Saturday, December 08, 2007

How I got this years home contents and buildings insurance for free

Now that I've been paid I'm happy to write up my home insurance story...

1) I don't live in the biggest house
2) I don't tend to make claims on my home insurance so I am happy to accept a slightly higher excess on insurance policies, eg £150 instead of the default £75/100.

Looking at the cashback on offer at Quidco it seemed that the fixed amount of cashback is comparable to what I pay for my insurance. So when it came to renewal time I got quotes from all the insurance companies that offered a decent amount of cashback.

For each site, I worked out (quote) - (cashback), and made a note of the excess. I was also slightly wary of sites with higher quotes and higher cashback amounts, in case the cashback didn't come through and I ended up with only the higher quote.

I decided on:

Contents - Co-operative - £56 quote - £70 cashback
Buildings - Prudential - £93 quote - £85 cashback

The transactions "tracked" immediately so I could tell that I should get the cashback. The funds cleared about 2 months later and I got paid via a BACS transfer on December 1st.

Overall, I got paid about £5 to have my home insured for a year. T'is a crazy old world.

PS You should also use Quidco for purchases you make online whenever possible, eg Comet, HMV, Tesco, GAME, Woolworths, Asda, Waterstones, Hilton Hotels.

PPS I also got £10 when I applied for and was accepted for an American Express Platinum credit card that gives 1% cashback on purchases. I used this card when I paid for my home insurance so it was actually even cheaper :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Running home from Winchester

After an enjoyable night out in Winchester with some guys from work (meal at Ask pizza then beers in the Exchange and Old Gaolhouse), I went to the train station. The next train wasn't for 25 minutes and it was a bit cold.

I didn't fancy waiting around so I decided to jog home, figuring it was about 6 miles so only 60ish minutes. This is comparable to a 25 min wait, a 15 min train ride and a 15 min jog home from Eastleigh train station.

It turns out the route I took home wasn't the shortest - by about 3/4 of a mile - so it was actually more like 7 miles which is 3 miles more than I'd normally run. And it took 1 hour and 15 minutes :( The shorter route has a couple of sizeable climbs though which this route doesn't.

Was it worth it? Yeees. I guess. I must have burned 700 calories, improved my cardio vascular fitness, avoided spending £2.70 and listened to some interesting Logically Critical podcasts.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Crash update

I cycled in to work today so I'm clearly not that injured. My grazes are healing nicely but the thing that's most impressive is the blackness of my hip bruise. It scares the children nicely :)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Free beer from Threshers

I just picked up my free beer from Threshers. Looks like I'm going to have a nice evening.

Find your local Threshers here

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bike crash

I had a bit of an incident on Tuesday lunchtime's trip to Otterbourne Jumps. I came down a little bit sideways and parted company with my steed. I then used my back to slow myself down. Nothing's broken but I'm a bit stiff and sore. The bike's fine though.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Minehead birthday cycle ride

I got to tackle some stupidly steep hills around Minehead on my birthday this year. The photo is taken from the high point (I didn't go all the way to the Dunkerry beacon as I had to be back in time for tea). Excepting a possible flight from somewhere like Taiwan, this is the highest that my bike has been.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Goodwood 2007

On Friday I went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed with Mark Perry, Ed Altenburger and Rich Cumbers.

We all had free tickets from The Times. We arrived at about 10:45 and despite having driven through some heavy showers to get there, and we could see big black clouds in the distance, the ground was dry. That's important as the F1 cars don't like the rain.

After a quick look at some cars doing a run up the track (there isn't a circuit, it's a hill climb) we started our tour of the major manufacturers' stands. The Ford stand had 5 different versions of the new Mondeo. It has a suprisingly nice interior (for a Mondeo).

The Mercedes stand had more impressive, and expensive, cars. Nice...

Whenever there were cars on the track we'd go and watch. The Wacky Races cars were mildly amusing

After lunch - a tasty Indian kebab - we watched the modern supercars leave from the starting line. Some did massive wheelspins, some were a bit skittish under heavy acceleration, some just went very fast with no fuss (Bugatti Veyron) and one looked like the driver couldn't find 2nd gear.

Then we checked out the environmentally friendly concept cars...

and the trials bikes.

Then we went half way up the hill and watched the cars and bikes screaming up the track. As always the Formula 1 cars sounded just awesome. The modern superbikes were impressive too, with them being wheelied for at least 100 metres. When the Red Bull F1 car came back down it stopped about 10 metres away from our position and then did a massive burnout down the hill. Just superb :) Ed's got it on video, I'll add a link soon.

At one point it started to rain at the bottom of the circuit but was still sunny where we were (which partly explains my sunburn).

Then we went up to the rally stage and saw Peter Solberg in this year's Subura WRC car flying over the newly constructed jump. We also saw Colin McRae's car doing the rally stage and then later up close

On the way back down the hill we saw this year's Ford Focus WRC car do a double doughnut at the hairpin bend that is furthest down the hill. Very cool.

Finally we went past this year's main showpiece

to the back of the house to see the Ferrari exhibition and the Supercars.

I've normally got no interest in old cars but there was one that really caught my eye. It has a striking modern metallic light blue paint job that doesn't come through in the photo.

I'm sure I've missed out several other cool things, and I don't have that many photos as I decided that in general it's better to get the full experience rather than be half focussed on the camera and half on the action. Thankfully it seems that Ed disagrees as he's got some great stills and videos.

There's far too much to do in one day at Goodwood. If we can go again next year I'd like to get there much earlier to try and see a lot more of it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

This year's father's day was good. I got lots of well thought out presents:- I did choose some myself (Lindt balls, cafetiere, ball) but the surprise presents were great too.

After a lie-in until 9:30, I had a breakfast of pancakes with golden syrup. Mmmmm.

We went to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
at the Southampton Odeon which was quite good. It's a simple comic book action film that kept the kids (inc. me) happy. 7/10.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

New cash back credit card

Following Natwest's decision to stop providing cashback Airmiles on their VISA card I used to look for an alternative.

I must have previously tried applying for an Egg card as when I tried to apply this time it insisted on making me log in rather than creating a new account. Since I had no idea what the password is and I couldn't see how to get it mailed to me, I instead applied for the American Express Platinum card.

Amex Platinum offers 3% cashback for purchases made within the first 3 months, then tiered rates which will average out at about 1% for me, but it offers 1.5% for all purchases each year past £13,500.

It's also a good idea to have more than one supplier:- I recall VISA had some network problems earlier this year so having more than one card provider seems prudent.

I had heard that AMEX is less widely accepted than VISA but I used it today in Tesco, Frankie and Bennys and B&Q so it seems like it'll be OK.

Oh, and I got £10 cashback from QuidCo as I used their link to apply.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Jump Fest

We chanced the weather and won today with a sunny ride taking in the local jump sites. Not much hill climbing but we took in several woods and found jumps in 4 locations : mile markers 3, 7, 8 and 13 here. Total distance covered was about 16.9 miles.

We also went to the Otterbourne Hill woods on Tuesday where we conquered 2 new jumps, each about about 7 feet from the take off ramp to the landing slope. Scary but exhilarating.

I also cycled to and from work on Tues and Fri, adding 9.5 miles to the mileage total for each day.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

This week's cycling.

We managed 2 rides this week, the first on Wednesday that explored Otterbourne woods, and the second on Friday which was quite a bit longer.

On Friday we managed to find the "downhill fun" that a local bike shop had mentioned. When we got there the MOD red flag was flying saying that we couldn't enter. As it was about 12:45 we took the opportunity to have lunch, during which time a guy on a quad bike drove up and took down the flag. Nice timing :)

Yes, we did push the bikes up the steep bit at 13.5 miles. The total height climbed was 2101 feet. We also found out that they've introduced bulls (cows don't have horns do they?) on to Shawford downs.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Friday's bike ride

We (Alan, Ed and I) roughly repeated last Friday's bike ride this Friday, although we found a way through the woods to avoid the last couple of miles along Romsey Road.

We didn't take a lunch this time so we spent less time away from work. Plus, when we got back, we had a lunch to enjoy.

It's nice to get the climbing done before the halfway point - you feel like you've really earned the downhill coast.

New fastest run

After collecting Emma from work on Wednesday, and having enjoyed rather too much chili con carne + chip shop chips for tea, I thought I should go for a quick run to make amends.

I took the GPS wristwatch but forgot to wear the heartrate strap. I normally keep an eye on my heartrate to make sure I work hard enough so instead I tried to maintain a 7:30 minutes/mile pace. The first 0.7 miles were downhill to the Tesco petrol station and I averaged 7:00 min/mile for that. The rest of the run was quite hard work on my lungs but my legs felt good.

When I got back home (up the hill at the end, aargh) my average pace over 3.75 miles was 7:26.

It's probably just as well I didn't have the heartrate strap as I might have slowed down if I'd seen what my heart was doing :)

Neil's Wedding

I went to Neil Johnston and Rebecca Daly's wedding yesterday. They had a church service in St Edmunds in Southampton, followed by a wedding breakfast at Chilworth Manor.

One of the highlights was a chocolate fountain with stawberries, raspberries, turkish delight, jelly babies, doughtnuts, profiteroles, pineapples, fudge etc.

There was also a roulette wheel and 21s/pontoon game. Everyone got a voucher for £50 of funny money. The winner at the end was Neil's second-nephew who ended £300 up because he collected vouchers from all the people who didn't want to play. He won a soft toy and a bottle of champagne (his dad looked pleased). A nice example of working around the rules to win - no doubt he'll go far.

Friday, May 04, 2007

2 bike rides from work this week.

The weather's been glorious every day this week down South and we managed to get out for 2 bike rides. Rather than the usual there-and-back trip to Otterbourne Jumps or Farley Mount, both were circular trips taking in some new tracks (well, new to the others but I've been pretty much everywhere around here).

The ride on Wednesday took in some of the river Itchen and Shawford Downs followed by a fun fast downhill bridleway.

The ride on Friday included a favourite downhill section in Farley Woods, the Shrine on top of Farley mount where we had lunch, a landing strip in a field, Upper and Lower Slackstead and Ampfield wood.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

My sister featured by Nike & Men's Health magazine

My sister was recently interviewed by the Nike Plus marketing team. She uses the Nike Plus running system with her iPod, but she didn't use the Nike Plus shoes - she cuts out a section from the base of her trainer to simulate the Nike Plus shoes.

But now, as a thank you for the interview, she has some real Nike Plus running shoes and various other bits of running kit.

The Nike site is a pain to reach: Start here, choose Recovery Training with Paula Radcliffe and then "Anna Finn". They'll feature someone else before long so be quick.

Men's Health have a much more static looking link but a less cool photo.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Forest cycle ride

I went for a nice bike ride this morning whilst the missus and kids shopped in Southampton.

The first 4 miles were unpleasant dual carriageway, but the next 12 more than made up for it. There were plenty of ponies out on the open lands, including a few foals. Very cute.

What's the least bad way to get from the centre of Soton to Eling? I tried coming back a different way, and it was better as it wasn't dual carriageway, but it wasn't exactly pretty and Shirley high street is a very busy area that doesn't suit bikes. Any ideas?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Reading an article on the IBM Developerworks site about Ajax-based websites (the cool interactive ones), it talks about a Google Maps Mashup named MapMyRun. I had previously used Gmap-Pedometer, but this one goes much further.

I've uploaded a couple of runs including the quickish 4.73 mile one mentioned in an earlier post. It isn't as good as viewing the original GPS data using eg SportTracks as it doesn't support the pace and heartrate data, but you can mark the run as public which allows other people find it and add comments if they wish.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Online Chess

There's a great online chess site named Scheming Mind.

Whilst there are options to pay an annual fee, you get to play "normal" chess against online opponents for free.

If you fancy a game, my user name is finnr.

Crazy sister running 7 full marathons in 7 weeks

My sister is running 7 Marathons on 7 consecutive sundays. You can see her plan and progress on the charity website that she's supporting.

She was interviewed by Colin Jackson for BBC1 in the Londom Marathon on Sunday,

MotorCycle World at Beaulieu

We're probably going to MotorCycle World at Beaulieu this year, Saturday 23rd-Sunday 24th June.

We've been for the last 3 years and it's always been worth the entrance fee, even the first time when it rained. There's lots of noisy motorbikes, maybe some stunt cars, stands galore, free stuff, and all the normal features of the National Motor Museum (monorail, musuem, Palace House, abbey, coffee shop).

You should go too.

Spring Duxford Airshow

I'm thinking of going to the Duxford Airshow on 20 May 2007. I haven't been to a "proper" airshow for ages and I love the power of the modern jets.

Want to come too? The wife and kids aren't too keen so I'm looking for people to go with. £24 on the day, £20 in advance.

Duxford’s season of legendary air shows will take off in May with a spectacular display of aircraft, ranging from historic and iconic warbirds, such as the Spitfire, to contemporary military jets.

There will be over three hours of aerial displays at this event, which also includes a special ground and air-based salute to Falklands 25 – the 25th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands by British troops

Recent Nintendo DS game purchases

The recent DS games I've bought because they were reduced on t'internet are:

Big Brain Academy
Puyo Pop Fever
Bomberman DS

and 42 All Time Classics has been ordered from Tesco for £8.97 with money back from QuidCo

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My best runs and new trainers

These numbers are taken from my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS wristwatch.

Distance (m)Pace (mile/min)Average heartrate (bpm)Comment
3.107:32160Flat route in Warwick
4.737:43165Mostly flat route near Warwick (Old Milverton)
4.157:46177To Oliver's Battery sign and back

The work-run was done a couple of months back on my beat-up old Asics. I've got new shoes now (and bigger lungs).

I got 2 pairs of Reebok Premier Road Plus DMX III Stability Shoes from the Reebok shop at Bicester outlet village near Oxford. They claimed they were £70 reduced to £35, and they were included in a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer. So far they seem pretty comfortable, but they are definitely a road shoe. They're light and airy, which is good, but they don't provide much support on uneven surfaces.

Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel

I read the Dilbert cartoons via the RSS feed ( but never got in to the TV show.

I also follow The Dilbert Blog ( , though it isn't about Dilbert. It is thoughts, observations and provocation from Scott Adams, and it makes for entertaining reading.

Given my enjoyment of Mr Adams' output, I bought the book Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel and it is every bit as good I could have hoped. It is interspersed with Dilbert comics but I find I generally laugh more at the humourous turns of phrase in the main prose. There are also snippets of emails from the real world, which are hideous tales of what goes on in businesses today. For example:

Mr. Adams, My boss explained to me how she delays responding to e-mails by varying amounts of time, just to impress upon people their relative standing in terms of power.
I haven't read the Dilbert Principle, but on the strength of this book I will be soon. Highly recommended, especially if you work for a large corporation.

Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger

I recently finished reading the hardback version of a biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which covered his life from birth to about 2005 when he became the governor of California.

It's a well written, easy to read book about an interesting man. It includes some B&W photos and a comprehensive index. The author is clearly an admirer but the tone in never sycophantic.

Arnold comes across as a driven man, applying himself first in body-building, then in the world Hollywood films, and now in politics. There's a bit where several bodybuilders come to Arnold for advice, and as well as giving them astute observations, he praises each of them with "If I had your body, I would be Mr Olympia". These bodybuilders are later upset when they find out that he told them all the same thing, but the one of them (Frank Zane) got the point - "The fact is that Arnold could have won Olympia with a number of different bodies because of his attitude - it was all his attitude".

I recommend this book, even if you're not interested in bodybuilding.

Blog revival

I haven't posted here for over a year (I onl y posted twice). Instead, I exclusively used the IBM internal blog.

This blog will now be used for non-IBM (and mostly non-computer-related) information and maybe also as a sort of exercise log.