August 05, 2008

Lloyds TSB and feeling meaningless as a customer..

Over the last few years as my earnings have steadily increased and my ability to not completely fritter my money has improved, the bank have taken increasing amounts of interest in me.

A few years ago I was invited into my local branch to discuss 'how they could save me money' - so I dutifully arranged to come and see them over one lunch break, and they proceeded to try and sell me various insurance policies. Not quite sure how that saves me money - I told the chap as such and left feeling pretty annoyed.

Recently I had to go into a branch to pay in some money and as my account was loaded up on the cashiers screen a lady appeared by the side of her asking if she'd be able to chat to me about upgrading my account, because i'm a good customer, etc etc - so I decided that i'd consider it, being able to pay for my AA cover through that and get some useful bonuses i'd previously neglected like mobile phone insurance. I arranged to meet her and after having my appointment rescheduled once, she was late coming to the second appointment. Good start.

I signed up for a Gold account which offered various services, and was told i'd be sent a new bank card within a week. Over two weeks roll by, no sign of a new card. I've just phoned up their Gold Account Member Services, and if Lloyds consider it Gold service, then I dread to think what their crappest level of service is supposed to be. On the first two attempts to get past the automated phone line, I kept getting returned to the main menu when I asked for a customer services rep. I gave up and tried again later and got through - after being told that they were very busy and that it might take some time to put me through. Out of interest, which big company DOESN'T say this every time you phone their call centres? Perhaps if you stopped CLOSING THEM ALL and running them with a handful of overworked staff, they wouldn't always be busy would they!! [/soapbox]

The lady told me that my branch had NOT requested a new card for me (WTF?) but that she couldn't order me one for some reason so transferred me to card services - I started to speak to them, gave my details and mid sentence got CUT OFF.

I'm now sitting here, quietly simmering whilst I eat my dinner - I can't decide whether it is even WORTH phoning them back again! :|

July 26, 2008

A sequel to Tron.. Tr2n.. with Jeff Bridges!

Writing about web page

Here's something I didn't see coming. A sequel to Tron. This horrid quality, postage stamp sized bootleg video was filmed at Comicon. Certainly looks legitimate, has Jeff Bridges and seems quite a lot darker than the original despite it still coming from Disney.

I was too young to see the original when it came out on the big screen (like so many of the films I now love) and the joy that I hoped i'd get from seeing the new Star Wars films on the big screen never really materialised.. Transformers sort of lived up to it, but hopefully this will do some justice!

I can't chuffing wait.

July 15, 2008

Fun with cycling (temporary road surfaces)

So the council have embarked on a road resurfacing scheme in the Leamington / Warwick / Kenilworth areas. All well and good but has anyone tried cycling on this surface? Not only do you get peppered with gravel from passing cars, but on a road bike its like trying to ride over the surface of the moon - larger stones cause you to veer off course, and the fear of a puncture is ever present. At one point I joined the pavement for a break but it was worse there as all the gravel was on there. I had to tackle it coming out of Leamington last night on the final approach up to the A46, and then they started on Dencer Drive and then Tainters Hill in Kenilworth this morning - also where I cycle! Arrrghh!!! I swear they're following me!

I'm genuinely curious to know exactly what the benefit of sticking all that gravel down is as I just don't understand how it contributes to resurfacing of a road considering it'll just get thrown and scattered along the sides of the road after a few days of cars passing over it? Anyone?

July 03, 2008

Diablo III

Writing about web page

I've never been much of an RPG fan - friends of mine used to be into Diablo II years back, but I was always more interested in Quake style shooters. In the last few years, prompted by the bargain price for Diablo II and the expansion pack I decided to give it another go. I got well and truely hooked into it. As time went by I did wonder whether Blizzard would ever re-visit the Diablo universe with a new title, and this weekend they finally lifted the covers off Diablo III.

Admittedly there isn't a huge amount of information at this point but as long as it exists then i'm happy. And of course Blizzard being the nice folks they are make Windows and Mac versions of all of their games - seeing as i'm a recent iMac owner, I won't have to faff about with Bootcamp whenever this game finally lands :)

Bring it on!

June 10, 2008

3G iPhone & Mobile Me..

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I don't think i'd be doing my geek duties if I didn't post up about the new 3G iPhone, and new web services from Apple.

The iPhone looks excellent - 3G and GPS now built in as standard, a new look, and a seriously reduced price. My contract with T-Mobile reaches the magical 18 month marker in November so I think i'll be gleefully skipping down to my local O2 store to buy a new iPhone. I never felt that excited about the last iPhone, but I think these last few features really help put the icing on the cake.

And if 3G & GPS are icing, then the cherry has to be Mobile Me - Exchange type services for the rest of us. Mobile email, calendaring and contacts which are syncronized back up to Apple, and subsequently accessible from any web browser on any computer. I've been using a mixture of Google Calendar and the calendar on my Nokia 6300 for a while now but couldn't be bothered with trying to get them to sync, or paying for a product that would do it. Mobile Me looks really worth a punt.

Down side is that it is £59/year. I'd have said that was a good deal a few years ago, but with the rise of Googles excellent free services, it bites a little bit.. i'll try the 2 month free trial out before I definately commit I think!

My first near miss on the bike..

Cycled to work today and had my first near miss with a careless motorist. I say careless as i'm 100% certain that I didn't do anything wrong, despite them implying otherwise.

I was cycling round the roundabout over the A46 between Leamington and Kenilworth when a guy in a silver 4x4 decided it'd be a great idea to pull out on me when I was about 5 meters from his drivers side door. I threw on the brakes whilst involuntarily shouting "Whoooooaaaa!!" - and stopped fairly close to his door. I gestured angrily and amusingly he did the same, as if implying that i'd done something wrong. I'm not quite sure exactly how he felt I was to blame as I could clearly see his face the entire time so obviously he just wasn't paying attention. He roared off and I wobbled my way towards Kenilworth feeling rather aggrieved by the whole situation.

I can say one thing for sure. If all the motorists out there who treat cyclists like some lower life form were to just do a week of riding to work, they'd have a whole new perspective on things. I've done about 160 miles on my road bike so far and i've already had the joy of a a puncture miles from home with no spares (though I learned how to replace an innertube this weekend - easy!) and now already been knocked off my bike whilst being made to feel like I was to blame. The sad fact is that the trip from Leamington to Warwick University WOULD be an enjoyable ride if it wasn't for the cars. And yes I realise that is an incredibly hypocritical statement given that I drive to work 98% of the time ;)

June 06, 2008


I cycled to work yesterday. It is still not a regular thing that I do, but when the weather is nice (as it has been for the past few days) i've found myself strangely motivated to do it and am so far enjoying it, despite being a river of sweat when I get to my destination. Despite having only done the trip to work and back about 10 times i'm already noticing a big increase in fitness, and finding it less of a struggle to do 9 miles each way.

Anyway - I was talking with a colleague here at work about punctures. He rides to work most days and asked me what I had in terms of puncture repair with me, as he'd recently suffered a puncture and was saying how much it sucked having to walk 7 or so miles back home pushing a bike. Prior to getting my road bike I did a bit of riding around on a mountain bike and had never gotten a puncture and as a result never even thought about taking a repair kit and pump around with me, and that same mentality had carried over into my road bike ownership - so I said that I didn't carry any puncture repair kit. We talked about it a bit more and he advised me to sort something out. I thought nothing more of it and headed home at the end of the day. I got as far as the A46 where suddenly I was even more aware of the rough road surface at the rear of the bike.. I began to slow down (whilst trying to avoid the traffic) and the grim realisation dawned that I had sustained my first ever puncture. Unbelievable.

I dragged the bike off the road and into a grass verge and stood scratching my head as I mulled over having to walk back to Leamington Spa, pushing a bike, along busy roads with no paths. After a few minutes of trying this I gave up and phoned my very understanding girlfriend who whizzed over to pick me up and take me back home with the bike squeezed into the back of her Ford Ka. Whilst I stood waiting for her to come by I had a look at the skinny tyre to try and see just what had done the damage, and I can only assume it was just the innertube popping after being hit too hard on one of the many many holes in the road, as no foreign objects seemed to be stuck in the tyre :(

This weekend i'll be getting a lesson from my flatmate (somewhat more experienced cyclist) on how to repair a puncture and will also probably be dropping by Mike Vaughans for a pump and some puncture repair patches!

April 03, 2008

Let the pain begin..

Follow-up to Time to become a (fair weather) cyclist.. from Cubicle with a view..

My first day cycling to work. I cycled to my girlfriends in Kenilworth last night and then from there to work, and then from work back home to Leamington - the total round trip was 18 miles.

It's fair to say i'm pretty shattered though not quite as much as I thought I would be. The ride back from Warwick Uni was 40 minutes which actually surprised me for a few reasons - firstly, it took a LOT less time than the time I came in on my mountain bike (shaved about 10 minutes off!) and secondly that time is actually comparable to the time it takes me to drive home on a heavy traffic day. Bearing in mind that I stopped a few times for a breather because of my poor fitness, I figure that I could possibly get that time down to 30 minutes - which is confusingly not that dissimilar to how long it takes in a car. How weird.

My only observation on my first day is just how frustrating it is sharing roads with motorists. I've always been quite careful to give way to cyclists and give them room, but even in this nice weather and reduced traffic (thanks to it not being term time) I found myself waiting actual minutes to get back on the road this morning after stopping to take a break because the stream of traffic was so constant. That and people pull in front of you at junctions and leave you no room to slip through - something I *always* make a concious effort to do for bikers.

Anyway - i'm going to be giving my legs (and backside) a rest tomorrow but will attempt to come in some days next week weather permitting!

I had to laugh at myself on the way back through Stoneleigh this evening. There was a cycling event on and lots of incredibly healthy guys gliding down the road without breaking a sweat on expensive bikes.. heaven knows what they made of me gasping and sweating my way past in the opposite direction - though I did get a friendly nod off one of them! :) 

March 10, 2008

Time to become a (fair weather) cyclist..

Follow-up to University Cycling Scheme from Cubicle with a view..

So following on from this post months ago, i've decided i'm going to take up cycling to work. I suppose there has never been a better time to do it.. i'm dreadfully out of shape (but motivated enough to do something about it), the traffic is probably as bad as it has ever been (and will only get worse once they start digging up Kenilworth High Street), i've spent enough money on repairing my car and making it 'my own' that I don't enjoy leaving it in the work car parks - and of course, summer is just around the corner.

I did some very cursory research on the net, and found my way onto Mike Vaughan cycles's website. I've seen / heard of Specialized bikes, and found a nice discreet looking black Allez Double. A quick email exchange and working week later I found myself at their shop temporarily exchanging my car keys for a bike they'd actually pulled out of stock and built up for me just to test. This was the first time i'd ever actually ridden a road bike but immediately felt quite at home. Did their suggested 1.3 mile round trip, and arrived back on the verge of passing out such is my appalling level of fitness, but I found the bike wonderful to ride - now I know why all of my friends have suggested getting road bikes rather than slogging it out on a comparatively cheap and heavy mountain bike.

It was incredibly easy going on flat roads (as you'd hope for something light with slick tyres), and even when it came to a relatively steep hill I didn't find myself in a hurry to hop off and walk up it instead - I just kept on going. I think with a few weeks of training prior to actually starting out cycling to work, i'll be able to breeze it. 

So i've put in the request for my voucher, and am going to go for it. If, at the end of it all i've barely touched the bike, I know that its a good enough brand (and the savings from the scheme are such) that i'll make my money back if I sell it as soon as it is repaid. 

January 28, 2008

2005 called.. they wondered what took you so long!

So this weekend my friend Matt emails me to say he picked up Guitar Hero 3 and a pair of wireless guitar controllers, and he wants to get the 'gang' over for a gaming evening with Guitar Hero included. Now i've heard lots about Guitar Hero and knew when I heard about it that it'd be a riot but for some reason it has taken me nearly 3 years to actually have a chance to play it. Embarrassing really given that I call myself a gamer.

We kicked off the gaming at about 8:30pm and needless to say ALL we played was Guitar Hero. I think it has to be one of the best games i've ever played, even as we finally admitted defeat a little before 1am - my friend Dave and I got us through the torturous Helicopter by Bloc Party and then (because i'd been waiting for it to show up in the set list the whole time we played) I had a jam on Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast. It was a blast and even though we struggled our way through Easy level (watching video clips of people playing it on Expert mode makes me break out in a cold sweat) we all well and truely embraced the spirit of the game - at one point I got down on my knees on a particularly long last note, and whilst deftly wobbling the 'wah' stick, lost my balance and knocked a bowl of crisps over the floor - probably not what most people would picture as a true 'rock and roll' moment!!

The next day my left arm hurt - i've never played guitar before, let alone attempted to play it for around 4 and a half hours straight but I knew that I needed this game in my life. I'm now currently deciding whether to pick up a cheap second hand PS2 (so I can get Gran Turismo back in my life again) or to just buy Guitar Hero for my PC..

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