D4D

Up yours, Kemosabe

Archive for the category “Work-related”

Changing Terms

Last week, Milton Keynes suddenly changed their parking rates. Not by a lot, all things considered – it costs me about 20p a day more now – but it didn’t seem to have been very well publicised.

(Disclaimer : There may have been notices in local papers or whatever, but I don’t get those, so didn’t see anything. But there was nothing I saw on parking meters etc., so regardless of how much it was discussed/publicised beforehand, I hadn’t seen anything. And I’m sure I can’t be the only one)

One of the other changes, though, was that now you have to pay on Bank Holidays as well. That’s not been the case up ’til this week – it’s always been free – and it’s all just a bit sneaky.

Because it’s only happened for the second bank holiday weekend in May. So anyone who’s known it was free from the first weekend would be quite within their rights to assume it would be the same this weekend.

There’s more information about that change – they’ve put stickers on the parking meters etc. – but if someone had seen three weeks ago that they didn’t need to pay, would they even go near the parking meter this time?

I don’t know – but there’s definitely a lot of parking tickets been issued today on the bit outside my office building. Which indicates that my theory may be correct on this one…

Rationalising Things

Over the years, I’ve had a number of random ideas, and then bought up the relevant domain names.  I’ve done the same with business concepts, and also several writing ideas and the like.

When all’s said and done, that means I’m left with a whole bundle of websites and domains I don’t use – or (worse) that I don’t update, becoming the ‘net equivalent of ghost towns and cemeteries. They’re all started with good intentions, of course – but spreading myself over that many sites just isn’t going to happen.  I feel stupidly guilty when I remember one of them, and realise it hasn’t been updated in a year or more.

So over the rest of this year, I’m going to give up some of them completely, merge others, and really just rationalise things into a shape and state I can manage and maintain. Hopefully that’ll then give me some of the headspace I need – or at least reduce the guilt levels a bit – and I’ll see what progress can then be made.

D4D™ will, of course, survive the cull – as will the sites for my writing, and company.   Other than that, there’s a couple I’ll keep because I use them for other things, but over the next year there’s definitely going to be a reduction in the sites and domains I own and maintain.

Headaches

Yesterday, for the first time in ages, I had a real belter of a migraine.

Migraines are something I never used to get, until about ten years ago – and even then I don’t get them often. It probably averages one a year, but of course these things don’t work to averages. I don’t think I’ve had a proper one in three years or more, but today made up for it.

It started off (as usual) with a weird little visual artifact, almost like a blind-spot in my field of vision. It’s a weird feeling, even though it’s just the precursor.  Sometimes it’ll all ease off at that point, other times it won’t.

In this case, it didn’t. It ended up with a prolonged set of visual weirdness, flickering at the edges, and like constantly looking through a kaleidoscope – which is even less fun than it sounds.  And it’s even less fun when driving home – doable, but it felt like driving in a Star Trek warp-speed effect. I have no idea what speed I actually drove at, but man alive, it felt fast.

And of course through all that, my head feels like someone’s put a vice round it, and is tightening it slowly.

It’s finally waned in the mid-evening, although the headache stayed on, if less intense than it was during the day.

All told, as always, it’s left me a bit drained, and not in the mood to do much. In an ideal world, I’d spend the day at home and vegetating, but that’s not the way it’s worked out, as I’m off to Leicester today to see one of my clients.  As it is, I’ll be quite happy if I don’t have another one like that for a good few years again. It’s been a belter.

A Coming Calm

With any luck, this week will be the end of a generally madly busy first section of the year.  Work has been ridiculous – and will still be busy – but should calm down after Friday.

It’s actually coasting down this week, although I’ve got some things to finish, but one of the big projects is out the way for the moment, and the other is finishing this week.

As a result, I’m all booked in – and greatly looking forward to – for a break this weekend, travelling to Edinburgh and coming back on the Sunday.

It’s a long time since I’ve been to Edinburgh (current calculations make it about fifteen years) so it’ll be interesting to see the place again.  It’s been one of those places I’ve always felt I could live – although it would put me a long way from all friends, family etc. – and I kind of want to see whether I still feel like that about it.

Work-wise I’m still secure ’til mid-June now, but the next phase should be a much easier piece of work than the last three months have been. (I hope so, anyway – there’s been far too much complex maths and codifying of guesswork in this bit)

Going (More) Digital

Over the last month, I’ve upgraded and/or invested in a couple of new bits of hardware for media, and it’s been an interesting journey so far.

The first bit happened once I’d bought the new TV, and has been the addition of an AppleTV – which gives me far better access to various streaming services etc., and lets me watch them on a decent screen instead of on the laptop or phone. So far I’m pretty impressed with it – although the initial setup was a pain in the bits, until I’d finally figured out one thing that wasn’t mentioned anywhere except on the first screen.  If you’re on that first screen – or if you’ve reset the bloody thing so you can see that screen again – you can touch an iPhone to the AppleTV and it gets all the settings across automatically. Wifi details, iTunes account details, etc. – which makes things very easy indeed.

There hadn’t been any real point in getting the AppleTV ’til I’d got the new TV screen – the previous one wasn’t that great, and once it had been knackered, I was more interested in replacing it, rather than in showing AppleTV/Streaming stuff on a knackered screen.  But it’s good now.

I’ll write more about it at some point, as my use of it gets more advanced and more noteworthy.

The second thing is more for the office than for home (although as and when I give up the office, it’ll come home and be used there instead) and that’s a digital radio. Yes, I could’ve just bought a normal radio for less, but I was actually interested in the channels that are digital-only (including BBC Radio 6 etc.) as well as the ‘normal’ ones.  And yes, I can listen to those stations via t’internet and streaming, but it still takes up bandwidth, and means the laptop is working harder, with less decent sound quality.

I’ve only used the radio for a couple of days so far, but I can’t deny, I like it. Set-up was an absolute doddle – turn it on, let it scan, job done. I’ve set up some favourite stations and so on, but in general it’s just a decent bit of kit with better sound quality, and it’s nice to use. And it’s good to have some music to work to, as well.  Sure, I’ll probably also set it up so I can play stuff from phone/laptop into it, but for now it’s good just to have the radio going.

 

Bloody hell, I’m entering the 21st century…

Issue Avoidance

With one of the current jobs, the agent/agency involved has been insanely needy all the way through – regularly calling, wanting to “catch up”, and generally been a complete pain in the arse.  He’s absolutely incapable of following simple instructions – for example, “My mobile doesn’t work when I’m at home, so don’t call, just email” – he’s not managed that once. Always calls three or four times, then leaves a message, and so my phone goes into meltdown when I do leave the house.

Anyway, after yet another splurge of these, he asked how the contract was going, to which I replied that it was OK, but not brilliant. He asked why, and I told him – it’s not what I’d been told, not what I was expecting, and just generally isn’t great. (It’s one of those things, and I can live with it – besides, there’s only two weeks to go on it, and I won’t be renewing/extending)

And you know what? Since then he’s been absolutely silent. No acknowledgement, no calls, nothing.

All of which just makes me think that actually, he’s a bit of a tosspot.  He’s pushed so hard for communications and catch-ups, but when he hears something that might mean doing something, he runs a mile.

It’s a safe bet that I probably won’t work through that agency again. It’s not a big issue – there’s loads of the buggers out there – but it’s just a bit annoying.

Ah well. Two weeks.  That’s all, just two weeks to go.

Taxing The Tolerance

As regular readers probably vaguely recall, HMRC have never been an organisation I’m a great fan of.  I find it amazing that they can be quite as unhelpful, disorganised, obstructive and basically clown-like they really are.

Way back in the 2012-13 tax year – about the only year in my entire employment history where I worked fully PAYE for just one employer throughout the year – supposedly I underpaid my tax by just over £600. Yep, underpaid by £50 a month, all year – and somehow I am responsible for a fuckup that I have absolutely no influence or input on, so I have to repay that money. Even though the entire thing was between HMRC and my employer at the time, and I wouldn’t know one end of a tax calculation from the other.

It’s hardly going to ensure that either HMRC or the payroll department have to get things right, is it – if the only person penalised by those two sections fucking up is the person paying the tax, not the people who’ve actually screwed it up.

Anyway, the figures were disputed by me, and it’s been going on for two years now, with HMRC doing fuck-all. (Which seems to be what HMRC excels at)

I got a final demand for the money last month, with a deadline of this week. I’ve spoken to them in the meantime, but no, because of other figures and assumptions they’ve made, it was pay it all, or start having legal proceedings. Always fun.  And despite repeated requests, HMRC still haven’t given me any of the figures that have brought them to the conclusion that I’ve underpaid.  (Which also makes me think the entire thing is dodgy as shit, if they’re so unwilling to provide documentation)

Today I called them to make the payment, and spoke to someone vaguely competent. It still took an hour (and of course that’s at my expense, both in time, and cost of the call) but things are more promising now.  Bear with me, this might take some time…

The person in question looked into the entire thing.  Weirdly, despite having had the same employer all year, my record shows three – because the company in question went through restructures and fucking about. So they’ve screwed things up from that point. The screwup is still there, and still my fault – but at least I (sort of) understand where it’s come up. They’ve also promised to send me the calculations and explanations, although I’m not holding my breath on that score…

However.   Ah, the however.   It turns out that I also overpaid tax in tax year 2013-14 – something that HMRC have completely failed to tell me at all. It’s been a year, but nope, no information about overpaid tax, or anything. If only they were as good at telling you you’re due a refund as they are when you’ve under-paid.

Additionally, somewhere along the line – and bear in mind that HMRC now receive “RealTime Information” with every payroll run about my details, employer details, salary, and tax paid – HMRC have decided that my expected income for this tax year (2014-15) to be in the region of £150,000.  No-one can tell me where that figure has come from, or how it’s fallen into their system – because of course it’s updated every fucking week with the correct and up-to-date information – but there we go, a calculation that I’ll receive a salary nearly three times what’s expected.

All of which means that I now have only about £200 to repay (still not my fault, but sometimes the fight just isn’t worth it any more) because the overpayment from 2013/14 has balanced most of what was ‘underpaid’ in 2012/13.  So that should be all sorted now. I can pay that £200, and we’ll all be good.

Except – yep, another however/except…

Here we are, in February 2015.  Online payments have been around for a good decade. Payments by phone for a lot longer than that – probably what, 25 years now?

And HMRC don’t have any system for paying unpaid/outstanding PAYE payments online. Or by phone. Or by debit/credit card at all.  The ONLY ways that HMRC can take a payment for unpaid PAYE are – are you ready for this? – by cheque, postal orders, or banker’s draft.  (Or by taking it out of the tax payments for the forthcoming tax-year – which I didn’t want to do, for a number of reasons)  They can take payments online for other things, but not unpaid PAYE.  No-one can explain why – the best I got was “We’re looking into it, but the system isn’t ready yet”.  But with unpaid PAYE, we’re back int the 1970s.

My bank hasn’t issued cheque-books now for at least five years. The person I spoke to didn’t even realise you had to pay extra for postal orders or bankers drafts – so there’s no chance whatsoever that I can discount the costs from what I owe. Yup, yet again I’d be liable for the costs – and also if (as has happened to me before) HMRC ‘mislaid’ a payment.

So even though it’s the only option I didn’t want – and that’ll get complicated for other reasons – I’m going to end up paying that £200 over the tax year, rather than knowing I can start from scratch again.

In short, HMRC are useless cunts. But I suppose that won’t change any time soon.  Still, come the revolution…

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