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Lidl, again...

I went to Lidl after work. Got myself a car washing attachment for the pressure washer, and some other bits and bobs.

I saw a pack of Delacre biscuits and thought about asking how much they were, but decided that I could do with some comfort food, so just stuck it on the conveyor.

When I got home, I decided to look at the receipt to see how much they cost. It's a reasonable box of biscuits, 625g. Such biscuits are not cheap. I was going to guess somewhere around €8-10. I was right and wrong. List price €12,49 (eek!) with a rebate of €3,75. Which makes it €8,74.

Comfort food
This is what comfort food looks like
when it isn't a big bowl of linguine.

Add to that an environmentally unfriendly plastic bag for €0,19 (longer lasting and stronger than the paper one that costs a mere centime less). Four packs of add-milk-and-shake pancake for €4,36. Two chicken burgers for €5,18. The whizzy brush thing for the car for €16,99. And the not-yogurt calling itself a "Specialité laitière" for €2,29.

Total? €37,75. See how easily it adds up?


My car is finally paid for

Remember Felicity? My little white Aixam 400SL that I got in November 2019 (those halcyon pre-Covid days)? Well, the bank is taking €84,75 tomorrow.
That's it. It's done. The car loan is paid off. A loan over 42 months. It doesn't sound like much, but it's three and a half years. Or around 1,260 days.
And, my god, hasn't a lot changed the excrement really splattered the ventilation device in those months?

Still. That's one less thing to worry about. And I do worry about loans. Mom gave me three pieces of financial advice, that I shall pass on to you:

  • Never use credit cards. They have benefits and bonuses, but their entire business model revolves around offering you more credit than you can pay back.
  • Never take a loan unless there is absolutely no other option.
    Second to that, never take a loan from friends, ever. It has potential to cause too many problems.
    You should always ask "is this necessary?". It may be better to be without than to be beholden.
  • Don't hold on to delusions. We might all like to think we live the life of Riley, but if your outgoings are more than your incomings and you don't have a rich daddy to bail you out, it's not going to be a story with a happy ending.

For my part, I stay away from credit cards. Never had one, but peripherally knew two people who got in a whole lot of trouble getting sucked into the vortex of using one card to pay off the other, but not realising that various service charges were mounting up. The bank gets to screw people hard.

I stay away from loans. The bank has offered, but I'm not interested. The only reason I took the loan then is because the need for a car outweighed the negatives of having a loan (namely, no car no job). I will point out that the loan was for €3,000 because those little cars are shockingly expensive (even the ancient ones), and that many months at that price means I ultimately paid €3,600 (more or less). 600 on 3,000 is an easy calculation. It's 20%. Remember, the bank always wins.

As for living within my means, well that's pretty easy. I'm an introvert. I don't like socialising. I have no family or children. Only one cat that talks a lot more than I do. I don't really like driving, so my car is more for utility than pleasure. I keep on getting Chèques Vacances at work, and once in a while I look online and see nice sunny beaches full of people... and my skin crawls. People. That's the problem.

You know, I'd love to go to Hellfest sometime. It's in Clisson. You might recall that name, given mom and I used to go there a lot. I could even drive there, though it would take a while. ☺
Last year I watched one Saturday evening on arte. If I recall, it was Epica followed by Nightwish followed by Guns and Roses.
I mean, come on. The only thing that would improve upon that is having Sabaton in there... but they were scheduled for Sunday.
Problem is... people. Like billions of people. It's on YouTube, go look and you'll see why I'm never going to go.

Oh, and biscuits aside, my favourite comfort food is... get ready for it... linguini tossed in butter and lightly peppered. I'll accept spaghetti and/or tagliatelle, but I like the curvy edge to linguini.
Just do me a favour. If you have a nice rich tomato sauce, good for you. Don't give me any.

As you can imagine, I'm not that expensive to run. And any buying-dumb-things-in-Lidl is by far outweighed by the savings of no longer eating burgers.
Really, you should be proud of me. After my near-fatal burger a year ago, I've not eaten any fast food or takeway of any sort, nor had any desire to want to do so.

I think one of the primary aids here, actually, is my little air fryer gizmo. If I decide I need a chip fix (and, come on, who doesn't like a nice bowl of chips from time to time?) then I just buy a pack of frozen from the supermarket and cook some.
Just do me a favour. If you have a nice rich tomato sauce, good for you. Chips means Sarsons. Accept no substitute.

Also, I'm not a gamer so I don't need cutting edge hardware, and I'm shortsighted so watching Netflix on a tablet in bed with headphones is far nicer than some billion inch television bolted to the wall. Half my hardware is gifts or hand-me-downs, and the other half is freebies (like this tablet) or vide grenier finds (like my desktop PC). It doesn't bother me that my PC runs XP and not... what is it? Windows 11 or are they up to 12 now? I rarely use it these days, and when I do it's for very specific things (an image editor I really like or DVD ripping) and I simply can't see the point in getting a snazzy new machine to do exactly what my ancient old one does perfectly well. So while I wouldn't say no to a PC that's a little newer than something "built for XP" (especially if it's a laptop), I wouldn't go any buy one.
Just do me a favour. If you have a nice rich tomato sauce, good for you. It's completely irrelevant to this point but got to keep the running gag going, right?


ADSL problem

So I was sitting here with both phones handy, as the Orange person had my landline but the SMS quoted the mobile. At 7.15pm I received a text that said my rendezvous is confirmed for between 10.15 and 11.15 tomorrow morning.
I immediately called 3900, and the system knew what the fault was, but wouldn't let me progress, telling me that I had a rendezvous. So I called back and cancelled it, and then called back a third time and finally got to speak to somebody.

Which was kind of necessary, given that when I got home the Livebox claimed the download speed was 1Mbit, but the phone was dead and it had a message telling me that there was a problem and that I should restart the Livebox.
I did, and I got 2Mbit but... yeah... very glitchy. My upload, for example, is 0.4Mbit. I'm actually quite impressed as I decided to whack the phone directly into the incoming phone socket. It doesn't work, there's no analogue phone line, it just goes buuh-buuh-buuh-buuh. But what I could hear was crackling.

I went through the history all over again. After the DLM tweak I got a good 4 mega, which held on through the night and the next morning, before instantly diving to 2 mega, and, well, this evening I think zero would have been an appropriate description. Though, it's sort of working right now.

The person did some fiddling, said "oh", and put me on hold. Which was some annoying repetitive music "dum dum da da da da dum". It reminded me of the SNCF announcement (bah-da-dah).
After a few minutes of that, complete silence.
My mobile rang. It was her. She asked me to hold again as she did more stuff. The same annoying loop, and I observed that it was rather ironic that the phone company couldn't manage to support HD audio!

She came back and said there was a fault on the line. External, on the network. Usefully for me, it was a thunderstorm passing through at the time, and absolutely chucking it. So if anything was going to ping a fault, it would surely be that.

She has booked an engineer to look into it, and I received a text saying that the service should be restored by 6pm on Friday 12th, and at that time she'll call me (between 6pm and 7pm) to verify that everything is good.

...which means I think I'll need to do my weekend shopping on Thursday then, so I can go straight home on Friday.

I'll also need to take a look at the line on the way to work tomorrow, to see if there's anything obvious.
Actually, you know what?

[...time passes...]

Curiosity got the better of me. I don't know why, my line sort of works so it wasn't as if I could look for a break or anything. But I just went and drove the route of the line. The only remarkable fact is how many times they've needed to patch it up, and how many times they've needed to patch it up in the last decade (I'd go further and say "about five years"). Hmmm... and running alongside, all the fibre optics. That'll be a harder fix, don'tcha think?


Between waiting for the phone call and the thunderstorms, I never did get to crank up my "new" (or, "less old"?) rotovator. Oh well, the air filter thing will be in the letterbox when I get home tomorrow, along with the 7mm spanner.
The pokey-sticks will take a little longer, they're coming from Barcelona.


Go Penny!

I've pretty much avoided the ridiculous spectacle that was the Coronation, except for this part.

Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt.

This is Penny Mordaunt. A Tory MP (Portsmouth, I think?), who is currently the Leader of the House of Commons and the Lord President of the Privy Council. She read philosophy at Reading, voted Brexit, and failed to be Prime Minister. Which says all you need to know about her, really.

Here, she is the bearer of the Sword of State. Weighing 3.6kg and being 1.2 metres long, it is supposed to be carried upwards and held in that position for the duration of the Coronation service (51 minutes), and it must be held in that manner without touching the body. As Penny is the Lord President (excessive title, much?), it was her job to do this.

Now, I'm not going to knock her athleticism. Anybody who wants to mock her, I ask you to first find something that weighs three and a half kilograms and to hold it, like she is holding that sword. Do you think you can manage fifty one minutes? How about fifteen. And that's not with rippling half-seized muscles and swearing. You need to look serene and completely up to the job.

What I will say is that it looks like she's about the only person that took that whole charade dead seriously. To the point where I half suspect she is desperate for royal approval to be permitted to go and conquer Westeros for King and Country.

You know, actually, that might be something worth watching. Her, riding horseback, wielding that sword in battle...
As long as it's not Scotland or France she's aiming for. ☺


PS: Why do people say "horseback"? I mean, how the hell else do you perform equitation?



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VinceH, 10th May 2023, 01:06
In a strange case of obvious joke is apparently NOT obvious, had I written that final comment about tomato sauce, it would have been something like:  
"Just do me a favour. If you have a nice rich tomato sauce, good for you. It really doesn't go with chips of the silicon variety, such as those in a PC." 
On the subject of your Chèques Vacances and holidays, not all have to involve throngs of those horrible human things. The best holidays I've had have involved renting holiday cottages in places like the Lake District, somewhere out of the way, where I can easily avoid pretty much any contact with anyone for the week. Although, I suppose in your case you can pretty much get that at home without the expense.
David Pilling, 10th May 2023, 16:32
Credit cards - I've had one for over 20 years, got it to use Amazon, always paid off the balance, never been charged for anything. Main event was having the credit limit reduced - which they said was for my own good, in the sense of you're not using this credit, why have it as a possibility if your card is lost. I got the card because I felt it was safer than using a debit card which gives bad actors access to all the money in the account. 
About once I have called upon the credit card company to get me a refund, the time had run out on ebay/PayPal refund, and they did that well. 
Cc charge the vendor more than debits, and there are some cc that will share that kickback with you, at maybe a penny in the pound spent. 
Overall not as bad as they might look, but not really that useful either.
Rick, 10th May 2023, 17:23
How does a debit card give access to money in the account? Sure, if it is stolen and the bad guys have the PIN... Otherwise the only risk is contactless payment, but that only works a certain number of times and, I note, the bank system seems to record where you've been so if a payment turns up someplace new and it's more than a few euros, the contactless is refused even if you just recently entered the PIN. I can turn contactless on and off as I choose (site or app). 
Shopping on the internet using the card number? Again, if it's not a site i habitually use then I'm asked to authorise the payment on the app (with SMS code as a fallback). 
International? There's a great line in credit card theft in America, especially those setups from the dark ages that still crush a piece of paper between a roller and your card (it's why the numbers are raised). If your card is helpfully taken away, several blank impressions can be made. My card has flat numbers, it literally can't be cloned like that. 
Plus, it is by default blocked for international use. I can choose France, EU, or World (site or app). 
Why do you think car rental companies only accept credit cards? The reason is simple. If they "discover damage" (note the scare quotes, never accept a hire car without taking photos of it from all angles and getting the person handling it to personally sign off on any noticed defect, no matter how small), they can put in a claim for the cost of repairs to the credit card company, who are obligated to honour that unless you go through a messy process of counterclaim (why the photos might be useful). Debit cards simply don't authorise this sort of behaviour. 
About the only bonus that credit cards offer is the ability to claim back for bad purchases and/or fraud. But that's not something that's impossible without a credit card, it's just harder. And, note, the claim can be reversed if the shady seller argues back... 
I've used Amazon for... must be coming on twenty years now. No problem with my debit card. 
Never had a credit card. Probably never will. 
David Pilling, 10th May 2023, 18:06
Bear in mind I am living in the past. I got my cc, before pin was invented. That's when I made the decision to get it. Now it is less clear cut. 
Today it is tedious, anything above a few quid, and they want you to fire up your phone and authorise payment etc etc. 
If they can fraudulently use a card (they have the pin etc etc), the limit on a cc is the limit, the limit on debit is how much is in the account. 
I dunno, I have found authorization by mobile phone tedious, for tiny amounts, but then there have been situations where I have spent considerable amounts and not had to authorise. 
Seem to, talk to people on the landline and they take down the long number etc and I get to pay, without any mobile authentication. 
In this discussion we don't know about fraud, there was quite a thing for stealing pins at one time - people look over your shoulder, compromised card readers. 
Amazon will never be hacked - how about smaller businesses. 
Rick, 10th May 2023, 20:28
"the limit on debit is how much is in the account" 
If that's the case, you seriously need to change your bank. 
Banque Postale : my payment limit is €3,000 over 30 days (withdrawal limit €1,000 over 7 days). I can modify these temporarily by adding up to €500 to either. For other modifications or permanent changes, I need to talk to my advisor. 
My Crédit Mutuel limits are €2,000 and €500. In this latter case, my card is refused for internet and customer-not-present payments, I have to use a virtual card that is a one time payment for a specific fixed amount. Oh, and I can lower my limits for 1 day/week/month (after which it'll revert) but if I want to raise my limit I need to talk to my advisor. 
Even back in the UK in the mid 90s, NatWest did limitations on debit cards. I bought a video camera, but was then refused in the bookstore until the manager phoned the bank and they talked to me. 
Don't delude yourself, Amazon could succumb, just as other big places have (hotel chains, DIY stores, etc etc). It seems, often, that the weakness is not so much the hardware as the employees. 
That taking down the number is a "customer not present" payment. It's how I used to pay ArgoNet. It was useful in the days before online payment handlers. It's now only useful for cottage industries and far too much to do with RISC OS because, well, the late 90s was looking enough ago that you're starting to get 90s themed radio stations. 
As far as I'm aware, the post office card will, also, flat out refuse such payments. 
Really, your bank should allow you to take a more paranoid approach to the use of your card. Do you travel overseas? If not, disable all international payment options. If you can't, demand (in writing) why not. Can you set your own payment/withdrawal limits? If not, demand why not. 
Can you turn contactless payments on and off as you please? If not, why not? 
These aren't magical luxury items, these are just regular parts of configuring your little piece of plastic. 
David Pilling, 11th May 2023, 00:43
Those are interesting points. Maybe my choice between credit and debit card was formed out of ignorance. But the limits at my bank are big and I have never been invited to configure them. 
Some of the stuff around cc does look like you'd not want to be involved, things like balance transfer, being in debt forever. They're keen on balance transfer. 
Reading the big number over the phone is more common than it should be, and not always cottage industries. 
Rick, 11th May 2023, 07:47
Last night, 4 Mbit. I was like "fixed it already?". 
This morning, telephone but no internet. Which is interesting given its a VoIP line... Needless to say, a rather unreliable 2 Mbit. 
Still, there's today and tomorrow still for the fault to be located.
Rick, 11th May 2023, 07:52
I was told that my Livebox absolutely must remain connected. So I have left it on, even though there are thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon. 
I'm guessing the line needs to be loaded, and the engineer will use a time-domain reflectometer to try to pinpoint the location of the problem.
J.G.Harston, 11th May 2023, 13:58
I've got a 60-month loan to buy my car, for exactly the same reason. No car == No Job. I do have a credit card, but I keep it for emergencies, and limit those emergencies to having to buy petrol to put in the car because my debit card has been declined. It then gets paid off within four weeks.

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