Archive for June, 2007

Jun 22 2007

My Photos Have Interestingness

Published by under Photography,Photos

The other night I was on a bit of a downer and so decided that I’d indulge myself in one of my favourite pastimes. No, not bell-ringing or sailing…. photography! It was evening, almost clear skys and a breeze coming in from the south-west, so where better to start than Vazon to see if I could capture some surfers in action.

Although there were a fair few surfers in the water, there wasn’t much in the way of waves. Instead of giving up I decided to have a go at some more “arty” shots. With the water just coming up to the bottom of the wall I decided to have a go at taking pictures of the groynes at the base of the wall. My fist 20 shots were ok but nothing special. What I really wanted to a long exposure to blur the water, so I tried shutting down the aperture and added a neutral density filter… and then another neutral density filter… and the a graduated sunset filter… and finally a polarising filter. Finally I managed to get a six second exposure which was just enough to blur the water.

As well as uploading the final photos to, a stock photo site that I run with Shane Marriott, I also uploaded low res copies to Flickr. Quite amazingly I my photo managed to make it onto Flickrs “interestingness” list for the day. Whether it is there forever I don’t know but I hope it is.

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Jun 19 2007

Politeness Pays Dividends

Published by under General,Technology

At some point, whilst I was at university, I got given a piece of advice: “When talking to customer services, never loose your temper. And the worst thing you can do is swear.” This advice has stuck with me and whenever I have a complaint about service of goods I always try to make sure that I remain calm and polite at all times.

This approach has been so effective that in the past I have had a free meal + entry into an ice bar in Iceland (worth over £150), my motorbike return to my doorstep in Guernsey + £500, free flight transfers without the re-booking free. I have also seen people with similar complaints to mine get nothing in return, simply because they became aggressive and abusive towards the customer services staff.

Today I got an insight into the other side of the customer support line. Back in February I purchased a copy of Parallels for Mac (version 2 I presume) which came with free upgrades for a year. Fast forward to May and I start getting emails about the imminent release of Parallels 3 with an offer to upgrade at a discount price, and I very nearly paid the upgrade price… until I remembered my free upgrade offer. My original confirmation email said that I would receive an email with a license key for the new version of Parallels, so I wanted… and waited… and waited some more.

I tried emailing Parallels about a week or two ago but I haven’t yet received a response yet, so today I phoned them. The short story is that I had to email my confirmation to them and within 10 minutes a received a full license key for Parallels 3. They long story however is that when I got through to customer services I got to speak to a cheerful American guy. I’m not sure exactly what I said but before handing me over to the next person in the customer service chain he asked me where I was calling from. Not wanting to confuse him with tales of islands off the coast of France, so I just said the UK. His response was something along the lines of:

I just want to say how great it is to help you English guys. You’re always so polite and patient. Some of the American that call us are nothing but abusive but you British are just so polite.

It took me aback a little, but it made me think how crappy it must be to take calls all day long from people that just relax a little and be courteous to those they’re talking to. So next time your on the phone to customer services just remember two things:

  1. You’re more likely to get what you want if you’re polite.
  2. Think how you’d like to answer the phone to abusive people all day.

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Jun 18 2007

Medical Care In America

I just finished watching Michael Moores new film Sicko which hasn’t yet been released to cinemas. Its a real eye opener about the state of health and medical care in the USA today. It seems that in the USA, even those that think they are fully covered by medical insurance are still getting a rough deal, with insurance companies finding any loop-hole to get out of paying for their clients care.

This is what happens when services are provided on a “for-profit” basis. Those that stand to make the most money will damn well make sure that they make as much money as possible and wont hesitate for a second to think about what affect that may have on other peoples lives, and I do mean lives. The Health and Medical Organisations (HMOs) of the USA are treating peoples insurance policies as if they are warranties for a computer or a car, rather than the difference between life and death, which they really are.

When I took my one and only holiday to the USA in 1996 (I think) I had an accident whilst ride the mountain bike I had just bought (Americans decided to switch the front & rear brake levers >_<). I sustained a cut to my leg that required stitches and so the person we were staying with took me to the local hospital. I’d heard stories about going to hospital in the USA but it still came as a shock when the first question asked was “How are you going to be paying?”. The fact that I had blood pouring out of my leg seemed irrelevant at the time, the hospital just wanted to make sure that they were going to get their money. Luckily we had good travel insurance that covered the treatment.

As with all Michael Moore files you need to watch the film with a rather large bag of salt, as he tends to take a rather extreme view of things. For example he paints a rosy picture of the British NHS, which anyone the reads the British papers will know isn’t doing too well at the moment. However, it is a very thought provoking film and well worth watching.

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Jun 15 2007

Weather and Live Data

Published by under Activities,Technology

Living on an island and having sailing as a hobby means that I like to keep an eye on the weather and emerging weather patterns. Normally this just takes the form of keeping an eye on the wind, pressure and precipitation forecasts for races.

Recently, however, with the start of the summer storms season I’ve started following the movements of thunderstorms across the UK and France with the help of the Isle of Wight Storm Tracking website.

Just before going to lunch today I checked on the storm site and noticed there had been a couple of strikes over the Cherbourg peninsular and over Jersey. As I was walking towards Cellar Door for lunch I looked over towards France and saw the tops of some big Cumulo-nimbus clouds and I thought “Wow… just over there is a big storm, but here I am walking in the sun”.

Despite being a software engineer and working with the latest technology, I’m always amazed and how much data is available, live, about the world around us, how it is collected, and how we take it for granted. I find it incredible that someone on the Isle of Wight can detect storms over France and relay that information to me so that, as I sit here eating my lunch, I can watch a storm unfolding on the horizon… amazing!

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Jun 05 2007

Testivus As Applied To Bell Ringing

Published by under Bell Ringing

Recently, whilst reading through my never ending RSS feeds, I came across a link to The Way of Testivus a good advice guide on developer and unit testing. Whilst the guide is quite humorous it also contains solid, sensible advice for anyone wanting to get started with unit testing, whilst not going into specifics.

As I am currently taking a journey through enlightenment and personal development I decided to see if I could take the Testivus advice and apply it to other activities and and aspects of my life. So, here I present to you Testivus – As Applied To Bell Ringing.

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