Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel

I have finally got this album after much messing around from CD-WOW, a week late, thanks a lot for that folks, when you say you are going to send items on the day of release, try and stick to it. Up until now you have always been perfect, this left me very annoyed.

Thankfully I have it.

Here are reviews from elsewhere first before I say my two bits

A la Mode again

Depeche Mode - Playing the Angel

I have found this album to be better and better the more I listen to it. I must say I am not a fan of the imagework for the album, but that isn't that important, though I would have liked something better to the eye, but whatever suits the lads.

The best song personally is Precious, it was right to be released as the single, the first two tracks also for me go well - A Pain That I'm used to, John the Revelator. Damaged People was an interesting track to say the least, Lilian was a very good track as well.

Didn't think much of Macro, Suffer Well.

There really isn't a lot to say, I think this is an album that takes time to get into, I have until April to really get into it, as that is when the concert is, as the newly refurbished Wembley Arena, which I hope they have put decent soundproofing, after all the locals have been complaining about the noise of the music in recent years, well you do choose to live next door to the place.

All I would say on the album, if you know someone with a copy listen to it, if you do like the electro stuff, the likes of Goldfrapp, etc, and see how you get with the album, I think it is good, but not their best one. That still remains for me to be Violator.

Complete smoking ban not to happen

Government farce with a smoking ban

This government has managed in its typical fashion to screw up what should have been possibly the easiest piece of legislation to develop and pass.

You ask the public, if they want a ban on smoking in public, and the large majority will say yes, so it isn’t hard to create legislation that makes that happen, surely. Well in this government, that is the case, it was too hard for them.

They tried to find compromises because of certain ministers whom happen to come from outside of England, and those ministers country’s are going to ban smoking, but because of said minister – John Reid being one of them, England and lets be clear about this, England is not going to have a smoking ban, instead it is going to try and bring in a mish mash of legislation that will mean absolutely nothing, and is going to be impossible to enforce.

I am really angry about this, because again this government has completely managed to throw away a good opportunity to do something with zeal and with a clear head, and give the people what they want. Why is it possible for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland to have proper bans, but due to a certain number of ministers not acting with the people in mind, we are to suffer further.

I hate going out and coming home smelling of an ashtray, because there are so few bars/pubs/restaurants in London that are smoke free, and what beats me is why it is that London can’t be like New York, Dublin, and San Francisco. Why it is that we are so far behind the rest of the civilised world, a city that is supposed to be a leading light, is being let down so badly by this government yet again. This government is showing how old and tired it is, and is badly in need of being changed and stopping the country being short changed so much.

For me, I am hoping that the Mayor will ignore this legislation and push for a complete ban in London, and get all those people who want to go out, but refuse to put up with the smoke, and being able to enjoy what London does have to offer. It should be a city where non-smoking is the default position, not the second option

Offical line from the government

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Last exam done

What a relief, it has finally been done and out of the way.

Got my OU ED209 exam finished and boy am I glad to have that over and done with. I pray I have done well enough to get the 40% to pass, because this course has left me more than sore mental, and it left me so bored by the end, I felt like throwing it all in.

Despite that, I have signed up for next year part, which is D317, for the last time it is running, and I am doing so that I can try and finish by the end of 2007. Got to save up first to afford the final year course, which is going to be at least £900/1000, so that won't be easy, but first things first and then I can see what happens.

Just be on tender hooks come December as to how well I did in the exams, was never the best at exams, but I just hope I did okay

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pixmania - Steer well clear

This company - Pixmania, is not one you want to have any dealings with, if you want your sanity, and if you don't want your pocket to be a little lighter. My own experiences and many many others are showing this French company have no idea of customer service, they also seem to be a little unaware of an act called the Sales Goods Act we have here in this country, as they repeatedly flout it.

In my case, Z, took a digital camera she had brought in to be fixed as it was within the time allowed, they told her to wait up to 4 weeks for it to come back and it would be sent to her. Well we are in week 6, still nothing. The list of screw ups, gets larger and larger. They took our address down incorrectly, so instead of the house number being written down as 30, which it is, they wrote 20, should have seen this as the first of many many problems.

Repeated phone calls to their customer service line which is a national rate number, has given us no more information than we had 6 weeks ago. They leave you hanging on the phone when you call them, and with a national rate number, that means a £1 for about 10 minutes, not cheap, especially when you are chasing their mistakes, and their total lack of communication. We have asked repeatedly for updates and all they can do is say, well we will send an email to them in France, well that ain't enough, do more. How about you give me the name of the idiot in France so I can rip them for a complete lack of customer service and for the fact, that withholding a good that is mine, is actually not acceptable.

For anyone else who has had to suffer Pixmania and would like to find a way to complain, I have some ideas, though, not sure how effective, but if all do it then maybe something will happen, like them losing license in this country. I have the email address for the trading standards in Fulham and Hammersmith, and if you wish it, leave a message as a comment, with the email address and I am more than happy to post it to you with the persons name, so that the more people complain the better. It is also known on many other websites how poor Pixmania are.

They have managed to successfully have negative comments about them removed from some sites, by threatening them, well, surely the best thing would be to actually fix the problem, rather than deny a problem exists. It is only a problem to Pixmania if it weren't true, but the hundreds of negative comments I have seen and which I add my name to the list of, shows how pathetic this company is. If anyone knows the name of the customer service manager, I would appreciate it, I have tried through all various search engines to find it, no joy. I got one name whom I am intending to write one hell of a nasty letter to - Ulrich Jerome, Managing Director (France and N.Europe), to actually kick this person up the backside in the hope that they actually might bother to do something, though I am guessing not. And if anyone from Pixmania reads this, they should also read some of the following to realise it isn't just one person, it is multiples, like

Pixmania - Buyer BEWARE

Pixmania - More Problems

Pixmania - Even more problems

How they are rated by so many consumers

Pixmania have made it clear by my experience and many many others they don't care about customers. Well I think it is about time, they realised they should do, because sites like this one, and many many others, don't say something is wrong, unless they are hard done by, and Pixmania don't know the meaning of customer service.

If anyone has any names of the MD, CEO, customer service manager of this pathetic company that I can write a letter of complaint to, so that I can try and get the camera back, hopefully actually bloody repaired which is why it went in, in the first place, I would so much appreciate it, cause that is over £200 of my money they have which I can't seem to get back because they are refusing to say what is happening to the camera, and even where it is.

So again incase it wasn't clear through reading this, buyer BEWARE of this company whom are all around Europe, they aren't worth the time, effort and money, find someone who will actually do what they say, and for example deliver in 24 hours like they say they would, unlike this lot, 2 weeks later.

Nothing they say seems to be a truth and so again BEWARE of them

London Underground - Overruning engineering works

I know these works have to be carried out, and it is with some relief that after years and years of not being done, it is now being done. But it comes with a caveat, the private companies doing them should be heavily fined if they overrun.

It is incredulous in this day that they are unable to keep to timetable, and are allowed to impact on the morning rush hour, like this morning where there were no Piccadilly trains until 7.30am, why because of engineering works.

I think the proposal of where the company is fined £100,000 for every 5 minutes overrun, will sharpen their minds and their attitudes to actually getting the work done as they should. Plus it also means that the Tube has more money to help compensate those who are severely affected by the delays, or if all runs well, there is a better service for the commuter.

In recent weeks the private companies who won the PPP contracts, have shown a complete and utter contempt for the fact they are supposed to be ensuring a service is run, not just doing what they please, when and if they can be bothered.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Black Knight

I suppose this had to be seen to be true. Last week Z wanted to clean the windows on the house, okay I thought fair enough, no problem, what wasn't fully understood was that Z was intending to clean the ones at the top which even with a ladder are a serious stretch even with a pole and a mop. I have quite a high house, so that doesn't help matters.

Z decided that it would be a good idea to try and balance on the ladder and try to reach, sadly Z isn't quite tall enough to do it, so I ended up trying to despite a dodgy wrist and trying to reivse for the exams as well, as I feared Z would end up in A+E with a cracked skull, and me probably being given a ticking off from my mother let alone Z's mother.

Z has a tendancy to be quite fearless in situations like this stretching out to clean a window, Z even decided to climb on the outhouse to clean one of the back windows and this is with the outhouse roof not being in the best state, and not 100% dry either.

Don't get me wrong I am very appreciated of all of Z's effort, very much so, the windows look better, though being a man, not sure I notice these things like Z does. What I was more concerned about, was the thought of taking Z to A+E sitting there for hours on end, due to crap NHS, explaining away to people why I even let Z be so fearless in something that seems to be of little importance. Granted it means a lot to Z, and I understand that, but it just reminds me of the black knight in Monty Python, still trying to take on the knights despite having no arms and legs, and shouting come here, I will bite you. Z has a level of fearlessness like that, nothing will stop Z at all, no heights, no it is difficult to reach, or I might crack my skull on the concrete below, who cares. Seriously, it was me that was panicking more than Z was. Z was like, it is no big deal.

I am the one who is supposed to take care of Z, ensure all is well, ensure that injuries, damage, etc is minimal whilst Z is in London, and all Z can do is put Z in positions which could easily lead to such injuries.

I feel like nominating Z as my own black knight, and let Z take on any intruders, etc, they wouldn't last two seconds with Z I am sure of it. Me I would probably still be asleep not hearing any of the commotion......

iRiver h340

I have just got this player. I was a little unsure before buying it whether it would be the right player to get, especially with all the others in the market, what in the swung it for me was that it is meant to be the loudest one on the market and for someone who is deaf, that is a big big selling point. Which I should point out is very difficult to do now that EU has decided to ensure that players can’t be over a certain level of noise, well that is okay for those who can hear normally, but for someone like me, that stuffs me up.

I have only had the player a couple of days, so far, I haven’t upgraded the firmware, as it will mean the volume will be even less, and I am not aware of any hack I can do that will allow me to have the volume I have right now. On the player it goes from 0 to 40, well I am pushing 30/35 on most tracks. Z has listened to it as well, and found if it went above 20 it was too loud, a perfect case of my ears really being screwed, and whilst there might be an argument that I should have it low to protect my ears, a point that would be okay, if I could hear the damn thing on 20 in the first place.

For me this player is much better than the others on the market, what I found out just prior to getting it, is that it can play video and has been able to do so since May when the last version of the firmware was brought out, just I haven’t added that yet, might do, we will see. It is really nice for me, as I like the styling, it isn’t too bulky, it is just right, plenty of features, and as I am not a fan of Apple, it isn’t the iPod, so a big bonus for me.

This is the spec
iRiver h340

Another bonus is that it has a radio, which isn’t that common with a lot of players, though I know the creative player has one as well.

I am happy with it though and though I wish it was a little louder, I am told that others can hear it when I have it the volume I do, yet I don’t hear it too much, but I know if I had other players I would probably be even worse off.

If I was to recommend a player it would be the iriver h340, that is of course personal, and for me I am not keen to follow the herd, this stands me out as different and the fact it is packed with so many features in comparison to other players make me very happy of course.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

one exam down, one to go

One down one to go, finally got one of my OU exams out of the way. DSE212, so glad to have gotten it done. Didn't do too well I feel, mainly because after 15 minutes my operated wrist, my writing hand decided to give me extreme pain, and there was nothing I could do, but carry on, so for 2 hours more I soldiered on, and by 2 hours 15 minutes into the exam I could take no more and had to stop. Not bad I suppose given it was a three hour exam, and I am just hoping what I wrote made sense, otherwise, a wasted 2+ hours.

Right now I am saying I would just be happy with a pass, but I know me, if I got just a pass I would be very unhappy. So I am hoping I got at least 50%, though I think if I get between 50-70%, I would have done relatively well, given I hate exams at the best of times.

Have to wait until some time in December, but in the meantime, it is back to the books for the second of my exams on the 21st, for ED209 a subject which I and many others have come to detest over this year, as a right royal pain in the butt.

Monday, October 03, 2005

M Scott Peck

Last week M Scott Peck died. He is of course famous for the book 'The Road less travelled'.

Death of author of The Road Less Travelled

I myself have read this book in past years and actually found it to be a good read along with other books for various reasons. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine and they felt it would be a good read as well as maybe helping. It certainly gave food for thought and I think any book that can do that, has to be worth reading.

If you ever find yourself in a position where you are questionning life and the value of it, it would do no harm to read this book. The link above says a lot about the author most of which I didn't know until reading the article and it certainly shows the book in a different light. Nice to know that people can have their vices and still hand out advice.

Depeche Mode - Precious

A new release, got all three releases today, just, needed to rely on Z to get the DVD copy as the HMV near my work sold out of it. Not a fan of the new logo if I am honest, not sure what they are trying to get across but not something I like, but the music is more important.

Precious - Album Version – Very good, much better than some of the songs they have started with previously for an album release. Very smooth, not very rocky, more back to the electro style they are known for.
Precious - Sasha’s Spooky Mix (Single Edit) – Not my style, not a strong mix in my mind, maybe suits the younger people, with their love of the current style of music, but for me not a strong mix

Precious - Sasha’s Gargantuan Vocal Mix – Not much to say about this at all. I have to say the Sasha mixes are not one that have grabbed at all, but then I am used to the past mixes that DM had which were very good in most instances. They have dropped off a little in the past.

Precious - Misc. Full Vocal Mix – Of the mixes so far, this is the best one, but still leaves a bit to be desired, it is a shame, I had hoped for more.

Free – Not a bad b side, if you can call it b side these days.


Precious – Video – Like this video, quite geeky mind, a lot of computer graphics, but still like the look of the video. Not done by Anton Corbijn, which surprised me a little bit, not that I don’t like the video, I just still thought they had a close relationship with Anton and he did their videos like in the past.

Precious – Motor Mix – like this, good mix, actually, not too bassy, and an overall a good mix.

Precious – Michael Mayer Ambient Mix, another not bad mix, but can’t have it all.

I must say overall I think disc 3 possibly is the better of them all, but then that is just one person’s opinion. If you like DM a lot, then you would be wise to get all three, to add to your collections, but if you had to choose one, I would take the DVD BONG 35, as this is the better of all three.

Looking forward to the 17th October when the new album ‘Playing the Angel’ comes out. I think I might pre-order this, not 100% sure yet, but it would probably mean I would have to wait a couple of days to get it, but at least it would be cheaper than through HMV, Virgin, etc.

Creationism (Intelligent design) vs. Evolution

I saw this yesterday in my Observer newspaper -

On the seventh day, America went to court

I am a fan of the USA and there are some things they can do really well, technology is one thing that springs to mind, as well as some really good TV as well. But in recent years they are going down a road in terms of religion and science in particular that is worrying especially as the US is seen as a world leader in so many things. To me it seems like the puritan past is coming back with a vengeance.

It makes me laugh that there is such a debate between evolution and creationism. We in Europe settled this over 100 years ago when Darwin managed to convince us that evolution exists and has played a major part in how we are where we are now.

This thought that creationism should be taught as a science in schools is extremely damning of a country that was seen as a forerunner for so much science in the past. I actually pity anyone who studies in certain states where they are denouncing evolution; any science related studies you can imagine are going to be worthless to most of the outside world.

What is more scary is that there are creationist museums which show humans existing with dinosaurs. Like what is that, come on, that isn’t feasible in any shape or form, it is well known we wouldn’t have been around then. The movie 1 million years BC is a movie not reality. You do have to ask how intelligent the people pushing intelligent design are, seriously. It is almost a sketch from Bill Hicks about how un-evolved these folks are, how close together their brows are.

Here is some of the stats from the article, scary reading

The American world view

64 per cent of people questioned for a recent poll said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution in schools, while 38 per cent favoured replacing evolution with creationism.
40 per cent of Americans believe God will eventually intervene in human affairs and bring about an end to life on Earth, according to a survey carried out in 2002. Of those believers, almost half thought this would occur in their lifetime with a return of Jesus from heaven.
1 adult American in five believes that the Sun revolves around Earth, according to one study carried out last summer.
80 per cent of Americans surveyed by the CNN TV news network believe that their government is hiding evidence of the existence of space aliens.
70 per cent believe it likely that Saddam Hussein was involved personally in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Looking at these you would seriously think 20% at least of Americans are seriously uneducated. We have proven the Earth goes around the sun, yet still there are people whom think that it is the other way around, next they will be saying the earth is flat. I do have wonder just of those 1 in 5 Americans who believe the sun revolves around the earth are from the south. Bad Stereotype maybe, but you are left wondering. And this is also a country that has nukes, mmm, not a good combination.

It makes for worrying thoughts, that such a country as the US can be like this, not a good thing at all.

Good news for those going bald

For the likes of me who know their future is likely to be one of baldness, this article is a great hope, hopefully not a false dawn, but I pray I don't have the misfortune to become a slaphead when I get older, though highly likely with my family history.

Key gene 'may reverse hair loss'

As for anyone who foresees baldness happening to them, any chance to reverse it, even a little bit has to be a good thing, though with my hair being of the thin type in the first place, I can't imagine there will be a lot to recover anyway. Thankfully it hasn't taken too much of a hold yet, but I can see the years of receding hairline catching up until the point I either look like a monk, which I think isn't the style of baldness I will have, or a Phil Collins look. Rest assured I will not be doing a Bobby Charlton comb over, which previous generations of my family managed to do with way too much success.

Dogging or blogging

Apparently the great british public haven't a clue about blogging, and many seem to think it meant dogging which is seriously different to what I do when blogging.

Dogging or blogging

I won't go into explaining the differences other than to say usually when you blog you aren't expecting an audience there and then, and no steamy windows either unless you are blogging in some odd location.

It certainly shows that terms many of us think as everyday aren't getting through to the average Joe on the street.