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.

Lazy-arse tube drivers

Tube drivers on the Picadilly Line are on strike today. Apparently they're upset because one of the drivers was demoted for running through four red signals. These bastards, with their £35,000 salaries and 42 days' paid leave a year really need to learn how to get the public's support.

Here's my tip: if you're going to strike, make it hurt the bosses. Have a fare strike, where everyone travels free for a day. Or strike in the morning, so people are late for work, but start up again in the afternoon so people can get home. Whatever you do, don't strike on the day when the bosses don't care if people are late (no work gets done on Xmas Eve anyway) but the general public has lots to do and places to go.

And don't moan about disciplinary procedures that involve safety issues. The public like safety, in case you haven't noticed.

Hawkshead are spammers

I ordered from this company once. Fortunately I used a Sneakemail address so I can delete it. Postal spam isn't going to be so easily solved.

In a short time, this email address will start bouncing.

Reasons:
1. I never asked to receive your emails.
2. I never asked to receive your catalogues.
3. I attempted to unsubscribe from your emails when I received the
   last one.  It seemed to be successful, but obviously wasn't.

Fix your system and respect your customers' wishes or you will lose
them.  Don't assume they want all your crap just because they ordered
from you once.

Goodbye.  You've lost a customer today.  Take me off your postal spam
list.

Network Solutions suck!

Yes I know I know, I should have moved registrars when Network Solutions lost their monopoly on .com, .org and .net domains. I didn't get around to it. Certainly should have done it when they hijacked the domain system for their commercial purposes.

Well yesterday I tried to redelegate my domain to different name servers. Their web site wouldn't accept my new servers, but happily blanked out the original (and still working) ones, which left me without a domain.

Support requests to them result in responses saying they can't resolve it by "email" (despite me being authenticated on their server), despite me giving me all the information they need. So they want me to call them, in the US, to resolve it. I can well imagine that would result in a long wait in a phone queue. Very high-tech of them!

For now I've restored my domain by using these clowns' name servers, the part of their site that works.

So, recommendations? Jamie recommends mydomain.com. Other suggestions?

British radio sucks!

I bought one of these handlebar-mounted radios from eBay recently. It arrived yesterday and I listened to XFM on the way into work this morning. Over my 35 minute commute they played three songs and spent the rest of the time being terribly funny and running advertising. Jee-zus!

Have to get my little FM transmitter going so I can listen to whatever I want. Just hope the transmitter is strong enough to reach from pannier to handlebars, and doesn't get too much intererence from the copious pirate stations in London.

Alternative to allmusic.com?

I've used allmusic.com to find out information about musicians, albums and songs for years. It's always been a clunky, slow web site. The most annoying thing was that they used Javascript instead of a href for links, so you couldn't open another window to explore something else later, couldn't bookmark individual pages and it was difficult to send a link to a friend.

Well now it's got even worse. Their recent "upgrade" to the site has made it slower and even dodgier. They now state that they only support Internet Exploder on Windows platforms. Outrageous!

So does anyone know of an alternative that is as good and comprehensive as allmusic.com for information about artists? I can imagine some online project like IMDB for music would be great. A Wiki type thing would be perfect, with strict templates.

These train prices are crazy

I just went and booked £500 worth of travel for the future. We're doing a fair bit of moving about this Summer. Heading to Utrecht to visit Mani and Joachim, Leicester to visit Sam, Stu and Alfie, Glasgow for our murder mystery night in November, and our big ten-day cycling epic in August.

The part that is ridiculous is the train prices. Our return tickets to Leicester cost £36, for a bit over an hour of travel each way. Then our singles to Newcastle is £39 for over three hours of travel. Then the return from Lancaster on Virgin comes in at a whopping £114.20! There just doesn't seem to be any relationship between distance and price. The prices are just totally arbitrary.

Of course, the journeys will be slow, beset with delays and getting our bikes on will, despite reservations, no doubt be a chore with a grumbling guard. Oh what fun!

Problem is, there's no other reasonable way to travel inside the UK with bikes. National Express leave taking the bikes at the discretion of the bus driver, and bus drivers are never the type of people who seem willing to help or satisfied with their lives. So we're stuck with these outrageous prices and unsatisfactory service. Oh well.

Homeless?

Well after weeks of dicking us around, the landlord of the flat we intended to move into next weekend has finally given us no option but to not go ahead with it. Every communication with him has seen a week or more pass before we get any response. He tried to stiff us with a £250 "professional cleaning" fee while sticking us with a six month lease, when we specifically wanted twelve months. Grrr. If someone takes two weeks to get back to you on something that is in their interest, can you imagine what they'd be like when the boiler stops working?

So we're gonna be homeless in a couple of weeks. I've managed to negotiate an extra week with our current flat, and then we'll stay with John and Anne for a week. We're then in Australia for three weeks, and will find a new place to live when we get back to London.

It was a nice flat, but not worth the hassle. It was also at the very top of our price range, and we weren't going to be there for the first three weeks of the habitation anyway. So really, we're saving quite a bit of money this way.

The sucky part is that we'll have to live out of boxes for a while, and move house twice. Better than moving once, then having to move again in six months, though.

Globalisation isn't working

I thought globalisation was supposed to mean prices were the same around the world. No more of these ridiculous price inequalities. Well not in electronics, they certainly aren't!

I'm looking to a digitial camera and a work colleague showed me the one he just bought in Malayia for the equivalent of £350. Beautiful camera! Of course, the price in the UK at the cheapest available price, it's £500!

Australia isn't looking much better. Even at wholesale prices, the similar Canon camera is more than it costs in the UK even! Insane.

The problem, of course, is tarrifs. Now I don't have a problem with tarrifs, per-se. The problem is that they're applied differently to different importers.

If you're Canon, you import at well below wholesale price, and pay taxes accordingly. Then your "local distributor" (a division of your company) takes their profit cut. Then they sell it.

If you're Joe Net User buying it from the US and having it posted to you, customs apply a 20% "lift" to the price on the invoice because they assume you got it at wholesale prices. Then the shipping company charges you a fee for processing the import duties. Ends up you pay the same price as you'd pay locally, which is just how they price it in the shops.

So how about some equal application of tarrifs? Hell, get the Amazons of the world to collect it for the EU as a whole, but they'll be sourcing from a lower initial price. That sounds like the kind of globalisation I'd like!