Category Archives: Nice surprises

Well done, everyone: we’ve reached ten thousand comments!

I checked this blog’s console just now, and realised that we have passed a really significant landmark: more than ten thousand comments!


Counting back through the recent comments, it seems that number ten thousand was this one, a brief comment on the film Happy Accidents. In a display of flagrant nepotism, it’s by Marion Taylor, my mum. As far as I can tell from the console, it’s only the second time she’s ever commented on this blog, so she timed it well!

Continue reading

A happy story about good service

I seem to spent half my waking hours these days on hold to awful faceless corporations with terrible customer service. But rather then complain about them (PlusNet, Good Energy, Welsh Water), I want to mention a company that gave really good service.

Four and a half years ago, I bought this T&G pepper grinder from Cooking Marvellous, via Amazon:


Continue reading

Great service is not dead

Several years ago, my brother Gerard gave us an Xbox 360 Elite for Christmas. At the time I was sceptical: we had a PS2 already and I didn’t see the need for another console. But time showed Gerard’s wisdom: the Xbox has been used for many thousands of hours of gaming — I myself have played well over a hundred hours of Just Cause 2 on it.


Continue reading

Seriously: shop around for your car insurance

The insurance renewal for our main car (a 2005 Saab 9-5 estate) came through yesterday. I was about to pick up the phone and renew when I was struck that the premium seemed higher than I expected — £823.62 for the year (plus the extra 10% they charge you for paying monthly instead of up front). Sure enough, when I checked last year’s renewal, I found it had been only £569.22. So they’d tried to slip a 45% increase past us.

The insurance company in question, in case you want to know to avoid them, was Direct Line.


Continue reading

Shift-Ctrl-V: paste without formatting

This is the single most useful keyboard shortcut I’ve ever found, but it seems no-one knows about it; at least, if they do, they didn’t tell me at any point in the first 33 years of my computer career.

If you copy (Ctrl-C) from a web-page, or a Word/OpenOffice document, or any other source that has formatting, then when you paste the copied material into a document that supports formatting (such as another Word/OpenOffice document or a WordPress post), the formatting — or at least, a broken attempt at it — will be pasted in. That usually means that you get fonts you didn’t want, that are inconsistent with the rest of the document. I imagine this is the cause of most of the horrible Font Soup you see in too many MS-Word documents.

This is a proper pain if, to pick a purely hypothetical example, you’re putting together a book based on your own blog-posts.

So instead, use paste-without-formatting. In OpenOffice (and its derivatives: NeoOffice, LibreOffice, etc.) this is on the Edit menu as Paste Special…, but you can use the shortcut Shift-Ctrl-V (or Apple-Ctrl-V on a Mac) to invoke it. It pops up a small menu of paste styles: double-click on Unformatted Text and you’re done.

It turns out that although there is no corresponding menu-item in the WordPress composer, the keyboard shortcut works — in fact, it works even better than it does in OpenOffice, as it doesn’t bother with the menu and just does the paste as unformatted text.

Shift-Ctrl-V: it’s your friend.

Pulled back into PlusNet after all

Well, what do you know? I left the phone ringing as I wrote the last post, and it did get picked up. I got through to a helpful man who was going to send a new MAC key, but managed to get me to explain why I wanted to move.

Beyond simple frustration, PlusNet simply don’t offer the package I need, which is unlimited bandwidth with a static IP address. Well, I was right: that package doesn’t exist. But they do have a package which gives me 120 GB per month rather than the current deal which starts throttling me to death around 30 GB. So for now at least, that’s good enough — it’s past the I Don’t Want To Even Have To Think About How Much Bandwidth I’m Using threshhold. (Because that’s the real issue. It’s 2012: I should not have to think “better not watch that on iPlayer this month, it might push me past the threshhold”.)

Not only that, I can have a static IP address with the 120 GB package for £5 a month, which is fine. It’s actually going to come to significantly less than I am paying now.

So I am staying with them after all.

But here’s the frustrating bit: I only found this out because I phoned. x There is nothing on that admits the existence of a 120 GB deal: it’s a closely guarded secret. Their site only shows 10GB and 60GB deals. And there’s nothing that says you can get a static IP address with either of these deals. In fact the whole site seems coy on the very existence of static IPs: for example, nothing in my account page admits that I have one under my current package.

You only find out that the 120GB deal exists, and that it can have a static IP address, if you phone up and are prepared to wait twenty minutes.

What’s that about?

What I did on my holidays

Sorry it’s been so quiet around here.  I’ve been away twice in the last few weeks, and in the time since then I’ve been revving frantically to catch up with what’s been happening in my absence.  But just to make you all jealous, here is one of the photos I took on my trip to Cancun:

It’s hard to believe such places really exist, isn’t it?  But this is the raw shot, straight off the camera, no processing at all.  It’s a tiny beach at the ancient Mayan city of Tulum — the most startlingly beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

Continue reading

One million hits

Some time the last half-hour, this blog passed the milestone of one million hits.  I’d like thank all of you who’ve visited in the last eighteen months and made it possible.

A much more important milestone is coming up soon — 5000 comments.  (We have 4913 so far.)  Amazingly, I don’t recall having had to delete a single one, with the exception of a few transparently obvious spams.  No-one has been abusive or offensive or just horribly stupid.  The quality of discussion here is fantastic, and I’ll always be grateful for the community that’s accumulated despite my terrible lack of focus on any one subject.

Again — thanks to you all!

Children of Earth: the final verdict, part 2: how Torchwood stopped sucking

Last night, in what was initially going to be a review of Children of Earth, I found myself instead writing a long, semi-coherent rant about everything that was wrong with Torchwood in its first two series.

But the point is, it all came right in series 3.

How did that happen?

Continue reading

Crunchiegate: the bitter end

A letter!  A letter from SSP, The Food Travel Experts!

Could it be the conclusion of the long-promised full investigation?

Continue reading