Thursday, 27 September 2012

Dreddnaught

One of the things most car drivers take for granted is the fuel gauge on their dashboard. I don’t have one on my current bike, due to the no-frills nature of the instrument panel. All I’ve got is a speedo, a rev counter, indicators, neutral and hi-beam icons. That’s it. No fuel gauge, no oil temperature...nothing but the basics. It’ll probably come as no surprise to read then, that on Monday afternoon I ran out of petrol. On the M5. It wasn’t a particularly nice experience, especially as I was overtaking a lorry at the time. There I was, thundering along at 80mph when suddenly the bike started to lurch and grumble, lost all power and started to slow down. Luckily, the motorway was fairly quiet so I was able to indicate into the outside lane and then trundle to a halt on the hard shoulder. I wasn’t actually aware of the reason for the bike’s reluctance to start up again (I just thought it was a re-occurrence of the problems I had a few weeks ago) until I opened the fuel tank and shook the bike from side to side. Empty. Great. I was two miles from the junction I was planning on coming off at so I had no choice but to push the Suzuki up the hard shoulder and up the ramp and then negotiate a bridle path before finding a petrol station. I filled up, and she started first time. So, if you happened to see a bloke pushing a Suzuki Goose up the M5 on Monday afternoon – that was me! 

Also, let this be a lesson to you: never underestimate the power of the petrol gauge. To be fair, I’ve had the bike for a few weeks now, and the only time I’d actually put any fuel in it was when I put a fiver’s worth in...erm...a few weeks ago. So I’ve only got myself to blame really. Small engine bikes are so fuel efficient, you almost forget that they actually require fuel, and without the gauge on the dash screaming ‘put some petrol in you dick!,’ it’s easy to forget. Furthermore - Suzuki Gooses (Geese?) are heavier than they look, so pay attention to your petrol level, fellow non-gaugers.

It wasn’t all bad though – my faith in humanity was restored slightly by the number of other bikers who pulled over to ask if they could help. When I told them I was out of fuel, most of them offered to take me to the nearest petrol station...but then we realised I had no petrol can and that it would require going back down the motorway to the next junction and coming back up on the other side in order to get back to the Suzuki. So I just resided to push it. But to those helpful fellow motorcyclists, I say thank you: you just don’t get that kind of assistance when you drive a car. 

I went to see the new Judge Dredd film the other day. I had high hopes for it, seeing as I’m quite familiar with the comic-based version of Dredd. Back in my early teens, 2000AD was one of the many periodicals I would waste my mum’s child benefit money on (or, if I happened to have a paper round for that particular month, my own money), so the Dredd character is one I have a particular interest in. When I actually sit and think about it, 2000AD and the various ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ spin-off comics were probably my first real exposure so science fiction, so you can see why I was really rooting for this new movie to be kick ass. I love the whole setting of the franchise – the huge, dirty mega cities, the idea of a no-man’s land outside the city walls, the dystopian lifestyle depicted within said walls. It’s like Blade Runner and 1984 rolled together, but with a bit of dark humour thrown in for good measure. 

The first Dredd movie didn’t do particularly well at the box office, but I still think it’s a pretty decent film (even if Dredd/Stallone does take his helmet off). I reckon the reason for that film’s lack of success was that the whole Judge Dredd thing was/is a British comic strip and American knowledge of it in the early 1990s was pretty limited. I’m guessing most people in the US had no idea what the fuck Judge Dredd was meant to be when the Stallone version launched. What? It’s a courtroom drama? Set in the future? With Rambo in it? I’ll pass, thanks. 

So the latest take on the Dredd universe? Well, it’s pretty fucking good to be honest. I wasn’t sure what to think when I heard that Karl Urban had been cast as the main man, but his performance was outstanding. And his chin/grimace is more ‘Dredd’ than Stallone’s could ever be. The storyline is fairly basic – Dredd and a new recruit (Anderson) get called to a homicide in one of the city’s vast tower blocks (remember the ‘block wars’?) and discover a massive drug manufacturing plot. The drug lord behind the operation then locks the block down and orders her gangsters to flush the Judges out before they can shut her down. It’s a simple story, but set in this world, it’s enough to power an entire movie. I don’t know what it is about Karl Urban, but he just ‘does’ Dredd so fucking well, and the gore and slow-motion effects blend perfectly with the firefights and humour. Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a comedy, but there are a few laugh-out-loud moments along the way. 

The only slight criticisms I have of the movie are the lack of character exploration of Dredd himself and the lack of exploration of Mega City One. Remember in the previous movie how the whole thing kind of hinged on Dredd’s past – the way he was cloned, had a long-lost brother and all that shit? And then there were the sections with the flying Lawmasters that showed you more of the city? There just isn’t any of that in this new one. I suppose this just sets up the possibility of a sequel where we get to see more about Dredd’s past and more of the city, so it’s not all bad...but I was left wanting more from the storyline. Also – where was the fucking ABC warrior?! More ABC warriors in the sequel, please. 

So Dredd then. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of the subject matter, but also worth a watch if you’re a fan of the science fiction genre in general, as the pickings at the cinema are a bit thin on the ground at the moment...apart from Looper, which everyone is raving about. It looks intriguing from the trailers I’ve seen thus far...I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be Inception or The Adjustment Bureau all over again. Two films which looked fucking awesome...but turned out to be either incomprehensible bullshit (Inception), or a totally wasted opportunity (Bureau). 

I only really go to the cinema if there’s a film on that I really, really want to see (I think the last thing I saw was Prometheus The Dark Knight Rises), mainly because it’s so fucking expensive. Dredd was only showing in 3D so I had to pay for the glasses too, and even though Cineworld advertise Tuesdays as ‘bargain Tuesdays,’ I still ended up forking out nearly £9 for the pleasure. When I got into the theatre after all the fucking weirdoes watching Anna Karenina had cleared out, I found that I was pretty much on my own and had the entire cinema to pick a seat from. So I sat right in the middle so I could get the best view of the screen and optimum 3D viewing angle. No sooner had I sat down than these two fuckwits came in and sat right behind me. As soon as their asses touched the seats, they cracked open cans of coke, started rustling crisp bags and began a full-blown conversation at the tops of their voices. Fair enough, I thought – they’ll shut up as soon as the trailers start. They didn’t. They carried on talking – at full volume – right through the start of the movie and beyond. When one of them started kicking the row of chairs I was sat in, I turned around and looked at them. This was enough to shut them up...for about 5 minutes, and then they started again. I just got up and moved to another aisle, and even though I was far enough away from the pricks to enjoy the rest of the movie, I could still hear them from the other side of the auditorium during quiet moments in the film. Who does that? Who pays nearly ten quid to go to the cinema and then talk through the whole fucking movie? I was determined to find out. 

After the credits started to roll, I went outside and waited for these two fucktards to emerge from the cinema. Because of the lateness of the hour and the small number of people watching the film, I easily spotted them after about 3 minutes of loitering, and I approached. “Thanks for the running commentary,” I began, “I really enjoyed paying £9 to listen to you talk through the entire film.” One of them was quite big and I was expecting trouble, but he stepped closer to me and apologised. I didn’t want his fucking apology at that point, but I was glad I’d given them a piece of my mind, as most people today just let shit like this slide because they’re scared to open their mouths in case they get shanked. Not me. If someone threatens to shank me, I’ll shank the fucker first – in the eye. But that’s just how I roll. Anyway, this bloke started apologising whilst the other one was suddenly quiet. Turns out it was a dad with his mentally handicapped son. The son is on medication for his extreme ADHD and other mental issues and that’s why they were talking – it’s the only way to keep the son’s attention and stop him wandering off etc. I did feel a bit bad about jumping to conclusions and having a go at them without knowing the facts, but how the hell was I supposed to know? I can totally see why the guy took his son to the cinema at 9.30 if he has to talk to him through a showing...but why sit right behind the only other person in there?! Jesus. 

Last bit of overly geeky horse shit: I’ve finally discovered why I can’t play original Xbox games in my 360: the hard drive. You see, my 360 is one of the slim ones, but it’s the matte black 4GB version. I discovered, much to my dismay mere weeks after I’d bought it, that 4GBs of memory simply aren’t enough if you want to install games and demos etc on your system. So off I went to eBay and I got an unbranded HDD for peanuts, whacked it in, and hey presto – more space than I’m ever likely to fill! Winner! Alas, I’ve since discovered that due to the lack of a partition for the saving of original Xbox game files, this unofficial hard drive renders the console unable to load original Xbox games...so no Halo 2 or Outrun 2 unless I go and give Microsoft even more of my hard-earned for an official hard drive. And to that I stick two fingers up. 

It’s the Bristol half marathon this Sunday and I’ve already got my race number and timing tag etc. This’ll be the first race I’ve taken part in this year where I haven’t been totally smashed the night before, so I’ll be sure to divulge on here how I get on. Bearing in mind that all of the previous post night-out races have resulted in either personal bests (Sturminster Newton ½ Marathon) or podium finishes (Puddletown 3rd and East Manchester 2nd), I reckon it’ll be interesting to see how I get on.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Budaimpressed

Hello there. There are two reasons why I haven't updated in a week. The first one is, simply, that I couldn't be arsed. The second, and main reason, is that last week I was in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. For those who don't know what Budapest looks like, here's a picture:


I spent a rather splendid four days in the city, sandwiched betwixt overnight stays in a hotel at Stansted airport...which was perfectly acceptable, but just not Budapest, so probably doesn't count as part of the holiday. Am I digressing again? I think I might be, but such is my style. Anyhow, Budapest. What a place. Before I went, I had no real idea of what to expect from Hungary. Obviously, I'd heard of the country and I knew it was somewhere in Eastern Europe...but that was about the extent of my knowledge. I knew nothing of the culture, the food, the people...and on reflection I really had no idea what to expect when we got off the plane. Would there be horses and bears roaming the market square? Would there be powerful floating mages offering me magical potions for a few rupees? Would I have to round up chickens in order to pay for a glass of brown water? All these conundrums and more didn't really go through my head on the way there. Back in reality, I needn't have worried, as Budapest is pretty much like any other European capital: beautiful architecture, busy roads, lots of attractions and plenty of places to eat and drink.

One of the best bits about Hungary is that it isn't part of the Euro, so you still get a pretty good rate for your Pound - indeed, you can expect to get around 1000 Forints for about £3.50. Add to this the outstanding value you get for your Forints (a beer costs about 400 Forints on average - that's about £1.30-ish!), and Hungary is a fantastic prospect for those looking for a bargain holiday (people like me, for example). This value-for-money shit doesn't stop at beer either - food is ridiculously cheap, and it's fucking good too.

Even though we only spent four days in Budapest, my girlfriend and I saw and did a fuck-load of stuff. We visited the underground labyrinth, a couple of castles, the holocaust memorial museum, the House of Terror (the building in which both the Nazis and the Soviets set up their respective headquarters when they were lording it over the Hungarian people), several art galleries, the opera house, the national stadium, markets, shopping centres, and of course plenty of restaurants and bars. We had a cruise on the Danube (which also included a traditional Hungarian buffet) and I went for several epic runs around a park/island in the middle of the aforementioned river that splits the city in half. The weather was also really nice, which added a certain something to the experience - especially on Thursday when I went for a jog at dawn and was treated to a spectacular sunrise.

The trip seemed to fly by way too quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to go back home to shitty old rainy England. Bah!

Here are a few more select photos of the great city of Budapest:


















If you're thinking about going to Eastern Europe, I really would recommend visiting the Hungarian capital. I can't really comment on the rest of the country as I didn't venture out of the city, but I was really taken with the feel of the place, the history and the welcoming nature of the indigenous bartenders. Although I'll never fully accept that 'don't go to the bar' shit that they do in Europe. It's just plain weird. Apart from that though, 'twas cool.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

We Are Young. Apparently

I don't usually post shit like this. I usually moan about stuff I've recently seen in reality - like the obese family down the road who today I glimpsed having a home delivery dropped off by Sainsbury's. Not overly unusual...until you learn that Sainsbury's is (literally) 300 metres from their front door. How fucking lazy can you get? I hope, I really, really hope that the entire family meet their respective ends suffocating under rolls of their own fat. The lazy, lazy, disgusting cunts.

However, the reason I'm posting right now, is that I've discovered a song that I love almost as much as the aforementioned family of grossly overweight fucktards up the street love shoving food down their flab-laden necks:


Basically, this song is epic. The slow-moving intro makes you wonder what kind of student-type existentialist bullshit you're wasting your time listening to...and then BAM! - that amazing chorus just comes out of nowhere. And that, my friends, is what constitutes genius song writing. I'd never heard of 'Fun' (the band, or the emotion) before, but by God this is a decent d├ębut tune. Enjoy.

Friday, 14 September 2012

BlackBerry, and Apple Crumble


PayPal finally caved in and allowed me to have access to my own money, which was nice of them. I got an email late on Wednesday evening alerting me to the fact that they’d reviewed my transaction and found nothing to raise concern, and that my cash had been released. Well thank you very fucking much, PayPal. I don’t actually recall asking you to come and investigate the totally legitimate sale of my motorcycle, but thanks all the same.

I’ve transferred the majority of the money back into the savings account from which I funded the purchase of the Suzuki Goose, and paid off a few minor debts I had (I gave back money I borrowed for the purchase of cheap booze and heroin). I did make one purchase with the spoils of my profit-making sale, however – a new phone. I think this must be about the 5th time I’ve bleated on about a new phone on this blog (let me see...HTC HD2, Palm Pre, O2 XDA, Huawei Blaze...yep, it is), so that just shows you how prone to failure/out-moding these ubiquitous devices really are. Fuck me – I’ve only been blogging since 2009 (well, 2006 if you count the Dreamcast Junkyard, but that doesn’t count) and I’ve already gone through 4 different mobiles! Planned obsolescence in action, or evidence of really shoddy manufacturing? You decide (in an old skool Big Brother Geordie voice). I’d probably go for the latter, as at least two of the mobiles had to be replaced due to the hardware going tits-up through no fault of the user (me); the Palm Pre’s touch screen went haywire and rendered it useless, while the Huawei Blaze’s speaker died so phone calls became an impossibility.

I was planning on replacing the Huawei with another touch screen, Android-based device – the Sony Xperia Tipo. This particular handset is described as a budget device, but it boasts a newer version of Android than the Huawei Blaze (Android 4) so that was the main attraction for me as I was pretty attached to the apps and stuff that the Play Store offered for Android 3.5. Upon reflection though, I wasn’t overly keen on the ‘screen only’ input methods of both the HD2 or the Blaze...so I took a gamble and bought a BlackBerry Curve 8520 instead. It’s a little antiquated (no 3G, for one), but BlackBerrys are renowned for their robust nature and the solid user interface, so that’s what swayed me.

My first impressions are pretty positive, even if the OS on the device is a little arcane at first glance. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve also got a BlackBerry PlayBook so I have some basic knowledge of how these things work, but the Curve is a lot more simplistic than the PlayBook. There’s no touch screen for a start, which may be a blessing in disguise – you have to scroll around using the little optical trackpad thing. Also, BlackBerry seem to be really into ‘security’ and such, so you have to create all these fucking accounts and stuff and go through registration setups and shit. Bit annoying, but I’ve managed to link it to my existing PlayBook ID so it’s all working fine(ish). I say ‘ish,’ because due to some fucked up method of operation, I need to have a special add-on with my Giffgaff account in order to use the BBM and email etc, but I can’t add it to my profile mid-month...so I’ve got to wait until October to add this magical extension. The phone works fine as it is (I can call, text, go online via the Wi-Fi or through Opera Mini (love a bit of OS trickery!) when I’m out of the house), but I’m assured that the BlackBerry phone comes into it’s own once you’re allowed to access all the cool shit like the instant messaging etc. Ah well...October is but a few weeks away, and I’m sure I’ll cope.

Away from the minor shortcomings of the OS and the network, I really like the look of the Curve, and the keyboard is fantastic for writing text messages. The coolest feature though? I can connect this badboy to my PlayBook via Bluetooth and use the thing as a mouse! Yes – you read that shit correctly! It’s possibly the most pointless (geddit?!) thing I’ve ever heard of considering the PlayBook is just one bit capacitive touch screen, but there you are. I don’t know how I could ever use this feature, other than to impress my equally nerdy flatmate (as I did, yesterday), but the fact that it exists is enough for me. There are other uses for this ‘BlackBerry Bridge’ feature - for instance you can tether the tablet to the phone for internet access etc...but I doubt I’ll ever feel the need to do that when Wi-Fi is pretty much everywhere these days.

Does this make me a BlackBerry fan boy? Maybe...but I’m several degrees further from hell than all the Apple zealots clamouring to get their perfectly manicured, fresh-from-the-cloning-vat hands on an iPhone 5. What is the deal with all the ‘new’ versions of the iPhone? They don’t look any different from the last one, but people are falling over themselves to get the latest model as soon as it's announced. There’s at least one person where I work who has a perfectly good iPhone 4S...yet they’re sweating about how they will be able to fund the purchase of an iPhone 5. And the price...fuck me - £500 minimum? My BlackBerry cost me just over £100 from Sainsbury’s, unbranded and SIM free. I just don’t get it. Neither does the guy who wrote this article about Apple's new product launches being boring now that Steve Jobs has uploaded himself to the iCloud.

However, I’m not going to turn this into another Apple-bashing session. I’m over that. I’m a BlackBerry power user now, and we just don’t stoop to that fucking level. Peace.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Permission to Scream: Authorised

Well, I finally sold the Honda. I suppose that should be a cause for celebration seeing as it’s been the source of quite a bit of stress over the past week or so. Ever since I bought the Suzuki, I’ve had the burden of entering the murky world of vehicle sales looming over me like some kind of sentient shadow. A bit like Count Dracula’s in that shit movie with Neo Anderson from The Matrix in it. But hold the champagne – the celebrations haven’t been given the all clear just yet. One word: Paypal. I’ll come back to that in a second, but first let me explain why getting rid of the Honda has been such a pain in the ass.

The first and most important thing I had to contend with was actually getting the bike exposed to a buying public. I advertised it on eBay as a classified listing and had exactly zero phone calls for about a week, before noticing (quite by chance)that eBay had placed a totally random telephone number in the ‘contact the seller’ section. I clearly remember entering my actual phone number, so where this random string of digits came from, I don’t know. I know some services offer a ‘number masking’ thing, where buyers only get to see an 0800 number to protect your identity, but eBay never offered one: this random telephone number seems to have been entered seemingly at random. Odd. Suffice to say, that after entering my correct details I had a call within an hour that led to the eventual sale. But we’re not at that point just yet. Due to the lack of interest from eBayers, I decided that putting the bike up for sale on several websites would garner more exposure, so off I popped to Gumtree.

I’ve sold things on Gumtree before, but the kinds of people who respond to Gumtree ads tend to be the ones who bring a certain odour with them when they turn up to buy stuff: that of sweat and faeces. Why? Who knows, but they do. Anyway, I tried to post an advert in the motorcycles section of Gumtree, but every time I did, the advert appeared in the ‘cars’ section. This happened about 7 times, and every time I tried to contact customer services to ask why, I was met with an automated response with a different (stupid) name attached at the bottom. People like ‘Gary Sultana’ then started to bombard my inbox with requests to take a customer satisfaction survey and such like. Here’s my customer response, Gary Sultana: take your ridiculous name and go fuck yourself you prick. Your service is nonexistent and your website is a fucking joke.

I’m pretty sure one of the emails was from an actual person – somebody calling themselves ‘Liam Henderson.’ I wrote a lengthy and polite email to customer services explaining that I was trying to place an advert in the motorcycles section and that my advert, once accepted, would continue to be placed in the cars section, ergo anyone searching for a motorbike would not see my advert...because it was in the wrong section. You get the idea. Liam Henderson sent me a reply saying this: “Your advert is in the section ‘Cars, Vans & Motorcycles – Cars – Honda’...seems like the right place to me.” FUCKING MORON! At this point, I realised that trying to communicate with this online entity was like smashing my head repeatedly against a submarine hatch, so I admitted defeat and put a filter on any future Gumtree mail sending it automatically to the ‘junk’ folder.

I also paid £15 to have a third advert placed on the pages of MCN (that’s Motorcycle News, for those not in the know), and I didn’t actually have an issue with it, other than a few calls from people who were from hundreds of miles away asking if I could deliver the bike to them (erm...no. That’s not how buying a vehicle works).

Even in the face of this web-based adversity, various time wasting phone calls, and several visits from people who were clearly trying to get the bike off me for a fraction of the advertised price, I managed to sell the bike. The guy rang and emailed yesterday (after I amended the aforementioned eBay contact info issue) and seemed like quite a keen, decent buyer. He turned up, looked at the bike and we agreed a price (slightly lower than the asking price, but a sensible offer and one I was only too happy to accept after the developments of the past week). The only problem was that it was about 7pm and the banks were all closed so he couldn’t get the cash out for me. We decided to use the Wi-Fi in my flat so he could send the cash to me using PayPal, which seemed like a perfectly acceptable method at the time. That is until a) I realised that PayPal had siphoned off about £50 for the pleasure; and b) I got an email from them saying that my request to withdraw the payment to my bank account was ‘pending’ until they had reviewed it. REVIEWED WHAT?! The guy was sat in my house chatting with me when he did the transfer from his bank account to my PayPal account. We shook hands, and he left a happy man. Why does PayPal feel the need to stick its fucking stupid face in? I’ve queried this, and been told that it’s for my protection. Eh?! From what, exactly?! 

So that’s the current state of things. I’ve sold my Honda and the buyer is happy with it. I’m happy with the price he paid. But I still haven’t got my money because I made the massive mistake of letting PayPal become involved. And there isn’t a single fucking thing I can do about it.

The morale of this story has several layers. I propose the first one is this: do not sell a vehicle unless it is a matter of life and death. The stress levels you will encounter are (probably) similar to those endured when moving house or losing a loved one (as those are, apparently, the two most unsettling events you can go through in a stable, developed country...although evidence suggests that’s bullshit). Secondly, the internet fucking sucks...or rather, the people tasked with running shit that is based on the internet suck. Ultimately, people are people...and as I stated in a previous blog post, quite correctly in my opinion, people are cunts to each other. The last one is this: PayPal seems to be a company that creates its own rules and regulations and generally they fuck with people’s lives. I’ve had a look at the community forums to see how long they generally take to release users’ cash, and there doesn’t seem to be a definite answer other than: when they want to. Which is quite a big flaw, actually. The closure of my account will be pretty swift once I get my cash – well done PayPal.

I’m quite relieved that this whole ordeal is (almost) over, and when I finally get my money released, it’ll be a good few years before I dip my toe into the world of vehicle buying and selling. I’d like to dip my fist/boot into Gary Sultana or Liam Henderson’s face though. And PayPal’s collective face too, if possible.

In a sudden and rather unexpected change of tack, go here to read my blog post over at the National Archives blog. It’s about Digital Preservation, so not going to appeal to everybody...but go have a look anyway. Expand your horizons and all that shit.

Update: I've just been looking at my PayPal account and it appears I have a limit on the amount of money I can withdraw or send through my account. I've just been on the phone with them and they said that this shouldn't affect the transaction from yesterday and that my money will go into my bank account in the next few days. Gah! If only I'd insisted on a cash payment. Hindsight: what a fucking amazing invention. I'm not holding my breath - I expect a bloody, drawn-out war over this. My Afghanistan, if you will. Further updates as they happen.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Procedures

Found myself way oop north last week. Yep – I took the train to Durham to meet up with some work colleagues and have meetings etc. Doesn’t sound too exciting, I know, but my employer arranged for this meeting to take place behind the scenes at Durham cathedral...and also incorporated a guided tour of the building. To say it was amazing is an understatement. I’d never been to Durham before so it was a fairly spectacular introduction to the place. The city itself is pretty nice – it’s not a big city like Birmingham or Manchester, but for that reason it has a totally different feel; very olde worlde, little winding streets and crooked alleys with independent shops built seemingly on top of each other.  Most people have probably heard of Durham University and the reputation it has, but the cathedral and castle are the first things you see as you approach on the train. Place looks like fucking Hogwarts – indeed, they used the cathedral as a set in Harry Potter...but I've never really been interested enough to watch any of those films so I couldn’t really comment. Something about ‘Monogle’s’ classroom? I don’t know. Meh. The guided tour of the cathedral was fascinating, and it was helped along by the fact that tour guide seemed to know a factoid about every single brick and door knob and column...so kudos to him. I’d definitely recommend a visit to the cathedral if you ever find yourself in that part of the world, and also a visit to the Shakespeare Inn just around the corner. It’s basically the Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings, but without the Nazgul trying to stab you in your bed.

Durham cathedral entrance

Took all these pics with my PlayBook

Durham cathedral cloisters. There were bats flying around, naturally.

Saturday was slightly more nerve-wracking. A little bit of background: I've had gut problems for years. This may qualify as ‘over sharing,’ but fuck it. I don’t care. So yeah, I've had gut problems for years, and these problems have manifested themselves in various ways: feeling like shit, bloated, farting out noxious gasses that could put down a shopping centre full of families. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember and recently I’d resigned to putting up with it for the rest of my life...however long that will be. I’d tried altering my diet, cutting out alcohol and other stuff like bread and dairy and also trying those bullshit bacteria drinks like Actimel and Yakult...to no avail. However, however. Saturday morning I went and had a ‘procedure.’ This procedure is more commonly known as colonic irrigation and involved a pipe being shoved up my ass and warm water being forced into my colon. I must admit to being extremely fucking apprehensive – who wants to get their ass out in front of a stranger and have a pipe slipped up it?! I was even more apprehensive when myself and my significant other (who arranged the appointment, by the way) walked into the clinic and the only member of staff appeared to be a bearded man who clearly weighed at least 30 stone. Not a good start. Fears were repealed though when the therapist turned up and it was a less fearsome-looking female of normal human-like proportions. So I took off my pants,  got on the table, had water squirted up me, shat it out...and I must say that the result is nothing short of revelatory. Since Saturday morning (it’s now Monday morning), I have had no gurgling, no pain, no bloating...and no repugnant clouds of stench. The impossible has become reality...I have normal guts! Amazing! So, if you suffer from a bad stomach/digestive issues I’d wholeheartedly recommend going for one of these treatments. Once you get over the initial embarrassment and realise that the people who offer it see hundreds of asses and yours is no different, you’ll be thankful that you did.

Away from ass news, I sorted the issues with my new bike. The Suzuki Goose now has some new indicators and a headlight that points in the right direction as opposed to at the floor. The only niggle I have now is the speedo. Because it’s an imported machine, the speedometer is in Kilometres instead of mph. And because of this, it has a conversion sticker overlaid that...er...converts your speed to mph. It’s just that because the Goose is so much more powerful than the CBF, I feel like I’m going slower than the speed I’m told I’m going at. Example – when the speedo tells me I’m doing 30mph, I feel like I’m going slower than that because the engine is hardly ticking over, just sort of growling, and I can’t rely on the flow of traffic to tell me that I’m actually doing 30mph because nobody drives at the correct speed anyway! Fucking annoying.

Equally annoying is the way that potential buyers of my previous motorcycle are pissing me about. It’s advertised on several websites for £1650, which is an absolute steal for this type of bike...but people keep trying to get me to part with it for less. One guy turned up to look at it on Saturday afternoon, spent about half an hour of my time trying to find faults with it (he couldn’t) and then offered me £1400! That’s £250 under what it’s advertised for...cheeky twat! I understand that buyers expect to haggle...but that was taking the piss, and clearly indicated that he’d turned up with that much cash totally expecting to pay that much for the bike. Quite simply: do one. Other biking news: I picked up a rather nice biker jacket at a carboot sale on Sunday morning...for a fiver! I also managed to get an official and rather rare PlayStation carry case for £5 too. There was a distinct lack of Dreamcast stuff there, but you can’t have it all: I think a virtually new biking jacket and a PlayStation branded carry case for a combined total of £10 are great spoils. On top of that, the weather this weekend has been stunningly good...so all in all a pretty good weekend. Feels a bit strange to not be moaning about shit (no pun intended), but don’t worry – I’m sure I’ll find something to bitch about in my next post.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Bikes an' Phones an' Shit

Turns out that the issue with my new bike being a twat (by ‘twat’ I of course mean ‘cutting out at 70mph on the M5’) was easier to remedy than I initially anticipated. I visited a dedicated Suzuki Goose fan site and managed to download a pdf of the Japanese owner’s manual. Inside, there was a really helpful diagram showing how the petrol tap should be aligned...and it transpires that having the tap turned to ‘on’ actually puts the bike in ‘reserve,’ and turning to ‘reserve’ allows the main tank to be accessed. Those crazy Japs and their upside-down petrol tank markings! I extend a thousand thanks to the people at www.suzukigoose.co.uk for uploading the manual...although the site doesn’t seem to be updated anymore so I’m not sure they’ll ever know how much I appreciate it. Maybe I could somehow deduce where the webmaster lives by analysing the backgrounds in his photos and cross-referencing against the entire Google Streetview image library, and then turn up at his gaff with a cake and a card. Bit much?

As usual though, another slight problem has arisen – the headlight is held in place by the indicators screwed into the sides through a bracket...but the indicator threads are a bit worn and loose, so there’s quite a bit of play in the angle that the headlight hangs at. This means that it’s pointing at more towards the floor than I’d like and isn’t much use as an actual headlight in the dark (as I found out to my disgust last night whilst riding through quite a poorly lit rural idyll). Hopefully I can remedy this with the replacement indicators I’ve purchased from Amazon. When they turn up I’ll have a go at securing the headlight with more...er...security, and hopefully that’ll be the end of the minor annoyances. These things are to be expected when you buy a used vehicle though, so I’m not too surprised to discover that I need to do a few jobs. And to be honest, I kind of enjoy tinkering with anything mechanical anyway so I don’t see it as a chore. What I do see as a chore is the sun going down way too soon now we’re heading into September, meaning that the work I’m doing has to be done super-quickly and right first time...or it has to wait to the next day. Fucking seasons. Fucking rotation of the Earth. Fucking sun. Fucking space. With futility bordering on the ridiculous, I shake my fist at you all.

Speaking of shit just going wrong, my phone has decided that it no longer wants to function as a phone. Texting and internet browsing – fine, go ahead. Actually make a phonecall you say? Nooo. And that’s because it’s a piece of fucking crap. For a start, it’s made by some tin pot organisation that probably has it’s head office in a back street in Kowloon walled city: Huawei. It’s a pretty basic and budget priced Android phone called the Huawei Blaze, and my initial impressions were that it was quite a good gadget for the price. I think it only cost about £70 and was pre-unlocked so I could just pop my GiffGaff (more on those cunts shortly) sim straight in and start using it. Only after a few weeks did I realise just how shoddy the thing really is. There are massive delays between you pressing any icons on the screen and anything happening, and it constantly locks up. The thing just doesn’t seem to have the power to handle the operating system (Android 2.3.5). Texting is a nightmare due to the lag between screen presses and letters appearing, and most of the other features you’d expect on a smart phone are either complete arse or just don’t work (e.g .the camera is bollocks and the radio doesn’t work). Now, the thing has decided that letting me hear someone when I call them is not within its job description, so all I get is silence through the earpiece. The caller (or called) can hear me, I just can’t hear them. So this thing is getting slung as soon as I can afford a new phone. Trust me – do not buy a Huawei handset, no matter how cheap and enticing they seem: they’re fucking trash.

Moving on to GiffGaff. I wrote about this new(ish) mobile phone network a couple of years ago when I first discovered it and I was full of nothing but praise. How soon things turn sour. I really don’t want to sound like I’m exaggerating but GiffGaff must have the worst network infrastructure on the planet: at least once a month (at least!), the network goes down. Either you can’t send texts or the data isn’t working or you just don’t have a signal, and the first you know about it is when you can’t send a text or whatever and then go to have a look at the GiffGaff website. Because it’s the network ‘run by its customers’ (utter tripe), they don’t have a customer service line – just a forum where you can ask questions. These questions are generally answered by forum moderators and they can be helpful sometimes...but most of the time, if there’s a problem with the network and it’s causing you a major headache (because y’know, you need to use your fucking phone to get stuff done), they’ll just post a generic ‘corporate reply’ with some piss-poor pseudo-apology. If you then write something in reply that is deemed ‘unfavourable,’ all these forum-lurkers who would apparently die for GiffGaff just jump on you and attack your forum post! It’s really fucking savage and one gets the impression that you should never question the shitness of the network or suffer at the hands of the forum campers.

During that network wide O2 outage a few months back, I dared to suggest that GiffGaff sort their shit out. I wish I’d never bothered question the all-knowing GiffGaff moderators. It was like the gates of Troy had opened and twenty thousand armour clad soldiers, prepared to shed blood for their beloved network had just poured out. I logged off and didn’t go back for a week...and when I did, the number of replies destroying me was unbelievable! So combined with the way the network is always offline due to a burst water pipe in a server room (yes, they’ve used that one about 3 times that I know of), the savage way disgruntled customers are treated by these forum cunts (forunts?) leads me to strongly advise against joining GiffGaff. I know that the network ‘piggy backs’ O2 and they usually blame O2 if there’s an issue...but I know plenty of people on O2 who never seem to be constantly without an operational network. So yeah, I’ll be leaving soon I think. I clearly need a new phone and I want to go with a proper network again, so I guess I’ll maybe move to Tesco mobile or something.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Cafe Racer

Finally decided I needed a faster motorbike this weekend. Sure, the CBF is a really comfortable and easy to ride machine...but it's lacking something. And that something is this: excitement. Yes, it's reliable and yes, it's superbly cheap to run...but it's just so pedestrian in the pace stakes. I never thought the 80mph top speed would ever be an issue for me, but last Monday I was traversing the M5 at a steady 75mph but still feeling like I was holding up inpatient twats in cars...and something inside me just snapped: I knew I needed a faster bike. So this weekend I put my CBF up for sale and took some cash out of my savings and bought a new ride:



It's a Suzuki Goose 350. I say 'new,' but it's actually a bike from 1992 so not that new at all really. It's also quite a rare bike in the UK due to the fact that Suzuki never launched it here - all the Geese in the UK are grey imports. So I'm now a Goose owner, and my initial impressions of the bike are positive. Firstly, it goes like the clappers: 90mph is easy...I didn't want to go any faster, but I'm pretty sure it'll do more than 100. Also, it's got such a comfortable riding position - completely different to the CBF and more of a forward-leaning position, but it feels really natural. Because of this riding position, the way you can throw it around corners is incredible - I'd never be able to get the CBF around a roundabout at the same speed as I can the Goose - and the noise of the engine. Jesus! It's only a 350 but it's so throaty it could easily pass for a bigger bike.

Sadly, I have neither goggles nor bandanna

I believe that this style of bike, with the swept back handle bars and low seat, is known as a 'cafe racer,' which sounds a bit camp to me...but if that's what it's called, then who am I to argue? I suppose there is a slightly cool retro feel to the bike and the image associated to it, but I doubt I'll be buying a skin-tight leather jacket or goggles to go with it. Yet. It's not all been perfect though - I did have a problem with the engine cutting out at high speeds (not fun), and was advised by a passing mechanic that there could be a problem with the fuel line...but that's an easy thing to remedy so I'll look into it over the next few days. Once I've had more time to play around on it and get to the bottom of the niggling 'cutting out' thing, I'll try to write up a proper review. The volume of stuff online about the Suzuki Goose isn't that great to be honest, but hopefully I can change all that with a few hastily written passages of dross. Watch this space.

Went out on the piss on Saturday. Was just me and my flatmate/landlord but was quite a good laugh as we went to a really crap nightclub and took delight at watching the chavs mingle and attempt to dance after necking several pints of Blue WKD mixed with Strongbow. Seriously. Due to this endeavour, Sunday was a bit of a write off, but it wasn't all bad - I just monged out and watched Inglourious Basterds. What a film that is. I'd actually forgotten how good it was, and special mention must go to Brad Pitt's turn as Lt Aldo Raine. Quality movie and full of really memorable sequences...oh, and Mike Myers as a British General. Like I said - quality.