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post 5 on Thursday 15th February 2007 at 09:38

A Tale Of Stolen Bins

I can hardly believe I've yet to write about the saga of the wheelie bins! A story, which in summation, involves what can only be described as a *shit load* of wheelie bins (belonging to thirteen oak street) being cruelly stolen from the alley.

People take my wheelie bins for what purposes I'm unsure but I’m guessing theft, debauchery, rat storage, police hikes, "oh shit, it's the TV licence van", etc would probably all be accurate if not speculative possibilities.

Just some background: I live in a row of Victorian terrace houses in one of the most run-down and socially deprived areas of Middlesbrough. We share an alley which runs parallel to the length of the houses and, I state this with authority, we ALL should have a wheelie bin - as provided free of charge by Redcar & Cleveland council. The bin men come every other Tuesday (we're supposed to recycle) and apart from myself and Mr. Norman are the only people with access to the alley gates.

Now the bins and their travels have become somewhat of a comedy in this house. Questions such as where do they go? What do they see? What mysterious contents do they harbour on these mystical journeys? etc, all remain unanswered. Just to provoke the tale further (and make my plight seem all the more pitiful) it actually took me three months to get a wheelie bin, after which time two were dispatched by the stupid council; one serving as the alley bin, and the other becoming a very useful "cache" bin.

The first bin to go was an unmarked bin which naked and green was sent to the alley like a lamb to the slaughter. I didn't draw on this bin and that was my first mistake - the bin was taken but the incident was kinda dismissed as a one-off. In fact, due to the cache bin it was almost forgotten about! But then when the cache was stolen it was like WTF? What am I going to do now! So I called the council was given a case number. Can you believe that? A case number! So fully authenticated we trotted down to yon tip in Redcar to get a new wheelie bin.

Enter bin number three - trundling into the alley like the car outta Grease, rising up from the mist of its own excellency and fully inscribed with more identifying marks than a police line-up. BUT IT WAS STILL STOLEN!

After a four week sabbatical, during which time the rubbish was just flowing from the back door, the bin returned as is nothing had happened. The only clue was a dead rat lay at its wheels ... make of that what you will. Where from here? Well, I'm considering RFID and GPS technology. But I’m leaving this post open for more news. I’m sure there’ll be some. As Dad would say “you couldn’t make it up”.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ culture ] [ rants ] [ south bank ]
post 6 on Friday 23rd February 2007 at 19:04

The False Promises of Magazines

I wrote this a few years ago but bought a magazine yesterday breaking a magazine-fast of a few months. It kinda sparked something off. ;P

Why it is that any self-respecting, intelligent woman would get sucked into the false promises of women’s magazines?

If you walk along any news stand, you'll notice delightfully achievable captions such as "CHANGE YOUR LIFE IN YOUR LUNCH BREAK - WE DID IT YOU CAN TOO!". Society places too many demands on us as humans, and some of us assume that something must be wrong with our lives if we're not fulfilling the roles that society has created for us. Magazines enforce this by creating a problem which we must now solve though reading the damned magazine. In fact, the problem never existed, and because it never existed, it can never be solved. Thus when we inevitably "fail" to reach this unreachable solution, we feel inadequate.

And yet magazines are full of outrageously contradicting advice. On one page we are told to look thin, be saintly, and preserve our figures because we’re special, and we should stay that way. Yet the next page opposes the previous with recipes for "naughty" and “sinful” foods we should make to "indulge" ourselves and our families. They made chocolate sinful! Them and the diet brigade, but that's another story.

What I have had to remember is that magazines are fed this shite directly from people trying to make a fast buck out of playing on our desires and fantasies - advertisers. These people are educated on what buttons to press. Not only do they have demographics; for example age, gender and location, they also think they know us by simply sliding us neatly into one of their social grade categories (waves to all the C1s out there!!). In short, they know what subconscious desires and needs they can tap in to based on who we are and where were going, or want to go.

The saddest thing is that this is just a reflection of our current society. We are told what to wear, what to eat, what to think, and what to need, and not by some body that we have elected to listen to - but by people trying to make money, for themselves.

If you want to be sane and happy, boycott women’s magazines.

tags: [ feminist rants ] [ rants ]
post 10 on Sunday 4th March 2007 at 17:32

Call 999 - It Doesn't Work In Mozilla!

You were looking for a job role that would allow you to cultivate your secret inversion, to fulfil your inner solitude, to help flourish your silent genius, and what did you get? You got clients calling you at a twenty-to-nine on a saturday evening. Are you a therapist, care worker or a member of the emergency services? No, welcome to the career choice of the eternally harassed, the web designer.

tags: [ rants ] [ web site design ]
post 26 on Tuesday 8th May 2007 at 17:48

The House Life Doctor

Watch out, they sometimes hunt in packs!I saw my old boss today in ASDF. For the benefit of the uninformed I will allow myself the pleasure of bringing you up to speed on my last job before starting work with National.

I worked in telesales for a local building and glazing firm qualifying sales leads for shoddy salesmen who would visit the customer’s home with a view to supplying extraneous Double Glazing Units. I must mention now that I felt a definite sense of divided loyalties in this job: should I fulfil the criteria of a good telesales person, closing leads through furnishing misinformation, or do I commit to a strange sense of obligation to mankind (not to mention the old ladies) by not allowing the wool to be pulled over their eyes; and let the salesmen do their worst once they were on the property?

Anyhoo, I was working through a database of about 6000 customer contacts whilst simultaneously trying to ignore the dwindling number of available customers that I could actually call to qualify. Then one day, not so far from me reaching the end of the records on file, and with the promise of street selling looming, the boss called me on the ‘phone an hour before I was due to work. He said "We're very sorry Helen (and the intonation of his voice was really grating my tits at this point) but we're going to have to let you go [like I was foaming at the mouth to lose my £7 an hour job!]". This was backed up by a short and to-the-point letter the very next morning (so they'd been planning it?) and thus I was cast onto the cold, hard streets of unemployment (although my student status rendered me one above totally redundant!) And lo! Hot on heels of the jobs hub of the North East, the University of Teesside Students' Union web site, trawling endless bar jobs to find something remotely suitable, I came across a job for a web developer at up to £8 an hour.

Look how I witter? Back to Gary! ... I stood in the queue contemplating the lentils or the red kidney beans and I never noticed he was in front of me. My feeling is that he, for his sins, had tried to remain inconspicuous in order to avoid my attention, cowering behind his copy of The Sun like a shameful schoolboy. Clearly, he believed himself to have committed some wrongdoing in my eyes? For when we finally made eye contact after all these months, and his vacant fish-like stare met with my wide-eyed surprise and luscious enjoyment at seeing him squirm, he couldn't possibly have known that losing my job with The House Doctor was the best thing that happened to me. In fact it's safe to say it brought about some things in my life that go beyond my comprehension of the happiness possible from "a job".

So thank you, Gary. For everything. For bringing me a routine, a chance to make mistakes and learn from it, extra money, friends, happiness and love!

tags: [ career ] [ rants ]
post 40 on Sunday 1st July 2007 at 21:31

Choose Life, Choose Tabs

Some men, enjoying a tab, in the fiftiesI don't know about you, but I have one of those personalities that will try to oppose any rule put before me when that rule is something that my own logic and freewill are capable of making an informed decision on. We all like to have choices don’t we?

Well, Mr. Government, whoever you are, I hope you’re listening, because some of us didn’t like smoking in public places anyway, and chose not to. Many of us didn't appreciate a lungful of second-hand smoke to go with our mouthful of soup-du-jour at the restaurant, so naturally curbed our desire to smoke: both for the benefit of the immediate environment, and the heightening of our own senses.

Imagine my delight at learning I can no longer have a cigarette in a public place. Now I shall revel in not doing what I never did, and knowing it was my choice and nothing to do with some stupid law.

Over the last week I’ve been chatting to fellow smokers and been horrified to discover that nearly all of them now intend to give up smoking for good because of the smoking ban. Shocking! Yes, I know it is for the best, but surely this choice is best taken for one’s own benefit?

I really felt for my smoker comrades on learning of the ban: personally, I favour a no-smoking environment and only smoke in public where my roll-up won't make much difference. But people smoke publicly and unashamedly in most parts of the North East and will surely miss having a good tab; although anybody with any sense gave up years ago. And those of us with an emotional attachment to smoking ... well ...

Why is it that the interfering government have to try to control everything we do by slapping a ban on it instead of looking at the broader picture? Maybe a ban has been necessary with the case of smoking – it’s the only way. But we should have the right to choose what is right or wrong for us, and whether or not to affect other people in this choosing. Or Labour thinks everybody in this country needs forcing and not educating. I suspect their education is lacking: the shocking but highly entertaining "don’t smoke" adverts didn’t take us any further to realising the error of our ways then? Or was that merely a pre-emptive measure - a forewarning?

I know it's one solution, and I am somewhat on my high horse, but it makes me angry to have choice taken away.

So go on, blacken your lungs and have a tab today, in the comfort of your own home, before they’re outlawed totally. At least we still have that option.

tags: [ culture ] [ rants ] [ tobac ]
post 41 on Saturday 4th August 2007 at 02:27

Crimes Against Normality

A youthOK so you've probably heard by now some of the sagas connected to the criminal damage that's been too regular a feature in my life over the last 9 months.

When I first moved to South Bank, I couldn't quite understand what the fuss was about. Criminal damage? Surely if you had an alarm on the house, an adequate insurance package, and the right attitude towards keeping the locals happy, everything would be OK?

I clearly just didn't get it.

These aren't hardened criminals looking for heists on Grannies Wedgwood figurines, nor are they in any way associated with some romanticised idea of bygone robberies – bags of swag and harmless goons and all that.

No, these are obnoxious and wicked kids; a group of young lads no older than 18, who maraud the streets of South Bank in the small hours with a mélange of weaponry including knives, chains, and bricks.

It started off with the breaking of the rear passenger window of my trusty Ford Mondy. I came down one morning to find it had been smashed through, yet amazingly, not a thing had been taken from the inside (which incidentally contained the CD player which I'd forgotten to unhide from the glove box, and a good fifty CDs). Although a relatively harmless incident, I think this first time perhaps felt the worst for me, as I gained the realisation that I was no longer living within a crime-free bubble. It hit me quite hard, but I tried to make sense of it by stashing it away in my brain under "one-off incidents".

To err on the side of caution, I was now sure to lock the car away every evening. But even locking it in the alley every night wasn't enough to protect it from my local friendly hooligans: no – they somehow managed to manoeuvre their red house bricks over the 8ft alley gate to land beautifully and gracefully upon my rear windscreen, rendering it down to the shards and cubes that would later become wedged in my backside.

On a third occasion, my front windscreen was broken too.

Then the abuse on the house started, and I waved goodbye to any sense of security, whilst desperately trying to figure out how I could raise the £200+ needed to repair the window. Luckily, a friend of 13 Oak was able to help, and the whole debacle cost just pounds to straighten out.

But now, as I sit here protecting what is left of my belongings; with two broken bay windows and three slashed tyres, I start to see the severity of the situation. Not only do I lose a days pay, hours of sleep, and quality time with my fella; I also have lost my peace of mind. Because I can’t explain why four or five youths would target my house, break the windows, and slash my car tyres at 1.30am, and be seen on the horizon; brandishing a blow torch in my general direction. What makes me stand out amongst my neighbours?

I certainly have things they don’t have: I have a car, I have a job: two very normal things, in a normal society. I have a way out of here. They are stuck here indefinitely.

And so I sit here at 2.00am, sipping coffee to keep myself awake, jumping at every noise, and unable to get into my own bed to sleep for fear of being attacked. I can't use my car. I can’t get to my job. And what have they gained? Do they feel happier for stripping me of my ability to keep moving forward? I doubt it.

But maybe this is the push I need, to help me move forward, to make me see I am different and that it's better that way. I don't belong here, sad to say. It's not a crime to be normal.

So Monday I pay a visit to the Citizen's Advice Bureaux. I find out how I can get out of here, and I go. So you see, young thugs, you're actually doing me a favour. Bet even your own Mums' didn’t think you would be so helpful. Cheers lads.

tags: [ 13 oak street ] [ boro ] [ class divide ] [ crime ] [ rants ] [ south bank ]
post 42 on Tuesday 14th August 2007 at 19:09

Rapex – Are You Old Enough To Bleed?

A new anti-rape device dubbed "vengeful" and "disgusting" will be released onto shelves in South Africa in the coming month.

The device looks a lot like the female condom Femidom – differing only in its inclusion of sharp teeth, worn internally with the intention to lacerate and maim anything that may enter its razor-lined jaws.

Whilst I agree with Rapex (I feel bad even typing that word) in principle – the reality of such a device reeks of brutal DIY barbarism. It reminds me of Tony Martin of Bleak House fame shooting down that sixteen year old Fred Barras lad on the pretext "if you're where you shouldn't be, expect what you don't want". Deciphering just how a rapist is supposed to tell whether or not his victim may or may not be wearing the "Rapex" device is unfathomable.

But you'd expect the lady to walk carefully whilst harbouring a small barber’s kit in her lettuce leaves.

But, he shouldn’t be there in the first place, should he? What happens if it’s a young lad of sixteen, goes by the name of "Frid", say, who knows know better?

Ah I give up. Ladies and gents, I present to you: Rapex – now men can be old enough to bleed, old enough to butcher, too.

tags: [ feminist rants ] [ products ] [ rants ]
post 45 on Sunday 9th September 2007 at 09:40

Pop Goes The Weasel

Get yer gas mask!The concept of creating an offensive term by mixing a potentially health-threatening substance or food product with the part it affects has always amused me. Childishly, I do happen to find beer-belly, lard-arse and fish-breath amusing. I could even raise a titter for something a little rarer: but popcorn-lung?

Yes you read the correctly – but only in America. It turns out that the microwave version of this presumed-friendly Friday night staple contains a chemical dangerous enough to warrant the alert of US factory workers who handle it over concerns that it may cause cancer.

Some microwave popcorn contains butter flavouring, Diacetyl, a naturally occurring substance found in products such as milk, cheese, butter, and others. So why is this causing a problem? Well, factory workers have the safety net of protective armour to shield from the ravages of working in a place that makes food (gah!).

However, the case that has caused people to talk involves a consumer at home.

Unprotected, and undoubtedly addicted to microwave popcorn; suffering all the symptoms of popcorn-lung – his case is now serving to highlight the dangers for us all.

Blame the microwave I say. Who are we to complain about cancer-causing food additives when we use the nuke power of fifty million gamma rays to heat food as a matter of course?

But what sort of food is one that, when heated, gives off vapour potent enough to cause the mutation of cells in the lungs when inhaled, anyway? Alright, the dude is obviously sat watching the bowl turn, drooling down his big old pants, totally unaware of the danger, and thinking only of losing himself in mindless oblivion in front of the goggle box some time in the next 20 seconds.

When is the US government going to realise you can't approve a food additive just because you're golf buddies with the CEO of the company that manufacturers it?

It reminds me of the Aspartame scare of a few years back. I can just imagine Ronald Reagan on the fifth hole with Mr. Monsanto, nodding his head and smiling in compliance and joviality, the words "sure you can have a licence, we could all use a little extra sweetness huh?" stumbling off his uneducated tongue.

So there we have it. Another "food" to avoid and another idiot consumer taught a harsh lesson.

tags: [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ]
post 46 on Friday 21st September 2007 at 21:24

Nectar: Trick Or Treat?

Nectar, they play treek!Be wary, sweet loyalty card investors, of Nectar’s recent ploy to coalesce with consumers through its recent misleading, but wonderfully inventive, promise of a free gift.

Tonight, I came home weary from work, thumped down into the seat at my desk, and saw there a bright shiny package from Nectar. Kicking off my shoes, and thinking the evening was about to get perhaps a single percentile more interesting, I hurriedly tore open the letter to be presented with not only a new card, but the promise of a free gift – just for being me!

Leafing through the glossy treat brochure they’d helpfully enclosed served to heighten my sense of urgency for the kind of gratification only the words "free" and "gift" can satisfy. So my fingers eagerly scurried the required five centimetres from the shredded envelope to the keyboard, where I typed in

The brightly coloured site presented me with a range of "adventure" activities and "treat" activities, and I plumped for the latter (yes - I'd like a treat), clicking on the cucumber-eyed woman, who lead me to the free facial page: "fill in the claim form" the site persuaded – "we'll do our best to send you the treat you ask for, but if it's unavailable we'll send you an alternative that we're sure you'll enjoy!"

Alarm bells are already ringing. But I leave the form in the safe storage of the web site, thinking that perhaps it will be tomorrow now before a representative will spend some time hunting down a nice spa or beauty parlour just for me.

Suspiciously soon, I receive an email. Surely Nectar’s representatives didn’t find me a salon this quickly?

"We're very sorry but we've been unable to offer you your chosen treat. Don't worry, we thought you might like this one instead!"

Let me clarify. I asked for a free facial or, as a second choice, a free Reiki session: and I actually ended up with "Killhope Lead Mining Museum" in County Durham. The name says it all. I think this is perhaps the most devious marketing scheme I’ve ever come across.

Credit though to Loyalty Management UK Limited, the promoters of this scheme - as I bet this really works for Nectar in getting rid of all of those free venue tickets for places nobody cares to visit, whilst simultaneously increasing their exposure and their "oh that’s nice of them" factor.

As someone who takes perhaps an unhealthy over-interest in advertising and marketing practices, I am probably overly suspicious. But with no contact link anywhere to be found on the entire site, what’s a girl to think?

Call me bitter, but I’m thinking Nectar doesn’t taste as sweet after all.

PS: If I do take them up on the free trip offer, I can't wait to see what the "Jigger House" is all about.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ nectar ] [ online ] [ rants ]
post 47 on Thursday 18th October 2007 at 11:05

Making Life Seem Greener?

Making life seem greener?So grandparents' favourite Sainsbury's want to buck up their green cred and be seen as an environmentally conscious retailer, enlisting fish-lipped TV gastro-arse Jamie Oliver in a new television campaign; their MARKETING director crying piteously, "we've been too humble".

You'd think all the do-gooding, Daily Mail reading morons would have tugged on JS's coat tails and lamented "why are you not offering green loyalty points?"

Well maybe these customers are clever enough to already know Sainsbury's is doing *so much* for the environment (guffaw), and are sensible enough not to make a fuss about it? Or maybe the truth - more likely, they, like most sensible people, realise that green loyalty points don't make a flying fuck's worth of difference.

Perhaps they ponder "surely it's the plastic they drive into landfill every year, rotting our earth from its delicate core" or "the fuel miles clocked up shipping carrots from the Netherlands because they're cheaper than carrots from the UK".

One thing's for sure - it's a stupid consumerist society where marketing executives are the new politicians. And I'm not buying it.

tags: [ advertising ] [ domestics ] [ food safety ] [ rants ] [ sainsburys ]
post 48 on Friday 28th December 2007 at 20:57

Returning to the Einstein Argument

LOL!Me and my better half have been wiling away the afternoon debating Albert Einstein's alleged vegetarianism. After a small amount of Googling, it transpires that the hairy-chopped genius was in fact vegetarian but, disappointingly, only for the final year of his revered life; although for many years he advocated a vegetarian diet:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." and "it is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."

I wonder if the human temperament gains such benefits from goodies like fake sausage rolls, and jelly beans; anyhow, my general theory (which is shared by many others), is that if we all ate foods that were grown and sold in our own vicinity we'd do OK, and there'd be far fewer starving babies. That includes meat: it would be far more acceptable if cows, pigs, and hens, were killed by your local butcher, some place within walking distance of your spit roaster. But I'm not going to grab the Duraglit to polish my halo just yet: lots of vegetarian foods are mass produced; take Soya for instance (one shudders to imagine the amount of poor field mice killed during the harvesting of Soya, which is enjoyed by vegetarians and carnivores alike). But, meat just happens to be one of the food products that suffer the greatest volume of mass production, especially with McShitbags et al. I'm not even going to start on the rainforests.

To put the record straight once and for all, the reason I went vegetarian boils down to not enjoying meat enough to warrant killing animals and bestowing the entire world with the ensuing consequences. For all the outcomes of vegetarianism: less environmental strain, reduced animal cruelty, less food miles, better health, no starving babies, etc, it was also a healthy dose of the ideas presented by this image, which sums it up perfectly.

PS, Was Einstein Vegetarian? and Was Hitler Vegetarian? may satisfy any faintly lingering curiosity.

tags: [ domestics ] [ einstein ] [ fake meat ] [ rants ] [ vegetarian ]
post 49 on Thursday 10th January 2008 at 19:24

The South Bank Glossary pt1

This place actually existsGutterance
The mumbled yet scathing articulations of a drunkard South Bankian returning home from Fat Katz night-spot.

Doorstep Challenged
Subhuman species that flock into the foulest of streets to engage in some bizarre social ritual of littering the place up. Usually involves SCOOOOTER!

Land of the Undead
The square in South Bank, where old gits stagger out of Greys with the evening's entertainment/company wrapped loosely in a carrier bag under their arm; soon to be joined by numerable lifeless creatures in the form of the "dawn chorus": urban choristers who instigate the weekly braying down of taxis which drive along Normanby road, and the subsequent outbreaks of violence.

Skip Rat
A gentleman, who makes a living from salvaging "unwanted" items from refuse and waste receptacles, namely skips. Can also be found scavenging public bins when times are lean. The most infamous of South Bank skip rats is known as Bob, who can be sighted regularly around the town being followed by his pet mongrel.

Not Inhabited
Delivery men never knock since the windows got boarded up.

Power Rangers
Want-wit and impoverished neighbours who, after determining they cannot afford the luxury of electricity, attempt to wire their pre-paid meter through yours, thereby stealing the credit on your electricity supply meter. To rub salt into the wounds, the Power Rangers use your power to fuel SCOOOOTER!

Dawn Chorus
At the 4th hour of the morning, the Dawn Choristers begin their pilgrimage to Land of the Undead.

tags: [ class divide ] [ crime ] [ culture ] [ glossary ] [ rants ] [ south bank ]
post 61 on Wednesday 10th June 2009 at 18:17

Why Twitter Beats Facebook

Twitter vs. FacebookWeb 2.0 just became the newest word in the dictionary.

Excellent. Web 3.0 is still being considered, you know - Semantic Web and all that - and yet Web 2.0 (a concept some several hundred years old) has only just poked its nose into the dictionary!

Anyway, I was talking to a friend about this today, so naturally was on the look out for any news about it. The story made me realise how shit Facebook is for mass broadcast, social-media style.

This is because you can't refer to other people in your updates (as with Twitter's @ notation). On Facebook, you can refer to friends in notes, or by tagging them in an image, but not in updates.

C'mon Facebook, this is a big limiter of Facebook's potential as far as I am concerned. Twitter for the win!

tags: [ facebook ] [ online ] [ rants ] [ twitter ]