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  1. Stupid backwards watch

    26 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Something you read online. Leave a link and discuss, if you’d like

    I read a lot of things online. It’s pretty much all I do all day when I find I haven’t got very much work to do. Sometimes I feel like I’ve read every article on the BBC News website, because all the links have changed to the visited colour where I’ve at least skimmed them.

    So picking one thing I’ve read, and that I thought you might find interesting, wasn’t all that easy. In the end I chose this:

    Do we need watches to tell us more than the time? – BBC News

    It’s an article by their tech people about smartwatches, discussing what’s already available and when and if they might become the next big thing.

    I love technology and I love gadgets. I don’t spend all that much money on them, I’m too tight-fisted, but I love looking at them in shops and I’ll occasionally treat myself to a middle-of-the-range reasonably priced version of something cool. I wish I had enough money to buy all the things that excite me. At the same time though, I think they’re more exciting when you don’t or can’t have them – I’ve seen quite a lot of examples of buyer’s remorse with gadgets. Only a few weeks ago I desperately, desperately wanted a Nexus 7 tablet and couldn’t stop looking at them on the internet. Then I went into Curry’s and played with one for five minutes, realised I’d never use it for anything, and thought thank fuck I didn’t order one. They’re lovely and very reasonably priced, but they don’t fill any need in my life that isn’t already covered by other technology, so there was just no point.

    I do quite like the idea of a smartwatch though, if they end up being able to perform enough useful functions. I can imagine finding a watch much more convenient than a phone – because it’s always there on your wrist, you can’t drop it accidentally, and you can’t leave it lying around. I don’t actually use my phone as a phone very often at all; it’s just a small computer than can connect via 3G and which happens to be able to make phone calls.

    The only real issue I have with the concept of a smartwatch is that the screen is always going to be small. I have particularly slender wrists (I’m willowy), so even if Samsung went their usual way of making an outsized device in order to create more screen space, I could never actually wear it.

    So how will companies overcome that? I really don’t know. The things I use my phone for most are browsing the internet, social media things, and listening to music. It fills a gap in my life when I’m not sat in front of a computer, basically, so I’m pretty much always on some form of computer while I’m awake now. I don’t see that there are many things I do on my phone that could be transferred over to a watch completely. Using a watch as a second screen for your phone, like the Pebble, is a reasonable idea, but it only lets you do quite small things and it wouldn’t be enough to make me buy one.

    Maybe the answer is that the watch needs to do things I don’t currently do on my phone, so that rather than trying to take things away from an already successful technology, it carves out its own niche in my life. But what those things could be, I really don’t know.

    No doubt I’ll do what I always do – wait a few years until the technology has been polished up by the early adopters and the price has come down, then join the party late. The thought of what could happen with watches though makes my current watch, with its little analogue hands moving slowly around driven by cogs, look bizarrely prehistoric.

  2. Listen

    25 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad)

    I racked my brains over this one, because I honestly can’t remember very many things that people have told me about myself. I’m sure someone must have done at some point; but maybe I just wasn’t particularly interested in what they had to say so didn’t bother storing it.

    In the end I could only think of one example, so that’s what you’re getting.

    I was sat outside a pub in Geneva, where I lived for a year while I was at university, talking to my friend Paulina. I can’t even remember what we had been talking about, but she’d had some worry or difficulty that she’d been explaining to me. And after a while she said “Thanks, you’re a really good listener.”

    It took me a little by surprise, because as far as I was aware I hadn’t really been doing anything. I wasn’t trying to be a good listener, I was just letting her talk because she needed to talk, and being interested in what she had to say. But afterwards it made me think that maybe I am a good listener after all, and maybe I’d like people to think that of me. So I started making more of a conscious effort to listen to my friends.

    It’s not a very difficult thing to do really. Being shy helps, because it means I’m quite happy for the other person to talk usually so I don’t have to think of anything to say. And often if the person is explaining their troubles to you, they don’t actually want you to fix it or suggest a solution. They just want to talk it through with someone, to verbalise it, and to have you say “I’m sorry, that does sound rough”. Just doing that helps them, because they’re not bottling it up and they know they have someone else’s sympathy.

    So that’s my thing. Paulina told me I’m a good listener, so I became one. Thanks Paulina.

  3. Speak up, you petty, arrogant wanker

    24 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Your top three worst traits

    1) Shyness

    I’ve already covered this in some of my other May posts, but I am quiet and I am shy. It’s worse in certain situations, and I’m less shy than a lot of people, but it still has a negative effect on the way I interact with people sometimes. I wish I could change it, and I have improved over time I think, but really it’s just me and I’m just stuck with it.  It’s quite annoying though.

    2) Pettiness

    I am a very, very petty, small little man sometimes. I bear a grudge like nobody’s business, and I exact revenge on people I don’t like in a number of tiny, pointless little ways. I once put olive oil in someone’s honey at university. I also threw a banana belonging to that person out onto a flat roof. Not while they were around, of course, but behind their back – I’m not mental.

    If I don’t like someone at work, I might glare at their empty chair as I walk past it.

    If someone is moving too slowly down the street, I do that spaz face where you stick your tongue down behind your lower lip at the back of their head.

    It’s always pathetic little expressions of my disgust that the person won’t ever know about. Well, she might have noticed the honey tasted weird. But I don’t in fact want to change this about myself – I get a tiny, petty thrill out of these stupid wastes of my time.

    3) Arrogance

    I’m quite clever. I’ve always been more intelligent than most of my peers, and I like it. I tend therefore to think that I’m right practically all the time, and it sticks in my craw if someone points out that I’m wrong about something. I realise that it’s arrogant to assume that you know more than someone else, but to be honest I usually do. So what am I meant to do? Let them prattle on wrongly, using up valuable seconds of my life with their wrongness? I don’t think that’s reasonable.

    So I don’t mind that I’m arrogant really. I hide it fairly well most of the time, and being quiet masks some of it, so I don’t think I have a poor reputation for arrogance. But it does mean that I have to expect to get violently bumped onto my arse every so often when someone swans along knowing more about a topic than I do. The know-it-all bastards.

  4. Big kids

    23 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you 

    I had to think about this one for a while, but in the end all the things I came up with seemed to have to do with children’s perception of adults – either the perception they create themselves, or the one adults ask children to have.

    So the first thing I’ve learnt that school won’t teach you is this: adults are just children in bigger bodies.

    When you’re a child, you might typically think that your parents and your teachers know everything. That they’re always right. That they generally know what they’re doing. That they’re sensible and grown up, and probably a little boring. This, however, is false.

    Adulthood seems to consist of a learned veneer of maturity and a way of speaking with a degree of confidence. But underneath, we’re all just big kids. We might speak to children (and adults, in formal situations) in a lofty, knowledgeable way, but lots of adults when left alone in a group will just talk about rude things because it’s titillating. We’ll make idiotic jokes. We’ll talk about people who we don’t like, and encourage other people not to like them either. We’ll hope that other people like us, and secretly worry that they don’t. We’re just unsupervised children with driving licences and credit cards.

    Lots of adults aren’t very confident either, even if they seem it, and lots don’t seem to know anything at all. They might know more than a child, but there is a reason why children have a reputation for asking difficult questions – it’s because if you press most adults beyond their veneer of knowledge, there isn’t actually very much underneath.

    We need children to trust adults because adults have to exercise authority to keep them safe. If an adult says drinking bleach is dangerous, a suspicion that the adult doesn’t know what they’re talking about is not going to be advantageous to the child. So I’m not advocating that we reveal our flaws and foibles to our offspring. I suppose I am instead just musing that there must come a point where a child will realise the truth on their own. And at that point the child could choose to start behaving like an adult if it pleased them, and all they’d be missing is the bigger body.

    Related to this is the second thing I’ve learnt that school won’t teach you: it’s OK to question what you’re told. In fact, it’s very important to question what you’re told.

    This is a funny one, because children spend their earliest years being instructed to accept knowledge as it is presented to them. We might say we want them to be independent learners, but for all the core stuff, basic skills, social mores, and anything to do with any religion they’re being instructed in, we actually just want them to shut up and memorise.

    It’s only later in their education that they start to be told that this is a very bad thing. By postgraduate level, you’re not meant to be reading and regurgitating – if you aren’t questioning the text you’re reading, you’re not reading it right. But what happens if children never get told when they start questioning things? If it’s left too late, or they never learn that lesson, they go through life accepting things just because someone says so in a loud voice, or because it’s printed in a newspaper or written on a webpage.

    This is a very, very bad thing. As mentioned earlier, lots of adults don’t know what they’re talking about. Accepting what they say is a recipe for disaster. Learning about something, hearing different points of view, and making up your own mind based on evidence, is extremely important, and not enough people seem able to do it.

    So I suppose my advice to children would be – yes listen to adults, but be a little cautious. Look at a dictionary or an encyclopaedia (it’ll be an online one, I imagine, so make it reputable) and don’t be afraid to check things. Taking control of your own learning is one of the most valuable things you’ll ever do.

  5. People are useless

    22 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Rant about something 

    There are many things which annoy me, but one of things which annoy me at work (and I don’t think this is limited to my organisation) is that so many people are USELESS.

    They can’t read anything properly.

    They can’t reply to anything in an intelligible fashion.

    They’re only interested in their own field of work, nothing else is remotely important, and whatever you’re working on is piffling in comparison so you need to drop everything the minute they need something from you.

    But the thing that really gets my goat at the moment is people who can’t give their attention to ANYTHING unless they’re in a meeting about it. Somehow, without discernibly producing anything of value most of the time, they’re ‘too busy’ to think about any topic until you’ve got them sat down around a table.

    Several times I’ve had people say to me ‘Oh yes, we must have a meeting about [blah], it’s really very urgent and important’.

    ‘Hmm, really?’ I’ve thought. ‘Could you not just send me an email about it? No, OK, we’ll meet in four weeks’ time, the earliest window you’ve got in your busy and important schedule to discuss it.’

    Meeting day comes around. They describe what it is they want on the website. I say yes that’s fine, you just need to produce [whatever content it is, usually a few hundred words of text, maybe with an idea of what structure they want].

    And then… nothing. NOTHING HAPPENS. Months pass. Literally months. I’m not exaggerating. In one case I actually waited TWO YEARS for them to do this (remember it was urgent) piece of work, without which I cannot do the work they demanded from me.

    Usually after the first few months have passed, they contact me again to ask if we can have another meeting ‘to review where we’ve got to and keep this moving’. With a sigh, I agree to the meeting, in another four weeks’ time. We get to meeting day again, and I ask what happened with them writing the content we agreed upon.

    ‘Oh we haven’t started that yet, never enough time in the day’ – carefree laugh.

    So NOTHING. You have done nothing at all. And now we have to have essentially the same meeting again, where we agree on the same actions, and I leave the room knowing that I’ll probably never hear anything about it again until the next meeting.

    How can people work like this? How much money is wasted paying salaries around the world so people can sit in rooms, discuss a subject, and then produce NOTHING?


    Office work has a reputation for feeling and being futile, and it is well deserved. Pushing paper around can seem a bit pointless. But meetings with idiots are in my opinion one of the worst parts of working in an office. If you haven’t completed the actions from your last meeting, you shouldn’t be allowed to have any more until you do. And if you haven’t done them after two weeks you should be shot in the neck and composted.

  6. HSBC has given my blog about a million hits

    21 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives

    There is one set of posts that immediately leaps to mind when I think about my blog. They date from 2010 and recount the saga of a set of complaints I sent to HSBC about their fraud prevention policies and customer service. Even today, almost three years later, they still get more hits than any other posts on my blog, and have slowly accumulated more and more comments from people with experiences similar to my own.

    My protracted argument with HSBC, and the subsequent £100 that they gave me to shut me up, marked the start of me being a much more assertive consumer, and one who is much more willing to take their custom elsewhere if a company behaves badly.

    The posts are a bit long, because they recount my and HSBC’s correspondence in full, but they are fairly entertaining, and I’m still quite proud of the fact that I didn’t give up and eventually managed to corner them into accepting they had done wrong. So if you have a spare ten minutes or so, give them a read.

    Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus

    Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus – part 2, they may now insert the pot as well

    Why HSBC can go fuck themselves with a massive cactus – part 3, the forearm’s going in

    Why HSBC can continue to fuck themselves with a massive cactus, but can do so £100 lighter

  7. It’s a struggle

    20 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Get real. Share something you’re struggling with right now. 

    Well, I’ll tell you what I’m struggling with. This challenge. It’s really hard! I was doing OK for the first week because I was able to write a few posts in one go and get ahead of schedule. But then I used up all my slack and suddenly I was struggling to keep up, and I’ve still got ten more days to do.

    In particular, some of the topics are quite difficult. This one, for example, is really rather similar to the one from the 16th, ‘Something difficult about your “lot in life” and how you’re working to overcome it’. Isn’t that the same? And it was hard enough to think what to put for that.

    My friends who are doing the challenge too seem to be doing roughly the same as me – keeping up for the most part, and occasionally posting suspiciously late in the evening. So at least it’s not just me. We’re going on holiday on Sunday though, so I sort of need to write… erm… ten posts in the next five days. Shit.

    I guess I’ll just have to fudge some of those like this one, which isn’t really about anything. IT STILL COUNTS THOUGH. Ingrates.

  8. Five blogs

    19 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Five of your favourite blogs

    I don’t actually read all that many people’s blogs. Do people not do it so much any more? I feel like there’s less need, as you can just make little posts whenever you want on Twitter or Facebook now.

    So I’m just going to do this quick and dirty, because I know you all like it that way anyway.

    This is Chris’ blog, my other half. Almost everyone who reads this is going to know that already. He’s doing the Blog every day in May challenge too, and even though I obviously know pretty much everything about him, I’ve still learnt some things reading it that I didn’t know before. So that’s been nice. Also he works with occasionally hilarious special needs children, and that can be quite funny.

    Matt Smith
    Matt is my best friend what I have met via Twitter. He knows lots of interesting stuff about television and technology and is well worth a read. He helps to keep me sane when I am bored at work every day.

    White Space
    Urban Cynic, as she is known online, is probably my only ‘blogger’ friend, in that I knew her first via her blog and only later via Twitter. I’ve really enjoyed following her life via her posts. She lives in Brighton too, and I kind of like that I may well have walked past her in the street and would never know it.

    Foppish Drunk
    This is my friend Lee’s blog, and he’s also blogging every day in May. He’s a very good friend who I don’t see often enough, and his blog helps me to keep up with his life a little bit better. He’s northern, so he likes to blog about things like trams and whippets and whippets on trams.

    This is the only picture blog in my list. I don’t know if I first encountered Jerry on Tumblr or on Twitter, but I have since met him in real life in New York. He posts photos of two things that are very important in my life: FOOD and PRETTY BOYS. So if either or both of those are your thing, I heartily recommend that you let him take you for a tumble.

  9. What a tasty-looking child

    18 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – Tell a story from your childhood

    I was quite young. Maybe five, something like that. It was a hot summers day and Mum and Dad were outside washing our car. We used to have an old yellow car that we named Sunbeam.

    My brother and I would play outside a lot when we were growing up. Children don’t seem to do that quite so much these days. My brother wasn’t there that afternoon and I was playing outside in our front garden on my own. I call it a garden, but there was no actual soil or plants or anything. It was more of a concrete space between our front window and the yellow brick wall at the edge of the pavement. In the summer it used to all be baking hot, too hot to touch even, and would smell of brick dust.

    In the house opposite ours over the road there lived a woman called Lorry and her children. In my head her name was Lorry, but I assume now as an adult it was probably Laurie. Lorry was a word I knew though, and she was quite fat, so it didn’t seem unusual to me that she should be called that. They weren’t a very nice family and we didn’t like them.

    While we were outside that day, the milkman came and knocked on their door. Lorry opened it, and their dog shot out past her legs. It was a Jack Russell I think, so not a big dog, but to a five year-old it was large. It ran across the road, through the bars in our front gate, and bit me savagely on the leg. I screamed, and it ran back where it had come from. Dad threw his sponge at it as it ran past, which missed and landed with a soapy splat on the road. It was rather an impotent gesture, but I’m sure it was all he could think of doing at the time. The dog ran back into their house.

    My leg was bleeding quite a lot, but although it felt like it had bitten an actual lump of flesh out of me I’m told really it had just broken the skin. I didn’t go to hospital or anything. Mum cleaned my wound and put Germolene on it. Germolene smells horrible and its scent marked many scrapes and cuts during my childhood.

    A policeman came and spoke to Mum and looked at my leg. I think he might have told me I was brave, but I don’t remember being very brave. I cried an awful lot, not least because of the sense of injustice I felt, even as a small child. ‘It won’t hurt you as long as you don’t hurt it’. That’s what my parents had taught me about animals and insects. You just leave them alone, and they’re nothing to be afraid of. But I didn’t hurt the dog – I wasn’t even near the dog. I’d never been in contact with the dog. So it didn’t seem very fair that it had run directly across the road in order to bite me while I was playing happily in my garden.

    The police decided to destroy the dog. Mum told me that Lorry’s children used to tease it, so it didn’t like children, and that’s why it had attacked me. Lorry didn’t want the dog destroyed though, so she gave it away before the police came to take it and wouldn’t tell them who to. I don’t know what happened to it. I know that no one ever got punished for me being bitten though.

    It made me very wary, afraid even, of dogs I didn’t know, for quite a long time. They were unpredictable and could bite you even if you hadn’t done anything. I got over it after a while and learnt that actually most dogs are nice and just want you to play with them. That dog wasn’t nice though. It was mean and dangerous. I don’t like that dog.

  10. Gorgeous

    17 May 2013 by superlative

    Blog every day in May topic – A favorite photo of yourself and why

    There are a million photos of me looking variously idiotic on Facebook,  but in the end I went for this one.



    I like this photo a lot for a number of reasons. I think it makes me look fun (how deceptive) and it reminds me of some great nights out I’ve had over the years. I’ve been being entertained by Boogaloo Stu and Dolly Rocket (pictured) since 1999, which is an awfully long time, and the club nights they run are always my favourites, so it seemed fitting that my photo should feature at least one of them. Dolly also looks gorgeous in it, providing a nice contrast with my hideous cakeface.