Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Rant, Everyone's a Cant

So there I am, happily sitting, relaxing, watching TV on Boxing Day when the phone rings. I hate answering the phone out of office hours except to friends because I just think clients take advantage of the fact that I work from home and think I am on call to help them 24/7.

My mum thought it was one of her friends and answered it. In fact, it was a f***ing client who wanted to 'borrow' me for 10 minutes this evening to sort out a few problems on a website he had been working on yesterday - yes - this sad bastard was actually working on a website on Christmas Day. I have no doubt that this 10 minute call would be during a film or just as I am asleep.

I was so annoyed I actually burst into tears and threw the cordless phone across the room in anger. I feel it a real invasion of privacy and incredibly rude for someone to think that I will happily drop everything to help him with a f***ing website that I'm actually doing for free for them, will get no credit because he will not even mention me. I need to retreat to the peace, quiet and stress-free privacy of my home every now and then, and I would have thought that Christmas of all times would be the time that I could have relied on clients leaving me alone for a bit.

Friends yes - clients no.

My mum dropped a bombshell within seconds of this - her PC's not starting properly. We had an hour long power cut last night, and although there's a surge protector strip on the PC power, it's a strange coincidence. It's the file in c:\windows\system32\config\system that is corrupt. A Windows restore from CD didn't help.

I go to wash the salt off my car, and notice someone's scraped their car along the back bumper at the side, no doubt when trying to park at the shopping centre. Thanks for leaving a note.
Then today I'm on my way to the retail park with my mum and my dog to get him some treats. The traffic is appauling. Then someone cuts me up with inches to spare. Not good. He then leaves huge gaps in front of him, just so that he can speed up to fill them, rather than goinng with the flow of traffic. He then deliberately stops when the light is on green at a roundabout, so I peep at him in case he hasn't seen (perhaps he had, but he was being a prick). I turn off into the car park, which has no spaces, then see this angry idiot walking towards my car with his wife behind him. It is the same idiot man. He opens my car door - rather aggressive, I thought - and asks me what my problem is. Recognising that this bald neandethal doesn't appear to want to enter into a debate about driving like a cock-end but would rather use fists, I simply close the door and speed away. However, the gridlocked traffic in the car park doesn't allow me to make such a quick exit. By this time I've locked the car doors, yet the idiot sees it fit to try and enter my car again. He pulled the door handle so that it needed mending, then hit the side of my car in frustration.

Well, so much for the spirit of man at this festive time!

What other shoppers would have thought seeing this I don't know. Shortly after the incident, I wondered what the idiot would have done had I

a) pulled out a knife
b) pulled out a gun
c) pulled out a camera and started filming him
d) sprayed his face with pepper spray
e) tasered him

This is an incident of road rage which will go unreported.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Drugs

I've always steered clear of any illegal drugs. In fact, I'm very anti-drugs.

However, where I work, there seems to be a sudden explosion in the use of illegal drugs. There are two co-workers - S and L. S is a male about 22 years old. L is a female about the same age. After a few months of working together, they started drinking together. Then use of cannabis followed. They started being late, a bit 'out of it' etc. In the last few months, they have started using cocaine. Cocaine is often said to be 'God's way of letting you know you have too much money". L is a pretty girl, but with all this drug use, her eyes are bloodshot and she's on another planet. One morning, S collapsed at one of our daily team briefings. Last month he was caught doing coke in the bathrooms of a nightclub in Manchester by the doormen and actually bribed them not to tell the police. He drove back home the next day. Today it smelled like he hadn't washed for about 5 days.

C is an 18 year old male who started working recently. He doesn't really get on with his step-father, or his mother, which makes me feel sympathy towards him. He wears his heart on his sleeve a bit too much and goes out to nightclubs as often as he can to 'snog the girls', and as such is seen as a bit of a 'player' at work. He does have redeeming features of loyalty and fun. However, today I learned that last night at this nightclub he took 'poppers'.

***I wrote this on 23rd Dec. It's now 1st Jan and I'm not sure where it was going. There it is anyway. ***

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cool air in time for winter

My air conditioner arrived today. The delivery driver almost slipped on the ice on the path though. Yes - I think I may be the only person to receive one today!

I actually ordered it on Thursday last week, paid for next day delivery, but it was missing from the delivery van on Friday when other items were delivered. So next day delivery took 7 days - eBuyer and City Link (I don't know what went wrong).

It's 35kg - rather heavy, and about twice the physical size as I had thought - it's bigger than my fridge. Instructions are in Spanish, and I've just managed to find a translation online after a large amount of hunting. Sadly, during this hunt, I've found it £5 cheaper than eBuyer, which I'm surprised at.

My unit is slightly damaged - the plastic window adaptor has bits of plastic missing at the corner, and there's a plastic fracture on the frame of the unit at the bottom. However, I don't think either of these issues will affect the operation of the unit (although I haven't switched it on yet!).

We've also just had a power cut while it was in dehumidifier mode and now dehumidifier mode won't switch back on again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Clive Bull on LBC

I like LBC - Nick Ferrari, James O'Brian and Iain Lee create very entertaining radio with their callers.

However, Clive Bull completely passes me by. I don't understand the attraction. He sounds like an uncle. A bored uncle who doesn't want to be there. It's like Crossroads on the radio - you can't believe it's quite so bad.

Microphone Sale

I decided that although I do really enjoy buying microphones then using them (on occasion!) and admiring them, I really have too many and only really use a few of those that I have. So I'm selling off the ones I don't use.

I can't really feel I can qualify buying more - there are more that I would like to buy, but I sometimes wonder if they'll be better than the ones I already have. I suppose I'm looking for the mic that sounds the best with my voice - whatever that is! Maybe one day I'll realise I should actually buy better pre-amps, mixers or compressor/limiters!

I'm selling:

AKG C414 B-ULS
Shure SM7B
Oktava MK319
AKG D202
Micron TX203 handheld transmitter on 208.6

I'd quite like to buy:

Neumann U87 (yeah right)
Golden Age Project R1 Active FET ribbon mic
Shure Beta 57A
Sennheiser MD421

I have successfully sold an SM58 and RE20 in the past.

I'm keeping my SM57 as I think it's one of the best mics I've got. Also the AT2020 (don't think I'll get much for it as they're so cheap when new), ATM25 stereo mic (never know when I want to record some 'atmos'!), and a couple of others. I like the warm sound that dynamics provide.

Oops

I run a nice little business, and I offer a highly personalised service.

However, within the last 2 months I've made mistakes on orders which has meant I've made a loss on an order for £3,000 and scraped a single figure profit on another order for £2,000.

Aren't I a silly sausage!

Cool profit

A friend bought a James Bond DVD box set from Borders with his 40% staff discount (full price £129.99, discount price £77.99). He put it on eBay straight away, and he's just sold it for £134.87. A cool £56.88 profit! Nice one!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Radio Manche building in Saint Lo. Insects on the mural are shaped like musical instruments.

Red and black insects in France - what are they?

Radio Manche - a great little French radio station in the north. This is their building in Saint Lo. I like the way the flowers and insects on the mural are shaped like musical instruments. www.radiomanche.com

HMS Victory at Portsmouth - what a sight! I couldn't even fit the whole ship in the shot. Taken on 16th July 2005 at 10.15am.

British Naval Cannon at HMS Victory, Portsmouth

British Naval Cannon

Monday, December 18, 2006

Help me find a cannon

I want a cannon. Not necessarily a real antique cannon, but a (almost) full size British naval cannon for my garden - maybe to hook a smoke machine up to for fun 'blasts'!

But where on earth do you find a cannon from?!!? I've looked on eBay, and they cheapest one was over £800 from Malaysia (it was an actual antique cannon!).

I remember a prop cannon at the Friargate Wax Museum in York - it must have been fibre glass or something. It was cool. It was in front of the Henry VIII figure and it made explosion noises, I think a light flashed, and wisps of smoke exited the cannon. The museum has been closed for years and was emptied - I wonder where on earth that cannon went!

Whether the Friargate cannon, or another prop cannon, any ideas, let me know!

Today's Christmas Shopping

I went shopping today with my mum. I graced Argos with my presence once more - "don't shop for it, Argos it!", the adverts tell us. It is without doubt the worst shopping experience I ever witness - made worse at Christmas. Waiting for a television to call your number out, then waiting again for the staff to hoy the item(s) down the conveyor belt and stamp your receipt isn't really pleasurable shopping, is it? I got a wireless doorbell for my side door which currently doesn't have one but which people now seem to be knocking on more than my front door. I also got a Pirates of the Carribbean smoking cannon - it was only £4.99, and I was intrigued as to how the smoke effect works. It's a similar affair to the magic gimicks that you put in your pocket and put a lit cigarette into (the smoke machine starts making smoke which makes it look like your pocket is on fire). I bought one of these from eBay, but it didn't work very well so I sent it back. The cannon is quite sizeable and has two cannonballs. It uses 3 x AA batteries which provide the power for the smoke maker - there is no other powered feature. It doesn't make huge amounts of smoke, but there is some visible. I remember getting a "Smoke 'n' Shaker" car when I was about 6 which make smoke out of the side 'exhausts'. It heated up some oil in a sealed cylinder. Verrrry small amounts of smoke, but I liked it.

Onto Homebase to see their Christmas section - which looked like a plague of locusts had eaten it. They were taking it all down. Everything was half price. I bought a weeping willow style fibre optic clump for outside, which was £20, and was going to buy a 6ft pre-lit tree for indoors, but it was £60 at half price, so £120 at full price. I thought that was too much and put it back.

Boots next, and Dead Sea shampoo and some age-defy cream for my mum. How easily adverts sway!

Maplin were selling a spindle of 100 CDRs for £11.99 so I got one of those too.

Comet next for a steam generator iron - none of the ones we wanted in stock, so she's ordered it from Tesco.com.

I missed no phone calls today, so maybe everything's closing down for Christmas. I still hold out some hope for Arabs placing orders though!

X Factor final radio microphones

I wonder why the two X Factor finalists used different radio microphones on the final show compared to the rest of the series?

Normally, they use the Shure SM87A condenser radio mics, but that night they had black ones - not even sure of the model.

There were a lot of mics in use at one time when all of the 12 finalists came on - 2 x 4 singles, 4 x groups (10 + the unconventionals (6?)) which totals 24 radio mics on stage at the same time. You could tell they had run out, because I saw some AKG ones out there. Kate Thornton always has the Sennheiser SKM5000. Not sure why.

So many radio mic questions!!!

Bob the Builder

I met the inventor and production designer of Bob The Builder yesterday - Curtis Jobling. He's a very amicable guy and did me a illustration of Bob with a smoke machine - apparently the weirdest request he's had!

His blog is at:
http://badablingthing.blogspot.com

eBuyer bites!

After over 20 orders with eBuyer, I have finally had a taste of why so many people are critical of their delivery.

I ordered a PC, monitor, 2 mobile phones and an air conditioner - 4 parcels in total - on Thursday. I paid £23.89 for delivery next-day. 3 parcels arrived on Friday, with the City Link delivery driver casually looking for the 4th box, the (heavy) air conditioner, in the back of his van whilst Galaxy dance music blared out at club-like volume throughout the area. He scribbled out '4' and wrote '3', which I signed. He told me it would come later that day.

Today is Monday. I did a bit of research, and it sounds like eBuyer didn't even send it out on Thursday, so they sent it on Friday without specifying any rush on the delivery. It will apparently arrive tomorrow (Tuesday) according to CityLink.

It's a good job I didn't need this particular item on Friday though!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's turned into a bit of an LBC house here at the moment. I walked through the house and there was my mum's weatherproof rechargable digital radio in the lounge, another in the kitchen, and mine in the study, all with LBC playing.

And isn't it interesting that we've been listening all week and we have not heard one single word about Iraq or Afghanistan or the Middle East - not even on the news bulletins. When your radio station relies on callers to set the topics, I think it's telling that these topics never rear their heads - I simply don't think anyone's interested in them. Nothing can be done about them, so why expell hot air on the subject?

Friday, December 15, 2006

LBC anti-northern?

Do LBC presenters know that they are on almost nationwide via DAB?
There's a promo on rotation at the moment which has a listener saying something along the lines of, "LBC podcasts saved my life....I was stuck up there in Yorkshire...".

Yorkshire people are listening, you know!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

TV

It was a couple of consecutive nights of watchable TV - not quite making the entire licence fee worth it, but it's the first time in a while that I've actually sat and watched something for over 3 hours without leaving the room.

Last night was the Royal Variety Performance - yes, it did have dull moments, but these stage spectaculars are always interesting. There were a couple of funny stand-up comedians. Lee Mack was one of them. Ken Dodd was on too - I'd read on popbitch that he smelled strongly of TCP that night and no-one was laughing except HRH. It was about right - he did a few funny jokes, but it was apparent that he could sense he wasn't winning the audience over. Jokes about tax and others about things that haven't been on TV for about 8 years, but a great one about Stars In Their Eyes. As Ken said, "you don't deserve this".

But here's the thing about variety shows - this RVP got 7.9 million viewers and "completely dominated viewing" according to Broadcast magazine. Proof, if proof were needed, that variety is a popular format, and comparatively inexpensive to produce compared to these mega-American series like Lost. So why are there no variety shows on TV right now?

Tonight was the live British Comedy Awards. I'd almost forgotten I'd sold one of my microphones to the voice-over until I heard him! It was typically unpredictable, but fairly tame by previous years. Good to see Harry Hill win 2 awards - I think his TV Burp is excellent. There was also a clip of the previous winners of Best British Newcomer, including one where Patrick Moore presents an award to Chris Morris. I would have loved to have seen that!

Well, it's getting closer to that time of year. I really need to pull my finger out and think of something original to get my mum - I've bought her and myself a new flashy mobile phone, but that's not really a surprise for her. It was on the back of an order for a new PC and monitor for a client, and I was feeling a bit mean when I ordered it and so paid for 'super saver' delivery. However, it would have arrived on Dec 22nd, so I've amended the order, spent more and it will now arrive on Friday. I also added an air conditioner. I just hope this hasn't messed up the order and that it will still arrive on time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An Answer for Everything

I received a call at 8.38am today from somebody I designed a website for over 2 years ago - just a website, that's all.
 
They want me to tell them why Internet Explorer isn't working on their PC.
 
I've never even seen their PC, I don't know what ISP they use, and I certainly don't know what they got up to on it for the last 730 days!

SpamCube rip-off in the UK

Spam Cube. A piece of hardware that plugs into your router and filters out 99% of spam - and works (apparently). But not very widely available.

It's $99 in the USA. Amazon UK, as the only UK seller, see it fit to charge £197.50 - not quite in line with the current exchange rate which should make it just over £50. Again, another example of rip-off Britain. Just get a 110v mains adaptor from Maplin - I've seen them on offer for £5. Or if it's one of those 'wall-wart' DC transformers, it'll be easy to get a regulated one for UK mains.

When IBM sold their normal PC division to Lenovo, I thought it was a bit of a shame because I really liked the design and build quality of the IBM ThinkCentre PCs. But look at this Lenovo - it looks pretty cool too. Desktops seem quite rare these days - it's all about towers. This one has everything nicely moulded in, and although it's not as cheap as the Acer towers, it's still pretty low-cost.

Apple is the devil?

I don't unerstand people who are obsessed with everything Apple make.

Although they have undeniably trend-setting designs, the prices are artificially high because unlike IBM compatible PCs, Apple make their own computers - a strangle-hold on production, and so can set prices to be artificially high.

I heard they also pay China to bury knackered iPod batteries filled with toxins in land-fill.

Most Apple evangelists are very anti-Microsoft, but just compare the amount of money Bill Gates has given away to helping mankind on this spaceship earth to that which has been given away by the founders / owners of Apple....

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dell PCs aren't that cheap

Dell PCs - they have an image of being really low cost from their adverts in the paper and their many flyers, but you just go and try buying it on their website - you can't!

For whatever reason, the cheapest you can ever seem to get it by 'building' your package on there is £849.96. Seriously!

Webcam woes

A couple of years ago I was to install two webcams looking out over a pedestrian bridge in a busy tourist town.

The client's main concer and argument for not having the installed at all was that there may be people having affairs in the town who may not want to be seen on the internet with their mistress!!! Very odd!

In the end, their decrepit computers and network meant that they wouldn't upload images to the server even after many hours of word and numerous changes of webcam software.

They got someone else in who bought IP webcams costing 10 times as much and guess what....they didn't work either!

LBC 97.3

London's phone-in station is quite a find!

It's started broadcasting live via DAB up here, and my mum listens all day. She likes Nick Ferrari in the morning, and although I've never been a fan before, Ian Lee makes me laugh out loud when he's rude to callers.

A nice station, and the UK's first local commercial radio station back in the 1970s.

DAB in cars?

When I listen to the travel news opt-out on LBC on digital radio, I always wonder just how many people in the north east will have a DAB radio in their car...It's probably about 10 people!

Charity begins with me

Yet another gripe about a customer!
 
An Irish one, to whom I'd sent a quote, calls me to say "We want you to pay for the postage yourself".
 
The postage was £65.
 
My response was "If I did that, I'd make a loss and I wouldn't be here much longer".
 
It doesn't seem sensible to be throwing £65 around willy-nilly.

An Answer for Everything

I received a call at 8.38am today from somebody I designed a website for over 2 years ago - just a website, that's all.
 
They want me to tell them why Internet Explorer isn't working on their PC.
 
I've never even seen their PC, I don't know what ISP they use, and I certainly don't know what they got up to on it for the last 730 days!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Butterfly - a peacock butterfly? Leave a comment.

Nintendo Wii - this Christmas' big thing. Going on eBay for about �650, but in theory, available in shops for �180. What I don't understand is why these Christmas fads are never available anywhere due to sold-out stock - surely the companies who make them, in this case Nintendo, can predict this Christmas rush and make some more?!

Hagglers beware!

Grrrrr!

Once again, I find myself frustrated that seemingly every phone call is asking for my "BEST PRICE" on the things I sell. "Is there any discount?"

I mean, really. Would you go into a petrol station and start haggling with the cashier over the price of the petrol you've just filled your car with?

Would you haggle with a green grocer?

No!

Then what's the bloody difference with me!? Why do people think I'm making such an amazing amount of profit that I can give everyone discounts on my price? If I did, I wouldn't be trading. The fact that they want 30 days credit on top of it all takes the biscuit.

We're not in an Egyptian market - we are in tax-paying Britain.

Now give it a rest.

Smooth FM format flip

Ofcom has granted GMG Radio's request to change the format of its London Smooth FM station from jazz and soul to an easy-listening station aimed at the over-50s.

Although John Myers (mornin' m'darlin's!) says he'll give Radio 2 a run for its money, I hope it sounds more like PrimeTime Radio - different, instead of following the same target market with the same 40 songs on rotation.

Of course, in America the format flip would have happened without having to ask anyone. Sometimes radio stations over there change formats more than once a year.

Winter sunrise seen through my bedroom window, Oct 27th, 8am.

I received this email from one of my suppliers on Friday. Why people are still forwarding these hoax emails around is beyond me. This particular one has been on the go since 2002. To quote "hoax-slayer.com": The baby in the photograph is not named Natalie, nor is she dying of brain cancer. According to an article about this hoax on Snopes.com, the baby's name is Megan Olivia Cronce who was born in 1998. The perpetrator of this hoax apparently stole her picture from a baby photos website and attached it to the spurious message. The hoax has been circulating since 2002.

This hoax is just one in a whole series of emails that make the absurd claim that a given company will donate money every time a message is sent onward. No legitimate company, including AOL, would consider organizing or supporting a charitable campaign that was based on how often a particular email is forwarded. In any case, there is simply no feasible way to keep track of how many times an individual email is forwarded. Any email that tries to convince recipients that a donation, prize, or other benefit is somehow contingent upon how many times the message is forwarded is almost certainly a hoax.

Nonsensical emails such as these should be relegated directly to the trash where they belong. Forwarding them achieves nothing except perhaps for the highly undesirable goal of boosting the twisted ego of the imbecile who started the hoax to begin with. Anybody who believes that creating a hoax about a dying child is funny or fulfilling in some way obviously has serious psychological problems.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bloody bad tempered cat

What a sweet cat. No wonder everyone loves these things! NOT!

A City Christmas

Some facts about the City this Christmas:

Deutsche Bank is refusing to provide or pay for Christmas parties for any staff in their Global Markets business this Christmas. (Revenues in the last quarter - $3.5bn)

Cleaners at Goldman Sachs, London get paid 5.35 GBP per hour.
Goldmans has set aside $3.5bn to pay bankers' bonuses this month.

And in the US, the bonus pool for the top five Wall Street firms is $36 billion.
(For 173,000 staff).


 
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