Just a single entry this month, but it’s a long one, as I’ve been very busy at work, my Dad’s got a new Blu-ray player, I’ve bought several DVDs, and there’s much to discuss about the Parliamentary expenses scandal and the Eurovision Song Content. So I hope you enjoy!
Sunday May 17, 2009
So, halfway through May already, and things have actually been rather busy lately, which I hadn’t anticipated! But it means the time flies by, which is a good thing.
At work, I had a couple of particularly manic days, not this week just gone, but the week before. First, a couple of people wanted some important documents printed relating to a tender that was going on. They supplied them on CDs and wanted 11 copies within a day. Fine, you may think, until you realise that the documents have to be combined in the right order for each firm that was involved, and when they are, each comes out at over 3,000 pages each! And they have to be done in colour!
So they were lucky to get one each at the end of the day, but we managed that much. We ran a second one overnight on the Thursday, while the ladies who had supplied the files agreed with their manager that they only needed 3 copies after all, and could have the rest on CDs (my suggestion – I’m glad they took it up!). So that’s what we did. Although, despite running the third copy, it’s been sitting on my desk since Monday morning, and they still haven’t picked it up! I did ring them, and they said they would get it, but they haven’t yet.
We’ve also had pollcards to print for the upcoming European Elections in June, so I’ve had to sort out the data and design for those. Normally there’s only one standard design – but this time, there’s a different design for standard and postal pollcards. The government decided a couple of years ago that anyone who has a postal vote first has to get a pollcard, telling them that they’re going to have a postal vote. So it complicates matters a bit, but we did it.
An easier task proved to be P60s, which we printed this week. It took Payroll a little while to get the final data to us after our initial tests, but hopefully it’s all ok.
Meanwhile, I also had my Job Evaluation Informal Support meeting. Nothing radical, and the woman admitted that they were ignorant about what we did. But she seemed nice enough, and we agreed on some key areas that I could try and get a fairer score for – and the events I’ve just told you about above were ones that she pounced on as ideal examples of what I have to do.
The trouble with it all is that you really have to spell it out for them, step by step, so they understand it. Which means it can get very long, to the point where they won’t read it anyway. But the appeal form does allow you to give detailed examples, as opposed to the wordy original questionnaire with all its text boxes. So I’m not expecting anything to come of it, but there’s no harm in trying. Some of the scores are clearly rubbish – like resources, where apparently all of our equipment is part of the building, so we don’t really look after it personally – but it doesn’t look like we can do much about those. My targets right now are things like knowledge & skills, of which we do need more than the JE team might appreciate. We’ll see what happens.
On a lighter note, I’ve done a bit of testing for the council website, as a few of us who use accessibility software (magnification in my case) were asked to do so. It involved working through 5 scenarios, to see how easily I could find certain things (planning, community safety, paying council tax online, stuff like that), and then giving feedback on it (how easy were things like the A-Z and search engine to use, what did I think of the overall site design, etc). The general site layout is good, but I was disappointed with the search engine. It was either unresponsive or slow, or when it did work, it often returned results that were somewhat irrelevant, particularly lots of PDFs and Word files. Otherwise, the site wasn’t too bad, and the A-Z was very good as far as I could see.
And there have been other little jobs such as project updates, some issues with emails not going out and a few personalised wedding invitations mixed in with all the above. And I got the certificate for my ECDL Advanced Word qualification too recently. Not as important as any of the above, mind you. Powerpoint will be the next one – may as well go for them all, as easy as they are.
So that’s work – told you it’s been busy! And that’s fine. One of my colleagues is off this coming week, so I’ll be covering for him then. Hopefully there’ll be no major emergencies.
As for home, that’s been much more relaxed. I’ve got two more £25 Premium Bond cheques coming my way this month for a start. Plus I’ve got my photos back from Spain, which came out pretty well, I’m happy to say. We also found out that our builder and his wife have moved, but we’ve got their new address and phone number now after emailing them (as we didn’t get the details they sent out at the time).
And my best mate’s been down to Exeter this past week to have another bit of laser surgery on his eye, to make the hole a tiny bit bigger, but we don’t know if it’s had any effect yet. As I’ve said before, they have to be careful. I didn’t meet him on this occasion, but he did ring me. And he will be down again before too long for another check-up anyway.
Perhaps the most interesting news though is that Dad’s now got himself a new Blu-Ray player. Mum and Dad didn’t need their old recorder, as we don’t watch VHS tapes any more, so he decided to change it. Seems to work pretty well too, with good quality picture and sound, and he’s got a few horror films on Blu-Ray already. I’ve just ordered Queen Rocks Montreal on Blu-Ray too, so I’m very much looking forward to see how that comes out. Dad hasn’t got a surround sound system, but even so, the reviews I’ve seen of that version are very good indeed – and the DVD version alone is very good quality! We’ve also looked at my photos from Spain using that player, and they came up very clearly on the TV screen for Mum and Dad to see.
As for me and my viewing, I’ve got the Christmas Special of Men Behaving Badly (Jingle Balls), The Best Of Frost On Sunday, The Bill: Volume 3, The Best Of Def Leppard, The Who: Live At Kilburn , The Who: Maximum R&B Live, The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over and The Eagles Farewell I Tour to get through, as well as working my way through the latest two Bond films (Casino Royale and, when I watch it soon, Quantum Of Solace, but I’m still working my way through the extras for the former at the moment).
TV itself recently hasn’t been too fascinating. But we did have Eurovision last night, which was intriguing for a few reasons. First, we actually worked hard on a pretty credible entry – Jade Ewen sang It’s My Time, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who played piano with her on the night.
Second, in an attempt to remove bloc voting (where countries vote for their neighbours, not the music), the voting system changed, to add juries of music professionals (they count 50/50 with the phone votes). And thirdly, we had Graham Norton doing the commentary instead of Terry Wogan.
And it worked out alright. Graham did a good, and often funny, job of commentating on what was more of an actual ‘contest’ this year, as the voting did seem more interesting and less predictable. Granted, many of the songs weren’t particularly great, as usual, but it was an interesting spectacle. How could it not be – Russia treated it as the Olympics of Eurovision, spending millions of Euros transforming a massive stadium for the event, with the stage consisting of hundreds of LED screens, and big polythene pools of water with acrobats swimming inside being lowered from the roof during the interval, low enough for people to touch them.
Jade did well for us too. You could tell she was nervous, but her performance was great nonetheless. And, compared to our positions at the bottom of the table in previous years, we had our best score since 2002, leaving us in a very commendable fifth place at the end. No country came away with the dreaded “nul points” either. But the far and away winners were Norway, with their Fairytale song, and they got the biggest Eurovision score ever (387, compared to the record previously held by Finland in 2006 with 292).
So the UK have plenty to be proud of, and even if it is just a bit of fun at the end of the day, it’d be nice to see us continue to take it seriously to show Europe what we are capable of delivering.
It certainly made a cheerful distraction from the news. The Daily Telegraph must be having the time of their lives right now, raking in the money from all the issues they’ve been selling. A mole in the government has given them details of all the expenses claims made by MPs, and it’s had a seriously major impact. As if all the government parties weren’t mistrusted enough, this has really hit them hard. Expenses should, in the nation’s eyes, and quite rightly, be given out for those things that are essential to the job. They should not be given out for things like plasma TVs, lawnmowers, trouser presses, grocery shopping, carrier bags, moat repairs (yes, seriously!) and so many other stupid things that should be paid for out of your standard salary. There have also been countless details of MPs ‘flipping’ their second homes to different properties to keep claiming allowances on things.
It’s clear that most of them have been abusing the rules to their own ends. Which is clearly possible and tempting, but it’s amazing that they don’t have any common sense or respect for the taxpayer, considering it’s our money. And what makes it all the more galling for the public is the MPs are insisting they’ve done nothing wrong. The standard excuse has been “we were only following the rules” and “the rules are wrong and need to be changed or abolished” – and this has been said by people who were gaining from those rules! A few MPs have now resigned or been suspended, a number have paid money back, and even the Speaker in the House of Commons is under fire for being out of touch over the issue, as he had a go at one of the few MPs who had actually been honest throughout this, and hadn’t claimed anything he shouldn’t have!
Suffice to say, it seems very likely that Labour won’t win the next election now, as if they weren’t struggling before, and that the Tories will get in, although you can’t necessarily trust them either. But David Cameron seems to have mostly kept within the rules, and has been clamping down on the expenses claimed by his own party, bringing it right down to just the essentials. Gordon Brown’s starting to do similar, but only afterwards – funny that. It’s a complete shambles at the end of the day, and there will still be more to come in the weeks ahead. It’s far from over.
And regarding the swine flu pandemic, that is still rumbling away in the background, but hasn’t been prominent in the news for a little while. There are more cases springing up here and there, including in the UK, but it’s not the panic it was. Doesn’t mean it will never be, as it could hit harder in the winter, and the government are stocking up on vaccines for it. But so far, so good. People are seeing past the hype the media had whipped up over it, I think.
And that’s about it, I can’t think of anything else at the moment. It’s quite an epic entry though, as there has been a lot going on lately! Hopefully things will calm down a little bit now. I personally see no reason why things should stay particularly hectic, but who can tell?