Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Competition Time (it's a real one)

I went to see Brazil at the Abbey Road Film Festival yesterday - it's kinda cool, they don't open up the Abbey Road studios very often/at all, so you get to breathe that Beatles-infused air.

People often say to me that I don't do much in the way of drawing readers in etc etc, so I am running a competition. Except in true sashinka-style, you don't actually have to do anything. Not like that Troubled Diva bloke who makes you work for your prizes.

So, it's simple. If you'd like to see Aliens at the Abbey Road Film Festival (in St John's Wood) this Thursday at 7.30 (doors open at 6.30 and you may want to check out the exhibit), then email Cathy before 2pm this Thursday (31st) mentioning you saw it here. The first five respondents win a pair of tickets, worth £40.

Don't say I don't make your life easy.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A public service announcement: because I am number five for that well known google search west hampstead synagogue megillah, I just called them and it's at 7.15 tonight.

It's Purim (tonight) - the (minor) festival of drinking and noise and fancy dress. Get your nurofen.
I love Aussie 3-minute miracle. I know, I should talk less about my hair.
Unbelievable story in today's Guardian: Will Mark Thompson be toast over the day he bit a BBC colleague? I mean, is this a Purim shpiel or what?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I didn't even know from Digital Lifestyle Aggregation.
I'm not 100% persuaded of this, but in the interest of debate/free speech blah blah blah: 10 Reason's Why Blogging is Good for Your Career.
A fascinating article in the Jerusalem Post about orthodox women Rabbis. I remember, as a kid in Bnei Akiva, being told in a hush-hush kinda way that in our lifetimes this might happen. And now it kinda is.
Danson House in Bexley reopens this weekend after a £4m restoration. Could be a fun day trip?
Every time I go into Starbucks (I know, I know, I shouldn't....) I get the needle when I see that ridiculous book The My Sister's a Barista for sale at the counter.

First off, the sub-title - How They Made Starbucks a Home From Home - makes me feel ill. I mean, it's not the third space, it's a coffee shop, for crying out loud. I'm not spiritually changed from going there, I'm just having a sitdown and a cuppacoffee.

But the thing that gets me is that I always think I should write a competing book, for sale at my very own bus shelter, entitle My Brother's A Barrister.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dawn Airey is truly a mediocre speaker - I'm just watching her on the RTS Huw Wheldon Lecture 2004 . I mean, great speechwriter - but she needs some serious presentation skills training. Excited, I'm not.
So I'm in the top ten for that well known google search: donal macintyre smug. And you say?
Fnacy going to the Institute of Ideas debate on The Right To Be Offensive at the Soho Theatre next Wednesday (late)?
Just what you've always wanted: My Twinn: twin collectible dolls. Mmmm, must get one of these.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Age Concern have got a fabulous new campaign: 20 Million Votes.

Of course, we don't know when the election will be, do we? And the campaigning hasn't started, has it?

Transparency is our middle name, in this country.
I know that was a bit of a rant. Sorry. I wrote it while I was on hold for the Resolutions Team. Who are permanently away from their desk. I am unresolved: perhaps I should get therapy?

Another thing: did you know you could get nectar points just for having electricity?

I mean, how silly is that? We're constantly collecting our valueless points and spending aeons cashing them in for things we probably don't need.

But I am tempted.

Kinda sorta maybe.
LiveJournal voice: today, I hate Amazon.co.uk.

I ordered a birthday present for my sister-in-law three weeks ago: Amazon gift vouchers so she could choose something she likes. I chose a paper gift certificate, because I think it feels more like a real present (turns out unwisely). Seems like she didn't receive it, but when I checked the website, it kept saying sent.

I missed her birthday.

Today, I think I'll call up and see where it is. I speak to Thomas who tells me that he's sorry, but there's an issue with processing their gift certificates, and there's currently a backlog, and mine won't get sent for at least a week. He's sorry they've taken the money off my card. I say that's a bit crap, because I've missed my sister-in-law's birthday. He's kinda sorry, but can't help. I ask him to turn it into an email certificate, and he says he can't do that.

So I speak to his supervisor, Matthew, who tells me it has been sent on Saturday. I say that I haven't got a confirmation email. And also, how do I know who to believe because his colleague just said the exact opposite.

The customer service director is never there - he's an audix box - and the switchboard won't put you through to anyone, and they when they put me through to the resolutions team, that just goes to someone's voicemail.

I know I spend a lot of money with Amazon, because they usually send me a Christmas present, and that has me scuttling to my past orders and adding up how much I spent, and resolving to buy less books.

Anyway, I held for a while, being told I was in a queue, and then I gave up.

As you know, I just can't bear bad service. I don't know if it's because I'm self-employed, so I just wouldn't get away with it, or what. But anyway.

Friday, March 18, 2005

First day of summer: I have seen more flabby flesh walking through town than I think is healthy. For me, I mean.

Glorious: I walked from a meeting at Charing Cross to one at Haymarket and it's sunny and lovely and I feel that spring has sprung and it's time to get my legs waxed, and do I have any other clothes apart from black?

I wonder.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Listening to the news this morning, you'd think the world-at-large had only just discovered keylogging, judging by the new about how Police foil £220m bank robbery. Ah well.
Just discovered Loretta Lux. Have you?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

So it's a budget for pensioners (free bus travel), families, and first time buyers (doubling the stamp duty threshold). Gee, that's good for me, then.

Oh, but wait, I live as a member of society, and I'm just happy if other people are.
Shame I don't write crime. I could have entered LitIdol and been ritually abused by Simon Callow's brother.
You know how it is.

Last week, I was sitting around thinking, "gee, it's ages since I've watched Heathers, and I'd like to." What's a twentyfirst century girlie to do? I've not yet signed up for one of those armchair-online-DVD-rental doodars (you know, the ones that foretell the death of Ye Olde Video Shoppe), so I'm stuck.

Because I'm an instant gratification type, but with laziness thrown in, I order it from Play.com for £11.99. What's great is, it just gets delivered to your door. It's in stock, so no problemo.


When I get an email a couple of days later asking for address verification, I have a sense of deja vu - this is what they did last time I ordered something off them, about a year ago (The Breakfast Club, if you must know, as part of a John Hughes box set. You sense a teen-theme emerging, right?) I swore then that it was too much hassle to do business with them. This is because all my credit cards don't have my flat number, but for delivery, I often put it, especially if it won't fit through the letterbox. So my addresses don't match.

So I call up their stupid 0845 number that costs me 5p a minute - which I object to anway - and they say they will verify my address. I tell them my address again, I listen to their stupid music while they verify it, and they come back and say the bank has verified my address. Everything's hunkydory. It takes about ten minutes.


Today, I'm paying my credit card bill online, and I see my remaining credit limit is different from the charge balance. So I call up and discover this: On Monday, play.com made three transactions on my card at the same time: a £10 transaction that was made and reversed (ie £0 cost) and a £10 transaction that was accepted. On Tuesday, they charged me £11.99.

On Wednesday, they send me email saying my goods are being despatched. Yay.

I call them again, for 5p a minute, to find out what the £10 charge is. I speak to Luke, who is charming, but tells me that's their procedure, and a long blurb about the problems they have with flat addresses for new accounts. I say that I'm not a new account, sadly I have done business with them before. He's terribly apologetic, but that's the system. He can get the £10 back to me today. I point out that my credit card statement is due today, so I will probably have to pay interest on the £10, because of how my statements fall. I get slightly ranty, and point out that they did this transaction without my permission, and he says someone more senior will call me back. He can't give me their head office number in Jersey (and if you call the number on their emails, it just routes you to the call centre), and he's not sure who the joint MDs are.

I call the credit card company again, and they say this is a pending transaction, but it will still affect my credit limit, and that other companies who do test transactions do them for 1p, not £10. I'm angry, but busy, and frankly it's only £10, whatever the principle.

Then Debbie, the "call centre manager" (how those words bring a chill to my ear) calls me back and goes on and on about their system again. I don't sodding care about their system. It reminds me of my marketing career guru, a fabulous woman called Marjorie, who always exhorted us on the copy front "don't tell me about your grass seed, tell me about my lawn". Like I'm the customer, I don't care about their sodding inefficienies.

I get annoyed again, and point out that (a) it's an unreasonable business practice, and (b) they used my card without my permission, and after a little interlude it becomes clear that they are an outsourced call centre for Play.com and she "doesn't feel it's appropriate to tell me the name of their company." After some argy bargy, she agrees to credit me back with the £11.99, but points out that if I, or any of my friends, use play.com, the address verification puts £10 on your credit card and then takes it off again.

You have been warned, folks.

Me, I'm going down to the HMV shop, to dance in the old-fashioned way. It's a krenk, already with this internet lark. Also, I should get out more.
Last night, went to an incredible evening at (one of the many) shuls (I regard as mine). A discussion on the BBC series Auschwitz: the Nazis and the Final Solution.

Laurence Rees, the series producer and writer talked about the making of the series with Professor David Cesarani, the series historical consultant. It was quite, quite mesmerising. David Cesarani knew exactly how to shape the evening, and handle people, and Laurence is a true master of his subject. It was a little odd to hear him talk to commercially about a subject that I am extremely careful around my language on (whoops, ugly sentence); history audiences skewing old, frontloading the money to the first four minutes of episode one, those kind of things. But an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the subject.

I'm also reading Deborah Lipstadt's History on Trial, and even though I know the punchline, it's truly un-put-downable.

It's holocaust week round my house. But then, in a way, it always is.
The world and his wife has a book out - No More Clutter, a book about how to keep your house tidy. I mean, really.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Went to the Nice Jewish Gurus panel at Jewish Book Week yesterday. Interesting (said with Viennese accent). Lynn Franks is your mum and a hippie and an unreconstructed feminist rolled into one. Carole Caplin thinks she "scrubs up good for forty three". Irma Kurtz is way cool. Carole Caplin is also not so bright; she kept waffling in a new age way that gave me a headache. Nice gillet though, although someone should tell her it's so last season.

The best thing, though, is the audience. From the people who don't even have the courtesy to put a question on the end of their personal rant, to the woman in front of me who "saved" the best aisle seat for 90 minutes. I formed a support group with the two women sitting next to me and we pointed and stared at her nail extensions and Stanmore ways. Eventually an usher asked her to move her coat, and she gave her a look that said "you are the scum of the earth, and also, you need a manicure. I wouldn't let my daughter perform this menial service task."

Short version: lots of Jews, lots of books.
So it's one in the eye for free speech in the blogosphere - Apple makes blogs reveal sources.
I'm in the British Library playing with my new Openzone account (£2 per month) and utterly, utterly inspired by all the books and knowledge. Sadly, I am researching the dullest (commercial) subject known to mankind.
I'm in the British Library playing with my new Openzone account (£2 per month) and utterly, utterly inspired by all the books and knowledge. Sadly, I am researching the dullest (commercial) subject known to mankind.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Check this out - I get a call just now that sounds like an American woman and I soon realise she's an automated voice telling me I've "won" a vacation in Florida. I want to get off their list sooner than soon, so I press nine, and talk to an American guy. I ask him where they got my phone number from, and he says he's only here to sell me the holiday. I ask him the name of his company, and he asks me my name. I say I don't want to give it, as I don't know who he is and I want to know where they got my number from. He yells "you're rude, go away!" and hangs up on me.

Man, what's this about?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Heard Jonathan Freedland speak on Sunday about Jacob's Gift - his new book, currently sitting by my bed. He's so slick (in a good way): a seasoned public speaker, and a great thinker.

It was at Joseph's bookstore in Temple Fortune - I couldn't help feeling I Was in a mid-period Woody Allen film: lots of intellectual-type Jewish people sitting in a bookstore after hours. Or is that Crossing Delancey? Some film, anyhow.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

You don't know how disturbed I am to find out there's a website for people who want to be on reality TV shows. Darling, why don't we go on Competitive Eating Champ, or Daddy Dearest? (You can tell they're in alphabetical order, and I couldn't bear reading past D.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

AskOxford... in case you, too, are a langauage-ophile (if that is a word).