b3ta.com user clopinettes
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Dave looking left

I like you.


I have a website for my personal stuff:


And another for teh Interconnect IT web consultancy which I run, and which is probably slowly driving me crazy with stress. Thank God for b3ta, somewhere I can chill and even, occassionally, let loose my creative side. But did you see what I did there? I keep hoping people will go to our company for cool stuff.

You want to know more?

Ok, well here goes...

I'm an ex-PeopleSoft consultant, who got bored with corporate life, set up a new company (in name at least) and now works too hard.

note to self: be less patronising, don't waffle on

Oh heck. What else? I dunno. Read my blog to know what I share with the world.

Recent front page messages:

Let's get selective...

Ta for the clicks - now linked to the post on my site where you can find a high-res version.
(Sat 20th Oct 2007, 14:33, More)

Best answers to questions:

» Expensive Mistakes

Aw bless 'em
My job used to often involve finding code and user errors in financial systems. Millions could easily disappear just because of a simple account code mistake.

But best was looking through a file of reconciliation errors at on of the charities I've worked for, which used a lot of often elderly volunteers in their shops. Each error had to have an explanation put in by the manager of the shop. Some of the entries were terse and clearly the result of someone reaching the end of a tether:

"till short because geriatric volunteer can't tell difference between a £5 note and a £20 note."

"volunteer thinks she forgot how much she was given, so to play safe gave change of £20."

"elderly volunteer can't count."

"alzheimers, I'm sure of it."
(Fri 26th Oct 2007, 14:24, More)

» * PFFT *

The farts of food poisoning...
Farts are just farts. All do them, some people's stink more thanks to bad diets or whatever... but when you get food poisoning.... Now *that's* a fart!

I've been hospitalised with salmonella, so I thought I knew exactly what a food poisoning fart was like. But on a trip to Chile, I'd been cheerfully yomping around at 4,500m, dodging lightning bolts, and generally doing the stuff travellers are supposed to do. But at dinner I felt strangely uncomfortable. I didn't want to eat and left my meal, but I had no idea why there was no space inside me.

Well about 1am, I found out. I'd filled myself up with gas. And I guess at high-altitude it just comes out with even higher relative pressure. The first fart started in bed, but felt like it might about to go, erm wet. A few seconds later I'm on the toilet, making a ferocious noise, and emptying my old bowels of both gas, liquids and solids. It wasn't a good time. But hey, one incident isn't a true fart.

So... for the next six hours I had half hourly squits/farting/vomit sessions, eventually turning to just whatever water I tried to drink.

I kind of hoped that was it. But a night of that will leave you exhausted and I was feeling pretty sick. I said my goodbyes to the expedition and stayed put for a few days to recover. At that point I headed off to a place called San Pedro de Atacama to chill a little. All felt well and my appetite was returning. I even had my first poo.

And that's when I panicked. It felt... farty, yes, but also... stringy. I wiped, looked, and saw WORMS! Aaargh! WORMS! I was freaking out, jumped up, and had to have a good look in the u-bend.

Tip: If you've completely killed your digestive system so it doesn't work properly any more, then an easily freaked traveller probably shouldn't pick, for their first meal, spaghetti.
(Fri 13th Jul 2007, 20:23, More)

» The passive-aggressive guilt trip

Fathers... I think they can mess you up
My Dad was first class at the guilt trip thing. He'd cheerfully leave me with strangers I'd never met, to be bullied, harassed and terrorised once he'd left for a six month jaunt as a holiday rep. Eventually I persuaded my nan to take custody of me, got it all through the courts, and told him. Was 11 at the time.

In spite of this...

At 18 my nan died. Thankfully I'd just got my first job so I soon had a paycheck. Dad left it up to me to deal with the funeral arrangements and so on, and two days before the funeral of his mother he buggered off on his annual jaunt to South America.

Still, I just carried on. The good old National Abbey (name made into a tough anagram to protect the innocent) cheerfully refused to let me buy the house my nan had lived in, so it got repossesed and they could make a huge profit on selling it on.

At this point, I'd scraped together what I could and bought a flat. And a car, because I needed it for work. I was, quite frankly, skint.

Now, sorry for all the pre-amble, but it's important to set the scene as to what a cunt my father could be.

A few months into my new flat I was getting by ok. Then it started. I got a letter. He'd been robbed in Ecuador (IIRC) and needed money to get by. About £1500 was needed RIGHT AWAY or he'd be in deep trouble. This was 1988, I was 19 then, and so it was quite a lot of money for me. So right away I telexed over what I could manage - about £100.

So the guilt trips, mostly by post, then started. Often written on scraps of mismatching paper.

"Is that all you could send me son? Don't you know you're the most important to me... the only one of my children who talks to me. It's very lonely being out here, all alone. No, I didn't take out travel insurance, it's too expensive. You need to help me son."

I had another £50. Sent that. I was trying to arrange a loan, but that was taking time as my credit rating was shot to hell by all the money I'd had to borrow anyway.

Next letter was along the lines of:

"Son, you're my only hope. The latest money you sent is barely enough to keep me alive. Every day I check to see if something's arrived, but I see nothing. I tell me friends here what a wonderful son you are, that you'll come through for me. But when they see I've yet to get any help from you they just shake their heads and tell me all kids are the same - they don't care about their parents. But son, I know you're different."

Bollocks. Thing is, I fucking hated him at the time. I knew what he was doing, but I wanted to help. I sent another little bit along, in spite of realising that he'd always been exceptionally vague about what he actually did in South America.

"Son, I'm really struggling now. I'm ill and really need more money in order to pay for health care. My sight has been failing me. I'm working illegally now with a travelling circus so it's very difficult for me to know what to do. I'll be at this phone number on the nth."

Panicking now about his health problems I started doing all sorts of things to try and solve his problem. I was severely bollocked for ringing Ecuador from work, but thankfully the boss started giving me contacts in the foreign office. The £600 loan came through, so I sent that off.

After a couple of days I'd got an agreement to get him flown home, paid for by the foreign office (as a loan to him, but with open-ended repayment terms), due to his ill health. I rang him with the good news.

To which point he asked me why he should come back to the UK where he'd still be ill, poor and no better off. He then said "And you've only sent me £600! What use is that? I told you I needed £1500! Don't you have a good job? Have you just pissed away your money?!"

That's when I gave up, silently hung up on the ungrateful bastard, and haven't spoken to him since. I had to sell the flat anyway coz I was skint, the car had to go and be replaced by a banger, and so on.

I'm going to Peru soon for a wedding. If I bump into him I'll forgive him for being a twat. But if he ever asks me for anything, ever, I'll want to kill him. Of course instead I'll probably just feel horribly guilty and cry myself to sleep - my heart keeps being convinced that I was a horrible and cold person for giving up on him, while my head keeps saying I was doing the right thing.

Length?! I could write a book about the guy.
(Tue 18th Oct 2005, 19:56, More)

» My Worst Date

Vitamin anxiety
So there I am, on the way to a first date with a girl I've been fixed up with. The setting is everything you could imagine. It's Paris, it's summer, she's beautiful, and she's the heiress to a rich Lebanese family. It's only while sitting on the Metro I realise that in my haste to get there I've forgotten to brush my teeth. Eventually, after much rummaging in my bag, I find some effervescent vitamin C tablets, blackberry flavoured. That'll do.

As I walk up the steps to the rendezvous I pop one on my tongue and it sizzles gently as I hope for blackberry freshness.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself as she arrives I realised I wanted shut of the tablet and start chewing it so I can swallow it.

I'm still not sure whether it was the explosion of purple foam from my mouth, or the dodgy blackberry/dog-breath I had which put her off, but I never saw her again. Girls eh? Fickle.
(Mon 25th Oct 2004, 23:41, More)

» Conned

Sponsored events - how I broke school records, and how I nearly got molested
This is long. Sorry...

Hmmmm.... well, I'm one of those ridiculously honest folk. If, say, I'm a penny short at a shop and the owner says "don't worry about it" I'll obsess about giving that penny back at some later date.

But, I had a phase in life, aged around 11, when I was largely unsupervised. An outsider in the town of Horwich, having not long arrived. My Dad had just divorced my stepmum, and I was living with some random family again. At school I was generally good... then sponsorship day came around. You were encouraged to get these forms and fill them in, asking for money from people to get you to do things, like run ten miles or something equally pointless. I'd always been very good at fundraising - often knocking on doors and persuading neighbours, but this time round, thanks to the lack of supervision, I'd failed to resist the lure of the Battlezone machine. Yes - I'd spent some of the sponsorship money.

That's how it started really. Fessing up to random family wasn't an option. I had a shortfall to make up, and panic was setting in. Then I realised, some people just handed me money and didn't pay attention to whether I filled in the form or not. I always did (being essentially honest) but suddenly I found an answer! So I continued my fundraising, carefully avoiding filling in some details. After completing my two forms I had all the money back, and about £20 for the school - a lot in 1980.

Thing is, it was going so well, and I did really enjoy Battlezone, and sweets, that I asked for another form from a teacher. And at that point I also realised that the distribution of forms was unaudited.

Now, I make no excuses for this, it was wrong, I'm ashamed, and I shouldn't have done it. I've tried to make amends, but also, in a way, I'm quite proud of the work I put into my by then large scale fraud.

I enlisted the help of a friend and fellow Battlezone enthusiast. Together we collected as many sponsorship forms from as many different teachers as possible - the more absent-minded the better. We then systematically worked every street in the town. Every evening we'd go out and spend about two hours collecting money. The idea was that 80% would go to the school, and the rest to us.

But Battlezone and sweets weren't enough. Oh no, once you've sampled the good life you want more. Yes, more! Before we knew it, we were buying packets of biscuits, pop and playing Galaxians. Our greed knew no bounds.

Of course, there's another downside to turning up at every stranger's house in a largeish town. I knocked on the door of an elderly-ish gentleman. Nice chap he was. Very friendly, beard like Santa, and he gave me a couple of quid. And would I like a nice warming drink? "Why of course!", says a rather naive me, following him inside. He handed me something called, I think, White Tiger. Enjoying the idea of illicit alcohol, I lapped it up, even taking a second glass. All this time he was telling me about his art - that he loved painting - especially, it seemed, young boys. He asked me if I'd like to model for him....

Now drunk for the first time in my life, I woozily felt it was time to leave and find my mate who was working the other side of the street. At this point the old fella became... shall we say 'clingy'? I just assumed he was lonely. But I needed to go and the spinning room feeling was getting to me. In the end I talked my way out of his cottage and into fresh air, where an anxious looking friend was found - him worrying where I'd got to for half an hour.

Excitedly, I regaled him with this tale of the lovely old duffer artist, who painted boys and gave me alcohol! "Maybe you should go in too?!" I asked. He went mental. It seems accepting alcohol from strangers is worse than accepting sweets. Nobody had told me this. I knew about not looking at rabbits in cars, and not crossing railway lines, but at school they never tell you not to take spirits of strangers. Ho-hum. I still don't know to this day whether he was dodgy or not. Probably not, really, but you can never be sure....

Anyway, back to the fraud... we continued it for another two weeks, stepping up efforts as the sponsorhip closing date approached. I even considered finding new recruits to help me clear the whole town out.

But, rather like a prepubescent Tony Montana (yes, I know this story predates his story, but humour me here), the good times and expansion were my downfall.

Random family's mother became suspicious of my seemingly endless personal source of Bourbons and Ginger Nuts. That, the weight gain, and disappearing every evening on 'business' led to her going through my room. Something I felt Mr Montana never had to put up with. Still, I knew my number was up - she found the stash of money. And, coupled to the fact that I kept scrupulous notes on where we'd been and what was to be kept aside, meant that the full scale of the sting was fully uncovered.

My forms added up to about £150, with £40 still unspent. So what did random family do? Well, they weren't going to pay off the school. That could have opened up another can of worms. So they did what any accessory would do in such a situation and hid the evidence, snitched my mate to his parents (he was found with about £50 missing, but poor notes - the amateur), told my dad and bollocked me. And we were both grounded. Dad said he'd have to dig into his pocket to pay it all off, but I knew only the non-fraud forms were sent in. I was leaving the town anyway, just after all this, so I never really saw the aftermath. I did have time to make a final (fully honest) collection, and hand over the ultimate and seemingly fully accounted takings of around £60.

It wasn't all bad for me - I left before the awards day, but I later learned that I'd been awarded a special mention for being the second best fundraiser of the year!

As an adult I've worked on corporate payroll accounts and finance systems dealing in billions. And of course, been completely clean with them - even advising on how to avoid fraud. I'm really quite glad I got caught - it taught me that no matter how much you desire a Kit-Kat, the social elevation of a Galaxians high score, or even that delicious cream slice - fraud isn't worth it - you get caught, and then get watched very carefully for years afterwards.
(Fri 19th Oct 2007, 9:53, More)
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