Nej's Natterings

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks, Darling

Hurrah! The VAT-rate has been cut by 2.5%! The economy is saved!

What complete rubbish. What difference will this make to anyone, anywhere? My initial reaction was "oh good, petrol and cigarettes will be cheaper". But no, because they rake in such huge amounts from these, they are putting up duty to offset the decrease in VAT. Which will stay in place when VAT reverts to 17.5% in 13 months time, naturally.

Seriously. This will make no difference at all. If I was thinking of buying something for £100, but wasn't sure because it was a bit expensive, I'm not not going to decide to buy it because it's £2.08 cheaper. I would have paid £100 for it.

Think your food bill will drop? It won't. Most food is zero-rated for VAT anyway. It's only the likes of chocolates and crisps that are affected. And, strangely, "Ornamental Vegetables", which are apparantly vegetables that are grown for their appearance rather than consumption. No, I don't get that either. Oh, and live horses, but I don't tend to buy many of those these days.

The really stupid thing is this: Most companies will just put up their prices by the difference. The consumer will be no better off, but the corporations will be. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - more money in companies means safer and more plentiful jobs. But putting money into the pockets of the people it isn't.

Some things are just not going to change. For example a £10 mobile top-up is presumably made up of £8.51 cost and 17.5% VAT to make £10. It's not going to become a £9.79 topup, is it? No, the price will increase by the difference.

More irritating is the short timescale. It changes on Monday. Which means when you have inherited two rubbish systems to look after, both of which appear to have hard-coded VAT rates of 17.5% in them, and both of which rely on the prices being set to £10 for the rest of the things to work, and when you are far too busy to even look at these systems, and when one of these systems is in a programming language that you don't know, and when nobody in the business will make a decision on whether to increase the prices we charge to absorb the cost and make it easier, or to investigate and re-work the system, it means you are screwed.

Thanks, Darling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blog Appendix

My, what a fun week that was.

On Sunday Jessica started complaining of a tummy ache. She was still complaining on Monday. Being the horrible parents we are, we told her she had to goto school. She asked if she could at least skip swimming. We told her no.

so we felt a bit bad when later on that night we took her to hospital and she was diagnosed with appendicitis. Oops.

We left her there overnight - she was fine with being left alone - and we went back in the morning, bright and early. We then seemed to spend hours waiting around. She was seen by a few people as they weren't entirely sure it was appendicitis (blood and urine tests normal), so they tried to book her in for an ultrasound before surgery. This didn't look like it was going to happen, but eventually it did, and nothing really showed up. Before we knew it, they were suddenly prepping her to go down for surgery.

We waited around for a couple of hours and eventually she came back minus an appendix, and in a fair amount of pain. She slept a while and then woke up in the evening. Ele stayed the night in the hospital. I went home, and ended up working until gone midnight with a stupid work problem.

The next day (Wednesday) she was in a lot of pain (she was on a drip all this time, and didn't eat a thing for several days), and the nurses were really being rubbish with the painkillers. She was saying the whole day that paracetamol and ibuprofen weren't doing enough, but they didn't communicate this properly to the consultants. Eventually in the evening (when I arrived with Saff, Joe and Anise for a visit) she had a big panic attack which they were also rubbish at sorting out. The consultants finally arrived and prescribed some codeine, but as that contains paracetamol and she had just been given some, she couldn't have it for another few hours... Eventually she got it and had a better sleep.

On Thursday she actually managed to eat and drink a bit which was good. She was also more mobile, and on Friday she was able to eat quite a lot and was able to come home in the afternoon.

She made good friends with the girl in the next bed - Dani, who was the same age as her and had the same operation the day before. The two of them were so alike it was quite funny. We got on well with her parents, so we ended up being quite good friends at the end of it as well.

She's now got a couple of weeks off school (1 week plus half-term), and no sports for a month.

The worst bit was all the chavvy families who came and went in the ward. I felt sorry for one boy, who was diabetic, whose mum was an alcoholic (and didn't visit), and his dad who was on the dole for a living, and also didn't bother visiting. The worst lot were a girl that came in and had about ten members of her family in with her. They were all VERY loud, and had mobiles ringing and were swearing like sailors. I don't mind swearing and I do it myself, but there's a time and a place and a childrens ward is not one of them! And then - in the biggest act of "pot/kettle" I've ever seen, they had the nerve to complain about 2 kids who were playing in the corridor. Yes, they were making a bit of a noise (but less than they were!) but all this lot did were go "SHHH!!!" really loudly, and make loud complaints like "where are the parents?", "there's sick kids in 'ere can't they keep it down!" and then swear some more. The parents were in the main part of the hospital where they had also been admitted, actually. In the end Dani's mum got them all chucked out!

What a fun week!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


After avoiding it since its inception, I have finally bought a copy of Windows Vista.

I avoided it before because I didn't think my current computer would cope with it. However, as I recently built a new, shiny, super-powerful machine I decided I'd buy Vista to go with it. Can't stick in the XP Dark Ages forever.

The problem with Vista, was that XP was good. It worked. It was stable. When XP came out most people had Windows ME. The problem with ME was it was utterly crap. The most unstable OS I'd ever used. The only thing that worked quite well was the System Restore function, which was fortunate, as you had to use it a lot.

So there wasn't much call to upgrade to Vista. It was slow and unreliable, according to most sources. Therefore, I avoided it.

So it was with some trepidation that I installed it onto my new computer. I'd bought one because the old one was getting slow and a bit past it. Therefore the last thing I wanted was to install Vista only for it to slow the machine down to the sort of speeds the old one was running at. Frankly, that would make for a waste of £500 and all sorts of ear-bashing from my beloved, who authorised the purchase.

To start with, it didn't look good. It crashed. A lot. Not totally convinced it was Vista at fault, I ran MemTest86 on it which confirmed there was some memory errors. I slowed the memory down from 1066Mhz to 800Mhz (although it should have run fine at 1066) and the problems completely went away.

And now - I'm impressed. I'm running the Aero interface and the computer is still very, very quick. Ok, the computer is powerful (quard-core processor at 2.87Ghz), but it's not top-of-the-line. The graphics card was quite cheap (but still more powerful than the old one, and has 512MB of RAM which helps). It's currently running 2GB of RAM but will be running 4GB soon, once decide to actually get some customer service and replace the faulty sticks they sent me. I would expect performance to improve further when that is installed.

A couple of bits of hardware don't work, but I can't blame that with Microsoft. Logitech in particular loses much future business from me for refusing to provide a driver for my webcam.

Overall - I like it!

Monday, August 04, 2008


After about 15 years of having long hair, I have had it cut off. A brave step, I'm sure you'll agree. So far I'm liking my new barnet - it takes seconds to wash and dry now, compared to bloody ages before. And it doesn't blow around in the wind or get in the way. I don't need to brush it either. But it does look odd when I look in the mirror.

Getting this home insurance sorted has turned into a nightmare. Because my previous insurer didn't want to renew, whenever you do a search on the internet you have to click the "Have you ever been refused insurance before" button, which immediately rules you out. And if you lie and say "No", just to get some prices then the number of claims I had ruled me out anyway. Phoning up several insurers did nothing either. Even my bank - who as part of my mortgage terms insist I have insurance - wouldn't cover me, saying that whilst it may be a condition of my mortgage, they are not obligated to provide it.

I finally got a quote from a helpful chap at a broker called Adrian Flux, which comes in at about £100 more for the year than I was paying before. This, in the circumstances, is not too bad and unless the other broker who is supposed to be getting me a quote comes back significantly less, I'll have to take it. Of course, I don't have time to shop around much because the policy renews (or rather, doesn't renew) in a couple of weeks and...


Can't wait!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Have you made any claims in the past 5 years?

I'm not a happy boy. I received a letter from my home insurance company that said something along the lines of "Because you have dared to actually use the service you were paying for, we have decided you can go stuff yourself because we're not insuring you anymore".

And that presents a problem. Finding insurance is actually quite hard, because I have made 4 claims in 2 and a half years. Thing is though, these are not my fault. This was storm damage, water escape from my shower x2 (if it had been fixed properly in the first place that needn't have happened the second time), and the burglary. It's not like these are caused by my negligence or anything. If this was car insurance and I'd driven into 5 parked cars last year or something then fair enough. But this is just things that have happened to me - I didn't do anything to cause them.

So far I've found a total of 3 places that will insure me. Fortunately one of them is actually cheaper than I'm paying now anyway but I have a bit of a distrust for insurance policies that seem cheap... time to read the small print.

And, typically, the current insurance runs out whilst we are on holiday, so I have under a week to sort it all out.

And, of course, I daren't actually make any claims on my policy now for a couple of years unless my house actually explodes or something, because then I probably wouldn't find anyone to cover me at all. So even if something does happen I'm going to have to pay to fix it myself.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I received a letter the other day from British Gas telling me that they had to change my gas meter. There was no explanation given as to why. It's functioning perfectly well and my house doesn't explode whenever I light a match so it's not leaking either.

Anyway, they had generously allocated me an "appointment". This "appointment" was for a Thursday, between the hours of 8am and 8pm. How is this an appointment? This is - literally - half a day. Half a day when nearly everybody is going to be at work. That is not an appointment. That is ridiculous.

Do they really expect people to wait in for 12 hours for somebody to turn up? Are they really that disorganised that they can't get somebody to my house within, a 2 or 4 hour window? It's not like they are going to be coming from Scotland or something, they'll have local engineers.

I called them and got 4 completely pointless options:

If you have an appointment already and wish to change it, press 1.
If you have rearranged your appointment and wish to change it again, press 2.
If you wish to cancel a previously arranged appointment, press 3.
If you wish to shout at somebody about these pointless options, press 4.

Ok, the last one obviously wasn't that, but it was very similar to the first three - I just can't remember what. Quite why options are needed there I have no idea.

I pressed 1 and said I wanted a proper meter, not a pre-pay one like I had now. This meant that I had to call another number, but at least she canceled the stupid 12-hour "appointment" so I can now go back to ignoring them.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Goodbye, 29

Oh dear.

Whilst I was peacefully sleeping, I appear to have turned into a proper grown-up. I have turned 30.

I'm not ready for this. Ok, I may be married and have kids and a mortgage, but 30? No. That implies I have to be sensible. Responsible.

Proper adults are 30. Now I'll have to become one.

Goodbye, 29. You'll be missed.

Now, where's my pipe and slippers?