January 2007 Archives

Got my blood donor card on Saturday. It turns out I'm B rhesus negative, which puts me in a 2% minority within the UK population. They sounded keen to have me back. Yay me!
I've been a bit slack in writing up our journey around New Zealand as of late, so it's about time I caught up. Anyway, were was I... We stayed the night at the roadside in Pokeno. In the morning after breakfast we headed back to State Highway 1. We needed to refuel the van soon, so we stopped off at a petrol station in Cambridge (nothing like it's English namesake). This is where the trouble started. I filled the van full of diesel with no problems, but when I came to pay for it I ran into problems. I gave the pump number to the bored looking woman at the till. She took my card off me and swiped it. I assumed the system was the same as Chip 'n Pin in the UK, so I entered my pin on the keypad and pressed enter. Nothing happened.  After a few seconds it decided to reject the transaction. I looked at her and she scowled and barked "Select account!" at me.  I asked her what she meant.  She then gave up and got the manager, saying that I was causing trouble! The manager turned up. I explained I was on holiday from the UK and there was obviously something I was missing, but I had no idea what the woman had meant by "Select account". The manager took one look at my card, saw the Visa sign and assumed it was a credit card. He swiped the card again and pressed the CR button on the keypad (making sure to make me look like an idiot in front of the ever increasing queue) and asked me to enter my PIN. Depite it not being a credit card, this appeared to work (thank you to Visa and my bank!!!). You see, despite reading through the guide book and asking people about the country, I was unaware that in New Zealand, people have one card and attach all their accounts (credit, current account, savings, etc) to it, so you have to select the account type on the keypad and then enter the pin number for that card. It's a good idea in that it saves space in your wallet, etc - except that if you lose that one card then access to ALL of your accounts is lost. I just wish someone had explained that to me before I inadvertently pissed off a lot of people in a petrol station. Anyhow, I eventually got back in the van and we were on our way. Next up - Hobbiton!!!
That's right, it's my birthday tomorrow. Woo!

A Confederacy of Dunces

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I finished reading this book last night. It was written by John Kennedy Toole and was published posthumously. This Wikipedia page describes the story of the book better than I can (the link contains some spoilers for the story). I won't give much away here, but the book is set in 1960's New Orleans and tells the tale of Ignatius J Reilly, an educated 30 year old man who lives with his mother and hates modern society completely. It's really funny and clever in places and the ending is quite satisfying - all the more so because Ignatius has no idea what is really going on half the time, preferring to blame the goddess Fortuna and the people around him for everything that is going wrong in his life. I can highly recommend giving it a read.

TV License phone system

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I attempted to phone up the TV License people today to change over my Direct Debit details over to a different bank account. It's an automated system that uses speech recognition to work out what you are saying. It started well. I read out as clearly as I could the license number, which was then read back to me correctly, then I read out the new bank details which it also got correct. However, it all fell apart at the final hurdle when it asked for a telephone number. I gave my number twice - the system got it wrong by one digit both times and then decided to give up and put me on hold for about fifteen minutes to wait for a real person to take the details all over again. I'm usually quite keen on clever new tech, but not if it's utterly pointless like this. If they want to save money on paying lots of people to work in a call centre, their automated system could simply accept numerical input from the tried and tested telephone keypad. I bet they paid a fortune to have this unreliable new system developed and it's people like me who pay their TV License who are funding it.
I donated blood for the first time in my life last night. A relatively painless process, though I've been a little achy all over since, particularly in my arms and legs. I awoke this morning with backache too, though I think that's unrelated. The donation took place in a local church hall. As I was lying there being drained I noticed a sign on the wall stating:
Soft balls only on Sunday. If you want a hard ball, ask an adult.
The mind boggles. Anyway, I think the National Blood Service slogan "Do Something Amazing" is perhaps a little overstated, but I hope someone benefits from my donation. I shall be returning in four months to do my bit again.

My worst date ever

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I thought I'd try to entertain you all with a personal tale today, so here is the tale of the worst date I've ever been on (long before I met Katherine I might add). It was a Friday night in early February 2002. I was working for Rage Games in Sheffield at the time so was therefore having a few pints in the regular pub with a few of my colleagues. Our group gradually got smaller as people went to catch their trains home until I was left alone. I decided to stay for a bit, partly because I had drunk a few pints of Stella and fancied my luck on the pull, I lived alone and didn't have much to go back to at home, though mainly because I'd just bought a pint and wasn't going to waste it. On the adjacent table was a group of girls. In an unusual fit of self confidence, I sauntered over and got chatting with them. One in particular was rather nice in my view and we got on really well together. They all decided to move on to another pub and for some reason I said I was staying put. One of them came back pretending to have left her cigarettes and asked me if I fancied the girl I had been talking to. I replied in the affirmative and she passed me a piece of paper with a phone number and a name on it (which I won't reveal here). The following Monday I excitedly told my work friends about this and they eventually persuaded me to ring the number. I rang it and we arranged a date for the following night, meeting at the same pub. Fast forward to the night in question and I'm sat in the pub alone, feeling really nervous, necking a couple of pints to stop me shaking. The pub door opens and in walks... half of the people in my office. The evil bastards position themselves on the opposite side of the pub for a perfect view of us. Then my date arrives. It's not the woman I thought it was going to be. Not even close. It's their rather large friend with rock bottom self esteem who sat there saying nothing the previous Friday. I've been set up and my workmates are seeing everything. Still, I try to make the best of it, so I buy her a drink and try to start the "getting to know you" conversation. She's very hard work. The dialogue went something like:
Me: "So... What kind of music are you into?" Her: "I don't listen to much music." Me: "OK, what films do you like?" Her: "Erm... The last film I saw was Titanic" ...
I was finding it very difficult to find any common ground between us. It was made even harder by my workmates making whale impressions, winking at me, or generally making "you're in there matey" gestures whenever I saw them. Later, as we had a few more drinks, she relaxed a little and eventually started talking. However, her idea of a first date conversation was to drop the bombshell that she had a two year old son and to rant about the bloke who had got her pregnant and then left her. I was way out of my depth here and I really didn't have a clue what to say. After an eternity, she received a phone call. It was her mother to tell her that she was going to bed and that she should come home to look after her child. I bade her farewell and joined my friends at the back of the pub in an attempt to get most of the inevitable piss taking out of the way while I was still drunk. I went home, deleted her number from my mobile and burnt the piece of paper that had started it all. This took quite a while with an electric hob, but was quite satisfying to watch the paper slowly blacken and turn to ash. This would have been the end of it, but a few days later it was Valentine's day. At about lunchtime I recieved a text that went something like:
Roses are red Violets are blue I had a good time the other night And I think I like you
I ignored this, but more texts kept coming, getting increasingly desperate as the day wore on. Eventually I had to phone her and explain that I didn't think we were a good match. She was crying on the phone and sounded really upset about it - after ONE DATE! Eventually though, she seemed to accept it and I never heard from her again.

Apple iPhone

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Pros
  1. It looks pretty.
Cons 
  1. It's too expensive.
  2. The huge screen probably means the battery won't last long.
  3. ...and it'll get scratched.
  4. People who I don't like will already have pre-orders.
I'm not buying one.

Debt

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A few months ago, i started receiving letters from a debt collection agency claiming I owed a lot of money on a credit card. I've never had an account with the credit card company in question, so I wrote both companies a letter stating this. The debt collection agency ignored my reasoning and continued to send several letters a week demanding (in increasingly stronger terms) immediate payment. I then recieved a letter from the credit card company stating that they did indeed have an account in my name, but this was probably a case of mistaken identity. I forwarded this letter to the debt collection agency and all of a sudden the letters stopped. They didn't even send an acknowledgement. Whether this is the end of the matter or not, I do not yet know, but what worries me is how this kind of situation can happen in the first place. I would not be surprised if there are people who are scared by the legal threats into paying the bill. The fact is, there is either another Keith Judge in the UK who owes this money, or (maybe more likely) someone has taken my details and opened an account in my name. How do you catch an identity fraudster who has pushed a credit card to its limit and then discarded it, probably many months or years ago? We live in a country where it is incredibly easy to borrow huge sums of money, and incredibly difficult for a lot of people to pay it back. When a company approves a loan, where does the money come from? I somehow doubt more than a fraction is backed up by any real assets, yet you must pay back every penny with interest through years of hard work. Even more worrying is that the billions of borrowed money is one of the key factors in propping up our current buoyant economy so I doubt the government would do anything drastic to stem this.
Being driven on roads that varied from bumpy to just gravel whilst having a rather queasy stomach is no laughing matter. In fact, I puked all over someone's front lawn (sorry about that whoever you are), though the toilet in the camper van saved many an accident. Anyhow, despite my illness, we continued our journey, working our way down the coast through Auckland and onto Reporoa where we stayed for a few days and attended a lovely wedding. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. The first place we visited on our Southward progress was Kawakawa, where there are some rather unique public toilets designed by Hundertwasser. They feature multiple coloured tiles with glass bottles embedded in the walls. A great place for a poo (one of many that day...). We then continued to Whangarei where we visited the impressive local waterfall and had a lovely walk around the area.  After sitting down nearby for a rest, we watched some local Maori boys swimming in the water, fearless of the nearby waterfall.  One of them then proceeded to climb quickly to the top of a ridiculously high tree and dive into the water.  We weren't the only ones impressed.  The boys noticed some other tourists had taken a video of his dive and so went to them to see the resulting footage. Onwards we went, to see Goat Island.  We originally planned on getting a boat trip around the island as described in the guide book, but we were out of season so it wasn't running.  Instead we clambered all over the rocky beach, noticing odd tiny copper sculptures embedded in the stone and the bizarre looking trees overhanging us.  As there were a lot of rock pools around, I inevitably slipped one foot into a shin deep example to much laughter from Katherine and an old Scottish couple who had come from nowhere behind us to witness my mishap and laugh about it. We decided that we would rather tackle Auckland's traffic in the evening rather than the next day, so we tore our way down State Highway 1 to find the little town of Pokeno as an ideal quiet place to park up for the night. To be continued...

2006 in review

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I've only been writing this blog for just over three months, but I did indeed live throughout the entire of 2006. For me, it's been one of the busiest years of my life to date. In rough chronological order, the significant personal events for me were... Put an offer on a house, shipped Burnout Revenge 360, spent over a week in Rome with my girlfriend (my first ever trip abroad and my first ever flight!), bought a house (no more rent, yay!), went camping in Yorkshire, lost nearly a stone in weight, built a shed, spent two weeks in New Zealand, got engaged to Katherine, attended two lovely weddings (including one I helped a little to organise), started a blog, attended one stag weekend, put on nearly a stone in weight, did the full Woolton 13 and overall I worked too much overtime with more responsibility and pressure than ever. So, at this point in a review post, people would generally list their best and worst movies and music, so I shall stick with convention. Film I didn't see many films this year (half of those I did see were on a tiny LCD screen on the flights to and from NZ), but the film I enjoyed the most was Mission Impossible 3 as it was a really well executed action film, with Miami Vice coming a close second. The worst film by far was Ice Age 2, which was so dire I'm not sure even children would enjoy it. Cars was good, though (like The Incredibles) a bit of a let down by Pixar standards. Games For someone in the games industry, I played shockingly few games in 2006. The only game I've played from start to finish is the rather curiously named Half Life 2: Episode 1 which (as usual for a Valve production) was really good and still plays well on my aging PC (even with HDR rendering turned on). The new Sam & Max game is good so far, though a little easy. Other than that I've wasted too much time playing Minesweeper Flags on MSN. TV Again, I've not watched a huge amount of TV this year. Torchwood and Dr Who have been about the only things holding my attention of late. It's low budget sci-fi twaddle with unconvincing characters, poor stories and logical plot holes all over the place, but somehow remains remarkably entertaining. ...and 2007? So, what am I planning to do differently this year? First of all, I'm resolving to stop working twelve hours a day, six days a week ever again. How successful I'll be in that I'm not sure. Also, I'm planning on getting married - which means I really want to lose weight again. Other than that, I want to keep writing this blog and generally take time to relax more. I've barely spent any time watching movies, TV or playing games in 2006. I truly believe that this escapism is one of the main things that keeps us sane and centred in the modern world.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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