Day to day living

Gormley Statues

Last week, when we went to see Evita (which didn't live up to the hype for us - it's now closed) we saw the Gormley statues in the area of the Hayward's Gallery Anthony Gormley Statues

These are dotted about on the rooftops, on both banks of the Thames. It's a little creepy, and I'm sure that they must have asked permission of the police (lots of phone calls from people who've only seen the one about attempted suicides!)

On the way home from the Blue Man Group I spotted another statue on Waterloo Bridge, standing on the pavement.

Anthony Gormley statue on Waterloo Bridge

I know it's not a big deal for people who see it all the time (e.g. Da Wife) - but I thought it was quite cool, so took a photo - which I present here for your amusement.

Big Brother

No, not politics. The inane TV show makes a return. It was advertised last night with the slogan 'say goodbye to your summer'. No thanks.

This is brain-dead TV which appeals to the lowest common denominator in our society. It's manufactured 'celebrity' is hard (though not impossible) to avoid.

I like Channel 4, E4 and More 4. They bring me 'ER' and 'The Daily Show', they brought me 'The West Wing'. They bring documentary, news. They bring Tony Soprano - however, in the summer they undermine all that goodwill with non-stop drivel of the first degree (there is drivel throughout the rest of the year, with things like 'Sex in Court', but this is easy to ignore).

For people who know that Big Brother is trash but get sucked in anyway, please, for the love of whatever world-view you hold dear, give it a wide berth. Avoid newspapers that replace news with endless 'Popsy was mean to Tiddles' stories (they often have odd names), avoid the TV channels showing it. If you pick up that a company sponsors it, avoid them.... please!

Big Brother next week? Thank goodness I can use my remote and avoid direct exposure - however, it's very tricky to avoid the incidental exposure in all the other thousands of media outlets.

To anyone who isn't channel 4 - do remember that Big Brother is your competitor, it shouldn't appear on the BBC for instance!

Signs to Customers

Seth Godin points out a type of sign which has been annoying me whenever I see it, for exactly the same reasons:

Noexceptions

Leaving aside the obvious contradiction of strategy (laptop users are more likely to buy books and less likely to steal stuff, so why not let them in the store and offer them a mesh bag to carry about), this sign highlights one of the silliest (and common) policy rules: no exceptions.

No exceptions? Really?

If I gave you a million dollars could you make an exception?

And on top of the unreality of the idea, consider the message it sends to the consumer. "We're so busy and so centralized and so hierarchical that you shouldn't even bother to discuss this with our staff." Or, the short version, "go away."

Why not try a sign that says,

WELCOME!
To keep costs down, we require anyone carrying a bag bigger than this square to check it. Our check area is run by Ralph, who is kind and honest, but I hope you can understand that we can't be responsible for any items you might want to check. If this is a problem for you, consider asking for one of our mesh bags, which can safely tote your laptop or camera. Thanks for shopping at the Strand... we're really glad you're here.

If making a sign gets you all stressed out, let someone else do it for you.

On a related note, another thing that's been irking me is when a sign begins 'Polite notice'. Just put up the notice and allow me to decide if it's polite, please. It's a rough rule of thumb that if something begins 'Polite notice' that what follows is not polite.

The above was also picked up on 'Business Opportunities and Ideas' under the title thief or customer?:

Seth Godin recently posted about no exceptions commenting on a sign he saw in a shop that reads:

ATTENTION:

IF YOUR BAG IS LARGER THAN THIS,

THEN YOU MUST CHECK IT IN.

NO EXCEPTIONS.

DO NOT LEAVE

CAMERAS OR LAPTOPS.

THANK YOU. THE MANAGEMENT.

Presumably the sign is in response to a high level of shop lifting, but even then I can’t believe that more than 5% of their customers are thieves, in fact the statistics I found for the UK show that shrinkage from small retailers is on average 1.91% and large retailers 1.49%. So why treat the 98+% of customers that are honest like thieves?

Seth suggests some alternate wording for the sign:

WELCOME!
To keep costs down, we require anyone carrying a bag bigger than this square to check it. Our check area is run by Ralph, who is kind and honest, but I hope you can understand that we can’t be responsible for any items you might want to check. If this is a problem for you, consider asking for one of our mesh bags, which can safely tote your laptop or camera.

Thanks for shopping with us… we’re really glad you’re here.

Which do you think would make your customers feel more welcome?

NTL sucked, and now I have a connection again.

NTL decided to 'upgrade' my connection. Unfortunately they forgot to check their records - my cable modem (which they supplied and which they own) could not handle the upgrade. My connection stopped working.

Great plan.

I'm now back online, the engineer said that all he's done for the last week is change over cable modems, which rather begs the question of why they didn't check their records, change over the modems gradually and THEN upgrade the line speeds?

I wonder why.... ah yes. It's NTL, that's all the explanation that's needed.

Right hand, this is the left hand. Look at what I'm doing today.

Digiguide

DigiGuide, the best TV guideFor several months now, I've been using 'DigiGuide' - and I have to say that it's pretty good. It's a Tv listing piece of software, which allows for flexible alerts (not like the radiotimes system which requires you to find the programme first).

One can set alerts based on actor, title, 'new episode', genre... generally, if you can find something to search on, you can search for it.

Clicking the above link gets to a free trial. I took a free trial and found it to be so useful that I signed up for the software.

Free Fifty Quid

Selftrade have an offer on at the moment (UK Only) whereby one can get a free 50 quid for opening an account. This is something which virtually anyone can take advantage of (even if they ultimately don't want the account). I've used this service when they were comdirect, then squaregain and have had no problems.

Essentially, they're an 'execution only' broker. They buy and sell shares when told to by the customer. They do this reasonably cheaply. As I write, for ishares there are no fees at all when buying.

To get the 50 quid, you need to be recommended by an existing client (I'm one) - to do this the existing client needs to log in and enter your email address (a 'throwaway' can be used if you're concerned about spam - I've never had spam from them).

Then the new person needs to do one of three things (don't discount these, see below!):

  1. make one trade worth at least £500
  2. transfer an account from another broker
  3. deposit some share certificates worth at least £500

For people without existing shares, the easiest to do is the first option. Even if cash is tight.

If I've read this right, here's how to do it:

  1. Open a dealing account (free).
  2. When convenient (e.g. After payday) transfer in £500 using a debit card.
  3. Buy some ishares (e.g. ISF, a FTSE 100 tracker) (this is no commission for ishares, for regular shares there would be)
  4. Soon thereafter 50 quid is deposited (I get 50 quid at this point too, which is why I'm posting about it at all!)
  5. Assuming you don't want to keep the equities, then you'd sell the ishares (costing £12.50). You can transfer your cash out by BACS (so the cash would be out of your current account for three or four days)
  6. Net profit to you is roughly £37.50 for about 5-10 minutes work. (I say roughly as there may be some price movement between buying and selling - the market would have to drop 7.5% to wipe out the profit - if the buy and sell were close together then it's not impossible, but it would be extreme!

Of course, it'd be up to you what you do with the account, you might decide to keep it going, to not sell whatever it is you bought... it's none of anybody's business but your own.

If you're thinking 'it sounds to good to be true', what's in it for selftrade is that they're hoping that you keep the account going, and buy/sell shares through them in the future. Essentially, they're spending £100 trying to acquire your business, hoping you'll stick around long enough to repay them in fees several times over - it's up to you whether you actually stick around!

To take advantage of this, I would need to know which email address you'd like me to use (if you use the comment form below, the email address will not appear on this site).

The current deadline to fulfil the condition and be eligible for the offer is October, though they periodically extend this.

YouGov

If you've ever heard of YouGov polls, and wondered who these people are, then follow the link. YouGov are a polling organisation which maintains a panel of internet users. From time to time, they email you a link to a poll, typically they pay 50p for each poll completed - though this can vary. Sometimes they pay more, sometimes it's a 'prize poll' - I don't like those myself (i.e. I've not won).

Whether you're emailed a link or not depends upon your profile, they try to get responses that reflect the demographic of the public.

Each poll is opt-in, there's no obligation. I've been doing YouGov polls myself for a while now, and they're pretty quick to do. There have been a few times where I've aborted as I was unhappy about the questions, but for the most part it's fairly innocuous.

Why am I making this post? Well, if you sign up using this link, I get some credit when you complete surveys (at no cost to you).Well, I'm not going to give them a free plug out of the goodness of my heart, am I? At the time of writing, you get £1 for signing up in the first place, plus any regular payments for completing surveys.

A busy time of year and relaxation

It's rather busy at the moment, gone 9pm and I was still at work (I wasn't the only one...) it'll be a few hours at home, sleep, and then back tomorrow - bleary eyed and matted tailed. Eek.

I was hoping to try and get most things done, so I would not be working through the weekend (again). We shall see what crops up tomorrow!

I want to find some time for some R and R this weekend too. One thing I would like to do is indulge my cinema going self.

There are a few good films at the moment which I would like to see, and I'm hoping to get some time this weekend. Brokeback mountain looks interesting, but I'm not sure if it'll be a chick flick or not, it could so easily be. It's hard to define when a film crosses the line from 'gentle' to 'chick flick', but I know it when I see it.

I really don't care about the current crop of 'comedy' films, and have not done for some time - so I won't waste time considering those. Jarhead looks like it might be good, but there are a glut of Iraq things out there now, there is a thing on Sky One too called 'Over There'.

I've seen 'Geisha'. Munich is on at my local cinema, that looks good.

In addition there is the blockbuster 'Underworld: Evolution'. We recently watched the original on DVD, and it was entertaining enough. (If watching the DVD, be sure to look at the extras - most of the special effects in the film were done by guys in rubber suits, the running after a car effect was a guy running on a carpet dragged by the car!)

This weekend, I think I'd vote forUnderworld: Evolution or Munich. Probably the former as the latter is likely to be around for a while. It's easy watching (usually not a factor, but it might be just what is needed right now). It also has Kate Beckinsale in a leather outfit running around as a vampire. Who could ask for more?

I'd also like to see Syriana, and the other Clooney flick on McCarthy, Good Night and Good Luck.

I'd also like to get out and go for a walk this weekend, and there are various household jobs to do. I was hoping to find some time to start LZX120. Something is going to have to give. I've got a feeling that it won't be the cinema!

Midnight DIY

Last night, at about half eleven, Monica was the last to come upstairs. She called up to me 'I can't get into the living room!' I went down expecting to find something was jamming the door on the far side, but the handle was broken. Specifically, the handle would turn but the catch would not slide across.

I took the handle off, hoping that it was the square shaft that had failed, and I could turn the lock manually. No joy, something had failed in the lock mechanism, meaning that the shaft wasn't connected to the catch.

We had a few options. Forcing the door was out of the question as it is a glass panelled door, this left us with cutting out the latch and cutting the frame to allow us to slide something in. I tried the old credit card thing, but due to the frame this was pointless.

I worked on it whilst Monica got tools from the garage (fortunately her keys were not in the living room), and after much fiddling (which consisted of turning the square shaft back and forth) I found that the shaft occasionally caught something in the lock. I could not get enough of a purchase to release the catch though.

After a while the square socket that the shaft went into in the lock mechanism was displaced, and I could see a couple of mm into the lock system. I could see the lever the shaft connected to. Some brute force and ignorance with a screwdriver saw the door open.

The next job was removing the lock itself to prevent recurrence. An easy job, I thought. No. It would not be removed. However, once I discovered this the lock was about 1cm out of the door, and so needed to come out to avoid someone catching themselves on it. It would not go back in.

Eventually, after much brute force I pushed the lock INTO the hole a little, and then it came OUT.

What had happened is that a piece of metal which pulls back the catch had snapped, disconnecting catch from handle. To make the job more interesting once the door was open, the mechanism had an opening at the top, and so this piece of metal jammed into the wood of the door inside the hole, holding it firmly in place, and holding it ever tighter as I tried to remove it. Pushing it in released this piece of metal.

This is not what you need at midnight.

Fortunately, I did not have to cut the door or frame.

Amazon Annoyances

Last night I made an order on Amazon.co.uk [my wishlist, it's worth a shot!], I didn't need it in a hurry and so merged it with a larger order which is due at the end of september in order to save on the postage costs. I got the "merge done" screen, but not the emails and to be honest I did not give it a second thought, email can take time.

Today I got the "your order has been dispatched" message, with lots of postage charges that I would have avoided with the merge. Ack.

I was going to email amazon today to see if my big order could be split into two medium orders (each above the free postage point), but instead I have had to navigate their "contact us" hierarchy in order to find a box to fill in and open a discussion on this issue with them.

I am not amused.

In related news, Amazon is now blogging, well the web services bit, anyway.

[Edit: 7/9/05 (september, for the middle enders out there), Amazon are refunding the postage, which is good, however I was told that if ordering things from stock then the combine orders may not happen as the item is processed almost immediately. What is the solution in this case? The only thing I can think of is to order an extra item with a delay, combine, then cancel the extra item. This is a bit of a pain, and there should be an easier way, i.e. instead of checking out, you could have the option to combine at that stage.]

Organisation: Hit me with your Tickle Stick.

Today I have been getting organised, and have filled three waste bins to overflowing in the process. I have implemented something with the stupid name of a tickler file, but already it is looking good. Essentially you take 43 folders (I used 42, which I will explain).

These folders are labelled 1-31 and Jan-Dec

As today is the 6th Sept, the folders are placed as follows: 7-31, Oct, 1-6, Nov, Dec, Jan-Sept,

Or to put it another way, Tomorrow to end of month, Next month, remaining numbers, remaining months.

Tomorrow, I pull out the first file, and deal with what is in it, when done, it goes to the back of the numbers. When this month is up the next month's folder appears - a little care is needed to put this at the very back when it is dealt with, and to put the next number behind the folder for next month.

If I get something that I don't need now, but now I want to see in the future, this is where the file is useful.

For example, there is a piece of paper I need on the 12th, not before. So it goes into '12', and I forget about it.

If I might need the paper before the 12th, I file it as normal and put a note into '12' to remind me to get the paper from X.

If I don't need the paper until October 12th, it goes into 'October', and on Oct 1st I will see it again, and I then shove it into '12'.

Of course, if today was sept 13th, the '12' folder would already be free!

Each time I get an item, I either deal, trash or defer it, decide to do it later. If the latter it goes back into the tickler, or onto a list. The tickler will be used for self reminders, a sort of mailbox in time that not only delivers the message, but the actual physical documents I need, be they train tickets or memos.

I only need 42 folders, as I won't use '1'. The month folder doubles as '1'!

Domestic things

Now 'the wife' is on her way home, I can relay what I have been doing today.

Bathroom floor Last Night's Meal

To set the scene, last night I got all domestic and made her some tea. I am not sure whether I should be pleased that she took the photo - impressed by the excellence of the meal, or slightly chastened that she deemed it to be an event worthy of remembrance. Possibly both. If I can get my act together there will be a meal when she gets in, tonight, too.

However, the main job of the day, in an effort to be Mr. Good Husband of the Year (in this marriage) I have refloored the bathroom.

I started and thought 'this will be a quick job', yeah right. Lots of little fiddly bits to work around. Nevertheless, it's not a bad job, and it'll be a nice surprise for her.

Eynsford

When I was a child, I used to be taken to a little place, and I loved it. There was a ford, which I used to think was great, and the road turned sharp left to run parallel to the stream for a while. There was a little country pub and the stream turned to run alongside a field.

For years I've asked where that place was, but as I had the memory of a small child I only got blank responses from my folks. After all, it was just one place amongst many for them.

Yesterday, I was driving my mum along the A20 from London, and out of the blue she pointed and said 'We used to take you there as a kid, there was a ford and the stream had loads of shrimp-like things'.

I said: 'We're going to have a look'. We did. It was the place.

It has changed, the empty field is now a sports field, what I remember as a pub is a house, but beyond that, it's just the same.

Not much there, except a stream, a ford, a road and a bridge - but I've found it again.

Live 8 and me

I must be starting to become 'middle aged'.

Middle aged is a state of mind, not of chronology, for example, it's tutting quietly at women having tops that don't quite reach their trousers, whilst simultaneously having underwear that strives to reach their tops.

My latest display was watching Live8 (which for all its good intentions, certain bands did leave me with the feeling that it was primarily a promotional tool).

With apologies to people who may have seen this on LJ.

Me: Oh look, it's the Edge.
Monica: No, that's Slash.
Me: Oh? Who's the Edge?
Mon: He's in U2.
Me: I thought that was Bono.
Mon: Edge is in that too.
Me: So is this metallica?
Mon: No, Velvet Revolver.
Me: Who are they? Never heard of them...
Mon: They've got Slash in
Me: ... didn't he used to be in... erm?
Mon: Guns 'n Roses.
Me: When did they split up?

(Pause)

Me: Didn't Velvet Revolver have Paul Weller in?
Monica: You're thinking of Velvet Underground and that was Lou Reed.
Me: Oh.

Just a few years back I was 'up to date', I knew my Pulp, Oasis and Blur, I lived in Manchester, the heart of the Britpop revival... and then... I sort of.. lost track.

And the things I did know, I forgot. I couldn't even name the lead singer bloke in oasis now. (Though I do remember Jarvis and Damon)

In my defence, I remember the songs and don't follow artists (as a rule). This has always been the case. You can't give be a song title and have me know it, though I can get lots of songs from a few notes (but not know what they're called).

On Live8 there have been a batch of 'new' bands like Scissor Sisters (crikey, they were mostly blokes), Snowball thingy, fireblade or something, and doo-dah whatzits. I'd never heard the names of the bands, but I knew the songs. And I tend not to remember stuff like that.

I really don't remember the names of the people in the bands. For example, I only know the name 'Craig David' through trailers of 'Bo Selecta', and when I saw him on this Live-8 thing thought 'Ah, that's who he is... isn't his head small?'

The nice thing about being out of touch is that I learned today that the crazy frog has been knocked off the number one spot. I didn't know that the crazy frog was IN the number one spot, nor do I know what the new number one is.

If only I'd have got out of touch pre-Bryan Adams and Whitney Houston!

Now, pulp 80s television, THAT is my field. Want the opening blurb for 'The A Team'? I'm your guy!

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground.
Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune.
If you have a problem.
If no-one else can help.
And if you can find them,
Maybe you can hire.... The A-Team.

Bah-ba bAAAA, ba ba BAaaah! (and so on).

Wimbledon

Today was the first day of Wimbledon. Monica had tickets and went along. She was on number one court. The order of play on her court was:

  1. Gentlemen's Singles - 1st Rnd.
    • Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)[3]
    • def. Christophe Rochus (BEL)
    • 6-3 6-3 6-1
  2. Ladies' Singles - 1st Rnd.
    • Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)[3]
    • def. Melinda Czink (HUN)
    • 6-3 6-2
  3. Gentlemen's Singles - 1st Rnd.
    • Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP)[23]
    • def. Jamie Delgado (GBR)
    • 7-6(2) 6-1 6-4
  4. Ladies' Singles - 1st Rnd.
    • Magdalena Maleeva (BUL)
    • def. Shinobu Asagoe (JPN)[24]
    • 6-2 7-6(6)

Photos should appear on Flickr at some point soon (an RSS feed for flickr is available on my homepage). I will try and persuade her to write a piece for this website. No promises.

Back from the Dentist

I've just got in from the Dentist, not too bad - my first crown is in. He began by removing the temporary filling, this was reasonably okay, a little bit of prodding and pushing.

I'm not quite sure of all the steps - I wasn't in the best position to see, but essentially he cements in a post and then cements the crown onto that.

This had to be done very quickly - due to the hot weather the cement would go off before he could get the job done (he had to have two attempts). The crown was pushed into place and he applied pressure by clasping my lower jaw - not the most pleasant thing I've had happen to me recently.

The crown looks pretty good though - you'd have to look really hard to tell. Crowns look like real teeth now, gone are the days of the gold crown (unless you'd prefer one!)

It feels weird having a tooth where before I only had an overfilled stub (the tooth had previously been reconstructed with amalgam, and kept small to avoid damage). I'll get used to it, I suppose.