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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 79. Christmas Songs.

Now I know that this is going to make me sound like a Scrooge, but if I hear one more re-fucking-imagining of "little donkey" or "When a child is born", I'll go stabby.

I had always felt (based on overseas students' comments) that Britain led the way in toe-curlingly shite christmas music. Not so. Canada has us beat, hands down. Since December the first the "lab DJ" - normally responsible for ensuring a constant stream of classic rock that soothes away our daily stresses - has tuned the radio to a local station playing nothing but christmas music. In order to fill the gaps between adverts, the DJs will play anything that has a festive theme. Anything.

Unfortunately, music companies are such whores that they have absolutely no lower-limit of acceptance for what constitutes something worth listening to and encourage all the stars on their books to murder re-record christmas classics to earn a few extra bucks. Whilst the novelty, made-for-christmas songs can sometimes have their own special charm (The Mexican-themed "Felize navidad - I wanna wish you a merry christmas" was amusing the first 10 times for its sheer exuberance), there is nothing worse than some "diva" warbling her way through silent night. Since they have to try and make the song at least a little distinctive, the "artists" are encouraged to use their imagination. The result is not unsimilar to the first few rounds of X-factor, where 15 year old girls with barely covered acne screech their way through Sugababes hits, cunningly skipping the difficult notes by doing that breathless warbling shit like Beyonce. Simon Cowell might be a contender for the Order of the Tosser, but at least he usually turfs those muppets out (unless they have big boobs of course, then they're straight through to the next round. X-Factor my arse - DD-Factor more like).

I'm sorry, but you are really scraping the barrell when you get someone to re-record "The Drummer Boy". That song is really only for 6 year old alterboys at midnight mass. Then they are cute. Believe me, when they reach 15 it's embarrassing for all concerned (I know this, because I have watched a 6 year old alterboy for the past 10 years, as Father has insisted that he does his party piece each year. Even his Mum looks embarrassed now).

So, much to my amazement I find myself longing for Band Aid or Slade.

I must be more homesick than I realised.

Felizes Navidad!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

One last push...

Christmas is coming, and we all know what that means!

Working like a dog to finish stuff before christmas! Hence the reason I haven't blogged this week. I've literally worked and slept for the past week. Remind me why I was so keen to leave the sportcentre again?

I fly home Wednesday, and this time last week, my "must-do-before-christmas-to-do-list" was longer than it was a month ago. As always, troubleshooting is the big bug bear at the moment, and I am determined to get all of the problems I am having solved, so that I can hit the ground running and start generating data in January. I thought I had accomplished this friday, but when I came in Saturday to check the results - nada.

So I'll do one more attempt tonight (I'm now juggling my need for our only phosphoimager cassette with a masters student who's in the same boat), then that's it.

I'm supposed to have a project plan devised for my secondary project. I probably should have done it weeks ago, and the jungle drums suggest that the boss is pissed that I haven't, but I haven't been told anything by her yet - so I am just keeping my head down. I will try and squeeze some more reading in before wednesday, but I suspect that I will be using some of the down-period between christmas and new year to do some writing. It looks like a quiet christmas this year, with various relatives away, so I should get at least a couple of days I can spend locked in my room with only MS Word for company. Fortunately, I have some new VPN software that lets me log onto the University network remotely, so accessing the library and papers won't be hampered by my 3,500 mile displacement.

I promise a special festive Tuesday Twat this week. Believe me, it's been brewing for the past 2 weeks.

Now, off to do some shopping - oh joy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ask before pouring...

A salutory lesson learnt at 2am in a pizza parlour, after the consumption of large quantities of beer.

Do not assume that the unlabelled shaker of yellow powder is parmesan cheese. It might also be powdered garlic...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 78. Darren.

I have no idea who Darren is. We have never met. He doesn't even know my name. But I know his.

Darren is a popular bloke, with many friends. Unfortunately, few of those friends mean enough to him to warrant being given his new mobile phone number. They still have his old mobile number. Now MY mobile number.

Last week was his birthday. For two days between 8am and 10pm I fielded call after call, wishing Darren a happy birthday. I am sorry to say, but I got progressively less polite as time wore on.

"I'm sorry, this is no longer Darren's number. I got this number 2 months ago."

"This isn't Darren's number anymore. Could you do me a favour. If you track him down, could you please ask him to let his friends know his new number".

"No, this isn't Darren. Tell him to tell people his new number".

"Darren's dead".


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Calling cards - a new form of maths!

Calling the UK can be expensive on a landline or mobile, so naturally I have been using alternatives. The most common option is those little scratch cards that you get at the newsagent. For $10 (plus tax, naturally) I get a little piece of card with a scratch off pin number. Phone the local access number for free (all local calls are free here, even from and to mobiles), enter the pin and you can call the UK for 1c per minute. Allegedly.

So here is how it works in reality.
I phone the number. I enter my pin.
"You have 10 dollars and zero cents on your card".
I call my parents number.
"You can talk for one thousand minutes".
We natter for 45 minutes.
Next week, I call again.
"You have seven dollars on your card."
"You can talk for seven hundred minutes."
I talk for about 45 minutes again.
Next week
"You have three dollars and ten cents remaining."
Still 310 minutes.
Final call, one week later.
"You have 45 cents remaining".
"You can talk for 45 minutes".
This time the parental units aren't in. As soon as I hear the BT voicemail, I hang up and call again (just in case they were halfway down the stairs when the voicemail cut in).
"You have 44 cents remaining."
Fair enough, they round it up to the nearest minute.
Still not in. Again I hangup when I hear the dulcet tones of the BT lady.
The next day I call again.
"You have 27 cents remaining".
"You may talk for 27 minutes."
They're in, great.
Ten minutes 50 seconds later.
"This card has no credit remaining." Click. Buzz.....

Nowhere on the card, or the associated website, does it mention
a) A connection fee.
b) A daily "activation charge"
c) Tax (which I paid when I bought the card surely).

It does say "Call the UK for 1 cent per minute, no hidden charges!".

And surely when it tells you that you have x minutes to talk - you have x minutes to talk?

I have spoken to other Europeans, using different cards, and they claim the same thing. Not surprising, if you look at the websites they all seem to be run by the same company.

Fucking con. I am probably going to switch to Jajah or similar, but that ties me to my computer, at least whilst I am setting the call up. The calling card was almost as convenient as direct calling the number. With the time difference, I usually call mid-afternoon from a coffee shop or wherever I may be at the time, rather than at home. I've tried using an online system that recognises the phone you are calling from, rather than having a PIN, but those bastards simply took US$10 off my credit card and offered me 15 minutes. Then refused to return my calls or answer my emails. Consumer protection seems a little lax over here.



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