Monday, 31 January 2005

Tube delays - claim!

I just got a two quid voucher from London Underground for a Tube delay that happened in Nov/Dec last year. It's only good towards a Tube ticket (or train journey including a Tube leg), but it's transferable, so I could sell or give it away. Not many people bother claiming for Tube delays. Granted, two quid isn't much - but at least I feel I got a little something back from London Underground for the delay, and if more people claimed from them it would all add up, and might conceivably make them try harder to prevent delays. Well, one can always hope!

How to claim

So I'd encourage everyone to claim "if your Tube journey has been delayed for more than 15 minutes by circumstances within our [i.e. London Underground's] control". You can pick up a claim form from any Tube station, print a hard copy from their Website (Print PDF form and post your application (any Single/Return/Daily/7 Day ticket)), or even fill in a form online (if you have an Oystercard, Travelcard or National Rail Travelcard). I now keep a couple of forms in my bag/backpack ready, optimist that I am. (You can also claim for DLR - Docklands Light Railway - delays of over 15 mins outside of the DLR's control, which weren't services changes advertised in advance: claim form.)


With the Tube, the one thing you can rely on is trains regularly and inexplicably stopping/pausing at or between stations, so it may be a while before you realise that there really is more than the "usual" delay - but it's worth scribbling down the rough time it happened and the rough length of the delay (remember, they only pay for delays of over 15 mins. It might be getting a little obsessive to note down the time every single time it stops in case it lasts for longer than 15 mins, but hey if that works for you, and helps you feel better getting your own back on London Underground...).

Filling in the form

They also require you to tell them:
  • the Tube station you started your journey from and where you intended to go
  • roughly when you started the trip (presumably when you got to the first Tube station)
  • the station at (or stations between which) the delay occurred, and
  • the time the delay started and how long it was for.
I suspect many people don't trouble to claim because they just can't remember all those details, not surprisingly. So perhaps obsessive noting down would be no bad thing; after all, if there's a delay you're not exactly going anywhere are you, so you may as well use the time to fill in the form!

Plus you have to give full details of your ticket so if it's one which gets swallowed up by a barrier, you should note down which station ate your ticket too (or if you can, sweet talk the guard into letting you keep the ticket so that you can glue it onto the form in the handy ticket-shaped spot they reserve for it).

Send in the form fast!

Another point to remember is you need to send in the form within 2 weeks after the delay happened. And you can't hand it in at a Tube station (I guess again that would make it too easy for people to claim).

Don't let all the extra steps and info they require from you put you off claiming, or you'll be playing right into their hands. Someone I know makes a tidy sum just making sure never to overlook a potential claim. Let's all do it, and maybe make London Underground think a little more (or at the very least we can, and should, get a little something to make up for what they inflict on Londoners daily!).

Monday, 24 January 2005

Use this form to search profiles

[Edited 17 Feb 2005 to amend the code to insert in templates, to open search results in new window without problems - thanks to G-BOAC on Blogger Forum]
[Edited 2 Feb 2005 to include the full code to insert in templates]
[Edited 16 May 2005 to include much simpler HTML code for the same search form]
Note: if you're looking for other ways to search, like searching Blogger's help or searching blogs, try this post!

Blogger have not provided a search facility for their profiles, yet. So here's a form to search profiles for interests, books, music and movies (updated Aug 07) or industry or occupation (also in my sidebar, you need to scroll down towards the end) - feel free to try it out (results open in a new window).

For a more comprehensive profile search, where you can search for any words within any bit of the profile, see this post.

I figured out how to add a simple form to my sidebar which anyone can use to do a search for certain words (like "vocal music" or even "tea"!) within the various sections (like interests, books, movies or music) of member profiles, having worked out the search syntax recently (see my earlier blog entry).

I've now included two versions of the code, Javascript and then (at the end of this post) a much simpler HTML version.

Any feedback would be welcome though be warned that I'm no Javascript or indeed HTML expert, I just adapted the script from one by Petra Richardson (to whom many thanks are owed).


Here is the Javascript code for the profile search form which you can just copy and paste into your template sidebar if you want to use it in your own blog (I put it under a sidebar heading entitled "Search profiles", but that's not necessary; also note that I haven't yet worked out how to get it to open the search results in a new window without the original window going weird, so it opens them in the same window):

<script language=javascript>
//results open in new window, to change this
//edit target on selectedIndex e.g. target=_self
//by Improbulus
// licensed under Creative Commons License
//- based with thanks on code by Petra Richardson at
//and thanks to G-BOAC of Blogger Forum for the fix
//to open results in a new window properly

function send_search()

if(window.document.searchengine.engine.selectedIndex == "0")

if(window.document.searchengine.engine.selectedIndex == "1")

if(window.document.searchengine.engine.selectedIndex == "2")

if(window.document.searchengine.engine.selectedIndex == "3")

<!-- below are the submission forms -->
<form name=interests action="" method="get" />
<input type="hidden" name="t" value="i" />
<input type="hidden" name="q" />

<form name=movies action="" method="get" />
<input type="hidden" name="t" value="m" />
<input type="hidden" name="q" />

<form name=music action="" method="get" />
<input type="hidden" name="t" value="s" />
<input type="hidden" name="q" />

<form name=books action="" method="get" />
<input type="hidden" name="t" value="b" />
<input type="hidden" name="q" />

<!-- below is the multiple search box that you will see on your webpage -->

<form name=searchengine method=post action="javascript:send_search()">
Find this word or phrase:
<input name="search" type="text" size="25">
within this profile section:
<select name="engine">
<input type="button" value="Search profiles" name="B1" onclick="javascript:send_search()">


[Added 16 May 2005:]I've just figured out a much simpler search form, which produces exactly the same result, using HTML rather than Javascript.

Here's the code (updated Aug 07 to search for industry or occupation too):

<!-- Please do not delete this note
Form to search profiles - results open in new window, to change this delete target="_self"
Copyright Improbulus 2005-2007 licensed under Creative Commons License
<form action="" method="get" target="_blank">
<label for="q">Find this word or phrase:</label><br />
<input type="text" size="25" name="q" id="q" /><br />
<label for="t">within this profile section:</label><br />
<select name="t" id="t">
<option value="i">Interests</option>
<option value="m">Movies</option>
<option value="s">Music</option>
<option value="b">Books</option>
<option value="j">Industry</option>
<option value="o">Occupation</option>
<input type="submit" value="Search" /> <input type="reset" value="Clear" />

The working search form is at the top of this post as well as in my sidebar (scroll down to the bottom of the sidebar).

As for how I figured out the simpler version, see this post.

Recovering lost mobile phones, iPods, PDAs

The free police-endorsed database has been going for a while but seems to have been re-publicised recently with the launch on 12 January 2005 of a new National Mobile Phone Register UPDATE: that MendUK link just links to Immobilise now but the crossed out registration link below still works; however the main service now seems to be Immobilise.

It was set up because details of lost or stolen property were only available to the local police force - there was no co-ordinated centralised database that police could search to track down owners outside their local area.

It's worth registering your phones, PDAs, laptops, MP3 players etc, basically all your valuable mobile gear. It's free. I'd recommend registering through MendUK rather than Immobilise as the former offers a secure connection (through an abundance of caution I always prefer using secure sites where possible); also, MendUK is more obviously geared up for gear other than phones, if you'll forgive the pun. Don't forget to click the link for a secure connection first, or go direct to the secure registration page here.

Apart from your name, address and contact details you'll need the serial number of your device (IMEI number in the case of a mobile), make and model. You can also edit the register to add descriptive info e.g. the colour of the device, any custom covers etc.

Tip: to display your long IMEI number on most phones, just enter *#06# on your keypad, or check the label under the battery. (It's always sensible to note down in a safe place your IMEI number and also SIM card and PIN numbers as soon as you get a new phone, anyway).

For fun: enter your IMEI number here to find out all sorts of things about your phone much of which you probably already knew - and analyse your phone number, SIM number etc if you wish. Should that sort of thing amuses you...

If your mobile phone is lost or stolen, there's just one number to call to block it whatever your network (08701 123 123 - this number can be used even if you haven't registered details previously) call your network to get the phone blocked, and you should also report the loss or theft online at Immobilise (though the MendUK link still seems to work). It's probably a good idea to report it to the police anyway as you'll probably need the crime reference number to claim on your insurance policy, and certainly it's best to report it if you were mugged.

If you register, you might have a chance of getting back lost phones and other gear if a kind passerby finds it and hands it in. For stolen mobiles etc, you're probably stuffed even if the networks blacklists the IMEI - there's lots of ways for thieves to change IMEI numbers with software (though that's illegal, but if they're already a criminal they're not going to care are they?). (Not the same as unlocking a phone's SIM, see e.g. UnlockMe).

Sunday, 23 January 2005

Brilliant image

"There are contemporary accounts of Dutch women skating from village to village along frozen canals, balancing a milk churn on their heads while doing their knitting".
What a fabulous image. I love it! Multi-taskers of today obviously had nothing on those Dutch women.

From "Brimstones and bicycles", an article by Mick Hamer on the invention of the bicycle in New Scientist 29 January 2005.

Hotels and toothbrushes

Yes it's good that hotels provide soap. Essential, even.

But never mind about the shower gel or packet of special moisturing lotion or whatever else they may sometimes give you too.

Where's the toothbrush and toothpaste?

If I've forgotten to pack them, I absolutely hate it. One of the worst things to me is going to bed (or waking up) without being able to brush my teeth.

So forget the five different types of herbal teas or soothing unguents, I just want a small disposable toothbrush with a tiny tube of toothpaste, as some airlines provide on long haul flights. A couple of pieces of floss wouldn't go amiss either...

Saturday, 22 January 2005

Documentaries - and speakers (who they??)

Sometimes I turn on the TV in the middle of a documentary and it's annoying not to know which talking head is who. Even if I've watched the documentary from the start, my poor over-full mind can't always keep track of them all, especially when the documentary keeps cutting back and forth between them.

So why is it that they only display the name and position of the speaker only once, the first time she or he is shown on screen? Why can't they display that every single time? If it wasn't a distraction for the viewer the first time, it won't be the next time; in fact I find it far more distracting trying to remember who the current talking head is and what they're supposed to be an expert on.

Website user names and passwords

"Password must be at least 8 characters".
"User name cannot contain spaces".

Familiar error message? Yep, but this time-wasting step would be unnecessary if some website designers would just engage brain and spell out on their requirements on the registration page. To add insult to injury, the sites which are thoughtless enough not to give you the info you need up front will often also clear the whole form you've just laboriously filled in, to boot - not just the one field which you haven't completed exactly the way they want (if you're using IE, at least - "Back" on Opera often preserves form contents and has saved my bacon on many an occasion).

Why oh why don't websites requiring registration tell you at the start, on the sign up/registration page, how you're supposed to fill in their forms?

If I had my way, an Improbulus Edict for all websites requiring registration or login would be:
Specify your form criteria on your sign up page, including (1) the minimum requirements, and (2) what isn't allowed, for both user names and passwords (and things like what format dates must be in, and whether passwords are case-sensitive). In a smaller font, if necessary, but don't expect users to guess your invisible conditions!
Breach of which ought to be punishable by an Improbulus flogging. Though maybe that wouldn't be considered punishment by some.

Friday, 21 January 2005

Cyclists and red lights

Why oh why do many cyclists, especially in London, seem to think that the law doesn't apply to bicycles? You know the ones I mean, those who treat all traffic lights (whether green, amber or red) as signifying "If you're on a cycle - just go anyway. Oh, and don't forget to target a pedestrian while you're at it". To these people, pavements are just roads to barrel down at high speed.

I nearly got hit the other day (yet again) by a cyclist running a red light near my local Tube station. I've seen elderly people, and people steering kids in prams, narrowly miss being mown down, or having to leap back onto the kerb suddenly (risking sprained ankles or worse), to try to avoid cyclists like this.

Why don't the police protect pedestrians properly by clamping down on rogue cyclists, particularly in pedestrian-heavy areas? Instead of e.g. lying in wait to nab a car going through a red light two seconds after it changes in the middle of the night on an empty road?

I know not all cyclists are inconsiderate or cavalier about the law. But the too many who are give the rest a bad name, and pedestrians the urge to poke something between their spokes. Is it going to take a pedestrian being killed or badly hurt before laws are enforced against cyclists?

Thursday, 20 January 2005

Search addons for Internet Explorer, Firefox

I've been using a superb site, Searchy, which provides beautifully simple yet incredibly useful free search add-ons for IE - so that you can (for example) search for word1 on Google just by typing in the IE address bar "g word1", or search Amazon by typing "a word1", without having to go to those sites first. (Opera users will already be familiar with this functionality which is built into the Opera browser.) The add ons can be imported into Firefox too.

There's an excellent range of searches available on the site. Just download the plugin you want by clicking the Download button against it in the list on the site, and doubleclick the downloaded file (which is a .reg file amending your registry) to add your chosen search feature. The files are clearly entitled e.g. "Int-Movie-Database_search_with_imdb.reg" - and there you'd type "imdb" followed by the search word in your address bar to search the Internet Movie Database. I've downloaded several.

If you don't like the shortcut letter that's provided, for instance if you'd rather use "i" than "imdb", then click in the appropriate box in the Shortcut column and change the shortcut letter before clicking "Download".

Or, if you want to change the shortcut after you've downloaded the file, you can edit the downloaded file before you doubleclick it. Just rightclick the .reg file and choose Edit. Notepad should open up with the text file loaded.

Scroll across and find "please use the following shortcut: imdb" and replace the "imdb" with "i" (or whatever letter(s) you want - without the quotes of course.). And then scroll across further to where it says "[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchUrl\imdb]" and again replace the "imdb" with "i", so that it reads "[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchUrl\i]" (without the quotes). IMPORTANT: you need to replace both occurrences. Then save the file, and doubleclick it, and Roberta's your auntie!

What's more the site will even let you add your own favourite search engine just by doing a simple sample search using that search engine (it doesn't work for anything too complicated, but is fine for many sites). Click the Example button on that page to see how to do it, it's very straightforward. I've created a few ones specific to UK sites, myself.

The author also provides easy to use tools for people to replace the automatic MSN search in IE with a Google search, or to remove all add ons in one go if you decide you don't want them anymore.

For people like me who prefer the keyboard to the mouse, it's perfect - Ctrl o, and type in g and the search word, and that's my Google search sorted; much quicker even than using the Google toolbar. Fabulous.

Wednesday, 19 January 2005

How to search Blogger profiles

[Edit: I've now included a search form to do this - see the bottom of the sidebar of this blog (scroll down a bit); the Javascript code which you can add to your own template plus another usable search form is in this blog entry. Enjoy!]

The Blogger Help page says you can't yet search the profiles of fellow bloggers, but I discovered when tinkering with my own profile that you can do that, after a fashion.

At the moment you click on links in a profile, e.g. against an interest listed in your profile, to search for people with that interest mentioned in their profiles.

However, I've noticed the structure of the URL in the address bar for the search results page follows a certain pattern, and you can use that to search for certain words in the Interests, Movies, Musics or Books parts of Blogger profiles, even if those words don't appear in your own profile.

To do this, enter or paste this search string in your browser address bar, substituting as mentioned below:
"=i" searches within the Interests section of a profile, so instead of "=i" use
=m to search within movies
=s for music
=b for books
and instead of "vocal+music", after "q=" just type in your own search words with "+" between them, and that's all.

The above example searches the Interests section of profiles for "vocal music".

Another example (I've made this one clickable for convenience): to search for profiles with the word "Shawshank" in the "Movies" section, put in the address bar:

Works for me! Only thing is it doesn't show how many hits there are (but neither does the "search by clicking" method), so you may be for a long surf if you try certain popular words.

You'd be surprised how many people there are who are interested in... ahem well no, then again, maybe you wouldn't...

Radio controlled watches - YES!!!

I bemoaned the lack of a day/date display on most radio controlled watches (which set themselves automatically to atomic clocks by radio signals transmitted from the UK or Germany), because I'm both too lazy and too forgetful to remember what date it is, and sometimes even what day. Hey, I like to think that I'm freeing up space in my brain for more important things...

Anyway, I've been looking for such a watch for years. But it seems now that these watches are like buses - none for ages, then three (or two, at least) come along at once. (I wonder if I should bemoan my lack of billions of pounds next, just to see?)

Argos are selling Atomium watches cheap for 7.49 pounds. Rather plastic looking too, you'll agree, but I bought one anyway. Link to pic.

Maplin, that well known purveyor of esoteric electronic bits & bobs, also sells one for 34.99 pounds - but I got one (two in the end, in fact) for less than half that price in their Xmas sale. Quite a nice rounded design, it looks much more elegant in real life than in the official pic.

Ended up returning the Atomiums (yes at first I bought several too). One of them didn't work and the shop claimed it just needed setting (hah, for atomic watches?!). When I got it home and tried everything, of course it still didn't work. Not only that, but their website is down. It's been down since mid-December, when I bought those watches and called their phone helpline to ask when it would be up (not very forthcoming or helpful staff either). Well, guess what? The site is still down. Not a good sign, so I'm glad I returned them.

I'm very happy with the Maplin. Its display is much clearer than the Atomium's, there's a good backlight you can turn on temporarily if needed, and there's even alarm and stopwatch functions as well as dual time. You can get fancier (and a helluva more expensive) radio controlled watches from well known companies like Casio, but they don't show the date/day on the face (and Casio never bothered to reply to my Webform enquiry about newer models). For those who prioritise good features and design and value for money over fashion or brand names, the Maplin is the radio-controlled watch to have, in my book.

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Morphine or codeine allergy?

Are you "allergic" to morphine or its derivatives (like codeine)? (Note added 23 July 2006: I mean "allergic" in a lay person's sense, as in "very bad reaction to" - I'm not a medical expert and I don't claim to be one so don't hold me to the standards of a medico! I'm editing this post to make it quite clear what I mean.)

Believe me, the best time to find that out is as soon as you can, before you might need it - not when you've had to be administered a dose of morphine or codeine as a painkiller after an operation or serious injury. Constant throwing up night and day due to a bad reaction to morphine really isn't conducive to a speedy recovery. Or indeed to killing pain.

"Allergies" to drugs are not nice at all. What's an easy (and legal, of course!) way to find out if you have a morphine or codeine "allergy"?

First, ask your parents/grandparents if they're "allergic" i.e. have had a bad reaction to morphine or codeine or other morphine derivatives. This kind of bad reaction is often hereditary. If your mother says she gets nauseous even at the thought of morphine, that's a bit of a clue that you might not do too well on it yourself.

Second, if you've ever taken anything with codeine in it, listen to what your body says about it. Solpadeine is a drug you can buy over the counter without a doctor's prescription, in England at least. I've found that, for me anyway, Solpadeine is extremely effective for headaches and period pains (aside to any squeamish lads or indeed ladettes reading this - yes, I said "period pains". Too bad, menstruation is perfectly natural and not something to be discussed only in hushed tones, just think of this as my own small contribution towards the much needed desensitisation of society [/aside]).

Anyway. Solpadeine. I take it when I need it from time to time, but I can't manage more than one capsule (which is enough to sort out the pain for me), and I can't take the dissolving (and therefore more quickly absorbed) variety either - it makes me feel sick. I really, really should have learned something from that. If Solpadeine makes you feel ill, especially when you take the soluble type or take more than one capsule, you may be "allergic" to codeine or morphine and you should consult a medical professional to check!

My excuse is that I didn't know codeine was a morphine derivative when I was prescribed a heavy duty codeine preparation for a serious condition recently (plus when you're in a bad way the last thing you may think of is to check whether the particular painkiller on offer is going to make you vomit - you just want any painkiller, NOW!!!).

[Added 28 December 2005:] I never dreamt anyone would be stupid enough to read the previous few paragraphs as meaning that I was actually advising people to try taking Solpadeine or some other codeine derivative in order to test whether they're "allergic" to codeine, fer goodness' sake. I never suggested anything of the kind, and I certainly don't suggest it. I just meant that IF you had ever taken it in the past and didn't react well to it, then you should definitely go to a medical professional and get it checked out. I did NOT mean that you should check it out by experimenting on yourself, no one could possibly mean that, as anyone with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together would know! But given the recent comment, I felt I had to add this paragraph. I hope all is crystal clear now. Honestly, some people...

Alternative painkillers

[Added 18 June, as I notice quite a few hits for this post]:There are other painkiller medications available, especially combined with tablets that reduce the acidity in your stomach so you're less likely to throw up after taking them. Not so effective at dealing with the pain caused by certain conditions, perhaps, but better than exacerbating your condition through constant spewing (the interruption to sleep from frequent desperate grabs for the sickbucket won't exactly help speed up recovery either).

Obviously you should consult your medical adviser, but mine gave me a painkiller called Motifene or diclofenac sodium, plus a "stomach liner" (lots of names, I've seen Zoton and Lansoprazole) which I took first thing in the morning before taking the painkiller - and they worked great for me.

So: have you got a codeine/morphine "allergy"? - check it out when you can, and find out what alternative analgesics are available for you, or you may be sorry when you need a serious painkiller.