News and comments from Arthur

3D Cinema

 Sunday 22 Feb 2009, 8:10 PM

Went to see the new Dinsey CGI film Bolt at the cinmea yesterday, in glorious 3D. Was a bit of an effort to get to see it mind you given the lack of 3D cinemas in the Reading area. Or pretty much lack of digital cinemas full stop in the Reading area (given how Reading is supposed to be the capital of the Thames Valley which is in turn the prime area for IT in the country you`d have thought it would generally be a fairly hiigh tech place. Unfortunately the local cinemas haven`t caught on and are still stuck in the past with their quaint old rolls of film...)

I ended up at the new Vue cinema in Camberley some 17 or so miles away. Unlike ohter Vue cinemas I have been to that all seem the same, this one seems to be trying out a new-style template and felt quite different from the layout, the comfy waiting area, the stylish modern decor, the black suede effect seating etc. It probably also helps that, being an all digital cinema, the designers aren`t quiet so forced to have all the projection booths in one central locattion; in theory, digital projectors rarely need to be touched so can sit in a much smaller cupboard and be operated from a computer anywhere in the building.

For some reason the 3D seemesd a bit weird. The glasses we were given were designed to be returned and were quite solidly built although they clearly had snapout lenses that could be replaced once they became too scratched. They wre also very relective and almost mirrored looking like some tragic 80`s fashion accessory. And, with sinsister shades of 3D of old, the left lens seemed to have a red tint and the right one was slightly blue. This was very different to when I saw The Nightmare Before Christams in digital 3D at the Vue West End which had glasses you kept that, whilst they were plastic, had more basic polarised lenses with no mirrored effect.

Whilst the 3D worked perectly well, it still made my eyes a bit sore as it`s not as natural watching a 3D film where you are forced to focus on what they want you to focus on. The picture was a bit darker than a normal cinema picture too but that is to be expected as the light is being filtered between each eye. One positive thing was that the film didn`t rely on loads of silly "stuff coming oput the screen at you" effects to get cheap 3D thrills. In fact thre really wasn`t anything gratuitous like that at all, which is exactly what 3D needs to be taken seriously rather than a short lived gimmick. I just hope the prices come down a bit over time - adding a £2 premium to the ticket price seems a bit much.

The day after I got a survey from Vue asking waht I though so I let rip in the comments section about getting more digital (and 3D) screens across the chain rather than just in new cinemas. This is exactly what the other chaions like Cineworld and Odeon are doing and Vure are being left behind. probabl;y explains why I am going to London more to see the really big films. Like The Watchmen, for example, which I am off to see in a few weeks in the IMAX screen at Waterloo.

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Fucking Bankers

 Thursday 19 Feb 2009, 9:29 PM

After my ISA with Icelandic bank Icesave went tits up a while back, I have finally got round to opening a new ISA in which to palce this money. The British government very kindly issued a certificate with the refund of my money that said I could open up a new ISA without any penalty (even if I had already opened one this year) so my ISA money effectivley kept its tax free status.

Surprisingly, the only bank I found that actually made any mention of welcoming money from previous Icesave customers was the Natwest. Their website actually had some blurb on their main savings page saying how easy it was to get it all sorted and, as they also happened to have an ISA with a good (although in the current economic climate, good is definitely a relative term) interest rate, I decided to invest my money with them.

A quick trip to the local branch which, inconveniently, opened 1/2 an hour later than every other bacnk in town, and I began to suspect thing were going to be afr from simple. The lady, whco assured me she had loads of experince with Icesave trasnfers, told me I couldn`t have the high interest ISA as it wouldn`t accprt transfers from exisiting ISAa. Despite me pointing out on numerous occa\sions that the money wasm`t actually in an ISA but in my bacnk as it had been refunded to me, she stuck to her guns. Helpfully she pointed out that I could apply online and that the online account did accept trabsfers so everyhting would work out just fine. I pointed out that the reason for wantiong to do this in person rtaher than online was that the Icesave situation was rather unique and that I doubted the online application process would cover this but she assured me it would all be OK.

So, off home I went and, like the idiot I clearly am, believed everyhting she had said. I only made it to the second screen off the application process where it came to a grinding halt when it asked me to confirm that I hadn`t already opened an ISA that year. Which I had.

So, it was then onto the phone and, after a few transfers got through to an ISA specialist who basically told me to lie and say I hadn`t had an ISA that year. He assured me it would be fine. So, I carried on the application process making up various bits of information here and there such as when it asked me what tax year I wanted the money to apply to, it gave me the choice of this year or next year - technically I needed last year as that was when my Icesave ISA was opened.

Anyway, it all went though in the end and, a few days later, the paperwork arrived in the post. Of course thre was no mention of what Icesave customers should do so I had to ring them up again and was givem totally differne instructions to what I had been told at the branch. And just to make thins even more inconvenient, I discovered that the basic savings account that I also need to open at the same time as the ISA (this was a requirement of taking the ISA) wasn`t created for you automatically - you had to do this manually as a totally seperate exercise. Brilliant. With all this great technology, they can`t even manage a simple flag to automticllay open a savings account for you at the same time. So I then had to go back and apply for a savings account and now have to wait for that paperwork to arrive before I can process my ISA. Something tells me that even now I`m going to have further problems when I try and take my Icesave certificate into the brach to be sent to head office; already I can picture the vacant stares and blank faces of the staff as they struggle to get both their brain cells working in tandem trying to work out what they should be doing...

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Lots more snow!

 Thursday 5 Feb 2009, 10:55 PM

Even more snow arived today. It`s slushier this time though. And, as a consequnece, a lot icier too. There were cars slipping and sliding up and down the hill outside my house from around 6am. The not-so-intelligent chavs in the souped up fietsas decided the best way to get up the hill from a stationary position was to rev their engines as hard as they could. Unsurprisingly they ended up turning round and giving up after 5 minutes. I would have been annyed at beoing kept awake at that time in the morning apart from the fact it was so damned funny watching them exercising both their brain cells at once trying to work out how to get up this stupid hill!

The other added bonus was that slushy snow meant sticky snow which in turn meant another snowman! He was bigger than the last one too though I made him in a bit of a rush before I left for work so he didn`t have a fez or arms like the last one.

The journey to work was not as much fun this time round because it was just wet. And there was ice frozen to the roads hidden under the slush which meant a bit of sliding around when elast expected - when turning into the road where I work I really didn`t have any controil at all. I just had to go where the bike and snow took me and just hoped for the best that it wasn`t into the path of an oncoming car!

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Lots of Snow!

 Monday 2 Feb 2009, 9:38 PM

Woke up this morning to find the most snow I`ve seen in many a year covering everthing as far as the eye could see. I immediately popped outside and was a bit disappointed to docsover it was slightly yo powdery to stick together to build a snowman but there was so much of it I didn`t really mind (mty definition of good snow is when it is so thick you can`t see the blades of grass on your lawn sticking though the surface of the snow)

What was really creepy was how quiet it was; it was rush hour on a Monday morning and I couldn`t hear any tarffic. It was almost silent apart from the distant wailing of sirens from the police/fire/ambulance. In fact it was just like I`d image it to be when the zombie apocalypse comes...

I decided driving to work was a bad idea so opted for the bicycle insead. OK, so it may not have been a 100% safe solution but at leat I would make it to work even if I ended up walking most of the way. The roads were totally covered in snow and there hadn`t been enough traffic on the minor roead to wear it away so it meant slow and carful cycling across compacted snow where the cars had been. In fact I didn`t even bother trying to cycle up the hill outside my hopuse as I would have just ended up sliding back doen the road. Nor did I attempt to cycle down the hill near my work as I would not have been able to stop.

In the end it was quite a fun journey - It just felt so nice and peaceful. The only bit where I nearly came off was moving to the right hand edge of the road to turn right at a roundabout which meant crossing over the frsh snow which sent me skipping and sliding all over the place. Manged to stay on the bike though. And it must have looked quite funny to the man in the car behind me. Getting home was easier as the roads were clear by then. Plus the snow had melted just a little bit which made it sticky enough to build a small, low quality snowman in my back garden. Hooray!

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