Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Post & Pictures from Becca/Bob

Had an email this morning from Becca's Dad, Peter, which I've posted on the main blog for her. Not terribly good news, unfortunately, but it could be a lot worse.

She's also taking orders for Xmas sweaters!

I've also been contacted by someone who has a rehearsal space that could be used for a fund-raiser, which is handy as Middlesex University are being arses when it comes to allowing us to use the Students' Union building at Trent Park on a weekend.

If anyone from Middlesex happens to read this, please complain to anyone who will listen. I'm stunned the University would drag its heels over something which is potentially time-critical. Okay, not stunned. I used to go there, so I know what they're like. I'm still surprised though.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Starbucks, And Why I Hate Them.

I love coffee. It's probably the thing I drink most in a day - definitely somewhere around 6-8 cups - so while this rant is about coffee inter alia, it's mainly about Starbucks. Other coffee shop places are included and are just as culpable, but it's mostly Starbucks.

I've been in Starbucks four times in my life, each time because I NEEDED a coffee and they happened to be there. But then if you'd opened as many shops as they have, you'd happen to be everywhere too. First of all, couldn't believe they were charging £5 for a cup of coffee. A bag of coffee, yes. A cup of coffee? No way in hell. I mean the blends tasted okay, quite nice in a bland kind of way, but not good enough for £5 a cup.

Secondly, and I've mentioned this already, they're every-fucking-where. I reckon you could hurl a cup of your expensively-purchased coffee from one Starbucks, and pretty much guarantee splashing the front of another Starbucks when it lands. It used to be that it went "shop-shop-shop-shop-coffee place-shop-shop-shop-shop" on a high street or in a mall. Now it goes "coffee place-coffee place-coffee place-coffee place-shop-coffee place-coffee place-McDonalds".

Thirdly, they're corporate ass-hats of the worst kind. They do exclusive deals with artists - such as Bob Dylan - so you can't buy the album anywhere else. Then, decide to ban sales of certain albums - Springsteen for example - because they don't like the lyrics.

Now, just to complete my hatred of them, this story comes out. I'm particularly thrilled with the corporate ass-hattery of "For the US industry to exist, we must have an economically stable coffee industry in the producing world...This particular scheme is going to hurt the Ethiopian coffee farmers economically." And that guy doesn't actually work for Starbucks. They just kinda pay his wages.

Okay, two quick points, for "economically stable coffee industry in the producing world" read "exploitable resource from third-world farmers" and for "going to hurt the Ethiopian coffee farmers economically" read "going to cut our profit margin from the current 100000% mark, unless we find somewhere more desperate to sell us coffee."


You Can Be An Angel - New Site!

Hello to anyone looking for information about Bob/Rebecca Kaye.

I've opened up a specific site here for information about the on-going campaign - just so it doesn't get lost on here amongst the rest of my ranting.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Telewest/Blueyonder: Problem "Too Expensive To Fix"

We've just been called by Blueyonder with regards to us leaving their service. Having offered us six months of free broadband yesterday, we asked when the fault was going to be fixed to see if it was worth us accepting the offer.

Surprise! They're not going to fix the problem! Fixing the problem is "too expensive" according to the Supervisor of the lady who rang us.

Oh. My. God.

So there's a fault, you're not providing the service we're paying for, you've known about it since June, and you're not going to fix it because it's too expensive!?! Wow. You guys rock. Like David Hasselhoff. When he's drunk. In Germany.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Telewest/Blueyonder And Why I Hate Them.

Okay, in January of this year we got broadband internet at the flat. And as we also wanted some kind of multi-channel thing (but can't get a Sky dish fitted as the landlady hates them) decided to combine it in a package deal. Telewest was the one that looked the best value for money, so that was the one we went with.

After a couple of months of them billing us wrongly, and giving us credits, everything went smoothly. Until June, when the internet connection started getting slower and slower. Useable, but slow. This continued until a couple of Saturday's back when we couldn't get online at all. So I rang to ask what the problem was.

Now, I should point out here, I currently work in IT, and I've previously worked for Demon Internet in the ADSL Provisioning department, so I know more than your basic user about IT, and broadband in particular.

I ring Broadband Support. After 45mins they answer the phone. Run a couple of basic diagnostics with me ("have you tried turning the modem and the computer off and on?", yes, repeatedly, while I've been on hold) then tell me that as I can't ping the modem "you need to reinstall your ethernet drivers, do the restart thing and call back if you have any problems". I do this, despite knowing that the drivers and the NIC are fine, and surprise, still can't get online.

I ring Broadband Support back, another 45min wait for an answer. "Ah," says the chap I speak to next, "there's a fault on the UBR that you connect to. I'll speak to the Network Team and see what the problem is." He puts me on hold, then comes back and says "apparently it's been passed up to the Capacity Management Team, so it is being investigated, call back on Monday to see what the resolution is".

On the Monday I ring them to see what the status of the fault is. After the usual 45min wait, "what fault?". I explain the problem again (do these people not keep account notes?) and tell them that it's obviously a contention issue as the speed - when we can get online - dies at 6pm and improves after 11pm. "There's no fault listed that I can see, it must be your computer". I ask him to pass me up to his supervisor.

I'm put on hold for a couple of minutes. "My supervisor is refusing to speak to you as he'd just tell you what I've told you"(!) I ask for the name of the supervisor, and he refuses to give me it for "health & safety reasons". Apparently I sound like a serial killer on the 'phone. Or Blueyonder haven't explained anything about Customer Service to him. It's one or the other.

Infuriated, I ring the Customer Care department. They tell me that it was unusual that the supervisor wouldn't speak to me, and that the guy I'd spoken to wasn't aware of "the process". I asked for an explanation of "the process" and was told that if I requested a callback from a Manager, they had to do it within 24hrs. So I rang back and asked for exactly that.

Two days later - after fixing the connection problem myself, by using some hints I found on the internet at work (none of which had been suggested by the Broadband Support team) - I rang Customer Care to complain that no-one had actually called me back, and they apologised all over again for the inconvenience. Our connection, however, was still incredibly slow and essentially unusable before 11pm.

So I emailed Blueyonder. And got involved in a series of mails - each more insane than the last - that provided me with the following information: there has been a contention issue on our pipe since June, the company still haven't sourced the necessary hardware to fix it, have no timescale for the upgrade, and we can't be moved to a different pipe as Blueyonder can't see what the problem is with the service they're providing me.

I'm paying for a 2Mb connection. The best I've achieved recently is 0.5Mb downstream. The upstream speed is even worse, officially coming in at 0.01Mb - which is slower than a 56k modem. Yet they won't discuss compensation "until the matter is completely resolved", despite not having an actual timescale.

Sod that. We rang and asked how much we'd have to pay to get out of the rest of the contract and explained why we were leaving. Next day (this morning) Blueyonder ring and offer us 6 months free Broadband and a reduction on our TV subscription. And still no timescale of when they'll fix the problem.

Now, call me foolish, but a free 6 months of something that doesn't work is as good as not having it at all, isn't it? So we're now looking at moving to ADSL, which is likely to be more expensive, but potentially better as we know what the contention ratio is going to be in advance.

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What the fuck is that all about?

I was sat, bored, in a bar last night, doing the crossword while I had a pint. Having finished the concise Independent crossword, I started on the cryptic one. Got a few clues - my favourite being: Spare cash, lost in 'em (4,8) - but decided I didn't like the setter as the example should prove*, so I moved on to doing the Sudoku.

Now, I've never bothered with them before, as I much prefer to sit there and ponder the cryptic crossword while slowly nursing a pint of Guinness than juggle the position of numbers in my head. I've also been put off by the fact that I've been told they're really annoying. Well, they are. But not in the way I was expecting.

I'm often left feeling let down, but that doesn't lessen the disappointment when you realise that you've only done one Sudoku, it was the difficult one, it took you three minutes, and the other two on the page are easier. And you still have over half a pint of Guinness looking at you.

* The answer, an anagram, includes so much of the clue that the only word left - and in my mind, the word that the answer should relate to - is "spare". Which doesn't relate to the answer at all.


Some More Ranting, Mainly About Adverts

The New Corsa advert bothers me. I may be mis-reading it here, but as it features a load of stuffed creature type things lusting after the car, it says "Driven by Muppets" to me. Which surely can't be what the advertising agency were suggesting? I mean, it's probably true, but they can't actually be suggesting it, can they?

And, in the new Fairy Non-Bio Conditioner advert, where they're celebrating getting the new award for being hypo-allergenic, the baby/logo is using a ladder to reach. The ladder is made of towelling. If you can make a ladder out of towelling then frankly your conditioner is not working. That's a hint, you can have that one for free.

I also note that the advert telling people it's probably okay to drive into kids at 30mph hasn't been on television recently. Which is a shame. No worry though, I've found it here so you can enjoy it all over again.

I found that on this site which also publishes statistics on how excessive speed has been a contributing factor in so many percent of accidents. Interestingly (to me, anyway) is that the "Estimates exclude results from West Midlands". Which suggests that either they skew the average one way or the other (thus rendering these figures meaningless) or the West Midlands area realises that excessive speed normally causes accidents when something else is involved - like drink-driving, stolen car etc. - and not just people doing 85mph in a 70mph zone.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Photos Of Rebecca/Bob

These were taken recently for the "You Can Be An Angel" campaign. The pills in the background represent only a partial amount of what Bob takes every day. She has recently stopped taking the steroids which have given her the look of a concerned hamster and now it just looks like she's had her wisdom teeth all removed at once.

As you can see, she still dresses like a hippy and, I'm pleased to report, she still has her sense of humour. Which is amazing given the amount of pills she has to take, the constant making and drinking of vegetable juice and three coffee enemas a day....

Seriously, if you can contribute in ANY way, please leave a comment with your email address and I'll get back to you. Thanks again.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

You Can Be An Angel

The following is from Rebecca/Bob's parents, Bet & Peter:

"In the world of theatre ‘an angel’ is a person who gives financial support ‘to keep the show on the road’. It seems an appropriate term to help Rebecca Kaye in her fight for survival – she will have enthused you in workshops; she will have taught your children in school; she will have entertained you with comedy and song (Small Scale Theatre Co); trained with you in Performing Arts at Middlesex; and acted with you in primary schools in Scarborough – later at Launceston College.

For those of you who have never met Becca – she was born in Yorkshire in 1972 and with her sister Sam led a carefree childhood. Little did we know that a chance bout of sunburn when she was 16 would lead to the problems she now faces. A melanoma (skin blemish) was removed surgically seven years ago and we all hoped that all would be well. However last summer (2005) Becca was diagnosed as having two brain tumours. The largest was skilfully removed by surgery, the second treated with the latest radiotherapy techniques. Even so she was told that she only had months to live. There was no cure. Metastatic melanoma is the most lethal form of cancer. Cancer would continue to spread throughout her body.

Becca did not give in. Together with her tremendously caring and supportive partner Kev, she searched for hope where the NHS could offer none. She went to see a doctor/naturopath in London – Dr Etienne Callebout, who had successfully helped people overcome melanoma. Together they devised an intensive programme of organic diet and natural supplementation. As parents, Bet and I sourced and paid for the supplements – averaging £3,000 for each month. Expensive (although nothing compared to the cost of chemotherapy so widely used by the NHS) but it did provide hope where none existed. It has helped to keep Becca alive – and the NHS Team are always surprised by her ability to spring back – she survives beyond their expectations. Tumours do continue to grow (although very slowly) and the battle is not yet won. Becca wants to fight on! She is more determined than ever.

That is why we need to ask for your help. Our own savings have almost disappeared and the worst scenario any parent could envisage, would be to have to turn off the supply – to stop all hope. We know that many of you are willing to help. Just a small monthly contribution to ‘Becca’s Angels’ would mean that we can continue the programme of support. Hopefully we can enable Becca to reach a stage of remission. At the very least we will keep hope alive."

Please contact me via the comments section if you would like me to send you more information about ways in which you can contribute. Thanks.


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