Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Number 1

Yep, it's christmas. Which means, we have a 'race' for Christmas Number 1. So I thought I'd have a look at the contenders.

Now, last year, the bland, instantly forgettable Joe McElderry was pushed into 2nd spot by a concerted campaign led by Facebook users, to get 'Killing In The Name' by Rage against the Machine to the top spot. It worked. And, I reckon it worked because it appealed to a large audience. Rock fans went for it, and the lyrics seemed to make a point. 'F-You, I won't do what you tell me'. Well, apart from buy the Rage single.

So, I guess it was inevitable that this year a similar thing would happen, or at least be attempted. But, before we look at the competition, we should see what this years favourite is. It's by Matt Cardle, the winner of the X-Factor, a nice, likable and more-talented-than-last-year chap. He's singing 'When We Collide', a cover of a Biffy Clyro song. Except it's not called 'When We Collide'. Clearly Simon Cowell thought this was more marketable than the correct title 'Many of Horror'. The arrogance of the man to assume he can change the name because he doesn't like him is, I suggest, one of the main reasons people seem to have it in for the X-factor. However, it's a pleasant tune, if over-produced to the level of blandness, and it should shift half a million copies or so. Incidentally, the link above is for the live show version, which is better than the dull recording. Just.

As far as the main contenders are concerned, I'd suggest that way out in front is the campaign to get "Surfin' Bird"the 1963 hit by 'The Trashmen' to the top spot. It's got over 600,000 followers on Facebook, and got a good head start. It's playing it for fun, there's certainly no political message here. Fact is, some people want a fun novelty record at number 1 this christmas, and good luck to them.

Another contender would be the re-recording of 4'33" by John Cage. A bit pretentious perhaps, but the idea that Radio 1's chart show would have to play 4 and a half minutes of silence, in place of an X-factor tune, is quite amusing. Proceeds go to a variety of charities, but with only 80,000 facebook fans, I reckon they left it too late.

Since the X-factor final, it would appear that Biffy Clyro fans have got upset. The original 'Many of Horror' is doing very well in the chart, with a fair few people wanting it to do better than the X-factor cover. One thing that is certain, it's going to be a Merry Christmas for Biffy Clyro's accountants and bank manager, one way or the other.

If you fancy an outside bet, Corey Taylor, frontman of Slipknot (the bloody excellent American metal band) has relased a christmas song, with the profits going to the Teenage Cancer Trust. A bit of fruity language might well keep this one out of the headlines, but for a Christmas hater like myself, the lyrics to X-M @ $ sum up the mood perfectly. Give it a listen, better still buy it and make it a Happy Christmas for a good charity. Just don't play it in front of the kids.

So, who's going to win? I'd bet heavily on X-Factor. I suspect last year was a one off, and at this stage the other runners are being trounced by the X-Factor single, which went straight to Number 1 on iTunes on pre-orders. Astonishing, that people pre-ordered a single, without knowing who was singing it or what the song was, based on the TV show it was on. Whatever. I won't be buying it, and by January I'll have forgotten all about it.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Student fees

I'm sat watching the tuition fees debate.

Whether you agree with increased tuition fees or not, there's some straightforward facts about the new proposals.

* The students pay nothing before they go to university
* The students pay nothing unless they are earning over £21,000 per year, compared to the current £15,000.
* Part time students will also be entitled to deferred fees, unlike at present
* On a salary of £21k, the annual repayments will be around £270/year
* After 30 years, the fees will be written off if not repaid
* If you lose your job, or leave work, you pay back nothing.

I think that's a good deal. In many ways, better than at present.

What irritates me, is the number of people complaining and protesting without knowing any of these facts, egged on by a Labour party who implemented the Browne report that effectively recommended these proposals, and have no fixed, sensible alternative proposals. I support anyone's right to protest, but you should do this based on a sound knowledge of the facts and not on something you heard in the pub. Furthermore, the argument that lower class people are going to be put off higher education because of the fees is surely not true - the proposals above mean that anyone can still go to university from a poor background, because the fee payments will only apply afterwards, if they earn a better wage - in theory - than they would earn without going to university.

As a Liberal, clearly it bothers me that we are, rightly, taking a battering for changing our minds. But the alternative is the break up of the coalition, another election, and either a Labour government who will continue as they left off and plunge our country further into debt, or a pure Tory government who will make deeper cuts, unchecked by a Liberal influence.

It would, of course, be very helpful if the press and media would concentrate on reporting the facts, and not on concentrating on reporting how angry everyone is. Right now, there is an excellent debate taking place in the house of commons, yet the main news channels are showing the protests and clashes with the police.

When our country is back on it's feet, I wish to see an increase in investment in higher education. Right now, I reckon this is a decent proposal, that's been amended for the better.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Tyred out

A blog entry for anyone with a car.

I mentioned it before, but we've got a Toyota Yaris. Nice car, I'd recommend one to anyone looking for a small car. However, it's not been a happy bunny for some time now.

Put simply, the handling has been atrocious, in fact at times I'd call it dangerous. Bouncy, no grip - especially in the wet - and noisy. We took it to a garage a while ago, and they checked everything. "Nothing wrong", they said. "But it might be your tyres."

Now, the tyres were quite new, so we left it because everything was checked and so we were happy nothing was going to break and kill us. Until, on the way to work one morning, the car lurched and almost put Mrs B in a ditch. Back to the garage. "Nothing wrong, other than we've adjusted the tracking. We reckon your tyres aren't up to it."

This was the second time the tyres had been mentioned. The garage's reasoning was that the tyres on our car were for winter use, and were ideal for certain types of road. The driving we were doing was not what our tyres were suited for, and this was causing the problems. However, as the tyres were still quite new, the handling was slightly improved, and replacing all four at one go wasn't something I was keen on doing on cost grounds, we left it.

And so to today. A couple of weeks ago, the car started displaying symptoms I've had on a previous car that related to a damaged wheel bearing. The car handling was affected, the car was noisy, and the car was performing badly at higher speed. So in it went. Guess what? "Nothing wrong with it. We reckon it's the tyres."

Now, you'll notice that the garage has never offered to replace the tyres, which I find odd. Maybe they don't want my money. But, after the third suggestion, we bit the bullet and went to the tyre supplier who fitted the tyres in the first place.

The tyres on the car were a budget brand, so I didn't expect razor-sharp handling. I've used budget tyres before. These were a brand called 'Admiral'. Anyway, I explained this to the tyre company guy, and he looked a bit puzzled but suggested a better brand. Which they duly fitted. One painful credit-card experience later, we left with 4 new tyres.

Guess what? It's like a new car. Who would have thought that cheap, poor quality tyres would make such a difference to the car? It handles better, accelerates better, is quieter, and doesn't cry at 70mph on the motorway anymore.

So, to our moral of the day. Don't put cheap, budget brand tyres on your car. It'll cost you more in the long run, because your car will be undriveable, and may well try to kill you.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Tom Briscoe is still better than Peter Fox

Now, I'm doing OK at the moment, in general. I have a job, a roof over my head, food, water, and all the things that people in some countries struggle for. So, I consider myself a lucky bloke. In the scheme of things, then, losing a rugby match isn't a really big deal. However, I've been properly fed-up since Saturday night. All because my team, Hull FC, lost to cross-city arch rivals Hull KR.

I'm trying to keep it in perspective. But when a big part of your life is spent following a team, it becomes a big deal, and losing has a really negative affect on your mood. Especially when it's a big game. And this one was, a play-off game with the loser going out. Not only, therefore, are we out of the playoffs, but we were knocked out by a better organised, harder working, more disciplined team. This hurts. When that team is Hull KR, it rubs salt in the wound.

So I've been a grumpy-arse all weekend. I'll get over it, I'm sure, but I don't have to be happy about it. It's a stupid game anyway...!

Monday, 16 August 2010

It's not Cricket

I'm not a fan of cricket, and never have been, but yesterday marked the highlight (in my opinion) of the upper Nidderdale social calendar. The Dave Challis 6-a-side trophy. In short, it's a cricket competition that involves, predictably, teams of 6. This year, a team from the Pateley Bridge butchers entered. The Sportsman's Arms always turn up in fancy dress. The team from Studfold Farm caravan site always take things too seriously, in a light-hearted way - if that's possible.

It always seems to attract a half-decent crowd as well. I suspect this is less to do with the cricket, and more to do with the £1.50/can beer tent and the outstandingly tasty barbecue. The buns on offer in the pavilion are of a superior standard as well.

The beer, I have to say, is definitely the main attraction for me. However, it's a pretty relaxed day. You can spend the 7-8 hours wandering around chatting to the other locals who frankly, you never really see during the remainder of the year due to the remoteness of the area. Or you can sit back and enjoy the beer, as we did. Either way, no-one really minds because it raises a fair few quid for the club and, I believe, the local school. Hence, the belated realisation I was diddled out of a fiver change at the burger tent shall remain unchallenged, because the cash isn't lining some corporate pocket.

On top of all this, I won a set of spotted pastel-shade coasters on the tombola, which to be fair is a half decent and useful item. Previous tombolas at local events have yielded such items as a bottle of Blue Nun 'wine', a red Ikea glass vase ornament thingy, and best of all, a two-handled child's training cup. Which is still in the cupboard, waiting for me to donate it to another tombola (if any local people reading would like it, I'll happily drop it at your house!)

Last years event managed to pay for the renovation of the pavilion toilets, very nice they were too. Hot water and soap provided! Best thing is, the sun made an increasingly rare appearance, and on a sunny day, surrounded by fields of sheep and cows, it's an incredible venue for cricket.

Incidentally, I have no idea who won. If anyone at all!

Monday, 26 July 2010

With just a fewwwwwwwww clicks, you'll ... not save anything at all, actually

image: Daily Mail




I'm a bit deflated.


I just got my new home insurance quote, from the company I work for. Now, it's not gone up, but neither has it decreased. But I know how these things work, because I used to work for the retentions (cancellations) department of the same company. So, I'll let you into the Beetwaste method of getting cheaper insurance.


Firstly, go onto 'Confused.com' or some similar website - I'd deliberately avoid the annoying, singing Italian-style idiot, because it winds me up. You get a list of prices, make sure the new quotes are covering you for the same things (essential - how much are you covered for? Specified items? Excess? If it's not the same, be aware of the differences) and it is imperative that you look shocked at how much money you could save (as they do in the adverts).


Now, here's the clever bit. You don't set up the new, cheaper policy. Oooh no. You ring your current insurer, tell them how much cheaper everyone else is, and can they do anything about it. A word of advice, by the way. If you are nice to the telephonist, it will pay dividends. Believe me, I was always more inclined to help the caller who asked politely, than the idiot who rang up claiming that I, personally, was responsible for ripping them off for the previous 10/15/20 years (delete as applicable) and even though we'd written to them every year advising them to call if they were unhappy with the price, it's all my fault that they couldn't be arsed to do so.


Here's an example of what to say;


"Hi, I've been looking around on 'Go-compare-the-confused-money-super-meerkat.com.uk' and discovered there are several companies offering me cheaper quotes. Can I review my cover with you to see if you can match/beat these other prices?"


This is why you need to be clued-up on what you are covered for, because the telephonist will now explain why their price is actually better value, despite being more expensive. However, they may well suggest ways to make it cheaper, such as removing unnecessary elements of your cover that the very-same-company's sales team persuaded you was essential only a year earlier. At this point, incidentally, if you've asked three times and they say they can't reduce the price, they mean it. Not everyone is entitled to a discount, and if there's one available you'll get it.


If all goes well, your current company will reduce your price and everything will be hunky-dorey. If not, well you've still got the other prices to fall back on - make sure before you cancel anything that the comparison site you picked gives an accurate price. Not all of them do, you'll have to ring them up for that.


So anyway, it's time for me to do the same. I got some prices, ready to ring up and discuss. Wound myself up to do it and everything.


Guess what?


My new quote was already 20 quid cheaper than the cheapest price online. So I couldn't ring up and barter.


Bummer.

Monday, 28 June 2010

football is rubbish



Interesting world cup. I've deliberately tried not to talk about it, but now we're out I might as well. England were rubbish. Utterly. We played 4 games, won one, and played badly in 3 of them. In fact, the Algeria and Germany games rank as amongst the worst ever England performances. Hence the picture of the Women's England team, who are actually good and I suspect would run rings around the shower we just watched for two weeks.

Everyone will have their opinions about why we were bad. Some people say we play too many games, but Tevez plays in England and got two (well, one and a bit) goals against Mexico. So I don't buy that at all. There are some really obvious points though. First, Wayne Rooney, probably the best footballer in England at the present time, was invisible for all four games. His only notable contribution to the World Cup was slagging off the fans for booing them.

In addition, the defence was all over the place. It's a bit difficult to work out why. Losing Rio Ferdinand was a major blow to the team, and his replacement in Ledley King got injured after the first five minutes of the first game. In addition, Dawson was sat on the bench, having given up his holiday at short notice, and is probably wondering why he bothered. And as for John Terry. Quite what got into him during the Germany game, who knows. He was out of position for every one of the England goals, which is baffling for a player of such talent and experience.

Which I suspect solves the problem of why we were so rubbish.We had a team of individuals who just weren't able to play as a team, for whatever reason. I suspect that's down to the manager, because it's his tactics, his team, his player choice, and it looks like he got it badly wrong. He appeared unable to change the team formation, when it became obvious that 4-4-2 wasn't working. His substitutions invariable replaced like players with like. Defoe off, Heskey on. Lennon off, Wright-Phillips on. Taking into account also, that midway through our limited time in South Africa, the manager and players were clearly at odds, this would seem to confirm that the blame is with Capello.

Anyway, it makes no odds. We were rubbish, and all four games were dull, dull, dull. But the last two weeks weren't excitement free zones, you know. I watched Wigan-St Helens, and after the England-Germany match, watched Warrington-Leeds. Both Rugby League matches, both outstanding games of their sport. Both with video referees, so the ref can't make idiot mistakes like disallowing Lampards goal, or not spotting that Tevez is 3 miles offside.

Each to their own, I guess. I was brought up watching Rugby League, so I suspect I'm a little biased. But honestly, the last two weeks have just reminded me why I continue to watch it, why I continue to advocate it, why I will always maintain that despite it's failings as a world sport, Rugby League is a country mile ahead of the round ball game. Give it a go. Support who you like, preferably your local side. Although, as a Hull FC fan I must warn you off supporting Hull KR...

Find out about it here...http://www.therfl.co.uk/

Monday, 7 June 2010

Why reinvent the wheel

Having read the absurd, deranged, but oh-so-predictable ramblings of Peter Hitchens in yesterday's Mail, I almost made it the subject of a blog entry today.

But then I read this;

http://enemiesofreason.co.uk/2010/06/06/peter-hitchens-depresses-me-but-i-wont-kill-him/

...and I figured, why bother. It says everything I was going to say anyway, and probably does a better job of it. Read and enjoy. And save your money, by not buying the Mail!

Monday, 24 May 2010

new pc

ibm-pc-5150

I got a new laptop last week. An exciting moment, for someone who loves gadgets, but after a week of using it, is it any good?

I have to confess, as far as PC’s are concerned I’m not their number one fan. That all goes back to the old days of computers. When my Spectrum got old and pointless, it was replaced with a CBM Amiga A500, which at the time was about a million years ahead of the PC in terms of usability and hardware specification. Amiga’s had a palette of over 4000 colours, had stereo sound (sort of), and a multi-tasking operating system. By the Amiga 1200, this had improved significantly, and was streets ahead of Windows 3.1.

Ah, Windows 3.1. What a badly written, unusable, pointless pile of old trollop that was. Microsoft daren’t make it any good because Apple kept taking them to court over any remote similarity to their Mac operating system. I was forced to use it at university, when actually it was easier to ignore it altogether and use the command line interface of MS-DOS.

Of course, things improved. Windows 95 was OK, if unreliable, as was 98. Windows ME was more reliable, but a bit dull. Then came Windows XP, which was big, clunky, but reliable and usable. By then, my Amiga was using up garage space, and Windows had taken over in my life, begrudgingly. In fact, a couple of years ago I discovered Linux, and have been using this in preference.

However, time moves on. In our house, there are 3 PC’s. One is an elderly desktop that runs Ubuntu Linux. One is an even older laptop, that is held together with string and runs Xubuntu Linux – just. The third runs XP, and Kubuntu Linux. They are all old, slow and barely keeping up, so it was obvious that they had to go and be replaced. Therefore, last Monday, off to PC world I went, spent an hour looking at PC’s, and came home with a spanky-new Dell laptop. With Windows 7.

Now, Windows 7 is something that’s passed me by a little bit. All I really know about it, is that the TV adverts are stupidly irritating (“I’m a PC, and I’m out of time”, “I’m a PC, and my work here is done”, “I’m a PC, and I need a swift punch in the face”). I’ve not seen it, not used it, not bothered with it. But, here’s the thing. It’s excellent.

Ok, it’s still a Microsoft operating system, so it insists on updating itself at the most inopportune moments, as well as constantly popping up warnings every time you want to do something. It’s the Labour party of the computing world, it wants to manage your entire life. It knows best. But asides from that, it’s so much better. It boots up far more quickly than XP, although it’s still quite new so we’ll see how long that lasts. It looks excellent, nothing like Windows in fact. It’s far easier to pick up than it ever was. I’m a big fan of the dock at the top of the screen, all the main programs I use are stored there as opposed to in a menu somewhere. Mind you, that’s a straight Mac rip-off, and I’m amazed they’ve been allowed to keep it in!

In short, it’s actually usable. So, I’ve put off installing Linux for now. I’ve even kept with Internet Explorer for now, because it’s actually quite good. The Windows Live Writer is included, and I’m using it to write the blog today. Yes, it really does come with rather nifty blog writing software. Whether it’s any good, well we’ll see when I hit ‘Publish’!

So, finally, let me recommend two pieces of software you’ll need  to finish the Windows 7 experience. Firstly, there’s no Outlook Express for your e-mails, so you’ll be needing Mozilla Thunderbird. Easy to use, works the same, totally free. Secondly, you will want a music player. ITunes works, Windows Media Player is included and is ok, but you really, really need to look up ‘Spotify’. It’ll play your old back catalogue of MP3 files on your hard disk, but it basically lets you – legally – stream music from online, and the range of bands and artists signed up to it is huge. The free version has adverts, if you don’t want that it’s a fiver a month, and to use it on your mobile it’s a tenner a month. Have a look, while I go and enjoy the glorious weather!

http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-GB/thunderbird/

http://www.spotify.com/uk/new-user/

Monday, 10 May 2010

Interesting times

image: Daily Mail

It's been a bizarre week or two. Probably the most interesting election campaign I can remember, right up to the exit polls coming out at 10pm on 6th May. Utter disbelief, that after all the polls in the previous weeks, it looked like - and indeed, was correct - that we would end up with less seats than before. Even though we increased our share of the vote.

So, we are into hung-parliament territory. I believe this is a huge moment for British politics, and after all the scandal of recent times, it has presented a great opportunity for the MP's to grow up and act like adults, for a change. However, I have to say that I didn't see Liberal-Tory discussions coming.

I'm a Liberal Democrat party member, and have been for years, so I know full well that most Liberals would naturally want an alliance with Labour, they are very uneasy about teaming up with the Tories. But I've been thinking about this for a day or two, and I reckon this might suit me very well.

Whilst I remain a Lib-Dem member and supporter, I'm probably slightly right of centre, whilst the party are left of centre. This has often presented me with the odd dilemma. For example, I'm not a particular fan of European matters, whilst the Lib-Dems are staunchly pro-Europe. I've got a harder opinion of matters such as capital punishment; I'd have few complaints about bringing it back, whilst most Liberals would be horrified about this.

I do, however, stick with the Lib-Dems, because from experience, they have always been far more tolerant of differing opinions than the other parties, probably because everything is debated properly. So, if a policy makes the manifesto, I know that the party members at the conference had a democratic debate on it. I like that. I've also long held the view that although I'm not pro-European, I'd rather be represented by a party that wants to be there, than a party that exists to make it difficult.

Therefore, if the Lib-Dems make a coalition with the Tories, it may, strangely, more reflect my brand of politics. With one huge, enormous, universe-sized caveat. And that's parliamentary reform. The Tories are opposed to it, but I'm afraid any deal must at the very least, promise a referendum on this subject, primarily involving a change to our discredited, unfair voting system. This is why I came to the Lib-Dems in the first place. It's just not acceptable that a party that obtains a quarter of the vote, only gets 57 seats out of 649. Asides from the Lib-Dems, other parties have reason to want a change. UKIP got 4 times the number of votes - nearly 1,000,000 - than the Green party. Even the hateful BNP got more votes than the Greens. Seats in the commons: UKIP = 0, BNP = 0, Greens = 1. Crazy.

Check out some other results. Harrogate and Knaresborough, the Lib-Dem candidate came second with 44% of the vote, whereas in Hull North, Diana Johnson won with 39% of the vote. 13,000 Labour votes = win, 23,000 Liberal votes = lose. That's not fair. Not in my book. And that's not counting the 4,000 Tory votes in Hull North, that count for nothing at all.

That's why I want a voting system that means every vote counts, that's why I want Nick Clegg to insist on making this a part of a deal with whichever party, and that's why I'll continue to support the Lib-Dems.

And I promise to lay off the politics in the next blog entry!

Monday, 19 April 2010

There's an election on, you know




I've just been leaflet-dropping for the Lib-Dems, in a very rural area that takes a lot of walking. I suspect most of the people around here are Tory, but what the heck. At least they know we exist.

I've been a Lib-Dem supporter for years. A fully paid-up, card carrying but not very active member. Therefore, you'd expect me to be wanting you to vote for them. Well that's true, but at the end of the day I'd like you to make up your own mind. Maybe it's the Liberal in me, but ultimately I'll give you the info about us, and hopefully you'll agree.

If you don't, then fine. But last Thursday, people got to make their own mind up, for the first time in years. Normally, you see, people vote the way the newspapers and press tell them to, in my opinion. Most of the press are right-wing, a couple of papers are socialist leaning, but none of them are particularly Liberal. So the third party generally gets a hard time in the press.

But, for an hour and a half last Thursday, something changed. Three party leaders turned up on TV, and Nick Clegg from the Lib-Dems had a good night, as reflected by the opinion polls the next day. Three party leaders were talking about policy without any bias from an outside source, and people made their own minds up.

I suspect the papers won't like this, and will now be taking the liberals seriously. May I present, for example, the Mail on Sunday. Headline; "Clegg Nicks the Top Spot", a pretty positive headline. But let's turn to page 9. We get the following headlines;

"Most would vote Orange... but they will get Brown"

"His wife is Spanish, his mother Dutch, his father half-Russian and his spin-doctor German. Is there ANYTHING British about Lib Dem Leader?"

"Clegg's 'secret' lobbyist past"

"Billionaire convicted of fraud in France laid on banquet in honour of Liberal Democrat leader"

In other words, you can't trust the Lib-Dem leader, he associates with crooks, had a dodgy (perhaps, maybe, possibly) job in the past and by the way, he's not even British. Vote for him, and Brown gets in again. Are you scared yet?

The leader column, though, is almost deserving of a complaint to the PCC. Headline; "the charming Mr Clegg leads a loopy army" and goes on to point out that "Behind him in the shadows stand dense ranks of beards and sandals, with beliefs so loopily Left-wing that New Labour long ago abandoned or rejected them".

Well, I believe I'm quite intelligent, have no beard or sandals, and anyway if I did, so what? Disgraceful journalism. Insulting, xenophobic and scare-mongering garbage. And no specific mention of any policies.

Well, maybe I'm old fashioned, but I reckon people are intelligent enough to make their own decision based on facts. And that happened after the last debate. Even if we'd have done badly, people finally got to make a decision on their own. And this election is all the better for it, so the press had better get used to it!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Ilkley. With a hat.


I've started working in Ilkley. On Monday morning, I set out on my moped, 30 mph maximum over the top of the hills, via Bolton Abbey, and arrived in a state of near hypothermia. If anyone can advise of ways to keep warm on a moped/motorcycle, I'm all ears.

So, the trip across has some incredible views of the Yorkshire Dales, but ends in Ilkley. Which to be fair, is a place I've never visited in my life, and know nothing about. Except for 2 facts.

1) it's next to a famous moor, as in the song 'Ilkla'Moor Baht Hat', which is, apparently, the unofficial Yorkshire anthem. The people who say this, I suspect, believe Yorkshire finishes at Leeds, because in Hull it's not an anthem of any sort.

2) Alan Titchmarsh was born there.

I've researched Wrongipedia, and learnt that it's built on the site of an old Roman fort (Olicana) and hence, people from Ilkley are known as Olicanians. It was mentioned in the Domesday book. It also used to have railway connections to Otley and Skipton via Addingham.

But truthfully, that's irrelevant, because I'm far more interested in the current state of the town. As someone who deals with the general public in a financial capacity, I'm more bothered as to whether they'll greet me with a smile or a punch in the face. And I'm pleased to report, as indicated by the presence of a Betty's tearoom, that the place is actually very nice. It's one of the tidiest, well-kept places I've ever been to, and it's clear that people actually seem to care about their town centre.

It's also full of old, rich people. The two things may not be unrelated. Old, rich people are good, because they are unlikely to shoot me. However, they are very demanding, don't like change, hate advice, which they see as being told what to do, and require all information in hard copy at least 3 times before committing to anything. But it's a challenge, and it should be interesting working there. Assuming I don't freeze to death on a moped getting there, of course.

So if you are in the local area, I recommend hanging around for an hour or so. But, stay away from Betty's unless you are incredibly wealthy, and don't sing about being on a moor in a state of hatlessness, because I have discovered that they don't find it so amusing.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Electric car? I'd rather walk


Nissan have announce that they are producing the new Leaf electric car at their plant in Sunderland. Excellent news for the economy, and good news for Sunderland. The Leaf is a fully electric, battery powered vehicle that is the world's first mass-produced electric car.
But it's rubbish. And, I will explain why I think this, bearing in mind I've never driven one.

Because, with petrol at £1.16/litre, it would seem to be a good idea. Oil costs a lot to refine, is controlled by a few countries (some of which, lets face it, have dubious political systems), and pollutes everything. I'm sceptical about global warming/climate change being caused by cars, but as a country-dweller I notice my chest getting tighter when I get to work, due in no small part to the fumes in the atmosphere. On top of this, the internal combustion engine is full of mechanical bits that can, and do, go wrong. Electric cars have less moving bits to break, don't produce any pollution (asides from what is used to generate the electricity in the first place), and are quieter than normal cars.

But, the battery-powered car, as it stands, is not the solution. Here's why. The American website for this vehicle provides the facts that will kill this car dead for most people. The site actually lists these as the top three questions - remember it's an American site, but the car is the same.

Q. How much will the Leaf cost:

A. At this point we're unable to give an exact price, but we're targeting in the range of other family sedans.

Q. How far can you drive on a single charge?

A. 100 miles per charge under average, everyday driving conditions.

Q. How long does it take to charge the battery?

A. 4-8 hours on a 220v home charging unit. At quick-charge stations, it will charge to 80% in about 26 minutes.

So there you have it. It'll cost the same as a standard car, but can only do 100 miles and takes 8 hours to charge, unless you are incredibly lucky and find the only garage in the world with a fast-charger, in which case you can do another 80 miles after nearly half an hour charging. And remember, that assumes it's not nighttime - your lights will use the battery quicker. It assumes you aren't sat in a traffic jam. It assumes the roads are flat - uphills will use the battery quicker. It assumes the batteries are new and can hold a full charge, old batteries lose efficiency.

My car has a one litre engine, costs about £35 to fill up, does 350 miles between fill-ups, and if I run out of fuel I can top it back up in about 5 minutes average. So why would I want a car that isn't as good? Answer, I wouldn't.

Sadly, though, people will buy this pile of dung, because they believe that if they don't, the planet will die by next Tuesday. The Government loves it, because they can be seen to be green, without risking fuel-tax income - let's face it, no sane person will buy one, and we'll all be filling up at the current extortionate prices for years to come. In fact, the Government can now increase fuel tax further, because they can use this new car as an excuse; "well you've got a choice now, haven't you." Well no I haven't, because 100 miles a day is on the edge of what I do on a daily basis, and I guarantee that the miles I put in, I will run out of battery power sooner rather than later. The RAC/AA will grow to hate these vehicles, I'm sure.

Annoyingly, there is a sensible alternative. The hydrogen fuel cell. Simply, these are still electric vehicles, but instead of batteries to store power, you fill the car up with hydrogen and pass it through a catalyst, which produces electricity. They still need development, but are far superior than battery cars in every way. Firstly, they have a greater range than batteries, and secondly, they can be refuelled in exactly the same way as your current car. And that's the key. They have the advantages of electric cars, but work in exactly the same way as your current vehicle; you fill it up when it runs out. The only pollutant is water. And you can produce hydrogen from water, using electricity, so there's no excuse for not using renewable sources to do this.

Instead of spending vast money on subsidies for battery car plants, doesn't it make sense to develop this technology? It works, it's nearly ready, but with a big push, fuel cells would revolutionise personal transport within ten years, I'm sure of it. And we could all forget these ridiculous, overpriced, impractical milk floats that companies like Nissan keep trying to push onto us.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

MOT. Again.




I don't want to brag, but the car just sailed through it's MOT again. As it did last year.

That means it's been a year since I started this blog. The MOT entry was one of my first. So, a retrospective. In the last 12 months since I started this blog;

* I'm more skint than ever, money is ridiculously tight.
* I've changed job role, hopefully permanently!
* I've gone up to a 34 waist, and dropped back down to 32 again.
* The winter has been a bleak, never-ending nightmare of time off work, car parked half a mile away, and lots of dragging food up the hill on a sledge. (hence the drop in waist size again!)
* Interest rates have remained exactly the same
* I've used 4 ink cartridges on my HP printer
* I've done 872 miles on the moped, and it still works.

Lots of other stuff happened as well, but I'll be here listing them all day and you already know, because you read it on the blog, or in the news, or saw it on telly.

How has the blog gone? I'm not really sure why I started it now, but I guess I've never kept a diary, and this is a similar sort of thing. I'd read other blogs, enjoyed them, and it made me want to do the same. If anything, I've found the hardest thing is to put aside time to do the blog on a regular basis. On many other occasions I've simply struggled to find a subject. In addition, it's difficult not to appear like I'm just copying other people in terms of style and content.

So if you've been following my ramblings, commented on them, recommended them to others, thanks. I'll probably review what's happened, maybe come up with more of a theme, or just carry on as before. Either way, I promise I'll try and get better at it by this time next year!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Work sucks.

My career hit something of a turning point this week. I recently got transferred to the same town where my wife works, and a new job away from the nightmare that is a call centre I have endured for the last two years. I've done the training (irrelevant, but necessary), started the job, and it's been going OK. Logistically it's great, as we can share a car, no waiting around, no parking issues.

However.

It's reached a stage where I've hit a brick wall, and it has been 'suggested' that I move to a smaller branch that has more time to provide the training I need, and have been asking for. This poses a problem in terms of travelling, defeats the object of moving roles in the first place, but makes sense from a career point of view.

I'm a bit disappointed with this. It appears I can't hack it in a higher-profile role, and have been asked to step back even further - I've taken many steps back in my career path over the past few years, and I'm reluctant to do it again. This is a massive kick in the teeth for my already-lacking confidence. It's also upset Mrs Beetwaste, who thinks I'm putting career first. Indeed, she's been in a sulk all weekend about it, and I can't blame her.

I'm feeling pretty rubbish about work at the minute, even though I've been enjoying the new job. And I'm sure the change will be hugely beneficial. At 37, it's my last chance to have a decent crack of a proper job that will see me through to retirement and will provide progression, because the alternative will be a bottom-ranking job. That's not how I viewed my life when I was 16, and I don't want to compromise again. This move has to work. Trouble is, I don't want to put Mrs B second, which she's clearly feeling like she is.

It doesn't appear I've a huge choice anyway; although it's been presented as though I have one, I suspect it's more a requirement than a suggestion. So we'll see what happens, I guess.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

More south-atlantic sabre-rattling

There's been a lot of chatter about the Falkland islands in the news again. The Argentinians have decided to start making a fuss over their claims to the British-owned islands, and are trying to get the UN involved. It's even led to Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, going on a rant about the Queen, which was amusing.

I guess anyone over the age of 35 will know a bit about the Falklands. Or maybe not. I suspect that most people's knowledge of this remote outpost of Britishness is the 1982 conflict, after the military junta in charge of Argentina at the time decided to try and deflect attention from how badly the country was doing, by invading the Falklands. Sadly, he came up against a British prime minister who was doing badly in the polls and saw a great opportunity to attract some support by sending troops to reclaim the little-known islands.

And it went well, from a UK point of view. Mrs Thatcher won the next election, Argentina got a democratic Government, and the Falklands stayed British, albeit at the cost of 910 British and Argentinian troops. Personally, I reckon it was the right decision, but I still question the motives for doing it.

Because truthfully, there's nothing there. Most of the island is grazed by sheep. The major economy is based around fishing, according to Wrongipedia, and 255 British soldiers seems a high price to pay for protecting wool exports. It's a bit like Norway invading the Shetlands. Would we be so keen to take them back?

And 28 years on, it looks like we've discovered the real reason for the '82 conflict. The excuse Argentina are using to justify kicking up a fuss is regarding test drilling for oil, and indeed, it appears other minerals of value may be buried beneath the peat-bogs and mountains of these remote islands. Clearly, the reason everyone is so keen to claim the islands, is it's potential untapped mineral wealth. When oil is involved, anything is worthwhile, it would seem.

Like I said, though, I reckon we did the right thing in 1982, whatever the dubious motives, for two reasons. Firstly, the Argentine government of 1982 needed a reminder that the way we do business in the world is by democratic means. (Maybe Blair/Bush should take note, but that's a whole different article, I suspect!) More importantly, though, the Islanders themselves have always made it clear where their allegiances are. And that's to the Queen. In which case, we owe them our support, for as long as they want it.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Cheaper than a sarnie



Blimey, it's been ages since my last post on here. I usually work Saturday with a day off mid-week, but I've recently changed job and the training has been Monday to Friday, so I've not had a day to myself to update the blog - Mrs. Beetwaste gets grouchy when I'm on the computer and she's at home. Fair enough, I say.

The other thing about the new job, is it's lack-of canteen. So I have to get my own food, and frankly sandwiches are boring me. As a result, I re-aquainted myself with an old friend. The Pot Noodle.

It's been a while since I had one, but after 4 minutes (with a mid-way stir) I was tucking into a delicious chicken and mushroom flavoured treat. The smell, the taste, the texture, all truly awful, but like a Big Mac, you can't help but love it. Even though you know it's doing you no good whatsoever.

Because it is utter crap. 506 calories. 2.33g of salt, that's 39% of my recommended daily amount. And if anyone can tell me what exactly "Disodium 5'-Ribonucleotides" are, then I congratulate you on your chemistry degree. On the plus side, though, I can report genuine peas, and indeed noodles, in there. On top of this, it's been available to buy in the UK since 1979. Pot noodle's are 31 years old. They've been providing workers, lazy people and single folk in bedsits with filling but nutritionally-lacking snacks for all this time. So they can't all be bad.
In fact, it's so awful, I bought another one. Beef and tomato flavour, this time. Takes no time to prepare, tasted rotten, but I can't get enough of it. Like it says on the pot, it's cheaper than a sarnie. It's far more interesting. And, easier to prepare. On top of that, the king-size pots are on offer in Morrisons for £1.50, so I might have to stock up.