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Sweeping up with a ten-spot - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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February 28th, 2006


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11:52 pm - Sweeping up with a ten-spot
1. I keep getting static shocks every day or two when brushing against parts of my new computer chair. This is annoying as otherwise it's a lovely chair. The carpet may well be as much to fault as the chair, but it's harder to do anything about it. Also partially at fault is the dry air here; I'm not sure I completely trust the reading, but this hygrometer/thermometer suggests there's only 20% humidity in this room. Seems rather unlikely to me - you'd expect the figure to go up quite a lot when it's rainy outside and the windows are open (wouldn't you?) - but this page suggests that getting a humidifier is worth a try. Accordingly, does anyone have any recommendations for humidifiers, please, (Which? don't) or are they much of a muchness to the extent where there's little to be gained from paying for "a good brand"? Thanks in advance for any advice.

2. However, I am sure my chair would be nicer still if I could have it at the proper height, but this included-in-the-supplied-furniture computer table is rather low and so the (great heavy 19" CRT) monitor ends up being lower than I would like. Accordingly, I'd like to raise the monitor so I can improve the chair position. I can buy a camp little monitor stand to go on top of the computer table for £30, which is much more than I'd like to spend. What I want is a 12" x 12" x 6" block of something solid with very low density; the table sags a bit under the weight of the monitor as it is, so a big old block of polystyrene or balsa wood would spread the weight out over a bigger footprint. Where does one get a solid half ft3 of polystyrene or balsa wood (or...?), though?

3. I did enjoy a bit of eye candy while the Winter Olympics were in progress; the lechery recipient was Japanese women's curling team captain Ayumi Onodera. I can't tell whether her face is beautiful or flawed-but-interesting; her other picture (fifth down) gives a better view of the blemish beneath her right eye, which was more visible still when she was curling. She also had a really nice smile and unnaturally-wide-at-the-shoulders anime-princess hair while she was playing, which always help.

4. Can I introduce rhysara, wordplay and xorsyst to each other? You're all lovely and you're all doing the Perplex City thing. Perhaps you should get together for card-swapping purposes.

5. Amusing spammer e-mail addresses, number 462 in a series of eleventy billion: mary@suse.de . So that's how they get all the superpowers they claim to sell!

6. The full disclosure department notes that in my review of OxCon 2006, I forgot to mention that I took part in the year's annual Fifteen-to-One-derived quiz. Even allowing for the fact that we were given three questions each in round one rather than the canonical two, I was out first with a whopping 0/3; there were 17-ish players, not the titular 15, and I was standing about 8th in line. I got questions wrong about Tierra del Fuego, ancient lights and naming who said "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses". An enjoyable, well-written quiz and I don't feel too dumb despite being first out. Dave Percik has been running the quiz for years; once he's done it ten times, he's going to hang up his question cards like William G. and, as in real life, we're going to do Deal Or No Deal instead. (...perhaps)

7. One of the questions I am most frequently asked about my long-distance relationship with dezzikitty is whether I know good ways to get cheap flights. Other than assiduous collection of frequent flyer miles, the answer is sadly not. However, I was very pleased to discover SkyScanner, a very clever database for comparing flight routes and prices. It's excellent at intra-European flights and rather less hot at transatlantic ones, alas; I particularly like the powerful options which let you be particularly flexible about which airport in a specified country you're prepared to fly from, or fly to. It has revealed a number of BMI flights between Durham Tees Valley (MME) and Heathrow (LHR) where seats are on sale from £0 plus taxes and charges; this isn't a mistake, as the taxes and charges alone come to about fifty pounds for the return flight, leading to suspicions that the charges may be profitmakers for the airline.

8. Returning to the UK, one thing I miss about the US is not encountering nearly so many people who feel that the only way they will get any respect from innocent passers-by is to make the passers-by fear them. I'm sure youthful cheekiness is universal, but the bits of the US I saw didn't have nearly so many groups insulting other groups of passers-by (typically smaller groups, but groups of equal or larger size and less agression are also known) for fun; really, my policy these days is to try not to make eye contact with anyone underage. Terms like "chav" and "underclass" are unhelpful; there are enough newspapers which seem to rely on engendering fear among their readers. Heck, companies and political parties do it too all the time. Perhaps it's just being a tourist lets you forget some of your fears for a while? Perhaps this is a benefit of driving everywhere and so having a car's radius of personal space?

9. Another thing I miss about the US is the customer service. When I went to buy some antihistamines at the local independent pharmacy the other day, I went in and up to the counter, only to watch the two attendants behind the desk (one easily old enough to know better) continue their conversation and ignore me. Indeed, the only thing that distracted them was the entrance of a short-spiky-haired youth in a bright white shell suit, his lady and his lady's pram - damn, the assistants started talking to them quickly enough. Then they deigned to pay attention to me with a curt "Are you being served?" Well, actually - no, I wasn't. Naturally, being British and meek, I put it up to them having a bad day, didn't make a scene and am merely passive-aggressively blogging about it without any intention of (a) naming the store or (b) bringing it to the manager's attention. US customer service goes to the other extreme, perhaps even to a fault, but it was a contrast of which I didn't enjoy the reminder.

10. Not everything about UK shopping is bad, though. Finishing on a cheerful note, I picked up a four-pack of Simple soap at Boots (not the local independent pharmacy) and had it scanned as I paid for it, only to learn that they were apparently on 2-for-1 and I should go and pick up another packet on my way out. Accordingly I visit the shelf to pick up another pack and there is no notice whatsoever about the BOGOFitude of Simple. Evidently this is an easter egg, or possibly a random hidden promotion for Boots cardholders. Still: unexpected free soap, hurrah!
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: We Love Katamari - Katamari on the Rocks

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:March 1st, 2006 12:56 am (UTC)
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#3: Let's give some props to the Girls of USA Curling! ;)

#9: Huh? The UK has WORSE customer service than here?!?!?!? I pity the fooooo that wants a shirt at Marks and Spencer...then. :)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 1st, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
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#3 Not my type. I have already found my type and there is only one of her.

#9 M&S are normally pretty good; it's a generalisation, but the more expensive places tend to be able to pay to train staff more and so often have good service.
[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:March 1st, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Ah but I wasn't inferring anything different...you are a lucky guy...but you commented, "lechery recipient was Japanese women's curling team captain Ayumi Onodera". What am I missing? LOL

I have only went into a few stores outside of Central London and never had any complaints with service in any place I've been in there. To be honest, they're almost TOO friendly! *never satisfied* ;)
From:mr_babbage
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
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Boots are near tyrannical in their BOGOF offers. I wanted to buy some moisturiser to cure a bit of dry skin but the bottle was quite large and would last me a year at least. However, they said at the till it was buy one, get one free. I assured them that I didn't need a 2nd bottle, at which point the till assistant literally jumped out of his seat and ran, yes, ran in a Treasure Hunt stylee trying to locate said product.

All in all, it was faintly embarrasing.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 1st, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
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Embarrassing if there are a queue of people waiting behind you, I can imagine, but surely otherwise rather fun...?
[User Picture]
From:undyingking
Date:March 1st, 2006 08:58 am (UTC)
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You can achieve the effect of a humidifier a lot cheaper by having an open tray of water somewhere in the room.

Would polystyrene be strong enough to hold a monstrous great monitor? I can imagine it denting and tipping... Dunno about balsa, but you could get a suitable lump of pine from your local decent-sized B&Q, Jewson's etc.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 1st, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
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Am trying the poor man's humidifier approach with an open tray of water. Does the tray have to be completely full, to the point of keeping from spilling only through surface tension, in order to get the best effect? So far it is having some effect but not much, raising the humidity from 20%-21% to 20%-23%. That's not great. However, it's always possible that a real humidifier might not be any greater.

Have Googled for "polystyrene block" and sent in an enquiry to some people who sell the really firm foam that gets used in the hard old form of the really nasty gymnastic mats at school. Lots of model aeroplane dealers seem to sell balsa, but I'd need eight 12"x3"x3" blocks at a total cost of US$65+.
[User Picture]
From:undyingking
Date:March 1st, 2006 11:40 am (UTC)
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Fullness doesn't matter much, the surface area open to evaporation (relative to the volume of the room) is the important factor -- so more trays will haev more effect. It will take a while to evaporate though, it needs to become a permanent fixture of the room and topped up from time to time -- I guess you could boil a kettle for a quicker effect?

Yikes, that's a bit steep (and, checking, pine is about three times denser than balsa, so maybe that wasn't a very good suggestion ;-)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 1st, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC)
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My hygrometer is now cycling between 64%, 65% and EE%. Oh dear. Perhaps I need a new hygrometer as well as a humidifier.

Apparently the hard foam will compress a little under the weight of the monitor but not much, so that may be the way forward. We shall see.
[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:March 2nd, 2006 03:31 pm (UTC)
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This might seem insane (and probably is), but have you considered trying a multipack or two of toilet paper as your "solid block of something lightweight"? It's relatively cheap, and has the advantage that if it doesn't do the job you can, well, use it for its intended purpose!
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 2nd, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)

You get a lightbulb icon!

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I knew there was a reason why you did well in the Creative Thinking contests and I didn't. Not sure that the height will be right, unless they suddenly start making multi-packs 1½ rolls in height, but it's well worth an experiment. Thank you!
[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:March 2nd, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)

Re: You get a lightbulb icon!

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Well, what I'm thinking is two multipacks one atop the other, secured by the miracle of sellotape. The weight of the monitor will assuredly crush it down somewhat, probably bringing the whole construction somewhere close to your required dimensions.
[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:March 2nd, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC)

Re: You get a lightbulb icon!

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And yes... I'm not sure whether MSO ever had the nerve to use "Alternative uses for toilet paper" as a creative thinking competition, and if they did it would have been an immediate win to come up with "monitor stand"!
From:daweaver
Date:March 1st, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
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1. 20% humidity is low, but when there's no precipitation, and you've got the heating going, it's perfectly possible. It's also been surprisingly dry outside to-day - when the sun was shining at lunchtime, I had a remarkably clear view of Birmingham city centre, and that's a full 10 miles away. Possibly your easiest method would be to put a barrier between carpet and chair - a square metre of plastic should set you back no more than a tenner. Also prevents wear on the carpet.

3. My vote's with flame-haired Norwegians. The World Biathlon Championships: eye-candy for all tastes.

6. You are in distinguished company - ISTR the same thing happened in the 1989 celebrity special to Barry Cryer, and a regular early exiter in the finals was Daphne Fowler.

7. Interesting point regarding taxes: there's a £5 per leg charge payable to Mr Gordon Prudence-Brown; landing charges for Heathrow seem to average out to about £30 per person; landing charges for small airports like Teesside would be around a tenner. It's possible that BMI are getting some form of discount on the landing fees to use Teesside, but I suspect the cost of running the flight would be covered by a dozen business-class fares. That's £1500 in the kitty, probably enough to cover fuel and cabin crew. Tourist-class fares cover the in-flight meals snacks coffee and magazines tabloids.

9. Which reminds me, I really must write to the manager at my local superstore. The queues for the checkouts are becoming intolerable. Where's the nearest Co-op?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:March 2nd, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
1. Ooh, that sounds like it might be worth a try as well. Thanks!

7. The seats were on sale at £0 plus ("baby", sold in the bmibaby stylee - no frills even to the point of having to check in at an automatic kiosk), £10 plus ("economy" - human check-in and flyer miles) and £150 plus ("premium" - flexible ticket, choice of seats, lounge access, lots of queue skipping and double flyer miles). I think they'll not be selling many of the £0+ fares at all, and the £10+ fares may be pretty thin on the ground as well.

Landing fees at Heathrow £30 per passenger? Seems pretty chunky to me. I wonder whether that has gone up to facilitate Terminal 5, or whether it will go up again once Terminal 5 has been built. (That's an and/or, naturally. Repeat similar questions if they build Runway 3 and Terminal 6.) I did once find an article (I think on Het Graun, but I can't find it quickly) detailing how the budget airlines actually made profits on each flight.

I need an airports icon, I suspect.

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