Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back in the UK

So - I'm back.

And off sick.

Thankfully the tonsillitis symptoms eased on the Friday night while I was still in Romania, but I've been left with Laryngitis and still feel pretty awful - as well as sounding like a cross between Frank Butcher and Stephen Hawking.

On the advice of the GP, I'm actually going to do what I'm told and take a good few days off, probably returning with my next morning shift on Saturday. I've been told to take complete physical and vocal rest - which even gives me an opportunity to turn my phone off!

The team in Romania were lovely, and very understanding - to the point of even stopping by my hotel on Friday night (while I was working the night shift) bringing a bag of sweets, chocolate, Coke and Strepsils to make the night go more smoothly. They're great people and I'm sure they're going to do their new job well for us.

It's great to be home. It's not often I'm homesick, but being poorly while away doesn't make for an enjoyable visit, and I really didn't get to see enough of Cluj - which is actually a pretty city with a very Italian feel to it.

It doesn't look like I've missed a great deal on my trip - no major political upheavals, sadly, though it looks like there's been yet more data protection idiocy going on.

Time to relax and take the doctor's advice!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

That Would Explain It!

Still in Romania.

The tiredness and lethargy I've been suffering from, which I put down to travelling and night shifts - is actually Tonsillitis.

These next couple of days are going to be pleasurable as a result.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bună Ziua from Romania

So this week, the Dungeekin Show is in Cluj, Romania, helping train a new support team.

I'm sure it's a lovely place - in the heart of Transylvania, a heart-stirring mix of old gothic architecture and communist-era prestressed concrete.

The lights of the city's main square certainly look beautiful.

Only problem is - I'm working night shifts the whole time I'm here, so I get about 1 hour per day to see Cluj in daylight on my way home from the office.

I normally love travelling to new places - but this time I'm tired, grumpy, and I want to go home.

Roll on Sunday.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Please Contact Me if you're Frustrated with the CSA

I've held this one in for long enough.

Today's rant has but one topic - the appalling, inefficient and inaptly-titled Child Support Agency.

those who know me know that I'm divorced and that I have a little boy, who I love and don't see often enough. So, obviously, I'm obligated to support him - which I do gladly.

However, for my ex-wife to qualify for the benefits to which she is entitled, my support payment has to go through the Child Support Agency. They won't permit a private arrangement. In the early days, this wasn't a problem - the case was handled through the Plymouth CSA office, who were polite, friendly, efficient and, most of all, quick. If you had a query you could speak to your caseworker by phone, and your caseworker would come back to you with answers quickly. It was easy and all went smoothly.

Until April of this year, when they moved me to Bolton.

The people who work at CSA Bolton are the most useless, disinterested, lazy, ill-informed, dishonest and incompetent excuses for humans it's ever been my displeasure to deal with. In the 8 months - check that, 8 MONTHS - it's taken to do a simple salary reassessment, I've had the dubious honour of calling them regularly - monthly at first, then weekly from about July, and daily since November.

Every call gives different, conflicting information. I'm told a different 'caseworker' name every single time I phone, and every time I try to speak to the 'caseworker' concerned, they're either not in, at lunch, off sick, planning a Mars expedition or any one of a million other reasons why they can't come to the phone.

Quite frankly, I believe the real reason is they're swinging around in their tyres flinging their faeces at each other - it's all they're fit for.

I've been promised a call-back 16 times in the last month - and how many have I received?

None. Not one. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

Try to speak to a 'Manager'? No chance. They're somewhere in the back of the Monkey House and, in the amusing words of one callcentre cretin 'don't have to speak to the general public'.

And the crowning glory of this pustule upon the anus of efficiency - my ex-wife has received no payment from the CSA since the beginning of October, and is suffering the same indignities when she calls them trying to get an answer.

So - 8 months on, I'm still paying 30% more than I'm supposed to be paying, I'm owed over £500 in back payments, my ex-wife is owed a total of 4 months payments and neither of us can get any sense from the CSA.

Enough is enough.

The CSA was established for a good reason - to ensure that absent parents made financial provision for their offspring. However, what's come out is a Frankenstein's Monster - a bloated, inefficient Civil Service calamity that is singularly unable to perform the duties it was incepted to do.

If they can't even deal with someone who IS paying regularly - how on earth do those parents waiting for fathers who don't pay fare?

I believe that I'm not alone in my suffering when dealing with this bunch of moronic dung-flingers. So I ask you this. If you are having problems with CSA Bolton, either as a parent with care or an absent parent - or if you know someone who's reached the same levels of frustration I have, and who are facing either insanity or aneurysm - please contact me or get them to contact me. I will respond to all the contacts I get.

I have already written to Lord McKenzie of Luton with regard to my specific issue, and am sufficiently driven by anger that I want to start a campaign of emails, letters and phone calls to the DWP to force some efficiency into the system.

Please contact me and let's start getting some changes and answers.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

And it's gone....

The little Advent lasted just 3 days since its visit to PC World - and is now gone.

I came downstairs on Friday morning to discover a shut-down box. Again.

This time, a bit of Googling garnered me some evidence that I wasn't alone in experiencing problems with this box. This link is just ONE of the mentions of the problem I found.

I called PC World, who (at first) asked me to bring it in for further tests. However, I explained the evidence, pointed their Tech Guys team leader at the relevant pages....and got a callback an hour later confirming that they would simply take a return for a full store credit.

So the Advent went back, and has been replaced by a Compaq C757EA, as the price for a dual-core with 2GB RAM was just too good to miss. I also treated myself to an Archos 504 80GB PMP, which will be useful for my trip to Romania this month.

(For those who are shocked at my choosing Archos - I looked at the iPod Touch, but for £20 more than the Archos it's a tenth of the storage and, according to the owner of the one I was fiddling with, won't play Divx - which would make it completely useless for my purposes.)

Overall, then, I have to say I'm not displeased with the service and response from PC World on this. And I feel like I've got a heck of a lot more for my money than I had originally!

So to those who asked for my opinions or advice on the Advent 8212 - my advice is just DON'T. It's not DSG's fault - but the components and the mainboard appear to have known issues and, quite frankly, it's not worth the money you'll pay for it.