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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

And at the 11th hour...

A reprieve. Literally.

"Scott" finally deigned to text me at 11am, to tell me that the room has gone. Further, the bedsit I visited yesterday had also gone - just an hour before. I confess to being pissed enough to send Scott a text back saying "Thanx 4 finally bothering to reply. Have missed out on another place and am now homeless". Well fuck him, it made me feel better.

Anyways, you can imagine how paniced I was by this point. Scrolling through the adverts on the online flatsharing database I called a few, all of whom said moving in at such short notice was out of the question. Then I noticed that one that I had visited and dismissed last week, due to it's less than salubrious location, was still up. I phoned, and the extremely surprised woman who showed me around last week said yes it was still available. 10 minutes later I was booking a removals man for 11 am tomorrow.

It isn't ideal. I'm really not happy with the location, although it is near a busy bus stop with easy access to town. It also has no broadband, so blogging will be difficult. But I should still be able to nip into the lab to do my job hunting, and it stinks of cigarette smoke. But beggers can't be choosers.

So from tomorrow I shall be living with a chain-smoking french woman whom I only know by her initials and her gay flatmate who I have yet to meet. But they do have SKY, so that'll be nice. I suspect that there may be an anecdote or 2 finding it's way onto these pages...

On an upbeat note, I will be having an interview for some temp work on friday. Brook St have come through with a groundbreaking offer of 5p an hour more than Blue Arrow and the promise of 3 to 6 months data entry. I'll take it if it's offered, at least until Blue Arrow or Adecco offer me more money (heh - I'm such a tart). Of course, they want to know exactly what I used to do in the lab. I suspect that they aren't looking for someone skilled in quantitative PCR, so I emphasised that I used to do a lot of data entry from my experiments. During last week's computer assesments I broke their record for highest score on Word and Excel, so they ought to be satisfied that I am computer literate at least.

So, back to packing and cleaning. Last night as I worked my way through my pile of tasks, I finally turned a corner when I realised that all of my book cases were empty, all of my clothes were washed and packed (anything that wasn't bolted down or made of wood was chucked in the washing machine) and that almost all of my crockery was wrapped in towels and packed in sturdy plastic boxes. My flat suddenly looks as if it will be empty by tomorrow! It still needs a good clean, but I think I will just hold on to my keys for a few more hours tomorrow and return once my stuff has been dumped at the new place.

Now I just have to try and avoid getting pregnant when I walk to the new place after dark...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

36 hours and counting....

until I am homeless.

This is worse than waiting to hear the outcome of my PhD viva. Seriously, I am so stressed that I can't eat and I haven't been able to bring mself to do anymore packing.

I had my interview with the last place outstanding on my potential house list. The guy who is advertising it has simply disapeared, and no one has seen him. The rest of the house were surprised when I told them he was in Scotland. I got on well with the rest of the house and said that I needed to know ASAP. Just as I was saying this, someone else turned up - completely unexpectedly.

The girl who had given me the grand tour last time said that she would phone the advertiser and let him know and get him to phone me back. It looks like I have passed muster with the rest of the house, so fingers crossed.

However it has now been 3 hours and I still haven't received a call from this joker. I have phoned him 3 times, the first time I left a message, reminding him (for the THIRD time that I need an answer tonight). The other 2 times I hungup before the tone. His is the only contact number I have, I don't even know who the bloody landlord is.

This is really starting to fucking piss me off. This twat knows that he has to move out in less than 2 days, and that other people NEED him to pull his fucking finger out. And as the clock ticks toward 10:30 pm, I wonder if he'll even phone tonight. Fucking bastard.

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 32. People with too much time and access to a phone.

"As soon as we broadcast it, the switchboard was jammed"

What could the slightly smarmy TV exec be talking about? Jerry Springer the Opera on BBC2 perhaps? Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction? Johnny Rotten refering to the British public as "cunts"?

Nope - it was the broadcast of the first in the long running series of adverts using former England footballer Gary Linnekar to promote Walkers crisps. And they weren't ringing to complain - they were ringing to praise Walkers.

I'm sorry, but what sort of sad twat phones into praise a TV advert? Now I'm a big fan of the TV remote control - if something offends me, I turn over or switch off (unless I am researching my next Tuesday Twat - ahem). Nevertheless, I can understand why people sometimes phone in to complain. 99% of the time I think that they just need to get out more and stop whinging, but just occassionally they may have a point. Sometimes, I have also been so moved or impressed by a program, that I have raved about it in work to my friends the next day - and it is conceivable that if I was bed-ridden and friendless, I might just phone the BBC* to say how impressed I was.

Yet the idea of ringing up to praise a TV advert is inconceivable. Sure, I am capable of recognising (and even appreciating) good adverts (at least until they've played the fuckers so many times that I can't stand them anymore). And indeed, if I were to find myself making small talk with an advertising executive, I would be happy (especially after lots of beer) to tell them what I think makes a good advert (after beer, I have opinions on just about anything).

Nevertheless, when watching an advert, my first thought is usually something along the lines of "Heh - I'd rub Factor 30 into her back anyday" or "how long until the programme starts again". It does not involve me grabbing my mobile, dialing directory enquiries to find out the number of the customer services department, then ringing up to praise all of their hard work.

Get a life, twats.

*Note, the chances of anything on ITV being good enough to phone in about is so slim, it's not worth even mentioning.


Monday, August 29, 2005

OK, now I'm starting to worry...

Thursday September the 1st is the day that I have to move out of my current apartment. I still have no firm offers of a place. I am still waiting to hear back from two houses as to whether I have been "accepted", and I have to be "interviewed" again. So in the meantime I have been trying to find a backup plan. Friday and Saturday, I telephoned over a dozen advertisers. Two-thirds didn't answer the phone, so I left either a voicemail or sent an email. None have replied. The third that did answered said that the room had already gone. One particularly candid individual said that the room had gone "weeks ago" but he couldn't be arsed to take the advert down "it'll disapear eventually". WTF? You lazy shit! One woman agreed to a houseviewing on sunday. She has since switched her mobile off and is not replying to my voicemails.

Tomorrow, I am taking a trip to the local launderette where I am told there is a noticeboard that people advertise vacancies on. The problem is it is in the middle of studentville, and I need a professional let. Quite aside from not wanting to live with students again (students don't tend to keep 9 to 5 hours, and with freshers week coming up, there is a good chance that I will be spending the next few weeks with a pillow over my head trying to drown out drunken partying in the wee hours), there are also complications such as council tax status if I am the only professional in a house full of exempt students.

With the bank holiday weekend, it is harder to arrange house viewings. I did notice that one house I turned down has been readvertised. I will have to see if I can persuade the advertiser to reconsider me. It was the area that turned me off, not them. I suspect that I may get a short sharp "fuck off".

One of the houses that I am waiting to hear from has a few more complications. Most notably, the current occupant has decided to go away to scotland the day before the move. We will have to try and co-ordinate him moving out and me moving in simultaneously. I don't know why he has done that - it may be a family emergency of course - but I can't help but think it is lousy planning.

On the plus side, when I was looking up prices for van rental, I found that renting a long-base transit for the day will cost me £48 plus about £20 as insurance waiver, plus petrol - however I have found a guy who will help me move (and is willing to hump stuff up stairs!) for about £65! The only downside being that it has to be in and out, so that guy who is traveling to scotland better pull his finger out and vacate the room quickly.

Quite what I will do if I can't find anywhere is definately starting to stress me out. I suppose that I could probably find someone in the lab who will let me dump my stuff in their garage and kip on their couch, but it is a hell of an imposition. I will also have to wave goodbye to the leafletting that I was planning on doing to earn some cash. Help from mum and dad is all but impossible, with neither of them able to take time off work to help me. As a further complication, my household insurance has expired and I can't renew it until I have a new address. I'm absolutely fucked if all of my stuff is nicked out the back of the van.

I really could do without this stress.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Moving on down...

Well, 2 years loyalty and paying my rent on time has not paid off. Despite pleading etc with the lovely young lady in charge of my apartment, they won't give me a rolling contract. 12 months non-negotiable. They did say that they would re-advertise it for me should I move out within the 12 months, but its a gamble that I can't afford to make. And to be honest, I can't really afford the rent now.

So it's time to move. Unfortunately, the room in my mate's house has gone, so I am flat hunting again. After 3 years living on my own - I am looking for a shared house. *Shudder*. To top it all, Mum and Dad have rather inconsiderately decided to invite long-lost friends over for the bank holiday weekend so the can't help me move! In the past, Dad and I have done the humping, whilst Mum has given the old place a serious going over with the bleach to make sure I get the deposit back. For christ sake, they haven't seen these guys for 25 years - what's a few more weeks? I am looking at getting a removals guy to help - it's only slightly more expensive than hiring a van for 24h and doing it yourself. I am extemely proud of that multi-purpose computer desk, but it does weigh 30 kilos.


However, modern technology seems to make things a bit easier these days. I have signed up to an online flatsharing site. It works basically like an online dating site (I know about these things because a woman I work with likes to use them to help her have extra-marital affairs more efficiently). You put in your profile and fill in your preferences, and the computer then matches you with a range of largely unsuitable people. Buried within the crap, there are a handful of proper matches. A small admin charge of £20 has given me full access, so that I can contact the matches directly by email or phone. The website has a few bugs, but overall it's pretty good, and the linkout to Maporama is quite usefull given my apalling geography and need to be near a major bus route. One thing it does do, quite sensibly, it will allow one of your preferences to be mismatched. This is in principle a good idea, as some of the rents asked are outside my preferred range - but they actually include all bills and council tax. Thus it allows me to use my judgement. That being said, when "Sarah" has quite emphatically said that she only wants a female lesbian flatmate (yes you can specifiy!), there is little point in suggesting I negotiate with her.

So with only few days remaining until I am out on my ear, I have been traipsing around town in the pissing rain visiting flats.

Highlights so far have included an area so bad that the taxi driver said "rather you than me mate" when I told him where I was going (I had gone to an identically named street 3 miles away and was running late - doh!). I visited the house out of politeness. And to be fair it was a nice house, with seemingly pleasant tenants - but at the risk of sounding snobby, it was the sort of area where if your daughter isn't pushing three kids in a pushcair by the time she is 13, you take her to the doctors to get her eggs counted. And there is no way I woul walk around after dark.

At the other end of the scale, I was taken to an absolutely gorgeous house. Newly built, it was like a showhouse. Unfortunately, most of the rooms were too small to fit all of my stuff in, considering that I have been living on my own for 3 years. The only room large enough was just a bit too much. If I was on my usual University salary though, I'd have bitten his hand off. What a shame.

I have expressed an interest in 2 other houses. One is a 6 room house in a lovely residential area, with other young professionals. The only real downside is that the room to let is on the 3rd floor up a winding staircase. However there is a basement, and I may shove my computer desk down there temporarily. Fingers crossed, I won't be staying more than a few months so I won't need it. Unfortunately, only one tenant was there, so I will be "interviewed" tuesday by everyone else. So I have to keep searching unfortunately. I have 1 visit planned for tomorrow, but all of the other flats I have asked to seen have already gone - so take the sodding advert down you morons!

Oh well, back to the search engine...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Please take a seat...

... and wait whilst we sit and do nothing. Because you are at our complete mercy!

Yes, I've signed up for a number of temping agencies. With my work almost done on the paper I am writing and with the offer of a stupendously well paid research job unlikely to appear in my mailbox anytime soon, it is time to join the ranks of the tax-payers again by temping.

I have submitted my CV to Kelley Scientific in the hope that maybe there will be a technicians job somewhere, but it looks unlikely. So plan B has involved signing up to all of the high street agencies. Randstad, Addeco, Blue Arrow etc etc to do admin work. Although I obviously knew that the hourly rate for these jobs was considerably lower than my calculated hourly rate as a postdoc (assuming that I ever worked a mythical 9 to 5 37.5h week in the lab - ha ha ha!), the prospect of earning half my usual salary is rather depressing.

Still, as I pointed out to the nice gentleman in Adecco - the last time I did temping work, the psychos I met kept me in amusing pub anecdotes for years, so it's not all bad. Most of the decent(ish) work, will start in about 2 weeks as the University starts to admit the new students. And I am already playing two agencies of against each other wage-wise (every penny helps!). In the meantime next week (assuming that I don't have to miss it to move house - I'll blog about that later), I shall be handing out leaflets in town for minimum wage... trying to entice students to come to my old university.

The irony that a recent PhD graduate from that university is now wearing a stupid cap and earning £4.85 an hour, escaped the recruiter. But sod it, it's £100 for frankly bugger all effort.

If there is one thing that hasn't changed, it's the waiting around. If you walk in the door to the reception desk, you are seen immediately. If however you have an apointment, you are told to take a seat and spend up to 20 minutes sitting on your arse, trying not to stare at your watch too often - whilst they deal with the people without appointments. *sigh* - I am remembering the lessons that I learnt a few years ago - never go into a temping agency without a good book.

Hopefully, things are a bit better than they were a few years ago since I will be mostly doing admin work (leafleting aside). Some years ago I worked for Target Parcel delivery on the night shift. These are the people who basically can't hold down a normal job. Seriously. Not only did I see several fights on the warehouse floor, on my first day I was greeted with "at least this one's the right fucking colour". I kid you not. When it came to lunch break (at 1am), whites sat outside (it was a lovely summer) telling racist jokes and the Asians and blacks sat inside. After being called a poof on the first night for reading a book whilst eating my sandwiches, I sat inside where I was taught how to make natural yoghurt by a guy who's father owned an Indian restaurant whilst I encouraged him to do a college course (he just needed a bit of a push - as if working in that fucking cesspit wasn't enough).

I'll keep you all appraised.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No 31. My council.

When it comes wasting council tax payer's money, my council is always coming up with new and innovative methods to piss it all away. If it involves making life less useful for residents, then so much the better.

The latest wheeze is the final (I hope!) outcome of their herculean road digging saga.

The council have decided to lower the curb in front of all pedestrian crossings and replace the tarmac with tactile slabs for the blind. These are red paving slabs that have a prominent raised, patterned surface. The red colour allows the visually impaired to see them and the raised surface allows the blind to feel them. Guide dogs can also be trained to seek them out when crossing the road. The lowered curb allows wheelchairs greater access.

This would be a great idea - except for one slight addition.

The council has also replaced the pedestrian crossing buttons, with their large Red/Green man symbols and distinctive loud beeping... with a new silent one that consists of small red and green lights at waist height.

Thus blind people who were able to cross the road unaided at the old crossing are now, despite having nice new red paving slabs, unable to do so without relying on the kindness of strangers because they can't fucking hear when they have right of way. Even those with perfect eyesight are at risk because you have to stand with your back to the traffic to see the little green lights. And if there are a crowd of people at the crossing, it can be almost impossible.

If there was an MBE for services to twattery, the dickhead in planning who came up with this idea would be in the New year's honours list for sure. I want a refund.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Which film are you?

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by

My Dad keeps nagging me to see this - guess I'll have to now.

Perusing the blogosphere (3)

Well, it's time to update the old blogroll again, as well as pointing you toward a few new links on the right hand sidebar.

Firstly, a deletion. It seems that after some online nastiness a few months ago, Lascivious has permanently deleted his excellent Daily Propaganda. Lascivious, if you still lurk here mate drop me a line at the email address in my profile - let me know how life is treating you and if your future plans are working out. And should you decide to start blogging again, let me know and I'll replace the link.

A few new additions, many of whom have been posting comments here - or whom I simply like.

Sir Findo Gask, who promises that "Everything you read is true, apart from the names, the locations and the facts.."

Next up is Da Goldfish - but I suggest you wait a bit until the truly disturbing photograph on his current post has been pushed a bit further down the screen.

Ed's secret Diary of interactions looks promising - even if the URL is a bit weird...

It seems that Johnny B has agreed to timeshare Norfolk's only dialup internet connection with the extemely amusing Mr Andrew, at The God Awful Truth. Well worth a visit, he's also mates with Ed above. Ahhh sweet.

The Pink Lemonade Diva is apparently so stunningly attractive that strange men drive into her car in carparks, just to get an opportunity to speak to her. How could I not have her in my blogroll?

Sessy is moving house. The sympathy vote alone gets her on to the blogroll, but that aside, she is well worth a visit.

Finally, some of my posters do have blogs but don't link to them when they leave a comment. Fair enough, I respect your privacy, but I'd love to read them and maybe trade a link. Let me know if you change your mind.

And if you still have time to kill, check out the new links on the right. New Scientist is the number one science and technology magazine in the world. Aimed at the intelligent lay reader, you don't need to be a specialist to read it. If you see a story that you find interesting on the TV or in a newspaper but don't want to try and decipher the original reearch, give New Scientist a shot.

The Scientist is a "trade mag" for post docs. It is rather US-centric, but nevertheless is an interesting read for the life-science specialist. You should still be able to get a free paper copy delivered as well.

The Onion. Deeply funny, satire. Not always safe for work, if you have swear filters built in.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Only the good die young...

BBC News

Mo Mowlam 1949-2005

How sad,

Only weeks after the tragic loss of Robin Cook, Mo Mowlam has passed away at the all-too-young age of 55. For those unfamiliar with British politics, Mo Mowlam was an immensley popular politician, instrumental in revitalising the Northern Ireland peace process at the tail end of the 1990s.

She became one of Britain's favourite politicians, when she revealed that she had been suffering from a brain tumour for a number of years during the peace process, which accounted for her cruelly remarked upon weight-gain and frumpy haircut - it was of course a wig. She was famous for her friendliness and her "common touch" - and used to remove her wig during tense negotiations to relieve tension.

She stepped down as an MP in 2001, but the public's affection for her only grew.

I never knew Ms Mowlam, but these people did and it underlines what a great person we have lost.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Desperately seeking employment

OK, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration...

Some months ago, I took part in a survey about how Scientific job databases could be improved. Having used these appalling excuses for a search engine for the past few months, I had plenty of forthright opinions on why the whole lot of them are bloody useless. I flirted chatted with a young lady on the phone for about half-an-hour, and got £30 for my trouble. Cool.

Once upon a time, job-hunting in science largely consisted of flicking through the back pages of Nature and New Scientist. The jobs are still there, but really if you are serious, you use their online databases.

There are several -; (The New Scientist database); and (more aimed at industrial positions). Obviously, there is a lot of redundancy between them, but it is worth checking all of them, nevertheless.

Needless to say, despite paying me £30 and thanking me for my valuable input - they have taken fuck-all notice of my criticisms and the databases are as shite as ever.

So here are my main criticisms, in no particular order:

1) It would be nice if the check boxes actually did something. All of the databases have options to refine your search, by geographical location, salary, field and keywords. None of them work. Seriously. I am a molecular biologist, looking for a postdoc position in the UK - thus a Professorship in high-energy physics at the University of Stuttgard is not what I am looking for. Neither is a veterinary technician in equine biology, or a part-time Masters by Research in colloidal chemistry. Thus the only recourse is to check "select all" and trawl through the 200 plus vacancies thrown up each week. For each database. Sciencejobs is the worst for this, but none of them come out smelling of roses.

2) With that in mind, it would be nice if you could tell at a glance if the position may be something worth clicking on. For sciencejobs in particular, the descriptions are absolutely cryptic. "Post doctoral position University of Sheffield", read one description. That tells me fuck all. I opened it and naturally it wasn't even biology. Another 15 seconds of my life wasted. Now imagine that repeated several dozen times twice a week - it soon adds up.

3) On a related note, The University of Dundee (among others) likes to post adverts saying that it has vacancies in life sciences - and just leave it at that. You have to visit then navigate the university's own homepage to find out what they have on offer. Another few minutes wasted.

3) Given that I do this about twice a week, and the cutoff is usually "jobs posted in the last week", the ability to order jobs by date posted would be useful - particularly when you have to search through 200+ vacancies. has this sorted, it presents the jobs as a long list, which I work my way down until I start seeing previously visited links, Sciencejobs is also OK, although peculiarly my visited links don't change colour (lazy web designers), so I have to make a note of when I last visited. Naturejobs doesn't - it just dumps them in a long list higgledy-piggledy with no discerniblele sorting criteria. Royal pain in the arse. Displaying the closing date for applications (which only does) would also be useful.

4) On a related note - what the hell use is posting a job for which the deadline passed a month ago (Naturejobs)? One or two days leeway perhaps, but a month - the post is probably filled already!

5) The databases are geographically challenged. For example "Stevenage" is not in the Northwest ( . Neither is the University of Oxford in London.

6) Then you actually get into the advert. Some are decidedly reticent about what the actual salary is. I'm not a greedy bloke by any stretch of the imagination, but I have finally worked my way off the bottom end of the salary scale and have no intention of dropping back (and might not be allowed to do so anyway). Most postdoc positions advertise themselves as being on the RA1A scale, a £10K range usually negotiable based on experience. Some say up front that the starting salary will not exceed the mid-point of the range. Others are less honest. They advertise themselves as being on RA1A, but give no more details. After reading the description and deciding that it sounds interesting, you are then redirected to the University's homepage. After several more clicks of the mouse, you can get to the research group's personal page, read about the lab's work and finally download a lengthy word document, describing the post, with an application form and equal opportunities statement. At the end of the document it describes the University's Terms and conditions and benefits such as childcare. In very small print it then states that the maximum salary for the post is the bottom point on the scale. I don't want to mention any names (*cough*Durham*cough*), but I wasted the better part of an hour and was about to start filling in the application form when I realised that they were a bunch of time-wasters.

Obviously, some of these shortcomings are the advertiser's fault (as is the appalling spelling of some of the foreign university adverts - how they intend to get applicants when they can't even spell the job area correctly... 10 seconds with an dictionary would have sorted that out). However the database administrators can play their part by setting out stricter guidelines.

All in all, I've spent more than that £30 worth of my time on these infernal sites.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bonus Tuesday Twat Award

Bio-Rad (and my clumsiness)

A new second Twat posted because I am in a fucking foul mood.

Utterly irrelevant to those of you who work outside a lab - however, I have just torn the PFGE gel that I was supposed to start blotting this evening. The Bio-Rad system that we use has completely different sized casting trays to all of our other gel systems, however the PFGE system is entirely Ethidium Bromide free, meaning that I have to transfer it into a plastic container for staining. 1% low-melting point agarose. Slippery, slimy and weaker than the dodgy dossier. I lifted it out of the staining tank - and rip. Right through the sample area. Not a chance in hell of repairing it.

Translation - I have just lost 4 days of unpaid work, through nothing but a tiny and almost inevitable slip of my gloved fingers.

Bollocks buggery cunt!!!!!!


The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 30. Essex Police

This is definately one for the silly season.

So, what are Essex police doing with their time?

Are they
A) Tracking terrorists?
B) Catching rapists and murderers?
C) Arresting burglars?
D) Blocking off a busy streth of motorway to rescue a soft toy that some careless 10 year-old has dropped out of the sun roof at 70mph?

Can you guess....
Read all about it here on the BBC.

This is the most stupid thing I have heard in a long time.

A careless 10 year-old drops a soft toy out of the car window, so what do her parents do?

They call the fucking police!
What are they going to do about it, I hear you cry? That's not their problem. It would be extremly stupid and dangerous, to for example, put on a rolling roadblock, holding up the traffic, then post the soft toy (at tax payer's expense) to the hapless child. Obvously they wouldn't be that silly!

But of course, that's what they did.

I don't know who the bigger twats are - the parents or the police.
Sure, it's upsetting - but she's 10 years old for christ's sake!

"We just felt we had to do everything in our power as parents to make Amy happy,", said her mother.

Errr no. She's 10 years old. Don't you think she's old enough to learn that life isn't always fair? What are you going to do when Granny dies for god's sake? Rent a copy of "Weekend at Bernies" for inspiration, and try and convince her the old girl is just sleeping? I'll bet that they're the sort of parents that would spend hours racing around every pet store in a hundred mile radius to find an identical hamster, to convince her that they are immortal.

Twats, the lot of them!


Big Thanks!

A huge thanks to all of those who took the time to stop by and comment on the blog changes. A remarkable range of computers floating about there! An especial thanks to Liam, who went to great effort to straighten out my tangled code. That CoffeeHTML editor is pretty neat. A virtual beer to you all.

Dawn, I took your advice and just extended the height of the sidebars to 5000px. That should keep things fairly neat, at least at the top half of the page, where most visitors stay any way Iif you can't fix it, hide it I say).

I'll be tweaking a few more cosmetic things over the next few days, but it looks like the basic template is working just how I envisaged it.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

All change...

As you can see, I have been doing extensive work on the blog. I'll admit, I am pretty crap at this sort of thing, and this represents many hours of trial and error. There are a dozen and one bug fixes that need to be done, such as stretching the left and right columns to the bottom of the screen. (They are in tables btw and both height:100% in the CSS and height=100% in the HTML seems to have no effect - any ideas?) .

Criticisms and suggestions will be greatfully received.

The text is somewhat smaller than before. I also have a wide-screen monitor, so I don't know how the spacing looks on regular square monitors, or at lower resolutions.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Random thought...

It occured to me today, that shopping in British Homestores is rather like what the Germans would have experienced had they ever invaded Britain duing WWII. All of the signs and directions are absent to make navigating impossible, and the natives are under strict instructions to be as unhelpful to strangers as possible.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cheeky buggers....

Here's something almost worthy of a Tuesday Twat.

A few weeks ago I applied for a postdoc position at a well known University. Now truth be told, I wasn't expecting much. The job was very different to what I currently do, but they were offering training etc. I ummed and ahhed for a while then thought "sod it", and applied anyway. The main attraction being the large number of new skills that I would learn in the post. I figured that I could always come back to my current field in the future, complete with a whole load of new and applicable skills that I feel that I am lacking. I filled in the application forms etc and sent thm off. By email, as requested.

Now, first of all, this University - like most to be fair - puts a caveat at the bottom of the form
"Due to the large numbers of applications that we receive for each position, we are unable to acknowledge receipt of your application. If you have not heard anything within 4 weeks of the closing date, you can assume that your application was unsuccessful".

Now this really pisses me off. I can understand that in the days of paper-based applications, sending a reply to each applicant by mail would be a time-consuming and expensive business - but just how much time and effort does it cost for the secretary receiving an emailed form to hit "Reply to" to acknowledge receipt of the form? I mean really? For all I know, the application form could be sitting in the Junkmail folder of an overzealous Outlook. I know that my Outlook automatically quarantines anything with an attachment that contains more than one period in it eg Sanescientist.application.doc would be quarantined as a potential virus. Fortunately I'm wise to that and don't include additional periods in my filenames.

But anyways, 4 weeks pass and I hear nothing.
5 weeks pass and an email arrives.

"Thankyou for applying for the above position. In accordance with the University's Equal opportunities policy, we are required to monitor all applications. We would be grateful if you could fill in the attached monitoring form with your ethnicity and details of any disabilities which you may have. This email does not imply that you have been shortlisted for an interview. If you have not yet heard from the University, you may assume that your application was unsuccessful."

Two points:
1) I already filled in the equal opportunities form - it comprises the last 2 pages of the standard application form.

2) You can't be arsed to hit reply on outlook to let me know that the application was received, but you can be bothered to go back through the application form to extract my email address, to send me an utterly pointless email requesting that I do something that I have already done - after you have already turned me down.

Hmmm. I wonder how many returns they actually get?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 29. The production teams of "fly on the wall" documentaries.

In the TV wasteland of 7pm to 9pm there is a scary new phenomenon. Designed to confirm all of the prejudices that the comfortable middle-classes have about the chav class - it's the latest incarnation of the "fly on the wall documentary".

"Britain's worst kids", "Wife swap", "Britains worst husband/wife/androgenous fuck buddy", "Is your house a shitehole?". If there is a more contrived form of "documentary", I have yet to see it. These programmes work on one simple premise - stick a camera crew in the lives of "ordinary people" and you will see extra-ordinary behaviour.

At first amusing, I am starting to find these programmes uncomfortable and worrying viewing. A current documentary involves following the lives of parents who's kids spend so much time off school that the parents are facing jail sentences. The programmes are skillfully edited such that anyone watching finds themselves shouting at the TV "Pawn the little shit's XBox and give them a fucking smack!" Yet it is becoming painfully obvious that the "stars" of the show, like those on daytime chatshows, are just living up to expectations. A couple of weeks ago, sloppy editing showed the cynicism of these production crews who all too obviously script the whole thing. A spoilt little girl has been refusing to go to school, she gets kicked out the door in the morning, then returns sulkily 5 minutes later (why her unemployed parents don't take her to the school gate is never explored) refusing to go. Overly dramatic temper tantrums ensue for a few minutes before the kid goes back to bed to watch Trisha.

Classic "reality TV" fodder - except that this time the kid can't act as well as usual. Cut to a scene where she is having a temper-tantrum in the living room. She stands still for a second, before suddenly erupting and kicking her toys across the room. You could almost hear the director shout "action". It was so fucking obvious! These families have been offered their 5 minutes of fame and, hand-in-hand with the production crew they are milking it for everything it's worth. At the expense of their child's education. Jail the fucking parents I say. That'll teach them to exploit their kids.

This really calls into question the entire genre. "How clean is your house?" should be renamed "What does your house look like after a TV production crew have scattered your bins in the lounge and brought their dirty laundry over".

I imagine that the pre-production meetings for Britain's worst kids, probably go something like this.

Well dressed parents sitting with young man, sipping tea out of a china mug, little finger extended.
Production assistant: Well he seems quite well behaved at the moment.
Parents: Oh that won't be a problem, as soon as the cameras start to roll, he'll start kicking the furniture.
Production assistant: Hmmm, that's quite normal at his age, even in middle-class families. Can't you come up with anything better?
Parents: We're thinking of banning him from watching TV. To which Anthony will respond "You fucking cunts I wish you were dead".
Production assistant: That's a bit better - but we've already met one family who have agreed that their daughter will pretend to be pregnant and has even agreed to scratch her wrists with a blunt knife.
Mother: I thought I might leave my handbag sitting in the kitchen in plain view. Anthony will then steal some money and take my car keys. Mr Patel at the "Cash n Carry" has kindly agreed to sell Anthony and Millicent from next door some cheap cider, and put up with a bit of racial abuse. You'll like Millicent, she has a pierced nose.

To be honest, I don't know who gets the Twat award this week - the production crews who script this garbage; the participants; or we the viewers for putting up with this shite.

Twats - the lot of 'em.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Geek Chic

Originally uploaded by SaneScientist.

Who says geeks can't be sexy! Waddya say ladies?

Funny old world.

Why does the imaging facility in work keep a pristine manual for a 20 year old Hewlett Packard dot matrix printer that has sat, unused, on the shelf since John Major became PM - but doesn't have one for the £50,000 state of the art scanner that is used daily and is prone to jamming?

Answers on a postcard please...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Curse my clumsiness...

...although I deny that it's my fault.

Back in January, I was given a nice shiny digital camera. I still haven't got into the click at everything habit, and so more often than not I find myself in a photographic situation without my camera and am reduced to using my crappy phone cam.

Anyways, a couple of months ago I finally remembered to take my camera into work to photograph some colourful agar plates for a presentation. By my estimation this was the third or fourth time I had used the camera since getting it. In that time, it has been sitting tightly wrapped in its thickly padded case.

I got it out - and to my horror realised that there was a huge crack running down the LCD. Needless to say, it's absolutely stuffed. A bit of experimentation using the USB lead and my laptop reveals that it still takes photos absolutely fine, but I can't see what I am taking pictures of, or how flat my batteries are.

So I took it into the department store where my parents purchased it from. They grunted and ahhed a lot and concluded it was broken, and thus needed to be sent back to Nikon. Fine, it's well inside it's warranty.

After not hearing anything for a month, I phoned Nikon. After listening to what sounded like Imperial marching music for 20 minutes I was ready to either hang up and go directly to the store or hang up and invade Poland.

"The screen is broken. That's not covered by the warranty."
"Well, I've only used it 3 times, I haven't dropped it and it is kept in a thickly padded case"
"You must have knocked it then"
"Nope, it rarely gets carried around, it lives in a drawer in my bedside table".
"I'm sorry sir, but LCDs are very tough and they are damaged by either dropping or knocking"
"Or by crap design" I helpfully supplied. LCDs are actually very weak, it's the plastic or glass coating that gives them their strength and that is obviously a weak point.

Well, it's a call centre and they wouldn't be budged. They promised to send me an invoice.
So I rang my household insurance company - not covered.
I rang my Dad - unfortunately he paid with his debit card, so his card protection doesn't cover me either.
Another month passed - no invoice.

I rang them again, more marching music. Fortunately I had taken precautions this time and locked the flat door until the urge to expand the British Empire passed.
Finally they have sent the invoice.
They estimate that it will cost £70.59 (I suspect the 59 pence was added just to make it sound like they had actually calculated the estimate, rather than thrown a dart at a large price board). Estimates of course are not legally binding, so I dread to think what the final bill will actually be.

The problem is that £70 is half the retail cost of a comparable camera, and therefore it is still worth having repaired.

Bugger. There goes the whipround from work. I'll keep you posted as to how much they actually charge me.

And I still deny culpability.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 28. Robert Kilroy Silk.

BBC News

Well it seems that Robert Kilroy-Silk has "resigned" from yet another political party. This time, it was one that he founded himself only 5 months ago. Impressive. At this rate, he'll have been kicked out of more parties than Oliver Reed.

For those of you not from the UK, Robert Kilroy-Silk is very accurately summed up by the word twat. Born in 1942, apparently of human parents, he has turned himself that remarkable shade of orange that only daytime TV stars, Christian Evangelicals and people in the end stages of liver cirrhosis can normally achieve. Unfortunately, despite his near perfect colouring, he was deemed too tall to be given the part of an Ooompa Loompa in Tim Burton's remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Unconfirmed rumours suggest that he may be the new face of Ronseal's Woodcoat.

Kilroy-Silk first entered politics in 1974. Quite how somebody with politics to the right of Timothy McVeigh managed to gain a seat in the (then, left-wing) Labour Party will forever remain a mystery. But then David Blunkett managed it so I suppose these characers can slip through the net from time to time. After quitting the Labour party, he fronted a daytime chatshow on the BBC. This show was a tremendous success with students and other lay abouts (many of whom formed the audience), yet this is in no way indicative of it's quality. In fact it was gob-smackingly, toe-curlingly awful. RKS is possibly the worst man possible to deal with sensitive subjects. Viewers would tune in, then hide behind the sofa unable to bear it as he strutted around the studio airing his opinions, cutting short other people's opinions and flatly contradicting whatever experts the BBC has seen fit to bring in to discuss the subject.

The show ran until 2004, when he was unceremoniously sacked for writing an article that branded arabs "suicide bombers, limb-amputators,[and] women repressors". His protestation that it was actually a reprint of an article he had already published once before wasn't terribly effective.

Having thus endeared himself to and established his credentials with the far-right nutjob brigade, the next logical step was to join the "UK Independence Party". This party had a number of goals regarding Europe and the common currency, but generally they could be summed up by the 3 F's - "Fuck off Filthy Foreigners". And take your money with you. Remarkably he was elected a Member of the European Parliament, where he has vowed to disrupt proceedings as much as possible. At tax-payers' expense obviously.

After a few months in the job, the next obvious step was to become leader of UKIP. That UKIP already had a leader, and nobody wanted RKS to takeover did little to disuade him. His final tactics allegedly included holding his breath, stamping his feet and screaming "its not fair". Nobody was impressed.

Finally, he quit/was kicked out of UKIP (are you spotting a pattern yet) forming a new party "Veritas". Despite already having a job as an MEP, he stood in the May general election, as a member of the UK parliament - and was trounced squarely, as were the rest of his party.

Today he finally announced his "resignation" from the party.

So what next from our peculiarly cadenced, bright orange, inverse jihadist? Now John Tyndall is dead and Nick Griffin maybe spending some time at her Majesty's Pleasure, the British National Party probably need a helping hand. Or maybe he'll just go back to topping up his tan - I hear that the Middle East is nice this time of year...


Monday, August 01, 2005

An open memo...

An open memo to all lab visitors.

We regret to inform you that the recent grant application requesting funding for a fairy complete with wand to clean equipment after you have used it, has been rejected. We would therefore request that after we have been kind enough to let you use our equipment, you clean it, instead of leaving it to become encrusted with grime and dried buffer so that it takes me six fucking hours of cleaning and re-calibrating before I can use it.

We generously supply a tap and paper towels to aid you.





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