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I am not the devil

Thanks to Geoff for sending me the link to this article.  I actually didn’t think to ask how he found it, but that’s probably a good thing.

Just in case you had any doubts about it, I am not the devil.  Google says so.

OK, so it’s an imposter.  This is the guy whose book on snakes appears when you search for me on Amazon.

So maybe I should go and check for horns after all…

Coaster face

As well as recording myself playing the fake drums, I decided another good way to put my new camera through its paces was to see how it coped with some fast action shots.

A roller coaster that accelerates from 0-80 mph in less than 2 seconds seemed to meet the brief. That would be Stealth at Thorpe Park, and as I couldn’t be bothered to queue for 90 minutes to get on the ride, trying to take pictures of people’s scared faces was the next best thing.

This is one of my favourites:

The picture looks a bit crappy this close, but it was taken hand-held from the ground to the very top of a 200ft high ride against nothing but bright sky.  I don’t think I can grumble given those conditions.  Certainly not going to cry about it, like this fella.

The pictures where I didn’t have to zoom so much or point at the sun gave better results.  Watch the guy in the red shirt, looking all excited as it starts to launch…

… and screaming like a little girl on the way down.

This could become one of my new favourite pastimes.

What I want to know, though, is where did his glasses go?  I didn’t actually believe this could happen until now…

I really want to be able to use this coupon

 

A trip to San Diego isn’t out of the question this summer.  It might just happen!

Mmmmm.  Mexican bread.

MBNA “disappointing” – official!

At last I got a final decision from the Financial Ombudsman Service in response to my complaint about MBNA trying to stiff me on a refund for flights I lost after Maxjet went busto, which I wrote about in this post.

I can live with FOS being somewhat on the slow side to get things done (it’s nearly 15 months since I complained and 6 months since MBNA rejected their first adjudication) when they make great decisions like this.

The ombudsman said MBNA’s handling of the matter with regard to, like, you know, the law and stuff was “disappointing”, and that they now have to pay me:

– The £1649.48 difference in the cost of the replacement flights with BMI – something I probably wouldn’t have realised I was entitled to if they’d just refunded me like they were supposed to.

– Interest on the above at a stunning 8% per year from 31/12/2007 to the date of payment.  Take your time please, it’s already about £200.

– Another £200 for the inconvenience.  Although I like to think of this as a fine for being arseholes.

The ruling is binding if I accept it.  Are you kidding me?  I snap call.

Full copy of the FOS letter is below.  Click a page to enlarge.

        

 

Old school bookies

Just been looking through some of the pictures I took at Cheltenham last week.

Although the majority of bookmakers have embraced technology…

… running a portable, electronic operation with a laptop hooked up to an LED sign board…

… with a small printer, and a big wad of cash …

… there’s still a few guys who prefer to kick it old school.

The man with the flip-chart is pretty brave – there’s no easy way to update his prices as the money comes in.  Tippex required, probably.  If you want your market to be able to move, dry-wipe is worth the investment. 

And if you want an eye-catching sign to alert punters which race is up next, you definitely need some clamps.

Some of them even still do tic-tac

… but apparently there are some things you just can’t say by waving your arms about.

 

Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby

I learned two things at the races today.

First, my dad explained to me the difference between a hurdle and steeplechase.  I wasn’t sure if it was a daft question, so I’m glad it wasn’t.

Hurdle: all the jumps are the same height.  Steeplechase: fences vary and usually include a water hazard.

In my head, sharks with frickin laser beams are a possibility.

Second, I learned the name of jockey Ruby Walsh, who the crowd loved and chanted "Roo-Bee" at any availably opportunity.

The only name from the racecard I actually recognised was The Queen (obviously an owner, not a rider).

See, I really wasn’t kidding before when I said I was clueless about horse racing.

Walsh rode two of the winning horses.  This one is American Trilogy:

My sister backed this at 20/1, which meant she won enough to pay me back for the ticket.  So I felt like a winner too.

This is Kauto Star:

Everybody in the world seemed just keep on piling money on him, despite horribly unattractive odds of 2/1 or lower (I saw it as low as 13/8 with some bookmakers).

Perhaps if I’d bet on "Kay-tow" (as it was pronounced, but somehow with at least three syllables, by hundreds of Brummies on my train) instead of the three-legged beasts I actually picked by pretty much sticking a pin into my computer screen, I’d be able to afford a faster zoom lens with funky image stabilisation that would have turned this blurry photo into the triumphant shot that it should have been. 

Squint a bit, it helps slightly. Maybe there’s enough detail to use some clever "watercolour" filter in Photoshop and make it look intentionally like a painting.  Worth a go, I guess.

Horse meet

I’m going to the Cheltenham Festival next Friday for the Gold Cup.

I’ll admit this isn’t my usual scene, but it’s for my Dad’s birthday present and, really, what kind of son would I be if I didn’t tag along?

I’ve been to the races exactly one time before and I did enjoy it, but I’ll openly admit to being totally clueless where horses are concerned.  Here’s what I know: the ones with the best names probably run the fastest.

I’ve studied the form guide and I think Snoopy Loopy is a dead cert.  Get a bet on now at 66-1 before everyone realises.

The only other tip I have so far is for getting there by train.  It looks like there’s no such thing as a day return to Cheltenham Spa.  I guess it’s just not a popular enough destination the 51 weeks of the year that it doesn’t have a racing festival to warrant such a thing.

However, you can get a day return to Birmingham from almost anywhere – and if you’re travelling from the North or East, there’s a good chance you’d have to change trains there anyway.

For my dad, a return ticket from Leicester straight through to Cheltenham Spa costs £34.50.  However, a day return to Birmingham New Street is £9.40, and then he can go from Birmingham to Cheltenham for £19.40.  Total: £28.80.

That’s a saving of more than five quid over doing it the "proper" way.  As there’s no direct route from Leicester, he’d always have to change in Birmingham so it’s a no-brainer.

For me, Stoke to Birmingham costs £12.20.  A ticket straight through would be £42.50, so I save £10.90 by splitting the journey.

Admittedly, there are some direct trains from Stoke to Cheltenham, but the time difference is only 5 minutes (1:44 vs 1:39) and on this occasion I’d choose to meet my family in Birmingham anyway.

As far as I can tell, these are all flexible tickets with no commitment to travel on a specific train.  The Birmingham-Cheltenham leg is good anytime after 9.30am and although the other tickets can’t be used between 3.30pm and 6pm, that’s not going to a problem with the last race at 5.15pm.

I can stick the tenner I’ve saved on a long shot, but as it’s Friday 13th I will accept there is a small chance it might not win.

Britain in “obsessed by the weather” shocker

A little bit of white stuff on the ground and the nation goes bonkers.

Eight of the top ten stories on BBC News right now are about the snow, or obvious consequences of the snow.

It must be because of the unique way that the BBC is funded that they can manage to find eight different angles on one day’s winter weather.

And, evidently, the licence payers love it.

Frankly, I think it’s a disgrace that we’d rather read about what we can already see outside the window than about real news, like porn interrupting the Super Bowl.

What’s under the slabs?

Snow is settling everywhere except in my yard.  What’s down there that’s so warm?

 

That’s not my name

Job description: Greet visitors to the building, take their name and look up their details on a computer system.  Print them a pass, or if the printer isn’t working (as today) write one by hand.

Is a basic grasp of English spelling and familiarity with common names required?  Apparently not.

This was the end result, after a confident first attempt at "Chris" ("so that’s K, what?") and then scratching his head at why a search for surnames beginning with "NW" gave no results:

Having finally found it, you’d think copying down the name from screen onto a piece of paper would be the easy part.