SAAS – again

SAAS are still defying belief as one of the most inept government departments I have ever dealt with. And that’s facing some stiff competition.

Following on from the last letter I received and responded to, I have waited a month and heard nothing. I called them (or tried to – see earlier posts) with no luck. I just tried again using the “real” phone number I got from Say No To 0870 (0131 476 8212) and was stuck with an automated system.

It politely took my reference number and said they had received my application and to check again in two weeks. What’s the betting this is the same message I would have been given 3 months ago?

So I thought I’d check on my student loan. Only the nice electronic voice informed me that I’d have to enquire directly with the student loans company which I can’t do as I’ve not got an account with them yet because SAAS are sat around with their thumbs up their backsides flossing their teeth with my application.

I then navigated around to speak to a representative. And the nice machine told me the office was closed. A surprise as it’s not a public holiday in Edinburgh and time I called was right in the middle of the working day as advertised on their website.

I’ve sent them another email via the website, this time a complaint rather than a query. They say they get back to these within 10 days. Mind you, they say they get back to queries within 15 and I’ve never had a response yet.

SAAS – you’re workshy, lazy and liars.

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I have some ologies

I nicked this one from Helen. Feel free to comment, rip it, post a link to your own version, tell me to stop messing about and do my homework… whatever.

What is your salad dressing of choice?

Salt. You need anything else on salad?

What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
I loved Gong Corner in Kuta, Bali. And TJ’s Mexican restaurant there is also awesome. Back home I usually enjoy a decent meal at a Harvester’s, 2for1 or Beefeater. I’m easy.

What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of it?
Beans on toast
What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Chicken, chili peppers, green peppers, red peppers, ham

What do you like to put on your toast?

How many televisions are in your house?

I have no house… but when I did I had two. One was mine in the living room, the other belonged to my housemate in her room.

What color cell phone do you have?
Silver and black

Who was the last person to call you?
My mum on the landline at my aunt’s. Mum again on my mobile on Sunday, though I had to call her back.

Are you right-handed or left-handed?


Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
Teeth. And regularly I self-remove snot and earwax. Does poop count?

What is the last heavy item you lifted?
My briefcase for work. I swear little cuz weighs less

If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?


If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
I don’t think I would. If I had to then I’d just legally change to “Mosh” as so many people know me by my nickname. Why complicate matters?

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
Yes. Easy.

How many pairs of flip flops do you own?

None – I don’t like them. I’ve got some fake Crocs that I’ve had to superglue together, though.

Last time you had a run-in with the cops?
Parking my camper van in Wanaka back in 2006. I parked at the side of the road, facing the wrong direction… Details on this blog post.

Last person you talked to in person:
Auntie downstairs at dinner.

Favorite Month?
June, as then I’m free to go travelling for a bit. If I can afford it.

Missing someone?

Yes. Very much indeed. Sadly, I don’t think they’re missing me.

Sad. Lonely. Stressed, though not as bad as earlier. Dejected. Rejected.

What are you listening to?
Wind and rain outside.

Just the screen on my laptop.

Worrying about?
Getting through the next 2 1/2 weeks, passing my crit, seeing that someone I miss again (or rather the possibility of not seeing them), meeting someone special.

What’s the last movie you watched?
Taking Woodstock

Do you smile often?
Right now, no. I’ma  grumpy, miserable of bugger at the moment. Usually I’m not too bad.

Do you always answer your phone?
When I’m able to, yes.

It’s four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
As if. Nobody I know texts me at times like that.

If you could change your eye color what would it be?
I wouldn’t.

Do you own a digital camera?
I own two, plus the one in my mobile.

Have you ever had a pet fish?

Favorite Christmas song?
Slade’s Merry Xmas Everyone.

What’s on your wish list for your birthday?
Nothing. Cash would be nice. Preferably from SAAS so I know my course fees are paid. A hug and kiss from that person I miss would make it the best birthday ever. Got to live in hope.

Does the future make you more nervous or excited?
Right now I’m not looking past the next working day.

Do you have any saved texts?
No special ones, just those I’ve not binned from my inbox yet.

Ever been in a car wreck?
Several. Not all my own fault.

Do you have an accent?
I have some kind of mix which results in there effectively not being one. I think.

What is the last song to make you cry?
The new version of Blaydon Races which is raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Just the extra verse they’ve put in to pay tribute to him. I didn’t actually cry but it certainly made my eyes moist.

Plans tonight?
More work, lesson planning, stress and feeling sorry for myself.

Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
Much as it may sound, I’m not that bad right now. When I found out in New Zealand that my then-girlfriend was seeing someone else… that’s about the lowest I ever remember feeling.

Name 3 things you bought yesterday:
A bag of Asda Midget Gems. And another one. And another one.

Have you ever been given roses?
Nope. Well, the chocolates.

Current hate right now?
The state of my love life.

Met someone who changed your life? When?
The aforementioned ex. Regardless of what happened at the end, she’s the reason I sold up and shipped out. Were it not for her I’d not have done all the travelling, experienced so much and wouldn’t now be sat here trying to convince myself I can stay sane for long enough to become a teacher.

Name three people who might complete this.
Nobody, no-one and someone else I don’t know.

What were you doing 12AM last night?
Marking third year DTP tests.

What was the first thing you thought of when you woke
Why am I still waking up before my alarm?

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Say goodbye to your internet

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11:  Secretary of ...
Secretary for Business and out-of-touch sleazebag

People my age will remember the old days when someone would tell you off for something, and the response would be to tut and say “it’s a free country”.

Well those days are coming to an end and there’s no worse example of why than the new Digital Economy Bill unveiled today. How do you fancy these for powers:

  • Your internet can be cut off if someone in your household is suspected of filesharing. No evidence or proof is required nor formal charge need be brought
  • ISPs are forced to snitch on you or face a fine of up to £250,000
  • Accused of filesharing? £50,000 please – even though it might not be you that’s done it
  • These rules not working? The the Business Secretary (an unelected role) can make up any new punishments and regulations as they see fit. Just for a laugh.
  • Eavesdroppers funded by “rightsholders” (that’ll be our friends in the movie and music companies) who will be able to freely poke around your internet traffic, data, usage patterns and then demand that you remove files, block websites and so forth. Privacy? What privacy?

Then there’s some stuff about a rejigging of the games ratings system which actually isn’t that bad as it takes the BBFC out of the loop. This means, hopefully, that games may be more evenly rated and unlikely to be banned.

What’s amusing is that this whole mess is the brainchild of one Peter Mandelson. Mandie came up with this great idea after a free holiday in Corfu paid for by Geffen. Who happen to be one of the aforementioned rightsholders. Of course, he’s saying this is coincidence.

We are being told to behave ourselves and to follow rules and not steal stuff by a man who was forced to step down from government not once but twice due to his inability not to be a sleazy little dick.

This whole bill is a travesty. It’s the digital equivalent – worse, even – than speed cameras where you’re guilty until proven innocent. The only winners here are the near-sighted media corporations who are too old-fashioned to embrace a new technology and instead seek to stifle it while they continually fail to catch up.

Please, check out the articles linked below. And if you feel as I do then go to the Number10 website and sign the petition. Of course, this makes the assumption that the government we elected actually give the faintest damn about what we have to say.

Not something I think most of us believe to be the case these days.

If you at all doubt the government’s integrity or my attack on it then bear in mind that when they announced the Bill, it was with the statement that it had 99% support of British ISPs. Have a look at the man who started the petition. He’s TalkTalk‘s head of strategy and development. BT, if I recall correctly, threatened legal action if it went through. The ISP industry as a whole announced it’s “disappointment” with the wording of the Bill as it stands.

Hardly 9% support, let alone 99%.

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I had a rally good time

My steed for the day (2)
I managed not to break this car.

I apologise forthwith for that awful headline.

Anyway, later than it should be up, a little something about last weekend. Courtesy of a birthday present I’d not had time to cash in I had a Rally Experience voucher available for Knockhill, out in the country between Perth and Edinburgh. I’ve always wanted to have a go at rallying, and the always-wonderful Leah picked up on my hints and bought me this for my birthday/Christmas. Erm, last year.

OK, I’m a little slow about organising things right now.

The weather’s been pretty lousy recently but I checked on the morning and the rally experience was still on. I hopped into my little Clio and zipped down from Perth. When you get to Knockhill along the country roads, do keep an eye out. Heading from the north it’s fairly well signposted right until you get to it. I drove past and had to double back.

Once there I parked up, handed in my voucher and was given a driver log sheet and a wristband. A short while afterwards one of the instructors gathered up the 15 drivers and took us for a short induction and safety briefing. This was quick, clear and well-presented.

We were then shuttled down to the lodge from where we’d be based for the afternoon. A nice, cosy little structure protecting us from the freezing wind outside! There we were given some more instructions and left to our devices as the first five drivers were taken to their cars.

I sat and watched some of the rally videos on the big screen inside and got a couple of pictures of the cars setting off on their first run up the course. The schedule was simple – two repeat runs, another two, one final hell for leather run up and then the final drive back with the instructor in the driver’s seat.

For those who wanted the “real” experience or for others who were spectating, a retired rally driver was on hand to take passengers up and down the course at full pelt for £20. A few people took him up on it and every one came in shaken but smiling.

I was in the third group and finally my number was called. I was in red car 10 with my instructor Iain. That’s always a good start, having someone with your same name in the co-pilot’s seat. A really pleasant guy who made me feel comfortable from the off. The cars are all old Ford Sierras with roll cages, uprated suspension, 4-point harnesses and so forth. Otherwise, the only safety equipment is a decent crash helmet.

The first run up the course was done slowly so that I could become familiar with the turns. Iain pointed out when and where to turn, the best entry points, where to avoid mud and so on. We turned at the end of the course and came back down. Then repeated the return trip only somewhat faster.

My task while waiting for my second run through was to draft some course notes using my memory of the run and a map placed on the wall of the lodge. This is trickier than it looks, given the short time I’d had in the car. Do I take that second turn in 2nd gear or 3rd? How far do I go flat out before the sharp left? And so on.

Soon enough, my second run came up and I managed to get around much faster without crashing. Although I came on one occasion. Well. Two. But I didn’t. That’s what’s important.

My third and final run was to be assessed on various points – steering, cornering, quality of my notes, consistency, braking, control… quite a few things to worry about! I think I did quite well – then Iain took over and tried to kill me on the return leg. The video of that is below. It was… bumpy.

Finally there was the award ceremony. All the drivers had their points collated and the instructors argued over the ties. I’m very pleased to say I came 3rd with 78 points. The guy who came 2nd also had 78 and the winner had 79. There was at least one other driver on 78 so I was lucky to pick up my little plastic medal!

Overall I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone who’s even remotely interested. It’s fun, well-run and not that expensive for something you’ll probably only do once.

Thanks to the folk at Knockhill for a fantastic afternoon, and to Leah for buying me the gift certificate in the first place!

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Film Wednesday

Taking Woodstock
Taking Woodstock

I managed to get an afternoon off work due to the school going on fire and everyone being given the rest of the day off. Taking this as a sign from some random deity that I was being overworked (despite it being a day when I had no lessons all afternoon anyway), I took the opportunity to head into town and see a film or two.

Harry Brown

The timings worked out well for me to walk right into Harry Brown which certainly lived up to the trailer. This is one of the best films I’ve seen this year and proves that Michael Caine is every bit the actor he ever was.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Harry (Caine) is a pensioner living on a really dodgy housing estate. One of his OAP friends is killed by scum on the streets, the police aren’t helping and Harry used to be in the army…

The opening scene, filmed as if by a scrote on a moped, is both harsh and harrowing. It sets the tone for this dark film perfectly. There is tension throughout, uniformly superb performances and great direction. You really want to reach into the screen and batter the chavs – kudos to the actors playing them.

For a film to fill you with revulsion in the way this does is testament to all those who worked on it. The only bad thing about it is that it’s too realistic – not a fault of the film itself, but of life in Britain these days. There is simply nothing in it that couldn’t (perhaps even doesn’t) happen in this sad state we call real life.

Yes, that’s a depressing review but that’s how the film makes you feel. But that’s the point. It makes you feel.

Harry Brown is so gritty you could use it to make the entire length of the M1 safe to drive along during the frostiest of winters. It’s harsh, hard-hitting, taught… and British.

So I guess we do have something to be proud of in this country after all.

Taking Woodstock

Off the other end of the scale we have Taking Woodstock directed by Ang Lee who’s most recently famous for gay shepherd chick-flick Brokeback Mountain that I avoided like the plague after sitting through the first 15 minutes in Phuket.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a Jewish boy, Jake (Henry Goodnam), sees a chance to get a concert going on land near his parents’ motel to drum up trade for the summer. Things get ever so slightly out of hand…

Apparently if you remember Woodstock then you weren’t there, but there’s enough documentation around it to allow Lee to make a pretty good “this is how it happened… maybe” film. The film is “based on” some stuff or other and how true it all is is anybody’s guess. However, what’s important is that it makes both a good story and a good film.

Imelda Staunton is fantastic as the Russian Jewish mother who seems to hate the entire world and is probably the best character in the film. Seeing as there are Jewish people in the film, they are legally obliged to find a part for Eugene Levy and he pretty much plays Eugene Levy. Enigmatic at first, then turns out to have some smarts after all.

It’s a great film to look at and has its feelgood moments. One thing it’s lacking, though, are downers. What little hiccups appear through the film – townsfolk rebelling, teen nazis trying to cause trouble, mafia protection trying to muscle in, council officials with health violations – all are dealt with so swiftly that it just seems pointless including them in the plot.

What could have been a film about an event, and as such ended up being more of a documentary, ends up focussing on the characters and this makes it much better. We see most of it through Jake’s eyes which makes it all the more interesting as the whole thing is astounding to him.

I particularly liked the little bits in the background and short sequences which are based on classic footage and images of the event. Top of these has to be the three nuns finally agreeing to raise their fingers in “peace” signs. It’s right in mid-background of one scene.

Oh, and there are boobies. And other bits. Which is a bonus.

One thing, though – does Ang Lee really have a thing for guys kissing? Seriously, don’t let him do a kids’ movie.

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