Thursday, 18 December 2014

Fence panels are much like children

In our case, neither the fence panels or the children are creosoted but that's not really the point I'm trying to get at.

This is a knitting pattern from the 1980's for a
snood. It has nothing to do with this post, other
than a snood would have kept my head and neck
nice and warm while I was fencing on Saturday
At the weekend I replaced 5 of our fence panels that were in various stages of rotting into a composting mulch with 5 new fence panels from a local nursery. As I was doing the fence panel replacing, in temperatures of around zero degrees Celsius, a scant 7 hours after my return from the works Christmas party, I considered that I was putting up wifey's fence panels as she had ordered them and arranged the delivery. I wouldn't, I mused, be up at this time of the morning, if they were my fence panels. In reality it was quite nice being outside with my hangover, unharassed by small children and doing something practical. Of course it wasn't a hardship and I secretly enjoyed it but I do like playing the martyr a bit at times.

Today however one of my newly installed fence panels blew down. I suppose ownership could have transferred on the installation and that would make sense to me. But it did get me thinking; kids are like our 5 new fence panels in many ways. If one of your kids does well at school or wins a prize for some meaningful contribution to the human cause, you'll happily tell anyone who can't come up with a good enough excuse to flee the immediate vicinity that my child has won a prize for the number of prizes he's won or something similar. Conversely when one of the children has decided that a cream coloured sofa is a thing of derision and needs colouring by having play dough mashed into it, they are suddenly and very definitely my children as in "look at what your naughty little boy has done now!" (This is usually followed closely by a mournful "I very sorry Daddy" from a momentarily contrite looking two year old. He doesn't have me fooled in the slightest).

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The 11 most common types of fraud with Natwest

The lead up to Christmas is an good a time as any to talk about fraud, and that's what Natwest, in conjunction with information provided by the Financial Fraud Action, have done. They've provided a handy tool that helps describe all the areas that Joe Public get hit by fraud in.

Unless I've been a "tool" myself, you should see it embedded below:

There are some things that immediately grab my attention. The most obvious was that telephone/mail order fraud is the second biggest, behind online shopping fraud, and way way ahead of others like stolen card or cheque fraud,  cloned ID fraud and even cloned card fraud.

Looking behind the figures, telephone based fraud basically avoids the need for anything like verified by Visa or the Mastercard equivalent, which, also given the fact that you obviously don't need a cards PIN number, makes it particularly enticing for fraudsters. And guess what? The easiest way to make fraudulent transactions with your card detail over the phone is to obtain them over the telephone in the first place. A popular way to do this has even made the news recently:  Fraudsters target restaurant patrons hit the headlines back in August. Basically fraudsters phone restaurants pretending to be from their bank, saying that due to a fault in the system they need to sanction every payment before it can be processed. Once they've taken all the card details from the individual, they "allow" the normal PDQ payment to be go ahead, happy in the knowledge they have all the details they need to make payments using the stolen card details. Clever eh?

I always get into trouble when I'm cold called by the bank or a utility supplier and they say they have to ask me a few security questions before I can continue with the call because I say I'm not willing to answer their questions before they provide me with the answers to a few questions of my own to prove who they are. It's a bit extreme yes, but fundamentally I'm generally a bit suspicious of any unsolicited telephone call now days. Especially if it's apparently Microsoft telling me my unpatched copy of Windows is spamming people...

Still, there are plenty of ways that the ingenious criminal will attempt to part you from your money and it's important to be a bit savvy because now days money is, as that ginger lad once sung, "too tight to mention (Cut Back!)", so it is well worth checking out the Natwest Fraud Prevention tool and the wealth of information that comes with it. I know we all think that we're too smart to fall for it, but even the other week in a moment of distraction I clicked on an email from a PR company I know that had been sent illegally. It purported to be a MS OneDrive document I could access via my G+ login. Big mistake, it lead to me changing all my passwords and setting up two step authentication pretty sharpish. But the point isn't that I'm a thicky, it's that it can happen to any of us if we're not careful.

Disclosure: I've written about fraud, online security and the like before. When Natwest offered me a non cash incentive to do it again, I thought it would be a good idea. The words and thoughts are mine, the embedded tool obviously isn't. Hope it helps.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Den building 101

The kids are always trashing their beds or the sofas to make dens. It's become so bad in the sitting room, I've given up even being annoyed at having to sit on the floor to be honest.

The dens are getting a lot more elaborate though and today we had such a construct that Ned was tasked with guarding it when the boy needed to go to the toilet.

The den in question used all four of the sofas cushions, every actual cushion we own (aside from the one that wifey was clinging to and will probably be clinging to forever more), two duvets, four throws, a footstool and part of the IKEA sofa bed from the playroom. It was apparently large enough inside for Ned and the boy to sit together without too much of a squash or a squeeze.

From the outside the mother of all dens looked like this:

Yes, there is a sofa in there somewhere. Honest there is.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The new Shell V-Power LEGO® Collection

Those of you with good memories may remember this time last year Shell ran a promotion in conjunction with LEGO- 6 Ferrari models were made available on the forecourt for a minuscule sum of earnings when you spent over a certain amount on fuel. Heck, I even ran a competition to win a set.

There is a new set now, £1.99 each with a £30 spend of Shell V Power Nitro+ and they're really rather nice. You can read more about them at Shell's minsite but in a nutshell there are 4 cars- the 2013 F1 car, a F12 Berlinetta, a 512 S from 1970 and a blue rather fabulous GTO from the 60's. As much as I love the cars though, one of the two bits of trackside stuff that are also available is probably my favourite as it holds a rather special place in my heart. It's the Pista di Fiorano; the petrol station at Ferrari's private race track in Maranello.


In real life, with me waiting to get into a 458
Shell are running some competitions with the Ferrari LEGO sets you can get at the filling stations, so if you get a chance to pick one or more up, you should consider having a go. Prizes include some cool LEGO stuff:

The best video and photo entry at the end of the competition on 31st December 2014 will win a family trip to LEGOland Billund and a stay at the LEGOland hotel. We’ll also pick 7 weekly winners from 6th Nov to 24th Dec for the best photo and best video and reward them with LEGO® Technic Customised Pickup Truck. Good luck and get building

Friday, 12 December 2014

Dressing up: one thing that has definitely improved since I was a kid

I've complained recently about how crap some of the Christmas present type toys are. You know, the ones that are just designed for Christmas Day and will spend the rest of eternity in a cupboard until you drop them off at the charity shop in April early January. Yes, the perennial favourites like Playmobil and LEGO are there so it is possible to buy stuff with longevity but the one area that does seem to have improved markedly since I was a nipper is dressing up stuff.

You can still get the thin hard plastic masks with a bit of elastic stapled to them (designed to ping off at a moments notice AND scratch your face too) but you can also get a good range of superhero stuff- like the Batman mask the boy is modelling in John Lewis, Iron Man stuff, Spider-Man and, Ned's birthday present sorted, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles costume even comes with a hard shell in a sort of rucksack harness, which I think is brilliant.

I've been tempted with the Batman and Captain America masks myself. Although the say for 3+, they do fit me...

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