Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, don't you think?

Archive for the category “Thoughts”

Looking Back – 2015 vs. 2014

One thing I’ve noticed this year is that so many people who had an absolutely rotten 2014 seem to be doing much better in 2015 – myself included. (And yes yes, all hail the gods of Fate, and do not tempt them to be bastards)

It’s not any “new year new you” type bullshit – several times I’ve had conversations where friends have observed just how much easier this year has been than the last one was. There’s no viable logic for it, but it’s what seems to have happened. Friends who fought bureaucracy and uncaring jobsworths for all of 2014 have suddenly found doors opening in ’15, with additional “Oh, you should also contact [x]” type referrals that add extra beneficial factors.

From my side, the seven weeks (so far) of 2015 have been infinitely more positive than the same time last year.  Still chaotic and hyper-busy, but in far more positive ways than I’d have expected.

I’m hoping that the rest of the year maintains this initial attitude. Even if it does get a bit tougher further down the line, all I would ask for (and hope) is that it doesn’t end up as shitty as any of 2014 was.

And no, Gods of Fate, that is not a challenge being issued.

Office Space

As of today, I’ve started work in an office in central Milton Keynes. I’m still working the same contracts and so on, so it’s not a new employer or anything. It’s just a different environment, allowing me to separate work and home a bit.

While I can work from home (and have been for the last few months) I still find it’s easy to have days where I’m demotivated, and can’t really be bothered to get on with work stuff. It’s easy to be distracted, to never really get into “work mode”.  In general I can get away with it, because the productive days outweigh the non-productive ones – but I don’t want that to be the case.

So I made some enquiries, and an office space had just become available in one of the buildings I’d emailed. It’s designed for start-up businesses – which I am/have – and is ideal for one or two people. Less than £200 a month (which is also a business expense anyway) including utilities and wifi/internet, right in the middle of Milton Keynes. Pretty much ideal.

I’ve got it for a minimum of three months – which takes me to just over the current end-date for contracts – and then a monthly-rolling renewal after that. If things go bad, one month’s notice and I’m done.

It’s another positive step, and one I hope will work out when it comes to balancing work and home life a bit better.

But it does make me feel a bit grown-up too, which is kind of odd, to say the least…

Energy Madness

Since moving to the new (current) place, I’ve had an ongoing (and too depressing for words) set of issues and disputes with nPower. These have included, but not limited to

  • Not having the correct name on the account for eighteen months, despite repeated requests to change it
  • Losing documentary proof (including my tenancy agreement) of my address. Originals were insisted upon, sent recorded delivery, signed for, and then lost.  Hard to place blame anywhere except nPower
  • Billing issues – my bills went up, down, sideways, and every way except correctly
  • Misrepresentation – sending a meter reader into my house under the guise of being someone to do ‘legal gas meter checks’.  (This was also while the bill/account was in the wrong name, so there was also some issues legally around that)
  • A meter reading done by a representative of nPower, who then managed to register that reading to a completely different address, and denied ever having done one for this house. (Despite his having done readings/visits recorded to every other house in my block at the same time)

So it’s fair to say that I regard nPower as incompetent useless dickwhistles at the best of times.

Today, though, has taken it to a whole new level.

Things have settled down somewhat, and on Tuesday I gave them a meter reading directly through the website.  At that point, my account was £1.62 in credit.  Happy day, all well and good.

Today I logged in for a quick check. £595.82 in credit.  Um, what? So I look, and it’s got four cancelled bills, adding up to the amount in credit.  Four bills I’ve received, and paid. Now cancelled. File under “Fuck, What The”

So I gave them a call. The first incompetent managed to put the phone down on me. So I called back, and finally got through to one of the (few) efficient and competent individuals who work at nPower. (I’m quite sure she won’t last long, having been actually pleasant and competent)

It turns out that – once in receipt of a valid meter reading – nPower cancel out all the estimated bills back to the previous correct reading. They then recalculate all those bills with the correct figures (although technically they must still be estimates of what was used, averaging out the figures over the number of bills) to bring everything back up to date.  So for however far back, the bills get cancelled – despite having been printed, posted and paid – and then recreated.  Then I’ll know what I need to pay to be up to date.

Except of course that they’ve also got to send out all those new bills. So next week I’m going to get five bills from nPower – the four reconstructed ones – as well as the one to bring me up to date.

Now, I realise that this is something that’s required by the energy regulator – but does it strike anyone else as a completely fucking barking way to run a business?

Business Account

Among other ongoing things, I finally got confirmation today that I’ve sorted a new account for my limited company, so I can start doing things properly come April.

There’s still a bundle of other things to sort out along the way – but it’s a major step forward.

It’s progress for me personally as well, because this account has needed credit-scoring to get it started, and it’s still been accepted. That’s definitely A Good Thing, and bodes well for the future.

Shit on the Sidewalk

I’ve come to the conclusion that in some circumstances, I bloody hate dogs.  Well, more the dog owners, rather than the dogs themselves. Let me explain…

Every time I walk around the village in daylight (which I do a fair amount, due to an increased rate of exercise etc.) there are areas that are just covered in dog shit.  Particularly in the area where it’s footpath across fields, any time you step off the pavement (for a cyclist, or other people) you’re at risk of stepping in shit. It’s even riskier in the evenings, because you’ve no chance of seeing the fucking stuff.

There are shit bins at either end of this particular footpath, but no, these people just allow their dogs to shit and leave it.  They also let it happen in the alleyways between houses – as a houseowner there, I’d be debating CCTV  and/or violence. I wonder how they’d feel if I went and took a dump on their doorstep one day?

As a prospective dog owner (or indeed an actual dog owner) you must surely understand that picking up dog shit is part of the deal. I always understood that, and would pick it up wherever possible – obviously if they’ve run across miles/fields and there’s no-one ever going to go in that direction, you’re less likely to pick it up – but if it was ever near/on somewhere people would regularly walk, I picked up after Hound.

The facilities are there. Fucking use them.  People piss me off.

Fitbit ChargeHR

Over the last year or so, I’ve been using the FitBit Flex wristband to keep track of my daily steps, sleep statistics and so on.  I’ve been generally impressed with its ease of use and so on, as well as the integration/communication with the FitBit App.

As it worked out, the only thing I wasn’t too impressed with was the strap itself – in that year-ish, I got through two straps, and had just ordered a replacement for the second. That’s not ideal, and is something of a design flaw. (I’ve let them know about it, so we’ll see what happens)

At the time I got it, I was a bit annoyed by a perceived lack of functionality within the Flex, so I was interested to see that they’ve released some more wearable things with more functionality – the Charge, ChargeHR and Surge (which is almost a smart-watch in its own right) – and I ended up getting a new ChargeHR.

Because I’m exercising more and so on, I was wanting a device to track heart-rate and so on as well, and the ChargeHR does that. I don’t need the full functionality of the Surge (plus I didn’t want to be taking myself up to that price point) but this one does pretty much what I want, particularly in combination with the phone.

The strap on this is a bit more obtrusive than that of the Flex – I can feel it as I’m typing this, for example – but all told I’m so far impressed with the device. And it has some of the extra things I wrote about a year back – and the Surge has built-in GPS as well, which was another.

It’s interesting seeing how these devices improve over time. It’d still be nice to see more innovation, but at least they’re doing more, and still maintaining a decent battery life and so on.

I’ve only had it a couple of days so far, but will probably write more about the ChargeHR in a couple of months’ time, as I’m more used to it.


At the moment, I’m doing regular drives on the Northbound M1, which is currently subject to no less than 15 miles (Fifteen Miles! For fuck’s sake!) of roadworks in one stretch replacing the central barrier, and another stretch installing ‘smart motorways’, in a similar way to how the Southbound M1 was screwed over a couple of years back.

Through both of these stretches, we’ve got the 50mph speed limit and ‘average speed cameras’, which seem to also contain some kind of mind-control that turns the majority of drivers into zombies who can’t see an empty lane, but can see a speed camera and slow down for it. (The phrase ‘average speed’ is utterly beyond them, of course)

It amazes me how bad the driving standards are in these roadworks zones – it’s as though people stick to the lane they were in when they entered the roadworks, and aren’t able to move from it. They don’t move in (or even pull out to overtake) despite any available space, or someone else driving even slower ahead.

I don’t know what can be done to change it – it’s just a human nature thing, I guess – but dear God, it’s bloody annoying to be surrounded by that many dickwhistles.

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