Category Archives: Complaints

Prelude to return

gmgThis may be one of the last ever posts I write in this blog, unless — UNLESS — the host, WordPress, let me use the classical editor again, properly, rather than in this stupid “classic block” method in the rubbish Gutenberg editor.  I also can’t turn on justified mode at all any more, even with the long-standing Ctrl+Alt+J shortcut (there’s been no button for it in the taskbar for years now), but I can’t install plugins because I’m not a business member and have no intention of being (this is a personal blog, not advertising).

All things considered, unless I can migrate this blog completely to another service, it feels like there’s no way I can continue writing it — especially since any way of editing using the “old” system (other than in a small box with a separate toolbar) involves paying for membership, and even then, it’d only be supported until next year anyway.  Why are they making things worse for non-paying users?

— — —

And all I wanted to do today is say I’m hoping to return to London soon (assuming the latest lockdown is lifted on schedule), but at the same time feeling guilty for what will amount to leaving my mother to care alone for my grandmother, who was recently hurt when she fell out of bed, and spent a week in hospital (which itself wasn’t run properly).

It’s sad that my mother and I felt rather better around the house during that week, but it’s sadder that this is because my grandmother literally can’t do anything any more (as opposed to 2018, when she helped look after me during my recovery from brain surgery #1), and — I hate to say it — we’re effectively waiting for her to die, which, despite her worsening condition, may not happen for a long time.

But I need to get back to the London house: leaving aside what I mentioned last time — wanting to regain things such as my computer, my CD collection, and… er… sleep somewhere other than my mother’s bed — I really need to sort out household bills, ideally getting my name off them (since I want to leave that particular residence behind this year).

Our useless local council (LB Barnet) are sending us a new council tax schedule, which will probably show an increase, and the dreadful energy company E.ON (should I call them “PE.ON”?  No, that’d make it harder for people on Google to find my complaints here!) say they’re raising their prices, and I want to (belatedly) leave them once and for all.

(Especially if it turns out they’ve “forgotten” to charge us for gas — if we can hide it for a year, they wouldn’t be able to catch up and demand overdue money… would they?)

I’ll need to take care of a few things before I head back, though: I’ve been seeing an osteopath recently, due to pain in my right side recurring (and really not helping with my sleeping pattern), and I’ve got one more session next Tuesday, so I’ll need to be here for that.  Fortunately I’ll be able to get the health insurer we use at work to refund me for this, in addition to the long-overdue dental and vision jobs I’ve had done recently!

I’ve also been playing the original The Witcher, so I can play the second and third ones on my superior London PC (and maybe watch the separate-canon TV series while I’m at it?), and want to finish it while I’m here, simply because my screen here is “only” 1080p, and therefore the text is visible!

But once I’m back in London, and my mother doesn’t need to keep cooking for me (including breakfast in bed!), I’ll be compelled to act like a man again: making my own food, keeping my room clean, walking in the park (without having to carry the dog because she already wants to go home), doing personal training (since my trainer has a wider view in my London room than here), working towards resuming my job… and maybe, just maybe, continuing to write this blog.

After all, I’ve got a ton of political things to say in the current “the liberal left are bullying, it’s cancel culture, we’re the real victims of racism!” atmosphere, and I need to vent my own anger, don’t I — especially where it concerns my fellow straight honkeys

(Fortunately, the only frustration Facebook’s been giving me today is the sheer number of Father Ted fans responding to my funny group picture of gigantic speakers, with all sorts of suggested songs — I keep getting sooo many notifications!)

I may be over the depression and suicidal thoughts that prompted me to start this blog in autumn 2012, but I’ve still got a lot of things to deal with, including the “space invader” inside my head, and finding a way to meet my special woman in person (for more than a few hours) at long last, hopefully by her coming back over here when the lockdown has been reduced a lot further.

Okay, I’ll keep this blog going a little longer, somehow — I still need to talk about how I’m pressing on with life — so I’ll say…

DAVE-ROS’ BLOG LIVES A LITTLE LONGER!

Changes (with apologies to David Bowie… and Black Sabbath)

In other Black Sabbath news, I’ve changed my work number ringtone to these dudes performing “Iron Man”

It seems I’ve still got to make changes in my life, because the old ways aren’t working — indeed, not even like they used to: for one thing, the dating app I’ve been using since 2015, and which earned me many first dates in the past, now seems to get me virtually no matches — except for women who appear to be in China or Hong Kong (despite their location being given as “London”), and one whose opening volley was an entirely phony, “Hey handsome”!

On that basis, knowing this and other dating apps are likely to be futile (though I’ll keep trying them in the background), and close female friends not turning out to be “the one”, I’m returning to my dating coach once again (for a not insubstantial fee), and though we’ve had to change the meetup date once thanks to overbooking, perhaps this time I’ll learn how to change my body language so I can approach women with quiet confidence in real life, without coming across as a creepy stalker (or having to change my shaving habit so I look like a hipster).  How that goes, well, I’ll tell you next week…

(Ooh, a preview!)

In the meantime, what else can I change?  I still wish I could get out more, but last week was too hot to go salsa dancing, and indeed too hot to play any video games that use 3D graphics, so I sat at home and relaxed without being too obsessional (don’t worry, I’ve since finished Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and begun Assassin’s Creed: Revelations).  “Best mate” wanted to go climbing this week, but hasn’t been able to so far (though we did go on a couple of road trips at the weekend), and while “new bad housemate” has mercifully gone to Europe for a couple of weeks to meet his not-quite-ex-wife and son, I still would feel bad if I just sat here in front of my computer every evening… and yet here I am, writing this to make sure my blog doesn’t disappear completely.

In other phone-related news, I’ve changed “best mate’s” text message noise to: “Um, you suck!”

It’s not just for my own sake that I need to change things: my most important task for this household is the management of our bills (except the Internet, for which we pay “best mate”) — and herein lies some major frustration.  I won’t name-and-shame E.on this time, because not only did they change the name on our energy bill from our dead landlord’s to mine, but they also granted us a surprising amount of credit as an aside (which more than paid for our first quarterly bill of the year), so I don’t have to sit waiting on the phone for hours all over again!

(Damn, what’s that classical violin tune they use as their hold music?  Dadada, dadada, dadada-DA — dadada, dadada, dadada-da… Mozart?  Bach?  Debussy?  Handel?)

Sadly, our other public services aren’t doing well: Barnet Council can’t seem to send us an updated list of council tax charges with our actual names on and confirmation that they’ve corrected the monthly amounts (even though they say they did in June), and Affinity Water could barely be persuaded to add my name to our twice-yearly water bill.  Much as the TV Licence organisation won’t change the name on our paperwork unless our dead landlord gives them written permission, so it is that we can’t remove old, long-moved-away residents from our Affinity paperwork unless we provide phone numbers or e-mail addresses that we simply don’t have and can’t obtain — indeed, the only name I even recognise is our one-time “leaderene”, the daughter of a friend of the landlord’s family, who moved out of here in 2013!  Still, with my name added to it, we may be able to close and recreate the account, so all is not lost.

Of course, calculating everyone’s share of the bills gets difficult sometimes, and the water bill that covers a period in which two of our housemates changed over doesn’t help: I have to get a share from our two old housemates (including the Aussie) that moved out at the end of May, itself a difficult calculation (since some of the bill actually extends forward to the start of September), but they’ve both returned to their native countries, and while they seem willing to pay their dues, their exchange rates may drive me nuts!

Go on then, one more relevant Beavis and Butt-head picture — will he take it to the dump?

The biggest irony of all, though: “new bad housemate” may have vehemently refused to pay a share of our TV licence (and plans to get rid of the TV set he brought to this house when he moved in), but even though I told him (twice) that he only needed to pay me his share of the rent for August, he’s gone and paid me his share of the council tax as well, even though he paid the same amount last month when our payment was suspended for a month due to Barnet Council’s incompetence (as with the TV Licence people, they’re run appallingly by Capita, who I intend to name and shame properly in a future post).  The amount he’s thus overpaid is actually MORE than one-fifth of the cost of our TV licence, so he’s not even saving money!

(I’m tempted to keep it and still charge him a share of the council tax in September, but then he’d get angry at me for his own damn ignorant mistake…)

I know, I know, I should change where I live some day — but I wouldn’t want to stay here in Finchley if moving house became necessary (too many memories), and I wouldn’t want to go back to living in Worthing when I hope I can help my folks escape that dump (and move to a house with a garden, so we can finally get a dog).  Where could I move that would mean I could get to work on a train with seats available, and isn’t on the dreadfully overcrowded and unreliable Victoria Line?  And would my rent be more expensive, meaning I couldn’t pay my personal trainer any more, when his guidance is essential to my health (especially if I face radiotherapy in the near future)?

I’d love simply to change one housemate — and no, not the female housemate near the back of the house (who’s now changed FIVE TIMES, the original in that room being the “leaderene”), but rather… oh, you guessed who.  It seems even “best mate”, who brought him here, is finding him annoying — aside from the passive-aggressive notes, he still has to keep some of the new guy’s stuff in his own room, as a “favour”!  Just glad my own friendship with him hasn’t changed…

— — —

Another song called “Changes”, of course, is 2Pac’s posthumous release — scope this out, it’s dope… (just a pity that the “official video” version has half the lyrics cut out!)

Feeling down

Well, at least I’ve spread my germs to all the selfish jerks who want to use the Tube every morning

Much like last year, I wish I could start by saying I’d had a good Christmas, but three things have conspired to make me feel down.  Not, for a change, public transport or things going wrong at my job (no four-year cycle repeating early 2015… though I am replaying Batman: Arkham Origins!), and although one of the things is a health matter, it’s nothing to do with “mind static” or brain tumours.

Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if the reason I had almost no colds after the beginning of the real series of partial seizures wasn’t that I was somehow super-healthy (or that $DEITY was giving me good luck in infection terms to counterbalance the bad luck in other health terms), but rather that the condition was somehow repressing illness symptoms, and I was actually getting colds just as much as ever?  Did I mention having a cold in early 2017, only for it to last a couple of days instead of weeks?  Yes I did, there’s a good Dave-ros — and although I had another cold the following year, which lingered a lot longer, more recently I’ve had a mild one (around my 41st 29th birthday in October), and while it was short-lived, I went through all the traditional symptoms, including copious amounts of snot.

(Oh, that third cold-related post had a similar title to one five years earlier — am I running out of material?)

And in December, just before I went down to visit my folks in Worthing for Christmas, I started getting a sore throat, although for once my journey on Southern was entirely untroubled (well, except having to start at a completely different station, and travel on Christmas Eve because the entire south coast railway was closed between Littlehampton and Brighton over the weekend).  My folks were happy with their presents, and I was happy with mine, and it looked like it’d be a nice break from London…

But then my sore throat kept getting worse, affecting my ability to even speak, and a cough began, which also got worse as the days went by.  I ended up retreating into my room and hardly interacting with my folks at all (other than the occasional walk to meet local friendly dogs), and I stupidly upset my mother by being impatient with her, perhaps even more than last Christmas, and making her feel unappreciated.  I’d been planning to play Wii Sports Resort and Nidhogg 2 with her during my break (and let her win at marble soldiers), but hiding in my room just seemed so much easier… and little things, like knocking on my door when I was doing something, could make me angry and unwilling to even try to talk.

(I hope it’s not a return of anxiety at sudden loud noises, though my team getting rowdy at work can certainly drive me into my shell, and make me put my headphones on… at least I don’t work with that woman any more!)

It’s not just my folks that I’ve disappointed, though: my American friend wanted to send me another package (most likely a third set of Transformers he’d bought for me), and though he got my address wrong in October, when it was eventually returned to him, he put my right address on and re-sent it, just in time for Christmas.  Indeed, it came so quickly that I got the card in time to pick it up from the depot on the weekend before Christmas, and open it on Skype in order to bring a smile to his face…

Nope, the local post office depot (let’s name and shame, like I first officially did in 2016: Finchley Church End Delivery Office) seem to have lost my “birthmas” present entirely — despite the postman having ticked the box to say it would be back at the depot for pickup, they couldn’t find it there when I came in with my card and passport, and they later admitted it was never checked back in after the attempted delivery before Christmas, so its location is now completely unknown.  Our neighbour on one side denies receiving it (we often take in packages for each other), and the house on the other side is vacant (the nice old Irishman sadly died a year or so ago), and no-one else in our street has tried to bring it to us.

They’ve even suggested it went to that flat up the street with the same number and postcode as our non-flat house (which I told you about in code here), but if that’s the case, why was the card put through our letterbox, and why didn’t the resident of “Flat 7, Yorkshire Works” bring the parcel to our house when they realised it wasn’t for them?

(Unless someone with my name lives there, of course, but how many Dave-roses are there in the entire world, let alone in this nice bit of London?)

Hey, what if the deliveryman put it in one of our bins, without actually telling us, and it’s thus been thrown away (or recycled, which would probably mean stolen and given to the thief’s children)?  If it does get returned to my Michigan friend a second time, I’ll ask him to change my address again — this time, to my family home in Worthing (still the destination for post relating to my student loans), so I can pick it up from somewhere it’s more likely to actually be delivered.  And if our local post here gets any worse, I’ll get my NHS letters redirected there as well (I’ve got more tests coming up in February, and naturally want to ensure I attend them).

Of course, it might not be our local post office that’s responsible for one final concern I have, but you never know: our energy company (name and shame: Eon) have now twice sent us not quarterly bills, but angry chasers for unpaid quarterly bills (August thus paid in early October, and November in early January).  Since the account is in our landlord’s name (not our landlady, but her dearly-departed husband, who we lost in 2013), it’ll be difficult getting through to them, but nonetheless I’ve been advised to ditch them entirely.  Perhaps it’s worth noting they also screwed over my folks, arbitrarily increasing their bills simply because they could…

I certainly can’t help but ponder the thought that they’re “accidentally” doing this at their end, to increase the chance of us running up a fine… wouldn’t be an isolated example of a private business trying to trick people into getting penalised as a revenue stream, judging from Mr. Mustard’s blog about parking/traffic fines, would it?

Well, I’ll just have to hope I get over this damn cough, patch things up with my mother and grandmother, and cope with the dreadful postal service… well, at least my cough’s lightening up a bit today, so that’s a good start — but last night it was so bad, my hacking actually made me feel like I pulled a muscle!  Indeed, senpai wanted me to go home from work early, despite the important stuff that needed doing, and it was only thanks to luck (and bumpers) that I beat four other people, including “best mate” and “drummer-trucker”, at bowling.

(Yes, lucky: my first bowl was a strike, straight down the middle of the lane — that hadn’t happened since my very first bowl ever, in October 1992!)

I’ll continue resting this weekend, hoping it’s just a cold my folks inadvertently brought back from the Canaries in November, but if I’m still feeling horrible on Monday morning, I’ll take a sick day so I can see the quack, in case it’s a throat infection (not for the first time, and neither was that, as I had one instead of “Fresher’s Flu” back in 1996).  This isn’t impossble, as I’ve had very little nasal activity so far, whereas at times my ear canals seem to ache, as though my Eustachian tubes are infected with the same bacteria.

I don’t want to be taking antibiotics at the same time as my anti-epilepsy medication, but hey, what choice would I have?

Rebel without a clue (with apologies to James Dean)

Homer’s brain: Don’t you get it?  You gotta use reverse psychology!
Homer: Uh, that sounds too complicated…
Homer’s brain: Okay, don’t use reverse psychology.
Homer: All right, I will!
The Simpsons (S3E09, “Saturdays of Thunder”)

Although I’m working towards a post about the dreadful mistreatment of the disabled in this country, I might as well get something else off my chest first (hey, it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post here).  Don’t worry, I’m not angry so much as… well, grumbling, so I’ll make this my first “complaints” post in a while.

Some people are trying to change the world for the better, which can be a problem if they think they’re doing the right thing but in fact are making things worse, but at least I respect the effort, because they’re not just contemptuously slagging off other people’s lifestyles for entirely sadistic reasons, and then getting uppity because their victims are standing up to them.

(Don’t worry, “drummer-trucker” is still a decent bloke, and I’m not having a go at him tonight — unlike here, and here!)

However, one thing of which I’m becoming increasingly convinced is that arrogant white guys are not persuading me that anti-black racism is gone, or that men who don’t want to be “toxic” are “beta-males” or “soy-boys” (or even a certain P-word beloved of Trump).  I know, Facebook, “serious business”, but I actually had to block someone there, to whom I’ll refer as “RS”, who continually writes negative comments on articles posted by “The Good Men Project” — and unless someone else is posting who’s blocked me, months later he’s still doing it, as I keep seeing, or rather not seeing, invisible comments on GMP’s posts!

What does it come down to?  Oh, white people are the ones suffering from racism in America, black people should shut up about being treated like criminals when women and children are being abused (though on the same night he commented that men are raped more than women — is he a genuine troll?), boys aren’t being brought up to hide their emotions and fit in, there’s no toxic masculinity… all he’s ever done is convince me of the exact opposite!

And that’s my point tonight: I’m not changing my mind when people like this speak, I’m only becoming surer of what I already believe.  This goes double for religious men who claim that homosexuality is inherently evil — and no, Muslims allegedly throwing gays off rooftops in Middle Eastern countries doesn’t somehow convince me that refusing to serve suspected gays in American shops is acceptable by comparison.  As you know, I reject theocracy, and the more arrogantly the religious right behaves, the more they drive me away.

At least when a nice lady tried to convince me to become a Christian, I was able to politely decline — I’m not talking about “female best friend”, who convinced me to go to church with her (which I really did just to support my quasi-little sister), but a lady I worked with at Camden — she’d spoken righteously about me needing to go to church, as though it was self-evident… and thank $DEITY I wasn’t there when she brought my leaving presents, which were entirely Christian and of no interest to me.

(As I’m sure you know: I already own a Bible, thanks to “female best friend”, and I much prefer the Devil’s music!)

This is the thing: the more people try to convince me of things like this, the more I feel the exact opposite — because it seldom seems to involve rational discussion, and always seems to be either religious belief (which, by definition, is irrational — “I believe because it is absurd”), or just plain sneering insults.

Well, okay, Ade Edmonson’s not a swarthy Asian, but still!

Why, even a bloke I work with now (and who can cheer me up with his humour, perhaps because he looks like Eddie Hitler from Bottom) says, apparently seriously, that he doesn’t believe there should be vegetarian meat — he respects veganism, but only if they eat just vegetables.  Now, while I see the point about not limiting ourselves to simulations of what we ate when we were “normal” and ate meat, he hasn’t exactly convinced me, an unapologetic vegetarian, to give up Quorn (other fake meat products are available, but not as good) — rather the opposite: like a trapped animal, it convinces me to stand up for myself, rather than humbly submit to the self-opinionated “wisdom” of others.

It’s like a kind of unintentional reverse psychology, isn’t it?  So many groups have driven me away from their opinions by the way they act:

  • Grumpy middle-aged men who claim the term “toxic masculinity” is proof that feminism is despicable, and that there’s too much whining about nothing (with the implication that their claimed lack of racism is the thing that’s actually making them angry);
  • Religious zealots who are convinced they’re automatically right and their “post-modernist” opponents are somehow incontravertibly wrong (by coincidence, an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise featuring that twisted philosophy was on TV tonight);
  • The anti-trans community, who can’t even stand Doctor Who now having a female lead, let alone believe that “trans-women” are anything other than male rapists;
  • “Libertarians”, whose entire philosophy seems to be “I got mine, so why should I pay taxes to help the poor, that’s just theft by liberal socialists!”;
  • Brexiteers whose sole statement is “we won, get over it”, ignoring how badly it seems to be going for the ordinary people of Britain;
  • Trump supporters whose sole statement is “we won, get over it”, ignoring how badly it seems to be going for the ordinary people of America;
  • Cyclists (not exclusively male) who run red lights, ride on the pavement etc. as though they’ve got right of way;
  • Yes, even the bullies at school, who had a go at me for not getting drunk at the age of fifteen, supporting a football team etc. as though I should be more like them and less of a “loner”.

All of these people have driven me AWAY from their opinions, by their very attitudes — it’s literally their attempts to change my mind that have made me want to stay the same, only more so.  It’s almost as though their psychology is acting in reverse!

Indeed, I have to wonder if they’re actually all equally incompent and incapable of making a convincing case: perhaps either something’s different about me (a difference that hasn’t been “corrected” by brain surgery) compared to the masses, so I’m not falling for the same trick… or, they’re actually trying to make me think about resisting what seems like reverse psychology, so I ponder their points of view and give their opinions a chance after all — a kind of reverse-reverse psychology?  Is the aforementioned “RS” actually working for “The Good Men Project”, to convince people to defy him and stay with the group…?

Perhaps my mother was right: it’s pointless trying to have debates on Facebook — fair enough, I’ll stick to making jokes with my fellow fans of Bottom and Father Ted.  Okey-dokey Richie, that would be an ecumencial matter!

— — —

In the inerests of balance, I should add that I don’t oppose all religious people, and am happy for those who believe to continue their independent, spiritual journeys (hence I won’t refer to their gods as “sky faries”, like many atheists do); I also regret saying all motorbike riders are despicable, as most actually obey the law (indeed, more so than bicycle riders, at least here in London!).  In addition, football fans are, for the most part, decent people having a bit of fun while drinking a bit of beer (rather than acting like religious fundamentalists on too much communion wine), and I’m sure there are some political commentators who actually want to look at alternate systems objectively, and don’t just use “liberal” as a convenient insult (and claim “socialist=Nazi”), not to mention Brexit-supporters who think we should get out of the EU to escape a corrupt institution, rather than just so we can “kick der forinurz owt” and get rid of those oh-so-inconvenient human rights.

(Can’t think of any decent Trump supporters, though…)

Oh, and just to show I’m still against anti-male sexism and “feminazism“, and can’t be convinced that exploitation of men is somehow “funny” while ogling willing women is invariably evil, sick and wrong, I wish to say that Paco Rabanne are almost as bad as Bertolli: notice how the Invictus ad ends with the male god walking in on a group of women, who are waiting for him consensually (and sensually), with their clothes still on; but in the female Olympéa ad, the goddess (rather similar to Daenerys Targaryen) walks in on naked men showering, who humbly cover their privates in embarrassment…?

Traffic really grinds my gears

Jenny: For your information, pal, that was a yellow light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully: red light, stop; green light, go; yellow light, go very fast.
Starman (1984)

I’m more likely to be this terrified than any actual car driver in London, seeing as I’m the one in danger

I’ve finally urged myself into writing in this blog again, and it’s a complaint about people driving (and operating other vehicles) here in London.  Aren’t you lucky I found the strength to type?  After all, I don’t want to neglect this, even if the only people signing up seem to be random Outlook.com addresses, which don’t seem to increase my number of subscribers…

Long-time readers may remember my first ever serious complaints post, and even back then, I was slagging off London cabbies; this hasn’t changed, as they still drive through red lights, apparently hoping that pedestrians won’t start crossing for a couple of seconds — because hey, your convenience is more important than pedestrian safety!  In all honesty, screw the bullies of the road, regardless of how good they are at “the Knowledge” — I’d rather people were late for appointments than I was lying dead in the street.

Having said that, my current medical condition has made me a lot more brash in crossing London streets: if I have to die some day, it’d be a lot worse for it to happen on the operating table, thus risking the NHS’s future, than on the bumper of some arrogant driver who would deservedly lose his licence.  Like the idiot who turned into the side street I was crossing, but didn’t flash his indicators — I calmly walked in front of his SUV without flinching, and refused to hurry up and get out of his way.

(My mother’s probably gasping at my recklessness even now, but don’t worry, Mumsy: I have no intention of actually dying any decade soon!)

It didn’t help back when I worked near King’s Cross, and simply trying to cross the road would often mean dicing with death: drivers would often race the yellow light at the top of Grays Inn Road, but risk getting stuck in the middle of the junction and trapped by the cross traffic on Euston Road — so naturally, they’d force their way through the busy pedestrian crossing at the foot of York Way, acting as though they had right of (no pun intended) way!

And years later, working on the nearby Pentonville Road, when I crossed the foot of Caledonian Road (which in its southernmost reaches is one-way), and a sports car tried to swerve north into the junction!  I suspect it was only the opposing traffic waiting patiently at the lights that stopped him going any further, otherwise he’d have not only endangered pedestrians (i.e. me), but continued going the wrong way up a one-way street!

But it’s even worse when drivers are not breaking the law: there’s a box junction at the place where New Cavendish Street (which I walk along to and from work) crosses Portland Place (the road which, further south, becomes Regent Street), but only the southern segments of the two lanes of the latter road have pedestrian crossings with lights, and for some reason drivers are allowed to U-turn from the southbound lane into the northbound lane (which are separated by a traffic island), there being an absence of a “no U-turns” sign.

This means traffic moving through each phase of the traffic light pattern — westbound on New Cavendish (it’s one-way), northbound on Portland and southbound on Portland — can go through the signal-free pedestrian crossing in the northwest part of the junction, and thus there’s technically no safe time to cross!  But oh, if they stopped to let people cross, they’d get fines for stopping in a yellow box junction, which is far worse than running someone down…

(And don’t even get me started on boy racers, who do it for kicks… does anyone, anywhere, respect them?!)

It’s not just arrogant car drivers I hate, however: the other day, at that exact junction, I refused to get out of a cyclist’s way, as he tried to go through a red light while the pedestrian crossing was showing the green man.  I’m sure I have a lot more support here: I have zero respect for cyclists who don’t obey the laws of the road, and act like a red light is their signal to go!  No, idiot, you stop like all the other vehicles, and go when the light is green — got that?  If you can’t cycle safely on the road, DON’T CYCLE!!!

And yes, that also applies to cyclists who ride on the pavement (“sidewalk” if you’re American) — that’s actually against the law, no excuses, especially if you’re just doing it to go the wrong way down a one-way street (which itself makes no sense if the next street over goes the right way).  It always seems to be twentysomething blokes with hipster beards, who nonetheless obey a different law: wearing a helmet while riding a bike.  Why, you’d almost think they were more concerned with their own safety than that of pedestrians!

Okay, fine, one time I foolishly tried to cross Tottenham Court Road (also one-way) without looking first, and had a foreign-sounding cyclist call me a “stupid man” for nearly being hit by him, but am I still being punished all these years later, to atone for causing him a minor inconvenience, and possibly wear on his brakes?  What about the cyclist who knocked down my old work friend outside King’s Cross, while she was crossing at the correct time, and just got back on his bike and left without even apologising?

Fortunately, nearly every time I see a cyclist breaking the law, I see other cyclists on the road obeying the law (possibly even wearing helmets), and I still remember the time in the early 21st century, when I cycled in Worthing, that I followed a cycle lane onto the pavement and got shouted at by a passenger in a parking car (who couldn’t see the cycle lane due to the parked cars between us)!  There are good cyclists, just as there are good drivers (well, my mother and “best mate”, to name two), and a lot of honest, well-behaved drivers are punished these days for violations (parking and moving) that it seems they were tricked into, especially here in Barnet (see, for example, Mr. Mustard’s blog here).

Whatever problems I may have with drivers, I don’t want them ripped off — fines are supposed to change behaviour, not act as a revenue stream, and if a lot of drivers are making the same mistake, surely that indicates there’s an issue with confusing or missing signage that needs to be corrected, not left as it is out of a blatant desire to make money unethically?

However, there’s one group I can’t stand or sympathise with: motorcyclists.  Even after escaping from Caledonian Road, where every passing biker’s two-stroke engine would interfere with my digital TV reception, I’ve hated them all — they deliberately tune their engines to be as LOUD as possible, like they’re compensating for something.

(Maybe they should be forced to put noise-cancellers on their bike, which replaces the engine sound with “HEY EVERYONE, I’VE GOT A REALLY SMALL PENIS!”?  Or would that be stating the obvious?)

But that’s just a side issue: too many bikers drive like reckless (feckless?) fools, endangering real people out of a desire to thrill themselves and act tough.  One time I was crossing Seven Sisters Road near Finsbury Park, on my way to the Castle after a bus journey, at a pedestrian crossing with the green man showing… and one of a group of bikers coming north along the road accelerated and raced through, even though the traffic light was already long since red!  What was he trying to prove?!

And the other day, in the western extremes of the aforementioned New Cavendish Street (near my workplace), I saw a biker, with a passenger, driving dangerously: he swerved and came back down the one-way street in order to turn into a side street he’d missed, and I looked down that road to see him then swerving onto the pavement in order to get around some queuing cars!  At least he didn’t threaten my safety, like another biker who didn’t even slow down when I was crossing a zebra crossing — aside from breaking the law (driving through a zebra crossing that a pedestrian was using), he endangered someone (i.e. me), and deserves a ban!

Phew, I feel better getting all that off my chest… there’s no real resolution or conclusion to this blog post, it’s just a disorganised series of complaints about road users (and pavement intruders) who really ought to change their ways.  But hey, maybe if Peter Dibdin had taught them to drive, they’d be remotely competent?

— — —

P.S. One time when I lived on Caledonian Road, I witnessed two of my hates battle: a London cabbie had knocked down a chavvy cyclist (without a helmet) who had apparently tried to cycle across the zebra crossing right in front of him, and I found myself hoping both sides would be punished for their crimes (the cabbie for not stopping, the cyclist for cycling where pedestrians are king).  Sadly, the chav was up and cycling moments later as the cabbie got a talking-to…

Belligerent socialising

Maybe it’s the anti-epilepsy medication I’m on, but I’ve found myself to be rather more talkative at work than before — chatty, humorous (without being offensive), and supportive to my “flock”.  However, today I’ve had an experience that makes me feel like I need to tone it down, as I really didn’t enjoy the presence of an extrovert at a social event… though doubtless it’s all my fault somehow, as it usually is.

(Ah, there’s the mood swing my medication warned me about — at least it took over a week!)

My Polish friend (who, considering we haven’t kissed beyond polite cheek pecks, probably isn’t my girlfriend and is more like a “friend who is a girl”) invited me today to an event, at a famous vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the Regent Street area, for a meetup group concerning animal welfare.  I was feeling exhausted after yesterday (my first personal training session in over a month), not to mention lethargic from a combination of the aforementioned medication and January being the most dismal month of the year, but still wanted to go and keep her company (since she was the one who asked), and so set off for the city centre to meet her.  So far, so good.

However, it seems I still don’t like forced socialising, as although I can talk to unfamiliar people in a small group, gradually getting to know them, I still can’t stand it when someone — almost always a bloke with a loud voice — barges into the group, acting like he’s doing us a favour, and droning on and on and on in a manner that suggests he thinks he’s a skilled orator… I felt a little shame for loathing the presence of this guy, but felt like I was trapped: my female friend was staying put (and even joining in the conversation), and I didn’t think I could just walk away from her, and I also worried that simply leaving to talk to someone else would be considered rude.

(I’d already lost my opportunity to go talk to a cute Far Eastern girl with pink hair, who was talking to some other bloke, and is probably engaged by now… yes, that’s the mood swing again!)

Things like this have happened before, including at Japanese meetup events (which is why I can’t bring myself to go to them any more, despite still being interested in the language and the people — plus I hate loud, crowded places).  One time in 2012, I was sitting alone when I suddenly found myself surrounded by white English blokes, with Japanese girlfriends, who were all acting friendly in the sense that there was no possible way I could be uncomfortable with them intruding like that.  I didn’t enjoy their company one bit, and excused myself to buy a drink.  I nearly walked out entirely, but with a cider in hand, I managed to get together with a group of Japanese girls for conversation.  Not with the intention of pulling one of them (well, not the sole intention), but because they were (a) actually Japanese (the whole point of the event), and (b) female (whose company I find much less intimidating than male)!

I suppose I haven’t changed much over the past few years: if anything, I enjoy socialising even less than I did when I worked in that dead-end admin job up to 2014, when at least meetup events (and especially Meetup.com events) meant a change from my dull working environment.  Now, after spending my entire week helping familiar people, and trying to be funny, I find I want nothing more than to relax at home afterwards, even at the weekend.  In fact, I’d love it if I never had to socialise again — but there’s no other way I’m ever likely to find the girl of my dreams, so I feel obliged to keep going to social events, no matter how uncomfortable I am.

Indeed, socialising is considered an obligation for human beings, and even my own mother has told me off for not wanting to enthusiastically shake hands with strangers in social settings, or to let random blokes strike up conversations with me when I’m at singles events.  That’s the thing: I still don’t want to make new male friends just for the sake of it, and new male friends happen more by chance than anything (“best mate”, my personal trainer, my yoga teacher etc.).  It’s simple: although a few blokes turn out, astonishingly, to be worthy of my friendship, most men in the world hold zero interest for me, because I’ve never wanted to be “one of the lads” or have “drinking buddies”, or watch sportsball with other blokes.

To balance, though, there are times guys have approached me and we’ve got talking (like an occasion back in 2013 you may remember, though I never really saw that group again) — it all depends on the energy.  I’m happy to make new acquaintances, for example, when I go climbing at the Castle, and I say hi to blokes I’m familiar with when I see them at the Session (one looks like my old school friend in the 1990s, another resembles the actor Kevin Eldon).  It’s when I’m at a social event and someone with a large, overbearing personality forces me to interact with them that I get up-tight and withdrawn.  Maybe they’re an introvert like me, trying to make a new friend but misjudging their approach, and if they see they’re intimidating and dial it back a bit, fair enough — that’s something I can empathise with.  But it’s the extroverts I want to avoid, because they don’t even have a dial to turn back: they’re incessantly, belligerently sociable, and act like the only reason you’re not fawning over them is that they haven’t been loud and cheerful enough yet.

(Hence the problem I had with a certain work colleague many years ago…)

It’s not just me who has social interaction issues, though: I remember a time a couple of years ago when I was attending a dating guidance event led by (just to name her for once) Hayley Quinn; I was watching other people’s interactions, keeping myself to myself and woolgathering, when suddenly the bloke sitting next to me — who I wasn’t even looking at, and who could only see the back of my head — suddenly all but shouted a “sociable” question, almost right in my ear!  That’s right, he didn’t even tap me on the shoulder (or otherwise attract my attention) and introduce himself, he just blurted it out, and boy, that really ground my gears, making me want to interact with him as little as possible.

Today: everyone in the entire human race!

Back to the incident at today’s event: although she was happy to leave with me when she saw I was uncomfortable, my Polish friend seemed to think I was in the wrong, and that if I didn’t like the loudmouth, I should have just walked away from the group and spoken to someone else — but like I said above, I felt like I had a Hobson’s choice, and would be in the wrong simply for not liking the guy from the get-go (since he wasn’t rude or violent), whether I clammed up, walked away or told him to turn it down.  As though you should like anyone who is polite, no matter how much they grate on your nerves!

However, the fact that I’m talking so much at work at the moment — being political, making smart-alec comments like I’m performing to a crowd and so on — makes me wonder if I need to dial things back as well, and resist becoming an “extroverted introvert”.  I especially worry that the nice female team member who sits opposite me at work (who’s a lot quieter and more demure than the blokes, and thus far more pleasant for me to interact with) is getting fed up with my constant quasi-standup comedy routines, and references to old TV shows, songs etc. that were big before she was even born.

Maybe I need to settle down and be more sensible — or at least more willing to ask people questions (and actually listen to the answers) than drone on about my experiences and opinions like some kind of rambling old-timer.  Despite my introvercy (or maybe because of it?), it’s easy for me to talk a great deal when I’m around familiar people, but I don’t want to annoy them the way extroverts annoy me at social events, as nobody likes a hypocrite.  I may even need to rant my heart out in a blog post here, just to get it out of my system, so I don’t go on and on at people I actually like.

Of course, this could all just be part of the aforementioned mood swing, bordering on outright depression (I’ve certainly felt like having a damn good cry this evening), caused by one of the medications I’ve been prescribed for my medical condition — I’ve certainly felt better after coming home and having dinner (and talking to my housemates).  That’s not the only reason I wish the quacks would let me come off clobazam, though: amongst other things, it makes it harder to… shall we say… shed excess mass?  It’s not just Easter eggs in the shops that are causing me to gain weight…

— — —

P.S. My Polish friend texted me while I was writing this, and she still wants to hang out with me and have me over for vegan pizza (even if she uses “Netflix and chill” in a more literal context than sex maniacs do), so at least I haven’t blown our friendship entirely by being antisocial to strangers…

The bullies who made me

No, this is not in any way, shape or form a clue to his name, or the reason I refer to him as “capital P” — those are alternative facts.  Sad!

I’m lucky to be online tonight, as when I came back from visiting my folks in Worthing for the first time in two months, our Internet connection was down.  I knew how to fix it (unscrew the cable from the router, touch the core, screw it back in), and so did my former-drummer housemate — indeed, he was the one who came up with the solution originally — but for some reason he hadn’t done so, and with him in the lounge (where the router is), I felt I couldn’t go in and take care of it.

It was only when I heard him go in the shower that I dared step foot outside the sanctity of my room, and got it working on the second or third attempt; I’d killed the intervening time by, amongst other things, starting season 5 of Game of Thrones, which I have on Blu-ray and thus don’t need an Internet connection to watch (sorry Netflix).

But why should I feel so intimidated by my housemate, a session drummer / music teacher who became a truck driver?  Wait… shall I call him “drummer-trucker”?  Yes, that works.  I find “drummer-trucker” intimidating because he’s gone wonky recently, and acts condescending and confrontational, like the kind of bully who insults you for no reason and then claims you’re the one with the problem, because he’s just having a laugh and you’re taking it too seriously.  About the only thing missing is a crowd for him to be playing up to, like when I was at school…

Don’t worry, I won’t drone on about every individual school bully I faced off against, or we’d be here all day (and I’ve probably forgotten a few) — and more to the point, I’ve covered a lot of this before.  No, I’ll just focus on the ones who stayed with me, up here (Dave-ros taps his temple, pointing approximately at his brain), for long periods of time, and perhaps changed my life directions now and then…

Moving to Worthing in 1992 wasn’t ideal — I’d worked my way up the social order going to an all-boys school in Surrey (and no, not through any vulgar or political means), and going to a mixed school in September just meant I got bullied by the girls as well as the guys.  Fortunately the girls had grown to accept me by Easter 1993, and it was just the boys making my life hellish… especially one guy with curly hair, big gums and permanently-slitted eyes (and no, he wasn’t from the Far East, just incredibly smug).  He was certainly the kind of bully who’d get everyone against me when I was minding my own business, and somehow I let him get inside my head, to the point that it was only when he left school at the end of Year 11 that I was finally able to get on with my life.

The strange thing is, a couple of times he was actually nice to me — either returning my schoolbag when other thugs were throwing it around, or chatting amiably outside school one day.  It’s why I’ve often wondered if he and I were actually supposed to be friends… but hey, I wasn’t into BYOB parties when I was 15-16, so I’d never have fitted into his crowd.  Fortunately, I no longer bear him ill will, and hope he’s sorted his life out.

You’d think leaving home would change things, but nooo, I got more of it at university — perhaps due to studying Geology, the most “thuggish” of the sciences (presumably because you have to do a lot of walking, and get to hit rocks with hammers!).  Not only did I get comments like “coathanger” shouted out when I was nearby during a field trip to Wales, but apparently one night two real scumbags got drunk and decided to come by my room to beat me up!  Fortunately I was out playing Quake in a computer lab that evening, otherwise I’d have suffered for the crime of… what, exactly?  Being myself?  I guess they made me more determined to be myself, if they had any effect at all…

My postgrad days saw the two blokes in my Astrophysics MSc ka-tet treating me badly, but at least one naffed off to do a PhD, while the other became the fellow I always refer to as “good housemate” in these hallowed pages, simply because I learned to roll with the punches, and gave as good as I got — in a way, he toughened me up and helped me laugh.  This guy, of course, once upset me by saying I was obliged to hurry up and (he thought) lose my virginity to a prostitute, to stop letting mankind down, but when he got his own place, and precipitated my worst month, he let me sleep on his couch for a week, while I waited for my new room to become available, so he’s forgiven.  I haven’t heard from him in ages, but I hope he’s all right and living his life!

Even beyond education, there exist bullies — and sadly, some of them have authority… when I first moved in with “good housemate” and our two female friends in Wood Green, I managed to get a temp admin job working for the local council (which I’ve mentioned before); at first I was doing well, organising deliveries and collections of Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, and making friends with the delivery men (and on one or two occasions, helping them out when they were a man down) — and this seemed to frustrate the boss, a Scots lady with long white hair, whose very presence eventually made me cringe.

Although at first I was apparently the best they’d had in that job, she changed her appraisal of me when she decided that I should stop using my initiative and start blindly following rules — as though process was more important than results.  She’d also heap her own work on me in stupid ways, telling me to prepare fax messages, then telling me “that’s not how I’d phrase it” and requiring me to ask her for the exact wording I should use (which she then scrawled on the smallest size of Post-It notes, rather than e-mailing me).

At times it felt like she was trying to “sicken” me, and one day I actually had a bit of a breakdown from her constant nagging and work-heaping… fortunately the guy between me and her smoothed things over.  Still, this was the only job I ever quit for reasons other than returning to university or moving on to a better job, and I don’t regret doing so — and apparently I lasted longer than anyone else, and virtually no-one else liked her!

She wasn’t the only female superior to make me sad at work, though at least the loud girl I worked with at a nearby housing department in 2005 turned out to be all right in the end, and just a bit bossy at times.  However, it was a different but similar girl in my HR (Recruitment) days who really got to me — and, much like my current woes (not to mention the “brain fuzz” I was getting at the start of the year), it would always seem to be one week good, one week bad.  If she was unhappy with me, she’d criticise me for just about everything, even stuff that wasn’t my fault (like two recruiting managers for the same job telling us different things, or someone having written the wrong department next to a job in the diary), and claim I was “picking and choosing” my work.  If I was lucky, she’d leave me alone, and maybe sometimes even thank me.

It’s largely thanks to her hot-and-cold treatment that I didn’t reapply for my job there when yet another restructuring took place, and jumped at the chance to be redeployed in 2009 (to the job I was doing when I first started this blog).  Mind you, she got her comeuppance: she actually wanted to work in HR as a career and so reapplied for her job, yet when it came time to her interview, she panicked so much (perhaps due to criticism of her treatment of me?) that she had to walk out to compose herself!  After that she was a lot nicer to me during the remainder of our time there, and I wished her well when she went on to better things.

I reckon she was going through some bad stuff at that time of her life — what with actually wanting to succeed in a job I could take or leave — and perhaps that’s why my “drummer-trucker” housemate is being such a see-you-next-Tuesday lately: he regrets his decision to throw in music in favour of trucking, and is taking it out on the rest of us… or maybe he’s gone alcoholic: he drinks a six-pack every time he’s home in the evenings, with his music or DVDs playing loudly, and these are the worst times if we encounter each other.

He used to be all right: yes, there have been times we’ve argued, and he accused me of “needing to get laid” when I didn’t enjoy being locked out of the kitchen, but he also drove me to the hospital when I did my ankle in last year… mind you, he was still teaching drumming at the time, and thus had social skills.  Still, his pranks have never even been funny: things like shouting out he’s joining me and “best mate” when we’re going to the Castle, or telling me there’s a man who keeps coming to the door asking for me — it’s like he’s setting up jokes, but never follows through with the punchline.  Even today, he yanked the kitchen door open as he was walking past from the lounge, and any time he catches me using the upstairs toilet, he rattles the door handle impatiently.

Worst of all: this guy who sits alone drinking, actually has the gaul to accuse me and my other housemates (including “best mate”, the only person who doesn’t actively try to avoid him) of being “anti-social”!  Perhaps he’s just a hypocrite, considering he fills the house with his cookery smells (or on one occasion, petrol fumes from the motorbike he keeps on the front path), after leaving passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen for a previous housemate over curry odours.

I wish things hadn’t gotten to this stage, as I respect him for handling our billing (and the landlady) all these years, and want to part on good terms — but it’s up to him to make any moves to apologise, as he’s the one behaving badly… though I wonder if he himself is trying to avoid me, for precisely that reason?

My gears are still being ground in 2016

gmg

Bet you never thought you’d see this picture again, did you?

I was supposed to be writing a “happy alone time” post tonight about how I’ve been relaxing this weekend, and indeed will be doing so tomorrow as well (I’ve got to stay in to let in the gas man), but in fact I’ve got a number of things to moan about, and a number of famous companies to name and shame for their awful service.

(Obviously I should include a disclaimer that this is all my personal opinion and experience, and thus protected by freedom of speech!)

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I hurt my toes recently, and so have been hobbling around everywhere (hence doing nothing this weekend), and that I’ve had to cut down on my personal trainer sessions, so I feel bad (and still short of money!), and that it’s constantly cold, despite beingalmost March (I really hope the weather doesn’t copy 2013 and stay cold until April!), I’ve been let down this week.  For one thing, the “catchall” address at my personal e-mail domain at Fasthosts, which receives all e-mails sent to any address at surname.org.uk that isn’t in a pre-defined mailbox, turned out to be full on Wednesday, and I only found this out when I checked it in webmail format after noting I’d had no e-mails from Meetup.com (who haven’t upset me, hence their name isn’t in bold) since Tuesday evening arriving in Outlook.

It turned out that although I’d only used up 15% of the allocated space, I’d also used up the maximum number of e-mails (yes, you can have “too many” e-mails in there without them taking up too much space), and they hadn’t notified me!  I dread to think what I might have lost if I hadn’t realised — and this is on top of how I couldn’t connect to their servers properly in late 2014, when I was trying desperately to apply for jobs and suffering from bad mobile signal as well (but don’t worry, 3 have been adequate recently, so they’re not getting a mention here).  I’ve just recently paid them for another year of e-mail hosting, so what can I do?

But now let’s focus on this weekend, and two particular foodstuffs I won’t be buying again: Linda McCartney pies and Hovis sliced bread.  Now, normally I’d endorse anything vegetarian, but the pie in question was soggy and undercooked even after 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven, something which never happened before they changed their packaging, so clearly they’re doing something wrong now (and I’ll be getting the Quorn ones instead).  As for the bread, well, it was so weak and insubstantial that the mere act of trying to spread butter with a knife tore it apart — what’s the point of bread you can’t spread butter upon?  Is it only suitable for toast?!  I used to get Warburtons, which had served me well almost since I moved to Finchley and started making my own lunches, but Tesco stopped selling it in half-loaf size (I can’t buy a whole loaf because too much of it would go off before I could eat it), and so I have to buy whatever’s available… maybe I’ll stick to rolls from now on?

Most of my ire, however, is reserved for the Co-op Bank, who I joined in 2013 and now want to ditch entirely.  I’ve hardly used my account with them since joining Halifax in 2014 (they give me better terms), and foolishly I thus stopped checking it.  I managed to get overdrawn in late 2015 (partly because they still let you take money out at cashpoints even when you’re overdrawn, and partly because PayPal, who I’m also angry at, have made it so hard to set my Halifax account as the default).  Even though I paid back what I owed in early January and had my account at zero, they still charged me £40 in January, and didn’t notify me (they thought a letter before Christmas sufficed), and since I didn’t realise I was overdrawn again until today, in addition to being charged £10 unauthorised overdraft fees in January and February, I’ll have to pay another £10 in March in full and final settlement, plus interest (fortunately less than a pound).  All because they don’t apply fees right away, they make you WAIT before you know how much you owe!  I only kept this account open for emergencies anyway, and now I’m going to cut up my Co-op debit card and be done with them forever, because I really don’t need to lose £70 right now.  But hey, their former chairman has to pay for his coke somehow, right?

gatchaman_ad

Now I’ve finished watching this, it’s time for “South Park” on my morning commute

I suppose the one good thing about this incident is the lesson I’ve received in taking responsibility for my finances, instead of just leaving things.  Not only will I continue to check my Co-op account until I can close it and do away with them forever, and make sure I pay through PayPal only if they use the right bank account, but the financial hit has inspired me to finally put my old Gatchaman DVDs on eBay (these are the ones I was slowly buying in 2005, and which were replaced on my birthday by a single box set of the entire series, which takes up considerably less space).  If I can get suckers customers to pay the prices I’m after, it’ll make up for my losses… and maybe then I’ll be tempted to sell my copy of Stephen King’s The Bachman Books that includes “Rage” (which he allowed to fall out of print due to real life school shootings), for rather more than the £1 I paid for it in a charity shop.

(Don’t worry, I’d split the money with the shop in question — unlike the Co-op bank, I’m ethical!)

As for the other things, well, I’ve wanted to leave Fasthosts for a long time (I doubt anyone in the IT industry would even try to persuade me to stay!), so I’ll make sure to leave them before 2017, no matter what they do to convince me otherwise.  I’ll also avoid the two products named above like the plague: it sucks when I try to save money by making my own food only for it to blow up in my face, but I’m not going to let it get me downhearted, and will avoid eating out, or even getting lunch at the supermarket, for as much of March as I can muster…

Microsoft really grinds my gears

beavbuttpcFirst of all, I’ve atoned for my failure in July by passing my Windows Server 2008 exam, though unlike passing Windows 7, or A+, or the other A+, I feel merely relieved.  The past eighteen months have come to this — I’ve been studying it through some of the biggest changes and the deepest depressions of my life, and I can honestly say I’m glad it’s finally over.  My room even seems slightly larger… because I’ve taken down the myriad Post-It Notes* upon which I’d written revision notes.

(* Other sticky notes are available… but aren’t as good or as noteworthy)

This follows getting a job in an IT department at long, long last (the six-week unpaid one last year doesn’t count, and the shift-based one after that certainly doesn’t count!), so you’d think I’d be pleased, wouldn’t you?  Indeed, grateful to Microsoft themselves for giving me a purpose in life?  After all, if something goes wrong with Windows, I have a chance to fix it, don’t I?

Alas, Microsoft have started doing something for which they criticised Google: harvesting user information.  Windows 10 gathers all sorts of stuff from you and transmits it to MS — even your keystrokes — and requires visits to various options screens to turn it off, but at least they let you know about this kind of thing in the agreement you electronically sign at installation (hey, you do read those things, don’t you?).  However, they’ve also begun back-patching some of that “telemetry” into Windows 7 and 8, in very sneaky patches that simply say “resolve issues in Windows”.  Do they really think that not having access to our private information is an “issue” that needs to be “resolved”?

It gets worse: they’ve also really begun pushing upgrades to Windows 10 onto users, including those who didn’t signal their interest in the programme.  And since this involves secretly downloading gigabytes of installation files onto your PC, if you’re on a metered connection (such as, $DEITY help you, 3G or 4G), they’ve just cost you a load of money or even gotten you cut off completely, haven’t they?  They claim the auto-ticked upgrade was a mistake (they would, wouldn’t they?), but they haven’t apologised for their habit of unhiding the Windows Updates that nag you to upgrade to Windows 10 after you’ve taken the trouble to hide them.

I’m thus going to post this link to a program, whose honesty I can confirm, that will enable you to keep all the Windows 10 upgrade badness off your PC.  I also have this link to a thread at MS’s own forums about how to cancel the Windows 10 upgrade if it’s inadvertently triggered.  I would advise you to tinker with your Windows Update settings and untick “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”… and then keep unticking it after every big patch download, as MS seem to be re-ticking it (it seems even their essential security updates are getting dishonest).  If any of those nasty telemetry patches have infected your system, check this list and uninstall them.

The idea of Microsoft claiming the right to lists of filenames on our PCs, the nature of our web searches, the stuff we type out (including passwords, remember?) and other private information is so nauseating to me that I’m actually considering getting rid of Windows on my own PC and installing some form of Linux instead, and buying a games console for gaming instead.  This, of course, would mean only using Windows at work, which would perhaps resolve the issue of “bringing work home with me”…

— — —

On a related topic, online advertising also really grinds my gears: we’re all sick of advertising that doesn’t just sit there at the top or side of a page, and insists on moving around distractingly, playing music, claiming you’ve “won” something or have a “virus”, and (once again) using up your bandwidth with something you didn’t ask for and don’t need.  However, a lot of online advertising now tracks you across different websites (I should point out I don’t mind Amazon showing me stuff related to things I’ve viewed at Amazon while logged in as myself), and in some very bad cases, can even infect your PC with malware thanks to ad brokers taking no real care regarding the advertising they show.  I’ve got two solutions for this:

  • Go to this site, save the text into a text file called “hosts” (not “hosts.txt”), copy it into your Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc folder, and as a result your PC will not have any contact with ad servers (as a side effect, this particular list also blocks out some of Microsoft’s nefariousness).  This works even better than solely using browser ad-blocking plugins (which reminds me, ditch AdBlock Plus and go for uBlock Origin, and also grab Ghostery).
  • Uninstall Adobe Flash, because YouTube works through HTML5 now, and BBC iPlayer is trialling the same.  Flash is so full of security holes it makes even Windows look safe, and deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history.  Yes, a lot of online games use Flash, but sacrifices have to be made; however, if it’s absolutely essential you have Flash on your PC, at least install a Flash blocker in your browser, so you can control which Flash elements appear on a case-by-case basis.

Together we can beat the scumbags who see our private information as something to be exploited rather than protected… and then maybe we can get to work on the government organisations who think they need to spy on us all the time to make sure we aren’t terrorists?

My own computer really grinds my gears

beavbuttpc

I was feeling like this today… just work, bunghole!

As I may have intimated before, when I’m with my folks in Worthing I use a cobbled-together PC that I call “the Frankencomputer” (and please don’t point out that Frankenstein was the creator, I’m well aware of this).  Throughout its history it’s been troublesome for me, and this weekend and Monday have been the worst…

(I call my PC in London “the übercontraption”, if you must know!)

Until late 2011 I was using my mother’s old prebuilt eMachines PC as my Worthing computer, but it was so slow that I couldn’t even listen to Tony Blackburn via iPlayer without stuttering, unless I turned off the antivirus!  Thus, using spare parts (such as a casing I’d bought for my mother’s previous PC, the motherboard I’d upgraded from when my hard drive died in May, and an old copy of Windows XP), I began assembling the Frankencomputer in November.  The casing wasn’t exactly soundproof, however, and I had a good casing in London… and so I carried it home one arm-aching weekend (naturally the nearest Tube station was closed at that exact time).

To make matters worse, the PSU (one of several I had going spare, and one which had needed an extension for the 12V cable) wasn’t able to handle the increased number of cooling fans, and so the hard drive was damaged by power fluctuations.  All I’d wanted to do was play the original F.E.A.R. and its expansions over Christmas, but multiple attempts to download and validate the files through Steam took ages as the drive slowed everything to glacial speeds… and even when I’d finally finished, the ancient 7900GS graphics card turned out to be on the way out.  Gah!

Thus it was that the Frankencomputer was used for only simple tasks for about a year; I tried replacing the hard drive, but only succeeded on the second attempt (the first time I mistakenly bought an old IDE drive, the sort that takes a ribbon cable, and almost killed that one too).  I got a better PSU eventually, and when I bought my mother a compact all-in-one PC for Christmas in 2012, I took the decent graphics card (and memory) from her old PC and stuck it where it might be of some use at last (ooh, Matron!).  It was Easter 2013 (about the time I wrote this entry) when I finally reinstalled Steam, admittedly in the vain hope of being able to play Mumsy’s copy of Total War: Shogun 2 (a difficult prospect even on a decent PC).

However, broadly speaking, the Frankencomputer was finally working more or less fine — and received a boost when I got a DVI-to-HDMI cable so I could plug it into the big TV in my Worthing room, and not need my mother’s old VGA monitor (which joined many other devices and components in the electronics section at Worthing dump), though this of course meant I couldn’t watch TV at the same time.  During my self-imposed exile in September 2013 I was able to study, play games and surf the Interthingy to my heart’s content (but not write in this blog very much, I note), and similarly while keeping my grandmother company recently.

However, since Windows XP officially became obsolete this year, and no longer receives significant updates, it was high time I upgraded it to Windows 7.  I put a slightly better processor in it (more a way of refreshing my thermal paste-scraping skills before I did the same with my own PC in London), and brought home a slightly larger hard drive I had going spare; my intention was to get a copy of Windows 7 and set up an installation on a USB thumb drive including an Autounattend file, just to prove my superior PC skills.

It took me a while to get a copy of Windows 7 (since Computer Exchange’s stock of things I want to buy can go down as well as up, and I needed to sell some stuff to get the necessary credit), but this weekend I created an Autounattend file on my London PC, partly thanks to experimentation with installing it in a virtual machine (just let me big up VirtualBox here… okay, that’s big enough).  I had to use my mother’s PC to set up the USB thumb drive (which I’d foolishly left in Worthing) as a bootable object, and copy the installation files across from the Windows 7 DVD; then I had to use my mother’s PC again in order to recreate the Autounattend file from scratch, because the one I’d brought with me had somehow been corrupted!

I had many, many other issues with this installation, and here’s a litany (apologies for the techie language, but perhaps someone else out there will benefit from my comedy of errors):

  • You need to use both CreatePartition and ManagePartition — don’t just create a partition and not then set it to NTFS (or whatever) format, or you’ll get an error: “Windows could not prepare the partition selected for installation.”
  • Windows 7 needs a 100MB “System” partition, and the rest can be for Windows itself — but both need to be “Primary”, not “MSR” or “EFI” or anything!
  • If you set the main partition to “Extend” (i.e. fill up all remaining space on the hard drive) in CreatePartition, DON’T set it to “Extend” in ManagePartition as well, or the whole installation process will stop with a weird error (0x80300024, fact fans).

And then there’s more to get right in the PC’s BIOS:

  • If you’re using a SATA drive (and you should be, it’s not 1997 any more), for $DEITY’s sake, set it to AHCI mode before you start installing Windows 7, otherwise you’ll have a choice between reinstalling, doing some scary registry hacking via a bootable DVD (to ensure the right drivers get loaded), or living with a slower hard drive!
  • Make sure you’ve set the right boot device order — don’t keep selecting USB-FDD like I did, and then think the thumb drive had been set to no longer be a bootable object, possibly because you edited the Autounattend file under Windows XP… your PC might just ignore everything and go for the first hard drive it finds, ignoring your USB thumb drive entirely!
  • Just because your USB keyboard & mouse work in the BIOS screens and in Windows, there’s no guarantee they’ll work in the Windows boot screen (e.g. to select “Start in Safe Mode”) as well — make sure the BIOS is set to accept input from USB devices!

(Those last two might be quirks of this motherboard’s weird BIOS — the same BIOS that convinced me I’d lost my documents drive in May 2011 as well as my Windows drive, when in fact only the Windows drive had conked out!)

And even once installation is over, there’s still more problems to face:

  • By default, the Administrator account is unavailable to log into — indeed, you won’t even be able to type in the Administrator password when UAC deploys (it’ll tell you to do so, but won’t give you a box to type it into!); to unlock it, you need to restart in Safe Mode, log in as Administrator and run a command before it’ll be available in “normal” mode.  (Oh, all right: net user administrator /active:yes).
  • If you’ve got an older Wi-Fi network card, Windows Updates might misidentify it and install “updated” drivers that actually stop it from detecting any Wi-Fi networks — so make sure you’ve got the right drivers available!
  • Microsoft are paying attention now, so don’t try to install Office 2010 (or similar) on more than one desktop PC, though you might be allowed to install it on a laptop as well.

Honestly, the number of times I’ve had to watch the Windows 7 installation process today alone!  But it’s all finally done, and I’ve saved some useful files (such as nVidia drivers and Firefox) onto the USB thumb drive, in case I ever have to do it all again.  I know, if I’d been better prepared I could have set up a customised WIM image including all the software and drivers I wanted, or even made a fully-updated virtual machine and created an image from that, but I didn’t have time.

Anyway, the Frankencomputer works fine now — but alas, it’s late at night and I need to go back to London tomorrow, to psyche myself up for my first night shift on Thursday, so I have no chance to enjoy it…