Time for another batch of entries from my journal. It’s been a fairly quiet summer month, but I did spend a nice weekend with a friend, acquired a new CCTV to help me read things at work, bought some more DVDs and celebrated my birthday, plus there are various news stories that caught my attention. So I hope you enjoy!
Friday August 4, 2006
Bit of a frustrating week in many respects. At work, the new payroll system can’t go live next Monday as we’d hoped because of some technical issues. And my taxi journeys have also been varied, as the traffic has been pretty bad all week because of all the tourists. On Monday it was raining as well (didn’t last long, it’s been nice and sunny again since Wednesday), and the slow traffic meant I got home after 5:30pm, instead of about 5pm like I usually do. But it would have been much worse if I was stuck on a bus all that time. And last night I got picked up 25 minutes late because a couple of accidents had blocked roads, slowing all the taxis down until they could get past them.
Still, there’s only a couple more weeks, and then I’ve booked myself off for a fortnight. I’ve also got my friend’s housewarming this Sunday, which should be good if there are plenty of people I haven’t seen for ages. And a colleague at work has invited us all to her wedding reception in September, which I’ve accepted.
Also on a positive note, a guy called Chris from Humanware is coming in to demonstrate a CCTV next Tuesday. My section manager has also suggested that I look for magnifiers that allow me to see the actual dots making up images on pages, so he’ll be able to better show me how images are made up. And we did find one, which our department manager has said we can get. They’re called loupe magnifiers. They’re quite small, but are designed to look closely at 35mm slides and to see the dots in images. The one we’ve found is only £79, which should be ok to add to the Access To Work list. So things are moving along again on that front.
Not much to report other than that. I got my DVDs from Amazon (Goodnight Sweetheart: Series 5, 24: Season 3 & The Who: The Vegas Job), Mum got her Rebecca audiobook CDs, and I’m still buying music from iTunes.
So, on to a few bits of news, other than the Middle East crisis, which seems as if it will never stop dominating the headlines (with good reason, but it is a bit boring):
- Last Sunday, the film stage for the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, was destroyed by fire at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. Thankfully filming has already finished, as the film is due for release later this year. There are people who seem obsessively against Daniel Craig being the new Bond too. There’s even a website called Craig Not Bond. One reason for the dissent seems to be that he’s blonde, which is a silly reason, and another is because they are worried about a reboot of the series undermining the success of all the previous films. I think they’re way over the top, and he deserves a fair chance.
- A 36-year-old woman subjected to “mean and spiteful behaviour” in her job in the City of London has been awarded £800,000 in damages. Apparently there were 4 adult women who called her names and, even more childishly, blew raspberries at her! I don’t know if they were sacked, but they should be if they behave like that.
- A council is telling people to sit down in pubs, because standing at the bar (or vertical drinking as they call it) apparently makes you more likely to be rowdy and get into fights. So they’re calling for more seating to be available. Although I’m sure pubs like people standing at the bar, because they fit more people in that way.
[2021 Note: Yeah, it would be nice if everyone could sit down in pubs, so it’s easier to order drinks and navigate around. Can’t imagine there will ever be a reason for everyone to do that though… oh, wait…]
Friday August 11, 2006
Chris from Humanware demonstrated a CCTV to me at work on Tuesday, and it’s a brilliant machine. It does all the normal stuff, plus you can get a very large print clock or calculator superimposed on the screen, and it’ll even show you where you are on the page using a red light, which you match with a red square on the screen. Trouble is, the split-screen view on the PC wouldn’t kick in, so he’s taken the machine away to look at it, and will hopefully get back to me soon. So that’s a slight annoyance. We still haven’t got the new payroll system sorted yet either, as we’re waiting for things we need to complete the work. And to add to the frustrations, my taxi was unexpectedly cancelled on Monday night, I don’t know why. After 15 minutes waiting, I rang up and they had to send another, which thankfully came within 10 minutes.
Still, on a happier note, we also got 4 numbers on the lottery in work last week, netting £33. Ok, it’s not much between us, but we’re having 2 free weeks of tickets out of it. Plus we won £10 twice in the 2 weeks before that (one tenner brought the tickets which gave us the 4 winning numbers), so that’s going into more tickets as well. So perhaps our luck is in!
And at home, it’s Mum’s birthday this week. She’s already got her Rebecca audiobook CDs, and there are flowers coming too. We’ve also ordered, and received, a few bits from Argos, including new boxer shorts for me that feel better than the ones I had before. We’ve also got a third digital radio, so now we can use one in 3 different rooms, depending on where we want to listen. Talking of radio, the BBC’s online 7-day ‘listen again’ service has proved useful, as Mum likes listening to Dixon of Dock Green, but she forgets to listen to it on Wednesdays. And I can still use the PC at the same time, so it works out well (it has to be played from the PC, but Mum uses cordless headphones so she can still be downstairs).
As for the news this week, there’s only been one story since yesterday, showing how good our intelligence services are. They’ve foiled a plot to blow up airplanes between the UK and US. The terrorists were going to take explosives on board, possibly in liquid form, and detonate it as the planes were coming in to land over cities. Had they succeeded, it would have caused massive loss of life. Raids and arrests took place on Wednesday night, so it was breaking news on Thursday.
As a result, the security alert in the UK has been raised to Critical. They don’t think the attack was to take place this week, but it was probably at a very close stage, or they wouldn’t have made the 24 arrests that they have done so far. The intelligence operation has been going on for months. And even though they think they’ve foiled the plot, they’re keeping security high in case they’ve missed something, such as a sub-plot or backup plan – no intelligence is perfect.
Naturally, it’s caused chaos at the airports, as the security checks have been stepped up to an extremely high level. Absolutely everything has to be checked in, including stuff which would normally be hand luggage, and passengers are searched carefully, with all the latest technology the airports have. Only the most essential items can be taken on board planes. This includes stuff for babies, such as nappies and baby milk. But if you take baby milk on, you personally have to taste it in front of the security people, to prove it’s safe, because of the worries about liquids being taken on board which could make the explosives. But it is all necessary, and the security services and governments seem to be handling it all pretty well. Holidaymakers are being disrupted, but at least they can be pretty damn sure they’re safe.
So that’s been the main news story for the past couple of days. The Middle East crisis is still rumbling away too. But Series 3 of Doctor Who series has started filming, and tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC that really started the computer revolution, so it’s not all bad news. And that’s about all for this week, and it’s been another frustrating one. But at least I’ll be on holiday soon, so we can all relax then for a little while.
Friday August 18, 2006
I’m on holiday for 2 weeks now. The last week at work has been fairly busy, still trying to sort out the payroll stuff. I also got the CCTV from Humanware to try out, and we will buy it. It wasn’t hard to plug it in together, the split screen works great, and there’s even a footpad which allows you to do it, which is very handy. And I got the cream cakes in for my colleagues today (or salads that a few wanted instead) in advance of my birthday.
Then this evening I went to A’s place in Exeter, where I’m staying for the weekend, and we went to a curry and music night at The Globe. The music was provided by a female singer and a backing band. Nothing particularly upbeat or exciting, but nice background music. I had the beef curry, which was about medium strength. We also met B, a friend of A’s who works with her. He’s pretty cool and outgoing. The 3 of us had a good few drinks and a good laugh.
We actually ended up staying in the pub until just after 2am, a sort of lock-in if you like. Because they have an events license, they can stay open a bit longer on an event day, and it was raising money for a children’s hospice, which is a good idea. I didn’t get drunk of course, but B was pretty drunk by the end of it – not in a bad way, thankfully, he was just talking rubbish. There was some chat about the other local pubs too. The Clifton is just down the road, and isn’t too bad apparently. But there’s also The Golden Lion, which is very rough, so is best avoided.
There was also a raffle, for which me and A got each got 2 strips for £1 each. I didn’t win anything, but A got a t-shirt and a phone. And the phone is pretty good. It’s a landline phone, and has an LCD screen with pretty large text on it. The keys are also like a touch screen, and the print on them is fairly large and clear. It shows the date and caller ID, plus has a calculator and hands-free functionality. So for £2 at a raffle, that’s not bad!
Saturday August 19, 2006
Today we went out for lunch at The Walkabout, an Australian pub in the town. We went for beer-battered fish and chips, which was very nice, while watching the Sheffield v Liverpool football match on the big TV (the Premiership season started this weekend, a couple of weeks after the other leagues had been underway). And when we came out and were walking into town, we got caught in a deluge of rain! Not the first of the week – there have been one or two storms during the week, and it got really dark during one of them when I was at work this week. So we got pretty wet, having gambled not to wear our coats, as it didn’t look too bad when we left!
In the evening we went to see the band who were at The Globe. But they were crap, to be honest. They were a rock covers band, although I only recognised 2 songs, and they weren’t done particularly well. The drummer and guitarists were ok, but nothing special. And you couldn’t hear the singer most of the time, thanks to the rubbish sound system they were using. Either that or he didn’t turn the mike on, or was drowned out by the guitars and drums. The only reason they were playing was because the band who should have been there dropped out (they’ve lost their drummer and guitarist for different reasons), and recommended this other lot. I doubt they’ll be coming back.
So we came back fairly quickly. A stuck on a Catherine Tate DVD and we just lazed around watching that. I don’t mind seeing Tate now and again, but I wouldn’t want to buy it for myself. It’s funny in parts, but it does get a bit too repetitive. So after a few episodes of that we went to bed.
Sunday August 20, 2006
Today A and I went to George’s Meeting House (seems to be tradition whenever I visit her now) and had a roast beef dinner each. You get beef (or chicken or a veggie roast) plus roast potatoes, creamy mashed potato, 2 Yorkshire puddings, 2 stuffing balls, seasonal veg and gravy, all for £6.99. And for an extra £2 you get a pudding, which we did – we both had treacle sponge. It was all very nice, and very filling.
We had a walk round town after that, popping into HMV at one point, where I got DVD’s of 24: Season 4 and The Who & Special Guests At The Royal Albert Hall. Then I came home this evening, after walking an Australian couple to Exeter St Davids station. They’ve been over here since June, as part of a round the world trip, so it was nice to chat to them.
As for home, there isn’t much to report. A distant relative of Dad’s, who sent me cards for my birthday and Christmas, died this week aged 81. We never knew him really, and Dad wasn’t close to him, so we’re not going to the funeral. We wouldn’t know any of his relations anyway. And the holly tree in next door’s front garden has finally been cut down, after they got someone they knew to sort it out. It lets a lot more light into our front room now, and it means the lady next door can paint the front of her house, plus it was tapping on their window! It didn’t need to be there, so it’s good that someone’s got rid of it at last.
That’s all of my news. So on to other people’s news this week, and there’s quite a few stories I’ve picked up on:
- Following the airplane explosion plot that was foiled, security at airports is still tight, but the threat level has been downgraded from Critical to Severe. Police are questioning a number of suspects, and searching houses and woodland. Back to the airports though, and a 12-year-old boy managed to get on a plane, on his own, without a boarding pass, passport, etc. He was spotted before the plane left, and wasn’t any threat, but somebody should have spotted earlier. The boy had run away from a care home, incidentally, that’s why he was alone.
- The problem of airport security was further exacerbated when passengers on a Malaga to Manchester flight took passenger profiling into their own hands. 2 men of Asian appearance were spotted wearing heavy clothing in the hot weather, talking apparently in Arabic, and constantly checking their watches. One or two passengers got suspicious, and you can imagine the Chinese Whispers style of conversation that went around the plane. Some passengers then got off, causing others to follow. They refused to fly until the men were removed. They were, and the plane did get away, but the men were found to be completely innocent. This is where it’s dangerous for people to make their own judgements, and it’s the sort of panic the terrorists want to create, so we need to be careful.
- A-Level results came out this week – the numbers passing and those getting A grades has gone up again. Maths has seen an increase in people taking it, while physics and the sciences are facing a drop at the moment. Of course, there are the usual critics who say exams are easier, but they should just be ignored. But it is true to say that employers need to know more to distinguish between people getting top grades – universities in future will now see a breakdown of all the module results for a student’s A-Levels, as well as the overall result.
- The last test in the series of England v Pakistan was thrown into chaos on Sunday. The umpires apparently found that Pakistan had tampered with the ball, and gave England 5 penalty runs (by the umpire tapping his hand on his shoulder, a rare sight in cricket). Fine, so you’d think Pakistan would appeal after the Test was over. But no, after the tea break in the evening, they refused to come out again, staging a kind of sit-in protest over the allegations. Some time later, the umpires came out and removed the bales off the tops of the stumps, signalling the end of the game. But then, 45 minutes after starting their protest, the Pakistanis came out again, seemingly ready to play on. But this time it was the umpires who couldn’t be bothered, to add to the confusion! In the end, England were awarded the series (which we’d really won anyway, but we had been losing that particular test). So it was all a bit chaotic, and today’s play is not going ahead. It’s the first time in 129 years and thousands of games that a match has been forfeited, which is a shame.
- Some people have invented a mobile phone that screams if it’s stolen. The owner phones the administrator who immediately locks the phone – it then screams continuously, only allowing you to make emergency calls, and not allowing the criminal to turn it off. Of course, they can take the battery out – but when they put a new battery in the phone, it’ll remember it was stolen, and start screaming again. Somebody will find a way round it I expect, but it’s a cool idea. The criminals don’t know they’ve got a screaming phone until it starts howling at them!
- NASA have mislaid the original recording of man’s first walk on the moon in their archives somewhere. The pictures everyone saw on the news were from a TV camera pointing at a large screen at NASA. If they can find the tape, it may help to stop the conspiracy theories about it all being faked.
- And finally, Plymouth have held the 10th British Fireworks Championships this week. To celebrate, it finished with a world-record attempt by a Plymouth University professor – 55,000 rockets released all at once (well, within 5 seconds). And it looks like it worked, as they only counted 4 afterwards as not firing. It’ll take about a week for Guinness World Records to analyse the footage and reach a decision. I’ve seen the footage on the BBC website, and it looked spectacular, and it was very loud!
Friday August 25, 2006
Can’t say it feels any different, but then it never does. This week has been pretty quiet as I’ve not been at work. My section manager has rung up a couple of times though to ask for my help over the phone, as another colleague is also away, but not to actually get me to go in.
As far as presents go, I got 2 shirts and 3 t-shirts from my aunt and uncle, while Nan sent a £50 cheque. Mum and Dad are giving me money for Premium Bonds. I’ll put Nan’s cheque towards the latest James Bond box set – all 20 films to date, each being a 2-disc Ultimate Edition with tons of extras. That’ll keep me going for a long time. Talking of DVDs, I’ve been loving the 4th season of 24. I always wonder if, according to the reviews, it’ll live up to previous efforts, and it always seems to. Season 5 is out next month. I’ve also ordered the next series of You Rang, M’Lord? (Series 4), One Foot In The Grave (Series 5) and Are You Being Served? (Series 6) on DVD.
Also celebrating a birthday today:
- Sean Connery – 76 (born 1930, arguably the best James Bond)
- Frederick Forsyth – 68 (born 1938, author of Day Of The Jackal)
- Gene Simmons – 57 (born 1949, founder member of Kiss)
- Willy DeVille – 56 (born 1950, member of Mink DeVille)
- Rob Halford – 55 (born 1951, member of Judas Priest)
- Elvis Costello – 52 (born 1954, big hit was Oliver’s Army)
- Tim Burton – 48 (born 1958, directed Batman and Beetlejuice)
- Billy Ray Cyrus – 45 (born 1961, big hit was Achy Breaky Heart)
- Candida Doyle – 43 (born 1963, member of Pulp)
- Claudia Schiffer – 36 (born 1970, model)
And that’s it for today. It’s nearly a year since my interview for the council job, and I’m still doing it. It’ll be interesting to see what the next year brings.