29 June 2006
This following information is basically a reconstituted version of the original version that Martin Lewis published on his excellent site Money Saving Expert .com. There is a company called Zopa who broker loans between normal people. You can join to either lend or borrow money. Of course, they need to know what credit risk you will be so when you register they give you of going to Equifax's website and calculating your credit score ... for free! You will have to answer about six questions which are all multiple choice such as "When did you open a credit card with Provider X? a) March 2005 to June 2005 ... e) None of the above". You will have to be 100% accurate or they will fail to recognise you. A score of over 400 puts you in the top half of the UK population and if you get in to the final group, above 475, that puts you together with only 30% of the population. To join Zopa you can register here and then after you've got your score you can see what it means from the explanation on Equifax's website.
24 June 2006
Asda got around it years ago by introducing the concept of relativity into supermarkets, but I haven't had a chance yet. On the subject of Asda I was there a few months ago and came over very ill. I needed to pay for the few things I had and get out of there quickly. I went to a 'hand baskets only' checkout, which in the business is used to take about 20 items or so, a bit bigger than the '10 items or fewer' ones. The very irritating cashier turned to me and said “this is for hand baskets” only to which I replied “I only have six items”. He refused to serve me so rather begrudgingly I took my six items out of the trolley right in front of him and placed them in a basket. He reluctantly served me and I was not amused. Yes I do have the knowledge of what that checkout is really for and refusing to serve be based on my method of carrying the items is not valid. If I simply carried my items to the checkouts in my hands would he have been consistent and said “you don't have a basket, go away”? I doubt it (although I can't be certain ;-)...
23 June 2006
If you look at the heading you'll find two spellings of the word “practice” - they are both correct. To practise anything, therefore using the word as a verb, means it is spelt with an s. When the word is used as a noun, e.g. piano practice, it is spelt with a 'c'. From a GCSE website: “Think noun therefore it ends in the noun ice”. Yes, 'ice' can be used as a verb but let's not complicate things. The same applies to the word 'licence' and 'license'. Ending 'se' is the verb, 'ce' the noun. Guess what happens in the US? They spell all four words with an 's'. Curious isn't it? You'd thought they'd have used a 'z'. At least they leave 'advice' and 'advise' as separate spellings, I'll leave you to work out what each word is to be used for.
I noticed in the preceding paragraph I noticed my use of 'an' before 's' and just wanted to clarify the rule. You simply need to use an 'an' when there is a vowel sound coming next. The single letter 's' is pronounced 'ess' so you need a vowel. Likewise an 'h' is pronounced 'aitch' and not 'haitch', thus needing an 'an'. Of course the most unknown word in this whole piece has to be 'discrete'. It means to keep separate. 'Discreet' on the other hand is the more well known homonym and is the one that means secret or private.
22 June 2006
The other petrol related issue that drives me crazy is the misuse of the period. The decimal place on a garage forecourt is for when they made “marginal” increases in petrol price - namely a half penny increase. It is categorically not for a cheap marketing trick so you can set all your pros at XX.9p. It's rather fortunate however that this custom will soon end when the average price of petrol finally breaks the one pound mark. Of course, when that happens the government will be getting an incredible 80 pence of pure duty! Most garages in Kos had the price as 111 cents per litre although some multinationals, notably BP, managed to get thinner numbers to do 108.9 – swines. They all could save them a lot of time, effort and staffing costs if they just put an odometer style gauge at the front of the forecourt so that the price of the petrol rose continually as a result of the company's stock price rising (yes, it's that way around).
If you want to beat the system you could do a lot worse than logging on to PetrolPrices.com to do a weekly search to find the nearest garage to you that is selling it a the lowest price locally. My local Shell is currently selling it for 91.9p per litre, a good deal down from the local average of 94.3p. Obviously though you only want to go to the cheapest station if you are passing near it, otherwise you'll destroy any saving you'd make.
21 June 2006
Well well well well. It seems, after years of being teased for being English and wearing a kilt, I am in fact Scottish. I'd previously used the Spatial Literacy website to analyse the data from the 1881 Cenus. That showed that almost all the Gillespies were living in Scotland, with the highest density around Stirling. They've since fixed the 1998 data and you can see while a few have moved down to England, the vast majority are still in Scotland; outsourcing their genes further across the country. There is a small pocket in the North West of England (yay!) and a few near Wales and London. I can now proudly wear my Macpherson tartan and call this land my home.
20 June 2006
19 June 2006
Why did I click through those pages? Didn't I remember what curiosity did to the cat? I have now made a donation to the British Heart Foundation and agreed to try to raise a minimum of £100 for their excellent cause in the next four weeks. That's the very good part of what I've done. Oh yeah, I also have to be lifted up 100' in a rickety old crane and then jump off it and plummet to the ground for 170m on what is commonly known as a death slide. :-(
If you believe the British Heart Foundation is a worthwhile charity, or if you believe what I'm doing is dangerous enough to warrant a donation made to my charity of choice, then please follow the link and made a handsome deposit to try to prevent the biggest killer in Britain (that's heart disease & attacks, not death slides). Pictures and a report will of course be posted on the evening of Saturday 15th July.
18 June 2006
Some people are sadly working during the World Cup games. The BBC offer several matches streaming from their website. They also claim that to receive them you have to have paid your licence fee. Hmm. I'm not receiving any signals on my PC by using a RF tuner, I'm simply downloading data. I would say that you do *not* need a licence fee to watch these transmissions. Of course, that only applies to UK residents who don't already have a TV as they need to pay the licence fee that way. If you were so scared by the BBC's threats is there anything else you could do? Yes there is and there are more people in the same boat as you. Imagine if you will you that you are a real computer programmer or geek, i.e. you don't use Windows. What if you've just buggered X or what if the server you have doesn't even have X installed? These two groups of people could then watch the World Cup in what can only be described as Matrix Vision. Simply type "telnet diego.ascii-wm.net 2006" or "telnet ascii-wm.net 2006" during a live game and watch the transmission absolutely live. To go interactive you have to take the red pill, otherwise take the blue pill.
17 June 2006
16 June 2006
15 June 2006
What could possibly be next? For the past few years there has been efforts to find the "extinct" Tasmanian Tiger (or Thylacine) and a German tourist successfully managed to grab digital photographs of it in 2005 but as yet not body. In recent years the blue tiger and extinct moa have been seen in india and New Zealand respectively, as documented by Karl Shuker in his excellent book The Beasts That Hide From Man. There have been a few expeditions to the Mongolian Chinese border to hunt for the Mongolian Death Worm - that would be my number one choice for the best animal to "discover" next. A close second comes some form of living dinosaur like mokele-mbembe in the Congo...
14 June 2006
Update: It seems when PhillG.com speaks, the world listens and then reacts. Two days after this story was written public health doctors writing in the Lancet has questioned the inclusion of companies such as (specifically) McDonald's or Budweiser.
13 June 2006
Dear Phill G, It's a fair cop; you got us guv'nor. We have a blog posting trying to explain this and we certainly didn't mean any offence. Sincerely, The BBC.
My Comments from the Blog: It is a common mis-use in the UK that Holland = The Netherlands, just like in many countries it is a common misconception that England = Great Britain. As an Englishman proudly calling Scotland my home I would be devastated if I heard any country us the rational that we might as well call the GB Olympic team England because most people refer to it that way. Furthermore just because it's a common mistake doesn't mean it's okay (that's why I have correct apostrophe's in my post). As for the argument that the Netherlands call their team Holland, that's certainly not what it says on their badges or on the FIFA World Cup Site. Maybe BBC Four could cover the World Cup and Jullian Fellows could host it?
Most Interesting Other Comment from the Blog: Another common mistake I've heard is many commentators referring to Shevchenko's team as "the Ukraine" instead of just "Ukraine."
12 June 2006
11 June 2006
UPDATE: No sooner had I typed these words, then the legend Kris Radlinkski makes his decision to come out of retirement to make sure Wigan avoid relegation! This may cause further long term damage to his knee but he's willing to sacrifice it to protect a club that has given him everything. Not just that but he is doing it for free, he has expressly said he does not want paying (which is good because Wigan have used up all their salary cap). What's next, Andy Farrell to recover from injury and switch codes back to Wigan?
9 June 2006
On to more established and guaranteed shows, Talk Radio starring winner of last year's Best Actor award Phil Nichol (yes the comic from above), the legendary Mike McShane, winner of the Perrier Award in 2004 Will Adamsdale and so many more. Oh yes, it's also Stewart Lee's first directing since Jerry Springer The Opera. It will be one of the most talked about shows of the year. Ed Byrne is playing as always and no doubt he'll sell out faster than ever. NewsRevue is the world's longest running comedy show and every year it has delivered excellent sketches, far better than the rubbish littering TV at the moment.
Finally we have several new-ish performers who are well worth a look especially Russell Howard, Dutch Elm Conservatoire (strangely nominated for the Perrier last year even though they do not fit the criteria), Andrew Lawrence, Mark Watson, Will Smith (saw last year) and finally Sarah Kendall (my god, a woman, two years after seeing the awful Lucy Porter!). If you are looking for something a bit more mainstream try Danny Bhoy and Jeff Green. Robin Ince is worth a look if you've never seen him before. There are some free BBC Radio shows with a "Best of the Fest" line up, you just need to grab the tickets in advance.
For those other people like me who enjoy the odd film, the Edinburgh International Film Festival launches on Wednesday 12th July with tickets going on sale on the Friday. Stay tuned for my updates for that ;-)