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Thursday, March 30, 2006

In one end straight out the other...

Lucozade Sport - Isotonic? Pah!

I wouldn't normally touch Lucozade with a ten-foot barge pole, however there was a crate of the stuff left over from them sponsoring a recent event at the sport centre. Years of being a student has made it pretty much impossible for me to say no to anything described as "Free", so I helped myself to a couple of bottles. For the past two evenings I have walked out the door at the end of my shift swigging a bottle of it. For the past two evenings I have been standing cross-legged, cross-eyed and sweating in the elevator to my apartment 40 minutes later. Both times, I haven't even had time to take my coat off before needing to undo my flies. Tonight, I still had my bag over my shoulder.

How on earth can somethimg that makes me piss like a horse 40 minutes after consuming it, possibly rehydrate me after a work-out?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 57. Changing the clocks.

I mean - what's the bloody point?

OK, perhaps I am a little jaded after having a rather fraught time of it this year. This time, I and many other people, seem to have been caught completely unaware. A straw poll of the dozen or so people that I have spoken to over the past 24 hours has faied to elicit a single person who saw it advertised anywhere.

This Sunday, in the UK at least, it was Mother's day. I decided on Tuesday that I would be unusually thoughtful this year and hand deliver a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates to my mother and grandmother. I surreptitioulsy rang my Dad on his mobile and made sure that both special ladies would be available and unaware, before booking train tickets home.

Saturday night, I followed my usual routine of watching TV, catching the late night news bulletins, then scanning the BBC website last thing. My train was at 0930, so I set my alarm clock for a little after 8am and went to sleep.

At 0750 the following morning, I was awoken by my Dad on the phone.
"Sane, I just woke up this morning to find the clocks have gone forward. Did you know? There was nothing on the TV last night".
I might have been half asleep still, but even so I was able to do the maths - it was 0850h and my train was leaving in 40 minutes.


I dived into the shower. No time for a shave, I cleaned my teeth whilst shampooing my hair and resolved to use the toilet on the train *shudder*.

Dressing in record time, I grabbed the flowers, chocolates, cards and the novel I was reading (priorities!) before legging it out onto the main road. The bus was out of the question. However the road was absolutely silent. It was after 9:15 when a Taxi finally appeared on the horizon. Flagging it down frantically, I dived into the backseat.
"Train station... Mothers Day... Clocks gone forward" I carefully explained, as the Taxi performed an illegal U-Turn.
"What time's your train mate?"
"9:30," I cringed.
"Fuck me, you're cutting it fine! Hold on, I wouldn't want you to miss mother's day"
And we were off.
It is at least a ten minute ride to the train station normally. We did it in six! The driver obviously loves his mother very much, because no way was he going to let me miss that train. The speedlimit is 30mph all the way to the station. We hit 55 - on the wrong side of the road!

Needless to say, I didn't wait for my change, not enough time, and he had really earned it. The elevators were out of action, naturally, so I had to run up them, before getting on to the main concourse. I made it onto the train with seconds to spare, the automatic doors closing before I even sat down.

Of course, after all that we spent an hour sitting stationary at the next station waiting because of a signal failure.

But in the end, it was all worth it. The look on my Mum's face when I emerged from behind a row of shelves in the supermarket that Dad had told me to meet them in was absolutely priceless.

The things we do for our Mums eh?

And on a related note, nobody seems to have told the pixies that update the electronic programme guide for E4 on freeview. I missed the landmark 100th episode of Smallville and had to stay up to stupid o'clock to see who got killed off.


Friday, March 24, 2006

This is so, so, wrong!

I'm turning into a pervert.

I can't believe it! There are certain things that it is absolutely wrong to find sexually attractive; children, animals and old men over the age of 90 are widely recognised no-nos.

However, I have found myself breaking the ultimate taboo.

I have found that I am rather taken by a Member of Parliament.

Julia Goldsworthy MP is the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne. And, having watched her doing swimming and gymnastics in channel 4's Celebrity Athletics Contest "The Games", I have become uncomfortably aware of the fact that she really does look very good in Lycra.

In my defence, she is no Ann Widdecombe, and at 27 is not exactly an old trout. But I can't help but feel dirty.

I'm off for a cold shower.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 56. Mark McGowan.

Mark McGowan is what is known (perhaps euphemistically) as a "performance artist". Hardened cynics might suggest that a "performance artist" is someone with a GCSE in art who isn't very good at drawing - but as you know, I am not a cynic.

Anyways, what is Mr McGowan's contribution to humankind's shared cultural heritage you may ask? He leaves taps on. Yup, that's right. Apparently, leaving a tap running constitutes art these days. Every time you clean your teeth in the morning or have a shave, you too are creating a work of modern art. Apparently.

Of course, as with all art, you need to have a political message and Mr McGowan reckons he's come up with a sure- fire winner. His work will be a protest against private control of UK water supplies. In order to highlight the huge profits of water companies and their wasting of billions of gallons of water, he will be leaving 6 taps running, in undisclosed London locations for a year. In the middle of a prolonged drought that has seen the imposition of water-shortage measures, he will waste a staggering 100 million litres of water. That is 100,000 TONNES of water. Assuming that an Olympic swimming pool is 50 metres long, 20 metres wide and a uniform 2 metres deep, that water could fill 50 of those pools.


The last time the brainless twat tried such a stunt, he wasted 800,000 litres but had to turn the taps off after a month, probably because Thames Water customers visiting his installation kept on turning the taps off themselves. Understandable really, considering that they are currently facing a hosepipe ban and can't even wash their cars.

Needless to say, like many artists McGowan has a vastly inflated sense of his own importance commenting
"I understand we are in a drought. But I am an artist so I'm not actually wasting water for nothing."

Really - yet he can't even show people his installation. They just have to take his word for it. I personally painted a picture of an androgynous model with an ambiguous facial expression last week. It is probably one of the finest paintings ever done, and worthy of a place in Louvre - but I'm a bit shy so you'll just have to believe me.

Mark McGowan - you are a fucking idiot. Get a proper job. If you feel that your destiny lies in being famous for being a talentless twat, apply for Big Brother like everyody else.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sportcentre in banning nasty customer shocker!!

Today, something happened that I never thought I'd see... Da Management are banning a nasty customer!

Since I've started working at the sport centre, I have found that our various customers can be classified into three types, following a standard bell-curve distribution.

90% fall into the "indifferent" category. They come in, exchange a few pleasantries or merely grunt, before going off to do their favoured activity. I tolerate them, they tolerate me. They are the human equivalent of a baked potato - largely innoffensive and unlikely to cause either upset or excitement.

5% fall in to the "pleasure to serve" category. They come in, ask how we are, and share a joke. Many of the parents bringing their kids fall in to this category. They often loiter around during the kid's lesson, have a cup of coffee and pass the time. I may even miss some of them when I finally leave. They are like a nice bottle of red wine. You could happily spend an evening in their company.

Sadly, that leaves the remaining 5%. They are rude, demanding, sometimes offensive and often unreasonable. A few seem obsessed with the notion of writing to their local MP to complain about a lack of service. They often get very upset when they turn up unnanounced at peak time and can't get a court booking. Everything is usually my fault. They are like marmite.

This weekend, I am covering a sick colleague and have met some of the customers that I have only heard being bitched about in the staff kitchen. One particular gentleman has finally over-stepped the mark.

We caught him on the back court using his video camera to film a friend's coaching session. Because of child protection issues, we have a very clear policy on filming within the centre. Anyone doing so has to register with us at reception and the filmees need to sign a waiver. If necessary, we will insist that they switch to an end court and film in such a way that no other customers are in shot. We reserve the right to check what they are filming and refuse permission if we see fit. This is laid out quite clearly in prominently displayed signs. I recently re-printed them using a whopping 120pt text and bright red ink.

The duty manager told him that he must come to reception and fill in a form and show some identification. It was a busy afternoon, so she left me to handle that whilst she supervised a cleaning crew. He filled in the form but claimed not to have any ID.
"it's OK, everyone knows me here. Ask any of the coaches, I'm a registered Badminton coach"

I explained that I don't normally work weekends so if he could wait a moment, I would grab a coach and sort everything out. There were plenty of coaches milling around in the office and I would be back in about 10 seconds.
"This is bloody ridiculous. I don't have time to hang around. I'm a registered coach."
I pointed out that it was a long-standing policy of the centre and that I would be back in a few seconds. I restrained from pointing out that as a registered coach, he should be aware of our policy and the importance of following these procedures.

"This is beaurocracy gone mad. You're starting to fucking annoy me now. I have better things to do with my time than hang around here for this nonsense." He stormed back into the centre. I quickly grabbed the manager and explained what was happening.
"I can't stand that man. He is nothing but trouble - I'm sick of him" she snarled with great feeling.

Then a small miracle occured. The centre's top dog happened to be in and he came over.
"Are you having problems with Mr X again? What has he done this time."
I explained again.
"Right, that's the final straw. Sane, I want you to right an incident report. I will not tolerate him swearing at staff. I shall attach a copy of it to the other reports on file and write to him, telling him that he is no longer welcome at the centre. In future you can ban him and have him escorted off the premises."

I was gob-smacked! Anyone who has ever worked in the customer cervice industry will know that customers are allowed to get away with bloody murder before any action is taken against them. In the past, management's response to abuse from customers has usual been a sympathetic "some people are just like that, you have to put up with it". I have never had to fill in an incident report, except in rare instances where we think that someone may try and cause trouble for the centre. Then we do it just to make sure that our facts are straight in case of a letter of complaint some weeks down the line.

Anyways, the file we keep on this customer is quite enlightening. First he isn't a "registered coach", he is a self-appointed private coach. He does have coaching skills, that much has been confirmed by our staff who have discretely watched him coaching his own kids, but he isn't registered with any of the main coaching bodies. In the past, he has been warned that he can coach his own kids but he cannot use our premises for paid coaching. He has also been the subject of complaints from other customers who have not appreciated his unwanted advice or offers of tuition. He tries to ingratiate himself with the staff introducing himself to anyone new as "Mr X, I'm a part-time coach, everyone knows me, I'm down here all the time" and learning the staff member's name. But when confronted, he is often abusive and threatening. He usually appears during peak times at the weekend, when he can sneak in more discretely. As long as he doesn't appear with a bag full of shuttlecocks or appear to be coaching anyone that isn't his kid, there isn't much that the centre could do except keep an eye on him. I must point out, that whilst we are strict about child protection issues, we have no reason to suspect that he uses the videos as anything more than a training aid.

So Mr X, within the next few days you will be receiving a letter banning you from the centre. All members of staff will be given a copy and should you decide to ignore it, you will be asked to leave, with or without the assistance of the large gentlemen who manage site security. Go on, make my day...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 55. The immigration service.

No, this isn't going to be a rant about the frankly over-reported and exagerated numbers of alleged illegal asylum seekers supposedly flooding Britain. Nor is it about the under-reported problems faced by entirely legitimate overseas students who are being royally fleeced to renew their visas.

Rather, it concerns the laws surrounding people like this man.

or as he appears now

From the BBC.

In 1999, former rock star Gary Glitter aka Paul Gadd, was released after serving half of a woefully short 4 month prison sentence for possessing Child pornography. Fortunately, he was caught by his own gross stupidity when he sent his computer off for repair - with a hard disk full of kiddy fiddle pictures.

After being released, Glitter shed a few crocodile tears, claimed he was sorry and promptly fucked off on holiday - making a beeline for several of the world's top child sex tourism hotspots.
Last week, I watched an frankly chilling BBC3 documentary entitled "Come Home Gary Glitter?" The aim of the programme was quite interesting. The presenter's thesis was that offenders such as Glitter would be far better off seeking treatment for their unnatural and immoral perversions in the UK, rather than dropping off the radar and carrying on their shameful behaviour abroad. With that in mind, they decided to try and track him down. They followed him across the globe. What they uncovered was deeply disturbing. Despite being banned from Cambodia, Glitter sneaked back in to the country and set about looking after "Foster Children". When he finally fled that country, he toured the Far-East gaining admittance to orphanages by claiming to be a doctor. There he entertained the kids. The people in charge of these facilities are, understandably, not entitrely au fait with British 1970's Former Glam Rockstars (particularly when they change their appearance and go by their little known birth names) and so jumped at the chance to have him help look after the kids.

Eventually, the authorities in Vietnam caught up with him before the programme-makers and Glitter was arrested and charged with child rape. The sum of $1,000 was duly paid to each child's family and the rape charges were dropped (along with the threat of a firing squad). His remarkably candid lawyer admitted on the programme that he felt Glitter was probably guilty, however Glitter was subsequently convicted of committing obscene acts with a minor and given a three year prison sentence. Because of time already served, he will probably be released in December and sent back to the UK.

Well, my first question is "Why was he allowed to travel abroad in the first place?" If we can take the passports of football hooligans, why the hell can't we take them off kiddy fiddlers like Glitter? Whether we like it or not, this piece of human filth is OUR problem, nobody elses. And, as they pointed out in the programme, we are far better equipped to deal with him than impoverished third world countries such as Cambodia or Vietnam. The risk of these people re-offending is extremely high, and it is not unreasonable to prevent them from doing so by removing their passports.

So-called Child sex tourism, is illegal under the sex offences act. It's time the immigration service became more pro-active. Our reputation is tarnished by these animals - that alone should be reason enough.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Anyone fancy becoming a Peer?

Go on, you know that you want one. A mere £1.5m "loan" to the Labour Party should be enough!
BBC News

And just because I am bored...

Click for a larger image.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Please tick the box if you do not wish to receive crap.

What a load of old bollocks.

Today, I received spam mail from Walkers crisps. At the bottom of the email it claimed that

"We have sent you this email as you indicated that you were interested in receiving information from Walkers, when you entered our 'Win an Ipod' promotion. "

BULLSHIT! I did no such thing. I explicitly remember ticking the NO box when I entered the promotion. I ALWAYS tick the NO box, and if I don't see the option immediately, I hunt in the small print for it or cancel what I'm doing. That approach has helped me maintain a relatively spam-free email inbox.

Of course, this isn't new.

Recently, I caught two major companies selling on my details, red handed.
First: Reed Business.
This is the publishing company that distributes New Scientist Magazine. When I renewed my subscription a couple of years back, I ticked the box as normal to stop them advertising new products or selling my details on to "carefully selected third parties".
My first issue arrived, and I noticed that they had my initials wrong. Not surprising, me and neat handwriting have never been the cosiest of bed fellows. Over the coming weeks however, I started getting junkmail. Everything from charities to other magazine subscriptions. Even credit cards - all with those incorrect initials.

The second culprit is Barclaycard.
When I bought my laptop, I decided to try and get interest free credit for a few months by opening a new card and doing a balance transfer. I eventually opted for Barclaycard. There is an urban myth that if you have "Doctor" on your credit card, banks treat you nicer and airlines offer you free upgrades. As it happens, by getting a Barclaycard, I picked one of the few providers that don't actually stick your title on the card face (Doh!). Anyways, that is the only time I have ever used my profesional title outside of University. I can't see the point, and I'm haunted by the old joke
"How can you tell the person that graduated bottom of their medical class? They're the ones who insist that you call them Doctor...".
Buggered if I'm going to be mistaken as a failed medic!
Well, sure enough I started getting junkmail (mostly for rival financial institutions bizarrely) all addressed to "Dr Sanescientist".

Reed Business, have flatly denied any wrongdoing and I suspect that I will get similar short-shrift from Barclays. However, I am tempted to emulate these mistakes as a way of tracking the source of junkmail in the future.

It shouldn't be too hard to prove that the only company that lists me on its database as Brigadier General Sanescientist (Retd.), is guilty of selling my data on...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Twat Postponement

Sorry everyone, but I haven't been able to maintain a stable internet/WiFi connection for more than 15 minutes at a time and I need to ration that to apply for jobs etc. I hope to re-install everything later this week. Fingers crossed.

Ideally, I would buy a wireless router, but I am
A) completely skint and
B) I am reluctant to pay for a router when I may be able to get one for free if wherever I move to will need me to buy a new broadband package.

One thing is for sure, this computer will NOT be moving house with me next time! It shall be stripped of its Hard disks and expansion cards, before being gently placed in a large skip. The sooner the better!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

To burn or not to burn... that is the problem.

Apologies to Mr Shakepseare of Stratford...

Do you yearn for the good old days? I do.

Once upon a time (the 80s), saving stuff for posterity was pretty straight forward. If you wanted to save a TV programme, you bought a VHS video tape (let's forget Betamax...). Different manufacturers would claim that their product was the best, but ultimately it came down to a decision as to whether you would pay slightly more for a 240 minute tape or stick with a 180 minute tape. Similarly, for audio you would buy a blank cassette tape. For those with precious computer data that needed to be kept, the capacious 1.44Mbs of a 3.5 inch floppy disk was all one needed.

By the 1990s, things were moving on and new horizons opening. A little under 1.5Mb doesn't cut it anymore and the recordable CD reigned supreme. The choice here soon became one between wanting to write once (CDR) or wanting to be able to erase and rewrite again (CDRW). Later disks would allow one to choose between 650Mb (or 74 minutes of music) and 700Mb (80 minutes). Again, different manufacturers would claim to be the best, but for most people, if you had a modern CD burner you could buy a spindle of blank disks off the bargain shelf of Tesco and not worry too much.

Well, our data needs keep on growing and by the late nineties/early noughties the recordable DVD has become the latest tool of mass data storage. Here things have become all complicated again. DVD+R, DVD-R or DVD-RAM? What's the difference? The advent of the multi-format burner knocked that problem on the head for a while, and I just stick with whatever is cheapest. No problems.

Until now...

I have been recording a lot of TV recently, much of which I would like to keep. A DVD boxset costs a small fortune - but I have the entire fourth season of Smallville sitting on my external Hard Drive, recorded gratis off E4. However, at 1Gb an hour, I am fast running out of space. I can squeeze 4 episodes at decent quality onto a standard blank DVD. But that is a fair number of DVDs and a lot of hassle, so I decided to take the next technological leap - to dual-layer DVDs. These are essentially what you buy pre-recorded DVDs on. Two layers of data (on a single side, no need to flip the disk) giving you a spacious 8.5Gb of storage - enough to fit on 8 episodes of Smallville, sans ad breaks.

I thought I had done everything right - I looked up the drive specifications of my DVD burner on the internet and found that it needed DVD+R format dual layer disks. Trotting off to Maplin, I bought a 10 disk cake of MR DATA blank DVD+R Dual Layer, for the princeley sum of £29.99. at 3 quid per disk it's quite pricey, but still much cheaper that buying a season's boxset.

Getting home, I set to work. Trimming the adverts out of 8 episodes, making pretty menus and adjusting the recording quality to match that of the original TV broadcast (that lets you squeeze more on a disk, since there is no point having the picture quality set to DVD for a TV quality picture), I left the conversion programme to run overnight. 10 hours later, I inserted the new disk into the cradle and sat back.

Error! Disk format unrecognised. Please insert a compatible blank DVD.

Following the instructions, I closed the dialogue box and checked all of my settings. Everything was as it should be. I tried again. Same message. I saved the file and closed the programme, opening up my regular DVD burning package.

Disk unrecognised. Please insert a blank disk into drive F: and click OK.

I tried again with a different disk. Same message. Rebooting the computer had no effect. I checked for the latest updates to my burning package. I'm up to date, and DL recording is specifically listed as one of the new options in this version. I tried a freeware utility - same result.

Maybe the drive itself needed upgrading? I updated both its drivers and its firmware (the software that actually sits on a memory chip in the drive). Still no joy.

I was starting to get pretty pissed off by now. I had just enough hard disk space for this week's episode of Smallville and 30 quids worth of shiny tea coasters. In desperation, I turned to the geekier side of the internet. Several hours of searching later I have found that manufacturer's claims are (for once) true! Some brands are better than other. It seems that MR DATA's cheap brand of blank DVDs are crap and don't work on even the most popular of DVD burners (mine is an NEC 6500A, one of the most popular drives in the world, shipped with millions of laptops across the globe).

So yesterday, I went back to Maplin and bought a pack of 5 Verbatim brand disks for £20. Bingo! Worked first time! So, I have now bought £50 worth of blanks DVDs. I will keep the Verbatim disks, naturally, but shall be returning the MR DATA disks, for which I kept the receipt. There was no warning on the package about compatibility issues, so I should have the law on my side. I have no intention of being fobbed off with any bollocks about the package being opened. They didn't do the job as advertised.

I'll keep you all posted.


I did eventually get my money back. Naturally, the manager tried all of the usual lines
"I've sold loads of these and no one has ever complained before"
"You probably have an unusual brand of writer"
"It's well known that some writers don't work properly with all media"
"Have you tried updating your software?"

Eventually however, he conceded that I had everything covered and gave me my money back. As I left the store however, I heard him instruct the sales advisor "don't worry about the packaging being missing, just shove them back on the shelf".

So, next time you are buying blank media from Maplin - check the packaging is intact. I tried multiple times to burn to those disks, I can't be sure if those disks are forever damaged now. And of course, not everyone will have been as careful as me, when they removed the disks from the spindle.



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