Galactic Civil War: a metaphor for parenting

As I walked to work this morning I listened to Adam Buxton and Rob Delaney talk about parenting. My mind started to wander off on a tangent and I started to relate parenting to the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Alliance to Restore the Republic

Now I haven’t developed a completely solid metaphor here, I got to work before I had time to fully work it out but just bear with me, hopefully it’ll start to make sense as I write it down.

A couple of things first:

  • If someone else has already done this, I’m sorry, I’m not copying you, these are my own thoughts, isn’t it great we both thought of the same thing
  • Unless I’m very much mistaken, I don’t think an Imperial Star Destroyer ever gets destroyed throughout the original Star Wars trilogy? I’m not counting the Executor, that was something else.
  • This is all relating to Episodes IV, V and VI. Just limit your mind to those 3 films, no Expanded Universe, prequel or sequel trilogies.

Right then, let’s get started. First of all, my wife is clearly the Death Star. She wasn’t happy when I told her this but I assured her my justification here would put her at ease. She simply said “I don’t kill planets!”

That’s not the point I’m making though.

The Death Star wasn’t just a symbol of ultimate power, it was the most powerful thing in the Star Wars universe – short of an actual exploding star. Now taking our home as the universe, the Death Star moves around being the absolute authority on all things.

My wife isn’t an enormous evil planet destroying space station, but from a child’s point of view when they want a second packet of chocolate buttons, one more episode of Fireman Sam or to just stay up for 5 more minutes then a parent becomes an oppressive, inhibitive and unkind force that is stopping them from simply enjoying the world around them and living their life as they please. Sure, we’re not being mean saying “no”, we’re really trying to teach them limits… but they don’t get that. They just see it as mean.

So having that extra treat is the planet, which gets destroyed by the Death Star because they are in charge and more powerful. Also, to be fair, I am quite often also the Death Star.

Generally though, I think of myself as number 2 when it comes to parenting. Not that I’m a bad parent at all, I think I’m doing a good job, but I think of myself more like a fleet of Star Destroyers. I do the bidding of the Empire, and while I maintain a presence throughout the universe I am not to be respected in the same way the Death Star is. This is apparent in UK and most other laws… the Mum is in charge (generally).

I know my kids love me, this is all fine, but when stuff gets hard it does feel like a battle. During these times, my children effectively become Rebel Alliance fighters.

X-Wings, A-Wings, Y-Wings and my 6 year old is sometimes the Millennium Falcon as well (like when we have to get somewhere quickly, despite her generally not sitting still and zipping around as quickly as possible… her hyper drive totally fails when we NEED to get moving)

They are small, fast and nimble. They pack an arsenal of devastating weapons (puke, poop, finger nails, felt pens, vocal chords, saliva etc) that can wreak havoc on the systems that the Empire has set up in the universe (the shoe rack, TV, Bookshelves, carpets, walls).

1 on 1, no small fighter is a match for the range and power of a Star Destroyer or the tactical knowledge of the crew, let alone that of the Death Star.

Any damage that is caused is quickly repaired with the enormous resources available after the Fighter has been disabled (e.g. you watch The Octonauts and eat this Babybell, I’ll get the baby wipes and clean the pen off the wall)

Han Solo evaded a Star Destroyer by hiding inside a cave or docking to the back of the bridge… not that I’m saying I’ve ever lost sight of my kids or they’ve played a considerably more effective round of hide and seek than I was expecting – but 1 on 1 can be tricky, the bigger and smarter they get. Generally though, the Star Destroyer is winning at this point.

Problems start to arise when they work together, when there is more than 1 of them.

Multiple fighters managed to destroy both Death Stars… they got right to the core of the second one, avoiding all defences and causing a catastrophic explosion.

My children have never destroyed my wife in an enormous explosion and again this is probably a place where I should be classed as the Death Star as well – it’s really about losing your cool as a parent.

When my kids do something to really piss me off I get angry and I tell them off or shout at them. It usually takes a few incidents in quick succession from multiple angles – think of them as all the X-Wings and Y-Wings on their bombing run up the trench.

Most of the attacks are absorbed by the thick armor (a heavy sigh), turbo lasers destroy the X-wing in flight (stopping a pen-loaded hand before it hits a wall) or supporting Imperial Spacecraft disable the fighters (having another parent to hand)

Then one of them punches through, gets passed the turbo lasers, uses the force, couple of missiles down the exhaust port and boom.

Again, my kids don’t manage to launch a projectile into an opening on my body (well, not often) but one of their many chaotic acts will end up being the final straw, I’ll be unreasonably cross with them, I’ll ban TV for 6 months, no treats for 7 years, no toys on a Tuesday and sensible shoes must be worn if the month has an M in it.

I get ridiculous, I make up silly rules that no one (including myself) is ever going to stick to. I don’t lose it physically, I don’t become an actual Sith bastard. I just end up being completely ineffective, like an enormous space station that’s just blown up, I’m a useless wreck. Leaving the Star Destroyers to carry on without the support of the Death Star and chase the little Rebels on their own.

So to summarise, most of the time my wife is the Death Star and I am a Star Destroyer.

When we’ve had a particularly awkward day out, the kids wont bath nicely and dinner is on the wrong plates so they refuse to eat it… well that’s the Battle of Yavin, one of us is the Death Star and just gets written off.

The Kids are always Rebel Alliance fighters. They are the coolest, the best, always the good guys and even if they do something “wrong” they’re still doing the right thing overall.

Worst case scenario… Battle of Endor. The parents are the Death Star II and the Super Star Destroyer Executor.

Both get destroyed, they crash into each other, all the explosions, Empire loses, Rebels win.

To reiterate neither myself or my wife are evil Sith lords and we have never and will never use force lightning or lightsabers against our children.

But children lack perspective on the world as a whole, so not having pudding, from their point of view, is evil, wrong and an oppressive action that will be fought.

At the time they tend to lose the battle, but through pouting, constant whinging or just saying something hilarious they will get their way.

In the end, the good guys always win.

 

 

My difficulty loving a BMW

Due to our car troubles recently I’ve taken to hiring a car for any sort of long distance travelling we’ve got planned.

So for our Christmas trip away I booked a Skoda Octavia (or similar car in the same class) with a boot big enough for all our presents.

When I went to collect the car, they gave me a choice of a 15 plate Octavia or a 63 plate Vauxhall Insignia.

I asked which boot was bigger, they said the Insignia, I agreed and took that one. I was a little sad, I like Skodas and have never driven an Octavia. Plus it was basically brand new, but I really needed all the boot space I could get.

As I was getting in the car, I realised the Octavia was actually a Skoda Superb, which is bigger, newer, probably fancier and I’d rather have had it, but it was fine, the paper work was done and I just wanted to get going. Plus the Insignia is a good car – or so I thought.

I loaded up, drove us from Bristol to Reading and all the way there wondered what the “droning” sound was I could here. No vibrations, just a weird drone sound that changed with the speed of the car.

Got to Reading, couldn’t do anything as it was past 6pm, but I did check the boot sizes on Comcar…  turns out the Insignia only has a 530 litre boot compared to the Superb’s huge 625 litres! My frustration increased.

Anyway, I called the car hire place the next day (which was the 24th December), they told me to call the AA.

An AA guy arrived within about 30 minutes, had a look, told me the discs and pads are rubbing, best to take the car in. Car hire place agreed, apologised and managed to find me a BMW 3 series to replace it within the hour.

So off the top of my head, I was aware that this was technically an upgrade as it’s a “Premium” car in there range, but realistically the saloon style boot of the 3 series was not going to be as big as the hatch style boot of the Insignia… and certainly not the Saloon/Hatch hybrid of the Superb!

However, it was Christmas eve, and I’d called them at 8am and it was about 10am by the time they found the replacement, which I could go collect immediately.

So they’d rectified the situation pretty swiftly, and I wasn’t unhappy about being given a BMW for no extra cost. It was Enterprise rentals, I’ve switched to them from Europcar a few years ago and while I didn’t have any problems with Europcar… Enterprise just completely blow them out the water for customer service. In fact I don’t think many companies can rival Enterprise.

I collected the car, drove it back home, and all the way home was surprisingly disappointed with the car. It was a BMW 320d M-Sport, on a 64 plate so late 2014 or early 2015.

The entertainment package, the sat nav, the dashboard, buttons, key fob all that stuff was great, but sitting in the car, being in the car, and driving the car didn’t feel particularly comfortable or relaxing. It wasn’t luxurious.

The Ingisina was big, spacious, easy to drive, plenty of grunt to power along the motorway. The BMW was definitely faster, more powerful, huge amounts of torque, but the gear changes felt awkward, the car felt angry and desperate to lurch forward. The seats were low, I couldn’t get the back right – again the Insignia was easier to use, electric fully adjustable seats compared to BMW’s pull handled, spring loaded seat adjustment system that hasn’t changed much since my K Reg BMW 320i from the 90s!

It wasn’t bad, it was far nicer than my own car, but I’ve had BMWs in the past and loved them, and I just didn’t love this car. I’d rather still be in the Insignia, easier to drive, comfier, more space, more practical.

A couple of days went by, the shiny BMW sat on the drive and every time we went for a walk or just nipped outside, I admired the 3 series’ looks. It’s a very pretty car, and it had some lovely alloys on it.

3series-msport

Something like that… it’s a nice car to look at. Every time I did gaze at it, I started to think “Well yeah I’d have that car, it’d be a nice car for me, just not a great family car I guess”

I took the car on a little road trip on my own, from the in-laws to my parents for the day, and back again. Reading > Gatwick and back, about an hour there via the M25, fairly standard cruise. I started to get used to the car a bit more, I realised you have to sit really low in the car to be comfy. Dropping the seat even further down gave me more head room, got me away from the wind shield, and I just felt more planted in the car, there was better access to the controls. I had the music set up, the iDrive system is really easy to use and I was just enjoying the music from my USB stick.

I was getting used to the gear changes as well – it’s a really short shift, and I find the car would often go into 5th and 6th instead of 3rd and 4th, any pressure to the right on the stick at all and I was going too many gears up. The movements to change gear where much smaller than what I was used to, much more refined, tighter, sharper. I was starting to enjoy it.

I didn’t boot it across the country, it’s a hassle trying to sort out speeding tickets when it’s your own car, the hassle via a rental company is probably even worse… but where I found a slip road or a change in the speed limit, I made the most of the ridiculous amounts of torque the engine had to offer.

It was still a diesel, and you couldn’t stay in a gear for long without having to change gear, but the car certainly felt like it was trying to pretend to be a petrol – letting the revs go a little higher than they normally would in a diesel, a little bit more racy.

The traffic on the way home was awful, apparently. I just asked the sat nav to take me home, it found a route, all back roads, no idea where I went, didn’t touch a motorway. It was dark, I had my music on, the adaptive headlights swept around the corners ahead of me, the car somehow glided comfortably around the corners without rolling, but also without shattering my vertabrae.

It took me almost twice as long to get home as it did to go out that day, but by the time I had got home, I didn’t want to give the car back.

I had remembered what it was like to own a BMW, it’s all about driving it. I wondered, could I get away with an estate version, my old 328i Touring was the best car I ever had… maybe, it would be a viable option instead of an S-MAX… maybe.

Still, despite falling in love with the 3-Series for the week that I had it, there is still a little bit of me that regrets picking the Skoda.

I do like a good Skoda.

Mac vs PC

Before I get started, I need to say a couple of things.

First of all, I’m not really sure I want to write this post – I had a bit of a rant a while back and was encouraged to post the transcript. I can’t remember it all so I’m just going to start fresh – hopefully it wont just be a load of rage waffle, I was quite caught up in the moment at the time.

Secondly, I hate the phrase “Mac vs PC” – I know now everyone thinks of PC as a Windows computer, but it’s really just the acronym for Personal Computer… which I think you’ll find, is also a Mac, or Linux Desktop, and so on and so forth. So it’s a bit stupid anyway.

Right then, let’s get properly started…

Many years ago, I was a complete and utter Anti-Mac bastard! I’d always had Windows towers, I’d build them myself, spec them high for gaming and on top of that I had Nokia mobile phones. It was great. I was such a cool techy person.

I knew Macs were for artists, or designers, or people in the creative industry or some crap like that and I just believed what I was told – I KNEW it. It was a fact.

Then I met Mike Holman – the least geeky geek in the world (as in he really is technically a geek, but he doesn’t do all the geeky stuff like think Star Wars is amazing). Mike is a very capable programmer, he’s far too clever, knows about loads of cool open source software, understands much more about the real technical side of things than I do… but he was using a Mac! How could I take him seriously?! Real techies use Windows right (unless they live in basements, then they use Linux).

So for fun, me and Mike went full on into Mac vs PC mode, and we ran sister sites of decent software to add to you Mac or WINDOWS MACHINE (InMyMac.com and InMyWin.com, sadly both now dead)

I continued to Mac bash for many years, then the iPhone came out and all the other fancy smart phones. I bought a Nokia N900 – better than anything that ever was or ever will be (again, a fact). I continued with my desktop PCs, I pulled the case off, hoovered it, decoded the weird light patterns the motherboard would tell me when stuff broke. I returned shitty RAM to ebuyer because of bad memory addresses, I worried about my RAID arrays failing on me (do I want redundancy or performance?!?!??! Totes performance, obvs).

It went on like this, and everything was fine. Until someone wanted me to build them an iOS app. I tried to convince them a website would do. They still wanted an app. So I said fine, I’ll build one.

This is where everything changed.

I didn’t have a Mac, so I borrowed one. My previous experience with Apple products was the old Mac Pro’s at UWE, that were pre intel, and rubbish, and mostly just showed the beach ball spinner.

They genuinely did suck. Seriously. Literally (they had fans that suck hot air out the case). They were also bad computers.

So I borrowed a Mac Mini, did some iOS development, hacked together some Objective-C whilst wishing it could be more like Javascript (which it can be now, with Swift), and pushed some apps to the app store.

The Mac Mini was ok, but slow. So I bought a Mac Book Air, with an SSD. Which still is brilliant. It’s brilliant right now. It’s warming my thighs as I type this textual gold that you’re lapping up right now.

It’s a Mid-2011 i5 4GB 11 inch laptop, covered in stickers, and I love it. It struggles a bit with compilation in Xcode but other than that, it’s fucking amazing and can happily run a big wide screen monitor if I’m set up at a desk.

I also got myself an iPhone 3GS to develop apps on, then an iPad 2 because they were just a lovely way to be lazy and have the internet at the same time.

Time went on… I didn’t convert to Mac, my old PC was still in the house running Windows and I used Windows all day at work. I was using both Mac OSX and Windows 7 side by side, and getting the benefits of both.

I was also using headless Linux servers at work, and realising that Bash scripting and working on the command line was actually better than anything else for a lot of work type things. Being able to do a lot of that in OS X on a Mac was crap tonnes better than using Windows cmd.exe…

tail -n 100 | awk '{print $9}' ~ sort | uniq -c | sort -n

Try doing that in Windows… there is probably a way, and I don’t know if you can do all that in OS X anyway – but the point stands, Linux is cool.

To top it all off, I also had an old PC connected to the living room TV running Ubuntu as a media center, for iPlayer and YouTube etc.

It was great… despite my initial resistance, I’d begrudgingly got a Mac, did some development and now my house is covered in all kinds of technology.

I no longer have a particular preference to any particular platform or OS.

I’ve got a 4 monitor Windows 10 custom build PC at work and my faithful 11″ Mac Book Air that follows me around and does all my freelance work.

Then to compliment them, and to ensure that I have some form of internet access within 2 meters at all times, between work and home there’s a couple more Macs, some iPads, some Android tablets, iPhones, an Xbox, Playstation, Wii, and a variety of Ubuntu and CentOS headless cloud servers so I get my daily fix of CLI.

Oh and something more important than the badge on the computer and the OS that it runs… get an SSD. A Solid State Drive.

A windows laptop with a steampunk, mechanical, spinning disk stack storage device is worse than a Mac with an SSD.

A Mac with a motorised, multi-level miniature record player with pointy reading devices that wobble is worse than a Windows machine with an SSD.

There’s so much cool hardware that is available now, but the important thing is the software that is available on all the platforms. Things like Dropbox , Evernote and all the Google Apps mean that whatever device I’m on I can get access to all my files, spreadsheets, notes, pictures etc.

It’s all so good, and I’m lucky enough to have realised that by not choosing sides, I get to have the best of all of them.

To paraphrase a very, very wise man I had the pleasure of working with recently, when asked the question “Taylor Swift or Katy Perry, who would you rather date?”

His response was (roughly along the lines of )

“Come on guys! I date both of them”

And he’s right, although there is no need to stop there.

Mac Vs PC – sure, have that argument. If you’re an idiot.

Mac AND PC? sure. good start. you’re on the right track.

Now I’ll just post this from OSX, check it’s gone live in bed from iOS, see if I’ve had any likes whilst using Windows tomorrow before using CentOS to push some websites live and then check the updates on the Android tablet. In the evening I could play on the Wii with the kids, update my Ubuntu cloud server, watch a Blu-Ray on the PS3 then play on the Xbox 360.

In all seriousness though… the PS3 is pants in comparison to the Xbox. It’s just a fact.

Oh yeah and Blackberry. About Blackberry.

No. Just, no.

 

Vehicle Dashboards: How to just design things wrong.

I’ve been lucky/unlucky enough to have driven the following vehicles since over the course of about 4 months:

  • Audi Diesel Automatic A3 2003
  • Ford Transit Diesel Manual XLWB XHR 2015
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Diesel Manual 2007
  • Ford Mondeo Petrol Automatic 2005
  • Toyota Previa Diesel Automatic 1997
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Diesel Manual 2013
  • Citroen C4 Picasso Diesel Automatic 2016
  • Ford S-MAX Diesel Automatic 2016
  • Peugeot 807 Diesel Manual 2003

This wasn’t my plan.

The Van was because I moved house.

The Audi I sold, the first C4 Grand Picasso died so my parents lent me their Mondeo and then their Previa while the C4 was being fixed (many, many thanks for that) – the second C4 Grand Picasso I bought because it turned out the first one couldn’t be fixed.

The Citroen (non-Grand) C4 Picasso was a hire car because a stupid bastard torched my car – but it wasn’t grand enough (or, it didn’t have 7 seats) so I got a different hire car, the S-MAX – which I had for a couple of weeks.

Finally, very generously the family given a Peugeot 807, which shed some light on our months of motoring difficulty.

So whilst the 2 Citroen’s dying was sad, we did get given a car (woohoo!, many many thanks for that too) and I got to drive an S-MAX, which I’ve always wanted.

But the massive, totally annoying problem that I’ve only now realised having driven so many cars recently… is they are all so bloody different.

It’s not because they all look different, not the difference between the manual and auto and petrol and diesel thing, that’s kind of obvious enough to deal with. It’s all the controls for the cars.

I had to start going through a little routine when I got in a car.

  • Where is the hand brake? on the left? on the right? on the dashboard?
  • Is it a button, or a lever? Do I push it or pull it?
  • Wait, do I touch it at all, or does it turn itself off?
  • Do I put the key in? Where is the key? oh it’s in my pocket. no, wrong car, it goes in this hole. It isn’t really a key.
  • Where is the ignition? On the left, or the right? or the dashboard?
  • It’s not starting… why not. Do I have to press some pedals?
  • Headlights… do I turn them on? Wait, they are on, did I do that? Did they turn themselves on?
  • Gears. Clutch. Is there a clutch? Yes there is! How do I make it reverse? Is this a five or six speed?
  • When the reversing sensor things go constant… should I keep going, or stop. Why aren’t they sounding? *BUMP* oh, yeah. This car doesn’t have them.
  • Why the shit are there 2 beeps? Is one the front parking sensor? Or is something about to explode? Or did I just get a text?

Once I’d spent a few seconds patting blank bits of dashboard, stamping on empty carpet and waving my hands through thin air, I’d usually get the car started.

Depending on the car, I’d enjoy or hate the drive. It would range from “Holy crap how much power does a 7 seater need! This S-MAX really is genuine fun to drive” to “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK ARE CITROEN DOING WITH THIS GEARBOX…IT’S A BRAND NEW CAR AND I THINK IT’S TRYING TO KILL ME! CHANGE! FUCKING! GEA… oh fine now you’ll change, well it’s too late, change back. I’m braking. CHANGE DOWN!”.

Regardless of the pleasure of the drive, there was an equally confusing process when I stopped.

  • OH SHIT, STALLING, CLUTCH DOWN! Right, this one is NOT an automatic.
  • Is the hand brake on? Am I supposed to do it? Which side was it on again?
  • How do I stop the engine? I took the key out, why wont the car lock? Why is the ignition still on… I’m not even in the car
  • Are the headlights on, or is it some weird “get me home lighting”. Will they turn off if they lock it?
  • Why are the interior lights still on? Was that the kids or is it supposed to do that. Is my battery going to go flat?

My biggest fears were I’d forget the hand brake and the car would wonder off (because I’d assumed it would turn itself on or hadn’t seen it because it’s on the wrong side).

Or one of the many lights would drain the battery because again, I’d thought it was some kind of fancy automatic light that should turn itself off.

So my problem is all these controls move, and work differently, or some do stuff themselves so you don’t have to touch them. Others will do things for you, maybe, as long as it’s a Tuesday and you’re not wearing shorts.

No one moves the steering wheel, or the pedals. Why move the handbrake?! Manufacturers should be forced to all agree on the same thing – forced to by law, the EU or something, the W3C, someone global and important.

Basically, the controls should always be in the same place. It’s dangerous moving them all around. It’s distracting, confusing, and it’s probably the cause of global warming or the bees disappearing.

Oh one good point… no handbrake on the floor on the left does mean I can keep even more crap on the floor where the handbrake should be (or used to be on normal cars).

So all manufacturers should do that. Move the handbrake. So I can put stuff there. All of you. Do it. Do it now.

Oh and Citroen, ask Ford how to make an automatic Gearbox. Don’t look at their old ones though, they were bad, I drove a Galaxy that was almost as bad as the C4.

Actually ask Audi. They are good at it. The 2003 Audi A3 worked a treat. Until it broke. Which is why I sold it…

Cars are great.

 

Identity crisis

I’d quite like to consolidate all of my online accounts/posts/content etc all into one place.

I want that one place I put it all to then tell everywhere else about the content – so if I blog, or upload a picture blah blah it all ends up being pushed elsewhere.

I thought tumblr could do that for me, but it’s a faff trying to theme it, I just gave up on that.

I like my blog, but there’s no iPhone app for it so I can post stuff on the move.

Then there’s also Willshaw Media.

All across the land of the internet I’m posting as Skeater (from Skeater.co.uk and SkeaterMedia.co.uk) and Pete (from WillshawMedia.com)

I thought Skeater would be all my nonsense stuff and Pete would be me being serious and professional.

I never pretended one wouldn’t be easily found from the other, but I thought I should keep stuff separate. Now I think that’s a pointless idea, and I should have one website, one online profile.

Whether I’m reminiscing about tearing large teddies in half by tying it to 2 cars, or pointing out the difficulties of installing Railo on a Ubuntu VM, or explaining how I’ve taught my 3 year old daughter to appreciate toilet humour, I may as well put it all in the same place.

So I could just stick with WM (Willshaw Media) and ditch the Skeater alias, but that seems wrong.

I could keep Skeater.co.uk as it is and better integrate it with other social services, and keep WM as just a label for my tax returns… but I like using the pete@willshawmedia.com email address.

Or I could build a new website that integrates everything I do better… but what would I call it, would it be a blog? I suck at blogging. I don’t upload enough pictures to use a decent photoblog like twitter, I don’t tweet very often and I use Facebook intermittently.
I do post on Stackoverflow quite a bit.

So I need a system that grabs all of my activity across the web, and houses it underneath one URL so people can come to that URL and see what I’ve been up to.

I’ve got no idea where to begin.

Life goes on

I have had one hell of a busy month.

I’ve moved house, from Stoke Bishop to Southmead… some might say that’s a downgrading… well you’re right. The road I’ve moved onto is not as nice as the one I’ve just left, but it’s not too bad really… just the pub is a bit noisy on saturday night.

Holly, Issy and myself are now living in a 3 bed house with lots of space for all my “junk” or “crap”, or as I like to call it, memorabilia.

The house is still full of piles of boxes, it took us about 2 weeks to move. We didn’t get the keys to our house till 3 days after the original date. Haart, our estate agent, have pretty much done everything wrong.

We signed for the house on May 12th and gave payment details for a £350 agency fee. When we went to move in on 11am Monday 18th June, the following list of problems began to arise:

Monday 18th, 10:30am : Haart call to say they haven’t collected the gas safety certificate yet, can we come in half an hour later at 11:30am.

Monday 18th, 11:30am: We arrive at Haart’s fishponds office to find out, there is no gas safety certificate, and they probably can’t get one today. Haart say “SOrry, but it’s the landlords fault not ours”.

Tuesday 19th, 4:30pm: Holly and I finally arrive at the house to sign for the contract, but on arrival we find the house is dirty, mud on the carpets, sink covered in grime, and none of the painting and decorating has been done. I get very angry and ask for a full refund.

Wednesday 20th, 11am: Holly and I sign the contract after getting a 50% refund on our agency fee. Haart say it’s the landlords fault it’s not cleaned, and they’ll do some of the painting – Holly and I start cleaning.

Wednesday 20th, 2pm: I find out that the decorators have painted the outside of the house when we asked them to paint the inside, and also the washing machine door seal has rotted and is covered in fungus.

Thursday 21st, 1:30pm: I finish painting and decorating in the house, the Latvian cleaners finish cleaning the rest of the house.

Thursday 21st, 2pm: Holly and I move in the first load of boxes…

So we didn’t start moving stuff in for 3 days. I’d taken 3 days off work so I was bloody angry at Haart for mucking us about. I spoke to a few different people from Haart and they all said sorry, but none of them admitted any fault. It wasn’t till I spoke to the manager, Simon, that he finally gave a meaningful apology by accepting the fault was theirs. He also got us a refund of 50% of the agency fee, £175.

A few days later, when we’d nearly finished moving in, Simon called again to say they’d forgotten to charge the £420 agency fee, and because of this they couldn’t pay the landlord, and couldn’t give us a refund. So they had all our deposit and all our rent, but basically refused to pay the (now angry) landlord until they had the agency fee. And instead of taking the difference on the refund, they “had” to take the full amount again before giving a refund.

The other problem, was we’d paid the VAT on the agenct fee when we paid the rent… so turns out we were due a £210 refund not £175.

So I paid it and got everyhting sorted out, and we’ve now had our refund of… £175.
They still owe us £35 pounds… plus the £25 for the skanky washing machine seal.

The moral of the story, Haart are the worst estate agents I’ve ever dealt with. Kingsley Thomas are very awful… Haart are 10 times worse. They are incompetent, unproffessional and I will be leaving them as soon as possible.

Anyway, we’re moved in now… but I’ve just got back from a weeks camping holiday… Holly and Issy are visiting Reading for the week so I’m just going to be unpacking boxes on my own for a week! But as we’ve no internet installed it’ll give me something to do at least.

In amongst all the troubles with moving, I’ve also started playing World of Warcraft… a bit late to the party, but I can see why people can get so addicted to it… I may have played a bit too much to relieve stress, instead of packing boxes and cleaning the old property. I’ve also replaced many bits of the car that have fallen off/apart this month, and been training for my next Taekwon-Do grading next week! And finally, I’ve had to recruit a replacement developer for the excellent Tom Riley, who is sadly leaving us at Comcar.

Anyways, this blog has mostly been a rant about how RUBBISH HAART ESTATE AGENTS ARE. Also, if you google them (which I should have done before I took the property with them) you will find lots of other tenants and landlords who say they are awful, they are only interested in sales. They don’t care about rented properties.

Blurgh.

Either way, I’m going rally driving with my brother tomorrow, and next week (hopefully) I’ll be a Yellow belt, or 8th Kup, my first fully coloured belt (currently I’m yellow tag, which is still white, but with a yellow stripe on it).

I’ll be back soon with a less whiny and more interesting post, possibly with some drawings in it.

Econuts should give car makers a break

While testing something at work today, as usual I choose a car I rather like to use as my test subject. Today I picked the Skoda Fabia 2.0 TFSI vRS, about 200 horsepower, front wheel drive, cost a little over £20,000.

I like Skoda’s and that vRS isn’t a terrible target to set myself. I could probably just about cope with one on finance… but I won’t get one just yet.

Whilst testing the tool I was working on, I realised that the speed and power figures are not that disimilar to those of my old 1995 BMW 328i, yet the emissions/economy figures are much better.

I then wondered what the stats would be on a modern equivalent BMW to my old 328i and the current Octavia vRS.

Car BMW 328i Skoda 2.0 TFSI vRS 200PS BMW 325i M Sport BMW 320i M Sport
Year 1995 2012
Power (bhp) 193 200 218 172
0 – 60 (s) 7.2 7.0 6.9 8.4
CO2 (g/km) 221 175 170 149
Fuel consumption (mpg) 30 37.7 38.7 44.1
Price (£) 500 – 3000 21,480 32,590 29,085

So in 15 years time, Skoda have built a car that is similar in performance to a fairly top end BMW, yet got it to eat less trees and fart out less poison – most likely because of the use of a turbo on a smaller engine, but it’s not just that.

So in the same amount of time, BMW has got it’s equivalent cars to do the same, they’re more environmentally friendly and the performance figures are much higher. A current 325i M Sport has 25 more horsepower than my old 328i and produces 41 less grams co2/km, and the MPG is up from 30 to 38.

Even the 320i, which is about 20 bhp less powerful, still gets to 60 in 8.4 seconds which isn’t slow, and that has a much lower CO2 and a higher mpg of 44 which is about 50% better than my 328i.

Obviously you get what you pay for, and the BMWs are much more expensive than the Octavia, and I imagine the handling of the BMW is way better than the Skoda – having said that I drove a sporty Fabia recently and I was pretty impressed.
But BMW do make pretty awesome cars, so my money would be on a BMW in a race.

But the point being, these days, even cheaper performance cars have pretty impressive numbers in terms of entertainment value and saving the planet/money.

I don’t think most of the electric cars that are around today are going to work (Tesla, REVA, Lexus and Prius) but things like the GM Ampera/Volt which use an efficient petrol generator to power an electric motor, and the battery pack replacement vehicles and hydrogen cars that are coming will probably take off (maybe even literally).

So until electric cars have been worked out properly, and the Prius (although possibly not the new plug-in hybrid version), Leaf and iOn types have been phased out, I think manufacturers are doing pretty well to make cars better for our wallets and the air we breath, whilst still making them faster and more fun to drive! Even with the bad electrics, at least they’re trying. The model T ford sucks by todays standard but it was popular once.

Final point (not mine but well made) is that it doesn’t matter what happens to cars, the environment and us, the Earth will keep lapping the sun dodging big rocks regardless.

Beer, dairy and running

I’m running the 10k on the 20th May, I think that’s 2 weeks tomorrow. I’ve managed 3k so far… hmmm, not sure if I’ll make it.

But if I don’t, never mind, I’m really just using it to get me off my arse and training for the half marathon in September, which is 21k and the whole Carmen Data Ltd office is running it, except Xavi, but because he has a dodgy knee, not because he’s lazy or anything like that. Anyway my money’s on Tom, he ran about 20k in 1 hour 25 mins the other day.

So I’m trying to do a bit more running at the moment, and it feels pretty good even if I am not quite hitting my targets.

Coupled with that, Holly has given up Dairy and Alcohol during her final exams. So she’s got about 3 more weeks of that to go, and she’s been doing it for about 2 weeks already. I’m trying to join her, but I’m not as strict as her.

I’ve stopped eating butter, cheese and chocolate and I’ve stopped drinking milk. Neither of us are being 100% strict, Holly has had a Pizza and one Ice Cream, and a white tea in about 2 weeks. I’ve had 3 choc chip digestives, a milky tea and coffee, 2 Ice cream sundaes, shared that aforementioned Pizza with Holly, I think Matt Leach put butter in my bacon sandwich. So I’m not as strict as Holly… I’ve also drunk maybe 3 or 4 beers in that time. Holly hasn’t had any at all.

However, for me I’m actually pretty much fasting… I live on milk, cheese and chocolate… and red meat. The cheese and milk I can cope without. Red meat I still have plenty of.

But chocolate… I miss chocolate so much… a few choc chip digestive haven’t satisfied me at all. I want a big fucking slab of chocolate and I want to eat it, I want to eat it so bad. No stupid bits of biscuit and other nonsense, just plain old chocolate all over my face.

And beer… I’ve had a few beers at the pub, not really many, not compared to usual. But I want to drink beer at home… I like a beer or 2 when I’m writing code! A couple (or 8) coffees to get me started, then a couple of beers to wind down in the evening, then another 2 coffees to keep me going till 2am, then collapse in bed having written some excellent code, and probably done some tweeting.

So basically, this health drive thing I’m on does make me feel physically better, I might keep away from cheese and milk… but I seriously want some chocolate, and I want my beer back.

Alexa stats are rubbish

A lot of people and websites seem to think Alexa web site stats are in some way useful. They have got slightly less crap over the years, but they still suck.

Originally I think Alexa stats were only gathered by installing a toolbar in IE and browsing the web. So the stats on Alexa were basically just telling you how your site compares in relation to traffic of people using IE, which is bad enough, that have also been silly enough to install a stat gathering tool bar, which is even worse.

I think now you can install the toolbar in Firefox, possibly Chrome or Safari as well, but the point being Alexa gathers stats from people who have installed the toolbar!

But hardly anyone I know uses the Alexa toolbar, most people I know avoid installing toolbars like the plague, which they should.

So Alexa stats can’t be accurate or useful. And they’re not.

I found another reason why Alexa is bloody stupid today. I looked at my site there, and I was told I had 4 inbound links to my website. Inbound links are what boost your Google ranking – other search engines are available, but they’re rubbish, and most of them literally copy Google anyway.

The 4 inbound links I had, were 2 comments on a single post at Ray Camden’s blog, which link back to my blog, and 2 more comments on 2 other blogs linking back to my site.

So 1st of all, I had 2 links on the same page linking to my site, which I’m pretty sure only really counts as one. And secondly, there are many, many more links to my website all over the world.

Twitter, Facebook, Stackoverflow, Luuux as well as all the other blog’s in the world I’ve posted on that use Gravatar. Basically, Alexa stats are incomplete, stupid, inaccurate.

If someone quotes Alexa stats at you, either they don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re trying to bullshit you with fake stats.

Cheeky Google!

First of all, I’ve not posted in a month. There’s been a variety of reasons for this, such as me forgetting my password so I couldn’t blog at work, me being very busy at Comcar, Willshaw Media, Skeater Media and at home, and some other stuff to.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway here’s something interesting…

I was trying to show super sci-fi movie pro Tom Riley something or other on the ‘ole blog here, and I typed in the URL wrong.

Big deal. Who cares. I get an error message to my email account, life goes on.

WHEN SUDDENLY!!! Within 5 minutes I got another error email. Someone else had visited this incorrect made up page…

Whaaaaaaaaaaat?!

Who be following me around the web then? If I visit a page on my blog that doesn’t exist, there’s surely no links to it. Surely not! I should know after all, I host the dang thing. So how did someone else get to the page?!

So I checked the second email message, and it was my old enemy, Google Bot. Why did Google Bot follow me to a page that doesn’t exist on my site.

If Google Bot existed in the physical world, it would probably follow me like this

Because Google Bot is an addict. An addict for indexing. And I use Google Chrome, who clearly passes all your information straight to Google Bot.

I’ve suspected this for many a year, and been fairly certain of it, but that pretty much cements my theory.

If you use chrome, and type in a URL, Google Bot will rush over their to check that shit out, like an excited Labrador chasing a shiny ball that’s caught it’s eye.

So will I keep using Chrome? Fuck yeah! Chrome is awesome, and I’d be naive, stupid and idiotic to think that Chrome is the only thing that sells on my data.

I complained to Co-op or Iceland in the same week a while back… ever since then I get about 5 porn emails to my Hotmail account. Is that their way of getting back at me for whinging?

So in summary, if you are a live today, you are constantly be tracked and followed all the time. If you use the internet, you make it about 345,454,671,234.67 times easier for someone to follow you.