March 02, 2009

Fictionalised Movies I Will Never See


I started commenting on Cowfish's blog post about this, but it turned into a bit of a rant, so I extracted it to put here. He doesn't deserve my righteous anger against all things 'factual'.

He feels he has wasted his weekend watching bad films, and so is redeeming himself with a double-bill of "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk".

The problem I have with this is that I have issues with films based on real events - fictionalised. I will not willingly watch either of those films, I will actively avoid them in fact, and hope I never, ever see them.

Sure, they may be great dramas, they may have astonishing Oscar winning acting. But when I watch a film, my top reason for doing it is entertainment. Milk and Frost/Nixon are not primarily entertainment, they are documentaries that have been jazzed up a bit. So anyone watching is expecting to learn something about the people in the film, and are hoping it's an entertaining ride for a couple of hours. This is a Bad Thing. I saw David Frost on TV the other day talking about the play the film is based on, and on how he had pointed out to the writer at the time inaccuracies. He had been convinced by the writer that it was necessary to add some things to make it a more interesting story. (they completely downplay Frost's interviewing experience at the time, to make it look like he was more of an underdog than he really was). You might not think this very important, as long as they get the main points correct. Maybe you are right, but how do you know they got the main points right? How do you know they didn't embellish a few more things here and there to make a more exciting story?

If I want to learn about Frost/Nixon, and I think I would actually, I'd much prefer to watch a documentary made by serious broadcasters who attempted to tell the truth as far as they could find it. I don't want my memories polluted by half truths and fabrications in the name of entertainment. I've no real idea who "Harvey Milk" was, but if I want to find out, I'll try Wikipedia.

Films I have avoided due to dubious fictionalised historical aspects:

Pearl Harbour
that one about Tina Turner, and the one about Johnny Cash
the one about Larry Flint

err, anything really with a real person's name in the title, including all the recent Elizabeth ones.

I used to be capable sometimes of turning off this switch in my head and enjoying a biopic movie - Amadeus and Schindler's List come to mind - but I didn't take either completely seriously, and mostly enjoyed the former for the wonderful soundtrack. and sometime after Schindler's List I realised that I actually felt bad about having watched something purporting to be true, but with quite probably huge amounts of fiction in (all the dialogue for example is almost certain to be invented in these kinds of films). So much so, that I was forced to go and do some backgound reading to make sure I hadn't been mislead completely. So, why not just do the reading if you are interested.

"Let me entertain you" is what I want to hear from a film maker, not "Let me educate you with a half true story about a person's life that hightlights some issues I want you to be aware of".
Life is too short to watch things you don't trust - at least with Barb Wire, you know what you're getting isn't real :-)

Posted by se71 at 01:12 PM | Comments (3)

May 16, 2008

Leaving London

I've been lucky with recent jobs. I'm a contractor, and I've held onto them for longer than most, and worked in London, which I really like.

But my current employer are pulling the plug geographically, and from July/August, they'll be expecting me to turn up in Stockley Park instead.

Stockley is in the middle of nowhere. OK, it's quite close to Heathrow, but that doesn't mean it's transport links are any good. I'll have to get two trains and a bus I think, unless I can still replace some of the journey with the Brompton. But reducing it to one train, which I currently have, means increasing the first leg of my morning ride to nearly 4.5 miles to Slough train station.

I may have to get a car, or resurrect my old Mazda. I'd like to cycle the whole way, but 13 miles every day, especially in winter, is stretching it. I'll do a test ride soon, but I'm not confident it's desirable.

Probably, I'll need to do some kind of combination, doing different things some days, but I'm not happy, it is not going to be as convenient, and I'll miss London.

Maybe I'll look for another job instead.

Posted by se71 at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008


DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. In laymans terms, it means a company mangling your purchased media, whether CDs, DVDs, MP3s or games, so that you are restricted in the manner in which you enjoy it. If you have an iPod, and you've bought standard music from the iTunes Store, you've been DRM'd. Have you ever tried taking the file you downloaded and putting it onto a Sony MP3 player? Don't bother, it won't work.

Most people have no idea that this is being done to them, and don't care. You should care. One day, someone will decide that they can't be bothered licensing your music to you any more, and you'll lose the right to listen to it. Think that's far-fetched? Microsoft have already announced they are doing just that - read about it here in Mark Pilgrim's great blog post

DRM is crippled music - don't buy it!

I've been tidying my garage, 30 odd years of accumulated stuff, which is a still a lot even after the three skipfuls of crap I've already disposed of. While out there, I'm listening to old audio cassettes, some of which I have in fact owned for more than 30 years. I can do this forever, or until the tape wears out or breaks. I can do this because no one ever decided to encrypt the data so that I would only be able to play it on one particular cassette player. Think about that. What if each cassette was tied to one cassette player. You can't make a mixtape and send it to a girl/boyfriend. You can't take your tape on holiday with you and play it in a rental car. You can't play it in the living room, and the garage? If the company who sold you the tape suddenly say they've stopped supporting it, and you change your player, you can't play it any more, at all!

Thst's what DRM is all about, it stops you having the right to listen to your own music whenever you like. I'm not prepared to give up that right, and neither should you.

Posted by se71 at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2007

Listening to Music (stub)

(stub for a much longer article)

At the risk of looking like a boring old fart, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that popular music just isn't as good as it used to be. Lets take bands as the main example. The Q Awards nominations are out, and in the running are The Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs and Muse.

Muse have actually done a few good, and one or two excellent, songs. I like them, but even I have to say I usually can't get through a whole album without getting distracted. Has anyone listened to the whole Kaiser Chiefs album - or the Killers. I haven't heard one song by either band that makes my skin tingle, or even one that makes me want to hit the repeat button. Hard-Fi did a great debut album so I'm harming my argument a bit here I know, but their follow up seems to be getting less than enthuastic reviews. And don't get me started on the annoying ramblings of the overrated Arctic Monkeys.

A lot of this stuff is almost certainly great to listen to live. But the chant along choruses have as much artist merit as you'd get on the football terraces. What I'm after is music to make me sit up and listen, music that is unputdownable, music that hits me in the heart, or the head, or both. All we're really getting is a bit of uninspired guitar thrashing and shouting.

"Ruby Ruby Ruby, whatcha doin doin doin to me." Depressing that someone thinks that's the best song of the year.

Posted by se71 at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2007


I have been a fairly consistent size 32 in the trouser department for a number of years. I'm boring enough that when I need new clothes, Marks & Spencer's usually deliver, with the added bonus that the leg lengths they do also work for me.

Recently I've done quite a bit more exercise than usual, and without a belt my trousers are liable to fall down. I've also plastered oil from my bike over several pairs, so I went to M&S to get some new ones.

Now, I didn't think a size 30 would be anything unusual, but after searching every rack, discovered only 3 pairs in my size. And only one of these was 31 in length. What's going on I thought, and called over the sales assistant, who referred me to the department head. "Oh, we don't get much demand for that size, but you can order some in if you like, no obligation to buy". Seems the three pairs on the racks were only there for this very reason, special orders. I decided to order a couple of pairs that looked OK. First pair were a six week delivery time - forget that. Second pair - THEY DIDN'T EVEN MAKE A SIZE 30 in that design.

I hate shopping for clothes, so in the end I tried on the solitary pair of trousers that fit me, and they looked OK, so I bought them.

But I'm still confused. I know in my teens and early 20s I was a size 28 for quite a while. That would be totally impossible in M&S today. Have I just stumbled into the wrong shop - are only middle aged people with middle aged spread the normal customer. Will I find Primark or Top Shop or some other teenagers store cater for me better? Or has the population really just gotten fatter?

Posted by se71 at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2007

Mini Rants

So many things in the media and in my everyday life annoy me these days, I thought I'd try and exorcise a few of them here.

Heelys are just roller skates. Kids will fall over and hurt themselves. Can the news media please just get over it and stop trying to suggest that children should wear helmets - this is a laughably stupid idea.

Can that idiot who keeps taking pictures of hundreds of naked people please stop now. You only have one idea, and you're masively overplaying it, and it's just plain boring now.

Big Brother - OMFG - please just stop.

CDs are pieces of plastic and card with an intrinsic value of a few pence. Charging up to £13 for them is dumb. MP3s are bits and bytes and are intrinsically practically worthless. Charging £8 to slightly manipulate the magnetic media on my harddrive is also dumb. Give us cheap music, or we will take it for free! You cannot stop us doing this no matter how hard you try!

Motorbike and scooters are not allowed in bike lanes and those special sections at the front at traffic lights. Bugger off out of it or I really will start a campaign against you and start taking photos of your number plates.

..and relax

Posted by se71 at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007


I'm moving house, and I want to rent a skip to get rid of some old rubbish that's been occupying my garden shed and loft for years.

They can deliver tomorrow. Excellent.

I'm moving next Monday, can they make sure it's removed by then?

Well no, this appears to be impossible. They can guarantee that they will take it away sometime on Friday OR Saturday. That's the best they can do.

But I need some time to actually fill it, in daylight. Sod's Law states that they would come bright and early Friday morning, and I happen to have a full time job so it's still going to be pretty empty then.

So, Simpson Skip Hire in Slough, please do not have my money. Please give me terrible customer service when I try to explain that Saturday afternoon or Monday morning would be good - and you have a whole week to plan that. Please demonstrate yet again that the UK is completely crap at giving the customer what he wants.

Now I have to rent a van and move the whole lot myself.

Posted by se71 at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2007


Pedestrians are stupid. Really Stupid. You wouldn't believe just how mind numbingly stupid they are.

So I'm approaching a green traffic light on my bike last Thursday. It's also a pedestrian crossing, and they have a red man against them on the lights. It's a slight left hand turn and visibility is good.

I speed up a little to get through the light, and I see some pedestrians standing at the side tempted to walk across. So I slow slightly and ring my (admittedly pretty pathetic) bell. I do this many times a day - I know pedestrians are stupid.

I see one man looking at me, he's thinking of crossing, I ring my bell a bit more and slow down. But I'm not a car, or a bus, I'm not making enough noise, or blocking enough light, and he steps out right into my path anyway, sending me sprawling onto the muddy tarmac, bruising my ribs, scuffing my shoes and forcing me into an eloquent outpouring of the kind of language that New York rappers might learn a thing or two from.

Be warned, even if a pedestrian is looking right at you, they are STILL stupid enough to not see you, so be ready.

Posted by se71 at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2007

Hidden Tracks on CDs Hell

I am now getting royally pissed off with this stupid practice. Artists seem to think it's cool and clever to waste my time and disk space with several minutes of silence on a CD. Latest culprits are Klaxons who couldn't even manage 3 minutes for the final track of their latest album (no link - do not buy this CD), and yet padded out the CD with 15 minutesof complete silence, and then put a couple of minutes of annoying synth sounds. Don't these people know that some people might be listening on portable music players whilst running, or in rooms far away from the audio equipment, so that clicking to the next track is non-trivial. I spent 1/3 of my last run in silence thinking the album was over and not able to easily get at my iPod throgh the layers of clothing I was wearing; you've really annoyed me Klaxons.

Am I supposed to think this is fantasticly wonderful. Don't these bozos know that this kind of thing was boring ten years ago. It's a 23Mb MP3 file, and it's just not funny.

So, if I had time, here's what I'd do. Search my MP3 folders for all final tracks on a CD that are >10Mb. Some of the resultant files will be legitimate, but a lot will have these stupid silences. 'Name and shame' the artists as publicly as I can, and try and make them and anyone else stop doing it in future. Who's with me?

It's not just hidden tracks that are annoying me, it's bonus tracks in general too. If I get a 'Special Edition' CD (#) with bonus tracks, I expect the bonus to be something worth having.

Pink, on her latest album "I'm not Dead" has an untitled bonus track which is a Vietnam War lament written by her father years ago. They sing a duet. I't appalling.

Similarly, and untitled track on Snow Patrol's "Eyes Open" CD is just some muffled talking from a child (I think it's the lead singer's daughter), nearly 4 minutes of it. Total waste of space.

Paulo Nuttini on his pretty good "These Streets" debut, falls into the same trap. Track 10, Alloway Grove, is 14:12 minutes long, but in the middle there is about 3 minutes silence, and then a bonus track which is just an acoustic, and inferior, reworking of one of the others.

And these are just albums I've bought in the last few months - it seems to be getting worse.

note to the publisher 'Universal' - I'm not fooled - every single one of your artist's CDs has a special sticker on it.

Posted by se71 at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Parental Advisory CDs

Rant time.

It seems that popular music can't make up it's mind whether to be inclusive to children or not. We have some very popular female artists - like Madonna and Pink and Gwen Stefani, who make songs that are played on the radio incessantly. These women are strong role models, and the songs are about empowerment and independence and other good things, and are catchy and excellently produced. Young girls love listening to them, and this is a good thing. And then what do the record companies do? - they put the adult versions of the songs on their albums, so that I can't buy them to give to my children. This is annoying, and I'm sure the artists are missing out on a huge amount of revenue. I can't even buy the singles as the album version is quite often also included. I'm currently listening to Pink's "I'm not Dead" Album - and so far I think four songs are totally inappropriate for anyone under 16. Other than that it's a really good collection of songs.

It's particularly bad for rap and hip-hop too. Eminem is a huge artist, and has many popular songs that my nine year old could probably sing along to. That's just the radio version of course. The albums I've bought are kept on the shelf, and seldom taken out unless I'm alone in the house. In fact, I'm reluctant to buy them any more for just this reason - I do not get any time to listen to them. And if I try and find a compilation album of recent hip-hop/rap/R&B radio hits, I cannot get one that has the single versions on it - just the Parental Advisory ones full of swearing. It's a real shame because these songs are definine a generation's childhood memories.

Maybe other parents don't mind so much. Maybe the recording artists think that being edgy and controversial with their lyrics keep them more popular, and maybe they are right. If they had any integrity though they'd insist on not having their work edited to allow radio airplay to be possible - oh, but then they wouldn't get as much money would they? So they entice children in with the sugar coated version, and then give them the full aural assault when they get the CD for christmas from some dotty aunt who doesn't realise the difference.

I would have bought dozens of CDs over the years if they had had clean versions. And my kids have had much less exposure to this kind of music than they might have had - come to think of it though, maybe that's a good thing.

Posted by se71 at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2006


I went cycling on Sunday morning with a group of like-minded enthusiasts from the local triathlon shop. After hurtling down steep hills at speeds up to 60km/h, and punishing my body with long uphill climbs for nearly 2 hours, we came to the town of Marlow. It was only 10:35am, but this being the 11th day of the 11th month, a large group of serious people, many in uniforms of some kind, were standing around the war memorial. We were asked by the police to dismount to walk past. Cyclists wear special shoes, and so we sounded like a team of horses clomping through. What with that and our bright lycra tops, we were a bit of a distraction to all that quiet reflection, and some of our number felt a bit embarassed.

But as we remounted and powered away through the countryside, I thought to myself, "What's best? Is it better stand around and remember the dead, or to get out there in the world and remember that I'm still alive?"

I know the answer.

Posted by se71 at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2006

Climate chaos? Don't believe it

Christopher Monkton has written an article in the Sunday Telegraph about global warming. Unfortunately I haven't got time to read it in detail, or to follow up on all the points raised. I'm also not an expert in this area or an expert statistician.

But, I can see that he is seriously trying to publicise that everything is not as open and shut on the global warming debate than we have been led to believe by both the government and the media over recent months. This is something I agree with.

Unfortunately, it is now nigh on impossible to have a reasoned debate on this topic without the rabid believers resorting to ad hominem attacks. I've been called stupid and have seen others called much worse for just suggesting that the earth might just be following one of it's natural cycles. I'm not stupid. I think the evidence is complex and open to many interpretations. I think that if a weatherman cannot tell me whether I can plan a barbeque this afternoon, or a holiday in Cornwall next summer, that I shouldn't get too worked up about his predictions for 100 years time. I know specific days and general trends are different - I'm being flippant there - get some perspective you scaremongerers.

Shit happens, climate changes, we're not ice-skating on the Thames much these days, but do you really think burning a bit less oil is going make any difference. Do you want Britain to freeze in the winter like that again? And if the whole world does agree and manages to cut CO2 emissions, and it does make a difference to the earth's climate, are you really confident that it will be a positive one? I'm not.

Posted by se71 at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2006


Sometimes I think it might be nice to live in the USA. Things are cheaper, there is lots of space, service is really good (though the constant tipping does suck).

But there is an all pervasiveness about sports, that even the British cannot match, and I think it would drive me round the bend if I had to live with it day in, day out.

Take this morning for example.

I went to the gym at 6:05am and took my place on an exercise bike, which happened to be next to a row of treadmills. A middle aged woman was fast-walking next to me. Before I'd even managed to work out the bike's menu system, she turned to me and said:

"So who won the game last night?"

My standard UK response came in useful

"What game?"

She seemed genuinely shocked by this lack of knowledge (I had a newspaper under my arm which contained a sports section), and blurted out:

"It's only the world series !"

I finished our brief conversation with

"Well I'm only British"

Which seemed to shut her up. I dropped the sports section on the floor and read the main part of the paper while I cycled.

My problem with this is that absolutely everyone expects you to know all about baseball, and American football, and probably hockey or softball or some other dull bunch of overpaid knuckle-heads running around a field. Being a foreigner allows me to get away with my ignorance. But if I lived here I know I'd be ostracised from society by my disinterest in these all-american pasttimes. It's the first thing people think of in the mornings, it's discussed at lunch, it's on TV in restaurants and bars. It's bloody boring but impossible to avoid. I think I'll just have to stay at home - at least there things only go completely football crazy about once every four years.

Posted by se71 at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2006


I've just sent Photobox a very stroppy email.

Photobox are an online service where you can order prints of your digital photos.

They sent me an offer to get free prints of large photographs, a buy one get one free kind of thing. I happen to need a couple of pictures for my wall. So uploaded the files to the photobox server, cropped them to size, and, being careful to enter the promotional code in the box provided, I entered my details and billing information, and placed the order.

When my confitrmation email arrived, it said nothing about the free copies of the photos I had ordered. So I emailed customer support, quoting the reference number, to say that if my promotional code had not been accepted, I would want to cancel the order.

This was late last night, and this morning an automated mail arrived saying my order was already dispatched, and I received a reply from customer support. Seems they think that I got my order wrong by asking for two different photos. No - I wanted two prints of each of them.

So a nice promotion that should turn me into a loyal customer, has now turned me into an angry person who will never buy from them again. There is still a chance that they can put this right, but my reply has been with them for over two hours now...

Posted by se71 at 03:10 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2006

BHF Lifecycle

Who is writing the copy for the British Heart Foundation? I read their advertisement for a charity cycle ride today and got really annoyed. The Link is here , but will probably not endure so here is the offending line:

"From wobbly-wheeled mums
and dads to mountain bikers and bmxers – everyone is taking
part to raise money for life-saving heart research".

Bloody Cheek - I've been a dad for 13 years and I'm not about to start wobbling on my bike any time soon. The seven times Tour De France champion Lance Armstrong is also a dad and I don't think he needs trainer wheels.

Some snotty nosed 19 year old obviously thought this would be amusing. He was wrong.

(It's a good cause, and I'm not telling you not to support it, but this kind of covert ageism really bugs me).

Posted by se71 at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2006

Tony Blair and God

So, "God told me to do it" is a legitimate defence now for our most senior politician.

I despair

Posted by se71 at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2006

Linux on the desktop

Geeks are still banging on about Linux on the desktop.

Linux, in case you didn't know, is an operating system just like Windows, or MAC OSX. You can install it it on your PC instead of Windows. Why would you want to do that? Well the main answer is a simple "To annoy Microsoft". But also Linux is free. Linux is infintely modifiable. Linux makes you look much cleverer than your Windows using loser buddies.

I'm a big fan of Linux, don't get me wrong. I rent a couple of servers and Linux is where I host this blog for example. But it's not, and will probably never be ready for everyday use on normal people's desktops. The reason is drivers. I've got a modern desktop PC at home. I am of course a geek myself, and installed Linux on it. 4 hours later and I still couldn't get the sound card to work. The Dell monitor I have is also a USB hub, but Linux doesn't see it. My wireless USB network adaptor didn't even light up. I didn't even know where to start with my printer. And I'm supposed to be good at this stuff! Pity the poor housewife or plumber, with no computer training or time to tinker.

I reinstalled Windows, and it was playing me music before it had even finished the install. My monitor and printer came with driver CDs, and installed and were working properly in minutes. For most people, and this includes me, PCs are now a commodity tool. We just want them to work. We want to write documents and print them. We want to wirelessly browse the web. We want to, heaven forbid, buy a game or educational software for our kids. Linux makes this all very hard, and even impossible in some cases.

No, I'm happy for Linux to exist, but it's best on the server where security and reliability are king. When I talk to relatives who have managed to completely destroy their windows installations, the simple answer is a reinstall. They generally aren't that worried surprisingly about losing their data. They just want their web access back, and their games, and to be able to type new emails and letters. They do not want or need the pain of Linux - what's in it for them?
Their PCs come with Windows pre-installed with all the peripherals working or with simple CD install programs. They might not be getting the bleeding edge multi-threading nightly kernel patches Linux users crave, but they do actually get some work done instead of tinkering and fighting with the operating system.

Posted by se71 at 09:23 AM | Comments (5)

January 19, 2006

Ruth Kelly

This story really beggars belief.

Surely it is a self evident truth that any adult with a history of child sex abuse should be kept out of schools. Why do we even need this to be pointed out to the idiots in charge of these lists.

I'm speechless at the stupidity shown here by Ruth Kelly and her government.

Posted by se71 at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2005

Hurricane Alpha

Hurricanes in the Caribbean are named, as we all must know by now, and they get alternate male and female ones, with initial letter starting at A and moving through the alphabet. So we end up with things like Hurricane Ivan, Katrina and Wilma. And now they've run out and moved onto Alpha, Beta etc.

So am I the only one getting really bored of seeing them on the news. OK, if a major city is submerged in water for weeks, that really is news. But this current one called Wilma is just blowing a few trees around isn't it?

Does it really rate top news story on the BBC?

I know of course that it's a major deal for the people there - but it does happen a lot, and it happens every year, so maybe we should just have a little footnote to keep us reminded that a Virgin Atlantic flight to Orlando, in October, may be really good value for a reason.

This is a precursor rant to another I'm ruminating on. Who decides what is news? And are we really getting the news we want?

Posted by se71 at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2005

Charity Begins At Nike

What is it with sporting events and charity?

I've entered the Nike RunLondon 10K race. This is a big event with 30,000 people and should be a lot of fun. It cost me something like £35, and I paid about £65 on a new pair of trainers too (Nike ones). It's a personal goal of mine to get a better time than last year.

So, then what do Nike do - they start spamming my inbox with requests to help London's disadvantaged young people by giving them my hard earned cash.

I've paid for this event, Nike get loads of cash and advertising and sell tons of extra sports gear, and yet they still think they need to impress me that they are a caring company by sending me begging letters for some random charity. I'm not convinced, I know this kind of thing is just a cynical way for them to get some kudos back after all the Asian sweatshop bad publicity trainer manufacturers got in the past.

I'm emailing them back to complain, and to tell them to stop asking me for money, otherwise Asics and Adidas or some other equally deserving corporation will get my business next time.

And don't even get me started on the London Marathon and charity.

Bah - humbug.

Posted by se71 at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2005


The folding bike from Strida looks like a really cool piece of kit..
I really wanted one and had a look at their online store for prices.

£159.95 seemed a bit steep for a few tubes of aluminium, but I reasoned that I'd save a few pounds on tube fares and car parking. I had another brainwave too, I could take it to Majorca on holiday with me and save on bike hire there. I was getting quite excited and started to place an order.

That's where the problems started.

For this price, I don't seem to get folding pedals or handlebars (it's supposed to be a convenient folding bike - and yet the basic model doesn't fold properly). Interestingly, their fancy rotating display on the website here shows a bike with these folding features. This is a bit sneaky. Even the main page has this proper folding model and shows it with a rear rack, also not included as standard.

It gets more confusing. Going to the online store, the bike is listed as already coming with folding handlebars, but the 'performance kit' has both handlebars and pedals, and includes things I don't need like coloured mudguards and a different saddle. Where is the performance benefit in that? Do I need this kit at all? It costs an extra £69.95.

A padded bag to put the bike in to take it on a flight is also pretty expensive at £49.95.

Total is now up to £279.85.

Trying to persuade myself that I can still afford that, if I make sure I don't drive anywhere for the next six months, I enter my details on the web form. Then I stop short when I realise that the pricing isn't really finished. I notice that in the small print there are charges for VAT and shipping, and these aren't displayed on the summary page or shown included in the final total.

They are trying to take my credit card details without telling me what the real price is.

I find this kind of underhand price hiking very annoying. Companies should be up front about what you will be paying for a product. I'm not even sure they are allowed to take off the VAT and display figures like this in the UK. Car manufacturers give you an 'on the road' price, and they have to include more complex taxing options.

So I decide to 'Push Back' (TM) and email Customer Support about this. The email web form manages to lose my text once, and I have to retype my name and email address, but I'm used to this kind of lazy programming and have saved the main text in the clipboard before previewing it. I paste it in and off it goes.

To their credit, they come back within the hour with an answer. Unhappily, it wasn't the answer I wanted. They say that VAT isn't added as they are an international seller. But I've already asked for a price in Sterling, and told them my address in the United Kingdom. Is it Strida's sales policy to have each potential customer email them to ask for a final price?

The new price, they tell me, with VAT, and with delivery charges which I thought would be free, have now taken the total up to a whopping £349.97. That's nearly £200 more than my original price, and takes it into the realm of the Brompton, a bike with a great reputation that I see every day on the train and tube.

I then get an email from the Managing Director, who is very friendly, but tells me they can't do anything about the web pricing as it's an industry standard e-commerce platform. A shopping cart that doesn't tell you what price you are paying doesn't seem very sensible to me. I now want to remove the carry bag to try and reduce the price, and maybe add a bell (which is a legal requirement), but do I have to email customer support every time I make an adjustment to the order?

It all gets too frustrating, and I'm running out of time to get it for my holiday, so I give in.


I didn't buy the bike, and had a nice holiday anyway :-)

Upon returning I find an email from Strida asking me to correct any inaccuracies in my post, so I've reread it, and have also had another go at the shopping cart.

They have hiked their prices up a bit so that a bike with folding handlebars and a travel bag is now £364.85 The site does work better, and that total now includes VAT. They have moved the folding handlebars option clearly into the performance kit.

So after all that, I now very clearly see that I can't afford the bike :-/ C'est la vie.

Posted by se71 at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2005

Giving up your seat in rush hour

The thorny issue of giving up your seat on the train or tube has been raised in the London Metro letters section this week. Far from being an arbitrary decision, I think it's an interesting problem that needs careful thought.

Historically, it was very rude for a gentleman to remain seated when a lady was standing. Thankfully those days have gone and the only gender related seat swapping to contemplate now involves pregnant women - more later.

If you are reasonably young and healthy, then the advice to give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you would logically lead to you standing almost all the time. As you've paid the same fare, is this really fair? Of course it isn't. So you have to use your judgement. Commuter trains in the rush hour are notoriously overcrowded. My controversial take on this is that if you cannot stand for your complete journey, then you should wait until rush hour is over. If you see a packed train and you must have a seat, just don't get on. I'm 'lucky' that I live near the start of the line for my train journey - so always get a seat to work. I see people at later stations down the line piling in every day and suffering the nose to armpit degredation. But when I say 'lucky', what I mean is I made a conscious decision to live further out of London. It makes my journeys longer, more expensive, but more comfortable. I don't feel guilty about sitting every day. If the people in Putney have a problem with it then they have a choice don't they? Get a later/earlier train, or move jobs or home.

Pregnant women are a problem though. Whilst it is really their own fault for getting into that condition, we do need to ensure that the human population endures, and so offering them a seat is inevitably something you will be expected to do, and should not shy away from. If they are goig to work like you, they have no choice but to be on that train/bus. The problem is that some fat people look like pregnant ones. The embarassment on both sides of offering a seat to a fat person is appalling. Not only that - imagine how annoying it is for you if they actually accept. The only foolproof method if you are unsure is to keep your head safely hidden in your paper and pretend you haven't seen them - if they really are pregnant, then they shouldn't be afraid to ask. Perhaps 'Baby On Board' badges should be given out at ante natal classes.

I know I'm coming across as a very selfish person, but it's a dog eat dog world out there, and I'm not planning to be the puny pekingese the pack. I'm more than happy to help people who genuinely seem to need it, but they really should consider alternatives if they cannot cope with the daily discomfort that has become city commuting.

So if you are very old, or carrying very young children, try and think if your rush hour journey is really necessary. Someone has spent thousands of pounds on a ticket to get them to work on time, they deserve that seat more than you do, and your trip can probably wait.

Posted by se71 at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 10, 2005

Live 8

I'm glad to see it isn't just me who thinks this Live 8 concert is not all it's cracked up to be. Damon Albarn from Blur makes some good points here.

Every act on the bill will be getting increased exposure and sales for years. Make them pay a few million for the privilege. And aren't you just sick of Paul McCartney, Bono, Sting and the rest going on about how we should help Africa by giving them our money. Perhaps they should give away 99% of their money, they don't really need it, and try living from month to month on a basic salary. Just shut up and try making a good record, you haven't managed it for decades.

I think the idea of putting Arican acts on the bill is a bit stupid though - how many people can even name one (apart from any band made popular by a collaboration with a non-African artist - Youssou d'Nour only made a name for himself here when he teamed up with Neneh Cherry). Putting unknown bands on the bill is a bit counter-productive.

And I'm very uneasy about the whole making povery history thing too. I live in a rich country, and am priviliged in ways a lot of African people are not, but I just can't believe that their problems come from owing us money. It's a lot more about their culture, politics, and attitudes. Big media stars clicking their fingers at me just leaves me cold. Again, it doesn't do their publicity any harm, does it?

Posted by se71 at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea

Anyone who knows me will know that I find the appeal of watching most sports pretty mystifying. Of all spectator sports in this country I think football is the strangest. Standing around for the best part of two hours watching a pile of men kick a ball around, and quite probably leaving with a no-score draw, is complete idiocy. And yet people pay large amounts of money to do it, and to wear their side's colours and travel up and down the country supporting (in both senses of the word) a group of the highly overpaid tabloid fodder that we know as the "professional footballer". They even go to pubs and instead of chatting with their friends, they stare at a screen in the corner for the whole evening. And worse than that, they do this when the teams playing aren't even in the British leagues.

And what exactly constitutes a team anyway. They are named after towns and cities like Liverpool and Manchester. But the only regional thing about them is that that is where they have a football stadium. The players nowadays come from all over the world. I haven't the statistics to hand, but I'm sure I'm not far wrong by saying that there aren't many players from Arsenal that actually have played for that team lately.

I'm prepared to admit that once you have nailed your colours to the mast, seeing the football season through and coming out with a good result would be pretty satisfying. So why is it then, that in last nights game between Liverpool and Chelsea, which I believe was quite important, they cannot even agree on whether the single goal scored even went over the line. Why isn't there a camera on each net watching to see if a goal is really a goal. Something so important shouldn't be left to chance. Football clubs are even listed on the stock market. A win or loss could lead to a huge financial loss for the shareholders.

They have had a photo finish in horse racing for decades. After some decidedly dodgy line calls in tennis in the past it is now similarly well observed. If I was a football fan, after last nights appalling fiasco, I really would just have to give up.

Posted by se71 at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2005

Commuting Hell

I tested myself this morning, and I think I failed. I tried to see if I could stay calm and unaffected on the train. I got on and couldn't find a double seat, so had to sit next to someone. Instead of carefully selecting the least annoying partner, I chose a fat person with an iPod. I know, it was silly, but at least it's given me some ammunition for my blog.

The first thing I noticed was his very big thighs. He didn't really fit into the seat very well and insisted on sitting with his legs askew leaning over onto my side. I was actually pushed into the corridor a little. During the 50 minute commute he ate a whole pack of Jaffa cakes for breakfast and a drank bottle of Lucozade. Perhaps he'll actually need both seats soon.

Do iPod headphones fit really badly? Either that or his volume was way up near maximum because I could actually make out the singer's voice and identified the music as rappers D12. He snorted and coughed quite a bit too (you can't tell how disgusting you sound I suppose when Eminem is blasting your ears with hip-hop).

What is interesting is that I wonder if he even realised he was annoying anyone. I noticed quite a few people give him a sideways glance when the train stopped at stations and his music was particularly annoying. But perhaps his skin is so thick he's oblivious to the way he's pushing me out of my seat and disturbing my peace so much that I only managed three crossword clues.

I've tried explaining the error of their ways to headphoned idiots in the past, but invariably get an impolite suggestion to go forth and multiply. I sometimes try and find another seat, but the morning rush hour doesn't give much chance for that. There doesn't appear to be a good answer that doesn't involve violence, so I guess I'll just have to get some super powered headphones for myself, start eating Big Macs for breakfast, and cut down on those anti-flatulence pills.

Posted by se71 at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Perhaps I need more cash too!

BBC News, my main news source, reports that "MG Rover workers 'need more cash'"

I don't normally do politics on here, but I'm going to start. This is almost as much to try and clarify my own views on subjects as to try and make any point.

But today, I do have a point.

The article says that the workers don't have enough money to pay for retraining. Also that they may have to find jobs further from home. Well, whose fault is that? It's certainly not mine. And yet the government are already giving them my tax money. I thought this was a private company. If Rover go under it's because they are not profitable, and this is a right and proper result of that. As an IT contractor, if my company is not profitable I won't have enough money. What are the chances of the government bailing me out in this way?

Workers who have been at Rover a short time have absolutely no right to be bailed out in this way. Longer term workers who have been earning good money for years should have put aside some of that pay for a rainy day. I'd like to see how many of them have plasma TVs in their homes and have had foreign holidays every year before I start feeling sorry for them.

Some people will say that the area is deprived and these people cannot find work near home. I know a great many people who have been in similar situations and have made the effort to find work wherever it was, moving themselves and sometimes their families in order to achieve that. Why should I feel any differently about the Rover workers.

So my point is that I do not think the government should be giving my money to people who have spent the last five years making cars no one wants.

Posted by se71 at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Bank Tube

The announcer at Bank tube station really makes me laugh. I don't think he means to. It's just that when he makes a pre-recorded announcement, he must just wing it, no one would actually sit down and write the drivel he speaks. Alternatively, maybe he's only allowed one go at it, and fumbles his lines.

Currently playing is this one. This is what he says:

"Customers are reminded to keep all their bags, belongings, briefcases, etc with them at all times"

For a start, who carries briefcases any more. And isn't that a form of bag. Let's leave off that word then. And isn't a bag a belonging. Strike off bag. so we're left with "belongings etc". Unless we're carrying other people's stuff around for them, the etc is useless as well.

I've never seen anyone leave anything on a tube except an old newspaper, and one other item particularly easy to lose during the London rainy season (Jan-Dec). So I think what he really should say is.

"Oi, don't forget your umbrella mate!"

The previous long running announcement he did was all about Oyster cards. As well as saying the same thing about three times, it was the tone of voice this time that gave him away as a complete amateur.

"You must touch your Oyster card in and out when passing through the barriers. Please don't just walk through."

It was the stress on "don't" that got to me. He was really pleading, as he knew that's what most people do, and he really can't stop them. I don't actually have an Oyster card, so the implications of forgetting to touch in and out are lost on me, but it must be very serious indeed for someone to sound so sad about it.

(this post inspired by Richard Herrings Blog, of which I'm slightly in awe of at the moment. He is managing to write loads of stuff every day, and it's always very funny. I guess that is his job though)

Posted by se71 at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005


The BBC News site has an article about how workers eat.

I've been a bit of a nomad and visited many worker's canteens over the years. The fare offered has varied from nouvelle cuisine to pie and chips (with gravy), but interestingly, very rarely are both options offered in the same place.

The article advocates giving workers less fat and carbohydrates, and more vegetables. It's prompted by the Jamie Oliver school dinners initiative. And that is a good thing, children need to be taught more than just maths and english as school, proper eating habits are also something many don't get in the home.

So, this sounds on the face of it like a really good idea for adults too, but we're not children. Shouldn't I be allowed to decide what I eat. I'm in a very health conscious company at the moment and they have a very nice staff canteen. The food is even free. However they never have anything unhealthy. No mayonaisse, just oil and vinegar dressings; no chips, just mash or boiled; nothing fried; even the burgers are veggie or chicken breast. This gets so bad that I go to the pub on Fridays and pay my own good money for a hotdog and chips, and it tastes great.

I do enjoy eating healthily, and having a canteen that encourages that is good. But I'm a grown-up now, I can make my own choices. So please, at least ask me the question "Would you like chips with that?"

Posted by se71 at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005


As usual, public transport, and in fact the public in general, are annoying me again.

I managed to walk from my house to the station, onto the train and a 50 minute journey, then into the tube, and finally a walk 10 minutes up to the office, without coughing even once. What an amazing feat!

It's like a Pavlovian reaction for some people though, they enter a train and immediately their throat starts to tickle, and then they're off. Most of them cannot even be bothered to cover their faces.

I'm training for a triathlon in a few weeks, and the last thing I need right now is to catch a chest cold. So if these people actually are suffering and not just coughing through some kind of mental deficiency, I really wish they'd take the trouble not to direct their germs at me.

(I'm pretty sure I've ranted about this before, sorry if you're bored listening to me :-) )

Posted by se71 at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005


Ringtones in the office are the new Donald Duck ties.

In the 80s, if you worked in an office, you wore a suit and tie. Most people wore a sober colour, and the tie was striped, spotted, paisley, or plain.

Some bright sparks wanted to show their individuality, and especially in the weeks following Christmas there would be many 'amusing' ties with bright Donald Ducks or Mickey Mouses beaming out at you on the morning tube.

Nowadays, this practice has largely disappeared (thank deity), and even the suit is an endangered species (unless you're an estate agent, lawer or other pond scum). So how do people assert their boyish credentials when every other person is also wearing chinos and a polo shirt? Yes, it's the jokey ringtone.

In the beginning, mobile phones just rang, and this was pretty much restricted to a couple of different kinds of beeps. One from Ericsson was so much used it became ridiculed by Dom Joly in his Trigger Happy TV shop - "Hello, yes, I'm on the train, it's rubbish!!"

Now mobile phones don't just ring, they sing too. They'll play anything you like. You can hold them up to a flushing toilet, press record, and have that sound filling your cubicle when your mum calls to tell you you've forgotten your sandwiches.

Today, I've been assaulted by Bob the Builder, The A Team and Thunderbirds. It's just not amusing the first time, never mind the twenty first. And they are called 'mobile' phones, so why don't you take them with you instead of leaving them on your desk when you go to a meeting. And just when you've gotten tired of their phone ringing, you realise that the person probably left a message - and sure enough 60 seconds later the automated answering service calls so you can 'enjoy' the tone all over again. And then, there's more. Your significant other really really wants you not to forget to buy some milk on the way home, so it's time for a text message, and an alternative tone for your abandoned phone to broadcast, accompanied by a loud thumping sound as it vibrates across the desk.

Ringtones aren't amusing, and like Disney themed ties, I really hope they die out soon. If you really were an amusing life and soul of the party type, you wouldn't be sitting in an office staring at a computer for eight hours a day. Turn your phone to silent vibrate, keep it in your pocket, get a life, and get out of mine!

(apologies to John Gaunt off BBC London for that last bit, couldn't resist)

Posted by se71 at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

Location Location Location

Watched this program on TV last night, and was as usual really annoyed by the little postscript at the end.

In case you haven't seen it, the presenters are tasked every week with finding a home for someone. Sometimes the requirements are a bit bizarre and arbitrary. So we spend 30 minutes seeing three properties, and even going through the bidding process with a vendor for one. Then just as the credits are about to roll, a voice-over tells us that the couple looking for a house decided not to bother in the end.

Can anyone tell me what is the point of this program? I don't think that I've ever seen anyone actually buy a house that has been found for them. It's a complete waste of time for everyone involved, and especially for the vendors and estate agents.

Please stop me someone from ever watching it again!

Posted by se71 at 11:43 AM | Comments (1)