is how I left a flat in Bournemouth. I was unceremoniously given notice when the owner had sold it on to letting agents who were to refurbish the block. Very Mary Celeste!


Microsoft Corporation, 1978 - Would you have invested?


New Desk

Today the replacement panel for my oak desk arrived via ANC (the original piece was damaged). So today I spent a short time putting it together. This house is becoming very cold these days - the stained glass window on the landing has a palpable breeze flowing through it sometimes.

Anyway, the old black Simon Cowell desk has now been dismantled and put in the garage. It lasted 14 years and was made out of solid wood, but the black veneer was peeling off the edges. The new desk is smaller, but when I looked at the stuff on the old one I realised most of it was just clutter simply there because the desk was big enough!

The new desk certainly makes the room look brighter. I suppose the next thing is to paint or replace the dark grey and black shelves in the room to match the light coloured walls (taupe, I think it was). The desk is in the original 1994 position of the old one. It's quite cosy with me sitting in the corner, everything within arm's reach, but it has eaten into the swathe of open space in the middle of the room. I'm not sure I'm 100% happy with its position, but several factors are currently dictating why it's there; CAT5 cable to the PC isn't quite long enough to move it further into the room, I can't lean back on my Aeron chair without hitting a CD tower and knocking a lamp off it, my hi-fi speakers are now pointing away from me, DAB radio reception is poor with me next to the aerial, and the TV is behind me. I remembered last night that the TV can display my PC, but again, I don't think the lead is long enough! There are just so many cables in this corner of the room it's crazy. I know what they all do, but they're either too long or too tangled to be able to do anything about them. I'd quite like to have the desk near the window and look outside, but I'd have to move my bed (which hasn't moved in 25 years) and armchair, which further complicates viewing logistics!

I had some fun this evening when I found some old photos of the flats I used to live in at Bournemouth. It was the days when digital cameras were still pricey, so I took my laptop with webcam outside and captured images that way. Even a few while driving along!

I also discovered a website about the air quality in the town, updated hourly. I thought the air quality here was poor, but it looks pretty much the same as other towns that I thought would be cleaner. There does seem to be a lot of sulphur dioxide though, but what can you do. I have my ioniser near my bed, but I don't even know if it works. You can only feel like you're standing on the side of a mountain when you hold the pins up to your nose, and it smells 'fresh'. Whether I'm garnering any benefits from here on the other side of the room is arguable.

This month (Feb) I'm going to look into new business ideas - I'm sure I can further diversify on what I currently do.

Next door are having some building work done by the sounds of it, so I've not been able to have my usual mid-morning lie-ins recently. Last week they had central heating put in, which was noisey enough! To be honest, it's a blessing in many ways, because at least the builders go home at 5pm and it's peace and quiet for the rest of the day and night.

Roll on spring so I can do some pottering about in the loft without a ski coat and gloves!