Friday, 4 April 2014

saving on spectacles indeed

I forgot to mention on the money front - as well as spending a huge amount on my car, with my days off I also went to the dentist, which cost me £45 for the 15 minutes it took (they did some x-rays, but also I'm now private), but I also got some new glasses.

I've needed some new glasses for a while - the coating on my current pair has started to crack, which gets picked up in direct sunlight, but also I think my prescription has changed a little.  I also wanted to get a new pair with Canada looming - partly to have a back-up, but also as part of refreshing clothes & stuff.

Anyway, point is, part of the reason I've put off getting some new glasses was the expense - I usually expect to spend at least £250 and often around £400.  This is partly as frames are quite expensive (it's one of those areas where you pay more for less - if you get cheap glasses, they're often big thick things, but the more you spend, the lighter and thinner they get!) but also, my prescription is so powerful I have to get the thinner lenses.

Well, I don't have to get ones as thin as I usually do, but I do have to get thin ones because the curve on cheaper lenses would make them impractical - I wouldn't be able to see out of the sides as the curve would distort things too much.  I'm so short sighted that when they do the test, I can literally only make out the biggest letter (which is about 8 inches high) by squinting!

So I'd put this off for a while, expecting ti to be expensive, but in the end I've paid less than £75!  And that's for a full test, frames that cost £85 and lenses of exactly the same thinness as my current pair (I recall these were about £130 on their own last time).  It's weird and I'm not entirely sure how he worked it out, but he basically applied a bunch of discounts/vouchers I wasn't properly eligible for.  So here at least was good news.

It's the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.  It's apparently being held at night this year, though I'm not sure that will improve the racing at all.  The BBC's coverage is very thin - it seems they're not even covering the practice sessions on the radio.

The Beeb's coverage does seem a bit lacking this year.  Gary Anderson has gone, Eddie Jordan isn't going to be there until the fifth race (so a quarter of the way through).  I'm wondering if they've cut the budget even further - they also seem to be a bit lacking in special features, which you'd have thought they could do loads on with the new regulations.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

job interviews

So I've had 5 job interviews in the last couple of weeks.

The first was with a small training consultancy company based just outside Guildford.  This proved to be a gigantic waste of my time.  And I don't just mean it wasn't the job for me, but they had me undertake all sorts of exercises and hoop-jumping crap.  These used up around two weekend's worth of my time.  When I eventually got to the interview they made it very plain that my "personality type" wouldn't fit.

I should perhaps explain they had me to do a Meyers-Briggs test.  These are mostly bullshit, but it does give some broad indicators - in particular, for me, they show I'm an introvert, which I am.  So at the interview she basically said that they have meetings where, in essence, they lose control and only the loudest people are heard.

Now obviously I wouldn't enjoy that anyway, but why ever would I want to work for a company that can't control meetings?  Especially a company that's supposedly doing management consulting for other companies.  I phoned the agent that had contacted me and withdrew as I was walking to my car.  I'd actually wanted to pull out as soon as the Myers Briggs test had been mentioned, but she encouraged me to stick with it.

The second interview was with a big defence company.  And it hadn't really been a good idea from the start, if I'm honest.  Unfortunately, the recruitment person did not appear to be entirely competent (you'll notice a bit of theme with this) - the initial job spec she sent me had the job down as being based in Guildford, with occasional days in London.

However, it turns out the job is entirely based in London with no time in Guildford at all!  She also booked the interview for me for 4:30PM, but booked it with them for 4PM, so when I turned up they thought I was half an hour late!  I'm guessing she booked the extra half hour so that they could prep, but didn't communicate properly with either of us - particularly since one of the interviewers had to go by 5PM, so they left half way through.

To some extent, this was all beside the point - I went to the interview seeking to be convinced that it was a good enough job for me to put aside my desire not to work in London, and I was not convinced.  I actually closely monitored the journey time in particular, and if I was to take the job I would be spending 4 hours each day commuting.  The problem is this line - it's a very slow service (1 hour 10 mins) and only has two trains an hour - and I could move, but it's always going to be horribly busy commuter trains.

Since the interview I've heard jack shit, despite chasing.  As noted, I'm not really interested anyway, but it's just another example of how badly all these recruitment people behave.  I had thought maybe it was just the agencies, but this was an actual employee of the company, and she's acted just as poorly.

The third interview was bordering on a farce.

It was with a company that is quite big and well known for one thing, but this was for a different, much smaller, division.  It's quite engineering focused; however, I have to confess I'm not sure it is really that interesting to me.  Not that I really had the chance to investigate - the agency they were using was shocking: terrible communication and the agent didn't seem to have any common sense.

To give you an example, she fixed up the interview but only told me the location/gave me directions on the day of the interview.  Now to be fair, the interviewer messed things about no end - it went from a face-to-face meeting to a telephone interview, back to a face-to-face, then moved from daytime to evening - but the agent did not help matters.  I didn't even know it was this particular other division until a good way into the process.

The interview itself was also a bit of a mess - because it was in the evening and I had to go up the motorway I basically rushed there and that put me in a bit of a manic frame of mind, particularly as I'd had a coffee quite late in the day and it had been a busy day at work.  I rabbited on like I was on speed :/

On this one I've also heard jack shit - hmm, one of those patterns, perhaps?

I'll continue this later, I think - the other two interviews were after a gap anyway.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

australian & malaysian gps

The formula one season is under way!

I used an exclamation point there as it seems like the last season only just finished.  Indeed, the Australian Grand Prix was actually a few weeks ago, and we've also already had the Malaysian Grand Prix and Bahrain is next week!

Of course there are some big changes this year - there's the whole new powerplant, with the V6 turbo engines and all sorts of clever engine recovery systems.  But there are also some key changes to things like wing sizes and what they can do aerodynamically.

The new engines are very torquey (after all, they use a lot more electric power, which is instant) and the two seems to have made the cars a lot more skittish.  You can see them skidding and sliding as they fight to control the cars, which I have to say I quite like.

It would be possible to make cars that almost didn't need a driver.  Indeed, at several points in F1's history new technology has been introduced that meant the driver was "compensated for", and much of this has ended up in road cars - anti-lock brakes and traction control are obvious examples.

However, generally, F1 has tended to ban these, partly to keep the driver an integral part of the sport (as well as reduce costs and complexity).  The problem then develops that once everything gets banned everything ends up the same.  For a long time now the engines have almost been a non-factor, but now they're suddenly at the forefront of the sport.

Of course there are down-sides - the ear-splitting noise (which no matter how much you tell people how loud it is, you had to experience to really know: some of the old f1 car was as loud as a jumbo jet, but you can't really appreciate that unless you went to a race) is gone.  But then it's been replaced by sound you can understand - you can hear the tyres squeal, for example.  And while the screaming of the engines was an experience, you couldn't ever be at a race without hearing protection, and on some levels that's a bit pointless when you think about it.

Anyway - we've had two races, so what have I thought?

Well, I have to confess I was a bit worried after the testing that very few cars would finish.  The reliability seemed very low, and a race where only 6 cars cross the line can be a bit disappointing.  However, I've been pleased to see things haven't been that bad - sure retirements have increased, but not disastrously so.  It's also pleasing to see some of the lower teams have taken advantage of this aspect and scored a few points.

The Australian race was okay.  To be fair, Australia is not the best of circuits, as it's a "sort of" street circuit and hasn't tended tend to produce great races.  Generally the most interest comes from seeing the new cars in action.

However, Malaysia was generally better.  It's quite a good circuit - certainly one of the better Tilke circuits and has places where overtaking is possible.  If I'm honest Malaysia had a bit of a lull in the middle, but picked up towards the end.

The Mercedes would appear to be the class of the field, both in terms of the engine itself and the team.  Clearly they put a lot of effort in from quite early last year, which obviously hurt them last year but is paying dividends now.

The opposite seems to have been true for Renault, who with Red Bull were clearly focused on last year's championship.  However, aerodynamically Newey's Red Bull seems as good as ever - it certainly narrowed the gap in the rain, where engine performance was negated.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


I mentioned this yesterday, but I unfortunately gained two pounds this last weigh in.

I therefore now weigh 20 stone 10 pounds.

I cannot confess to be surprised by this outcome.  The last couple of weeks I have been eating quite badly.  I've had quite a lot of shop-bought sandwiches and also lots of cakes and various other treats (I've been quite weak when it comes to cream eggs, which have of course become more prominent with it being near Easter).

However, I've also not been doing quite so much walking.  Owing to having the interviews I've had a few half days and haven't wanted to get sweaty, so my number of steps has dropped quite a lot.  The interviews have also been a reason for eating badly - both in terms of having to grab something to eat quickly, but also comfort eating when they've not really been very positive.

I'm actually thinking I will put the whole job hunting on hold until after Canada.  It is proving something of a distraction and messing about with my schedule.  I'm not sure yet if I will fully stop or be a bit more selective, instead.  Because I got so unhappy at work (and there was the fuck up so I was worried I might lose my job) I've been applying to most everything that looked a possibility, rather than the heavy filtering as I did when I looked before.

I also had some slight issues with minor "injuries" - this is too significant of a term to use, to be honest: what I mean is I had a few aches/pains/tweaks/bad night's sleep that meant I decided to take it easy with walking on a few occasions.  This has not been anything long term at any point, and I'm still way above target in terms of steps, but I think it probably contributed to some of the fluctuations.

It's also become apparent I really need a new set of walking shoes.  My current pair the outermost layer of the sole on the bottom has worn through in a few places - indeed, in some places the entire tread is worn away.  I'd been hoping to hold off until my birthday, but I think I will need them before them.

Monday, 31 March 2014


I've been feeling down for a while.

I'm finding work to be quite an unpleasant experience.  I find the lack of any clear direction, the lack of common sense and, in particular, the lack of any ability to make change for the better very frustrating.  I have known for a while that I disagree with some of the things they seem to have decided on, but even then I'd be happy if stuff was actually happening - I'd kinda be happy to be proved wrong, but the whole "limbo" aspect of things is just not fun to be involved in.

Of course I've also been more proactively looking for a new job again.  This hasn't been going too well.  I clearly have a good CV - at the least it is good enough for me to get interviews.

I've now had a total of 5 interviews, though these have not been all they could.  I'll hopefully blog about it separately, but I don't really see myself getting/wanting those jobs.

And of course I'm back to the old situation of no apparent prospect of a salary improvement at work (it's now getting on for 2 years), despite my rent and various other costs going up, so I'm struggling financially again.  Particularly since I desperately need to save money for the Canada trip.  This last month or so I've had to spend a fortune on my car:

£450 for a complete new set of tyres
£200 on a service & MOT (plus some replacement parts)
£250 on insurance
£175 on Car Tax

So that's over £1,000: I only take home about £25K a year, so I've had to spend nearly 4% of my entire year's salary in one month!

I've also been struggling with the weight thing.  I decided I was going to lose a few stones in preparation for the Canadian Grand Prix and blogged about the "progress" here, but just recently ti stagnated and then, while I wasn't blogging, it actually went into reverse - I gained 1 pound a few weeks ago (although I lost it again the following week), but this week I'd gained 2 pounds.

The problem - and it's been a problem all my life - is that when I feel down I eat.  I am the very definition of a comfort eater, and since I feel down quite often, I eat quite a lot.  Of course it's a vicious circle - when you get very big and find it difficult to do things like walk up flights of stairs that becomes a source of unhappiness, prompting me to eat more.

The other problem is I've not really gone about it by sticking to a proper diet.  I've increased the amount of exercise I do, which has been helping to keep the last few weeks of not eating well in check, but I've also slipped back into some of my weirder habits.  In particular I've been "multiple buying" again - this is where I buy several meals worth at one shop, then for some reason buy stuff for the same meals at another.

So, specifically, while I was away I had several meals to buy for and bought cheese on toast, hot cross buns and some mini-sausages plus buns as meals.  Only if you do the maths while I needed 4 meals worth I had therefore actually bought 7 meals worth.  Since none of it was particularly long lasting, that meant I had to eat more meals than I needed and for those meals to be bigger.

And to be honest, I didn't really need to buy any of them - I have stuff in the freezer and cupboards that I really need to get rid of (and, of course, would, therefore, effectively be free meals instead of spending more money).

I think I need to introduce some will power and/or start actually thinking about stuff more.