Thursday, September 22, 2005

Snap! Snap! Snap!

So, I broke my left arm, falling off my mountain bike.
20 odd years of cycling (on and off) and this is the first time I've broken something. Grrr.
I'm learning lots of things - such as how to cook, wash, and netsurf with one hand.
Meantime, the bike lurks at work, mocking me in it's garish green-ness - I
will get back on it again, once I've had the plaster cast taken off and once I've finally dealt with the irritating itch I've had for the last couple of weeks!

Of course, this pales into insignificance when compared to Katrina and the imminent Rita - good luck to anyone in their respective paths.

Friday, September 02, 2005

She's Back!

I apologises in advance if the following sounds like serious fanboy indulgence, but Kate Bush Is Back!
According to a news item on the BBC website, her new album "Aerial" is out in November - a mere 12 years after her last album "The Red Shoes"
Gives me something to save my pennies for...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

In Praise of Customer Service

It seems to be the norm to complain about shoddy customer service received - so, for a change, I thought I'd post about some excellent customer service I've received in the last few days!
Item No. One: Land's End (UK)
Many moons ago, when the world was slightly younger and I had more money, I bought a shirt from the Land's End catalogue. This was quite a few years ago. It rapidly became my favourite shirt, and has (so far) worn well. Note that 'so far' - when I took it out of the washing machine on Sunday, the shirt showed definate signs of wear - one of the button-down collars had torn away from the rest of the shirt (taking the button with it).
Now, Land's End is famous for their "Guaranteed. Period" slogan, though I didn't hold out much hope for a shirt this old. I emailed their customer service anyway and, (please remember, this was on a SUNDAY), got a reply, from a real live human being (i.e. not an automated answer) about 30 minutes later, asking for more details. I replied and again a fast response was received, offering to send a couple of material swatches that might possibly match and so patch up the hole.
The swatch arrived yesterday and, although it is a different type of material, it will do fine as a patched repair. As soon as I have more money in my pocket, I'll be buying from Land's End again!

Item no. Two:
Integral Memory
I had an Integral Envoy 512mb USB Flash drive of which I made a great deal of use - until the day when the LED refused to light up and all of the various computers on which it was used refused to se it at all. The flash drive was dead. It was an ex-flash drive (It's blue, by the way, though not, as far as I know, Norwegian!)
I emailed the customer service at Integral to ask if anything could be done. They replied with a returns number, suggesting I post it back to them for testing. This I did last Saturday. Yesterday, there was a card in my letterbox asking me to collect a package from my local post office. Integral had sent me a brand new Envoy to replace my dead one!

Kudos to Land's End and Integral Memory - they deserve the praise...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sticking a thumb out...

Well, it's Hitch-Hikers week here in the UK - not only did the movie open this weekend, but BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting the last of the new radio adaptation of Douglas Adams' books AND BBC TV is re-running the TV adaptation from the eighties.
More on the radio once I've heard a bit more of it.

WARNING!!! Potential Spoilerage Follows

The film I saw on Bank Holiday Monday and... I enjoyed it!
Yes, I did. It's not the H2G2 purists might have wished for but it IS H2G2 - the movie version. I've seen a fair bit of criticism this weekend of the film and how it is not faithful enough to the original - newflash: NONE of the other versions are truly that faithful to the original radio series. The books diverted in different directions, the computer game ditto and the TV series was little more than a subset of the first two radio series/books; even the towel was a version, not an accurate representation!

Martin Freeman as Arthur is fine. A Dent for the noughties. He won't ever replace Simon Jones in the fans affections, but that is truly not the point. Sam Rockwell is underused - or, rather, Zaphod is. There are a couple of gags that feature the Big Zee but that's it. Mos Def as Ford? Fine. Again, a different Ford, but none the worse for that. He still has that 'otherworldly' feeling that marks him out as not quite belonging on Earth, and I like him. Zooey Deschamel as Trillian? She was cute and clever and really rather nice. The American accent jarred a little (as it did in the TV series - no offence intended towards Sandra Dickinson, but her version of Trillian was what I liked least about the TV series - especially as, in the special 'Making Of video that the BBC issued some years after the event, Adams admitted that she could have done an 'English Rose' accent but they (the creatives) didn't ask...)
I liked Marvin. I liked even more the fact that the TV Marvin made a cameo appearence and that Simon Jones appeared as the security video on Magrathea. I liked that Bill Bailey, one of my favourite comic perfomers, voiced the Sperm Whale. I loved Stephen Fry as 'The Book' (seing as Peter Jones was not a possibility, Fry was the best replacement) I didn't like that the film started with a song and not "Journey of The Sorcerer" by Bernie Leadon but then I was more than pleased to hear it's familiar strains over the first appearence of "The Book" itself!

The story is slight and filled with some marvelous sight gags that would possibly have appealed to Douglas Adams if he were still alive (oh, thre are a couple of other Adams related in-jokes in the film - but you'll have to find them for yourselves!).
My cony concern is that the ending doesn't actually close some of the plot points - but presumably these will be addressed in any subsequent sequel (and that has been more than adequatly set up)
If you are a died in the wool, old school radio series fan who hated the TV series and hasn't bought a new towel in years (and, by the way, Marks & Spencer missed a trick by not having one of THEIR towels in a 'Product Placement' deal!), then you'll probably have already made up your mind about this film and wont be bothering with it anyway. I respect that. To everyone else, however, go to see the film. It's as entertaining a way to spend two hours as I can think of (I do have a slightly limited imagination!).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Mating Season

(with apologies to P.G.Wodehouse!)
I have spawn at the bottom of my garden. The assorted amphibians, with whom I share my back garden, have obviously been busy and I'm hoping that the recent cold-ish turn taken by the weather hasn't done the spawn any damage. If the spawn is still full of living embyionic amphibia, hopefully I'll have a garden full of frogs or toads again this year...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Charging for less...

As mentioned in a previous entry, I recently got an Apple iPod Shuffle 1Gb.
Now, this has a rechargable Lithium battery - to charge it you either plug it into a powered USB port on your computer, or you buy the relevant charger accessory from Apple for (at time of writing) £19.99.
I've found a Third Way! My local branch of W.H.Smiths is having a clear out of selected computer accessories, and in amongst the assorted cables etc., I found a Belkin Powered compact USB 2 hub - 4 USB2 ports and a standalone power supply. Reduced from £22.99 to £8.62
Well, I needed to get something to connect the iPod to the computer - the front USB ports on my Dell are not powered, so it won't charge from them (a common enough problem on most computers with front USB ports), and as the cheapest extension cable online would have cost me about the same (including P&P) I bought this instead, reasoning that it would give me an additional two USB2 ports when the iPod was plugged in, or 4 when not. (The iPod Shuffle is slightly wider than the USB plug, and so prevents anything being inserted to other USB ports next to it!)

When I got home, I had a brainwave - if the Hub is independently powered, then the iPod should charge without it being connected to the computer - a quick test shows this to be the case.
So, if you have an iPod Shuffle, want to be able to charge it from the mains without having to connect it to a computer, and can find a cheap enough USB2 powered hub, this might be your answer! OK, so it won't be Apple White, and you'll still have to connect it to a computer with iTunes installed to upload stuff to it, but it might save you money and may get you out of a 'flat battery' problem...
Next step - to find a cheap alternative to the add-on Battery pack!
(I take no responsibility for any damage caused by this suggestion - you follow it at your own risk - though I seriously doubt that any damage will occur!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Who is that with the white headphones singing "Ice Cream Man"*?

Well, for one brief moment (probably less than a nanosecond) I became slightly 'cutting edge' - for my recent birthday a friend gave me an iPod Shuffle 1Gb.
Has to be said, I didn't imagine myself ever needing an iPod, let alone owning one - but now I've got it working (by installing W2K over the top of my WME PC) I'm having fun with it!

*That's the Van Halen version...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Springtime for...Brooks

Belated Happy New Year! On New Years Day I went to see the West End version of Mel Brooks "The Producers" (a very kind friend gave me a ticket for Christmas!)
Unfortunately, Nathan Lane (the last minute, short term replacement for Richard Dreyfuss) had to pull out due to having TWO slipped discs - having seen what the character gets up to in the show, I can quite understand how he managed it!
Cory English, his 'Stand-in' was excellent, and after a couple of minutes I forgot that I was disappointed about not seeing Mr Lane and realised I was enjoying seeing Mr English! Lee Evans was equally as good. The songs add greatly to the show, and there are enough references to both the original movie and to other Brooks movies to keep the anorak Brooks fan happy!
Of the show itself I will not write - if you are familiar with the movie, then you'll pretty much know the plot (though it IS slightly tweaked for the stage); if you're unfamiliar with the movie, but have heard that Mel Brooks could write comedy, then you're in for a treat (a tasteless one, but a treat nonetheless!)
The show is still running on Broadway and apparently the original Broadway pairing of Lane and Matthew Broderick are to make a new movie based on the musical.