Tag: opinion

Of Marriage and Commitment

The blokes kids took me by surprise this weekend.

Are you getting married?

After I’d stopped spluttering, I replied with ‘Nope, no plans to!’. Somehow, the little ones have this idea that I’d be around all the time if their father and I were to tie the knot. Not sure where they got this idea from, and the bloke was as mystified as I was. I pointed out to them that it would make little difference, and that they’d get annoyed with me if they saw me all the time anyway. Hell, I get annoyed with me, because I’m around me all the time.

Now, it’s not that I’m against marriage. It works for many, many people all over the world. That said – it’s not for me. I’ve never felt that I needed a bit of paper or a ring to know that I’m committed to someone. Also, being very honest with myself, I have a poor track record for relationships. Sometimes because of me, sometimes because of the other person. Usually a mixture of both. Maybe that’s part of my aversion to the idea.

Of course, that’s not to say that I’d flat out refuse to consider it ever. But I’d need some pretty compelling reasons to do so. It’s not a deal breaker issue for me, mainly because I don’t have any really strong feelings on the issue. I guess my view on it is more along the lines of I can be in a partnership with someone without the need for a ceremony and legal trappings. And I’m ok with that.

How many software engineers does it take to return a call?

I managed to embarrass myself with what should be simple technology today.

I have a phone on my desk at work. I’ve worked here for just over 7 months now. My phone has never actually rung before. I’ve never had to use it – everyone who needs to speak to me is seated in my general vicinity. I have no need to speak to end users for my role.

Until today. It rang. I picked up the receiver to answer. Imagine my joy that it immediately went on to speaker phone! I briefly explained to the caller that he was on speaker phone, and told him I would try to fix it. I pressed the button that looked like a speaker icon.

Seems reasonable, right?

Pressing the button hung up on the caller. Cue laughter from my office buddies when they realised what I’d done.

So, I started trying to figure out how to call the person back. An office mate came to help me, and pointed out that my calls were all being forwarded. We went through a few options, and managed to not be able to find how to turn it off, so we gave up. He didn’t know how to find the history, though. So, another helpful office mate showed me how.

I found the number, and clicked the redial button … to be put through to the reception desk downstairs. I was very apologetic when I explained that I’d rung the wrong number, and hung up to try to return the call again.

This is when I realised it was an outside number. Which apparently needs to be prefixed. Some asking around later, and it turns out that the magic prefix is ‘9’. Another office mate helped me to figure out how to return a call with a prefix.

So, I did this. The person who had called me answered. I hadn’t had chance to ask his name before I inadvertently hung up on him, but thankfully I remembered his voice.

More apologies later, and what was my mystery caller after? Turns out he’s a recruiter, who somehow got my extension number – which is a mystery in itself, since I haven’t published it anywhere. After all, people might phone me if I did!

15 minutes and 3 software engineers later, all so I could tell someone ‘thanks, but I’m happily employed where I am’.

Not that I’m bitter or anything – but I can think of no good reason why a phone has been complicated to the point that it’s taken 15 minutes of my life to phone someone back. And my calls are apparently being forwarded elsewhere now, and I don’t know how to turn that off. Or see where those calls are actually being forwarded to. Yeay?

tl;dr : It should not take 3 people, 15 minutes and an instruction manual to either answer a phone or return a call.

Some thoughts on the disgraceful events of New Years Eve.

A bit of a more serious post here, I’m afraid. Typically, I avoid commenting on topics like this, as that’s not really the tone I want to set for something I’d like to keep for the most part lighthearted. Sometimes, though, I feel so strongly about something that I just need to get it typed out.

I’ve been following the news this week about the New Year Sex attacks across Europe. Whilst the attacks in Cologne are currently the most widely reported, there are reports of similar happening in different cities throughout Europe.

Just reading some of the accounts from some of the victims is terrifying. Women going about their business were subjected to unprecedented sexual abuse. The police, whilst present, were of such small numbers that they were rendered impotent to do much about it as it happened right in front of them. Men who were out with their daughters and wives/girlfriends were powerless against a horde of barbaric arseholes who seem to think of women as little more than chattel for their own perverted amusement.

I don’t even know how I’d react if faced with a similar situation. It’s just flat out unthinkable that events like this can even happen in what are supposed to be civilised areas of the world.

The reporting on this has been slow, for flat out politically correct reasons, with an undertone of attempting to avoid a backlash. It took 5 days for these events to reach headline news, which is pretty appalling. The usual apologists are crawling out of the woodwork to engage in victim blaming, which is downright crazy in these circumstances.

I guess when it comes down to the threat of being called a xenophobe, people would rather stick their fingers into their ears and start shouting ‘I can’t hear you!’.

This attitude will not fix anything. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

Should we provide asylum to those in need? Yes.

Should women be able to go about their business without fear of being assaulted? Hell yes.

I don’t know what the answer to the whole thing will be. It won’t be an easy one, for sure. But attempting to ignore the fact that the rights and freedoms of women are being overlooked – and even eroded, given the calls for women to alter their behaviour in response to these events (only travel in large groups, stay at arms length from men) – in order to be politically correct about a migration crisis is not going to end well.

For the sake of political correctness, women – and the large majority of migrants who are very likely not engaging in these barbaric displays – are being completely let down by a system that increasingly discourages upholding the laws of the land, or even speaking out, for fear of being branded a racist. I hope that the perpetrators of the events on New Years Eve are held accountable for their actions. Given the current reaction though, I’m not holding my breath.

The problem with the arcade

On New Years day, I was with the bloke and his girls at the seaside. We ended up in the arcade, and fed them 2 pence pieces for some of the machines. We had fun, and the girls managed to win some toy dinosaurs to add to their collection.

One thing that disappointed me, however, is just how blatantly *fixed* some of the games are in these places still.

Now, I know that there has always been a level of fixing in arcades. But one thing I do remember is when I was younger – we’d go on holiday to Skegness, and my older sister and I would spend hours on the ‘grabby machines’. These are the machine where you have a claw that you can control with a joy stick, and you attempt to pick up the toys inside. It’s a game of slight skill.

My sister and I were good at it. We used to return to the holiday chalet or caravan absolutely loaded with cuddly toys. It was great!

Sadly, this golden age of grabby machine was short lived. A few years after that, we stopped playing when the claw would grab your prize, rise up, and slightly loosen its grip to drop the toy before it had even given it to you. I suspect that the parameters of the machine only keep the grip closed about once in every thousand goes.

I was explaining this to one of the blokes daughters when she desperately wanted a go of one of the grabby machines that was populated with Minion cuddly toys. To demonstrate the problem to her, we hung around and watched someone else play it, so she could see the ‘fix’ in action. As soon as she saw the guy successfully grab a minion 5 times in a row, only for it to be released as soon as the claw raised, she was no longer interested in playing.

I guess that’s the point of this post. Even small children don’t want to get ripped off. Whilst a level of game fixing is to be expected, some of the machines take it too far. I stopped playing grabby machines years ago for this reason. As did my sister. And even a 9 year old has now been put off playing them.

I’d much prefer to pay more to play the game and actually feel I have a fair chance of winning the prize, than to watch time and again as I ‘win’ without actually getting my prize.

I doubt the arcade industry will change this behaviour. It’s obviously working for them, but if a 9 year old with little concept of the value of money can see the blatant scam, then you’re probably being a bit too obvious about the whole thing.

The Great Pottery Throw Down

It’s not my usual television show choice. However, me and the Bloke have ended up following this.

It started when we stumbled across the show in the TV guide, when looking for something to brainlessly watch after dinner. I just wanted to see how my home town would be portrayed. The bloke, on the other hand, has a total man crush on Sara Cox.

We first watched it expecting to turn it off part way through out of boredom. This was not the case.

This show is hilarious – especially if you have a somewhat juvenile sense of humour, as the Bloke and I do. We giggled our way through the first full episode which was dripping unintentional innuendo. This is helped by the Blokes observation that anything Sara Cox says sounds dirty. The main stars of this are the contestants, though.

Some choice quotes from this so far:

‘The shrinkage of this clay is 17%. That’s almost as bad as VAT!’

‘It’s only a little crack!’

‘It is, and I’m filling that baby up!’

‘Who mastered pulling, and whose touch has let them down?’

The judges almost feel surplus to requirements. Keith Brymer Jones is a strange looking man. His gelled up comb over makes it look like he has horns from a distance, and he’s prone to bursting into tears. Which is uncomfortable, to say the least. I’m also convinced that the other judge, Kate Malone, is constantly stoned, she’s so airy and arty. Little innuendo comes from these guys, and really – the filth is the draw of this show. I think I’d quite happily watch this show with just the contestants and Sara Cox every week, just to see the banter.

Next week is the final, and I’m going to miss it. The bloke and I are hoping that Jim wins, as his Elvis hair totally steals the show. The man is a legend!

Brussels Sprouts

I came across an article in the local news this week – ‘Brussels sprout ‘smuggler’ mystifies staff at primary school‘.

In a nut shell, some enterprising child is smuggling their uneaten brussels sprouts into the bags of their classmates, in what is assumed to be a ploy to fool his/her parents that he/she has eaten the sprouts.

This is brilliant, on so many levels. I’ve never been a fan of sprouts myself. In fact, I remember the year when my Dad declared that we don’t like them anyway, so he was no longer going to add them to the Christmas dinner. It was awesome. As such, I’ve never been in a position of needing to hide my sprouts. But what this kid is doing is just genius.

I hope he becomes a secret agent when he grows up.

What makes me sad about this article is the reaction of the school. If the report is to be believed, break time has been cancelled for some until the culprit confesses. The school has apparently denied this, but then goes on to say that they are worried about food allergies. For sprouts. While experts say that as little as 1 in 50,000 may have a brussels sprout allergy.

Now, food allergies can be a real concern – especially for things like peanuts. Here’s the thing though – I’m pretty sure that most institutions these days (especially where children are involved) keep records of any severe allergies just in case. Unless they actually have a child there with an allergy to sprouts, then a letter home like this seems like a complete over-reaction. Then again, in a world where people will sue for compensation at the drop of a hat, I guess I can understand why the school has had to take this position.

It’s a bit sad. The sooner we get out of the whole compensation culture, the better, in my mind. I feel that it has gone a long way to stop people taking responsibility for themselves in many cases, resulting in an ‘elf and safety culture gone mad.

Britishism – The Tea Queue

I got chatting with a Hungarian colleague at work whilst in the very small kitchen my department shares. This kitchen is small enough that you can only barely squeeze two people into it at once. At certain times of the day, you will find people queuing up outside, awaiting their turn at the kettle. I termed this the ‘Tea Queue’, and my colleague commented that those two words together summed up everything British.

Now, my colleague hasn’t been living in the UK all that long – and she told me a story about her own experience of British Rage when she inadvertently jumped a queue. I felt kind of bad for her – she hadn’t been here long, and had been in a rush to not miss her bus. The bus station is very busy, and the stops quite close together. She hadn’t realised that the long queue she ran past had been the queue for the bus she was aiming to catch. This resulted in a woman in the queue giving her a massive scolding, which has stuck with my colleague even now.

Here’s the thing. In the UK, we’re conditioned to honour the queue. Queue jumping is one of the biggest faux pas you can commit. Seeing queue jumping in action will incite us to fury. However – the majority of people do not mean to be rude, I find. Sometimes, they make an honest mistake. Queuing may not be such a huge thing where they come from. In all the times someone has queue jumped in front of me, I generally find that a polite ‘Excuse me, I think you missed the queue here!’ usually results in the queue jumper looking a bit embarrassed at their mistake and taking their proper place in the queue.

Granted, swallowing your rage can be difficult – especially on a bad day. But I find it pretty sad that all too often, people will let loose their rage without realising that people sometimes have just missed the fact that there is a queue. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give someone a bloody good telling off if they are unrepentant of their rudeness when you attempt to politely correct them. Still. I wish that the woman who told off my colleague had been a bit nicer. I fear that my colleagues first impression of Britishism may be tarnished somewhat by this experience, and that makes me sad.

Above all, the main Britishism should be politeness first, and fury at impoliteness second.

It’s not Christmas yet. Stop it.

Over recent years, I’ve been getting more and more annoyed at Christmas starting earlier. Some people around here started putting up their Christmas decorations in October. October!!!

It’s insanity. I love Christmas decorations as much as anyone else – they’re shiny, glitzy and wonderful. But this whole ‘start earlier every year’ just smacks of feeding into a celebration that has become crazily consumerist. November is apparently the time to start showing Christmas films on TV.

I’d have no problem if we could stick with doing all of this shenanigans in December. The main problem I have with Christmas these days is that I’m already kind of fed up with it by Christmas day, as I’ve had Christmas rammed in my face everywhere I go for 3 months prior to the actual event.

I get why the shops do it – by starting earlier, they get more time to sell over-priced glitzy tat in the run up. It’s a shame that few have clocked on to this – buy all the things like wrapping paper and decorations in January at a discount, and you’re all set for next Christmas. Save yourself money, and feel smug as you get to avoid the screaming hordes of people doing their Christmas shopping.

The other thing is presents. We get encouraged to spend a crazy amount to prove our love for the people in our lives. I stopped buying into this idea quite a while ago. The people I buy presents for often have most of what they need, so I tend to buy practical things that don’t cost an arm and leg. Last year, I brought my Dad a new frying pan. Seems boring, but it’s what he wanted, and he’ll get to use it for years to come. This year, I’ve put money towards a new vacuum cleaner for my sister.

I may be seen as somewhat ‘Bah, humbug!’, but I’m not actually too concerned about that. I’ve been getting overdosed on Christmas. Whilst I’ll never pack it in completely, I do find that each year I’m caring less and less about it. Mainly because the focus has shifted away from spending time with loved ones, and more to buying shiny expensive things.

I guess the main message I’m trying to get across is that I think it would be pretty awesome if we could go back to keeping Christmas to December. I also doubt I’m the only one who shares that sentiment.

The actual annoying things about Cambridge

I came across an article on the local news site this week – 13 annoying things about Cambridge.

Whilst I can agree with a few of them, things like punt touts have never bothered me – I moved to Cambridge from a city that is more obnoxious for it’s slew of charity chuggers. Which are far more irritating. The punt touts have never bothered me, since a short ‘Thanks, not today’ generally results in being left alone. Not so with charity chuggers. Really, until you’ve been practically chased down a high street by a monk shouting ‘Gurangha!’ at you, I’m not sure you can claim annoyance at punt touts. Then again, the southern end of this country does have a strange attitude in talking to strangers – as in, you do it rarely, if at all. Strangers are scary, or something. The north end of the country is much more likely to want to know your business and get in your face about it. Maybe that is the source of the irritation.

Many of the other problems are down to the local council. Whilst they get many things right, they are incredibly anti-vehicle. So it’s no surprise that parking becomes an issue. Take away the majority of free parking spaces, build housing allocated with 1 1/2 parking spaces (how do you get half a parking space? Seriously…), and poor public transport options, then you’re going to end up with overpriced parking, and people parking inconsiderately due to lack of options. Supply and demand, that has been artificially created by a council that seems to think that a bike is the answer to everything, without considering that people need to do things like carry shopping around, or deliver goods to the businesses in the area. Frustrating does not begin to cover it.

The other side of the problem is that Cambridge is actually a nice place to live, regardless of the problems. It’s close enough to London (whilst still being cheaper) that it is viable for commuting. Which of course means that the price of housing is incredibly high, and getting higher. That said, money is tight. More houses get built, but it’s not enough. The knock on effect of the extra housing is that more people live here – meaning the traffic gets worse. The infrastructure of the area is only now being considered (improvements to the A14 and updating a woefully inadequate train station). Of course, these things take time – but at least these kind of improvements are actually happening now. It’s frustrating, sure, but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. One day, the work will be completed.

In terms of things that are actually annoying about Cambridge for the average bod though? When I compare it to where I grew up, I find myself counting my blessings. It’s a vibrant area that does not get neglected in terms of government funding, and it shows. Try visiting some of the northern cities, and you’ll find a hotbed of supermarkets and call centres and little else – because their industry was closed down and sent abroad. The lack of investment up there means that first world problems such as pretty buildings is put on the back burner while they try to keep on top of such things as keeping the bare minimal public services running with minimal funding.

A lot of the annoyances listed in the linked article are annoying, yes – but it’s not all bad. At least the money is there to build the new houses, sort out the train station, and faff around with things like parking machines and ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys. As someone who grew up in a place that didn’t get this kind of investment, I struggle to get too irritated by these things. I guess it’s hard to appreciate just how good it is here if you haven’t seen the sheer ineptitude or lack of interest in other cities in this country. That is what irritates me.

Film Review: Christmas with the Kranks

Last weekend, I ended up watching ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ with the bloke and his kidlets.

To say I found this movie pretty awful is an understatement. IMDB rates this film at 5.1 stars, which I’d say is pretty generous. Rotten Tomatoes is somewhat more accurate with a rating of 5%.

The synopsis of this film is as follows:

With their daughter away, the Kranks decide to skip Christmas altogether until she decides to come home, causing an uproar when they have to celebrate the holiday at the last minute.

Which doesn’t quite cover it. Here’s how I viewed the whole thing:

The Kranks decide that with their daughter flying the nest, they will take themselves on a cruise instead of staying at home to celebrate Christmas. Much of this is due to their impeding sense of ’empty nest syndrome’. As such, they decide that going through the effort of putting up Christmas decorations is a bit wasteful, so they decide to not bother. They also opt to forgo their previous donations to various entities, as they have also decided to save their cash.

As a result of this, they are then hounded mercilessly by their neighbours and colleagues, because the lack of Christmas decorations and donations means that they are scrooges. Because of course it is everyone else’s business what they do with their time and money. Duh.

This is all going well and good – my sympathies are firmly with the Kranks at this point, as they’re not doing anything unreasonable. However, this is where the film gets really stupid. Their daughter phones up at the last minute to state that she is coming back for Christmas with her new fiancee. Do her parents at this point tell her that they have made other plans?

You’d be right to guess nope. This news causes a mass panic to get their Christmas decorations and party all arranged in the final hour so that their daughter will not even know that they were going to do Christmas a bit different in her absence. Of course, this involves the previously arsehole neighbours chipping in to help them pull this off, with no one actually pointing out that they were complete arseholes. That is all glossed over, because Decorations! Food! Presents!

Now, Mr Krank is still eager to do the cruise. Mrs Krank is hearing none of it, because apparently they should be happy their daughter is home because Christmas. So ultimately, he ends up giving his cruise to another couple, on account of it possibly being their last Christmas together due to the wife having terminal cancer. This is bearing in mind that the man of this neighbourly duo is one of the people who was incredibly awful to the Kranks throughout the film.

I can’t decide, after watching this film, if the underlying message is that you should conform to please everyone else around you, or if it is trying to subtly point out just how overboard and consumerist Christmas is these days. Either way, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I fail to actually see anything positive in how this turned out.

The Kranks should have stuck to their original plan, without all the fanfare, and told their daughter they had made other plans when she dropped her last minute change of plans on them. Mainly because part of growing up is that you start making your own Christmas plans, and partly because it is selfish to the extreme to expect that the people in your life will revolve their own plans around yourself, as daughter Krank does.

This would have made sense, but then there probably would not have been a film. Which in this case, would have been a service to the film industry.

My final verdict? This was 1 hour 34 minutes of my life that I won’t be getting back. I wouldn’t even watch this when bored.