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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rare Exports and other Christmas gifts....

We're nearly out of the back end of November and so the Christmas rush can well and truly begin.

In truth, the Christmas rush began some time ago. The retail industry kicked Christmas into a mid range gear somewhen around the end of October, although to be fair this year hasn't been as bad as some years in recent history.

Those of you that were around here last year will know that we seem to have started a trend with the more distant (although not that distant) members of the clan whereby we have Christmas day early, to get it out of the way.  This year it'll be on Sunday coming. There will be a slap up bit of lunch and some generous gift giving.

Mr Ball senior has acquired a MacBook Air this year - as a result of sister ball taking a business trip to the US and he as some associated bits and bobs to go with it. Even though Mac's are notoriously easy to set up, he is understandably a little nervous of what is to him "new" technology and so I'll be spending a large portion of the day helping him get it up and running. Quite looking forward to that to be fair.

I believe I have a new generation Apple TV on it's way thanks to Santa, but I'm dismayed to learn that Air Play mirroring isn't supported by my now ancient iPhone 4 and iPad 1...  humph...  A bit of a dig around shows that you can get the latest versions of these at a substantial discount if you go with refurbished kit - and apple refurbished basically means new with a brief previous owner. I'm sorely tempted, but funding will be the issue. Let's see what the South African Santa brings first...

And on the subject of Santa... Having recently(ish) signed up to LoveFilm the flow of movie rentals has been thick and fast through the Golfyball residence, but as yet I haven't found the time to right about my viewings, so let's try and fix that here.

First of all, let me share with you THE Christmas film of the year, recently released on DVD.  "Rare Exports" is something I've spoken of before on here - a couple of years ago when the first teasers appeared and last year when it went on general release - although not to great acclaim. However, I think the lack of support is down to it being a non-english film in part - but that IMHO just adds to the believability factor.  

It feels a little like the original version of "Let The Right One In", but without the vampires and with Santa, coupled with a european version of "The Thing" (which I read is also being re-made - totally unnecessarily). Anyway, it's great fun, but not for your young kids who might well still "believe". However, once you've seen it, you might believe again - and be scared...   great stuff and here's the trailer.... 9/10

So to touch briefly on the other viewings I've had of late, here's a quick run down:

Cars 2
More great fun from the late Mr Jobs' film studio, Pixar. Your kids will watch this a thousand times probably and I don't blame them - it's great fun in the same vein as "Cars" but with the added benefit of the great Sir Michael Caine. 8/10

The Rite
This is a bit like "The Exorcist - Lite" It's not terrible, but it left me feeling a bit "Meh". Sir Anthony Hopkins should know better - not that he does a bad job, but his welsh/italian is a bit dodgy in places. 6/10 

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
A cracker and with a couple of my favourite hollywood names in place. Clint Eastwood and Jeff (The Dude) Bridges. It's Michael (The Deer Hunter) Cimino's directorial debut. It's Well-written with strong performances and is about a complex caper in which Bridges plays a young drifter who teams up with an ex-con (Eastwood) and his former partners in crime to re-stage a difficult safecracking heist. It says here: "Conveyed in a tone that mixes dramatic and comic elements, the film is a rich blend of engaging characters and action" and very true that is. Quality 1970's movie making at it's best - 9/10

I should add - that the trailer doesn't really do it any justice at all...

Mr. Nice
Another favourite of mine is Rhys Ifans and once again he doesn't disappoint. This is a biopic of drug smuggler Howard Marks. Beautifully crafted, and quite believable if this sort of stuff is to be believed. There's been a successful book and a speaking tour by Mr Marks and it makes for entertaining viewing. One point - David Thewlis - as the man from the IRA - very nearly steals the show. 7/10 

Inside Job
Narrated by Matt Damon, this is a documentary that tells the story of the banking collapse of 2007 and strives to suggest some of the reasons it happened. It provides a fascinating insight into the way government and banking works - or rather doesn't work and should be required viewing for anyone with any interest into what the hell the banks think they're playing at. 8/10 

The Blind Side
Her out of "Speed" and a big fella we've never seen before (Quinton Aaron). He's a not-quite orphan, she's a christian hearted mom who takes him in - gives him opportunities to succeed and he ends up being a pro-american-footballer. That summary does it a massive dis-service. It's another biopic - of sorts - of the life story of Michael Lewis. A proper feel good weepy that the missus will love - if she likes that kind of thing. Sandra Bullock is still great to look at and I actually think she deserved the Oscar that she won for this role. 8/10

So that'll do you for now, but just so you know, still to come: a few words about, "Sucker Punch", "Freeway Killer" and the foreign films: "Point Blank", "Julia's Eyes" & "The Silent House"


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In Sewer Ants...


Perhaps I'm becoming cynical in my old age - well, older.... Not actually "old" - yet. You see, there's a story going around that I find basically patronising.

Now, we all know that insurance is the biggest scam going. You pay someone (now) so that they can then to pay you (or someone else) in the event that something might happen in the future. It's basically a form of gambling with the odds stacked in the favour of the person you're paying.

In the UK insurance is mandatory for vehicles on the roads. The insurance companies that you arrange a policy with are generally rubbish at predicting the future (surprise, surprise) and they're also a bit pants at figuring out when someone is trying to diddle them - so they've been paying out and that along with the global economic situation means they've been paying out a lot. As a result the premium you pay for this insurance has gone through the roof.

The cost of fuel and road tax has also become extortionate of late and as we're constantly reminded, we're all becoming victims of the obesity crisis. This in turn has led to a decrease in the use of cars for short journeys and an increase in the use of the bicycle.

Of course, if you're in the business of making money out of people insuring their cars against accidents and then they get rid of them, your income will drop. Furthermore if you then realise that these people are then all riding bicycles which are free from insurance, what would you do?

You'd release a story into the press.... Try and rattle a few cages... Make the natives restless... Start a new income stream...

And so it is that this has appeared:
** Cyclists 'urged to get insurance' **
Not having a comprehensive insurance policy could prove costly, cyclists are warned by the Association of British Insurers.

I'm not buying it.. And I won't purchase any either!!

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 25, 2011


I know, that yet again I've gone through a quiet spell in terms of blogging. It's not that I haven't been here or that I've been ultra busy - I just haven't blogged.

I've still shared though, although I admit not necessarily with you. I've shared with various circles of friends, family and acquaintances. I hope you do to...

Happy Black Friday.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Careful now: Black Friday iTunes malware alert

Black Friday iTunes malware alert

Security experts warn that criminals are targeting shoppers with malware that claims to be from Apple's online store to coincide with the US

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

One of the 99% isn't happy with his phone bill...

By the, way....  It's not me.
This company "EverythingEverywhere" which is what Orange and T-Mobile have become are clearly trying to rip him off - and possibly you if you're with them.

Their website has the following blurb:
As one company, we now have almost 28 million customers, 15,000 employees and 720 stores nationwide. We run two of Britain’s most famous brands – Orange and T-Mobile – and we’re here to give our customers a better experience than they’ve ever had before – with the widest coverage, smartest support and best choice and value.
Olaf Swantee is the name of the Chief Executive Officer of Everything Everywhere, and so with a little digging my friend was able to find up his email address and sent him the following message which for the good of the general public he has asked me to share with you.
Subject: Orange Data Roaming Charges / Complaint
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2011
Dear Sir, 
I am writing to vehemently complain about your outrageous data roaming charges,
I am a long standing customer with Orange (about 13 years !), but have recently become disillusioned with the Brand and the way you operate your customer services, and appear for want of a better phrase "rip off" your customers, that's aside from the poor signal (especially the 3G signal !) that I appear to also be suffering with since the merger of T-Mobile and Orange (the signal "appears worse" despite the claims of me being able to use Orange or T-Mobile !) .. 
I am used to having large phone bills (circa £200 - £300 + per month), having three Numbers on my account (and also 2 PAYG Phones !), but just by chance I happened to look at my soon to be due invoice (after advice from a friend who has also suffered the same "fate"), and was "somewhat" shocked to see that I am expected to pay £1246 for my next bill which is due on the 8/12. Of this £964 is just for Data Roaming on (Number Redacted) .. ! 
Let me put it to you that as I have previously been "caught" out on your outrageous Data Roaming charges and have complained about this before ( my invoice dated 7/7/11 .. although nothing was done on that occasion and I was "fobbed off" with some ridiculous excuses), that this time whilst travelling abroad I took all precautions to make sure I did not suffer the same fate !: 
I telephoned Orange customer Services on the 8/10/11 and asked them what I needed to do, and as I had already purchased the Daily Data Roaming Bundle on their advice, I also ensured that my data roaming settings were set to "Off" and notifications off, on their advice , and only ever out this back on occasionally to check emails (probably once a day maximum) again on their advice , I also made sure I made use of any of the local FREE wifi hotspots where possible ! 
In fact I am struggling to see how the hell I can have used so much data when I took all these precautions to "avoid" the outrageous data roaming charges and avoid using the internet at all to make sure I avoided the outrageously large data roaming charges I had previously suffered (and as I mentioned my previous complaint fell on "deaf ears" and was never resolved ! ) .. 
I notice that I am not the only person to complain about this, as I mentioned a friend of mine also suffered the same fate (although also had taken the same precautions as myself), and also I notice that this issue has been complained about by many people (e.g the recent Watchdog Article) and various complaints highlighted on the internet (highlighted in the links below) , so I am sure you probably don't want any more negative publicity. 
I trust you will take the necessary action to resolve this issue for me, and that my bill is "substantially" reduced if not written off completely, and also that my previous data roaming charges complaint is properly looked into and I am offered some recompense for that as well. if I do not receive a satisfactory response within the next five days, I will cancel all my Direct Debits with Orange, and cancel all my accounts. If you want to lose my alleged valued custom and an average spend with you of £200 - £300 a month then that's fine, I can easily take my business elsewhere and you will lose a loyal and long standing customer. Otherwise I expect a satisfactory reply within that time. 
Having had no response, he then followed up with this:
Subject: RE: Orange Data Roaming Charges / Complaint
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011
Dear Sir,   
I can only assume that either my previous email went straight to your spam folder, or the poor customer service of your organisation emminents straight from the top ?. 
Whilst I didn't expect a resolution to my complaint yesterday, I would have thought I would have received at least a courtesy email acknowledging my complaint and informing me that you had actually asked someone to investigate it and would get back to me asap.   
As I mentioned previously I will be cancelling all my accounts with Orange unless this issue is resolved within the next five days, although you would now appear to have one day less to resolve this issue as have heard nothing.   
I hope to receive at least an acknowledgment to this email.   
Please note I have also logged this complaint with Ofcom.   
Yet again nothing and so to this morning with this:
Subject: RE: Orange Data Roaming Charges / Complaint
Date: 18 November 2011 
Dear Sir,  
Quite obviously judging by the lack of response to my emails, the customer service (or lack of ) does emminent directly from the top ?  
However by now I hope you will have received a copy of my emails that I posted to you yesterday (unless this has also gone into the folder marked "customer spam") ? And I now hope you are taking some action or have at least asked someone from your "lack of" Customer Service area's to rectify my complaint ? 
As I mentioned previously I will be cancelling all my accounts with Orange within the next five days unless this issue is resolved, today being Day 3 since I sent you my first email means that you would appear to have little time to resolve this issue, unless you are happy to lose one of you so called "valued" customers ! 

What on earth do they think they're playing at?  They claim to have 28million customers - so I guess that's why they're happy to ignore them. You have been warned....

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

World Community Grid - GO Fight Against Malaria Launch

World Community Grid Newsletter

In honor of World Community Grid's 7th birthday, we are pleased to announce that a new research project called GO Fight Against Malaria has been launched.

Malaria is one of the three deadliest infectious diseases on earth and is caused by parasites that infect both humans and animals. Half of the entire human population is at risk: in 2006, 247 million people became infected with malaria. Of the nearly one million deaths caused by malaria each year, 85% of those are children.

The researchers at The Scripps Research Institute are running the GO Fight Against Malaria project on World Community Grid to evaluate millions of candidate compounds to advance the search for new drugs that can cure patients who are infected with multi-drug-resistant mutant "superbugs" of malaria.

For more information about this important project, please view the press announcement on Citizen IBM.

GO Fight Against Malaria is the 10th project actively running on World Community Grid. To ensure that we continue to deliver results to the researchers as expeditiously as possible, we are challenging our members to help World Community Grid reach 2 million registered devices by December 31, 2011. We only need 100,000 additional devices to reach this goal. To help our community reach this goal, please read about our 7th Birthday Challenge to our Members.

Thank you for making World Community Grid an overwhelming success and allowing us to provide computing power to researchers working on pressing humanitarian issues for 7 years. Happy 7th Birthday World Community Grid!

Thank you,

The World Community Grid Team

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

US vs Them...

One of the things I'm doing this week is trying to understand the reason that doing a thing in the UK is so much more expensive than doing the (almost) same thing in the US. 

Now, being a Brit and a fan of all things tech, I'm consistently jealous of the ultra low prices our US friends get to pay for their consumer electronics. Ive moaned about this fact here in the past, but just to go over old ground for clarity here's an example again:

Let's assume today's exchange rate of £1.00 = $1.60 or $1.00 = £0.62 if you prefer. 

A 32Gb WiFi Apple iPad2
US Price = $599 (£373)
UK Price = $768 (£479)

So that's an additional $169 (£105) or 22%. I can speak from experience when I say "it's worth the air fare". But it's not just the iPad, and it's not just Apple. 

Just to prove that here's a Canon Powershot G12
US Price = $499 (£310) -
UK Price = $866 (£539) -

A 42% increase!!

We're at a point where it's just about everything - and some things even more so. 

One thing in particular that really riles me is to hear Americans complain about the price of gas - and when I say gas, I don't mean gas, I mean petrol - Gas, as any fool knows is not a liquid; moving on. 

So choosing the nearest part of the US to the UK, the current price of regular petrol on the east coast (including taxes) is $3.45 per US gallon, just to make things that little bit more complicated (As listed here: )

In the UK, we've been switched to Litres (so we think it's cheaper in some oil executives marketing brain) and we currently pay in the region of £1.40 per Litre of unleaded (including taxes). (As listed here: )

Don't worry, I've worked it out for you:
1 US Gallon = 3.7854 Litres
So 1 US Gallon of petrol in the UK costs £5.29 and here comes the kicker - that's $8.49 or an extra $5.04 over the US price. That's an increase of 146%

I know huge chunks of this are down to import duty and VAT (Value Added Tax, which is currently 20%), but I'm certain there's also a level of greed going on because the increase is effectively hidden. Explaining this differential to our US cousins isn't fun, because it just reminds me of how expensive life in the UK really is.
Regular visitors will know who much I hate to say it, but IIWII.
Not fun times :-(


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Saturday, November 05, 2011

We aren't where we were....

It would seem that 3 and half days of high level adrenalin production followed by an 8 hour sleep break and another day and a half of squeezing that gland is as much as I can do in a working week. When I arrived home at around 7 last night, I managed to eat a curry, sit on the sofa, and pass out. My work here is done. I dragged myself off to bed at around 11 and here we are at 11am of Saturday - feeling pretty good.
The job is done - all those that should have approved it have approved it, so it's in a satisfactory place. As for what the customer makes of it? Well that's up to the kids across the pond, but between me and the Navvy - we've given them our best shot at it.
Let's not have another week like that one for a while, eh?

No idea what the rest of the weekend will bring - probably more sleep.
Have fun.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Friday, November 04, 2011

400m Hurdle Relay.... (or "almost there")

....and here we are at Friday. Day 5 of Adrenal gland experiment No.1

As you'll have gathered, I'm not sure how I got here, but I am here.  I probably has something to do with time passing and very litle to do with any impact I may have on the world around me. I should point out that I'm fully aware the world doesn't revolve around me - it revolves around you....  and the sun.

Where were we? So Wednesday saw a less eventful return journey from London - not quite the last train, but I still had "stuff to do" once I was back on-line. I hear that you can get WiFi on the East Midlands rail network now - that's rather annoying when the best that the Un-Great Western service can do is ittermittent 3G and my plan doesn't currently allow tethering. On the flip side, it forces me not to be online and to spend time thinking - or as was the case on Wednesday - talking (in the "quiet" carriage - how awful of me)

I was sat next to one our countries serving soldiers who couldn't speak about what he does and left his description of duties as "potato peeling". He was an interesting chap, clearly experienced in the art of the peeler and left me with a tip for a good book on the subject - "Sniper One - by Sgt Dan Mills". It's in my kindle app, I'll let you know how it pans out.

The last lumps of work from the Wednesday meeting meant I finally got finished around 12.30 and then to bed for a few hours before back on the road to my local-ish office.  

As the badman has been off, I've been recieving some very able help from a hardworking irishman - digger of ditches and canals and layer of tarmac drives.  He's a very experienced Navvy - far more so than I - in this field and without him around this week, I would have failed miserably.  I'm very lucky to have him on board ready with his trusty spade and pick at a moments notice.

Thursday saw the two of us camped out in an office performing water-fowl alignment (or "getting our duck's in a row" for the less imaginative) and gaining a deeper knowledge of what the hell it is we're trying to do.  A large contigent of accountants have agreed with the numbers we've suggested, and while we're doing things in the wrong order, the next phase is to get a large contigent of people that actually do this stuff to agree with what we're suggesting they do.  And that is how I find myself back in the office again on a Friday preparing to "help" them make thier decision.

It feels like one last hurdle to jump over and I'll get my life back - that's NOT how it is.  No clearing the hurdle will create a pile of work so that I can take a few paces back and have another run at it. Clearing the hurdle will create a pile of work in passing the baton over the pond.  I have a pile of work.

I'm hurting - but I'm not dead yet.

Happy days.


PS - I do hope Pooh (and anyone else for that matter) gets to see the Big Lebowski ... at least twice. It would make yesterday's post a little clearer.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Golfy Lebowski...

Not the millionaire Lebowski, but me, the other Lebowski....

In the words of The Big Lebowski (the millionaire): "You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?"

And in both the words of myself and The Dude: "Is this a... what day is this?"

Most apt. and to continue with this theme I'm happy to report that so far "the goddamned plane hasn't crashed into the mountain" but there is a lot of "new sh1t".  There is still much to be done and "this is our concern dude". My concern is of course for my "Johnson", my beverage and most importantly, my rug which of course "really tied the room together, did it not? Am I wrong?"

So, I dropped off the money exactly as per... look, man, I've got certain information, all right? Certain things have come to light. And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new sh1t, you know, I-I-I-I... this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it's not just, it might not be just such a simple... uh, you know? 

If you don't know what I'm blathering about, well...I'll tell you what I'm blathering about... I've got information man! New sh1t has come to light! And sh1t... man, she kidnapped herself. Well sure, man. Look at it... a young trophy wife, in the parlance of our times, you know, and she, uh, uh, owes money all over town, including to known pornographers, and that's cool... that's, that's cool, I'm, I'm saying, she needs money, man. And of course they're going to say that they didn't get it, because... she wants more, man! She's got to feed the monkey, I mean uh... hasn't that ever occurred to you, man? Sir? 

Ask yourself "what makes a man?" and go and watch the Big Lebowski. 

Is it being prepared to do the right thing, whatever the cost? Isn't that what makes a man? 

Hmmm... Sure, that and a pair of testicles. 

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I don't mind admitting that I found myself in a state of shock this morning when I realised it was Wednesday. It's day 3 of the experiment to see just how much my adrenal gland can produce before it simply gives up and allows me to be eaten by whatever my fight or flee system is so terrified of.  It's going quite well.

Having not arrived home on Monday before midnight - thanks to the wondrous signalling system on the "Great" Western railway service, and then been off in the opposite direction until the wee small hours again on Tuesday - I've sort of lost track of where we are in the space-time continuum.  So let's roll back to Monday night's return journey from "that London" and go from there.

As you'll have read (possibly), things went generally quite well. Some positive feedback and direction resulted in a plan for a way forward.  I managed to grab a swift pint with Jack-the-lad on the way to the station by way of thanking him for his input and support - and as those of you that know him will know - a good laugh to boot. He has a sharp sense of humour and is a pleasure to work with.

I hopped aboard the tube to get across the city and then hung around in Paddington for the next available train (the 8:45)  back to the countryshire. All was going swimmingly until we got to Didcot. Just out of Didcot we made an unscheduled stop. A problem with the signals. On a direct journey this would be of little concern, but I needed a change of train a Swindon. The timing of the signal problem could not have been better planned for anyone wishing to miss this connection and so it was that I finally arrived home at around midnight - just in time for bed.

Tuesday was an early start to drive up to the (hour away) Starfleet office, and then to put into action the plan that we'd crafted the day before. Again things went relatively well - some un-required assistance was given as well as some vital assistance and a notable let down. By 9pm we were getting very close to a completion point. One of our number had left things very late for completion but he came through in the end and by 10.30 I was on the road back home.  A nice easy drive would mean back home and tucked up by 11.30.  

Ahhh - but of course, things are never that simple.  Luckily for the god of "making life difficult" there was an opportunity to really p!ss me off, and he'd taken it upon himself to have the motorway closed off so that some highways employees could stand around drinking tea and staring at holes in the ground. The back roads, got me home though and once again a midnight arrival meant I could have a slice of toast and pass out.

And so to Wednesday - which once again finds me on the train back down to "that London" for a further executive review and hopefully a decision that might put an end to this madness. But the jury's out.

What have I learned from this?  Well a whole heap of things, many of which just aren't relevant to a blog post - which as the regular readers know is mostly a place for me to vent or just shoot the breeze. It does appear that the object of the exercise is to try and kill me off by not allowing me to eat or sleep or have any normal type of exercise - and then expect to perform herculean tasks of mental strength.  I beginning to wonder if it's worth it, but I haven't given up yet.

We have had some extraordinarily good help in the form of technical wizards and geniuses - and if nothing else, it's great to know that these people exist and can help us make a difference. It's all part of an ongoing education and I've discovered plenty that I had no idea existed and have been unsurprised by some of the things that I've been hampered with before that cause us pain all too often.  

I’m do hope that Pooh is having a wonderful time in his hollowed out tree and his paw stuck in one of his many jars of huni. I'm also sure he'd love to be here just to see how well his adrenal gland could hold up as well. Let’s hope he heals soon – although at this rate, when he gets back there won’t be a great deal (not that it ever was a great deal – see what I did there?) to be done.

Well - I'm afraid I have far too much to do to talk to you lot any further today.  Must crack on.

Wish me and my adrenal gland luck

Ta ra.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Where is Golfyball?


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