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Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to school...

... At least that's what it feels like! Final year for me, almost time to go back to the more traditional fare of study and academia after my placement year is finished.

Now the nailbiting REALLY starts, because I have to get my final year done, all my other assessments, plus find some kind of workable employment after I've finished my Degree.

Oh, and I have to graduate too! Here's hoping.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flippin 'eck, where did May go?

Blimey, we're into June already. I've finished my mandatory placement weeks, and I'm now working for the boss on an ad-hoc basis (for real money!) until the end of June . In other news, we're getting ready to move out of one house and into another at the beginning of July. Here's hoping that all works out ok (there's a five day overlap between us having to move out and being able to move into our next place) but, of course, there's so many things that could go wrong.


Last year of uni coming up soon - and I still haven't picked a final choice for my Final Year Project! Aaaaaaaaaargh. Help, someone!

Right, back to the old web design (to earn some more money to squirrel away in the savings account)

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Friday, May 02, 2008

I swear blind I'm having more senior moments these days

... And I openly slurp my tea in public! I think it's time for a nice sit down to accompany.

My housemates are either on the home stretch twoards finishing - or have already finished (in Iain's case) Uni now; I've still got a year left.

It's going to be a little strange next year, but still fun. Time to really start getting down to business, I have a job to try and find well in advance AND a final year project to plan. And write.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I was on BBC TV! And for a good reason, too...

Preface: a while back, I wrote a case study about damage to my own hearing after prolonged exposure to loud noise over a period of years (musician, drummer, listen to loud music etc... I'm sure you're the same or similar, or you know someone like me).

Anyway, on Monday, I was contacted by someone from the RNID, who said they were launching a new campaign called "Practice Safe Decks" (groan) to raise awareness of hearing protection - and would I like to take part in a BBC Breakfast article to be featured on Wednesday morning? So, although I consider myself to have a great face for radio, of course I said 'definitely!' (Wouldn't you?) I also drafted in my coursemate Ciarán Jordan (it made for better TV, and he was interviewed too. Brucey Bonus.)

...And here I am, on BBC News! They managed to get the most unflattering angle of me possible (says Christopher, to shouts of 'who ate all the pies, who ate all the pies'), and a lot of what I said in the interview was cut for reasons of time - but it was still great fun, and I'm glad I jumped at the opportunity to do it. It was all very quick too - agreed on Monday, filmed on Tuesday, broadcast on Wednesday! How's that for JIT production. (boom boom!)

I fully support the RNID's Don't Lose The Music campaign - I've already donated a fair amount to charity and I always wear earplugs. The ones I wear out at the moment are filtering earplugs, so they don't just muffle the sound, they filter out the most harmful, high-range frequencies which do the most damage to your sensitive inner ear (cochlea, timpanic membrane etc). They fit right inside your ear canal - like a glove - and are really quite comfortable once you get used to the slightly odd sensation of something in your ear canal. They're Elacin ER20s (made by Etymotic, a reknowned maker of ear protection for professional musicians and industrial workers alike. Even better, they only cost £8.50 from London-based I Never Knew I Needed One, about £10 including postage. Considering music shops like Chemical Records or Juno are trying to flog these for £15 plus postage, it's a no-brainer.

Let me put it this way - you are a fool to not own a pair of these filter-based earplugs if you go to any kind of gig where there's prolonged levels of loud music. You wouldn't stand next to a pneumatic drill in the street without your fingers in your ears, so why do it at a gig? The added benefit of filter-based earplugs is that you can still hear the full range of sound, but you can also hear it more clearly - it's like turning the volume down a few of notches, not just stuffing your fingers in your ears (which is the general effect you get if you use cheaper, foam-based earplugs). Foam earplugs are good temporary substitutes, but you're only kidding yourself if you think £10 is too much to spend on earplugs.

I'm about to spend £160 on custom-moulded earplugs that are made from impressions of your ear canals (and use the same filter technology) to achieve the best (and most discreet) level of hearing protection. If you rely on your ears to work, or to just survive the day at work by listening to music, get them a treat for their birthday: buy some good earplugs.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Inside the mind of a messy student

Want to know what it's like being me? I took this back in July last year, but not much has changed (different mess, different places, same floor though)... Take a look at this:

Now, that might look bad, but there's order within the madness. Go to the image's Flickr page and you'll see (quite literally) LOADS of Notes. Mouse over the image to see (and read) them, you'll have a fun five minutes if nothing else.

I'm back in the UK now... Midem was very interesting, but I have a few stories to tell... Those coming soon.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 rolls in, and I'm still going.

This is what happens when someone doesn't dangle a carrot in front of you - you get lazy. Laziness breeds bad blogging habits, so sorry to anyone who's been expecting updates. Slap on the wrist for me.

So, 2008 has usurped 2007. Bet it didn't see that coming. Anyway, what's been going on since November? Well, I'm still working at Revolver - good times! I'm also stressing out over what's going to happen house-wise next year (six tenant lease + four tenants = two gaps = eviction!) and that niggling thought in the back of my head telling me that I have to choose a firm title for my final year project is really starting to wind me up.

It was a nice peaceful new year for me this time around - no shit having to deal with Tesco over Christmas (they still owe me money from the summer - due to their incompetence, they can't even print a P45 correctly!) and two new little kittens to look after. The parents went away to see their friends, my sister was at house parties with her boyfriend, so it was a nice quiet new year's eve with the kittehs. Yay <3

I'm still going though, which is a lot more than can be said for some people - I'm watching someone I've only actually known for six months slowly succumb to lung cancer, and it's breaking my heart.

But never mind, life goes on for the rest of us I suppose, and with that, I have to get back to work.

I hope it snows this month.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

All work and no updates makes Christopher a lazy blogger!

Wow, I've been bad! Bad Christopher, naughty Christopher. No updates from Christopher for too long, so apologies if you've been expecting a quality read.

If you're expecting a quality read from here, you may be sadly disappointed. ;)

So, what's going on in my life at the moment? Well, I'm now two-and-a-bit months into my placement at Revolver in Wolverhampton, and I think I've just about got used to regular getups and 7pm finishes (wow, just like the rest of the working population!) Going to Indycom next week at the BPI HQ (Westminster, just by the London Eye, and I'm really looking forward to that - I love getting the real insight into the machinations of the music industry, and I'm really, REALLY looking forward to MIDEM too, that's going to be absolutely brilliant (potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity!) so I really want to make the most of that when it comes around.

Oh and thanks to the boss, I'm now also fully (self) trained in SIP VoIP phone system installations - you wouldn't think it'd be as complicated as our install turned out to be, but bloody hell, it wasn't half tough! You can ring me direct on 0121 2700 878 now, and it goes straight over the interwebs to my handset (how cool is that!)

This whole year-out-in-industry malarkey still feels a bit odd to me though, seeing my housemates doing their final year work and keeping more usual student hours (getting up at the crack of noon, staying up until 5am...), while academically I'm almost on hiatus - and what really worries me is the fact that I'm going to have to find new digs to live in next year, because all my other housemates are in their final year now. Uh oh... I hate change. But change is inevitable, one of the only other things you can be sure of besides death and taxes (if you aren't taxed to death, that is!) We have new kittehs at home, two lovely little black kittehs, and they are teh cuet! So I've been using them as an excuse to go home at the weekends recently ;) The free food and clothes washing is also a benefit, but teh kittehs are tehwin.

You'll excuse me if I go all soppy and act like a 6 year old, I just lurrrrve little kittens. :D
Anyway, at present I'm currently working on the revamp of the Revolver site. We're moving our hosting to the TIC (my faculty and where I also go to uni, incidentally!) and so I'm knee deep in server transitions, audio digitisation, metadata, iTunes synchronisation and I'm also fixing computers. I seem to have become the Revolver IT Department, but at least it's something I'm good at. Hopefully when all this transitional stuff is sorted out, I can get my hands dirty with something a little different, but this stuff takes time so I'm going to put up with it until it's all sorted for the time being.

It snowed the other day! That was really weird... Oh, and I got my HC2 form through the post again, so I can get free NHS prescriptions, free dental treatment, and discounted specs and free eyetests for another 12 months! Woohoo! If you want an HC2, here's what you do: get in touch with the NHS' Prescriptions Pricing Authority (the PPA), give them a ring on 01912 035 555 (the 0845 number just puts you through to the same people anyway) - request an HC1 and they send it to you in the post. You fill it out, providing any required documentation (bank statements or payslips if you're doing paid work, or proof of student status along with any financial awards such as student loans you might be receiving) and send it back to them. You're then income assessed and sent your HC2 in the post if you qualify - but unlike many aspects of the NHS, if there's a problem you don't have to chase them, they'll ring you! They even give you a postage paid envelope to send it back in, how nice is that.

So yeah, at the moment I'm generally in a good mood! Maybe it's because I've just had lunch, mmm food. Oh, and I'm doing some other blogs - my Beta Test Blog has become Into The Unknown, and I'm getting warmed up now for About Brum. My Dad and I were discussing blogging versus old-skool paper diaries the other day, and he expressed his bemusement with how so many people blog and why he doesn't think it's really worth that much effort given that if you wanted to write a diary you're better off writing in a diary proper... Which raises an interesting question - why do so many people blog? I'd never keep a diary (I'm not disciplined enough), but I really enjoy writing a good blog entry. Odd, isn't it... If you're reading this and you have a blog, besides from possible financial rewards, what are your reasons for blogging?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Back to the grindstone for Christopher

Well, it's been a while since I added to this thing. What's going on with me?

  • I worked for a month at my local Tesco over summer (I was let go after a month because they couldn't afford to employ me any more!)

  • I've been engaged in an ongoing battle with Tesco head office because as a result of their incompetency in sorting out my pay, I was charged over £110 by Natwest as Tesco, in a nutshell, cashed a cheque they shouldn't have and as a result made my account overdrawn!

  • I've started my placement at Revolver Records, in Wolverhampton

  • It's my 22nd birthday tomorrow! (October the 13th... and I tell you what, I don't feel 22)

  • I've been busy designing web sites, some of which haven't been used and some of which have

  • I'm thinking of changing web hosts, and buying another 1Tb hard drive for my fileserver (such a geek.)

That's the briefest summary, but I thought that I should put in an update given that I've neglected my blog somewhat. I'll most likely write a longer entry this weekend from the comfort of my house, after I've been fed and watered for free by my parents ;)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

But now, on a lighter note,

I bring you the good news that I was paid yesterday. Yay.

However, a couple of downers to tinge that happy moment:

1) Tesco screwed up my pay again, and printed my P45 incorrectly (the document you get when you finish your employment with an employer) so it's going to be HELL trying to sort that confusion out with the tax office, and

2) Tesco made me redundant! Without warning! Which isn't helpful in the SLIGHTEST, I was budgeting for another month's worth of pay (at least!) and it's a bit of a kick in the balls to be sent a Dear John letter through the post when you get back from work one morning. Great, well done. After being told that it costs a store on average of a thousand pounds sterling (£1,000) to train an employee to work in a new section, based on lost time due to training or getting up to speed with the work, it seems a bit stupid to have made me redundant versus someone else, because I'm already trained for just about every department! They're *always* short for people like till monkeys, so that I've been made redundant is just pure madness (and a notice from head office that they can't afford to employ the temps any longer due to budgetary constraints).

Blah blah blah, whinge whinge whinge. At least I'm in one piece and I've been paid (roughly) the correct amount... Though tomorrow (well, today, but I've not gone to bed yet so it's still tomorrow, if you follow my warped logic!) I've got to go in to Tesco and discuss this more in-depth because it's all still a bit screwy. Blame the outsourced Indian finances department for that (yes, Tesco outsource ALL of their finances to India now, and it's causing no end of problems for them - but if it saves them 5p then it's obviously money well spent, isn't it, never mind the months of delays and financial fuck-ups resulting from all the upheaval and varying degrees of amateurish effort from the prats in India!!)

I got my letter through from UCE earlier this month - I passed this year, yay! - and I re-enrol on the... 12th is it? I dunno, around then... of September. Once that's done, I can officially start on my placement! Really looking forward to getting cracking now, I have a feeling the forty weeks are going to fly by before I've even realised it.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rule Number 1: Think Before Hitting Publish

...That wasn't very clever of me. A while back, I wrote an entry on this little blog - as I usually do, just off the cuff and without any planning or drafts, very much like just putting down what I felt at that exact moment in time. I was less than positive about my employer for my forthcoming placement, and this evening I received a phone call from one of the guys about this.

How did they find out? Apparently they'd got someone new in as a Press Officer, and evidently they're a fan of Googling for the company name and scouring through the results to find any relevant information - can't fault them for doing their job, if they found my blog they must be REALLY searching thoroughly! But this hit home hard, because I'd never considered in a million years that something I'd just written quickly without even really thinking about it would turn round to bite me in the arse, and I was very unfair in what I said.

You read about people who blog for Microsoft or big City law firms who get subsequent punishment for saying things they shouldn't have, and now it's my turn to get a bit of it. The original post has now been shuffled off back to the ether from whence it came for a very good reason, but the damage is done - I'm not sure if my placement is still on, pending further discussion with the label's boss (who's currently on holiday, and I fully expect to have a long telephone conversation with when he gets back), but the decision's entirely up to him.

Why did I write what I did in the first place? Well, I might not say it, but I'm very nervous about this placement. I want to do well, and I look forward to all the opportunities for getting experience in the industry along with all the years of experience my employers already have, but at the same time the other part of my brain is constantly worrying about how I'll cover costs, find enough money for rent, money to eat, money for uni fees. The uni fees are a bit less of a problem, because they're halved if you do a sandwich year, but at the same time the student loan is halved (whoever thought of that idea needs a smack). Unfortunately, none of the other costs involved with a tenancy decrease - rent has gone up, in fact, along with the utility bills, other living costs, and food's always a factor you can never reliably predict. I'm currently working nights - an unloved thing, and something I'm really not enjoying at the moment - in order to try and build up enough reserve funds to try and get me through next year, hardly the most enjoyable way to spend your summer, so in that respect I'm a little bit jealous of people I speak to who've been offered paid placements. However, I also understand that with other companies in other market sectors, their larger budgets and suchlike - but by the same token, the wealth of experience I can draw on next year is invaluable in comparison, something I think I forgot about. The previous concerns haven't gone away though, so it's something I'll just have to work out - just like everybody else. I'm always pretty worried about how I'll get along - I don't want to run out of money mid-year and have that disrupt my placement, because I want to become part of the team and help the company grow and become more successful.

However, a few sentences written in haste without much thought to their consequences might have ruined all that, and I'm gutted. I can only hope that my boss-to-be recognises that I'm 100% up for the placement, and takes into account all the effort I've already put in and work I've done even though my placement hasn't properly started yet. I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've been given already, and any I may get in the future - nothing's a free ride, especially in these years of tightened pursestrings and slimmed-down operations affecting all aspects of the industry, and I don't expect to be given one. (particularly not now). My original post stemmed partly from me worrying about my own finances, partly from worry about what exactly I'll be doing next year as I still don't fully know what's going to be expected of me, and partly because I want to make sure that I fulfil the criteria of my placement as specified by my University in order to qualify - and complete - the sandwich year requirements.

This is a big thing for me, having the chance to get a year's worth of experience in this industry, I've underplayed that aspect - the offer that's been extended to me is a great one, and I don't think I've expressed my true feelings enough on that. I've certainly made an effort, but that's all probably been overshadowed by this mistake. It's certainly not the best start to any placement... I can only hope it doesn't have further serious repercussions for me if I have the opportunity to pursue a career in this industry in a few years to come, because one of the things about this industry is that if one person can read it, they can tell their friends, who tell their friends... And in no time at all, you're being laughed out of the building. This may have also irreparably damaged relations with the company and my University too, something which I'll be even more frustrated with myself about, because you are both a representative of your Uni and the company you're working for, and I totally forgot about that too.

Here's hoping that the placement's still on in two weeks' time, because I really want to do it - and I hope my mistakes prove to be a lesson to everyone who might think 'oh, that'll never happen to me.' Think before you write, because you might never have it so good for a long time.

The only consolation in this matter is that I'm fairly sure I have a nil readership of this thing, as it's completely uninteresting, but I knew that for a long time.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Almost time to move out... Urk.

To the right... DSC08980
Originally uploaded by Christopher Woods

So, as our tenancy agreements are only for 11 months, even though we'll all be here (bar one person) next year, we still have to clear our rooms and make everything accessible for the various cleaners, maintenance personnel... All sorts.

And this is what the view to the right hand side of my bed looks like at the moment.

Oh dear.

I'm sorry I've not commented as much as I should have on this blog of late; I'm a student and therefore incredibly lazy. Truth be told, there's not much going on at the moment - course is finished for the year, and I'm trying to find work back home for the summer to earn some money, and then next year I start my placement at Revolver Records in Wolverhampton.

Things have gone alright this year - I think I've managed to pass everything (fingers crossed, touch wood) so hopefully no resits like in the first year! Plus, I can see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of actually finishing my course. Doing this entire next year unpaid aside from travelling expenses, but I'm really going to enjoy this next 12 months! I could be given the opportunity to go to the MIDEM conference in January/February though for gratis, so that'll certainly be cool if I can pull that off.

That's a snapshot of my life at the moment, more coming soon. Honest. Promise. :)

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yummy yumyum studenty type food

There's something about icky sticky goopy rice pudding, cold, straight from the tin, that words can't describe.

I know it might look HORRIBLE (well, it is cooked, creamed rice) but at room temperate, straight from the tin? Oh my GOD how tasty is it :D The perfect snack to accompany back-to-back episodes of brand new TV shows (currently watching my way through Heroes).

So, here's a photo to put you off (because if you lot want less then there's more for me!):


PS - you want to know why I eat Tesco rice pud? Because one of those HUGE tins tastes as nice (or in fact, nicer, since they changed the recipe) than Ambrosia Creamed Rice... And those tins, even though they're double the size of the Ambrosia stuff, are less than half the price in comparison. Can't beat that!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The best thing about student loans...

So it's next-part-of-student-loan time, and my bank account is flush with credit for once! So... What's the first thing I do?

Buy new electronics kit. :D

And of course, following the logical progression, money leads to technology... Which leads to new ways of enjoying your leisure time watching episodes of 24 or NCIS (both very good shows)... which leads to snack times... which leads to production of foods and drinks which aid in enjoyment of said televisual serials... which leads to me bringing the food into my room to eat whilst watching... which leads to the discovery of THE perfect storage medium for my food pre-consumption:


How much of a good design is the base unit of my new widescreen display :D (which, as you may want to know, is the EXCEEDINGLY good 19" Samsung SM940BW - for less than £140!)

I was so happy when it came today I took it out its box and actually hugged it :D I know I shouldn't have spent as much as I did, but it's something I've been meaning to buy for almost 3 years now, and I might as well buy it as soon as I get the loan so I can budget for the rest of the term accordingly. I have a bit more cash coming in soon hopefully which'll offset that expenditure, and I don't spend outside my means - I only have debit cards (deliberately) so if I run out of money I'm really up shit creek! so I make sure I always have enough money for my standing orders and direct debits for phone and suchlike, even if it means I live on beans for two months. Needs must! ...Well, I wouldn't be much of a student if I was poshing it on Marks & Spencer's Food Court ready meals all year would I ;)

So, Uni-wise, what's in store for me soon? Well, I have a couple of exams next week, then a couple of weeks of just random lectures to round up the term, then loads of free time! So, I think I'm going to start my placement at Revolver Records (in Wolverhampton) a little early - maybe even work through the summmer. As it's unpaid though, I'm going to try and find some other sources of money as well as maybe pester the Uni for some kind of bursary or grant, as the student loans company has loads of categories for grants if you're on an NHS placement, a scientific placement, plus a bunch of other industry-specific placements... And a big fat box for NO EXTRA MONEY FOR YOU! (words to that effect) if you're on any other kind of loan.

And, as with half of the regular loan (standard for sandwich year students) but all of the regular outgoing costs, I'm going to be something like approaching £800-1000 short in reality, so I'm not quite sure how this is going to work. Oh well, fingers crossed... This year's shaping up to be a blisteringly-hot summer again though, so I must try and get more of a tan than last year (I'm pasty as anything!) Time to crack out the shorts and t-shirts :)

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