Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Portugal in a Flash!

The last day in February. Very windy.

The parcel that DHL collected yesterday afternoon at about 3.45pm is already in Portugal this morning at 10am - I can hardly believe it. Amazing service, and through Fast Lane International. Most impressive.

There was an old trainer (shoe) on the pavement on the other side of the green. It's been there since Monday. It looked quite old, but kids are often playing football in that area. Today someone's put it in a wheelie bin (it's bin day) and the shoe has been replaced by a dead frog. Curious.

I found another pile of CD singles - about 15 - so I'll copy those now.

There. Done that.

There are now 1,167 audio tracks taking up 2.53Gb just of singles.

I bought so many over the years. I used to do hospital radio so felt obliged to keep my show sounding up to date. In a similar vein, I bought lots of music magazines at the time, then a year after I'd stopped doing the show and in eBay UK's first week (when it was free listings for a week) in 1999 I put lots of them on - Smash Hits, TV Hits, etc. and they all sold for sums in the region of £20. I suppose that 'paid' for the CD singles. But these days I don't buy music very much at all. I don't download it either, whether legally or not. I must have bought 3 CD albums in the last year. I just don't feel the need for ownership any longer.

CD Singles to HD

The great CD single archive has begun!

I swayed from giving them all away to charity to ripping them as 128kbps MP3s onto a hard drive for 'quick access'. I'll put the CDs in a box - it's amazing how dusty they get after 14 years - then probably store them for a bit before giving them away. I never listen to them, so it's pointless keeping them.

Up until about 4pm it was one of the busiest business days I've had. Someone returning two machines they bought with the wrong voltage, 4 online orders, one order from yesterday, parcel to pack for Portugal - it was all go!

I'm rather impressed by the way Windows Media Player re-names the tracks and folder by looking it up on the web. It's managed to find some really weird CDs - Sunday Times Music Collection CDs from 1994 being one that impressed me most.

I had Fast Lane Couriers organised collection of an order that is going to Portugal today. I really like that company - excellent value for USA and certain Europe countries. They get DHL to do the collection, but at a price DHL seem to double on their website. It was a fog unit for a museum model showing the water cycle.

I felt like throwing a load of stuff out today when I couldn't find the box of parcel tape. Of course, it was under all the other boxes and right in the corner. "Do I need all this stuff?" I ask myself. I consider others living in happiness with no boxes full of clutter they don't look at for years on end. But I can't bring myself to chuch it ALL out.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mysterious Cities of Gold

At the end of the Mysterious Cities of Gold in all countries except the UK and US, there was a short documentary about one of the topics from the episode.

Phones and Internet

I switched to Tesco home phone in the supermarket the other day. It seems cheaper than going with BT directly, so if the service is exactly the same I can't see that it's a problem (apart from feeding the world superpower that is Tesco).

I'm currently on hold with BT trying to order call divert. I've tried before about a month ago and the menu system is torturous. "To order a mid-priced calling feature, press 2." How am I supposed to know what price is "mid"? Arse holes.

My internet is down as I type this. Always an annoyance. It doesn't happen too often with EFH, but a lot, lot more than when I was on ntlworld, and on EFH the outages are usually for a whole day. Sadly, I'm not in a cabled area. Lots of people hated ntl, but I always found their internet first class.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Accounts and Gardening

What an exciting title! But it's just what I've been doing today. Getting up-to-date with the accounts is a job I hate. I'm not an accountant, and figures (however black they may be) do not excite me. I sent off loads of VAT receipts today - I can't believe how long it all takes to do. If I did more business than I already do I'm not sure how I could cope without help! Time is my scarce resource.

Both my front and back gardens are swamp-like. Moss has taken over, and it squelches when you walk on it. I was given advice to aerate the soil with a rather expensive hoe with two plastic tubes at each end that suck out two cylinders of soil so that you can pour some sand down there and let the worms do their work! A very environmentally friendly way of doing it! But just in case that ends up taking several years, I bought some moss and weed killer too. I spent 5 minutes making the holes, and hours filling them in with sand - I've only done half. The sand was wet so I had to prod it down with my finger on each one. Then it started to rain. A few worms popped up to say hello though, so I know they're down there. Do worms ever sleep?

My plan was to fill in my pond. It is dark, sludgy and not attractive. Without it, or with a new one in a different location, my garden would appear a lot more spacious. Sadly, since I have moved in, it has become the home to - wait for it - 11 frogs! Adult ones at that, and the surface area of the pond isn't even the area of a dining table. I don't know what they live on, but they're all busy humping at the moment (well, 10 are - the 11th is just waiting for an 'opportunity'!). It's a bit of a problem because I don't want to make them homeless, so I'm not sure what they best thing is to do - do I put them in a bucket of water and move them to the nearby nature reserve then quickly fill the pond in before they return? When do they lay their frogspawn?

I saw some nice fountain features at the garden centre. A resin log which water flows down is nice, but I also saw a very whethered looking lion's face in real stone on a stand where water pours from its mouth, with a light in the bowl. Neither are cheap (why are they so dear?) but I'll think about getting them in spring. I'll need power all over the garden, so can't go too mad aerating when that's done!

I've finally got over my cold today. The signs kicked in on Saturday, peaked on Sunday, and has slowly buggered off through the course of this week. It's the first cold I've had in about 2 years and it totally knocked me for six. Bloody thing.

I'm back on with the AVG free antivirus again. For a few months it popped up saying it wouldn't be supported from Feb 18th, but I discovered you can still download a free version from their site.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Idiots who use PayPal and eBay

Someone recently bought 4 items from me that I had on eBay as 'Buy it now". But they paid for each one separately. So it cost me 61p per transaction, instead of a combined price. How annoying. So I sent him a dog turd.


Fact of the day

The manufacture of an average desktop computer and monitor uses more than 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals.

Macs use even more than that.

Shocking news.

Enuff PC!

I've just installed a program called "Enuff PC" onto a friend's PC to curb their daughter's use of the internet and computer for chat rooms and messenger sessions.

Although I had to concentrate when reading the instructions so that we didn't lose complete control of the computer(!) by forgetting the passwords, it seemed a very clever tool to give limited access to the computer and/or internet connection for children.

Clever stuff.

New cordless phone system

I bought a new cordless phone system with answering machine last week. It's very good. Panasonic, with 4 handsets. I did have a BT one, but the rechargable batteries don't last at all, and it didn't have an answerphone.
I'll probably get some more batteries for them in the summer, then I'll have 7 handsets. Might put one in the shed!

Earth chat

I had a long Skype chat today with one of my suppliers. He used to live in South Africa, and today he discovered Google Earth, so he was showing me all of the properties he'd built down there. He came to Britain in the 80s because things were getting 'political' - he'd certainly built a lot of stuff there though - big apartment blocks. But there's some rule about not being able to take the money out of the country, so it's all in 'locked' bank accounts down there. I'm sure there's a way around it, but it's quite a strage 'paused' life that he doesn't want to return to (but wants the money!).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Etsuko Japanese Restaurant, Middlesbrough

An excellent place to eat - with a set lunch for £2.99 or - get this - £1.99 from 2.30 - 5pm!

You get a main course, a soup dish and a plate of chips for this price.

I have no idea how they do it, but you certainly get full on what they dish out (even with last year's reduction in the number of chips you get - very Teesside).

If it was in London it would be full all day, every day. But because it's in Middlesbrough and doesn't have much free parking nearby, it's sometimes a bit awkward to get near.

I've been there loads of times for years with friends, family and clients. Lovely stuff. The burly waiters are also endearing.

Virgin vs. Orange

So far, so good with Virgin. I must admit I don't think I've actually made any phone calls yet, but's going well.

I just didn't like paying twice as much to Orange that I could get for half the price with Virgin. They seem a bit more customer friendly too. Of course, I've fallen out with the other service providers -- O2 (they took my number out of service because I hadn't made a call for a few months and refused to give my £10 of credit back) and Vodafone (whose customer service called me to ask why I had moved to another service provider, then promptly put the phone down on me when I began to tell them why).

There's only T-Mobile left after Virgin, and apparently they're even cheaper.

eBay is poo

Twice now, I've tried to list an item for sale on eBay, it's said there's been a problem, go back to correct it, so I do, and everything I've written has been deleted. Gushing copy describing the item all gone.

It's so aggrivating I think I'll just give everything to the charity shop.

eBay is really getting on my nerves these days and this recurring issue really compounds things.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sky are bullies - official.

"The battle between BSkyB and Virgin Media has taken yet another twist with the satellite giant launching an advert telling cable customers they risk losing Sky channels if a distribution agreement is not reached." - Broadcast.

I dislike all forms of bullying and this is yet another reason why I do not have Sky. Aside from the fact that I dislike paying up to £400 a year to Rupert Murdoch for the privilege of watching 20 minutes of adverts an hour, sandwiched between 700 channels of shit telly.

Brand Power? Bollocks power.

These odd amateurish adverts appear regularly on TV, with a presenter extolling the virtues of a particular product its manufacturer has paid them to 'sell'.

Currently, an advert airs about Frosted and Coco Shreddies, saying that they contain 70% whole wheat. But this is a very one-sided view of a product, portraying it as some incredibly healthy breakfast option.

What's in the other 30% viewers ask? Sugar. Pure, teeth-rotting sugar. In fact, just one bowl of Frosted Shreddies contains more sugar than 14 cans of Cola.

I suppose it's a bit like saying "drive massive 4x4s if you live in a city - they're really comfy!" and not mentioning they use 16 times the amount of petrol all other cars do. Very one-sided.

Like these so-called 'friendly bacteria' yoghurt drinks. What they don't tell you is that they are chock-a-block with SUGAR. What a great way to start the day. Sugary yoghurt. Mmmm. Not.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Power monitor

I bought a power monitor on eBay (not Maplin) a few weeks ago. It logs how many watts appliances are using, and also the number of kilowatt hours that are clocked up. Very useful.

I have logged that in 240 hours I have used 15 kilowatt hours (£2.55) of electricity on my computer and hi-fi.

Accounts make me go argh!

I'll tell you what's getting my goat right now - my company's accounts. And my accountant.

I've been VAT registered since October last year, so they talked me into getting accounting software package Sage. So I have to go and back-track and input the last year's accounts and figures into it so I can do these quarterly VAT returns.

I feel like I've been sitting here for weeks doing it - and I HAVE. I hate it. I don't have an accounting mind, so I leave it 'til there's a pile to do, by which time I've forgotten how to do it, what I last did, then it all gets too much. I'm essentially sobbing while I do it.

The accountant charges me £40 + VAT per hour to come over and sort it out for me. I've paid them over £1,000 in a couple of months and I still feel like I only know about 1/3rd of what I'm supposed to. ARGH!

Maybe this flat-rate VAT thing is the way to go. I'm really not happy as it is though - if I wanted to be this miserable I'd still be working for Middlesbrough Council and would not have broken free and become self-employed.

Out with the clutter

I'm de-cluttering my house. I've already given a huge crate of books to the local hospice charity shop. I did have them on Amazon, but it doesn't seem worth going to the post office with one book for £4 sometimes, so I thought I'd let others enjoy them and help a good local cause. There's more to come their way.

I bought a book at work for £1 and sold it on Amazon for £12. Once they'd taken their 25% cut, and given me something like £2 for postage, I had £11. I asked my mum to post it off, but perhaps didn't stress to her the need for thrift. It cost over £8 to send. Not really worth doing in the end!

Some things will go on eBay - I think. I'll probably let my mum do it - she likes the adrenaline rush - I hate how long it takes to list one item. There's some good stuff like an Austrian-made typewriter she bought in 1969 from a shop near Trafalgar Square. Then there's stuff I bought, like 6 clown heads. Yeeeeees............