Tuesday, July 24, 2007

DSC_2145 - Obsessive Compulsive DishoarderKilling two birds with one stone (is far easier if you've already stapled them to each other), Sin recently memed me and this weekend saw hilarious filial birthday shenanigans, and thus I shall attempt to do both in the same post.

The rules are as follows:
# each player lists 8 facts about themselves
# the rules of the game appear before the facts do
# the player ends by tagging 8 people, which means listing their names and then going to their blogs to tell them that they’ve been tagged, then going back and commenting on their lists.

# any player may veto any single rule at his or her whim.

(1) I can't roll my tongue. Especially not with a mouthful of vile paintball paint. It happened embarrassingly often.

(2) Rather Enid Blytonly, on Sunday morning I went exploring the countryside. Unfortunately I did this at a different paintball centre to that hosting all the jolly chaps I was meant to be meeting. Mobile telephones only help communication in that working cooperatively the users are able to demonstrate that there can be more than one value of "here". And my own private paintball place (albeit shared with a District Camp's worth of Scouts) was down the end of a very long, partly flooded and grandly potholed track.

(3) I map read well, when I bother too, which I eventually did under the A3; given I'd chosen the non-A3 route this suggests it was a bit late. Map reading is also more effective if one remembers the destination, rather than expecting to get near and spot a sign, only belatedly discovering the printed out blurb doesn't include the address.

(4) Mud is not my friend. Mud is not my enemy either (they were the inept ones shooting the tree in front of me). I just don't see the point in getting muddy unnecessarily. Switching course while under fire to avoid Puddle Michigan cunningly completely confuses those shooting at me to the extent that they stop, assuming I've been hit.

(5) I’ve tried a number of positions, but none of them are now comfortable. I'm suffering from crouch end, which is that state of total thigh seizure that appears the morning after spending a day crouching behind oil drums and alike (shortly followed by an age of stiff-pedalled clutch control round Wandsworth).

(6) For one journey I annoyed assorted antipodeans (well, it was Clapham) by trying to keep pace and position relative to my brother's car, which works really well when his car's speedometer has a permanent flutter, he has a knack of just catching lights and of managing to find the last space on the other side of the hatching. He did stall more then me though, but his car is ostentatiously old and so each quirk adds character, whereas mine is just old, with a mud-pack covering the rust.

(7) I do not agree with Sin on this one. Anything's better than them trying to get Radio 4. This is in no way connected to paintballing, although the only bruise I have (apparently I'm not patriotic enough to have RAF roundels) is a plague-like ring above my right one.

(8) I simply cannot cope with being so tired that the world is swaying whilst knowing I'm on a boat so it might actually be swaying. The boat wasn't swaying, only snapping against her cables occasionally as she swung to the end of her tether, and listing to port, which conveniently meant the bar was downhill. Should anyone wish to know, the Queen Mary (I don't think it's the the) does nice fish and chips and burgers the size of the QM2.

So, in case you hadn't gathered, I went paintballing, with my brother and a group his friends, and none of my direct friends, because the only one who said she would then didn't, for his he-can't-be-that-old birthday (please don't point out mine is imminent and I'm only 3 years behind him). On the way there I got a little lost, found it, then found out it was the wrong it. Then spent the day trying to work out which helmeted person in black overalls is which, and whether they're just crazy cannonfodder random Brazilians, trying not to use too much ammo because I can't afford to (and because there's no point in shooting what you can't hit), cursing the idea of wearing black over the top of fully covering clothes in July, as the day somehow managed to be hot, sunny and utterly lacking in rain, even of the old-fashioned just-rain sort, rather than the books-destroying, kitchen-and-bathroom-redecorating sort.

It was all a bit hectic, all a bit tiring, all a hit confusing, which possibly explains why I suddenly perked up at midnight and felt fine, thus driving home through surprisingly undeserted south London.

My car has also developed an annoying whistling sound from somewhere off to the left, which starts at around fifty and gets shriller with speed. This makes speeding very irritating (hey, I wasn't the one who overtook me while I was driving at the highest pitch, when I was in the inside lane, he two over in the outside, and my car shock in his wake; I didn't even have time to work out what type of car it was).

So that was his birthday. Don't expect anything as good from mine, as Heroes starting at 9 on 2 is about as exciting as it's going to get. Might watch Casino Royale beforehand too, just to be really thrilling, having borrowed it from my brother at the weekend, thus annoying the SIL who gave it to him (don't worry the cardboard cover has been left at theirs for safekeeping; I would laugh, but I never have the nerve to visibly not trust people, instead just wincing, meekly trying to suggest the wreckers do things slightly differently, thus ending up hating them for evermore [that for ever more, forever more or for evermore?]). I managed to further irritate her by asking to borrow Hot Fuzz, as I'd mentioned earlier to my brother; he'd neglected to point out has his birthday present from her. I am of course writing this on her birthday, and... will they never end? It's GA's on Friday too.

But what was the best bit about this weekend? Being sent an unintentional email on Saturday from Flickr to tell me that the SIL (and bro presumably) have bought me a 2-year Pro account. For my real name account. I suppose the good news is that this means the person from my brother's firm's server who reads this is unlikely to be him. The bad news is that I have nothing to fill the me account with, unless I start seriously doing far more many shots of people I know. I could just upload the best of the Anyhoo account, be a very bad Flickrite, so making sure the shots are never seen by the public, and hope never the twain shall meet (filing plagiarism complaints against myself should be fun). Unless I divert the pro-ness to Anyhoo, but in the process have to explain to my brother, and so rest of my family, just how I came to have a Flickr account under a pseudonym, and thus the blog and its contents as I can't trust my mother not to be absent-minded enough to have to resort to Google to find me on Flickr.

So waste money or... I don't like wasting money.

Speaking of which, the worst thing about this ageing lark is that I am officially no longer young. My Young Person's Railcard ran out yesterday (having been bought on the last possible day), dooming me to a future of even more expensive trains. In a single second my car became logical again. Which of course means something will go wrong during the MOT.

Life is such fun.


PS. Er, that Flickr dualism may have just fixed itself. As I typed it transpires my father was exploring things connected with X, stumbled on the relevant Flickr tag, thought things looked familiar, then very familiar. No comments on certain stuff yet, or discovery of this orange thing, but er... Oh hell. It was nice to have something that existed outside parental judgement and criticism, but I suppose they were never Luddite enough for it to last. I wanted to curl up with a hot chocolate earlier because I was tired and things ached, but I think I definitely do now.

And now I'm worrying about if I should take out #7. It's not really PG, is it? And how sickening inappropriate is that category? I suppose Sin's not really PG, however charming and presentable he may beyond his blog. But I can't do an MQ and ditch the liable to... offend is the wrong word, or what I would hope would be wrong. Have I said "oh hell"?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

DSC_5118 - Pompholyx PlagueHurrah, it's only eczema.

And then I remember what the last batch was like, and how long it took to clear, which it has never really done, I just get used to forgetting about it, only remembering when I absent-minded scratch my legs.

Starting at the beginning or at least nearer the start than we are now, I've had assorted veruccas on my feet since... way before I started this blog. I know technically, according to all the literature, that is impossible as most of them don't last 6 six weeks let alone months, and should clear completely in a year or two, but just like with that lingering chunk of orthodontic cement that should have fallen off within a fortnight in 1999, I think time works differently on my body.

I was trying to treat the veruccas with Bazuka, and having as much impact as that normally does (read: it's bloody useless, hurts when applied and can make the entire area ache, and while poisoning all it touches never penetrates deep enough to reach the base of any verucca). One on the softer instep of my foot developed into a turgid yellow blister, so I stopped treating it. That burst, leaving a weeping scab underneath, but the surrounding area followed suite. After trying various treats and discovering that a mix of pricking the blister, dousing in aged Acriflex, and then letting my sock absorb the resulting gunk, seemed the most effective and least destructive way of coping (plasters just soaked the area in infected fluid, mingled with the mangled skin and never stayed on).

So I had an unhappy chunk of foot, plus the unshifting verrucas. And then, about a week ago, I started getting hard pale pimples on the palms of my hands and the thicker surfaces of my fingers. These grew and some developed dark centres. Like verrucas, those in the softer skin could be gouged out (I know you're not supposed to, just like you're meant to walk round with happy, round, shiny pustules on your face, rather bursting the damn things; the world is full of doolally advice). Add in the vague knowledge that armadas of unbeatable warts are a symptom of something considerably worse (albeit tortuously improbable), and I was starting to get concerned.

Obviously I was none too pleased about about the plague rampaging across my hands. Given the verrucas on my feet have never shifted, I wasn't looking forward to 6 years of crenellated fingers. And so I researched, dredging up every conceivable method of wart removal (although I'd been through much of it why exploring the last verruca volley). Discarding anything which used the word "widdershins" or relies on something one can buy at three pounds per pound (put cloves of garlic between your toes to keep away the disease-bringing cloven-hoofed devil, tape dried banana skins to the afflicted area, drip concentrated willow extract on the warts... hang on, that last one is the normal treatment), I got it down to: keep as dry as possible, wash repeatedly and thoroughly in the-hotter-the-better water and use duct tape.

The duct tape thing I was already doing on my feet after abandoning the infection prompting Bazuka - incidentally it appears to work. The proscribed method is to cover the wart/verruca for six days and nights, take off on the seventh, then soak, scour, rinse and dry before reapplying 12 hours later. Some small problems: duct tape, despite lasting longer than any plaster, does not last on my feet. I can stretch it to two days at most, though it's working loose throughout the second day, and so probably not doing what it should. Many small pieces work better than one big piece. It's better to wrench it off before having a shower than to take it off as it falls off in the shower as this may take off some of the dead skin, and very occasionally, the entire verruca.

So I know duct tape works for papillomas. However hands have quite lot more flex in them than feet, don't come with protective and securing socks, and tend to get seen socially rather more than feet (and I tried applying it once; fingers are very hard to use when nearly splinted, when much of the feeling is being blocked and when the bit of tape being manipulated to be applied elsewhere sticks to those already present on a treated finger). Duct tape occlusion for fingers is not really practical, although it did even out the swelling on the single occasion I tried it (despite shedding bits on across my bed).

Instead I had to rely on keeping my hands clean and dry. Cue lots of just about tolerably hot water, much lathering and scrubbing fit for microbiology practical, or at least a bit part in ER, patting them dry and occasional sprinkling of talc to counter the sweat.

In hindsight I'm now aware there was a slight Lady Macbeth syndrome - hang on, no, it was him of the bloodwashing, she was the power... ok, I might also have that too, but I meant bone-flaying thoroughness - going on. I have a problem, I must counter the problem, my method of countering exasperates the problem. I suppose I really should have thought that if I don't use soap normally because it either makes my skin itchy and sore or greasily spotty, then using if when my skin is out of kilter might not have been the best of ideas.

After a week of trying to avoid passing anything, standing hands in pockets or behind my back, trying not to scratch the itching and burning lumps, some of which had now developed into blisters, I decided that perhaps I ought try the doctors. I was fairly reticent about doing so because the last time I went to one was pre-uni the first time round, and it took four days to get an appointment, by which time the problem had usually abated to an embarrassing sorry-to-have-bothered-you extent. Plus the doctor in equals parts ignored or disbelieved anything I said, was incredibly patronising, and then tried to flirt with me (ignoring the later realisation of wrong-tree, treating me like an idiot or a disobedient six-year-old is not among the classic seduction techniques, however much she girlishly flicks her hair, especially when said hair expands with each flick and the action draws attention to just how long ago she was a girl). I suppose her manner did do wonders for reported illness levels, as everyone who had her as their GP didn't ever want to see her again.

Ring up, get a non-urgent appointment within twenty-four-hours (although being flexible about who I saw probably helped, due to not having a clue who my GP is meant to be), go the next day (oh the joy of parking in that car park - you know the scene in Austin Powers with Doctor Evil driving in the tunnel? Very much like that), arrive early to a full waiting room, get called in next, explain things to doctor whose age I shall not consider as it might be very similar (or worse not) to mine. He thinks he knows what it is, and mentions what he'll prescribe, but rings up a colleague (and my actual GP to check), whereupon the colleague overrules, starts teaching the younger doctor by pointing to parts of my hand, rattles off the recommended prescription, has to spell the name of the problem (I bit my tongue to stop me from doing it: no, you're missing the em, then pee-aitch) makes one blithe comment I don't argue with (although I did point differences out between this and previous skin problems, and not only was shockingly allowed to get away with it, but had them explained to me), and disappears, leaving Doctor Junior to print out a small ream, staple it badly togther, call it a leaflet and had it to me, along with a prescription for things I've had in the past (and still have somewhere). Thanking him I leave, aware that I've been through in record time, and only when I get in the car do I notice the doctor's name printed on the prescription is Big Doc, despite it being signed by Little Doc. I thought he was young.

But it doesn't matter because I came out feeling the most confident I've ever done on leaving the surgery. And because I may have had someone still learning, but people have to learn and they have to have something to learn with, and because I had a free and easy second opinion and heard the arguments behind it. So what can we conclude? Two brains are better than one, and show your working.

It's odd. The prescription was near enough what I've had before, yet this time I came out thinking it would work, rather than simply being fobbed off with generics by a distracted and irritable Dr Flirt (who reputedly often told people to take a couple of aspirin, go to bed and definitely do not call in the morning). Actually the prescription is for the stronger form of treatment, but it's the way they said; they made it feel more likely to work.

So what were the odd warty lumps which then tend either became opaque white blisters or developed into miniature fluid filled capsules, like fly eggs or minute fish eyes? Pompholyx, apparently. Good word, isn't it? A form of atopic eczema associated with the palm of the hand and sides of the fingers (read: everywhere but the back/upper surface of my hands, so delightfully and painfully including round the nails).

And what was that vaguely pussy, huge blister ridden, rapidly eroding part of my foot? Just eczema again, this time squashed in thick skin. So other than the verrucas, it is all just me being silly, for various meanings of 'me' and 'silly'.

So off to Boots to collect the prescription, discovering the delights of prescription charges (I said it'd been a long time), where apparently it's per item not per prescription (so why aren't they Prescription Item Charges then? Bloody cheek), having first checked I can't get it cheaper without the prescription. It'll be twenty minutes, with a long queue to pay, so I loiter, get bored, loiter some more, realise the black currant whatever whose packet I happen to be staring at is cystitis treatment, move on faster than one can say "urinary tract infection", loiter some more, smile at the guy in uniform who is walking past rather more than necessary, loiter a bit more, realise that potential embarrassment lies on every shelf, this being a chemists and all, remember belatedly to look at my watch, loiter yet more, tire of feigning interest in quackery "with improved Jojoba", remember I have umpteen birthday cards to buy, due to there being umpteen imminent birthdays, swan off to do that, belatedly remembering I've neglected to remember any time, despite being able to recall looking at my watch. I reappear into a much emptier shop, am greeted by name as I approach, collect my goody-bag and pay, and only when I unpack it later do I notice the name on the label is right but the address is not, which is just puzzling and leads me to wonder if Boots have a customer database.

Later came unwrapping and the obligatory disregard of obligatory Patient Information Leaflets, shortly followed by examining them thoroughly simply because they're there and it's something to read. And the realisation that I've been prescribed Betnovate ointment, which explains the different colour packaging from usual. I'd forgotten ointment could mean more than just medicine. This stuff is effectively just Vaseline in tube. Just makes application fun. And trying to do anything afterwards. It also makes washing machine fun as assorted garments and bed-linens take on permanently darker patches.

It gets even more fun, as 10 minutes (according to the doctor, 30-60 minutes according to the blurb) after the ointment must come the cream, so just as the grease has redistributed itself onto all other surfaces, one slimes everything with emulsion, giving one the Castrol touch (like Midas but with... do I really need explain this?).

So apologies for the typing, but my hands are sliding across the keyboard, thanks to E45, and that's just using minimal amounts rather than in the manner the leaflet (if reams of A4 print-out thrust at me by the doctor can count as one) suggests, although it seems to think that what I've been prescribed for a month I should use in a week. Still, it's one way to clean a keyboard.

I'm also aware how much heat I must lose through my hands and feet, because gunking them up seems to stop sweat from either being produced or working, and so I'm much hotter than I was.

Back to the actual affliction. It seems to be much improved, with rough dry skin remaining, but few, if any larger blisters, and the small bubbles drying into pits with very small scab centres, like old pin pricks, within a couple of days of treatment.

Of course, no sooner do I get this health worry sorted out, complete with an impressive name, than I discover a friend's trumped me, with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Which of course I only heard about shortly after sending a highly not-sensitive email to the relevant person and replying to the reply in the same vein. Reactions appear to vary from my simple "Oh" (I found out via a mutual friend and... there are complications regarding communication) to "Oh God", "Oh hell" or "Oh shit".

So I hope you lot can't beat that (please don't try, and that includes you Mr Easily-Maimed Fact).


Monday, July 16, 2007

Damp lensI obviously don't have the pestering knack. In the last post I mentioned a Lexar SD card had conked out and that I'd tried getting them to replace it, to no avail (or rather, they'd promised to begin preliminaries, then done nothing). So a week after being promised an email within the hour I sent the following to them the email which had borne the transcript of the earlier conversation (and which is plugged on their geographically quirky website). Apologies for the tone, style, grammar and God knows what else of the letter; it was hurried when tired.

From: Anyhoo
To: support@lexar.com
Date: 10-Jul-2007 22:40
Subject: Still awaiting RMA

Dear Sir/Madam,

Recently a Lexar 2 GB SD memory card bought at Christmas 2006 ceased to work. A week ago I contacted one of your agents through the live chat service on the Lexar Support website to arrange a replacement as this product came with a five year warranty. During this conversation I was told that an RMA and the return and replacement details would be sent to me within the hour. That was about 168 hours ago.

Could you kindly rectify this? To save retyping the relevant details I've included the transcript below.

Thank you for any help. I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours faithfully,


[transcript as here attached]

Answer came there none. The receipt scavenged from the present-giver, who bizarrely still had it, and who foolishly bought it in the horrifically named Curry's.digital [Dixon's], at high High Street prices, and thus has given me grave cause for concern (if you're going spend that much on a present, can you at least spend it better so I get both more present and less guilt over such ill-use of resources? The stated dollar amount for customs is not much more than she paid in sterling), appeared in the post.

The next day a jiffy bag with US customs paperwork attached also appeared in the post. Inside were two invoices, dated 11th July, as demanded by the external customs blurb and a packing slip, despatched from the ambiguously named Hidden Lake Circle in Duncan, South Carolina, on the seventh of September (or possibly ninth of July). Also included was a new memory card, complete with the little plastic case the original never had.

So I got my replacement card, but Lexar still haven't told me they're sending one. And I can't work out if my email prompted action (by my reckoning it should have been seen by 6 pm, assuming there was someone left in the office to see it) or was purely coincidental. Either way, it seems Lexar don't do outgoing emails, or phone calls, or letters or even scribbled notes on compliments slips.

Replacement = good (though it was under warranty so not doing so... would not have been wise).
Not telling me they were doing it = less so.


Monday, July 09, 2007

DSC_4911 - Was it all worth it?Oops, I did it again
Got stopped by the police,
Oh baby, baby.

Apparently they wouldn't have stopped me if I'd been taking a picture of Big Ben, though I bet they would if I stood on the security barrier outside parliament to get a better view. They also seemed to have over looked the fact that St Stephen's Tower, if we're going to be officious about such things, isn't generally visible from some obscure part of Mayfair.

I supposed I probably ought provide a bit of back story. I was in London supposedly because... actually skip the complicated bit. Basically I was meant to be going round parts of the RA with my mother and my aunt. Except they wanted to do the Summer Exhibition, I'd already been twice, so it was suggested I went round the new Impressionists thing upstairs. Except it opened on Saturday, the day we were there, and thus when I stuck my head round the door looked fairly busy. Given I was on my own, and Impressionists by the Sea sounds about as sunset-kittenish as art gets, I decided to go for wander, while it wasn't raining for once. Thus followed much discovery of quirks of London (to be largely GWLed and otherwise Flickr'd).

Eventually just as I discovered the Wallace Collection I am summoned back for lunch. From Burlington House we head towards Green Park via the very expensive backstreets, with my mother recognising where we are by the building at the end of the road, which I cruelly called Hampton Court for the benefit of the passing and ostentatiously eavesdropping Americans (look, I was only obeying the Second Law of Thermodynamics, ok?). Via long, narrow passageway at hat with a bad hip speed, miming scrambling up the walls to pass, as behind us builds of queue of slaloming people, all trying to keep their tyres warm. Finally we burst free, over, round and under the barrier, deluging the grass.

Doing my normal lolloping trick - though I'm not lolloping is the right word for the adult camera-bearing version of running to the next lamppost and back to Mummy, but I'm not sure what is; photobungee perhaps? - we head down to the ring round the head of the Mall.

After shuttling back a forth, trying to get a better view and realising that while I could copy others and shuffle underneath the security-fence barriers (a useful trick to know), it's unlikely my mother would be quite so successful; instead we work our way into a shallow bit of crowd on the Mall, whereupon we discover that people on bikes can go quite fast, and that the inside of a bend is not the best place for a good view.

Abandoning our hard-elbowed positions we head up the flat Constitution Hill in search of a better view. The options include four-deep at trackside, one or two deep on the bank, perched atop a pillar or halfway up a tree. We opt for leaning against the railing on the bank, but much of the time only the movement of the nearer crowds, flying cameraman and passing roofracks give away that a competitor has passed. As we're beyond the realm of any PA, we've no idea who anyone is anyway. So I tire rapidly of this and wander photographically (but probably not photogenically; there's nothing quite like an impromptu reflected self portrait to ram home that my camera face is one designed for the back of a camera), leaving the relatives to do nothing in the shade.

Regrouping we head up towards Hyde Park, instantly managing to lose each other in the crowds. The barrier round Hyde Park Corner funnels a solidifying crowd towards the Piccadilly crossing, but having no intention of joining a group that hadn't moved the whole time I'd been approaching it, I divert into the park to find the next crossing, which turns out to be halfway to the Ritz.

Faced with police controlled chaos and pummelling sun, I continue on into some Mayfair side street, deciding to go for a wander, knowing my mother will ring at some point.

My meanderings around various deadends and unexpected connections of Mayfair thus brings me to walk through the arch of Down Street Station, and thus into the records of the Metropolitan Police. I only took that fateful shot of a fire escape because I refused to believe I had found nothing worth photographing down there (though I was getting tired and my eyes had had enough of the sun, so my judgement and lateral-thinking were going).

Cue PC Generic (ooh, isn't he young?) and PC Generic-Sidekick (they've dropped the height requirement haven't they? And the weight one? And the intelligence one? And the attractiveness one?). No "'Allo, 'allo, 'allo, what's going on 'ere?", not even an 'Allo-'Allo style "Good moaning", simply a request to explain myself. And another to search my bag and my camera. And another for ID. "Now, you're not in any trouble, but..."

However, rather than rewrite something, I'm going to blatantly copy and paste, and then have the gall to shunt you off to the relevant Flickr page.

From an email, following on from a discussion about Gordon Brown:
Of course, having been rude about him, I did get stopped for being
"Seen taking photographs of buildings in a small secluded mews". Said
mews had double yellow lines down the side, which suggests a certain
degree of public domain. And mewses tend to be small and secluded;
they're designed to be. Isn't Section 44 of the Terrorism Act a wonderful
thing? At least when I got stopped last time it was because some batty
man had reported seeing an Arab with wires hanging out of his bag (I
still reckon it was because I parked over the road from his house, in
what he looked on as /his/ parking space). And the police were very
apologetic then, having been scouring the small Hampshire town for me
(they'd seen me but ignored me, as they didn't think I was what they
were looking for, at least until I got into the suspect's car).

Hmm, and you can't spot the line with the postscript omission correction, can you?

So after being stopped by the police (I'm still not sure whether to be embarrassed or amused by the instinctive politeness and assumed acquiescence that kicked in when my phone rang) I stopped the photography for a while, heading directly for the tolerant anonymous crowds of Hyde Park, but opportunistically bagsying a seat on a concrete barrier across Park Lane instead. Not only did I get to sit in the middle of a one of the capital's busiest thoroughfares swinging my legs while eating an apple, but I also got the best view of the cyclists that I'd had all day, and got to watch repeated attempts by crowds to overcome the barriers, several of which were successful as it became apparent the the massed police presence were unconnected with crowd control, leaving to a cluster of indolent (and one rather harried looking) men in overalls and tabards to cope with each scattering wave. People can be amazingly like sheep. Not only do they follow each other, they also seem impervious to clues and cues humans aim at each other. If you've seen someone edge the barrier over to give them space to creep past and then along the edge of the road, do you think that means it'll be fine to wander out into the middle of the road, stop and stare at the race, then walk down to towards the people at the end, all of whom are wearing uniforms while stepping over sprawling cables?

So having stashed the rotten remains of the apple deep into one of the hole through the blocks, to be later ground by some forklift, I head into the crowds again, discovering barriers put there for people's own safety aren't very safe when they cause bottle necks. Coming out of the melee, there's a whole stream of people fleeing up the bank and unexpectedly into a flowerbed, simply because it's the emptiest space.

Through Hyde Park, through the event village or whatever they were calling it, which had that odd mix of church fete stalls and boat show bar crowds. Walking slowly on a walkway that rocks rhythmically and disconcerting, shuffling immobilely in full sun is not greatly enjoyable. Then free again, heading northwards, repeatedly fielding calls from mother and aunt, who told me not to wait for them, but also keep wanting to know precisely where I am (which when my knowledge of Hyde Park is sketchy and theirs more like a pre-interpretation ink blot, didn't go terribly well). Up, along, across, round, through, down, past, beyond takes me to the next phone call, beside some Imperial block dotted with tomato plants. I explore the college, while they approach, agreeing to wait for them where I am, by the Science Museum Underground entrance (actually leaning against the windows of what looks like some engineering or possibly geology lab, but extraneous information, while common in conversations with my family, is not always useful). I get bored, or rather was already bored, so wander up Exhibition Road a little, playing with the reflections of the Tanaka Business Centre, knowing they'd have to come past me. Of course, the next phone call is from them saying the Science Museum one was closed, so they walked past it, and are now at the Natural History Museum, which is also closed, and is the one they assumed I must have meant, so where am I? Judging from the timings mentioned, they probably walked past me while still on the phone.

Then comes the panic of middle-aged women not used to London (if people of pensionable age count as middle-aged), predicting disaster because the Tube's closed, or might be closed or... I wasn't really listening. Then down into South Ken, down the length of a platform, overruling objections including "shouldn't we stand where everyone else is?", and then graciously not mentioning those objections when an already crowded train eventually arrived and tussles at the far end became audible.

And so disbanding at Waterloo, scrapping plans for the late Tate, and so home.

Oddly, I still haven't mentioned the police thing to any of my family.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

IMG_1027I really must stop hoarding posts until I get tired of the thought of proofreading and editing them and then publish them in a bunch which no one will read. It doesn't help they're interwoven with incrementally published posts, so the distinctions between new and old are hard to discern. Should you wish to see what just spewed forth, click here, here, here, here and here. I know one of those claims to have been published in April, but it was mostly written then, it just sat, draftily, for quite a long time. And then sat some more.

Speaking of things which are delayed, a Lexar memory card I was at Christmas given conked out Monday night. For your viewing pleasure, we now present the subsequent live text chat help conversation that took place on Lexar's US page. Why the US one? Because the support website has a drop down list at the top, with the command "Select Country/Region" which runs:
North America
Hong Kong

Not exactly an exhaustive list, nor one which makes a great amount of sense. But as North America is closer to me than Hong Kong, and those are the only two likely to be in English, I stuck with it.
Hello, my name is Hima Bindu . How may I help you?
Hima Bindu : Hi Any
Anyhoo: Hi, I'm in the UK, and a memory card I was given at Christmas, wiht a 5 year warranty, has stopped working; what should I do?
Hima Bindu : May i know the type speed and capacity of the card?
Anyhoo: It's and SD card - 2GB.
Hima Bindu : Did you get any kind of error message while using that card?
Anyhoo: It'd been working fine until last night, when my camera refused to read it, stating "this card cannot be used". I tried in a different camera which came up with "memory card error".
Hima Bindu : Did you try to view the card using computer and card reader?
Anyhoo: When connected via USB the computer insisted there was no connection available.
Hima Bindu : I understand that the card is not detected by your computer.is that correct?
Anyhoo: Yes, and it used to be; other cards still are.
Hima Bindu : Do you have important data in the card?
Anyhoo: Fortunately I'd already copied the bulk of it.
Hima Bindu : Do you want to send the card for replacement
Anyhoo: Yes please - where?
Hima Bindu : Please give us the following details
Hima Bindu : First Name,Last Name,Email id,Phone Number,Street Address,City,Zip,Country
Anyhoo: Anyway Hough
Anyhoo: Any_Hough@Anymail.com
Anyhoo: +447744 123456
Anyhoo: 29 Acacia Road, Ericsville, Bananamanshire, CR2 9OW, UK
Hima Bindu : May i know the speed of the card?
Anyhoo: I can't find anything which has it on; it was a present. Could you work out from the codes on the back of the card?
Hima Bindu : Please give the serial number on the card
Anyhoo: top line: 50110642LO55 Next line:31031-2GBPSA 3rd line: 4206P
Hima Bindu : Thanks for the information Any
Hima Bindu : is there anything else i can help you with?
Anyhoo: What happens next? Will you send details of what I have to do to me?
Hima Bindu : you will receive an email with RMA Number and shipping address in 1 hour
Anyhoo: Ok, thanks.
Hima Bindu : Please send the product to that address
Anyhoo: Right.
Hima Bindu : is there anything else that i can help you with?
Anyhoo: Think that's it. Thanks for your help.
Hima Bindu : you are welcome
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Ignoring my early typos, don't you just love the "what speed?" bit? It doesn't say anywhere on the card or the packaging (I did consider telling her is was blue, if that helped). And I hope you enjoyed the frantic typing of all the text on the back of the card, apart from Made in Taiwan, because I don't know which is the serial number, as much as I did. It's even finer print than that used for the warranty.

That was at about 6ish on Tuesday night. It's now quarter past nine in the evening on Wednesday. I think this is stretching the definition of an hour.

I knew I should have tried the Woking phone number buried on the warranty slip, which is not visible on any part of the site.

How long should I leave it before I re-enter the den and am once more asked for every possible detail? Part of me really wants this to spiral into one of the consumer retaliation campaigns so prevalent nowadays (and effective, said he who knows someone who used to do SEO and spent much of his budget placating the higher scoring attrition websites). But a far larger part of me would just like something to do what it's supposed to.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

IMG_1263As if by magic, following on from IAF's comments on innumerate singers the Observer has asked a panel representing the worlds of art and science a series of scientific questions. I'll comment on the responses later, but first I thought it would be fun to ask you lot, just to find out how many you can answer (answers in the comments section please).

1. Why does salt dissolve in water?
2. Roughly, how old is the earth?
3. What happens when you turn on a light?
4. Is a clone the same as a twin?
5. Why is the sky blue?
6. What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

The paper provides what they see as the right answers, but some of them possibly are not all they might be (whither the photon and electron in 3? And do the "charges pick up electric energy" or are they actually a manifestation of electrical energy?). But the true entertainment - in a Big Brother-ish "Oh, dear God" way - is in the answers. Of particular note is Kirsty Wark's answer to question 5: Why is the sky blue?
Because it's a reflection of the oceans on the planet.

Ms Wark is this week's winner of the "Ah bless, but it's got a certain logic I suppose, but what would be doing the reflection, space mirrors? Hang on, she presents Newsnight, doesn't she? She's supposed to intelligent and educated enough to tackle any interview on any topic? Is anyone else feeling rather ill? And rather hoping she never has to interview a Creationist?" Award for Permanent Damage to Credibility jointly sponsored by Brass Eye and Philippa Forrester.

But having said that most of her answers could be described as funny if they weren't tragic. Whereas mine... would have come unstuck on the age of the Earth (have you ever tried learning the dates of geological eras, periods and epochs? It's worse than braking distances) and the 2nd Law, because I remember the principles, just not which of 0-4 each is under.

And in other news, does anyone know why I saved a link to The Cat Came Back on the 17th May? I vaguely remember there was a huge train of mildy amusing logic spilling out from it, but I can't think what it was. Anyway, I'm now going to have that song stuck in my head for the rest of the week, as indeed will you dear reader.


PS. He thought it was a goner.

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