Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Podcast 60 from Wiggly Wigglers, and the hilarious cat argument

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.

Further to a perfectly innocent email I sent to Wiggly Wigglers enquiring about the hopefully cat repellent properties of Bokashi treated food waste I managed to cause dissent on the Wiggly sofa. The utterly hilarious Podcast 60 is available from http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/podcasts/Wiggly%20Podcast%200060.mp3
and should come with a warning: If you intend to listen to this and drink at the same time then don’t, especially if sat at a computer because you run the risk of spraying your drink all over your monitor, which is not only unsightly but can cause a lot of fizzing, electrical problems and possibly death as a result.

Richard and Heather were brilliant; Heather the ‘my lovely cat can do no wrong’ cat lover and Richard the ‘shoot the bloody lot of them’ anti argue back and forth for a good few minutes and it is a laugh a minute. Heather made the following good points:
- You should NOT stop feeding the birds just because there are cats about, but you should try very hard to make your feeding area inaccessible to them. Of course this is a lot easier in a larger garden like the Wiggly farm garden (which also only has the one cat, compared to the 3 that regularly use my garden as a toilet)
- Cats do bring lots of comfort to their owners (as well as lots of little, sometimes still twitching, presents). It’s just a shame that the comfort they bring their owners is mirrored by the stress they cause the neighbours who choose not to have one, whatever that reason may be, and end up with their plants strewn all over the place so the little blighter can defecate (or fertilise, depending on your view) in your borders.

Richard on the other hand obviously loves to hate cats and I think it would be even funnier if you could get him on the subject after a few beers.
- He, quite rightly, points out that there are a lot of people who don’t want somebody else’s cat in their garden for whatever reason but mainly because they would like to feed, watch and encourage birds and other wildlife into their little patch of Eden without the fear that said wildlife will be mindlessly tortured, sometimes eaten (and likely puked back up on your door step) but generally just frightened out of its wits.
- Dogs have to be confined to their own garden so why not cats? I should add that it is very hard to fence for a cat compared to a dog but if you can’t be bothered to keep your cat in your garden you shouldn’t own one. If I was to keep deer in my back garden they would be hard to fence for as well, but it would still be my responsibility!

Anyway, I’m starting to waffle but I will quickly mention that responsible cat owners should read the following to help the birds (though it won’t stop them prowling unwanted in my garden): http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/unwantedvisitors/cats/collarthatcat.asp

I should also add that Heather very kindly asked me to be a guest blogger on the Wiggly Wigglers site and if you haven’t lost the will to live yet you can read my efforts at: http://wigglywigglers.blogspot.com/2006/12/simon-sherlocks-top-five-wiggly.html and view a few pictures of my garden at: http://wigglywigglers.blogspot.com/2006/12/simons-garden.html

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Know How books now only £5.00 each

Yes, Christmas is coming and I need the space so why not pop over to http://www.bestshapeofyourlife.co.uk and pick up Don Lemmon's Know How books for only £5 each (while stocks last).

With Christmas fast approaching now's a great time to start getting into shape anyway :)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Is your Bokashi smelly?

If you've been composting using Bokashi and have found that the bin gives off a sickly sweet smell (a bit like silage if you've ever worked on a farm and a rotten fruit smell crossed with car sickness for everyone else) then it might just be that you've been acting like the tight Northern short arse that I am!

Thanks to Rachel at Wiggly Wigglers I have been shown the error of my ways and now add two hand fulls of Bokashi bran every time I add stuff to the bin i.e. follow the instructions instead of thinking you can make the bran go further :)

Having done as I was told for the last month there is no smell whatsoever from the bin, which means I can add waste to it from the kitchen rather than having to go outside for fear of being whacked round the head and shouted at by my wife. The process of emptying the bin once ready is also considerably more pleasant and you are able to move onto another job immediately after rather than frantically gulp some fresh air in the hope that the feeling goes away before you throw up on your shoes.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spamalot - The London Premiere

Added 22/10/2006:
Pictures (not mine) from the do:

Original post:
It is often said that people with a limited vocabulary resort to swearing as a means to get their point across. But I'm here to tell you that that's obviously a load of complete bollocks and that everybody (except some weirdo from The Guardian) had a right f*****g laugh at the opening night of Spamalot on Tuesday 17 October 2006.

Tamsyn and I were extremely lucky to be there, having been given the golden opportunity of being guests of my Uncle, David Sherlock who even, very generously, put us up in The Covent Garden Hotel for the night. It was worth the trip to London just to stay in such a lovely hotel but I have to say paying the bill the next morning made my eyes water (and I wasn't even paying!).

The night was great with the only disappointment being that out of 4 chances to speak to somebody famous (Bill Oddie, Michael Palin and Brian May) I bottled it completely using the excuse I would catch them at the after show party. However, that was so packed we never saw them again :(

The one person I did get to speak to was Eddie Izzard who was sat immediately behind me and was kind enough to scrabble round the floor helping me pick up the things that fell out of my jacket during the standing ovation. Cheers Eddie, you're now officially a very nice man.

The show itself was fantastic and Tim Curry even more so - I'm not a fan of musicals but the speed and skill that this one was delivered kept me spellbound throughout. I would recommend that anybody who can should go and see it immediately (whether you're a fan of Python or not - it really doesn't matter). The added bonus of sitting on the front row also gave me the chance to eye up the dancers and their very short skirts (I figured this would stop me getting bored, but the show was so good I never did :)

The after-show party was a bit of a let down for us as it was so busy we couldn't find anybody we knew, though we did spot Gary Linekar, Michael Ball, Eddie Izzard again and the girl who won Finding Maria, Connie something-or-other. The champagne was free and plentiful (thankfully I managed to track down a beer or three) and the hall was fantastic (see Wikipedia entry for the Freemasons Hall).

So back to the hotel at 2:30 in the morning and unable to sleep until about 4am as I was buzzing from it all, and then back to reality with a bang the day after when, an hour after getting off the train we were straight back into the school run, after school activities, washing, feeding and generally trying to figure out whether the previous 24 hours was real or whether we had dreamt the whole thing. My only regrets from the whole evening is that I had declined to be introduced to Bill Oddie thinking I would see him later and that I didn't approach Brian May and Roger Taylor to thank them for getting me through my teenage years.

So a great big thank you David for inviting us and apologies if we wondered round looking like star struck fruit-cakes all night.

Here's a picture of Tamsyn and I in front of the Spam castle in the very expensive forest:

Spam castle

Friday, September 01, 2006

The DVLA - a cracking example of how to run a business

Or not me thinks.

Nearly two months ago I was tidying out my wallet when several bits of paper fluttered to the floor. I realised then that my old paper driving license was beyond even the help of sellotape and really should be replaced.

So Tamsyn and I decided we might as well apply for the new photo licenses, filled in an application form each, got our pictures signed, wrote a cheque, sent them off to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and waited, waited some more, and eventually decided life was just too short and forgot all about them.

Yesterday my birth certificate arrived with a slip informing me my application was being processed. Quite why they don't just send the lot back once and save on the postage I don't know, especially as today my license turned up. Nice one.

However, in the same pile of post was a letter for my wife saying that her application could not be taken any further because she hadn't sent any money. Yet it was her who wrote the cheque for both the licenses.

When she eventually got through to somebody on the phone to find out what was going on it turns out that the payment had been allocated to my application, hence I had recieved my license.

She now has to write another cheque and send it off, while they also write a cheque and send it back. The funds they already have cannot be used as they were allocated to my application!

So a number of questions arise:
1. How stupid is a situation where one cheque cannot cover two aplications that arrive in the same envelope for a husband and wife?
2. And why in the case above does it take them 2 months to write a letter saying so?
3. Why was the cheque put towards my application when it was in my wifes name and from her bank account?
4. Why should she have to ask for the refund of the overpayment? - it should have been sent back with my license (or somebody with more than one brain cell realised that £38 is in fact £19 x 2 so the cheque was obviously for two people, especially as the envelope contained two filled in application forms!).
5. If we hadn't pointed out that they had cashed a cheque for double the amount of a single application would we ever have got a refund?

I've heard before that the DVLA are a shambles and this seems to prove it - anybody who can make BT seem efficient must have real problems...

On the plus side they might completely cock it up and send two refund cheques :)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The buggers have bugged me bin! (updated)

Update 31/08/2006:
I've just received a reply from Vale-Royal Borough Council and it goes like this:

"All of the councils `brown´ wheeled-bins, which have been purchased over the last few years and are used for garden waste, contain radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. The introduction of this technology was a `future proofing´ exercise to ensure the council remained at the forefront of waste collections technology All `green´ wheeled bins for domestic waste are not tagged as they were purchased before the technology was introduced.

In the past we have used the information gained on the brown bin collections to programme expansion of the scheme and it enabled us to introduce extra rounds and also increased efficiency. We have also been able to identify properties whose bin has been rejected for emptying due to contamination and target those properties with further information and resolve the problem. Details on the 'tags' were publicised in the summer 2003 edition of 'recycling news' which is delivered free to all households within the borough.

The council currently has no plans to use tagging to monitor household waste. However, the council will be using in-depth monitoring to target those households that continue not to recycle through awareness raising and enforcement."

Original post:
Hearing that some councils were bugging peoples bins to weigh the amount of waste people are chucking away (in the hope of taxing them on it no doubt) out I go to check mine. No bug on the household waste bin but, strangely, there is one on the green waste bin. I can't figure out why they would want to bug the bin that they do want you using!

Apparently, the reasoning behind all this is to find out how much waste is going to landfill. So why have Vale Royal put them on the bins that take the garden rubbish and cardboard?

Another argument is to settle who owns the bin, yet you can't rip the bug out because the bin is council property so I don't think they needed an electronic gadget to work out that it is in fact themselves who own the bin :)

Being a bit of a hippy I generally agree with being charged for how much stuff you chuck away, as it will get people sorting their waste better and generally thinking about what they are buying in the first place. BUT, I don't like being charged twice and foresee a bit of a backlash if they don't first knock off the cost of refuse collection from our Council tax. That way people who do recycle and buy less stuff with daft amounts of packaging etc will be encouraged because they may even be better off and pay less.

Problems (well fun and games at least) that I think will occur are:
- you have to put your bin out by 8am (or early anyway) so your neighbours have at least the morning to fill up your bin instead of their own so they don't pay as much.
- People will end up driving their rubbish to nice country lay-bys and leaving it there for the council to clean up for free (but not until the foxes have spread it over a couple of hundred metres or so).
- People will lose the feel good factor they get from recycling - the people of Vale Royal are proud of how high up the recycling league they are (10th in the country 2004/5 - http://www.letsrecycle.com/info/localauth/league/2004ranked.htm)
If the council continue to work in such an under-hand way they run the risk of quashing this feel good factor that may end up having a detrimental affect on the whole recycling drive.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Where's Simon?

I have added a Where's Simon? link from my home page.
OK so I've been playing with Google Maps and wanted to make use oif it - I'm sure I'll find something useful to use the maps for soon....

Checkout http://www.sherlock.co.uk/map ...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Google webclips in the UK (again)

Further to my post about having to pretend you're a yank to get Google Webclips with your GMail - http://www.sherlock.co.uk/blog/2006/04/gmail-webclips-or-lack-of-in-uk.html - I am happy to say that you can put your settings back to real English, as they have now been made available to us.

Now if anybody can figure out how to get Atom feeds to work in webclips (the Help says they will) then I'd like to know how. Tried adding my own feed - http://www.sherlock.co.uk/blog/atom.xml and it says it's an invalid URL....

Monday, June 12, 2006

Goodbye Don Lemmon

For the last year and a bit I have been following Don Lemmon's Know How and am fitter and healthier than I have ever been in the last 30 odd years. The personal touch and generous advice that Don gave made Know How far more than just another diet and, through his message board http://www.liesandpropaganda.com, I got to share some of Don's other interests; Nutrition, writing and music. I was fortunate to help edit and proof-read a novel he was working on http://www.planetofthegods.com that was just about to be published and from that he asked me to work on another book based on his early life called 'Newton Falls Ohio 44444' - http://www.lemmongrove.com/other-projects.html and two months in we have been having a great time and churning out a couple of chapters a week.

This morning I woke to hear that Don was tragically killed in a car accident yesterday morning leaving behind a wife and daughter whom he loved dearly.

I myself am gutted by the news and cannot even begin to understand how Asia and Catalina must be feeling.

I wanted this blog to be a way of saying how sorry I am at the news, how much I'll miss working with Don and to thank him for the help, advice and encouragement he has given me over the last year or so.

He will be sorely missed.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A lesson well learned in composting.

When you read about composting you will often hear about how invaluable it is to use urine for the added nitrogen that helps speed up the whole composting process etc, etc. See the following brilliant book on the subject:

What you never seem to read is what a great idea it is to stop adding urine at least a week before emptying said compost bins, especially if it's a warm sunny day in May.

This is well worth remembering.

Trust me.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Don Lemmon Know Books available in the UK

Due to the success of selling Don Lemmon's Book 1: The truth about Exercise & Nutrition in the UK we can now off ALL the Know How books at special introductory prices.

Checkout http://www.bestshapeofyourlife.co.uk/books.html for further details.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Craphound by Cory Doctorow (in MS Reader format)

Cory Doctorow has published a short story 'Craphound' which is available as a free download from his website http://craphound.com/place/000012.php.

The .lit version there is no longer available so I created another, which can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

GMail Webclips (or lack of) in the UK

If, like me, you have been waiting ages for the Webclips toolbar to appear on your GMail account (and you live in the UK) then you'll like the tip I just got from a friend.

Go into Settings and change the language from 'English (UK)' to 'English (US)' and they magically appear.

Unfortunately, changing your settings back to real English removes them again...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Don Lemmon's Book 1 - The Truth About Exercise & Nutrition now available in the UK

For the first time the above book is available in the UK from http://www.bestshapeofyourlife.co.uk

Don has also added a link to this site from his own at http://www.donlemmonsknowhow.com/catalog-of-don-lemmon-products.html

The book is £9.99 + £1 for post and packing and everybody who buys it will get free email support from Don himself.

Let Don Lemmon get you in The Best Shape Of Your Life

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Google Adsense gone mad (I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so)

Google Adsense has started displaying all ads on my pages in Japanese!
There is nowhere in Adsense that you can state you only want English ads so feel free to click on the Japanese camping equipment ones. And what has camping got to do with the content of my pages? Diddly squat that's what.

So much for targeted advertising!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Updated - Confused.com. Do you mean rippedoff.com?

Bloody insurance companies wind me up - I visited http://www.confused.com the other day to try and get cheaper car insurance. The site works well, asks you a number of questions and then returns a list of quotes from a number (20 odd) of insurance companies; the idea being that you buy from them and they get a cut from the company you choose. Fair enough.

I chose Swinton (part of Its2Me) because they quoted £55 less than my current renewal fee and voluntary excess was "N/A" (I currently have £100 excess on all claims except windscreen).

Deciding to continue I filled in a few more details only to find that the voluntary excess had gone from N/A to either £100 or £250. A bit miffed that I'd been conned enough to come this far I decided that a £55 saving is still OK, especially on a like for like policy (I chose the £100 as I had no choice but to choose one), so out comes the credit card and out goes my money.

Two days later the paperwork arrived kindly telling me that my excess is in fact £175. WTF? How does it go from £0 to £175?

So I get on the phone to be told that the site clearly states all this (it didn't) and when I told them I would be cancelling the policy becuase getting ripped off is not one of my favourite hobbies I was told to just send back the papers with a covering letter and I would get a refund minus a £30 fee! Oh I'm so happy I'm now paying for their misleading web site and ever-increasing excess amount.

As instructed by the lady on the phone I have sent off the letter and am awaiting some form of response. I also emailed confused.com to let them know because it's a shame that such a good site cannot be trusted to point you towards companies that don't mislead you. That was Monday, and I am still awaiting a response.


Update: A week later I telephoned to check this had been cancelled and they denied all knowledge of receiving the documents and promised to send out a form where I could re-request my "mislaid" documents. On getting home there was a letter dated the day after I sent my documents thanking me for my letter of complaint!
A few days after that both confused.com and Its4Me got in touch to state that my policy would be cancelled and that the £30 fee would be reduced to £15.
So the lesson here is that the 14 day cool-off period doesn't mean you won't get stung anyway.

In defense of confused.com they were the ones that got Its4Me to actually contact me and and give me at least some of my money back. They have also said they are looking into why their site didn't state the excess.