Wednesday 28 September 2011

The key to a successful sale

Rule #1: Make sure the person whose house you're offering to sell is the owner.

Scan of an unsolicited direct mail shot from Carter Jonas estate agents
The unsolicited direct mail shot I received from Carter Jonas.

I received an unsolicited direct mail shot (see above) from Carter Jonas today, addressed to me. Usually it's just "To the Owner". I was amused by their claim of "knowing our local area inside out", so I wrote them a friendly email:

From: Christopher Whalen [email removed]
Date: 28 September 2011 20:25
Subject: The key to a successful sale
To: [email protected]

Dear Carter Jonas,

You sent me a direct mail flyer today. I'd thank you if I was grateful, but I'm not, so I won't. Please remove me from your mailing lists.

You claim: "We pride ourselves on knowing our local area inside out". I guess you don't know it as well as you think you do. I live in a private rented house owned by Lucy Properties, so even if I did want to sell it, I wouldn't be allowed because I don't own it. Surely you know that most of Walton Well Road is owned and let out by Lucy Properties.

How did you get my name in the first place? I'm not on the edited electoral register.

As I said, please remove me from your mailing lists. Thanks.

Yours aye,
Christopher Whalen
[address removed]

Thursday 22 September 2011

My 2010 10Q answers

This time last year I did an exercise in personal reflection guided by 10Q. Here are the results:

Day 1:
Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My answer:
I decided not to finish my DPhil thesis on James Joyce at Oxford University. I felt regret and pain, but also relief. I was lucky to get a job at a web design and development company soon after - the first and only job I applied for. I've been much happier and more fulfilled since, although at times the pressure of work tips into stress. I have a busy life and don't find the time to keep on top of all my personal admin, as I was able to do during my graduate studies.

Day 2:
Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

My answer:
I'm proud of the way I have grown up emotionally this year. I developed feelings for one of my friends, and instead of bottling it up and stewing on it for months, I told her quite early on. We went out on a few dates, but she decided that she didn't want a relationship with me. I think I handled the rejection quite well compared to how I've reacted in the past. It still hurt, but I'm trying to move on. It helped that I was open about how I felt and let her know unequivocally how I felt about her. I'm proud that I made her feel good about herself when we were going out. I still wish she could reciprocate my affections.

Day 3:
Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

My answer:
My sister gave birth to her third child. I'm much less interested in children than I was when my first niece was born. I really don't enjoy the company of small children much. I don't have the patience. When I'm with that part of my family, I keep a low profile. I don't want to be the kids' favourite because I don't want to be high in demand. I don't have the energy.

Day 4:
Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

My answer:
I raised money for the Pakistan flood victims by busking in Oxford with Sol Samba.

Day 5:
Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

My answer:
The closest I've had to a spriritual experience is drumming with Maracatu Estrela do Norte in the Notting Hill Carnival. The repetitive rhythm of maracatu can send you into a trance. With the sound systems blasting out in front and behind us during the parade, there were times when I thought I could hear angels singing above our drumming.

Day 6:
Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?

My answer:
I'd like to have a girlfriend by this time next year. It's important to me because I have been frustrated in love many times. I feel I've got a lot to give, but haven't met someone who is willing to reciprocate it. I think I would feel happier and more fulfilled if I had a girlfriend.

Day 7:
How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you in this project?

My answer:
I would like to become a better rugby referee over the next year. This is my first season on the Southern Federation Development Squad, which is a great opportunity to improve my skills and experience. There's no one piece of advice that will guide me. I will have to be a sponge and absorb all the advice that is offered to me, decide what I want to take onboard, and then wring the rest out. It will help having more regular reports from match observers and weekly contact with my coach.

Day 8:
Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in 2011?

My answer:
I want to get deeper into samba and maracatu - have more experiences playing in big fuckoff batterias. I'd like to spend more time with my friend, Bethan, and get to know her better. I might want to investigate spending some time in Brazil - I'd love to play with Viradouro at Rio Carnival.

Day 9:
What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

My answer:
I'm not really afraid of many things. I used to be afraid of parties, but in the past year I've been to a couple of grown-up parties and really enjoyed myself. It helps knowing most of the people there, liking them, and wanting to spend time with them.

I used to go into my shell at parties and just stand in a corner not talking to anyone, waiting to go home.

Day 10:
When September 2011 rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you'll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you're at as a result of thinking about and answering these questions?

My answer:
I think I'll be glad I went through this process and intrigued by the things that were preoccupying me a year ago. I might be slightly embarrassed by my answers. I hope that I'll have a girlfriend this time next year and will be able to share my answers with her. (If you're reading this, HELLO!) I'm not sure answering these questions will be a catalyst to any change in my life, but I might surprise myself. Maybe they'll reveal something about myself that I'm not fully aware of now. See me next year!

Day 11:
What are your predictions for 2011?

My answer:
Love will find me, I hope.

Want to do this yourself this year? 10Q begins 28 September 2011.

Monday 25 July 2011

Song from "This American Life" 218: "Act V"

I've just been listening to a podcast of This American Life and I was wondering what the song was from the end of episode 218: "Act V" (at 56:11 of the 58:33-length podcast; originally aired on 9 August 2002; recently aired on 1 July 2011).

I searched around on the TAL website, but couldn't find a track listing. Then I remembered I could use Shazam on my iPad. Turns out it's "Desperado" by The Langley Schools Music Project on their album "Innocence & Despair".

Download episode
Skip to 56:59 to hear the song in context.

At the time I wrote this post in July 2011, you could listen to the song on Grooveshark, but that site is now defunct. You can hear the story of Grooveshark on the StartUp podcast.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Google Easter eggs

Type the following searches into Google and see what you get:
On an almost, but not quite, entirely unrelated note, here's an old Google bomb for WMD.

Type the following into Microsoft Word and press Enter:
  • =rand(X,Y) [where X = number of paragraphs and Y = number of repetitions of the sentence]
  • =rand.old()
  • =lorem()
According to Wikipedia, these are not Easter eggs.

Update (Sunday 10 July 2011)
(Thanks to my Notting Hill Carnival 2010 Maracatu Estrela Do Norte colleague, Karen Brownlie, for sharing these.)

Driving directions from China to Taiwan on Google Maps include the direction "48. Swim across the Pacific Ocean":

Driving directions from China to Japan on Google Maps include the direction "27. Jet ski across the Pacific Ocean":

Driving directions from China to USA on Google Maps include the direction "92. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean":

Update (Monday 19 December 2011)

Friday 27 May 2011

Google Chrome to Phone error

For the past couple of days I've been getting the error message "Device not registered to user" when trying to send webpages from my Chrome web browser to my Android HTC Desire phone. To fix it, do the following:
  1. Check you have the most recent version of Chrome (spanner / About Google Chrome).
  2. Uninstall Google Chrome to Phone extension in Chrome.
  3. Reinstall Google Chrome to Phone extension in Chrome.
  4. Clear data from the Chrome to Phone app on your Android device (Menu / Settings / Applications / Manage applications / select Chrome to Phone from downloaded applications / click "Clear data" button).
  5. Open Chrome to Phone app on your Android device (Menu / All apps / Chrome to Phone), click "Next" and select the account you want to use (I chose my Gmail account), click "Next", chose your link action preference (I chose "Automatically launch links"), click "Next" and then "Finish".
  6. Send a test webpage from your Chrome browser to check it works.
I suspect doing steps 4 and 5 would have been enough.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Google London Site Clinic: a review

I attended the Google London Site Clinic at TechHub this evening. As I was expecting/fearing from the blurb on their site, I thought the talks by Christoffel Hiltermann and Lucyna Janas for the first half hour or so were pitched too low: very basic stuff that you can learn from the obvious channels: Google Webmaster Tools, Google Webmaster Guidelines, the Google Webmaster Central Blog, Help Center, Webmaster Help Forum, the Google SEO starter guide, and so on. So I didn't learn anything new here.

My sentiments are echoed on the #Siteclinic Twitter hashtag, which we were encouraged to use:
proactivepaul: Maybe need to check out Google guidelines #Siteclinic or maybe not? This talk needs to step up a notch for a @TechHub audience!
eagerterrier: If you're thinking about going to a #siteclinic probably don't bother unless you're a web junior. Shame.
Where it got interesting was when they did a Matt Cutts-style site review.

Sunday 3 April 2011

How to cook rice: the Delia Smith method

My good friend, Roman Krznaric, once showed me how to cook rice the Delia Smith way. Since then, I've never done it any other way. I taught my mum, who's an accomplished cook, and she was thrilled by the results. What's so good about it? It makes perfect rice every time. It doesn't waste any water. There's no need to rinse out the starch. You don't end up with leftover rice having made too much. It doesn't stick to the pan. Here's how to do it:

Thursday 24 March 2011

The story of the shepherd with the talking sheepdog

The shepherd said to the sheepdog, "I've got some sheep in the valley. Will you go and round them up and put them in the pen?"

And the dog went, "Alright."

And he went away and came back an hour later. And the dog went, "I've done it."

And the shepherd said, "How many sheep were there?"

And the dog went, "40."

And the shepherd said, "That's strange! There were only 38 this morning."

And the dog went, "You said 'round them up'!"

(Source: Duggie Brown, "Act Your Age", BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 23 May 2011)

Monday 21 March 2011

Which trainers should I buy?

Dear lazyweb,

I'm undecided about which pair of trainers I should buy. Please help me decide by voting in the poll above this post. Here's my shortlist of three:

Puma Speed Cat
New Balance 577
Fred Perry Dobie

Friday 11 March 2011

How to convert an existing Google AdWords account to My Client Center (MCC)

Screenshot of Google AdWords My Client Center

At Torchbox I am developing my search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) skills. Yesterday, for example, I passed my Google Advertising Fundamentals Exam, which is part of the Google Certification Program.

It's annoying that I couldn't use my existing Google AdWords account (which was attached to my primary Gmail address) to set up a My Client Center (MCC) account, which makes managing multiple AdWords accounts much easier because you can do it all through the same login.

It's not simple, but there is a way around this...

Sunday 20 February 2011

Blogger's help page about missing files missing!

While fiddling with my Blogger settings, I came across this ironic (in the Alanis Morissette sense) broken link (click on the images to enlarge):

Screenshot of Blogger advanced publishing settings page
Missing files host? Learn more by clicking on this link...

Screenshot of Blogger Help page not available message