More fun with Three…

OK, maybe not a huge complaint but a nitpick. I was checking my balance on My3 the other night and saw with my new package I had “100 Picture Mails”. Groovy, I’ve always had to pay for sending pictures, so I sent a quick photo to a friend.

A day later and I’ve still got 100 picture mails to use. And a charge of 25p on my account. So I queried it by giving Three a quick call.

It turns out that picture mails are not the same as picture messages, that is MMS. A picture mail involves taking a picture, going to the gallery and sending it using email to another email address. I get 100 of these. Which seems nuts when I also have a 1Gb internet allowance and routinely send pictures via GMail that way.

On the plus side, if I ever figure out how to use it, given that a 5MP image could be a megabyte in size, it could potentially save me 100Mb of internet. If I sent 100 pictures a month. And the people I sent them to had internet access on their phones.

In the meantime, it’s a decent package I’m on  but don’t expect any picture messages from me any time soon.

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Getting tee’d off with WordPress

Love it... but it's annoying me

Just a quick whinge to see if anyone else is having this issue. I’ve trawled the WordPress support groups and posted myself, but had no responses.

Since upgrading to v3.0, my “Add New Post” dashboard won’t remember where all my widgets are placed. I drag and drop them, create a new post… and next time I go back, they’re back in “default” positions again. Yes, I’ve tried disabling plug-ins and I’ve had no joy.

It happens regardless of browser (tried Chrome, Firefox and IE – on multiple machines) and operating system (Windows and Ubuntu). I’m running two blogs on v3.0 and the issue is the same on both.

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Kids ‘n stuff

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

This may end up being a fairly emotional post, but hopefully will help drive home something that means a lot to me.

As most of you know, I recently had a career change and moved into teaching. There were a few reasons for this. Partly due to the recession, partly that as I was a Scottish resident I could do the course for free. A huge part was getting the chance to teach several Vietnamese kids how to use computers when I was here (I’m back overseas!) in 2006.

The other thing is that I really love kids. Not in a Gary Glitter way, not in the slightest. I just think they’re the best thing in the world. I don’t have any of my own yet and that’s my hugest regret in life so far. I’ve enjoyed so many pleasures, seen so many things, soaked up some amazing experiences – and yet the one thing I want more than anything else I haven’t quite got round to yet.

So I guess part of the reason I want to work with children is that I don’t have my own. Yet.

However, I’ve been talking to a lot of teachers from all over and I’ve had mixed reports about men working with kids. In the UK, Canada and Oz there’s a huge demand for male primary school teachers (which is a qualification I’m eying up – I teach secondary at the moment).

The US, however, is very anti male primary teachers. I was talking to an American secondary teacher and he told me that it’s very hard for a man to get a job in the primary sector. Why? Because any man who wants to be around small children in a paedophile, obviously.

This viewpoint sickens me.

I also suffer it. If I’m in a supermarket and I see a small child sat on the back of a trolley, I always want to wave and make silly faces until they smile. If the parents see me doing this and I’m stood there with another woman – girlfriend, friend, whatever – they’re generally nice about it. If I’m by myself then I get a nasty stare and the child is whisked off as if my only thought it to steal it and abuse it.

I reckon we can only blame the tabloids, but this attitude really makes me feel awful. When I was in Burma, a family walked me and another chap from the hostel home when we got lost. Along the way, the mother handed me her child to hold. The baby was maybe 3-4 months old and she was happy to just pass her to a stranger who found her gorgeous.

That wouldn’t happen back home.

The difference? No tabloid madness in Burma. No assumption that people are evil (except the Burmese government). Just a general feeling of good human nature.

What a grin!
How happy does *he* look?

Happily, there are other people who are as trustworthy as I am. In fact pretty much everyone is, let’s be honest. One of them is Michael Brosowski who founded the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi which most of you know I do a bit of work for as and when I can.

Last weekend I had the chance to pop up to Long Bien and play a bit of football with the kids, who were then presented with a trophy for winning the under 14’s league. A great achievement from a rag-tag bunch, many of whom have spent time living on the streets.

The other thing is that even the smallest of them will happily “attach” themselves to a new member of the group and play around. I was in goal for one team of older kids, but I’d made a new friend who was about 10. He mimicked my (awful) skills, and I started showing off doing pull-ups on the crossbar during flurries of play. He couldn’t reach so I helped him up and we just mucked around.

It was great fun, but – again – imagine anyone letting a complete stranger do this with their kids back in the UK. I mean *horror* I actually touched him. Even as a registered teacher in the UK, if you touch a child you can be in trouble. This included hugging upset children in a primary environment – woe betide you if you do so without witnesses. Insane.

That’s not to say that Vietnam doesn’t have its share of scum who will take advantage of children. Blue Dragon has rescued several from brothels both here and in China. Add that to the sweatshop labour that some endure after they’re kidnapped or tricked away from their parents.

I just played catchup on Michael’s blog and there’s some good reading there from the last few weeks. I do urge you to pop over and flick through his posts from early June. Children as young as 11 rescued from sweatshops, three generations of one family finally given ID papers so they can receive education and healthcare, legal aid for some kids who are really off the rails… and more.

His blog’s located at

Children are the single most important resource any country has. They need to be treated well, educated well, brought up well. They’re the future of this planet and whatever happens over the coming decade, centuries and millennia is in their hands.

However, if we don’t take care of them then we’re screwed.

Blue Dragon is just one charity in one country, but it does a hell of a job. I’ve worked with these kids on and off for over four years now and I’d do anything for them.  All I’m doing now is asking you to check out the web page, see what you can afford and drop them a few quid. Dollars. Whatever. They have dozens of projects on the go at once, and all of them will make good use of that cash.

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NHS and communication don’t go together

NHS Scotland
Staffed by angels, managed by idiots

Been a while since I had a real whinge on here about anything. So here we go. Today’s target is the NHS. Not the lovely people who work the front line – the nurses, doctors, pharmacists, receptionists and so on. You’re lovely.

But the muppet who put the system in place for shifting your medical records from one place to another when you register at a new surgery? They need a kick in the nethers. A hard one.

Two weeks ago I registered at a surgery near my aunt’s where I’ve been living for some time. A few forms to fill in and no worries. The doctor saw me right away and all was well with the world.

Today I popped back in to see about getting boosters and inoculations for my upcoming trip back to Vietnam. Again, I was welcomed in my lovely staff… who found that they didn’t have any details on my record as yet. Little things like what injections I got in 2001 and 2006.

No problem. I called my old doctor’s surgery in Bradford who looked me up… and told me that my file was “in transit” to the new place. According to the nurse who jabbed a needle in my arm, this could take a couple of weeks. A month, maybe. Perhaps 6 weeks. During which time nobody has access to my medical history.

Apparently the file goes from the old surgery to the NHS central office down south. They then send it to NHS Scotland in Glasgow who finally farm it out to the surgery I’ve just joined. All by post or something. Maybe marching goblin. Or cycling arachnids. Either way, a month to move a file from one place to another seems absolutely absurd.

Given the fact that the records are held electronically, it amazes me that they couldn’t be transferred instantaneously from old doctor to new.

I’m fortunate in that I don’t have any dodgy medical past or important medications that need to be kept track of. I can only imaging the inconvenience for some poor sod who’s got a prescription that needs renewed and who didn’t bother making a note of the medication. Instead of a simple repeat prescription, you’re back to a new diagnosis, doctor’s time being wasted and so forth.

And all because electronic files are transferred by road, rail or a leprechaun on a pogo-stick.

Seriously. Who the hell thinks this is remotely acceptable in this day and age?

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iPad – WOW! [note sarcasm]

Apple iPad
Not. Interested.

No, I’ve not got an iPad. No, I’m not getting an iPad. I just wish people who’d bought them would shut the hell up about it.

Since yesterday when they were released I’ve been inundated with tweets of “This is my first tweet from my new iPad” and “I can tweet with my iPad!”. TweetDeck went so far as to retweet what seemed like every one of these so that even idiots I didn’t know infiltrated my Twitter feed.

Then we’re getting all the news items about “look – our application works on the iPad! Isn’t it great?” No. It isn’t. Regardless of what I think of the iPad (not a lot), it’s a tool for a job and the programs distributed are supposed to work on it. So why the elation about seeing them running? When Acer release a new range of laptops, do software houses make a big deal that their latest utility runs on it? No, of course not.

One post I found amusing (sorry, I’ve lost the link) was a web site detailing the top five addons for the iPad. Number one was a keyboard ($70). Then there was a dongle for letting you connect your camera ($30).  The others were equally inane and due to one major issue – the iPad has sucky connectivity.

Look, even my mobile phone has a USB socket and not a proprietary one. As does every digital camera I’ve ever owned. And my PSP. Why does the iPad have to be different? In a word: *kerching*. If you want to connect any device to the iPad, you have to fork out money to Apple to buy another cable so that you can do so. With USB being an established standard there is simply no other reason for this.

So iPad users – please, just shut up. I don’t care how wonderful TweetDeck looks on your new expensive semi-laptop. Fact is, you can’t multitask on it so you’re stuck with one app at a time anyway. Sure, you’ve got a new GMail layout… but the rest of us can get that with a simple browser hack anyway.

The iPad is just a novelty. A toy. One with an inbuilt reputation for having a propensity for breaking down as highlighted by Apple’s policy of shipping you a new one for “only” $99 when/if the battery fails. The fact that complete battery failure will prevent you from rescuing any data on your dead pad is beside the point. Oh, and don’t forget if you want to back your data up to a USB device you’ll need to have purchased a connector cable as mentioned above.

People ask why I don’t like Apple. I think their stuff is sleek and attractive. I think they put a lot of effort into making it make all the right “ping” noises and the display seem clear and intuitive. But underneath all the gloss is a company hell-bent on trapping you into their own system in a way that Microsoft (to name one large competing example) genuinely doesn’t.

What’s almost funny is that all these people who’ve spent $500 on the iPad with all its known limitations will undoubtedly pass it on to their kids (if the battery’s not died) in a few months when the inevitable replacement arrived – with all the stuff that should have been on the original one.

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