28 September 2009

X Factor final 24

The X Factor has finally progressed beyond its endless parade of mentally impaired and recently bereaved people, to a stage where you start to actually know who some of them are. Yes, it's the Judges Houses, and from a pool of thousands of delusional retards we're now down to 24, some of whom can actually sing! It's exciting, I know.

However, I'm not actually thrilled by their chosen selection. When they showed them all, I thought "Really? One of them is going to win? Oh." So that's not exactly great. There are also some that I want to kill with a claw hammer, but I suppose the X Factor wouldn't be the X Factor if you couldn't scream in rage at the screen from time to time.

So, let's see who we've got.

The boys - Cheryl Cole
Cheryl's got a fair group of boys, considering I think they're a harder group to work with as the voters don't always warm to them. I don't know much about Duane Lamonte, and Rikki Loney is just some boy in a hat. Ethan Boroian is sort of cute, and so is Lloyd Daniels, even if he is a bit young. He's a big improvement on Eeyore Quigg at any rate. The other ones don't really stand out for me, so I guess Ethan and Lloyd are my favourites. Not sure they've got the strongest voices though.

The girls - Dannii Minogue
This is easily the strongest category every year, so Dannii's lucky they gave it to her. To compensate for her lack of musical knowledge or talent, they also revealed Kylie would be helping her out in picking her final three. Shame they can't ditch funny-nostrilled Dannii in favour of Kylie completely. I don't really know much about the girls though, because they've hardly shown most of them. There are a couple of quite good Staceys I think, and a girl called Rachel who fell on her face in her eagerness to get a closer look at Dannii's nose.

The overs - Simon Cowell
Simon seemed quite pleased with his category, and I think he's probably got my favourite act so far, Nicole Lawrence. Yes she milked the death of her Dad a bit, but she has that whole big fat black woman with a great voice thing going on which really does it for me. He also has Jamie Afro, who I can't stand, and bizarrely has managed to find two people who can't spell Daniel properly. One of them I hate, I think it's Danyl Johnson, as he's a complete and utter wank spittoon. It's one thing to give a confident audition, but it's quite another to completely frig yourself off on stage while shouting your own name (he didn't actually do that, but he may as well have). He's a knob anyway. I'm sure Simon won't keep both him AND Jamie Afro though, they're too similar in their wanky styles, so at least one of them should get the chop.

The groups - Louis Walsh
And once again, Louis has the groups. The only thing I have to say about this category, is what the FUCK? What the HELL are John and Edward still doing there? They're TERRIBLE and they can't sing. Louis says they 'have something'. The only thing they're going to have is Louis' cock in their mouths as he forces them to nosh him off. He doesn't even like novelty acts so what the hell is he doing? Actually, I know what he's doing, he's just always fancied the idea of a threesome with twins, so now that he's got two blond Irish twins in his power he must be doing a leprechauny celebration jigdance all the way to his sex dungeon. They have to go, they just have to, in the name of all that is holy. And for child protection reasons.

So, that's the X Factor for this year. Not thrilling, and a possibly mediocre Christmas Number One on the way. I'll still watch it of course, and some of them may even grow on me. You never know.

More silly protests

There was another anti-government protest in Brighton at the weekend, apparently attended by Sloth from The Goonies (see picture - courtesy of the Argus).

As if the Labour Party Conference weren't disruptive enough for the citizens of Brighton, we also have to put up with vague and pointless protests cluttering up our streets.

Fortunately, this one seemed rather smaller than the Smash EDO idiocy, and by the time I ventured down to the seafront to take a look it appeared to consist of a man standing on a plinth and some bored-looking policemen. I was pleased to see that there were also stacks and stacks of unused placards on Madeira Drive, where they'd clearly not had as many people turn up as they'd been hoping for.

As with the previous protest, it was the diffuse and varied aims of this one that really made it pointless for me. Some people seemed upset about bankers' bonuses; some didn't want cuts in public services; some thought Vestas should be nationalised (er, bit late); some were anti-war; and some were just generally anti-anything because they think protesting is cool. The problem with that, I feel though, is that the protest doesn't end up achieving anything, because no one is really sure why they're there.

This one was particularly pointless because I'm sure it caused no disruption at all to the Labour Party delegates, who were safely tucked up inside the windowless Brighton Centre and probably couldn't hear or see any of what was going on.

I also don't really get some of the arguments that the protesters make. Some of their placards said "Fight for the right to work", which I found odd. There isn't an unlimited supply of jobs out there, and I don't think the Human Rights Convention says we all have a right to a job which the government must provide and pay for.

The 'no cuts in public services' ones also seemed misguided. There is a huge deficit in the public finances which has to be repaired. Regardless of how it got there (I'll come to that in a minute), it has to be remedied. The country doesn't have secret stacks of cash it's keeping squirrelled away - the only way to cut the deficit is to make cuts in spending, or raise taxes. They seem to think that just 'taxing the rich' more is going to sort it out, but it's not realistic. Why do they think that all the major parties have acknowledged the need for cuts? Even Labour says so now, after trying to dodge the word cuts for ages. Efficiency savings won't be enough, there need to be actual cuts, and we will all feel the effects. But the alternative is a much longer and more painful recession or depression - you can't just ignore the problem and expect the economy to sort itself out.

There was quite a bit of talk about bankers' bonuses too, and apportioning of blame on the banking sector for our financial woes. While I agree it was the bursting of the credit bubble and overly-risky investing by the banks that dragged the economy down, outlawing bankers bonuses is a purely populist measure that won't actually fix the state we're in. Yes the banks behaved badly - but the problem was that they were allowed to do so. We should be talking now about much tighter financial regulation and imposed margins on the banks' balance sheets, to ensure it doesn't happen again. Complaining about bonuses doesn't address the real issue at all.

And yes it's annoying that some of the people who caused this are still getting big bonuses. Fine. The banks shouldn't be giving those people financial rewards, if they've even still got their jobs. But the issue isn't an across-the-board one for all banks, and the backlash against the financial world will only discourage the bright and talented people we need to repair the damage from joining the sector. The same as with the social workers/Baby P thing: now no one wants to be a social worker, so there are no good social workers out there fixing a flawed system.

Anyway, I've digressed a little. The protest was pointless, and to me it achieved nothing except some venting of anger and to confirm for me that lots of people really don't understand economics, politics, or how the country works in general.

21 September 2009

Trinity - first episode

As I mentioned last week, the new ITV series Trinity started on Sunday.

It did indeed deliver plentifully on the Christian-Cooke-getting-naked side (see photo) as I had hoped, but other than that it was baaaaaaaaaad! Some of the acting was really, really terrible, and the writing was mediocre at best.

Christian Cooke was OK in it; he plays a smug upper-class playboy called Dorian, and so it's fine that his character has very little depth to it, that's how he's meant to be. They've made him do a posh accent for it though, and he just sounds a bit silly.

The main posh girl is very hammy, as is the seemingly evil lecturer/doctor man. They play it like it's a cartoon really, which then doesn't fit with some of the other characters who are more normal.

It felt a bit like it was written by someone who's never been to university, and who has certainly never been to Oxford or Cambridge, but they've heard that "it's a bit like this". I wasn't sure if it was meant to be a comedy, or a thriller, or a drama really.

Dorian is the only character they make get naked, none of the girls even got their baps out, but that's fine because he's the only one I'm interested in seeing naked anyway. They do rather overplay that card I have to say, he was barely clothed at all, but I'm a superficial individual so it suited me perfectly and distracted me from the attempt at a plot.

I'm going to watch the second episode because it looks like it might get going a bit more next week (they had a bizarre 10-minute-long 'coming up next week' montage at the end that basically showed you everything). Perhaps it was a slow start because they had to introduce all the characters, and the Dandelion Club, and the mystery surrounding the religious girl's father. So we shall see if it improves.

I'm not saying I'll stop watching it, it wasn't that bad, and the nudity was ample reward. But it has a definite ITV2 feel to it that left me feeling slightly unclean afterwards.

17 September 2009

How to keep a healthy level of insanity

I was going through some old emails and I found this and I liked it, so here it is.

How to keep a healthy level of insanity

1. At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.

2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don't disguise your voice.

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "in"

5. Put decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone is over their caffeine addictions, switch to espresso.

6. In the memo field of all your cheques, write "for sexual favours".

7. Finish all your sentences with "in accordance with the prophecy."

8. Dont use any punctuation marks

9. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

10. Ask people what sex they are. Laugh hysterically after they answer.

11. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go".

12. Sing along at the opera.

13. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don't rhyme.

14. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.

15. Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name

16. When the money comes out the ATM, scream "won!", "I won!" "3rd time this week!!!!!"

17. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the parking lot, yelling, "run for your lives, they're loose!!"

18. Tell your children over dinner. "due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go."

Stupid Orange - or stupid Sony Ericsson?

I hope that Melany from Sony Ericsson is as on the case as she was last week, and miraculously finds this post while trawling the internet for discussions of their mobiles. Maybe she can offer some helpful advice in the comments? (holds breath)

I got my C510 back yesterday, about half a week earlier than I was expecting, which was a nice surprise. I got them to turn it on in front of me in the shop to make sure it was working, and all seemed fine. Sony Ericsson have upgraded the firmware to the latest version, and you can tell that some improvements have been made to it because it seems to function a little better. For one thing it doesn't hang for 10 seconds every time you try to go into the contacts directory, so I thought "oo, things are looking up".

It was fine all last night, and I got it set up again pretty much how I had it before. The only thing I noticed was that the battery seemed to run down quite quickly, but I attributed that to the fact I was using it a lot and launching and closing applications all the time.

This morning it was also fine and let me listen to music on the way to work and check my Twitter. All fine and dandy it seemed. Until after about an hour of being at work, I noticed it was off. Strange, I thought, and turned it back on. Then I plugged it in to charge it, and it was suddenly off. No shut down sequence, just off.

Hmm, I thought. The battery can't have been that low, it would have warned me.

After a bit of searching on the internet (AGAIN), I found that indeed Sony Ericssons do have a habit of switching off randomly. Chris just bought one, and it had to go back to the shop the next day and be replaced for the same reason; we just thought it was a faulty handset.

The helpful internet forums suggested reflashing the firmware (erm, possibly not going to help in my case), OR that it could be a notorious loose battery problem that you get on SE phones. Some people complained that tapping their phone on its side would cause it to switch off. I gingerly tapped my phone against the desk, and off it went. I turned it back on, tapped it, and off it switched again. When I opened the back, I found that yes the battery was able to slide about slightly, roughly a millimetre from side to side. The gold contacts were also a bit grubby.

I have cleaned the contacts, and have insert two small pieces of paper next to the battery, which prevent it from moving. It's been on for a while now charging, and I have tried tapping it from various angles without any ill effects.

So... is it fixed? I'm not sure. Why did it start doing this switching off thing suddenly? Who knows. I'm not particularly happy, but stupid and ridiculous as this folded paper thing seems, if it fixes it I don't care.

I'm very disappointed in Sony Ericsson though. I thought they were like the best phone make. Why can't any electrical products be made to proper standards any more? The amount of things I've had to take back to the shop - cameras, televisions, phones - it's just ridiculous. I don't remember such problems when everything used to be made in Japan, maybe it's cheap Chinese and Korean components that cause it.

Well anyway, I guess I'll just keep an eye on it. I can't be arsed to take it back to the shop AGAIN. Everyone think good thoughts about my phone...

15 September 2009

Trinity starts this weekend!

Quite a while ago I wrote a post about vampire-smiting fitty Christian Cooke, and his upcoming new series Trinity. Well, it's been a while coming, but I learnt recently that it's going to start this weekend!

It's on ITV2, so they're obviously not expecting it to be a massive ratings winner initially, but that's fine. I know very little about it, except that it's set at a place called Trinity College, it is vaguely spooky in nature, and it will feature gratuitous Christian Cooke toplessness. In fact, having had a look at a bit of the first episode online just now, there may even be some bottom action too. So that's pretty much enough to sell it to me already. Not that I'm shallow or anything.

You can find out more about it on the ITV website. I particularly like their optimistic bit of text that says 'Are you hooked on Trinity? Join the show's Facebook group now' before it's even been on the television.

11 September 2009

Stupid Orange

*** Update May 2010: You may also want to see my more recent post in which I successfully FIXED a phone with this problem at home! ***

This isn't a rant about citrus fruit (I'll save that for later, stupid vitamin-filled bastards), but rather a complaint about Orange Mobile and their shoddy merchandise and shoddy customer service.

I have been without my phone for the last week, and will continue to be so for next week as well. I've only had the bloody thing for five months, it's a Sony Ericsson C510, but last Saturday it decided to keel over and die. What was I doing that taxed it beyond reasonable limits? Trying to text my Mum. Possibly the most mundane and easy thing you can do on a mobile.

Having done some searching on the web, I realise now that I'm not the only Sony Ericsson owner this has happened to, and there were precautions I could have taken to prevent it. But of course before it died I had to reason to take them, so I didn't.

Basically, either the software or the memory or both decided to fail. I got as far as 'Send message', when it suddenly said "Memory full. Delete a file of your choice? Yes/No". I said yes, and then the phone karked it. It crashed beyond recovery (I had to take the battery out), and then displayed this exciting list of symptoms:

  • no access to the network, or indeed any network. (The manual helpfully said "try changing your location if you cannot access your network." Er, no.)
  • no access to the phonebook, it locked up if you even tried.
  • inability to charge the phone, as when you plugged it in it said "Please use a Sony Ericsson battery" and then refused to cooperate, even when I shouted "IT IS A FUCKING SONY ERICSSON BATTERY" at it.
  • all menu text had changed to black on a black background, so you couldn't read anything. Well, in fact you could, because the highlighted menu item remained white, you just couldn't see any of the other options in the list until you moved up or down. So that made navigation very exciting as you never knew what was coming next.
  • unable to connect the phone to the PC, as the Sony Ericsson Phone Suite programme thingy refused to recognise the phone.
So, all in all, it was fucked.

The helpful information I found on the web blamed a software error, and said it might be resolved if you updated the firmware. Indeed, on the Sony Ericsson site, there was a new version which proudly proclaimed it would resolve certain errors and improve memory access. Well, that's lovely, but it was a bit fucking late now that my phone was dead and I couldn't connect it to the PC to wipe it and reload the software. I also couldn't back up my contacts directory onto the computer, or even onto the SIM, because it couldn't access it.

So after a couple of hours of futilely turning it on and off and hoping it magically healed itself, I took it back to the Orange shop.

Were they concerned, apologetic, sympathetic and helpful? No.

I got some woman, who I assume must have been the store manager judging by her rather casual attire and blasé attitude, and explained that the phone was busted.

"Oh right. Well it'll have to go back to Sony Ericsson to be fixed then. They'll wipe it and reload the software. We're not fixing them ourselves any more, we're sending them straight to them" (a big hint, I think, that other people have had the same problem). "It'll take 10 days."

"10 days, or 10 working days?"

"10 working days."

"So two weeks then. What do I do for a phone in the meantime?"

"You'll have to use an old handset if you've got one."

"I have one, but it doesn't work very well, that's why I bought a new one. Isn't there anything else you can do for me?" (I was hoping for a courtesy phone, which I know they can do because I could see the space on the form for it)

"Not unless you have another old handset."

"So that's a no then. What about my numbers?"

"I'll back them up onto your SIM for you." (starts jabbing with her podgy fingers at the buttons)

"You can't. As I said, you can't access the phonebook."

"Well you'll lose your numbers then."

"Oh. Thanks."

And that was it! No apology, no nothing. I'm now just waiting for a call to say the phone is back and I can go and get it. I'm hoping it'll be before the end of next week, but based on my experience so far it's more likely to be the start of the week after.

So I've got no 3G any more, and I'm stuck with my crappy LG Chocolate which looks nice but works like it was programmed by illiterate paraplegics with severe brain injuries.

My advice to you if you're reading this post because you've searched for Sony Ericsson C510 on Google is to install the Phone Suite programme thingy and back up your phone now. Then, if you know what you're doing, upgrade your software to the latest version. I'm not sure if that means you lose any network-specific customisations (mine had special Orange links built into the menus), but it's probably worth it to keep the phone from dying.

It's a shame, because I loved my C510, it's the best phone I've ever had, and most people have told me Sony Ericssons are really good. Maybe it'll come back in tip top condition and I'll have no more problems with it, but whatever happens it'll be no thanks to Miss Piggy of the Brighton Orange shop.

07 September 2009

Gender pay gap in the City

There's an article on BBC News this morning, Gender pay gap in the City 'shocking', that says that women in the financial sector in London get paid far fewer bonuses than men. Some equality bod says in it that "the sector must take action to redress this shocking disparity of rewards", and the government has talked about tough new measures to tackle the pay gap.

I would agree that if men are receiving five times more in bonus payments than women, and if women aren't reaching the upper echelons of the companies solely because they are women, then that's shocking and should be redressed.

The article blames entrenched recruitment patterns, and practices which intentionally or not inhibit women's success for the disparity.

BUT, I also read this article in the Economist this week, called Risky business. The article outlines a study on attitude to risk, which is important in a lot of financial jobs, and the levels of testosterone in a person's body. The study claims that if you look at people as individuals, regardless of sex, and factor in their testosterone levels, any perceived sexism vanishes. Men and women with the same testosterone levels performed the same in the study, from those who were more risk-averse to those who were more comfortable with it.

When the study tracked people through into their careers, they found the same correlation between testosterone levels and where they ended up: those with higher levels were more likely to choose risky jobs in finance.

So based on that, I now don't know what to make of the first article on pay disparity. If bonuses and promotions in the financial sector are linked to performance, and if those with higher testosterone levels (admittedly being mostly men) perform better, is it really sexist? And is it realistic to introduce quotas and other measures to eliminate the pay gap? That could artificially reward women whose performance doesn't merit it.

It's an interesting argument anyway, and one that probably hasn't been considered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It's only one study of course, so more work would be needed to corroborate it, but it muddied the waters for me rather and gave me something to think about.

04 September 2009

Robbie Williams to release new single, 'Destination Failure' (or something)

Further to my previous post about beached manatee Robbie Williams, I have today had the good fortune to listen to his forthcoming new single, Bodies. You can listen to it here if you wish, but you may want to have a towel handy to stuff into your mouth to stop yourself from laughing and/or throwing up on your keyboard.

I say it was good fortune purely because it made my day, and not because I was impressed by what his label describes as the "apocalyptic conspiracy-laced" nature of this musical feast.

Put simply, it's terrible. Really REALLY terrible. Robbie, in between stuffing meat pies into his filthy craw, has described the single as a "turning point in his career" that will determine his future direction. I think I can give him a good idea of his future direction, if pointers is what he needs: it will be straight to the Mr Kipling aisle of his local Asda to cram as many battenburgs (or as he calls them, 'hug substitutes') into his fat pudding face before he gets whisked back off to rehab.

Just in case listening to the song doesn't impress its full majesty upon you, I think it is worth transcribing some of the lyrics:

Bodies in the Bodhi tree (<-- what the fuck?)
Bodies making chemistry (<-- no)
Bodies are my family
Bodies in the way of me
Bodies in the cemetery
And that's the way it's gonna be

All we've ever wanted
Is to look good naked (<-- ha! vain hope, porker)
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection
I want perfection

It's awesome isn't it? He must have employed a really good lyricist to write that. Either that or he consulted Natasha Bedingfield's masterpiece, The Big Book of Shit Lyrics and got them from there.

As you can tell, I'm not a huge fan. In fact, I really don't like Robbie Williams, I think he's a fat twat who needs putting out to pasture. But that works out fine, because thanks to this single pretty soon everyone else will be thinking that too.

02 September 2009

Bye bye summer

It feels like the summer holidays are well and truly over now. For the first time in ages, I woke up this morning and it was too gloomy to see my alarm clock properly. It was raining outside, and the whole world looked grey. Chris has gone back to work, the kids are back at school from tomorrow, and pretty much that means it's now autumn and the summer is over.

I'm not one of those people who bleats on about us 'not getting a proper summer this year' though. It's actually been very hot at times, including very early on around April or May when it was roasting hot and I got sunburn. Admittedly, it has also been quite a wet summer, and there were long periods of howling wind and rain, but I've managed to get quite a good tan and spend a fair bit of time sat on the beach, so it's not all bad.

Work will slowly start to pick up pace again now. The first students (the PGCE ones) will be starting next week I think, and then soon after that the international students will arrive, and then the freshers. I hope there are some fit ones, it has been ages since there has been any proper eye candy on campus. The university is thoroughly dull during the vacations - it's not the best place for facilities normally, and in the holidays what little there is closes so there's nothing at all! There's not even a proper bar here, what kind of campus is that?? So it'll be nice once there's a bit of life on campus again.

We're hoping to go away on holiday in half term, having not had a proper trip away in quite a while. We were thinking Sitges, but that won't be all that sunny in October apparently, so we might go to Gran Canaria again with some of our friends. At least that'll be something to look forward to as the depression of the autumn term sets in.

This morning I am amusing myself by trying out Tumblr, which is a blog engine type thing. It seems quite good - it's mostly for sharing pictures and videos and things, and then you re-post ones you like from other people's Tumblr pages. I was hoping there would be an easy way of importing my posts on it into here, but there doesn't seem to be. I don't really want to run two different blogs, but I like the way Tumblr works, and it has a prettier interface than Blogger (which is frankly quite ugly). I'll see if I start using it properly before I worry about that anyway. In the meantime, here is a really REALLY pretty boy that I found on there. He's so yummy that I just want to bite him. Is that weird?