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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Movember 

It's nearly ended but I think it's really nice to see that so many men have taken part in Movember, the charity moustache grow-a-thon for November. I have been incredibly impressed.

I have always liked moustaches anyway and had one myself some time ago. Technically, I still have one although it is part of my beard. It has been a shock over the past week or two as the new moustaches fill out and become more visible on the streets and in the gym. I keep having to make myself not stare. There is nothing worse, when you have grown new facial hair, than to have someone staring at it, especially some old queen like me.

All the lovely moustaches I've seen over recent weeks makes me wish I had taken part but I only found out about it some time after it started. Besides, for reasons of complete vanity, I would be loathe to remove my beard at the moment as I have only just got it looking halfway decent.

I hope, and I know this will not happen, that those men out there that have grown moustaches for charity will keep them. It'd be great to have furry upper lips in the world once more!

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reunion 2008 

Every year for the last few years I have been invited to the Moody's Alumni Reception. I used to work for Moody's over seven years ago. I've changed a lot since then and so has the company. I'm not even sure they are called Moody's any more.

I don't always go to these receptions. Most of the people who normally go are from other offices and departments and have built their careers around finance and risk ratings. I have as much in common with them as a dog has with a reindeer. However, on the price of listening to a speech, I sometimes go along for the free food and a present.

Last year, I ended up going on my own and, although I spoke to some people I knew vaguely and one or two complete strangers in the same position as myself, I felt very out of place.

I didn't want to do that again.

This year, a friend and ex-colleague, Claire and I decided to go together. We had  the idea that we would at least be able to talk to each other. When we got there, however, two other former colleagues turned up. One who still works there and another who left earlier this year.

So, with pleasant company, an exceedingly short speech and surprisingly good food, it turned out to be a nice evening. I might even go again next year.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Irritating features of Microsoft Word #1 

Well, OK, this might not irritate everyone but it bugs me ... why is the default in Word have rows in tables break over pages? Have you ever noticed this?

You have a table in a Word document and have reached the bottom of the page. The row of the table allows you to type one line and then you are taken to the next page where you type five more lines. The result is that you have one line in the row at the bottom of the page and five on the next. You really want six together.

You can make it happen by clicking on Table > Properties and unchecking allow row to break over pages.

Why should that be the default? I want the complete opposite to be the default.I want my rows to appear together most of the time unless they are very big.

I want to be able to change the default so that Word doesn't break rows over pages but this does not appear to be possible.

Does anyone out there know how to do this?

No smart answers about Macs or using real word processors please. I have no choice about what I use at work.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

New taste sensations 

For a change I have been making my own sandwiches instead of forking out jolly good money on shop-bought ones and have been experimenting with new and interesting fillings.

Today I had chicken liver paté on homemade bread with coleslaw and pine nut kernels. The experimental part was the pine nuts which added an interesting texture. The experience was a tad messy however as I used the crust from the loaf and that made the sandwich hard to bite without squishing pate and coleslaw all over my desk.

The highlight of last week's experimentation was corned beef with sliced leftover new potatoes and coleslaw on homemade wholemeal bread. Very tasty and not all that messy.

I also tried Mexican bean paté on wholemeal with spicy guacamole. Nice but a bit hot and rather rumbly later in the afternoon.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Lights! 

I had to change a headlight bulb on my car for the first time at the weekend. I came very close to popping back into Halfords and asking them to fit it for me. OK, so I had picked up the wrong bulb (which was THEIR fault – their in-store guide pointed me to a completely different bulb) and it was a dirty place (it’s an engine, for goodness sake!) and there wasn’t much room and I couldn’t see how the bulb was fixed to the wires but it would have been a bit girly to go back in sobbing and saying that I couldn’t do it.

I do wish I had acquired more of my Dad’s ability with butch manly things like this although I think even he would have had trouble fitting that bulb and getting the right one from Halfords.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Instance 

When I am documenting my software at work, I must use the word "instance" a hundred times a day. I'm not complaining about that. It is the correct word and the use of an alternative word in this context wouldn't be appropriate.

You'd think, though, that I'd be able to type it properly by now. I want to type the word i - n - s - t - a - n - c - e but my fingers have other ideas:

instnace ... ionstance ... intance ... isntnace

I might give up and have Word auto-correct all of these variations.

Then I am sure I will find other ways to mistype the word.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The loony and the sandwich sucker 

I really have to not get the early train. It's filled with really odd people.

This morning I was sitting opposite a woman who appeared to be eating a toasted sandwich (odd in itself on a commuter train) by sucking it. Or perhaps she was trying to eat it genteelly or was avoiding that awkward thing where the bit of bacon you want to eat stays attached to the rest of the bacon in the sandwich. Either way she would have been better off getting up earlier and eating it at home.

The loony got on at Grove Park. Why is it always there?

He probably wasn't really a loony but I am always a bit wary of people who carry on talking when no-one is listening. Anyway, he insisted on passing through a group of people standing at the wide part of the aisle to walk up and stand in the aisle next to my seat. Again I was sitting on the end.

Instead of standing sideways, he faced the back of the train so that every time the train jostled one way or the other his bottom either knocked my shoulder or the shoulder of the guy across the aisle.

I hate that.

At least he wasn't facing forward. I have been attempting to write again and really hate it if someone is reading over my shoulder.

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Oyster, darling? 

I just renewed my Oyster card online. Scary business. It's for an annual Travelcard for zones 1 to 6 and is the most I have ever spent online.

£1784!

I bought it with my M&S &more card so I should get plenty of vouchers next month.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

0704! 

My brother has been admitted to hospital again. He was last in just under three years ago when he was found to have an infection of some sort in his liver. The same thing has happened again although it is a lot less severe this time and it was caught a lot earlier. Also he is in a hospital near his home rather than near his daughter's home which is where he was last time.

However, as he is not allowed to use his mobile phone on the ward, he has been provided with a bedside phone so that he can call home and concerned relatives can give him a call to make sure he is OK.

These bedside phones are a great idea in theory. They let distressed relatives who are perhaps not able to visit to call and speak to the patients. People who are in a far worse state than my brother could possibly rely on these things to keep in contact with their loved ones.

It seems rather cynical and callous therefore to give these phones expensive premium rate 0704 numbers AND have a nice recorded message running for a full minute telling you about the line and how much it is going to cost you before you actually get through to the phone you are dialling.

I spoke to my brother for 10 minutes. I was shocked to realise that my phone call cost over five pounds! A ten minute call to another line would in many cases be free or a matter of pennies.

This is disgraceful and is as bad as charging for parking.

Hospitals seem to be taking advantage of the need of people who want to see and talk to their friends and relatives who are ill. Not all hospitals are easy to get to by public transport  or on foot and most hospitals conveniently ban mobile phones.

What will be next I wonder? Perhaps we will have to pay a fee to get through the door.

"Sorry sir, I realise your wife's just had a baby but you will have to pay £5 if you want to visit her. Rules are rules."

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Right or wrong? 

This morning I managed to catch the early train early enough to make my way down to the front half, pick a carriage at random and choose a seat. I had a block of six to myself. I always choose a seat on the end; I hate sitting next to the heater and I hate being at the mercy of people who don't think about getting up at Charing Cross until the train has come to a complete stop.

After a while the train left Orpington and the block of six began to fill up. The last place taken by a man getting on at Elmstead Woods. At Grove Park a woman and a small boy got on and walked past my seat to stand at the end of the carriage.

Had I been able to make eye contact with the woman I would have offered my seat but I couldn't and gave up on the idea. The woman across the aisle from me got the boy's attention and offered him her seat. I couldn't do that. It would be a no-no for a man.

While I was going through an internal dialogue wondering if I should offer my seat to the woman so that she could sit opposite her son, it turned out that the man sitting next to me knew the woman and they struck up a conversation. It also turned out that he fancied her as he rather rudely splayed his legs like he was an oven-ready chicken.

Logically it would have made sense for me to give up my seat but the legs and the way the man leant across me to chat to the boy made me stubborn. I didn't want to do anything to help him.

The woman was able to keep her eye on the son at all times from where she was standing (in fact better than if she was sitting in my seat and chatting with the man) and she was not pregnant. Had she been I would have offered the seat.

I felt very uncomfortable, however. Actually I think I was made to feel uncomfortable.

Should I have offered my seat?

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Plastic girl 

I got the tube this morning. Something I don't normally do but it was either that or get wet. I hate the tube. It's always crowded, hot and too full of people that have left their brains at home.

As soon as I got on this particular tube a girl caught my eye. An odd thing for a gay man to admit but then she had taken particular care with her appearance.

Unfortunately, she had spent w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too long on her make up and looked a little like a cross between a very young Pat Evans and Max Headroom.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Joe 90 

This was one of the programs I used to watch avidly as a child. It took second place to Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet but I loved the funky music and the idea that  nine-year-old boy could be a secret agent.

I also loved Joe's father's flying car, a neat little thing that, in tradition of all Derek Meddings's models, drove along the road and then gradually slid out some wings, lifted its wheels and took to the skies.

I saw the boxed set going cheap the other day, picked it up and watched the first episode the other day.

It was obviously a product of another age.

Firstly, we have a father USING HIS OWN SON as a test subject in a mind altering experiment.

Secondly he is downloading his own memories into the boy. Swift bit of sex education there.

Thirdly, Joe becomes a secret agent for WIN and is given a pair of special glasses to retain the memories he's been given, a badge and a special child sized gun. A gun! For a 9-year-old. Imagine that!

Lastly, in Joe's first adventure he takes to the skies in a stolen Soviet plane (he stole it), shoots down several other pilots and bombs an airbase. Such a role-model!

I can't really imagine this getting past the censors these days, can you?

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Virgin Media ... did a good job 

You know, I can't believe I wrote that. I will worry that I have jinxed myself.

I called them last week to get my broadband speed increased. I had the luck of getting through to someone who not only understood basic English but actually seemed competent and very keen to give me the best deal on my broadband and on my telephone lines.

A fly in the ointment appeared just before what we both thought was the end of the call when I asked a simple question about whether I needed to reboot my set-top box on the day the new service was due to start and then we realised I needed to have a cable modem installed.

Bum! I needed an engineer. (It turned out I didn't but more of that in a moment!)

So we arranged an appointment for an engineer to come to my house on the 30th and I arranged to work from home but with trepidation in my heart remembering all the problems I had earlier in the year getting my phone lines fixed.

The 30th arrived and I stayed home. I normally don't like working from home as I get distracted easily but this time I was actually quite productive, getting lots of work done AND odd little five minute jobs (several loads of washing and replacing a blind).

The engineer turned up early, just as I'd stopped to make myself a sandwich for lunch so that was well timed. I recognised him from one of his previous visits as one of the few Virgin Media people who do a good job and I was pleased to see he hadn't changed.

He fitted the modem, a job I could have easily done myself, and then called to get it registered. Here he ran into problems, getting hold of the usual call-centre monkeys who give me such a bad time normally.

Here I was glad that I hadn't been given the option of doing this myself. Having an insider calling the right people at Virgin Media was a godsend and saved me a lot of frustration and hair-pulling.

So, here I am with faster broadband and a slightly better opinion of Virgin Media.

I still wouldn't recommend them to anyone though or take them with me when I move house.

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