Tax morons

As a socialist, I have no problem with taxation. In fact, I think it's an important thing. I don't mind paying what I'm due.

What does piss me off, however, is the incompetence of the UK's Inland Revenue. They sent me a nasty letter this week demanding my (already sent) tax returns for the previous few years. I rang them to see what was going on and discovered that, actually, they have two records for me in their computer system.

Remember, now, that this is the organisation that forced me to wait ten months, attend two interviews and produce an enormous amount of identification to get my National Insurance Number. One would assume that the NI Number would be used as their unique identifier and having two files for a single number would throw up some alarms? Seemingly not...

So now I'm told all their huffing and puffing in the letter can be disregarded. I've written them a letter stating that I'll disregard it. I don't trust these arseholes to not start nasty proceeding, despite their fuckup.

If this lot's brains were putty, the windows would fall out.

Marx and kimchee

Yesterday we went on a Marx walking tour of Soho with Scott and the Trots associated with his flatmate Hannah. An excellent tour which he'll be repeating on Mayday apparently. Lots of interesting history and a good view of Soho in the era.

Afterwards we went to an excellent Korean restaurant on Coptic Street. It might be rather new because I can't find any reference to it online. We had an amazing feed: jellyfish salad, fried chicken, barbecue squid and beef, kimchee, rice and a beer coming to £20 each. Fantastic! We'll definitely be going back.

Blinding EDMX Mix

A couple of years ago I saw Ed DMX (of DMX Krew fame DJing at 93 Feet East. He played a blinding set of booty bass and electro. Absolutely awesome and had us sweating our arses off the whole time.

Well I just found this great set on his site. Mixes old school rave, hip-hop, electro and garage. Really great stuff. Interestingly there's a track by a "Mr Rumble" on the set list.

mp3 is available here.

Free DVD rental

I've been using the free trials of all these companies providing DVD rentals by post. Quite a nice idea and if we watched more films, it would be worthwhile. As it is, I'm storing up movies to watch at leisure while these companies are in gold rush mode and offering unsustainable free offers.

Our of the three I've tried so far, I have to say that Blockbuster, the evil Amerikkkan multinational, have the best service. The range is far and away the best.

By way of example, neither of the others have Godard's classic Breathless, which I've been keen to watch for a long time, but Blockbuster has it. It's in the interest of these rental companies to have obscure films, because they're only likely to be of interest to a limited group but takes the heat off their high-demand blockbusters. And surely real film buffs are their target audience?

Snowboardo!

Holly and I got back from snowboarding on Saturday night. Had a great time but snowboarding is a lot harder than skiing. Took us quite a while just to get the basics. With skiing you can be snowplowing down the mountain in a day.

Weather was fantastic, sunny every day except the last when it chucked down a lot of snow. The place we were staying, Vallandry was really nice. Good fun.

Photos here.

Cider and Dark Lager

Just bottled the cider I made on the cider making weekend last year. It's delicious, though perhaps a little too much tanin. I bottled 20 bottles straight, which will be flat scrumpy-style. The remaining 34 bottles got a little bit of sugar so they should end up fizzy. 7.8% alcohol.

Also bottled a dark lager I made from a Cooper's Old Dark Ale kit, 600g dark malt and 500g glucose. Should be around 4%. I steeped some Cascade hops with it, and that seems to have given it a lovely flowery hop aroma. Yum!

Next, I think, will be a simple mexican style lager. For half this batch I'm going to bottle with chillis and make Chill Beer. The other half will just be a pleasant light spring brew.

Wonderful UI

MS User Interface boneheadedness

Okay so Microsoft aren't exactly a difficult target when it comes to user interface design, but this one is just so bad I have to point it out.

This is Outlook 2003. Now can you tell whether the items on this item are radio buttons or checkboxes? Well the first three items are actually radio buttons, but the last two are checkboxes. Obvious, huh?

Stamping Butterflies

Stamping Butterflies, by Jon Courtenay
Grimwood

I really like Jon Courtenay Grimwood's books. He writes science fiction that tends to be based in North Africa, with all the flavour you would expect from that.

This, his latest, is a bit more sedate than his previous high-tension rollercoasters, but is beautiful and intricate. It's less science fiction than previously, but still delightfully weird. Quite enjoyed it.

Available for a loan if you can get it off me.

Invasion Day 2005

Australia Day at Scott's
Last night we marked Australia Day, commemorating the big land-grab that was whitey's arrival in Australia, with a barbecue in Scott's backyard. Being in London, it is of course the coldest, bitterest part of Winter. So we even had a brief snow shower.

Photos here. Thanks for hosting Scott, and particularly thanks for knocking up the brazier that kept us all warm.