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Wednesday 30 June 2004

VOIP is coming [lurks]

You've all heard of VOIP, I assume. A hideous technical name which some lab-dwelling cocknut gave to Voice Over IP, or - for everyone else - the concept of making a telephone call over the Internet. The buzz has been building in the industry for some time and on the corporate front, there's many established providers and firms which make use of the technology so they avoid being the drastically higher charges which our telecoms companies charge for regular plain old telephone service (the lab-dweller called that POTS).

The question is, will this shit ever actually mean anything to you and I? Actually, yes and here's why.

Quietly and without fuss, Plantronics have launched a retail promotion of headsets across Europe which offers 120 minutes of free calls to 25 countries worldwide via this thing called Skype. I'd never heard of it but I was interested enough to look into it.

Skype is basically an instant messenger client which is free, check it out here. So what, you say. Indeed, it doesn't look like much and basically the only difference between it and, say, MSN Messenger, is that it's predominantly aimed at voice. It does text too but basically it's a P2P client which manages contact lists and you can place an audio call to any of your buddies. They hear a ringing, pop on their headset and have a chat. There's conference call stuff too. Me, Slim and Skeeve tried it out last night. It works, it's dead easy and it sounds excellent too.

But you've been able to do this stuff in Messenger anyway, right? Well, yes and no. Firstly, it sounds terrible in Messenger - try it. Secondly, like the file transfer stuff in Messenger, this shit just doesn't work via a firewall, even a basic NAT one. You have to map ports and faff about. Of course you can do that but it's not really the sort of mass market thing which you're going to be able to get your Mum on right?

So Skype is a good voice-based IM client. Jolly good. Where things get interesting is the fact that you can place telephone calls land lines and mobile phones around the world via the SkypeOut service. Now, this is in Beta now but it's working. If you buy a Plantronics headset, you get a little voucher for 120 credits which you can apply to your Skype account. Yet if you're just a punter who has downloaded Skype, you can't buy credits yet. It's coming 'soon' apparently.

Look, I'm giving you a taster of the future here - quit bleating!

So anyway, what's it all cost. Well, the 25 countries covered by the Skype Global Rate cost 1.2 Eurocents. We gotta pay VAT on that, their site says 15 percent but I guess they mean 17.5 for us? So that puts it at 1.41 Eurocents or 0.93 pence in Sterling. That's fuck all.

What's notably missing from the global rate are UK mobiles, unsurprising since our mobile operators are rip-off merchants and have recently been ordered to cut their termination charges by a good whack by Ofcom. Also South Africa, which is a key point for me. My wife calls South Africa all the time. Her family have computers but on modem and I really don't think that's going to work so she'll stick to SMS and Messenger unless this brings some to the table.

So anyway, let's take a look at the cost per minute to use Skype to call a UK mobile phone first. Here's the full pricelist and that says that puts UK mobiles at 16 Eurocents and 18 Eurocents if it's an Orange number because the frog are even bigger wankers than the Brit mobile operators. I'll save you the math, it works out that Skype calling a UK mobile phone will cost you 12.5p a minute and 14p a minute for Orange.

Now comparing that with calling from a BT landline, it can cost you as much as 20p or as little as 16.8p. So worst case scenario, Skype is cheaper to call UK mobile phones than a BT landline is and obviously a hell of a lot cheaper than another mobile unless you've got some funky tariff that makes it cheap to call the same network.

Oh yes and South Africa. That's gonna cost me 3.9p a minute.

So Skype very clearly has a massive price advantage to traditional telephony which is bound to get people installing the little applet and then as a knock on, a good many will use it as a regular phone service between themselves and pay precisely zero for it.

Did I mention the fact there's a PocketPC client for it? Now think about PDA/notebooks with WiFi access. You go to your coffee shop hotspot and log on, bingo all your contacts can see that they can call you and you can call out. Now the importance of VOIP is starting to become clear.

BT recently announced that they're moving their entire telephone network to a private VOIP network, which may not be startling news for us but BT does have a secret little ace up its sleeve which its in the process of trialing now called Project Bluephone.

The Project Bluephone concept is that a handheld device will happily use a WiFi hotspot to receive and place VOIP calls and the regular GSM/3G networks when a hotspot isn't available. It's due to go into more widespread trials this summer. Apparently it actually works.

Whether or not you think that you'd ever use Skype yourself, it seems clear that the public will increasingly pick up on VOIP and this will harm the traditional telephone system. With luck, the competition will see them drop prices to realistic levels.

Perhaps at some stage, Skype or maybe others like it will force such a radical rethink of telecoms that our local mobile operators will be forced to reconsider the highway robbery of charging 15p for a 170 character text message. We live in hope.

Tuesday 29 June 2004

Worst movies of all time [lurks]

I remember my old lady had a couple of books, one called the 50 worst movies of all time and the other, the golden turkey awards. They rocked and so I thought we'd have a blog along those lines!
Sunday I was a bit bored and so downloaded Starship Troopers II. Haha, how bad was this? 3.8/10 on IMDB... Let's put it this way, they couldn't even afford to the blanks for their guns so they had little lights on the end of them. Lazerquest Troopers, ho ho.
Now come on, we all must have seen some stinkers. Preferably ones so bad they are funny. Stuff like Undead, the hilarious and absolutely essential viewing aussie zombie movie. More more!

Monday 28 June 2004

Liberalism and the chair. [brit]

Here's a musing for you - is it possible to be a leftie liberal, and pro capital punishment, without that is, appearing as an opinionated dichotomy - the likes of which usually end up in a padded cell?
Imagine if you will, a method of execution that was instant. Something like complete 100% atomic dispersal which took less than 1/100th of a nanosecond to achieve. That would kick the collective head in of the 'cruel and unusual' crowd, no? Yes? good... so on with the musing.
Take the example of Marc Dutroux; a confessed psychopath who raped and killed 4 girls, and raped but didn't kill 2 more. He's been found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
I ask the question - why keep him alive at all? Surely, he is officially surplus to requirements in terms of our need for people like him on Planet Earth? Isn't my Insta-Atomizing-Death-Machine just perfect for situations like this?
We've got this character in prison now for the rest of his natural life. I've no idea what currency they use in Belgium (presumably some sort of cocoa based edible coinage) but I bet it'll cost a metric shitload to keep him alive for the next 40 years.
And so, here I am, advocating the use of the death penalty in capital cases, yet I am deep down a liberal idealistic sort of guy that'd rather see everyone just get along. How can this be?
Or, is the notion of a true lefty pinko simply dying out? After all, last time I saw someone wearing a Che Guano tshirt and driving a VW camper, was in a Chevy Chase movie... is the majority of the 'left' like me? left of center but with rightwing thinking when it comes to justice, punishment, crime and all that?
Terribly confusing.

ebay overcharging [lurks]

I noticed I got billed a rather large amount by eBay this month. Over 70 quid. I'd flogged a fair bit but not enough to warrant fees of that order. So I looked at my invoice and discovered £53.03 marked down as not being paid earlier in the year (when I sold a load of stuff), so they charged it to me again.
15-Jun-04 22:10:19 BST Payment Adjustment - Debit -£53.03 Uncharged CC Payment Reversal from January 2004 Ref #128493292
Sadly because I switched cards, I had to get my bank to send me credit card statements from early in the year (I just use electronic banking) but when those turned up, I found the £53.03 charged to me in February.
Obviously I reported it and demanded a refund but apparently I'm not alone. They've cocked up migration to a new billing system. I recommend you check your recent eBay invoices and make sure they haven't tacked on any charges.
Of course with all things eBay, they make it absolutely impossible to contact them... but if you dig around their feedback, you will find a billing category to email them although it's not in a logical place.
In other news - I signed up for a free trial of LycosMax email. When I got in, I decided it was shit but couldn't work out how to cancel my trial. So I emailed them I wanted it cancelled and forgot about it.
Month later, they send me an email thanking me for my purchase.
I got onto my bank, told them to deny any transactions from Lycos and emailed the Lycos again. So far no charge, no email response, nothing. Another scamming company that just relies on the fact they'll get you in on a trial and then make it impossible for you to get off.
World is full of scammers and they're not just guys in a hut in nigeria.

Friday 25 June 2004

Wishes for EED v2 [lurks]

It's time for our blog system to get a major overhaul. The uber fuxor technology exploiting the quantum assmaster principal has done good service and it's pretty safe to say that very few other people have done quite the same thing - the email gating, IRC driven blogging/editing etc. It was all pretty wicked stuff but there are some drawbacks which need addressing and sadly we're at about the limit of the current system and we probably need to use something which more than one person can code/modify - so it actually gets done.
We've got some technology in mind, this time some off-the-shelf stuff which we'll bend to our own insidious ends. However picking tech first is the wrong way of going about it. What we should do is work out what people would like to see and then make a choice of technology based upon that.
One of the key things we need, in my view, is to have blogs visible by real URL paths and not with some php crap on the end. The primary reason for that, so Google can spider the blogs permanently and not just throw our front page up if it happens to spider across the content when it is on the front page.
Think carefully about what you'd like to see and post here please.

Red Orchestra [spiny]

Had a quick run around on the 'Red Orchestra' mod for UT2K4 tonight. Rather than a coloured musical instrument sim, it's yet another WW2 themed multiplayer FPS.
Set on the eastern front it's the ruskies v nazis with a capture & hold game objective. No surprises (or originality) there.
Things differ once you get into more detailed game mechanics, the authors claim a realism bias. This is done quite well in some areas like the implementation of brining your rifle to the shoulder to aim through the 'iron sights' & the elimination of a crosshair. Less well in others like still being able to jump out of a 1st storey window, although you still take damage & are forced to limp for a bit. There's a rudementary stamina factor so you can't sprint everywhere before running out of puff. [That's puff Slim, not poof].
This might be starting to sound like a Call of Duty rip off which to a large extent is what it feels like. The major Unique Fragging Point(tm) is the implementation of player classes. Commander, heavy gunner, sturmtrooperwaffensoldat etc in an attempt to encourage some form of teamplay I suspect.
In the end I suspect this may well have been a lot better implemeted as a simple class mod for CoD rather than putting the effort into re-coding stuff in the UT engine. Indeed, some of the texturing & animations alone make you wish this. There's a distinct lack of servers on line. 17 when I refreshed with two populated, both full.
A later version may be worth checking out at a LAN, but stick to CoD for now.

Tuesday 22 June 2004

"Doing Animals" [brit]

I don't know why I watched it but like a rubberneck at a drive by, I slowed, I paused, and I watched the episode unfold.
'Doing Animals' (and I use that term to avoid problems with anyone's anti filth filters or other device of Orwellian Design) was on last night, unsurprisingly, on Channel 4. (Five would have had the whole thing in soft focus and hosted by a ponytailed west coaster called Randy).
The concept was mind boggling - there are folk who don't just love animals, but go way beyond the Rolf Harris level of empathy and marry the things. And when I say 'marry' I mean the whole 'to love and to cherish in a physical sense' scenario too.
And yet, as I watched this guy (who seemed unable to open his eyes, lived in a trailer and had married his horse) talk about himself and other 'zoos' I was astonished to find myself engrossed in the programme; apparantly there are a lot of these sort of folk around, 'banging the beef' as he so cheerfully put it. It would have been easy to simply write off the documentary as an hour long look at some seriously messed up people living amongst crumbling barns in The Deep South, but the truth appears to be that wherever you find our furry friends, you'll find furry friend lovers too; I for one shall never be visiting that urban farming commune in Bishopsgate.
The question lingers on however - if the [insert mountable creature] not only doesn't mind, but enjoys it, and so does the 'zoo' is it no harm no foul?
I applaud Channel 4 for showing this documentary, of course afterwards we had even more live footage of animals going at each other in various guises, albeit under the monika 'Big Brother'.

WHOOOSH! and Space Ship One is away! [brit]

It appears the glory days of early '50s science fiction are back folks, and I for one am pleased as punch.
Looking like a souped up version of War Rocket Ajax, the privately built and piloted Space Ship One today broke a aeronautical milestone that will happily sit alongside the first trans atlantic crossing in terms of importance.
The X Prize is starting to deliver.
For those that don't know, the X Prize is an international competition with a $US 10m pay check for whichever non governmental organisation puts a reusable craft into space with three passengers, and repeats the exercise within a fortnight.
Everyone from amateur pyros to serious corporates have been working on this for years, and today Scaled Composite's awesome looking craft took off from Mojave Airport and got itself to 100.8km (68.2 miles) above the earth's surface and into sub orbital flight before landing 90 minutes later.
This is seriously cool stuff - the fact that the craft itself looks so utterly different from the usual NASA/Russian/ESA affairs is a bonus too; you can almost see the huge bacolite control panel and assorted toggle switches...
Of course, it's cutting edge tech - and I have to say, this one story today restored my faith in our collective need to explore, push the limits, and do the so called 'impossible'.

Monday 21 June 2004

Resigning, tips sought [lurks]

The time has come for me to move on from my job and so that time has arrived when I need to call the boss for a meeting and announce my intentions. Now while there's a whole bunch of stuff I'm unhappy with, stuff which has essentially hastened my search for an alternative career, at the same time the firm has been good to me and, for the most part, I've enjoyed the work and learned a lot.
So how does one resign? My boss is likely to go bananas. I'm likely to basically play it cool and refuse to be drawn in the intial meeting and maybe do an exit interview later where, when things have calmed down a bit, I might be able to shed some constructive light.
Of course I've played out the fantasy of saying exactly what's on my mind but on the other hand, I'm looking to maybe do some work on the side for the firm. Some of the things I actually enjoyed about my job.
So, any tips from the more, ah, diplomatic of persuasion?

Friday 18 June 2004

Data Protection is a waste of space [slim]

I recently saw a copy of a letter where someone was requesting some information they thought they were entitled to see under the Data Protection Act.
It was interesting to me to see the Data Protection act in action, I'd never seen anyone request anything using it a reason before. What it did was demonstrate just how useless the act actually is. The reply the bloke allegedly got was that he wasn't entitled to see the information because it wasn't in a relevant filing system. They expanded the act a couple of years ago to include paper filing rather than just computer data, useing the following definition:
'A “relevant filing system” means any set of information relating to individuals, not processed automatically but which can be manually processed by reference to the individual or by reference to criteria relating to the individual so that specific information is readily accessible. Whether manual information, such as paper files and non-automated microfiches, falls within the definition is a question of fact in each case. There must be a set of information about individuals grouped together by reference to a distinct identifier, for example, a set of information on customers or employees. The information and the ease of access to it should be assessed, rather than whether the information is part of a physical file.'
As I understand from that definition, if an invoice about was filed under 'Mr Flanders Invoices' it would be covered by the act, and retrievable on request if you were Mr Flanders. If it was filed under '1 Springfield Road', it wouldn't be because the filing system doesn't identify you as an individual. So instead of the act protecting people as it's supposed to, every company just changes their filing systems to something cryptic and becomes immune. Top eh?
ODPR should just be binned. Anyone ever seen an example of it working in someones favour? There's plenty of high profile cases where it's worked against the public interest (Soham for a start).

Winamp 5 [lurks]

Quick thing. I'm stressing my CPU as part of another project I'll blog about soon, and I happen to be gazing at my task list. What do I spy? WinAmp chewing 10-15% CPU. This is on a 3.2GHz P4. As Am points out, we used to play Quake on those sort of cycles...

Anyhow, I poke around the settings and pull up properties on the DirectSound output plug in. Enable hardware acceleration on that page. Restart. 0-1% CPU. You guys might wanna do that...

Big Brother 5 gets violent... haha [brit]

Big Brother 5. It's like Euro 2004 or Wimbledon; it eats into TV schedules, the media gives it tonnes of coverage and at the end of the day, its truly tedious shite.
However, apparantly for the first time in BB 'history', the house erupted in violence as Victor went schitz.
I should take a moment to explain who Victor is. He's a Grade A fuckloon of the highest order, and yet that does serious disservice to fuckloonery as a whole. He's mind numbingly retarded in his outlook and social skills, and is the sort of person you'd expect to find flogging knocked off rolling tobacco outside Bejams. In short, most people's initial reaction on meeting him would be to punch him very hard in the face.
He plays the race card a lot too (he's a brutha see, who is jolly proud of his roots, and sees any criticim of him as a criticism of the black race as a whole, which is bad'n'wrong innit) and this leads him to go up against the somewhat adorable bug eyed girl from up Norf, who's name I forget but she's lovely. In short, most people's initial reaction on meeting her would be to buy her a Bacardi Breezer and run a mile.
So, here it is - about 3 minutes of entertaining nonsense from that group of assorted human gerbils we call Big Brother contestants:
Show me the violence!

BT carves the thin end of the wedge (child porn) [brit]

Child porn, bad.
Now that I've got the obvious out of the way, lets have a quick look at what BT are doing with other providers planning on similar programmes.
BT, wearing their Hat of Morals, are implementing a programme whereby their customers connected via their dialup and broadband services will be denied access to sites which contain child porn. The user will receive a 'server unavailable' message, and that'll be their 'net journey ended.
The idea was pushed for by a vocal kid's charity, and on the face of it this is a great idea - banning kiddy porn at the ISP level can only be a good thing right?
This is very much, in my view, the thin end of the wedge. It's ISP level censorship of the internet on par with Red China and that sucks big time; and I absolutely guarantee it won't end with the child porn issue.
It *will* end with the ISPs censoring sites which are deemend inappropriate full stop. Sites which contain information say, from Islamic Fundamentalists, or sites which show you how to make a bomb out of garden or which are just plain against whatever the government of the day feels we should read, will be blocked.
Of course, you'd have thought that such an invasion of our rights to view whatever we like would be the subject of some well thought out and openly debated bill in the House of Commons.
Not so. BT are apparantly engaging in this 'initiative' themselves... a little digging shows that they're doing it in partnership with The Home Office. What's this I hear you cry? a government led reduction in our rights to view what we choose and nary a cough in the home of our own democracy?
But of course. Welcome to the Orwellian Reality, 21st century styley.

Thursday 17 June 2004

Really useful gadgets [brit]

Gadgets, gizmos, expensive crap, call it what you will.
We live in an age of pocket sized devices that would have H.G.Wells reaching for the valium and we're of course nowhere near the end of it. 'Necessity' is no longer the mother of invention, merely a forgotten aunt who most likely spends most of her time drinking sherry.
However, I love gadgets, and I found one (again) this morning whilst pottering around.
A box, perhaps one third the size of a cereal packet, and made from white plastic. It's unobtrusive, and it has a simple ON/OFF mode of operation.
Switch it on however, and it'll supress mobile phone signals within 20 metres. Mobile ringtone hell is but a memory; interrupted meetings and other phone related crapola simply *gone*! Hurrah!
What's your favourite gadget or gizmo? I'm all misty eyed over a remote control tank that has working main armaments and independently motorised treads; but there's no batteries for it... sniff.

Disastrous Disaster Recovery [brit]

You gotta laugh. Well, if you don't, you'll go postal.
Disaster Recovery - two words that executive management love to throw about their squash courts, and the two words that make finance types withdraw instantly into a near comatose state.
Since September The Eleventh Two Thousand And One (I refuse to call it 'NyneWonWon') many companies woke up to the idea that their huge corporate edifices are indeed somewhat transient when, for example, hit head on by a fully laden airliner.
We are no different. 'DR' as it's known, is on everyone's tongues, and after having a chat with a couple of folk (it shouldn't come as any surprise to you that as Technical Director, I didn't know the top management were talking about this until after I spoke with someone else) I discover we have a DR policy too.
Wow. We do? Excellent.
Our DR policy is amazing. Amazing in a kind of short sighted shitty kind of way. Naturally enough, we're doing the whole 'implementation of remote office space' thing, but we'll come to that in a minute.
What's more amazing is the fact that our internal data DR policy appears to be this; we will take X terabytes of 'stuff' and back it up to more servers. In the same building, in the same *room*.
Great. So if we do get blown up, or the place burns down, or God Himself Visits Upon Us With A Furious Vengeance, we can be sure that our DR policy will have ensured total data loss from the off.
Now, the other bit - the 'bums on seats' notion. Sounds good (forget the practicalities of switching mission critical real time systems over to another location for a moment) except it turns out that our secondary location is... no more than 5 miles away.
Fucking mad. In my mind, you put your DR a significant distance away from your primary place of business so that IF we do find ourselves in serious bother, we can move a LONG WAY AWAY from it.
But, it appears to be keeping various people happy; people who know precious little or nothing about DR (except what they've been sold by DR agencies) are happy in the knowledge that an action has been taken, we are *covered* people!
Bah. I wonder if my CV is still on monster...

Tuesday 15 June 2004

Alternatives to football [lurks]

Football sucks piss. We all know that, even those which claim otherwise - if secretly at least. Since the UK is so useless at this sport, I'm fucked if I know why we're so obsessed by it. It's a fucking joke how all the 'clubs' are just covens of overpaid foreigners, desperately trying to prop up the playing standard.
But rather than get caught up with that, let's look forward to what sports the English are good at. What should the nation get behind? With the World Cup result, you'd have thought Rugby until you witnessed the absolute annihilation of the English at the hands of the Kiwis this weekend.
Well, I was asked this question by Jay on MSN just now and I came up with two possibilities. Darts and Snooker. Thinking on it further, I wonder if there's a coincidence that both sports are essentially played indoors, in a pub in fact. Nay, not a coincidence I feel.
Also, rather than trying to bash the image of the average British man - perhaps we should embrace it and redefine the look of our heros. Out with the Beckhams and in with Fatty and Charmaine Jenkins. Fatty being the World Champion (to borrow a leaf from the Americans) darts player. Jay says they'll not be the sponsorship money. Wont there indeed?
I'd argue that there's more opportunities for a proper pie guzzler like Fatty to endorse quality products which the British can identify with. Like beer and pies, for a start.

'My name is Fatty Jenkins and I swear by Mackies Burgers with extra mayo. As a result of the quality food products from Mackies, my Brit belly is an stable platform for my elbow and plays a major part in my undefeated run in the World Darts Championships. Mackies rocks, don't forget to supersize!'

You know it makes sense.

Monday 14 June 2004

UKIP - stealth radicals or voice of reason? [brit]

You'll no doubt be aware of the upset caused by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the recent European Parliamentary elections.
The Big Three parties (if Charles Kennedy's assertion that we now have a three party democratic system is to be believed) have been left somewhat bloodied by the result, showing as it does that UKIP's message has struck a chord with the electorate.
To summarise, UKIP wants us out of the European Union, totally. I'm sure we'll all remember the broohaha around the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty, and it's at about the same time that UKIP arrived on the scene.
I am however slightly suspicious of any party which simply wants us to pull out completely of the EU. We've all seen and heard the reports from incredulous reporters and industry types as Brussels hands down another bonkers verdict (reference the Bendy Banana episode), but surely the European Parliament does a hell of a lot more than simply measure our fruit?
I think that's where the problem lies; and where UKIP's strength has come from - the electorate is simply none the wiser when it comes to the European Parliament, and when combined with the tabloid feeding frenzy that greets any new piece of legislation, amounts to a seriously damaging level of ignorance.
UKIP also have another problem - their election result is based on a single platform as I've explained. This simply isn't good enough for a party to be considered electable in terms of national governance; our membership of the EU whilst important in terms of what it actually means, is only one part of what our government has to handle.
There are points within UKIP's manifesto which I feel a kinship with; particularly the idea that the GBP£25m a day we pump into the EU could be better spent (for example, according to their figures, the same amount would finance the building of 100 hospitals a year). However, I'm less than sure as to their aspirations concerning immigration - which simply appears to be 'there will be none of it'.
Where do UKIP go from here? are they a flash in the pan (remember the Referendum party? no? point made).. or a real force to be considered?

do you like seafood? [brit]

Ok, a real quicky.
Do you like eating sea food? If not, why not - and if so, what's your favourite dish?
Me, I bloody love it. Gimme a lobster with fresh mayo and lemon any day of the week!

Saturday 12 June 2004

Broad patience = broad band [am]

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I've moved to a new place on the coast. I have.
Now as a fully paid up member of the crosshatch, games player (dying breed) and all 'round addict of the net, clearly my internet connection was of some not inconsiderable interest to me.
Of course when you move you can't get everything sorted or planned fast enough, oh no, you have to wait until the line's in, which I did, and in the meantime I had to surf the net via gprs or work, working out what I could get. Unfortunately cable is out (too far out to be of interest to the clones hoovin' up the M4 corridor towns) so bang went that. Never mind, looked up the BT postcode checker and vavavoom we have dsl up to 2meg enabled.
I place order with Nildram who used to provide a dsl service to the previous owners and who have a not inconsiderable pick-up from the crosshatch due to their low number of hops and understanding of the gaming mind. This was when that sort of thing used to be important to us, in the last geological era you see.
Order goes in for 1meg as the best placed compromise between wonga and performance. Thankee kindly says bod of the telephone. No problem young man I said, get it in fast and send me the husky sounding receptionist to celebrate.
Now after a while I get an email which is kind of engagingly amateurish for a big ISP which says 'BT have found a service on the line which means that broadband ADSL cannot be installed. Please call 150 to have it removed'. So I call 150 and say 'what's up pe0n, what service do I have' to which they say 'nothing'. So I phone up Nildram and say 'what you talking about fool?' to which the bod there says 'well sometimes it's not that at all' to which I say 'so why not mention that in the email or would that like be too close to being of some fucking use to your customers or what?' to which he says 'my name is Darren and I don't know'. Also he's calling me by my first name which always irritates me. It's the familiarity that gets on my wick rather than 'I'm not a fucking student or some other lower species call me sir' inferiority complex / rank pulling syndrome.
Anyway he says 'your line quality may not be good enough, that could be it' to which I say 'don't think so because you yourselves used to provide broadband to the previous owners'. Oh sez teh pe0n and sticks the order for 1meg dsl in again.
Some more time passes and then some more. I eventually phone up and say 'when's it going in' to which new pe0n, let's call it Darren2 or bDarren, says 'installation date is Friday'. Friday comes and friday goes with of course nairy a shout and on tuesday I get an email that says 'this is to confirm that we have now placed your order'. So I phone up tertiarydarren and say 'What in the holy name of seven shades of flying bat shit is this about?' to which he says 'My name is Darren da Turd and I don't know the answer'. So I give up. And then I phone back on a week friday and say to QuadDarren 'what's going on' to which he says 'oh yes it failed the line test' to which I say 'no that was in the jurassic period, what about now' and he says 'no I mean now, it failed it yesterday' to which I say 'and you were going to tell me about it when?' to which he says 'my name is Darren Quattrone and I don't know the answer'. He then said 'why don't you tr! y ordering it through OpenWorld'.
One quick rant on the crosshatch later and it becomes clear, with the help of the Lurker, that this could be because of the 1meg request and that maybe a 512 service will be better because it can avail itself through RADSL of up to 10km reach from exchange instead of adsl's usual 5km max. I phone Nildram back, I am a patient man, and say 'why don't we try 512 because that may be better over the distance with RADSL and shit' to which CinqueDarren says 'yeah that sometimes works' to which I do a nose-stand on the telephone receiver and yell 'SO WHY DIDN'T YOU RECOMMEND THAT TO ME, YOU AND YOUR FELLOW DARRENS, AND WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THAT I HAVE TO RELY ON THE GOOD LUCK TO BE SO STAGGERINGLY LEET THAT I QUALIFY TO BE IN THE MOST FAMOUS CLAN IN THE WORLD WITH EPOC BREAKING TECHNOLOGICAL KNOWHOW TO DO MY OWN BROADBAND DEDUCTIVE REASONING AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT IN THE NAME OF JEBUS TELL ME'. To which he says 'My name is Darren5 and I don't know the answer'.
Today I got my confirmation that the new service is tested and is going live soon enough. I guess it'll finally rock until some Darren fucks it up. The service culture eh?

Friday 11 June 2004

Picks Of The SNES Pantheon [drdave]

I hate games. They suck, all of them. They're all about flim flam and hoo haa these days. All flash and fancy-schmancy wizardry that lasts about 30 seconds before you're bored with the shallow gameplay and depressing game mechanics. Sometimes it seem that the thick-necked, low brow game developers have learned nothing...
The thing is, I didn't always hate games. In fact, I bloody loved 'em. Every new release put a spring in my stride, and cocked my cap at a jaunty angle. Entire seasons would slip away as I beavered my way through Zelda, or Sonic, or Pilotwings. Ah yes, the halcyon days of the SNES and the Megadrive. What finer period in humanity's history has there been? I know not...
So, charged with a furious nostalgic fervor, and fueled by a full tank of retrol (retro petrol... see? Nevermind...), I decided to reclaim those salad days and buy my ass an ebay SNES. One super cheap paypal transaction later, and I'm eagerly awaiting a new (old) addition to my under-TV domain.
Now, I'm well schooled in the dangers of retracing your steps through well travelled lands, having strolled the Retro Road before. Inevitably, things are never quite as good as you remembered, and generally speaking, it all ends in tears. So with this in mind, I need to apply a fool-proof selective procedure to my SNES game collecting.
I need to stick with the real plums, only the true pips and dandys should find their way into my eager slot. You know the ones... the games that transcend the petty concerns of space and time, and retain their magic while all around them whither and age. Your Zeldas. Your Super Mario Worlds. Your Super Metroids. Like Ronald Reagan, these Colossi will stride their way through eternity, reputations untarnished...
So I offer it out to the collective mind of EED and its glorious affiliates... what games should the perfect SNES collection contain? Blog on!

The backlash begins [lurks]

It's not entirely unexpected but nevertheless, the local election results are some pretty grim reading for the incumbent labour party. Labour lost 218 councillors and lost majority control of 7 councils nationwide while the Conservatives picked up 106 councillors and gained control of 6 councils.
I've been impressed by my local Lib Dems and it's heartening to see that they also have taken a big chunk of the losses from Labour, with 65 extra councillors although sadly they lost control over two councils. That said, my support of Lib Debs only extends as far as local government due to the shameful antics of Charles Kennedy during the Iraq war.
It's interesting, though, to see the losses Labour have sustained here. Virtually everyone is calling it as a backlash against our part in the invasion in Iraq, which is a good demonstration of democracy in action - or is it?
It does make me wonder, and not for the first time, if the British public actually understand what they were voting for yesterday. Booting your local Labour councillor out of the council for the national MP's sins... how much use is that really? Yes OK, it's sure as hell sent a large signal but I wonder how many people actually accessed the performance of their local council before deciding who to vote for?
I suspect very few.
Obviously the looming general election is the correct time to voice discontent with our government's role in the invasion of Iraq - and I think most would agree that whether or not you supported the invasion, the government has committed political suicide given its conduct in justifying the war to the people of Britain.
Election turnouts yesterday were up significantly and again I suspect it's because of this larger issue. My question is, do the people of Britain sufficiently understand the democratic process that they are making the best use of their vote?
Yes the Iraq invasion is a huge issue and potentially a government toppling issue but is this essentially swamping out the entire subject matter of which councils are the most efficient at fixing your roads, collecting your garbage and sweeping the streets?

So, What are you Reading? [vagga]

So, I’m having one of those afternoons where it’s dragging on for ages. So I’m going to do one of these short and sweet blog’s people have been doing here over the last few days!
The question is, what are people reading, or indeed what good stuff have people read over the last while. I’m just about to finish a book I have been on for a while, and have nothing lined up to read for the first time in a while. So I thought I would ask you lot. Just like my email to the list this week, I have some time on my hands over the next while, so I could get through a few books, as well as play some games!
I’ll read anything. I suppose I don’t really enjoy that much Sci-Fi, or else I would have picked something off the list Matt did in that blog a few months back.
I had a look at the BBC big read top 21, and I have read about 15 of those, and there are only two left that I would want to take a look at, Birdsong and War and Peace. Now the fact I know what happens in War and Peace having seen some crappy BBC drama of it, and the fact it weighs in at just less I do makes me think twice! I know birdsong is good, but I have read enough history type books to last me a lifetime over the last few years!
But I’m wondering if there were anything else out there I just would not have seen yet that could be good. Just like my ma picked up Da Vinci code in a random shop, and we found a great author we had never heard of before..
So I’m about to finish this book, Innisowen, it’s the latest book from my favourite Irish author, Joseph O’Connor (sane brother of loud, singing, wing nut, Sinead). Fantastic stuff altogether. Murder and strange Americans getting mocked in rural Ireland – what more does a book need. He would be famous at home for writing funny stuff, but every book (and a few plays wrote) he does is less and less a piss take, but he has some great lines and a bit like Roddy Doyle or Irving Welsh, he is great at writing funny dialogue.
Just before that I read the Da Vinci code, after my ma had read it in the space of a few days in America over Christmas, followed by the other 3 books Dan Brown wrote. I would highly recommend Angels and Demons, the book he wrote right before Da Vinci, far better than The Da Vinci Code in my opinion, and featuring the lead character, Robert Langdon, same kinda plot, but it’s a far better story. I can’t wait for his next book, out later in the year. Another of the Dan Browns ‘digital fortress’ – his first book, is ok. Its about the NSA and Cryptography, but it reads like a John Grisham, flowing nicely, but you know all along there will be about 7 twists in the tail. A good airport read :)
Just before that I read the 3 books in the His Dark Materials trilogy after seeing them in the BBC big read, loved them all. Only small down part, is the anti-religion bit gets more and more preachy as things go on. But the first book in the series is one of the best books I have ever read.
So what are the rest of ya reading then?

Wednesday 9 June 2004

Ever bought a load of shite? [drdave]

Short, to-the-point blog. Have you ever bought an expensive electronic gizmo that you were convinced would be the cat's pyjama's, but actually turned out to be the dog's arse?
NetMD minidisc walkman for me. Awful. Truely awful. Software that only a mother could love. I detest its memory, even the missus (who currently uses it) hates it. And it will go for about 20 quid on ebay. Bah!
Confess on, chaps...

Is Google getting worse? [brit]

I won't pretend to understand the myriad algorithms and various bits of math that Google uses to return search results; there are simply loads of them, and I don't care.
What I do understand is that Google's method of ranking search results by relevance, especially context and content, is fast becoming seriously annoying.
Right now, I'm about to whack together a dedicated DS3 line between London and New York, and part of this involves me wanting to find a bit of kit which will act as a remote reboot mechanism for the remote server (since I cannot guarantee bods-on-site when I need them, timezones and all).
So I go to Google and I type in: remote server reboot hardware
I get a bunch of results back, some 190,000 in fact. The first result is yet another one of these fucking annoying sites that are nothing more than completely useless directory sites:
(It's deliberately not linked because it's utter crap). I clicked on it anyway, before fully reading the link and is there anything useful there? no, of course not, the first link in the directory is 'United Kingdom Porn Stars' and the second is about antique door knobs.
These sites are *everywhere* and they're absolutely no bloody use whatsoever, and because Google's results context mechanism is so shit right now, they get returned first.
Both Webcrawler and Altavista returned relevant results in the first page, using the same search criteria, and I've now found what I'm looking for.
Maybe the Google boys would do well to concentrate less on the forthcoming IPO and more on actually making their so called 'bleeding edge technology' actually do what it's supposed to do and return results in line with what the user wants?
Google Schmoogle.

That funny feeling when an icon dies [brit]

As I'm sure you're all aware by now, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan passed away over the weekend, following a ten year battle with Alzheimers.
His achievements are well marked, and he'll undoubtedly go down in the history books as a great President.
Now, I've been around to see plenty of rich, powerful and famous people meet Davy Jones, and most times (for example when Diana drove into a tunnel) I couldn't give a stuff.
But Reagan was different; this man literally strode the world like a colossus and between him, Maggie and Gorbie, they made this world a much much safer place; even if he was somewhat prone to Prince-Phillip-esque gaffes.
Anyhow, thought I'd whack this up as my feeble effort to counterbalance the bleeding leftwing fucknuts that are screaming 'good riddance to bad rubbish' and talking of partying when Maggie goes.
Because I wouldn't piss on those sort of folk if they were on fire.
So ner.

Monday 7 June 2004

Death (of cold) in Venice [brit]

The other half and I decided to take some time off, and went to Venice for 4 days, mobiles off, no computers, and no work. I was a bit uncertain about it when the idea was mooted because aside from it being old and wet, I'd no idea what to expect.
So, if you're thinking about going to Venice for a long weekend, here's the skinny on our trip and things to see and do.
Flights were cheap; Stanstead to Treviso (1hr45) cost £88.00 return for the two of us. You then have to get a coach from Treviso to Venice itself, which stops once to let more folk on board - this costs 8 euros (£6.00) per person and is a return ticket valid for what appeared to be a month. The coach trip takes about another hour or so and drops you right into Venice at the last place vehicles are allowed.
Hotels are expensive generally and don't believe their star rating system. Many are so called 4 star, but given what I know about how these stars are earned (24hr bar, concierge, room service etc) I don't believe they mean anything outside Venice itself. Our hotel was a 2 star job on the island of Lido which is reached by boat; a 20 minute journey by double decker bus (6 euro (£4.60) return per person to Lido from Per San Marco, the big ass main square) or 15 minutes by single decker - same price - or 45 euros (£34 for 2 people) by taxi; James Bond-a-like hugely powerful boats which will do the journey in 5 minutes.
Our hotel, booked through expedia was clean and simple - TV (Italian TV is fucking atrocious so don't even bother), ensuite bathroom (excellent water pressure and loads of hot water), and clean and simple. £33.00 a night (for both of us) including taxes and VAT, but no breakfast or anything; as a place to lay your head, it was excellent.
So that was getting there and crash space sorted; we slept for a few hours and hit Venice.
The experience was massively underwhelming. Bearing in mind we went in January, the weather was freezing (much colder than London) and a ridiculous fog bank sits over the city until about noon/1pm most days. 30ft visibility, and the taxis/buses don't slow down at all. It's at once quite the most awesome and scary thing I've done in a while!
The transport system is first class, with timetables for public transport stuck to like glue. Don't expect to find the bus there +20 seconds after it's claimed to have left, it will have gone bang on time. Talking of transport there are of course the gondoliers everywhere - these are hugely expensive tourist traps, and at 80 euros (£61) for 2 people for a 30 minute trip, it's just not worth it.
Venice is we discovered a summer city. Nothing is open except bars, hotels and shops selling carnival masks and glass trinkets. It means therefore that our time was spent walking (putting in at least 5 miles a day) and exploring, and of course going to a lot of cafes and restaurants; a coffee will set you back 4-6 euros (roughly £3.50) and beer about 7 euros (£5.30) a pint. Spirits are in the order of 5-8 euros a shot (£4.20), but they don't measure per se, and more often than not you'll walk off with a quad JD & coke.
Food is expensive too; a meal for two, with two courses and wine cost 117 euros (£90) and they usually throw in a cover charge of approx 3 euros (£2.30) per person *in addition* to a service charge of between 10 and 15%. It should be pointed out that whilst the food is great - seafood lovers will adore the eateries - it's not huge portions and I must confess we ended up in McDonalds a couple of times.
Exploring Venice leads you over all sorts of tiny alleys and bridges; whilst Venetians bustle past (don't dawdle and always stick to the right, the locals walk like locomotives) in huge Russian style furs. It's steeped in history obviously, and it's extremely pretty, but it's really targeted at the older (45+) generation since there is nothing to do in terms of clubbing, loudness, or entertainment outside of the Carnivale / summer season.
However that said, it was 4 days away from the UK with my fella and it rocked; just don't go there expecting to be continuously serenaded by genuine Venetian folk unless it's high summer - and here's another important bit of info; the whole city practically shuts down at 10.30pm; nightlife just doesn't exist when it's not 38 degrees C.
Pros: Staggering history, great food, and yes romantic! Cons: Pricey and activity limited out of season - absolutely not the place to take kids, as you walk everywhere.

Free anti intrusion signup (TPS). [shedir]

My da's been getting plauged by some dodgy marketing company. So decided to opt out rather than start arguing with them, which is time consuming and futile.
Go visit
Takes 28 days to kick in, but there's another option which will cut down those mailshots too.
Got to be worth a go isn't it!

Free G [am]

Had to do an all too rare slope out of the office today to be lunched by an accountancy firm who do 3 courses and a couple of glasses of wine in their corp-rot hostility rooms overlooking the Belfast and the Tower of London. Not bad really, if not quite as fun as working for a UK house as I used to where you used to get absolutely ratted at lunch on incredibly good wine as a matter of course.
Anyway I digress.
On the way back I noticed that the whole of Canary Wharf underground had been plastered with the new vodafone standalone 3g connection pc card. And shall I remind those of you who ain't been there, this is one *aircraft hanger* of a tube station. We are talking a lot of ads.
So about 30 minutes later I have teh card. Why? Ahhh cos it's fucking kit. Also, in the time honoured format of self justification (aka I bought the pc to do home finance honey) it's also the case that I was spending too much on data via my gprs phone connect and this way I get half a gig a month for £45. Look it didn't haven't to be good, it just had to rock.
So first impressions? It's fucking large. It's fucking red. It's got fucking vodafone written all over it. And the hysterical warning in the manual 'don't paint the modem'. Fucking fucking fucking fucking cuntfaced fucking vodawank fuckface branding ubiquity flaptwats.
Other than that, the G3 is available only in major towns. Where it is it speed tested at 474 kbps. Now that's fucking quick for mobile. God knows what it's doing by way of roasting your nuts / wrists / bonce.
The GPRS fallback where you are out of G3 coverage (like home on the coast here) on the Tr1mp is annoying because it has the GSM (ta slim) interference problem where it buzzes your speaker on your lappie despite it being totally muted.
Other than that, the single most Lame thing about the package (make that laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame in the voice of the lurker) is that the first time I hit the connect shortcut I got the following message ; 'Your desktop must be in 96dpi to run vodafone connect' followed by a total close down. After several pieces of fucking around and a call to tech support it became clear that my custom 107dpi setup on the tr1mp simply didn't conform to 'check dpi = 96' setting. Got nothing to do with res or owt else just some fucking gimp coding that said 'if it's not 96 dpi I won't launch the proprietary {and incredibly crap looking useless} connection interface'. Utterly, utterly fucking pointless absolute fucking crap shit total bollocks coder affects the world with a theory that pointless pointless pointless total shit non concern somehow affects his non-browser non-resizeable total shit design. MAKE IT IN A BROWSER YOU CUNT!!!!!
I really can't believe that a company like this can launch a product with such a totally bollocks piece of shit in the code. All that investment and this laughable non-relevant restriction.
Suffice it say, when 'technical support' came back after 5 minutes of talking to 'specialist support' they said 'apparently it's identified as a fix for our next release in october'. Course it is you twats. I hope you kicked the flap's cunt in at the same time.
Summary; Great product for big cities on 3G. Fast fast download. Small twattery factor of initial software. Nice for stress-relieving on your favourite blog ;)

Antisocial sports fans [muz]

In an attempt to further procrastinate in the face of my impending exams, I've been perusing BBC News for anything of interest.

One thing that caught my eye was the fact that today alone there have been not one, not two, not three, but FOUR stories regarding measures being taken against fans considered to be 'hooligans'. More specifically, these are English football fans. Barring one incident in Turkey, I am hard pressed to think of any other incident of football related violence on the part of another nation's fans.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is the fact that this phenomenon appears only to occur in relation to football. A search for 'rugby hooligans' returned two results from BBC News; 'cricket hooligans' but one. Comparatively, there were two hundred and sixty seven stories returned for a search on 'football hooligans'.

Now, while I'm sure the majority of EED would most likely use said evidence as yet more corroboration of the self-evident truth that football sucks piss, I find myself curious as to what the football fans that read this collective stream-of-consciousness site think. (Stop laughing, there must be some.)

I honestly can think of no logial explanation. While the lack of violence at cricket matches is perhaps unsurprising, rugby is ostensibly a much more violent sport than football, and yet there is almost no violence associated with the support of one's team. Indeed, at the Army Navy game this year, where you might think the fans would be more prone towards violence than normal, I observed no malicious intent, only good-spirited camaraderie and an enjoyment of the game. Perhaps this is the ultimate proof of the old adage:

'Football is a gentlemen's game played by thugs, while rugby is a thugs' game played by gentlemen.'

Die, Royal Mail, Die! [beej]

This is part rant, part concern about the state of Royal Mail. We all know its fucked right? Proof as ever when I ordered a new 200GB Barracuda for 97GBP from Komplett (cheaper than Dabs, w00t!)
After it showed on the Komplett site as 'shipped, your Parcel Force UID is 123456789' I attempted to track it at What did I learn?
Well after they'd had it for 24-48hrs, all the tracker said was 'Service: Parcelforce 24'. Not a lot of use really is it. Is the package in a depot? No idea. In a truck? No idea. In London? No idea. On planet earth even...?
So given how straightforward e-commerce should be, I sent Parcel Force a missive asking where the fuck my parcel was, and with some constructive criticism suggesting that their end-to-end business probably allows for 100% tracking of every single package which they are paid to deliver. Like, for example, UPS and their little handhelds. Like Business Post. Like everyone else.
Their first e-mail back to me this morning authoritatively said that it will be delivered today. This is amusing, as I picked it up from the depot on Saturday (tee hee).
Then, a second e-mail (silver star for effort) that includes the following pearls of wisom:

'Your parcel has been posted using an untraceable service'

'Please allow up to 1 month for your parcel to arrive'

Untraceable service? What is that? Allow up to one month? Comedy! You take a parcel and you deliver it you fucking muppets! Just push the status from your internal computer system onto a website! You're monkeymen! With red vans! Now get on with it!
We've had a postal service in Britain for nearly 400 years... how hard can it be?

Saturday 5 June 2004

RDC and teh future [slim]

These days it's just not worth using your computer at work for anything personal, especially email. Chances are if you're caught doing something in the name of your employer, you're going to get binned. Even using an external webmail client is a bit iffy, as they can be logged, cached and the content of the text you chuck back and forward can, if not properly encrypted, trigger alerts at your companies firewall. At the very least it'll log stacks of hits for you to the address of your webmail server, or the server will be in the block list and you can't get near it..
So instead I enabled RDC on my computer at home, it's a windows 2000 server so will let you have a local connection as well as a single remote one via rdc. Windows XP allows you to do rdc too, but it's only one user at a time in total. Anyway, that works a treat, I get a single open connection to my home pc, encrypted and low bandwidth, that has everything I need to survive the day. I initially used it mostly for email, but nowadays I have a bunch of apps and shortcuts and whatnot open on it. It's actually dead handy for work too, as I can do tests too and from the work connection from a machine outside, so I've even got some feeble justification for it all.
But what I've found lately is that I'm using the RDC connection more than I'm using the local connection. I leave work, and close my rdc session leaving all the apps running. When I get home I just connect to this session from whichever computer I'm using, and everythings there waiting for me. My laptops fairly stinky, but that doesn't matter, because all its doing is rendering the screen, the works taking place on the server. This even makes the laptop run for longer, as it's not using its hdd at all and I can power the cpu down to fek all. What's more amazing is the features available now on rdc, I can map the printer from work and print stuff to my home printer, I can map the sound card and listen to stuff, I can even map local disks on the host pc, it's pretty amazing stuff really.
Wouldn't it be ace if this developed into a more widely used standard. In teh future we could all have rdc machines at home, they might even not have keyboards and mice or screens attached to em at all, they just sit there waiting for wireless rdc connections from wherever. Telephone booths and libraries and whatever have rdc clients where you just dial this box, do your computing, and disconnect. All your stuff wherever you are, that'd rock right?
One of my first tasks as IT Manager for a company a decade ago was to rip out the nasty green screened wyse terminals that connected to a single Unix computer and replace it with sexy desktop pc's that ran with glorious colour monitors. What a forward thinking company we were...

Wednesday 2 June 2004

Adults no longer allowed to see hard willies shocker [slim]

Just as people started flocking to subscribe to view the new genuinely hardcore material, it's been pulled. The Adult Channel and Playboy TV are back to regular boring old softcore. There's outrage naturally, people put up with it before, but now they've had a taste for what could be on our Tellys and had it turn from under our salivating chins, its made the fustration even worse.
A post on digitalspy forums claiming to be a reply from a 'why oh fucking why' post to offcom goes like this:
Thank you for contacting us about this subject. I doubt that anything I say will alter your opinion that 'hardcore' material should be allowed on Ofcom licensed adult services. But I hope that I can at least demonstrate that our policy is a considered one that seeks to balance the various interests.
Adult services have been allowed on cable and satellite services for a decade now. They include programming more explicit than would be allowed on free-to-air or basic package channels. Much of the programming is cut down hardcore. Our research indicates, however, that public opinion does not favour a move to wholly explicit programming of the sort now available in 'R18'-rated videos. These videos are available only in licensed sex shops, and the broadcasters have to respect the law on this matter.
So a balance is struck between the legitimate wishes of adults to see sex programming and concerns over child protection. Broadcasting is not obviously suited to providing material otherwise available only in a hundred or so specialist shops where access by children can be easily policed. Even where encryption and other security measures can be applied, the wide distribution of the most explicit material must be a significant issue.

Their justification, child protection. Why would any children be watching hardcor content shown on a subscription only, password protected encrypted channel broadcasting after midnight?
Meanwhile of course, you can see people getting their heads blown off on any channel at any time after 10pm.
Fucking hate this country sometimes..

The hardest haircut in the world.... [houmous]

Di had to do the hardest haircut she had ever had to do yesterday. It wasnÂ’t technically demanding and she had done it loads of times before. The trouble was that she was doing it for the last time for Lisa, a 45 year old and mother of 2 kids who has been here many times for a hairdo.
A month or so ago Lisa had gone to the doctors not feeling well.He initially said she had an acid stomach but after tests she was found to have cancer of the lymph gland and sent home with what was, by yesterday, another two weeks to live. What the hell do you say to someone in those situations? Sitting in my lair I was amazed at LisaÂ’s laughter from the salon (for those of you that donÂ’t know Di works from home), especially when Di suggested 'well how about going blonde then'.
I decided I wanted to go in to say something before I had to go out even though I only knew her to say hello – but what the hell go you say – I got as far as 'Hi' before I faltered…She looked at me beaming – Its OK Robin you don’t have to say anything she says...'Good luck Lisa' I replied before leaving. I did have to go out but I was pretty glad I didn’t have to be there when she left and Di was pretty upset when I got back.
Three months ago I went to a funeral for Martin, 44, who I had worked with for many years. About 18 months previously he had found he had got a bone cancer and after fighting it for all that time (marrow transplants, chemo etc) his kidneys finally went and he knew it was over. Friend after friend took turns at the front of the church to say how they had had a call from Martin in that final week which started 'IÂ’m sorry to bother you mate but IÂ’m going to pop my clogs by Saturday so I just wanted to ring and say goodbye'.
Without detracting from the immense bravery of these two people I could go on. A friendÂ’s wife who died in childbirth, other people I know who found out of the blue they only had a short while to live...
This brings me to my point. All these people were over 40. I’m not saying that life ends after 40, far from it – in many ways for me it began about then, but what I saying is that the nasty man throwing wet sponges at you gets a damn sight more accurate after 40.
So...what I am saying to all you sub 40 people is this. If you have a goal, if there is something you want to do, then do it. Now. Want to learn French? Play the piano? Move to Australia? Change that work/life balance? Have a tattoo done? Begin a relationship or end one? Then do it.
Yes I know they are superficial at a certain level but they won’t be to you – and you won’t forget them – (and at the end all there is is what we remember). Because the worst feeling in the world must be to find yourself on your deathbed with that sinking feeling – like when you suddenly realize you have forgotten to go to the shops to get something you really need and they shut in 5 minutes and it’s too late.
Obviously feel free to respond to this blog however you like but IÂ’d far rather see examples of what we are going to do than other examples of people keeling over. Then maybe LisaÂ’s and MartinÂ’s stories might be just a tiny bit less pointless and futile.

Uses for a switched off mobile phone [slim]

My wife has a mobile. It's her third mobile in fact, she destroyed the first two by smashing them in half, this one has lasted over a year because it's one of those tough rubberized indestructable jobbies. Her destruction of phones in the early days was fustrating, but the longevity of this phone is also pissing me off. Why? Because even though the phone has survived this year in her pocket, it's never fucking switched on. She picks it up every time she goes out, but leaves the fucker off. Now the rational explanation is that she only wants to make, not recieve calls. I'm not fucking interested in rational frankly. I want to know why we pay a contract and why she carries the thing around constanly in its offline state.
In short, what use is a turned off mobile phone to a woman? Answers please...

Tuesday 1 June 2004

Review: The Day After Tomorrow [brit]

The new Roland Emmerich (Mr. Independence Day) film, 'The Day After Tomorrow' broke last week and I snuck down to the local flicks to grab a slice of it. It was exactly as expected - a SFX-fest surrounding a fairly typical and lacklustre plot.
The SFX are as you'd expect mind blowingly good. I'm sure you've seen the trailer by now; the huge waves deluging Manhatten, and 'twisters' ripping six kinds of crap out of Los Angeles. In short, it's the SFX that makes this film watchable and as such, delivers on it's promises.
Being an Emmerich film, we're noticably light on any real substance since he's quite famous for the big screen effects led blockbuster; not one of which digs too deeply into any individual character because really, the film isn't there for that. Given the film's subject, it could have been a far more powerful commentary on the ongoing and very real issues we face insofar as environmental protection is concerned; yet really, the film's eco-message is simply an excuse to drown New York.
We have heros, we have misguided fools, we have danger and we have excitement - it's a textbook blockbuster title. It even manages to do what most blockbusters do, and effectively run out of steam as far as the plot is concerned about 3/4 of the way through; it's an almost tangible sensation... 'this is where they got tired/got bored/ran out of budget/etc'. Which is a shame, because up until that point, it's a right rollicking movie.
TDAT does exactly what it says on the tin, and is well worth the ticket price; if only because unlike other SFX led movies of late, it's scarily realistic and there's just something delicious about watching Lower Manhatten vanish under billions of tonnes of icy water :)