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Every Little Helps Destroy the Environment

Story location: Home / Blog /

We went to the cinema to see Let Me In. It was a good film, a bit different to most vampire films because it didn't have the usual 'Vampires vs. Humans' approach.

After that we went to Tesco. We needed some antibacterial hand soap and thought we'd get a refill instead of a whole new soap dispenser. The own brand refills were more expensive than the bottles which came with the pump dispensers. If Tesco are selling the refills as an environmentally friendly gesture, they are going about it in the wrong way. If they really care about the environment they would try to avoid doing this kind of thing and sell refills for less. If they are just pretending to care, at least they could do it properly rather than their current half-arsed attempt.

We did get some bargains while we were in the shop though. Some jars of chillies were reduced from 99p to 24p so we put a few in the trolley. When they scanned at 1p at the checkout, I raced back to the shelves to grab more of them. It will be a while before we run out of chillies again.

Boxing Day

Story location: Home / Blog /

We were on our way Up North to visit visit family when we needed to nip into Boots to buy a few things. We stopped at Central 6 and struggled to find a parking space. I was lucky enough to find a space at the far end of the car park.

I noticed a huge queue of people on the pavement outside one of the shops. When I got closer it turned out to be people waiting to be allowed into Next. There were bouncers on the door only letting people in when somebody left. I found it rather pathetic that people were so desperate for a 'bargain'. We went to the shops because we needed to buy something, rather than because we felt the need to satisfy some shopaholic craving.

Mums Can't Drive?

Story location: Home / Blog /

We had a very frustrating drive to work this morning. We left the house a few minutes earlier than normal and got caught up in the school run. There were dozens of cars shuffling about, reversing, doing u-turns and generally impeding traffic and blocking the road. When there was a gap, a lot of the mums in their tiny cars seemed unwilling to try drive through, despite the gap being big enough for a much bigger car.

The worst thing about this is that there are several primary schools in the area and I'm sure most of the kids will live within half a mile, so they could easily be walked to school. Especially on a sunny day like today, when kids should be encouraged to be outside, and not shuttled back and forth in cars.

I might not be the best driver in the world but I try to avoid inconveniencing other people, unlike the person who insisted on doing a u-turn in a very restricted area, holding up the traffic for a minute or so.

Count to ten. Deep breath. Rant over. Calm Down.

Yates's vs. Wetherspoons

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

We were staying in Croydon and were looking for somewhere to eat but Wetherspoons and Lloyd's were both busy and we couldn't find a table in either. We ended up eating in Yates's Bar. The music wasn't too loud when we got there but it got louder and louder while we were there. By the time we had finished eating, the music was painfully loud and we couldn't wait to leave.

We went to Wetherspoon's for a quiet drink afterwards. We managed to find a table where we could talk without having to raise our voices.

Comparison of Yates's and Wetherspoons:

CategoryYates's Wetherspoons Winner:
FoodOk. I had the beer and a burger. Only beer option was Fosters though.Ok. Better choice of beer with the 'beer and a burger' meal.Draw(ish)
DrinkGood choice of bottled beers. Prices ok.Good choice of bottled beers. Excellent choice of real ale. Great prices.Wetherspoons
Busy?Half full. Plenty of tables.Nearly full. Not many tables available.If you're running a business, Wetherspoons.
AmbianceLoud shitty music. Got louder and shittier while we were there.No music. Easy to hold a conversation.Wetherspoons.

I really don't know why bars insist on playing music at painfully loud volumes. I can't see how it can attract people in without also annoying them. You've only got to look at how busy Wetherspoons was compared to Yates's. If you ran a bar which was regularly half empty when a nearby bar was almost full, it would be in your best interest to find out why. You'd have to be some kind of moron to not realise the loud music is driving a lot of people away.

Update 14/04/08 I've since read that the Yates's in Coventry has closed. It was always blaring out loud crappy music - that probably drove away most potential customers.

HSBC: The worst bank in Britain?

Story location: Home / Blog /

I'm glad my account isn't with the HSBC. We went there to pay a bill but it turned out to be one of their many branches where they've got rid of counter service. They had a 'podium' in the middle of the branch where you could wait for service but if there was no staff around, you could be waiting for ages.

It also meant that whenever any staff wander in from the back of the branch, they might not see you waiting and could serve, for example, the bloke who wandered straight to the back of the branch without waiting. It's a bit crappy of the staff to not check whether people were waiting first.

Pretty well anything you need to do in the branch has to be done using the machines. This isn't always self-explanatory. To pay a bill, you have to use the 'Paying In' machine, but nowhere does it mention paying bills. The machine looks like it's designed for depositing money into your account rather than paying bills. And if you ask a member of staff for help, you run the risk of being talked down to in a very patronising manner.

It was not a pleasant banking experience.

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Lily Allen and annoying Friends

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /

We got a tip-off about how bad this programme was when we read in the newspaper how the audience were desperate to get out, and how they were fed up with being told when to laugh or applaud.

If this is the new re-branded BBC3, then God help us. As I write, Lily is laughing at some Internet video of animals having sex, while David Mitchell looks uncomfortable and a bit embarrassed. You can't blame him really. The programme is the worst sort of childish crap.

Please BBC, cancel this shite. We really expect better than this from you.

Now Lily Allen is putting her fist in her mouth. Oh dear this is pathetic. I don't expect the programme to get any better so I'll switch off before I get too angry.

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Half Term

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

It normally takes us around 30-45 minutes to drive to the University in the mornings. We normally encounter bottlenecks of traffic near the railway station, along Kenilworth road near the A45, and on Charter Avenue. This week it has only taken around 10 minutes to do the same drive, with no hold-ups anywhere.

We were wondering where all the traffic had gone, then it occurred to us that it was school half term. Some of the decrease in traffic would be due to people taking time off work to take their children on holiday, but I'm sure most of it is due to the absence of parents driving their kids to school.

I find it amazing that all the extra 'school run mums' add enough traffic to make the roads grind to a halt and increase journey time by a factor of 3 or 4.

Genius on Board

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Coventry seems to have more than it's fair share of crap drivers. There was heavy rain this morning. An awful lot of cars were driving around without headlights. When I looked in my wing mirrors, all I could see was a wall of grey. A car without headlights would be effectively invisible.

Another thing I saw this morning was in a slow moving queue of traffic approaching a pedestrian crossing. The traffic was also queued up beyond the crossing. The lights turned red and Mr Genius accelerated to get over the crossing and join the queue at the other side. He risked the lives of anyone trying to cross and saved himself a grand total of zero seconds on his journey.

A few weeks ago I saw a car parked on a zebra crossing. It was also parked on the wrong side of the road, facing the wrong way. The moron driver had parked there so she could go to the nearby cash machine.

Why is Windows Search so crap?

Story location: Home / computing /

I've opened an Explorer window to a directory with several thousand files in it. I need to find a particular group of files so I click on 'Search' and tell it to search for files with a particular set of numbers in the filename.

Now Windows already has all the file names because it has displayed them in the directory window. You would expect any decent program do be able to do this search in a millionth of a second and filter the directory listing to show the files. After all, it already knows the file names and I told it only to look in the one directory.

After a minute or so, the useless pile of crap is still searching. I ended up stopping it and looking for the files myself, which was much quicker. I would like to know what Windows XP was actually doing during that minute - it could have indexed the whole drive in that time.

This was a networked drive with a very deep directory structure so I couldn't have easily navigated to it in the command prompt. And I was using a company computer so I couldn't install anything like the useful 'Open Command Prompt Here' powertool from Microsoft themselves. How hard would it have been for them to put some kind of 'filter filenames' option in Explorer? Something like the 'select files' command in WinZip, which allows wildcards to let you specify which files you want.

What we really need is something that combines the bits of windows which work with the bits of linux which are better... and probably end up with something like Mac OSX.

99p and a Time Machine

Story location: Home / Blog /

I was reading the Metro newspaper on my way to work this morning when I noticed a voucher for a 99p Mocha 'Today at your station'. The voucher expiry date was 10th June 2007, so it looks like the offer is open to Time Lords only, which is discrimination and should be illegal.

There was a list of stations where the voucher was valid. ALL IN LONDON! Since when have any of those been 'my station', especially because I was reading the Midlands edition of the paper on the Coventry to Birmingham train. So get your Tardis over to London and get your cheap cup of coffee.

Get a life, you sad ****ers

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

Earlier this year, a sculpture was erected in the middle of a roundabout in Stratford-upon-Avon. It depicts an armillary, which apparently is some kind of ancient astronomical tool.

For some reason, this has sent the residents of Stratford into an apoplexy, with people shouting abuse at it and holding a protest at the site.

For Christ's sake, it's only a sculpture. It's not obscene or pornographic or anything which should warrant such vitriol. The worst it could do is liven up a dull roundabout. Get a sense of perspective. If that's the worst thing happening in Stratford at the moment, then you are a very lucky town indeed. Otherwise, you are all a sad bunch of bastards and you should get a life.

Another food moron story

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

Good old Mail on Sunday, carrying the baton of outrage... After yesterdays story about people not knowing the origins of foodstuffs, we now get a story about the new 'Whole Foods Market' supermarket which has opened in London. I really wasn't expecting two completely different stories highlighting food ignorance and apathy in Britain.

To test out the new shop, they sent two people along:
Food writer Tom Parker Bowles, and the woman who shot to fame by shoving burgers through the school railings during the Jamie Oliver school dinners campaign. She claims to be championing freedom of choice when she really seems to mean freedom to feed unhealthy crap to their kids, freedom to fail to educate them about healthy food, freedom to encourage bad eating habits which will eventually kill them

There were some good quotes from her in the article. She seemed puzzled as to why more than one cheese existed, having only ever bought cheddar herself:

As for all those goat's cheeses, you must be kidding. Who would want to eat something that smelt of goat?

Hmmm. When even chavs-choice supermarket Asda manages to sell goat's cheese, how can someone who shops at Morrison's be so sceptical of it. I don't think Goat's cheese smells of goat - that's like saying ordinary cheese smells of cow. I don't know if she's been mis-quoted by the paper but when I read that I thought: 'what a moron'.

Further down the article she expressed incredulity that anyone would buy bread with fruit or vegetables in. Has she never heard of a fruit loaf? or bread with onions in? (I was going to mention olive bread but that's obviously foreign muck and she wouldn't be interested in that)

I won't say much about Tom Parker Bowles experience in the shop, suffice to say he seemed to drool over most of the specialist foods and liked the place.

Concrete Centre

Story location: Home / Blog / news /

icCoventry has a news story about the latest Lonely Planet guide to the UK which criticises Coventry and it's overabundance of concrete.

The ring road comes in for some criticism and granted, it's not pretty to look at and not fun to drive on (confusing junctions where you have to pull off to stay on the ring road, mostly grade-separated junctions but with one roundabout thrown in for extra confusion). Its big advantage over other ring roads in other towns is the separation - traffic using it is kept away from traffic in the city centre.

The complaint about the concrete city centre is probably fair. The area around the fountain in the precinct is a typical ugly town centre shopping area. The tower where Smithford Way meets Corporation Street is very pedestrian unfriendly, blocking the middle of the "road".

The book deservedly praises the Cathedral and the Transport Museum. The area around the Museum (including the Whittle Arches and Lady Herbert's Garden) is how a modern city centre should look. There are still a lot of medieval buildings in the centre but they are mostly hidden away which means the first impression is of 'modern' buildings.

Heading outside the path of the old town walls, you get the two medieval streets which lead away from the city. Spon Street has been 'prettified' and should be on any tourist's itinerary. At the opposite end, Far Gosford Street is much more run down. Both are home to a wide selection of pubs and restaurants.

I'm not sure whether I'm trying to defend Coventry here. The city has been my home for nearly 3 years now, and it certainly isn't perfect. There are many plans to redevelop a lot of the uglier parts of the centre so Coventry may eventually become a city to be proud of.

Q: When does 'any' not mean 'any'?

Story location: Home / Blog /

A: When you are Adsa.

A couple of days ago we bought 2 packs of turkey from the fridge in our local Asda. Both packs were in the same fridge and had identical stickers on saying 'BUY ANY 2 FOR £4' even though they were slightly different prices. When we got home we noticed that the 'multibuy' discount hadn't been applied so we took them back to complain.

The person on the customer services counter and a supervisor both tried to convince us that the offer only applied if we bought 2 identical packs. One pack happened to be 'normal' turkey whilst the other was their healthy range. We tried to explain that the word 'any' meant we should have been allowed to do what we did.

The dictionary at answers.com includes the definition: one or some or every or all without specification. For some reason the people at Asda seemed to be using their own definition and tried to convince us that 'any' meant 'only from the identical range of produce'.

Grape Juice

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

There's a news story doing the rounds about how purple grape juice is much better for you than other juices. The report also repeated the recent discovery that cloudy apple juice is better than clear. Unfortunately the vast majority of apple juice available in the supermarkets is the clear filtered stuff and the cloudy unfiltered juice is much more expensive. It's all rather stupid that you've got to pay more for a product which has had less done to it.

I'm sure a few years ago it was possible to buy cloudy apple juice in cartons, from the shelf rather than the fridge. If supermarkets are really wanting to encourage healthy eating they should make it available again at a sensible price. They'll probably whine about how clear juice outsells cloudy but since they offer a greater choice of clear and sell it for less then of course it'll sell better.