Behold Victor Meldrew!

Those who know me say I’m always moaning. It may be true. Maybe I have good reason to moan. Below I give some examples of why, to some people, I appear to be a Victor Meldrew. The examples all happened within a few weeks (May 2017).

  • Moving date came and went. I was initially supposed to move on the Friday, but it was delayed until the Monday because of the credit reports. Fortunately I had pre-empted this happening and had already booked the Monday off from work. I’m used to this now!
  • Moved all my things in. Many journeys. Installed the washing machine. This was the same one we had been using at the old house. It was used just two days beofre we moved it. Upon installation, it decided not to work. ERR02 came up on the display. Pump fault. I read on the internet what could cause this. Followed what it said. I couldn’t find anything wrong. Handwashed for two weeks. Did my final checks before buying another one, when I discovered the waste pipe had a bung in it, presumably from the new property that wasn’t discovered on installation or my first check.
  • I hung my fleece on my spare bicycle. I had a need to go in the pockets. I tried to remove it but it was caught on the pedal. I tried a couple of times but could not move it. It was dull in the living room and I couldn’t see properly. This annoyed me, so I went to the light switch and punched it on. Except the light switch shattered into pieces. I then went back to my fleece and saw that the zip had miraculously hooked itself onto a small part of the pedal, a task that took me some fiddling to undo. I noticed my hand was bleeding from the light switch. Which in turn, because it was just a graze type injury, means that every time I wash my hands it stings like a biatch!
  • So, it’s a nice day out today. Windows open to help cool the house. Except there is one neighbour that decides they want to let their children to play in the back garden (not a problem), but one of the children continues to screech a high pitched scream like they are being murdered. This continues for over an hour on and off, before I finally concede and close my rear bedroom window. I’m not against people enjoying themselves or children being children, but when it affects others, and the screaming is really unneccesary, then it’s too much.
  • The same day, the very same neighbours decide they want a barbecue. The smoke signals could be seen in the US of A. I’m just waiting for the smoke alarm to activate right now. I could close all my windows at the rear, but why the hell should I? I have as much right to enjoy the weather peacefully as anyone else. FFS! Not happening.

I mean, to be clear good stuff did happen. For example figuring out what was wrong with the washing machine before I had paid for another. That was a most joyous moment. Saved myself a small fortune! A new light switch bought and installed less than 48 hours later. Given a door mat by a work colleague. It all adds up. Good things do happen to me.

But the chances of some of these things happening must be, oh I don’t know, like millions to one. The children one was probably predictable given the weather. Unbeknown to me, the light switch was a strange brittle bakelite type material. I have punched light switches before and never smashed them. The zip thing, that really was a million-to-one. There are little L-shaped metal prongs on pedals, no more than 5mm in size. My fleece was the right length at the time for the zip to hook this (a slightly larger than 5mm hole in the zip pull part) and become lodged.

Have a nice holiday weekend and enjoy the weather. I’ll try to, if that’s okay with the neighbours.

 

To rent or to buy?

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Over the last week or so, I’ve moved again. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve moved. Something was slightly different this time. It was much easier than all the other times. I don’t know why, but it was. I didn’t move far from where I was. Maybe that was why. Perhaps because it was the umpteenth time I’ve moved, that made it easier. I even found an old checklist for the things I need to get sorted in my new house like registering for utilities, council tax, cable tv, phone etc.

So here’s a thought for those of you who cannot afford a mortgage, either because you don’t have a deposit or because you just don’t earn enough, or both.

I’m renting. I’m paying someones mortgage. This you already know. You’ve heard this a thousand times before, right?
So explain this. I deposit a months rent. I get a guarantor. The agent knows where I work and has a reference from them. They credit check me. They are happy to rent me a property on an ongoing basis, intially for 12 months. I could potentially be in this property for the rest of my life. And paying someone elses mortage. Yet I can’t get a mortgage myself!
I am living a life and proving that a mortgage of a simlar amount I pay in rent is affordable to me, yet no bank will give me a mortgage. Why?

This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I mean, I understand the landlord/agent has a potential loss of one months rent but a bank could lose a few thousand pounds. But, both STILL have the house, unless I do something really stupid.

Whomever I pay, I still need a place to live in. Surely it would make sense for banks to use evidence of paying rent on a regular basis as a means to offer a mortgage for someone to get on the property ladder. They’ll have/own the property as surety and I would make payments in the same manner as I pay rent now. Win, win!

Maybe I see things in a far simpler light than others.

Have a great weekend!

Did I offend you?

If a black comedian tells jokes about black people is it okay? If a disabled comedian tells jokes about disabled people is it okay? If a white able-bodied comedian tells a joke about a black disabled person, is it racist? If a gay comedian tells jokes about gays does that make them a homophobe? Why is this socially acceptable? Does their colour, disability or sexual orientation allow them to joke or make fun of the same people, whilst being wrong if they are not one of those things? Where is the line drawn?

Years ago I used to work with an African guy. He used the n-word a lot. Not in the way you may think. He rapped. He was quite good. He used the n-word whilst rapping. One day me and him got chatting and he seemed to think that because he was black, he was entitled to use the word. I explained that his parents and their parents maybe had that right, but not him. They fought for their entitlement. He did not. He was part of what came after. If I used the word I would be prosecuted. Therefore if I could not and should not, neither should he. And that, I tried to explain, is part of the problem with the n-word. Some people, much younger than me, think they have some sort of entitlement to use the word. If they continue to use the word when talking about each other, how can they expect others to not use it when referring to them?

Just because you ‘wear a badge’ does not give you a right to speak on behalf those that also wear that badge. (I use the ‘wear a badge’ phrase in a figurative manner to mean you are one of those people affected or being spoken about).

I recall an incident in the UK some time ago when a famous comedian made a joke about ex-servicemen who had lost limbs during war-time service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some ex-servicemen were present when the joke was told. They laughed, they shared in the joke. They saw the comedic value in the joke and did not take offence. However, others in the room thought the joke was offensive to those ex-servicemen and much media coverage ensued. People became offended on behalf of other people. The ex-servicemen present said it was no big deal. But still people who were unaffected were offended by the joke.

Where do we draw the line? Do we have to be offended by everything that we don’t agree with? Anything that doesn’t affect us personally? If I ‘wear the badge’ am I more entitled to be offended?

For example, if a comedian told a joke about cancer sufferers and you happened to have a relative affected by this, would you be offended? Or would you see the comedy for what it is? Would you be more or less offended if your relative had died recently? Although you may find the immediacy of the joke hurtful, it wasn’t a poke at you personally. I’ve known cancer sufferers, as have many of us. They also see comedy in their illness too!
I’m undecided on the matter, but I do not care for people who get offended by every little thing. It’s their right I know.

 

It’s like that one individual that reports an advert because they found something offensive. One advert that springs to mind is the Paddy Power advert where blind people where kicking a football with a bell in it when a cat, with a bell on its collar, crossed their paths. It was comedic, pure and simple. But some people sought to complain about animal cruelty.

The Advertising Standards Authority said that the most complained about advert during 2010 was one broadcast by Paddy Power, the betting company, which showed a cat being kicked across a pitch by a blind football player. Consumers complained that it was offensive to blind people and could encourage animal cruelty. It received 1,313 complaints.

The ASA said it was clearly a surreal advert and unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence. But it was one of many advents featuring alleged animal cruelty, which appeared to be – along with overtly sexual imagery – the topic that most upset British consumers.

John Lewis’ Christmas advert, which briefly showed a dog in a snow-covered kennel attracted 316 complaints from viewers worried about the animal suffering in the cold, while an advert by the drinks company AG Barr, which showed cartoon animals being led to a butcher’s shop, prompted 204 complaints.

Quoted from The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/8507143/Paddy-Power-cat-kicking-advert-most-complained-about.html)

 

The worrying thing about this quote is that people complained about the John Lewis advert worried that the dog was suffering in the cold. Do they not know it’s an advert? It’s not real life. Get a grip people! Cartoon animals going to a butcher’s shop, 204 complaints? What the actual fuck! I wonder if these same people are as forthcoming if someone is doing something untoward or illegal near them? Just saying.

Highway to…in front of you!

Recognise your driving in the above video? WARNING: Coarse language used.

Drivers, although constantly told not to use their phones whilst driving, do. In some countries it’s illegal to drive whilst using your phone. It doesn’t stop them though. Because, according to them, what does the law know? Traffic lights turn red, drivers go through like they are immortal and have a wish to try and kill themselves. Car drivers wishing to turn. I mean it will save them at least two minutes of their journey right? It could kill them, but you know. Traffic light Russian roulette. They think it is okay to overtake then dive across three lanes of traffic, because they must be in front of you. Their need to get where they are going is greater than your need. Of course in most countries it is illegal to drink (alcohol) and drive. But there are those people who think it’s okay. Until they kill someone, or themselves. Even though they are constantly told NOT to drink and drive they think that they are above the law.

There are times when I sincerely believe I am not human. When I see the kind of things I mention above I really do question humankind and it’s incessant need to destroy itself and the planet it lives on.

If your greater need whilst driving your car means that you have to put your life, those in your car and others in danger before anything else, you should either be on a train or a plane. Not driving like an idiot on the public roads. If you really must get ONE place in front, you need to learn patience. If you really can’t wait at a red light for two minutes then why are you driving?

If you recognise the style of driving above and you drive like this, then perhaps you should take a good hard long look at what you can do to improve your driving and do everyone else a favour and take yourself off the road for now. Or use public transport.

So my short but sweet proposal is this. An island somewhere. Anywhere. Uninhabited. Perhaps an old militray installation. Put all these people there and let them get on with it. sort out their driving skills, thinking skills. If they make it they’ll live. If they don’t…well, theres plenty more people to replace them.

Does charity begin at home?

In 1984 Band Aid was founded by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for Christmas that year. In November 2014 a new version of the song was recorded by artists under the name of Band Aid 30. The single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” sold over two million copies worldwide and raised more than $24 million. There was also a Band Aid 20.

There are more than 195,000 charities in the UK raising close to £80 billion a year. They employ a million staff. Some charities claim that almost 90p in every £1 donated is spent on ‘charitable activities’. Is it? Where is all this money going?

charities
Where does your donation go?

Many charities spend at least half of their income on management, strategy development, campaigning and fundraising. In England and Wales there are 1,939 active charities focused on children; 581 charities trying to find a cure for cancer; 354 charities for birds; 255 charities for animals, 81 charities for people with alcohol problems and 69 charities fighting leukaemia. All have their own executives, administrators, fundraisers, communications experts and offices, but few will admit they are doing exactly the same thing as other charities.
Take the case of Ethiopia. Two decades ago there were 70 international charities operating there, today the figure is close to 5,000. (Why does Ethiopia need so many?)
All charities with an income over £25,000 have to file independently audited accounts with the Charity Commission at a cumulative cost of £252 million in accountancy fees alone.

The Charity Commission for England and Wales claims that £53 billion of the £63 billion raised is spent on what it calls ‘charitable activities’, an impressive £8.41 of every £10 raised. But its definition of “charitable activities” is loose. Spending on “charitable activities” is defined in accounting rules as “all costs incurred by a charity in undertaking activities that further its charitable aims for the benefit of its beneficiaries”.

The RSPB hit the headlines after Sir Ian Botham said it was more interested in politics than wildlife. Is that true? Like many charities, the RSPB generates income from commercial activities – £21 million of its total £122 million income in the latest accounts.

But the costs of its commercial activities are £18.4 million, so only £2.6 million of the £21 million raised by selling things goes into the kitty for charitable purposes and administration. Of the £122 million total, the RSPB spent £115 million and retained £7 million for future use.

The £115 million can be split into £32.5 million generating its income and £82.6 million on what it classed as ‘charitable spending’ – roughly 72 per cent. But what does it class as ‘charitable expenditure’?

Some £4 million went on managing its membership, which raised £32 million. Most would regard this as an administration cost, rather than genuine charitable expenditure. Another £14.2 million was used for ‘Education and Communication’ and £34.7 million on ‘Research, Policy and Advisory’ – nearly £50 million on what could loosely be described on campaigns.

The final £29.6 million – just £2.57 of every £10 spent – was actually used for the proper front-line work that many donors might normally associate with the RSPB.

Is this why you donate money to charities? So that £2.57 of your £10 hard earned can go where it is needed the most?

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The Great British Rake Off

Oxfam is another charity stalwart, which claims on its website that it spends £8.40 of every £10 raised ‘saving lives’.

But it’s entirely possible, even probable, that only about half the money raised is actually used for ‘saving lives’. If every working adult and pensioner in Britain contributed £10 per month to charity, the money raised probably wouldn’t be enough to pay the salaries of the executives of our registered charities.

Charities have many ways of raising money but most controversial is ‘Face to Face’ fundraising, often called ‘charity mugging’ or ‘chugging’. Chuggers aren’t permitted to take cash directly from us. Instead they usually try to get us to set up a direct debit giving say £5 or £10 a month.

Most chuggers work for chugging agencies and are typically paid between £7.50 and £9.50 an hour. Charities will usually pay out between £80 and £120 for each person who agrees to set up a direct debit. This means that pretty much all of a direct-debit donor’s first year’s donations, and sometimes almost two years’ donations, will go to the chugging agency and the chugger.

Does this mean you should stop donating to charity? No. What I would suggest is that you check where your money is actually going before donating. You can do that on the aliveandgiving.com website. Or you could donate your time to your charity of choice by offering your services voluntarily. Your choice, but choose wisely.


*Excerpts in this article taken from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2835947/The-Great-British-rake-really-happens-billions-donate-charity-Fat-cat-pay-appalling-waste-hidden-agendas.html

Shall we play a game?

You know how this works. You buy a game for your PSx or Xbox. You put the DVD in to install the game. You install it, you try to run it and the very first message you get is that the game you just bought requires a patch/update. How can this be you say. The game has only just been released. It’s day zero for my game, yet it already needs an update? Why?

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Back in the good old days, you know when Pacman was current, there was no going back. The very first version of Pacman I played was on a yellow plastic Pacman type handheld that ran on 4 C size batteries. On these games, the ROM was burnt in. Once it was finalised at the factory there was no going back. No zero day patches, no updates. Of course, they did have bugs or glitches. Our Pacman game only had one slight niggle. You could clock the score. So once you got to 9,999 it reset to zero. The difficulty didn’t increase either. It was just the same old. Our challenge was to see how many times we could clock it. I remember my sister, mum and me all trying. A clip of this game in action can be seen on YouTube here and here. Ah, how nostalgic. I’m sure most of you above a certain age remember Space Invaders. Simple graphics, simple to play. Avoid getting shot at by the aliens. And who can remember Pong? Bip, bop. Bip. My parents bought a pong game. We played for hours. There wasn’t much to do in those days!!

Pong screenshot

Code for these games was also written pretty tightly. There was a limited amount of space in the ROM (later on RAM too) so space was at a premium. There used to be competitions whereby people created demo’s of their code, called the demo scene, and there were different restrictions on the amount of space that could be used. There were 4kb, 16kb, 32kb and 64kb categories. Some of these had music in them, but mostly they showed graphics that were way before their time. Polygons, tessellation. It was all very clever. The best demo, according to a set of judges, won. There were competitions all over the world. At that time the internet didn’t really exist. It was all done by BBS’s (Bulletin Board Systems). This is where someone dialled into a computer using a modem. The receiving side also had a modem allowing the two computers to talk, in a very similar way to how the internet and networks works today, but much, much slower. If you had a 33.6k modem, you were doing well. The standard at the time was 14.4k. The exchange took place over the copper wires of your telephone line, of which the speed was restricted due to the copper wire. Of course, you couldn’t use your phone for voice calls when you were doing this. By todays standards this was an extremely slow method of transferring files (1Mb of data could take easily over 30 minutes), which is why the code was written to be as small as possible. If you are curious and have a PC, head on over to scene.org where you can download some more recent and archived demo’s.

This day and age with more life-like graphics and Bluray drives and 30Mbps+ internet connections becoming common place, space is no longer at a premium like it once was. We download Gb’s of data monthly and if we choose, do not even get physical copies of our games these days. They stay in the cloud. Graphics cards today are much more capable than the EVGA (if you were lucky) cards of old. In fact, even an older graphics card today has more processing power than a PC of the 80/90’s.

Although software companies employ testers for their games it seems they are using the general game buying public to test games. No, I don’t mean those types of games whereby you pay a small fee and become a beta tester with some exclusive behind the scenes access. I mean the type of game you buy in the shops, online or bricks-and-mortar, and pay your hard earned money for. For latest releases as much as £50 ($61, €58). Some can cost more if they come bundled with other things, posters, t-shirts, key rings to name a few. Some bugs are just downright annoying. Others catastrophic. Batman: Arkham was one such game. As written in the Independent, the game had to be pulled because the bugs were so bad that the game was almost unplayable on PC. There have also been game releases where there wasn’t enough server capacity so the game servers crashed and nobody could play the game. Destiny, I’m looking at you. You pay your money, you make your choice.

Whilst graphics have improved and the hardware on which we run the games has improved, games seem to get more and more bloated. Yes they have phenomenal graphics. Yes, the soundtracks are amazing, full orchestra scores sometimes. But just because games can come on Bluray or DVD, doesn’t mean we have to use the space. Some of the latest games weigh in at a hefty 60Gb (The PC version of Grand Theft Auto V is nearly 60GB). Star Citizen could be as much as 100Gb!!! A brilliant article by PCGamer (http://www.pcgamer.com/the-problem-with-growing-download-sizes/) explains how games are just getting bigger and bigger and why this is a problem. Is this the price we have to pay for better everything? What will be the model for purchasing games in the future?

NHS: A health service for the future?

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Those of you who have had the misfortune to be in need of hospital treatment in the UK would be pleased that the service we get, although not always what it could be, is free in so far as we don’t pay extra other than taxes and National Insurance to fund it. People in other countries are not so fortunate. So is the National Health Service (NHS) the way forward for the future healthcare in the UK?
(The figures quoted below can be found on the TheKingsFund website)

Our NHS service, whilst not the best or worst healthcare service in the world, is free for anyone from any walk of life to use. Because of the resources needed to run this behemoth, it is fair to say that it takes it toll on the buildings, staff and patients. Staff availability isn’t what it could be. In fact a lot of staff in our hospitals in the UK tend to come from other countries. This is because the wages they can earn here are attractive compared to their home countries. Even with that, our hospitals are severely understaffed. There are 1.2 million FTE (full time equavalent) NHS staff. Of that, about 325,000 are nursing staff.

They are also severely under-funded. Money to fund the NHS comes from the government coffers. It is estimated that it will cost £120 billion to fund the NHS in 2017. By 2021 this is forecast to be £133 billion. 98.8% of this is paid for by taxes and National Insurance contributions.The other 1.2% is from patient charges.

There there is the bed space.There are around 125,000 hospital beds available in the NHS. The beds roughly have someone in them 90% of the time. Almost at breaking point.

So, although not ideal and almost at breaking point, it works. You get ill, you wait, you get repaired. The quality of care in most cases is excellent, but there are some exceptions. Personally, I’m very grateful for our NHS service. Yes it has it’s problems, but it is free at the point of need. Is it the way forward for the future? No. I don’t think so.

The NHS has a Five Year Forward View (pdf) that was published in October 2014 and sets out a new shared vision for the future of the NHS. Patient groups, clinicians and independent experts have also provided their advice to create a collective view of how the health service needs to change over the next five years if it is to close the widening gaps in the health of the population, quality of care and the funding of services.

All well and good, but how is this going to be funded you may ask. There are many ideas about how it will be funded, but most agree it will not be entirely by the taxpayer as it is now. Funding through insurances which we all pay is a possibility. Private healthcare is another option. Some people are already fortunate enough to have this. Things like BUPA, AXA PPP, Aviva and PruHealth are the big four companies involved in this accounting for almost 90% of the market. This would of course rule out those less well off. There would need to be some thought into how those people access healthcare without insurance provision. For the less well off, emergency care would be free, as it would for anyone. Anything beyond emergency care would need assessment and then could be funded if needed based on assessed medical need and impact on life to the patient, not unlike today.

future-hospital

Healthcare itself may also change substantially. Going to the supermarket for a checkup may not be an uncommon thing in the future. Doctors, or machines could do this. As technology improves there may be less need to have staff. Things like blood pressures and weight checks can already be done without the need for staff intervention.

What does all this mean? Well, the NHS as we know it and the way it is funded may change dramatically. This could help to improve an ailing system that is over 50 years old. Healthcare of the future may require less staff, but as the population ages, healthcare needs change. We are a long way off robots being able to support or care for the elderly. This will still require staff and these must be paid for somehow.