The Problem With Christmas, Or Why I Become A Grumpy Old Man At (The Mention Of) Christmas

Inspired by a couple of recent conversations, and the less than subtle appearance of Christmas paraphernalia in shops, in September even, I figured I should explain why I become a somewhat less than pleasant person at the mention of Christmas.

Depending on who you talk to, the origin of Christmas is either the birth of Jesus (which I am well-known to discredit and disagree with) or a jealous Christian copy of an ancient pagan festival of dubious nature. The origin of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the modern equivalent. Christmas is about greed; It’s one huge celebration of self-gratification during which you force obligations on others.

It’s all for the children though, right? Well, not really. If you never mentioned Christmas to a kid, never celebrated it, never showed it on TV, or advertised it in shops, a child wouldn’t know of the existence of Christmas and, therefore, wouldn’t miss out. They also wouldn’t get any gifts though. Or would they?

Most people’s concept of gift giving is a funny thing. A gift is something given to someone else, in thought of them, without any expectation of compensation. The act of giving is a personal act that you do because you want someone to have something they need, or maybe just want. Giving a gift at Christmas (or a birthday, for that matter) has turned into a selfish act of self-gratification. With kids, for example, people expect a thank you letter or call. For adults, there’s the expectation of a return gift of equal or higher value with the risk of hard feelings existing if it doesn’t happen. Real gifts do not come with expectations of compensation attached. Expecting something back is called a transaction.

But a thank you note from a kid isn’t much to ask, is it? Well, it is because that’s you expecting something in return for a gift. You’re wanting your self-gratification. You want to be proud of yourself for buying that cheap Christmas tat for someone, who probably didn’t even want it, and revel in the glow of a hollow token of gratitude that someone feels obligated (or is forced) to write.

The way I prefer to do gifts is to buy them for my loved ones whenever I feel I want to. I don’t feel the need to have a special occasion, nor do I appreciate being forced to. Nor do I feel any desire towards wanting an equivalent token returned to me. A gift is a gift, not a request for praise.

This is why, when I’m asked what I’d like for Christmas or birthday etc., I ask for nothing. Everything  I need or want I’ll get myself using my own means. Expecting someone to buy the expensive things I want would just be selfish, and any cheap token thing I’m given to put in my bottom draw to throw out next year is just another request for praise because “it’s the thought that counts” (which, I’ll add, is a thoughtless phrase that disregards the thoughts of the receiving party if they have specifically requested that nothing is given to them).

Besides all of this is the whole family visiting deal. People who know me know that I’ve never been a big family person. My immediate family is my priority, and always has been. When, then, I’m forced to travel about to meet people to celebrate something that I see as a needless event, I become what I consider to be understandably upset.

I understand that most people are very family oriented, and that’s fine. People are social creatures by nature, but part of my nature is to avoid a great deal of contact with people. It comes with the introverted territory. Unfortunately, extroverted people tend to ignore this, or entirely misunderstand it. Either way, it’s disregarded. Having part of your nature and identity being disregarded is somewhat irking; It doesn’t feel very nice.

At the end of it all, basically being forced to comply to a role of cheerfulness and obligated generosity for an event I don’t believe in and disagree with on a fundamental level for longer than I can remember somewhat grates on my nerves.

This is why I am a grumpy old man at (the mention of) Christmas.

Windows 10 Upgrade And Shenanigans

So I upgraded my Windows 7 machine to Windows 10 today. Some may say it was ill-advised, others say that it’s what you should do. What do I think? Well…

The upgrade itself took all of 40 minutes, that’s it. I started the program, it downloaded Windows, it installed Windows, and dumped me onto a shiny new desktop with all of my applications and files still intact. Sadly, the desktop was low resolution, in the middle of my monitor with borders, and I had no internet connection.


“Restart the computer!”, I thought. So I did. What did it get me, you ask? A sign-in screen that didn’t respond to my keyboard or mouse. Expletives occurred, and thoughts rambled through my head. It was troubleshooting time.

First I went with the obvious thing of unplugging all extra devices. All I left myself with was the keyboard and mouse. After a restart or two, I still had no response. Next was checking BIOS stuff to see if any changes to the USB settings would help. Nope. Then the Stupid Idea I Should Have Had First hit me. I moved the keyboard and mouse to different USB ports. Bingo! Working keyboard and mouse. Now on to the graphics driver.

As it turns out, the graphics drivers had reverted to the Windows basic drivers. As I still had no internet connection it was a trip to the wife’s laptop to download the latest Windows 10 drivers from NVIDIA. Those were transferred over via USB stick, installed, and I had a full working display again. Now on to that pesky internet issue.

My network was showing as Limited access. I had access to my local network, my NAS was showing and working just fine, but internet access was a no. I figured I’d see if updating the motherboard chipset drivers to the Windows 8 set would work (as Asus kinda stopped supporting my motherboard and have no intention of making Windows 10 drivers). Wife’s laptop again, download, transfer, install. Nope. Great. Much head scratching and a few web searches later and I stumbled upon a potential problem. Panda free anti-virus. I like Panda. It’s lightweight, free, and it consistently rates high on detections. The problem is that it installs a network driver called “Network Activity Hook Server LightWeight Filter Driver” which, as far as I can tell, is part of it’s firewall component. I don’t have the firewall component of Panda installed as it’s payware. The driver still wants to block things though, it would seem. A quick trip to the network adapter properties, and unchecking the box next to the filter driver, and the internet connection sprung to life. Getting better. Now to clean up.

I plugged in my extra devices and set to work making sure they were all working. It took a few fiddles to get my PS3 controller working with SCP driver, and a couple of devices needed reconfiguring, but it was mostly smooth sailing here. One last thing I did was run one of my favourite little programs, Snappy Driver Installer. This checks your drivers against current available versions online and lets you update them all in a single click. As it turned out, there were new updates for my motherboard chipsets, which it promptly installed for me. A quick restart later, and everything is up and running.

A few tweaks here and there, including setting up a Kiddie user for when little people are around and I don’t want them touching my stuff, and it’s complete.

That didn’t take much. Now all I have to do is see how good it goes. Already, I have to admit, I’m actually pretty pleased. Things are in relatively intuitive places, and the guff from Windows 8.1 is gone, or toned down to reasonable levels. I’ll see about writing a better viewpoint of it after using it for a while.

Operation stack

New solution to the Calais immigrant crisis

The problem arising in Calais due to the immigrants camping around the docks and train stations is reaching new highs. Not only are there nightly raids, causing the local security to be stretched thin, but also problems in scheduling of arrivals and departures because of the trespassing on the lines and in the tunnels. It’s a hugely dangerous situation that has already resulted in the death of one of the immigrants.

The repercussions of these events have caused havoc and chaos on the roads, not only of Calais, but also the UK. Operation stack has turned the M20 into one giant truck park, and brought half of Kent to a standstill. It doesn’t stop there, however. These trucks contain the trade and merchandise going in and out of the country. The impact on the economy could be devastating. Something must be done.

I have carefully considered the options myself, and I believe I have come up with a solution that will solve all the issues at one fell swoop.

We should invade France.


It’s a beautiful solution to the whole problem. We invade France, take over their government, and fix things. Looking at the facts and figures it shouldn’t take more than an afternoon’s work for the British Army. History tells us that France would more likely run away than fight, or just plain give up. Easy. That’s one job done. After spending another afternoon noticing that we’d have a few more borders that we actually should do something about, we would set about paying attention to them (and the people traveling over them), promptly turning away anyone who shouldn’t be wandering over them. Somewhat like we do on our island right now. The majority of the work has been done by now.

A further advantage to taking over France is that we could rename it. I suggest.. England. Old England would be the original island where the desirables live, leaving England to house the undesirables such as benefit scroungers, big issue sellers, Piers Morgan, Little Chef, soap operas, and reality shows. Not only that but we could finally abolish the French language, saving countless generations of our children from the horror of learning the three phrases “How are you?”, “How old are you?”, and “What is the time?” in order to attain their GCSE that no one will ever ask for.

We could also finally rid the world of Peugeot, Citroen, and Renault. That would be nice.

Being that France would become England, the immigrants camped in Calais, or meandering their way through the country, would find themselves slap-bang in the middle of their goal – England. They’d have lost their need to travel over the channel as they would have already arrived exactly where they were trying to go, thus removing the problem of delays on the M20 instantly. It’s win-win, people.

* This blog post is satire and my own humour, if you hadn't guessed. If you're offended by it, you may want to consider stopping being such a big jessie.

Pebble Smartwatch – Initial Essentials

Pebble helloSo my Pebble watch arrived the other day. I love it. The screen is lovely and highly readable even in low light (and if it’s too low, a flick of the wrist turns on the backlight for a couple of seconds). But initially there was a little disappointment with the limitations of the watch. Only basic notifications, simple alarm, no stopwatch/timer functions – some of the things my old watch can do without being smart.

After much hunting around and experimenting, I’ve narrowed down some absolute essential watchapps and companion applications to make the Pebble all I want it to be. (These are all from the 1.0 SDK. The SDK 2.0 will bring some rather interesting new features to the Pebble, but I’d sooner wait for it to be an official release, rather than the developer preview that it is right now.)

Pebble Dialer: Allows for phone control from your Pebble. Picking up incoming calls, enabling loudspeaker, muting the mic, hanging up, dialing someone from your contacts, etc. The Pebble has caller ID and call rejection built in, but Pebble Dialer takes the idea and runs with it.

Multi Timer: Multiple timer app for countdowns and stopwatches. I like countdown timers. I like multiple countdown timers. They help with cooking. (Yes, that’s actually why I like them). This is the best (and free!) watchapp for that.

Canvas: Like the fact that there are 65,000+ watch faces already available for the Pebble? Want to make your own straight from your phone? Canvas is your app. I have a simple word time watch face with my phone’s battery percentage and the date in smaller text at the bottom, but you could have anything like weather info, current unread mails/sms, next appointments, etc.

Pebble Locker: Quite simply, if you’re in range of your phone while wearing your watch the lock screen is disabled. If you go out of range the phone’s lock screen is enabled. It’s a bluetooth tether that keeps your phone semi-secure.

I also use a calendar watchapp that simply has a monthly scrollable calendar with appointments highlighted on it.

And that’s it. 😀


Massive downsizing

So I’ve moved my blog to WordPress hosting. I’ve massively downsized my web presence and consequently unnecessary cost for hosting. This’ll break a lot of things, but eh.

I also deleted most of my posts. They were rather pointless and dull anyway, so no loss there.


Car Drivers – I Hate You. A Rant.

TL;DR – Learn to drive, you inconsiderate pricks.

Long version:

To people who know me there’s no secret in what I do for a living. I’m a truck driver. I drive a Very Large Vehicle. Being that it’s my day job to drive around the roads of England for 7+ hours a day I see a lot. A lot of what I see makes me facepalm. Then shake my head. Then maybe have a little sigh. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to get angry at idiocy I see as I’m supposed to set a good example, being a “Professional driver”. Besides which, I like the idea of improving people’s generally very low opinions on truck drivers. We’re not all evil, arrogant, bullish, Etc. Some of us are nice. Honest.

The problem is this: the more I see, the more I wonder how people actually got their licence. Most of the time I figure that the examiner was just having an off day, or was sleeping. Or maybe it was a fluke. Or they managed to pass with 14 minor errors (out of 15 allowed) on their 9th attempt. Or maybe Kellogg’s was doing a give-away on the back of Corn Flakes boxes or something. Now I’m not one to pay attention to statistics (as we all know 83.54% of them are made up) or independently researched surveys or polls Etc. (as most of them decide on a result and fit the research to suit the answer they’re looking for). As a result I can honestly say that when people say that independent research shows that statistically women are better drivers than men I can laugh in their face and ask them if they actually pay attention to the roads, or if they drive with their eyes closed.

The worst people on the road, from my experience and observations of my 7+ hours a day, are Old People, and School Run Mums. Just down from them are the people with Very Big Cars, followed shortly by Very Important People. Let me explain.

Old people have been driving for years. Captain Obvious rears his head again, but it’s true. There is a problem with this, however – when they learned to drive cars were different, the roads were different, the rules of the road were different, there were less cars on the road, and they were, well, young. Cars have improved. They’re now faster. Old people haven’t figured this out yet, it would seem, and are quite content in pootling down a 60mph road at 25mph while being entirely oblivious to the danger they’re causing. Yeah I said it, going too slow is dangerous. Of course, this penchant for achieving a less-than-satisfactory speed is also down to one simple thing: Old People no longer retain the mental capacity or reflex speed to be safe on the road. Be it that they get confused and mix up which pedal does what, or they don’t react to a car braking in front of them quick enough, Etc. They’re dangerous. I am strongly of the opinion that a retest, or “evaluation” if you want to make it sound nicer, should be established for older people. Reach 65 and have a retest every 5 years from there. And yes I’d be perfectly happy to do it when I’m 65. As a truck driver I’m already going to be expected to have a medical test every 5 years from when I’m 45 onwards. It would be simple – test the old people. As far as I’m concerned ALL drivers should be able to show the same ability expected of driving examinees at ANY point in their driving life. The tests got harder for a reason.

School Run Mums are late. Always late. They needed to get their kids to school 5 minutes ago. Who cares that you’re doing a job and that you’re also running to schedule? Move out of the way because School Run Mum left the house late and the road belongs to her! Why didn’t she leave 5 minutes earlier? Because she always leaves at that time, and there’s never this traffic here, or this truck is never here. School Run Mum also has no idea how big her vehicle is. Either it’s a small car that can’t get through a gap big enough for a bus, and will complain about you being in the way, or it’s a big car trying to get through a gap far too small, and complaining about you being in the way. Also, the parking. Jebus Kristov the parking! Why, WHY, do you need a foot of space between the car and the curb? Or why do you need to park on awkward corners? Why do you need to turn up to the school 45 minutes (!) before kicking out time and proceed to park in the most in the way place possible, then refuse to move when you’re obviously blocking someone? Why do you need to park your car with the driver side door against the curb, and then unload your kids from the roadside? Seriously, how the hell is that teaching kids to be safe? Your door is in the road, blocking cars. Your kids are in the road, which go under cars quite nicely. Your ass is sticking out into the road, which I am constantly tempted to kick with the front end of my truck.

People with Very Big Vehicles. School Run Mums are often guilty of this, but there are a lot of other people who fit this category too. The kind of person who buys a big car, for no good real reason, and has no idea how big it really is once they’re sitting in it. Why do these people have such massive cars? Is it compensation for something? Do they feel more protected by it? Because they have a kid or two (which, for the record, can fit perfectly fine into pretty much any car so long as it’s not a 2 seater sports etc)? To be fair I only have one real problem with people with Very Big Cars – Everything. Ok, so not everyone with a Very Big Car lacks the ability to drive them; just most of them. If you lack spatial perception DO NOT GET A VERY BIG CAR! You end up doing the School Run Mum thing of trying for gaps too small, or not trying for gaps twice the width of the vehicle. This is dangerous, as if you cannot perceive the width of your vehicle in a slow maneuver then I dread to think what you’re like overtaking vehicles, or driving past parked cars at speed. Of course, Very Big Car drivers also have the idea that the bigger the vehicle the more right they have to the road. Wrong. Something I often like to teach them.

Very Important People aren’t very important at all, really. They just think they are. You know the type, big management job, or expensive car, or just arrogant people who think they own the road. All of them thinking they have the right to be where everyone else is at the exact moment they’re there, and how dare someone get in their way. The types that have to be somewhere right now, and you’re holding them up. The people who get angry at you for using your right of way instead of letting them invade it. The hand wavers. The shouters. The inconsiderate bastards who will block a junction just because they can’t stand the idea of that extra car in front of them. Oddly they’re mostly BMW and Audi drivers. Strange that, huh.

This post is going in a completely different direction to how I originally intended it, so allow me to get back on track.

I was triggered into writing this because of a particularly frustrating day trying to maneuver a 45 foot vehicle around a housing estate designed for cars (To whichever moron architect who designed Elvetham Heath: I hate you too) while idiot drivers had parked their cars in the most awkward places. I mean, the most stupid places. The places that caused all the obstructions that they could. People, please, listen. Just because you could get your car (small hatchback?) through that gap it doesn’t mean a 26ton truck can. You know what? That 26ton truck is doing you a service. Don’t block it.

All in all I just wish that there was more consideration on the roads. We all use it, and none of us like people being assholes to us while doing so. Why do it to other people? Think about what you’re doing, and how you’re acting. Look at how you’ve parked your vehicle and wonder if all vehicle types can get past. Worst case scenario, you just blocked access to a road (which is illegal, by the way) that an emergency vehicle is trying to get down. So you just caused a death, or a house to burn down, or both, all because of your lack of comprehension of space needed or allowed for larger vehicle types. Or was it just that you really are that arrogant? Probably.

I really wish there was less paperwork for damage caused to vehicles by industrial vehicles. Some people need their cars destroyed to learn a lesson.

In search of the perfect iced coffee

It’s that time of year again – you know, the time where it gets sodding hot and sunny. With sunny and hot comes thirsty and a desire for something cold. Iced coffee. Why not?

I don’t know why I got the itch for it, but something inspired me to make iced coffee. After looking around for decent recipes/mixes I’ve not really found one that seems perfect, you know? I quite like the idea of sweetened black iced coffee, but it’s hard to get right, and would most likely end in more failures than successes. Not that I won’t work on that, but that will come later. Instead I have a work in progress recipe for a nice white sweetened iced coffee. It will likely evolve but here it is right now:

For roughly two glasses:

  • 600 ml regular strength coffee
  • 30 ml vanilla syrup
  • 60 ml sweetened condensed milk

Make the coffee as you usually would, i.e. percolator, cafetiere/french press etc. and allow it to cool, then stick it in the fridge. If you’re worrying about ice diluting regular strength coffee, don’t. There’s a secret weapon at the end of the post that you’ll like, if you’re that worried.

Once the coffee is nice and cold, get your favourite blender and pour in all your ingredients. Blend. It should mix up well and end up with a nice froth on the top. If it doesn’t… blend more.

Grab a glass and fill it with ice. Plenty of ice. Don’t be shy. Pour the coffee mix over the ice, and give it a good swill around to give it a chance to really get nice and cold.

Drink. Enjoy.

Secret weapon:

Coffee ice.

Yep, you heard. Coffee ice. It’s a simple solution if you’re worried about the ice diluting down regular strength coffee. Most iced coffee recipes you see online talk about using double strength coffee, which is just plain silly. Most people will need to dilute double strength a good way before having a palatable drink. So regular it is. While you’re preparing your coffee, after letting it cool, but before putting it in the fridge, pour some of it into ice trays to put in the freezer. It’s that simple. I would highly recommend buying separate ice trays for this though, as the ice cubes go somewhat sticky and make a huge mess of the trays.

But yeah, that’s it. Secret weapon is ice cubes made of coffee that won’t dilute coffee. It’s really that simple. 😀

This whole recipe is a work in progress, so I’ll update it if I figure out different measurements, or ingredients. Enjoy. Comment if you have any suggestions etc.

Airport boredom

So right now I’m sitting in the airport in Beijing waiting for my flight; a wait of about 2 hours now. I have a myriad choice of internet connections here. I could sign up for the free airport ones via SMS if I had a Chinese phone, or if I went to one of the many kiosks that would allow me to use my passport number (which are over the other side of the airport). Needless to say, those are a no. Various other services are there to pay for, if you can find your way through the menus and pages that direct you to where to pay. In the end I’ve settled for good old Boingo wifi, which I’ve used in various other airports and pretty much always just works. It’s a bit pricey, but it works.

Now for the down side. Of course, the internet here is massively restricted for anything outside of China – or so it would seem. I still can’t get Facebook, or Twitter, or any connection to a great deal of websites, returning “No Data Received” and “Connection Error” and “No Route to Host” errors. Great.

Besides the internet issues there’s also the fact that I’m hungry and thirsty. There was breakfast at the hotel but I walked in, looked around, and walked straight out again. No coffee. No tea. No toast. No eggs. No bacon. All that was there was odd soups, noodles, and various other bits and pieces that didn’t look entirely edible to me. All of it was far too heavy to have for breakfast. Instead I settled for a cup of green tea (very old green tea) in my room. The problem here, at the airport, is that I have no money to buy anything. Generally the currencies they accept are of the country, and American dollars. I have about 7000 Japanese yen, and about £5 in my pocket. And not an ATM in sight. So… I’m screwed until I get on the plane and they give me something to eat and drink.

Oh and I didn’t get an upgrade. I asked. They quoted something like 14000 RMB for it; roughly £1350. So that was a no. Arse.

Here’s to two hours of waiting boredom.

Returning from Japan

My last post was from the first night in Japan, if I recall. Now I’m sitting here, in Beijing, writing a post on my return from Japan. Obviously I’m not home yet, being in Beijing and all, but this is about the only medium, that works right now, for me to get some thoughts across. The reason for this is that I’m currently sitting behind the behemoth that is the Chinese firewall for the internet. I’m finding that even the most basic of sites aren’t working from here, such as twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a few Google sites Etc. That might be a combination of the Chinese censorship, and the hotel’s filtering; either way it’s a pain in the ass.

On the up side, it’s around 10pm right now, and I’ll be heading towards an early bed in order to be up at 8am, so that I can grab some free breakfast after spending the night in this free hotel then jump on the free bus back to the airport to get on my newly scheduled flight back to the UK a day later than planned.

I’m going to see if I can blag an upgrade for my seat on the plane. Free or not, I want business class damnit (unless it would cost me more than £200…)

See you all back in England. (o/