Nej's Natterings

Friday, June 29, 2007

Royal reading

I just read an interesting article, on the Daily Mail website of all places (shudder), that breaks down the cost of the Royal Family to 62p per taxpayer. Naturally, the Mailites are up in arms in the comments section, demanding that the Royals be abolished immediately.

What rubbish. 62p is fantastic value for money! I'd gladly give 62p per year to the Queen.

I bet I give a hell of a lot more to state benefit spongers via my taxes. I bet the Queen brings in hundreds of millions in tourism alone. They more than pay for themselves in this respect. How much did the stupid Dome cost? And how much will the Olympics cost? £10 billion. If we get back £10 billion from visitors I'd be very suprised. I can tell you that my contribution (as a "Londoner") to the Olympics is a lot more than 62p per year.

Almost everybody moans that Britain is losing it's traditions and values. Nobody epitomises these values and traditions more than Royal family. Last of a dying breed? Anachronistic? Out-moded? Perhaps, but that's all the more reason to keep them.

I'm not exactly a huge Royalist, by the way. But given the choice of meeting her, or meeting Blair/Brown, I know who I'd choose. Brown, actually. So I could punch him in the face and steal his money, because that's basically what he does to me, but realistically I'd prefer to meet the Queen.

I think that the Queen has the interests of the country at heart. Politicians have their own interests at heart. This is because they have a far shorter shelf-life. Take Tony Blair, for example. After ten years in the top job, he has stood down. During that time he has wanted to make a name for himself, so he can enjoy his future earnings. This is not in the countries best interest, but his own. The monarchy do not have to do this. They just endure regardless. Interesting point: the Queen, when she was a teenager, actually served during WWII. Her grandsons are perpared to goto Iraq and Afghanistan and her own children faught in the Falklands. This is putting your country first. Can you imagine Blair or Brown serving, or allowing their children to?

Many people forget that the Queen actually still is Head of State, and head of the Armed Forces. She allows a government to be formed. I'd love it one day if she said "Actually, no. You can't form a government. You're all fired and we'll run the country again." That would be quite funny. She could also pick her own Prime Minister, should she so desire. Indeed, she has done so, back in the 1960s.

Obviously someday reasonably soon, Charles will become King. He may appear to be a bit of a buffoon, but he isn't stupid. And he probably has the whole "British" thing closer to heart than anybody.

Long live the Queen!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Warning - do not use this company!

Yesterday was the Big Day. The day when my New Fridge was to be delivered. It all seemed so simple. Order a fridge, specify the day of delivery and await its arrival.

Of course, it didn't work like that.

The evening before I had the telephone call I had been expecting; the one where they arrange a delivery timeslot. It was soon apparent that "arrange" was an inappropriate word. "Dictate" would be more apt. Of course, the slot was 8am-midday. Precisely the time I was going to be at Jessica's Sports Day. I said I wouldn't be there so could I have a later one. Apparently this was impossible, because it was already loaded on the van. I suggested that maybe it could be unloaded and put onto another van that was leaving later, but this didn't fit in with the scripted way of doing things so was not an option. I soon ascertained that he was calling from a company called Wincanton who do the deliveries for Appliance Deals (who I had ordered the fridge from). Please make a note to never do business with these companies, for they are hopelessly incompetent and incredibly rude. Anyway, I said I might have to cancel the order, but I would try and get somebody over to babysit the house and that I would call back. I asked for the telephone number, which he gave me. It had too many digits. We then got into an argument with him insisting it was correct, and me insisting it wasn't. In the end I had to put the phone down because dealing with idiots of this magnitude is not good for my blood pressure.

We arranged for Ele's aunt to come over, and I called back on the number he gave me. Obviously, it didn't work. I figured out it had an extra zero in the middle, so I modified the number and tried again. Success! Except all I got was a pre-recorded "this office closes at 6pm" message. As I had received my call from them at 7pm, this was a blatant lie, presumably designed to thwart customers who may need to arrange deliveries. I rang Appliance Deals instead, explained I had found a fridge-sitter and that everything could go ahead. The man on the phone gave me assurances all would be fine.

Fast-forward to the following morning, which is now yesterday morning, and I am sitting on a chair in a cold field waiting for Jessica to do a race. My mobile rings, it is Appliance Deals calling about my cancelled order (if they thought the order was canceled why are they calling anyway?).

A large argument ensued with the moronic woman at the other end of the phone insisting I had cancelled the order, and me insisting I had not. She would have barely passed the Turing test because she just kept repeating the same thing over and over. She even accused me of lying about having taken a day off work because I wasn't at home! I got so fed up with her that I gave the phone to Ele. She had no luck, either and eventually demanded some kind of manager. She got another robotic woman who also seemed unable to comprehend that they may actually be at fault here, and just accused us over and over of canceling the order. Ele demanded that they deliver it today. They said this was not possible as it is in a warehouse in Greenford. Strange, as it wasn't possible to unload it from the van according to Wincanton. They were incredibly rude and said they were "going off to listen to the tapes of the recording". Ele terminated the call as she had had enough.

I had had enough too, so after Sports Day finished I drove to a smaller electrical store a few miles from our house. They had the fridge I wanted (albeit in white, rather than the nice "Satin Aluminium" colour, and at a slightly higher price), and were able to deliver it that day, after I explained today was the only day it could be done. They called the delivery driver to check he could come back and get it and everything. The service was well worth the extra money. So I called Appliance Deals, got the name of their Managing Director for the complaint letter he will be receiving, and told them to stick their fridge and give me back my money.

And at 17:30 my new fridge arrived. It is installed, gleaming and looking wonderful. Hurrah!

So the moral of the story is this: Do not EVER buy ANYTHING from or from any company that uses Wincanton to do their deliveries. If they had said "You didn't cancel? Well, that must be our error, we'll do everything we can to sort this out and get it to you today" then I wouldn't have had a problem. But they refused to accept any fault, weren't prepared to lift a single idle finger to help, were rude, discourteous and accused us of lying. What happened to "the customer is always right?"

They will certainly not be getting any business from me, nor anyone I know. And hopefully from anyone that reads this, too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's all our own fault

Weather too hot? Global warming.
Weather too cold? Global warming.
Hurricanes? Global warming.
Tornadoes? Global warming.
Floods in the north? Global warming.

I have another name for it. Weather.

People these days seem to think that we didn't have any weather until the car was invented.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Keep on running

Manchester City Council are to give traffic wardens the power to fine people if they leave their engines running whilst parked. All in the name of the environment, of course.

How stupid.

For starters, it's another pointless green tax that won't actually accomplish anything, other than raising money. I bet the amount of pollution spewed out by these parked vehicles in a year is less than you get in one traffic jam in one day on the M25.

Secondly, there are many reasons that you actually might need to leave your engine running (apart from get-away drivers in bank jobs). We often do it, especially in hot weather, so we can keep the air conditioning running so the kids (and us!) don't get too hot. If your car has had a flat battery, switching off the engine means it might not start again. If you are parking only for a couple of minutes, you will use less fuel keeping the engine running than if you stop and start it.

Nobody seems to have come up with an idea of how long you need to keep the engine running for, either, so the whole thing will be a mass of confusion. Will bus drivers get fined for picking up passengers?

There really is some lunacy in this world.

Friday, June 22, 2007


As our office move ramps up, I thought I'd share with you the criteria for selecting the new one. The employees were consulted and the list of priorities was basically this:

-Parking spaces
-Internal space (sufficient desk space, test areas, storage etc)
-Sit-down kitchen
-Flat roof (to allow installation of aerials required for our work)

The management criteria was this:


Guess which one it was decided upon?

It's in a different location to where we are now. Whilst for some their commute has been basically removed, for others (like me), it has now doubled. There is no compensation for this extra cost or time away from families.

There are not enough parking spaces.

The internal space is not really enough. I, like all the developers here, have two desks. They aren't big desks, but it is necessary for all the equipment we use. Now, I will have one desk to fit the same amount of stuff on (laptop, external monitor, 5 other PCs, another monitor, various tracking equipment bits, network switch, telephone, KVM, another laptop etc etc). And others have got more stuff than me.

There are no production, storage, lab or test areas.

No sit-down kitchen.

No flat roof.

It's always nice to see a company that listens to its employees.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Due to the forthcoming changes in the law, my company has just issued us with a new smoking policy. This doesn't really affect me, as although I do smoke at home (well, the garden), I refrain from doing so at work. But nevertheless, the policy is typically corporate-daft, and deserves a mention.

The current situation is this: Go outside the back entrance and have a fag. The building is a kind of "U" shape, with the back entrance being hidden from the front (as back entrances usually are). Therefore no visitors can see you out the back having a crafty puff. There is also one of those special bins on the wall to put empty butts in.

The new policy insists that you must go 100 meters from the company premesis (I presume HR will be measuring the distance, ready to pounce and slap you with a written warning should you only go 98 by mistake). And you only have ten minutes in which to do this, i.e. walk down 5 flights of stairs, walk 100 meters, walk 100 meters back and then back up 5 flights of stairs. Currently the whole lot can be accomplished in about 5.

The doubly-stupid bit is that we share a building, so if the other companies don't have such silly rules, half of the building will be smoking either by the back entrance, or right outside the front (should "on-premesis" smoking not be allowed) anyway.

But the really really stupid bit is that if all companies have the same policy, then all we'll achieve is a kind of redistribution of smokers (and smoke). So as somebody from our building traipses 100 meters away to stand in front of another building, somebody from that other building will be traipsing 100 meters to stand infront of ours.

Old way - nobody smoking out the front. No litter.
New way - potentially loads of people smoking out the front. Plenty of litter.

Now that's progress.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I did it!

I did it! I bought a new fridge!

It's being delivered next Wednesday, when I have conveniently taken a day off work to attend Jessica's Sports Day in the morning.

Only small snag is that nobody seems to offer disposal of fridges any more, because they are now classified as hazardous material. I can get the council to pick up the old one for £20, or I can take it to the recycling centre for free. This is only half a mile away from my house, but I think it's too big to get in our car (even the people carrier). I might have to borrow my brother's camper van for this one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Excellent service

I've long said that it's all very well judging a company by its service when delivering an item you have purchased, but a far better indicator is how they deal with you when things go wrong.

I was fortunate recently to have excellent after-sales service from Novatech. Ele's dad's PC was overheating to a huge degree, and would eventually shut down during intensive use. My first response was to purchase a new heatsink and fan, and some new thermal compound. So, I duly purchased a Zalman combo. This made no difference, which was puzzling, and left me out of ideas. So I had to do something terrifying and rare (for me). I had to contact their technical support department.

I filled out the support form on the Novatech site (the PC was bought not too long ago) and the next day had a response that indicated they knew of the issue, that it was an incompatability with the specific CPU and motherboard combination, and said that they could either pickup the entire system or could ship a new CPU for me to swap myself. I would be charged for the CPU but it would be refunded when they received the old one back.

So, not wanting to ship the whole system, and being capable of swapping a CPU I opted for the second choice. The next day, the new CPU arrived (a slightly faster model), which I installed and it immediately cured the problem. Novatech then arranged for the old one to be picked up the next day (all this at their cost), and when it was received back at their offices they called me to say they had got it back and would be processing the refund immediately.

I was very impressed. They immediately established the cause of the problem, speedily rectified it and left me not one penny out of pocket, and even replaced the part with a faster one.

I will certainly be buying from them again, and recommending them to anyone that asks me for advice.

If only service like this was more common.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cool, man!

But not quite cool enough... I came home from the supermarket on Sunday and opened the freezer door to put something in. Hmm, I said to myself as I pushed a loaf of bread to one side, that bread is not quite as frozen as it should be...

A little investigation lead to throwing away the entire contents of our freezer. Terrific. The cause of the de-frostingness was soon clear. The door wasn't shutting properly. The reason for this was also soon made clear; the layer of frost and ice that requires me to use a sled and a team of huskies to find the fish fingers was now so all-encompassing that the door, whilst seeming to shut, wasn't actually making a seal, although there were a few Canadians standing by my front door with clubs in their hand, lest one be found inhabiting my ice-stricken freezer.

So, what to do? I've previously blogged about my inability to buy a new fridge, but I think this time I might actually manage to do so. For once I've actually got the cash sitting in my bank account, so financial reasons shouldn't deter me, just general tightness and a fleeting hope that I could've used the cash to buy a new computer monitor. Well, at least I could donate my ice to the Arctic as I understand it is running out up there.

So we traipsed to the local electrical store and had a look at fridge/freezers. They are very expensive, it seems, but several are within our price range. A nice American-style side-by-side would be ideal, but alas they are too big. I found one that was wider than average, at 700mm but wasn't sure if it would fit. When I got home I measured the gap (both with a normal measure and my ultra-sonic electric magic measuring thingy), and found it to be 701mm. Not sure I want to risk that...

Anyway, I saw one I liked in the shop, and have since found it online for about £120 less. Good thing I didn't buy it when I saw it... The odd thing is I even got as far as adding it to the basket online (just to check the shipping, you understand), when it recommended two "complimentary products" for "my convenience". They were a washing machine and an oven. Hardly going to be things I buy off-the-cuff when buying a fridge/freezer, but thanks for the offer.

So now the question remains... will I actually buy a new fridge?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Relocation, relocation

In a couple of months, my company is relocating. It's going to be twice as far as it is now. Do I get any increase in salary to cover my increased commuting costs? Yeah, right. I mean, they've only just made a press release stating how their profits are going to be higher than expected.

Our new overlords actually got such a good deal when they bought the company that they are having trouble with their accounting in how to report it. They paid £1m (payable over 4 installments). The company has £1.7m of assets and £1m of stock. They have also called in over £1m of previously unrecoverable bad debt (for some reason the old owners refused to let anyone do this), and are confident of getting another £1.5m. The strange thing is the bosses think it's really morale boosting to tell us this and boast about it quite a lot. The rest of us think a pay-rise to reflect this wealth might boost it a bit more.

And now, they are doubling my commute in the mornings. More money spent on petrol, less time spent with Joe and Jess. Hurrah.

The really dumb thing is that there are actually no gents toilets on the floor of the building we are going to. They are on a different floor that is rented by another firm. We only have ladies toilets. Out of about 25 staff, we have a grand total of 2 females, both of whom are part-time. There is also no kitchen at the moment, so we are hoping they'll put one in before we move in. Which, if you were paying attention, is in 2 months time. There is also no wiring, no partitions, no meeting rooms, no nothing. It is a big empty floor.

It's going to be interesting...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Let it be

For some reason, thousands of (stupid) people have decided to petition social services to investigate the parents of Madeline McCann because it was neglectful.

1) I'm sure they realise that now.
b) Haven't they suffered enough?
iii) What good will it do?

I would rather think the priority should be finding the girl... I'd like to think that the sick, twisted shit of a person that could take her was at fault here, really. Saying something like "Well it's their fault for leaving her alone" does miss the point somewhat. It's like saying I should expect my car to be stolen because I parked it somewhere. How about, the bastard that takes it shouldn't be taking it?

How about leaving them alone. That'd be better.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A-lot(ment) of Insurance

It seems that those who tend allotments are being forced to purchase Public Liability insurance, to provide £5m of cover for any third party who may injure themselves whilst on said allotment and decide to sue.

For those outside of the UK who may not know what an allotment is, it is a small piece of land (very very small) that you grow, alongside your fellow allotmenters, your own vegetables. This was started during World War 2, when people were encouraged to grow their own food to help beat the shortages. Since then it has remained as an English tradition.

The annual rent on allotments is basically nothing (about £10 per year). The allotmenters (yes I'm sure there is a correct word, but it is not in my vocabulary) spend money on seeds, and then much time growing them. The reckoning is that they reap about £500 of food from the £50 they sow.

Adding £50 of seeds to a rent of £10 gives a profit of £440 for your year's efforts in growing fresh, healthy food. Adding an insurance bill of £400 makes the whole thing rather pointless.

Who is going to be seriously injured on a patch of earth and radishes? Health and Safety gone mad. If I owned an allotment I'd booby trap it anyway, to stop thieving gits from nicking my best potatoes. Surely it's trespassing if they're not supposed to be there anyway?

Chalk up another one for common sense...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Travesty of justice

A while back I wrote about the crash in the Gumball rally in Macedonia that claimed the lives of two locals.

The driver, Nicholas Morley, was villified the world over and was today in court on charges of causing death by dangerous driving.

But - and this is such a huge "but" it requires a font-size bigger than any computer monitor allows - the trial is a complete travesty.

The defence had evidence and expert testimony that proves Morley was not travelling at 100mph+ as claimed, but at a rather more sedate 45mph. They also have proof that the local driver pulled out right in front of him.

All this evidence and expert testimony was not allowed to be presented. The only testimony allowed was for the proseceution - from a local unemployed, untrained crash investigation person, who has his "own secret formula" for working out speeds. Naturally, he did not share this formula with the court. Here's what the court didn't allow:

-Evidence from the Land Survey Office (an outline drawing of the accident scene)
-Video footage from a bystander
-Testimony from a forensic pathologist
-A report from someone from the socienty of forensic procedures and traffic planning.
-A forensic report from Richard Lambor, who was the man who investigated the Diana crash.

Additionally, the family of the deceased asked the judge to release Morley, as they believed he was not guilty. This alone speaks volumes.

The sad truth is that Morley was guilty before he even hit that car. A rich man, driving an expensive car in an exotic rally was always going to be guilty.

If Macedonia are serious about joining the EU, they really need to overhaul their legal system.

The outcome of the trial is in a day or two.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Yesterday, whilst scrolling through the numbers in my mobile to find the one for Natwest (incidentally, the money is back in my account now), I came across the number of an old friend we shall refer to as Nathan, for that is his name. Those of you familiar with the alphabet will realise that his name would have come just before that of Natwest in my phonebook.

As I scrolled past his number I thought I really must get in contact with him. It's been about 2 or 3 years since we last spoke or got together.

Later on that evening, I got a text message from him. Coincidence? Well, obviously. But quite a nice one.

Further messages ensued, and it was determined that not only do I have a son (which I knew), but that he also has one now (which I didn't know). His daughter is nearly 4, and the last time we got together (or spoke, for that matter) was when she was newborn. Unbelievable how time flies along like this - this is a person that I would consider a "best friend", and to not have spoken for so many years is a disgrace. We have agreed that the situation has to be rectified, so shall be arranging a meeting soon.

Happy days!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


It's funny how schizophrenic banks can be.

The other day, whilst on the phone to mine, cap in hand, begging for them to lend me vast sums of money (i.e. sorting out my mortgage), they were a delight. A nice, friendly girl guided me through everything and then agreed I could have some of their money. Wonderful. Banks are great when they sense they are going to make a killing from you on interest, and so put their nicest people onto the phones.

Today I tried the opposite - getting them to give back some money they had incorrectly taken. This was the opposite experience. Last week I cancelled a Direct Debit, but yesterday they let the money go out anyway. So I called up Customer Service (their term, not mine) and spoke to a lady with such a thick Scouse accent that I could barely understand a word she was saying. I actually had to ask her to repeat several things. Basically, she didn't want to give me my money back, but wanted me to goto the company that had taken the money (incidentally, that was another part of Natwest). I said I thought this was covered by the Direct Debit guarantee, which she claimed to have never heard of. Vowing to find out and ring back, I hung up.

A brief bit of research on t'Internet soon showed me that the bank was indeed in the wrong, and was supposed to immediately give me back my money.

Armed with my new knowledge I called back and got a man with a Brummie accent, which is slightly preferable to the Scouse from earlier. I tried a slightly different tack of "Hi, I want my money back under the Direct Debit guarantee, please." from the off. This worked, but he tried to tell me it would take at least 48 hours. I said it should be immediate. He said this was. I said my dictionary must have a different definition of "immediate" to his and asked to speak to somebody with a more up-to-date edition.

I got passed to somebody else in a different department. He also tried to tell me 48 hours. I re-iterated that I did not want to be parted from my money (and my interest) for at least 2 days whilst they bank sorted out their own error. He then seemed to agree that this was their fault and said I could have it in 24 hours. That's good enough, so it ends there.

What a difference! Try asking for £70 quid back and it's a nightmare, but borrowing huge sums is as easy as pie.

Monday, June 04, 2007


No, I haven't died. I've just been really busy.

We've come across an interesting dilemma at home. As I might have mentioned, we're looking at moving to get Joe into a decent primary school (i.e. not on a council estate).

But then I was thinking; what about private school? I had dismissed it as being too expensive. It still is, but by moving our mortgage to interest-only whilst he's at the school (and then possibly extending the remaining term by a few more years), we could afford it without too much of a problem.

I reckon moving house would cost £20k, and the total fees for private junior school would come to £40k. This can be looked at in two ways: 1) It's twice as much, you're mad! 2) You're half-way there already, why not do it?

It's a real tough question to answer, this. Move and waste £20k (and move Jess further away from her high school), or stay, spend more and send him private, in the knowledge that he'd get into Jess's high school should he fail to get into a grammar school (which would be far more likely from a private junior school).

Tough decision. Can somebody make it for me, please?