Archive for December, 2011

This is just a quick post to say a huge great big thank you to Great Uncle Bunny Chow who came all the way from the safe warm climes of the Namibian coast to a cold wet England to visit The Monkey and The Bug.

Your visit was hugely enjoyed by the whole family, I know that Mrs BC has always looked up to you and I know it meant the world to her to be able to show you our little home and have you with us during this exciting period of the children’s young lives. I know that she’s going to miss having you around in the coming days.

We all had a fantastic time getting away from London in Milton on Sea, I know that Bunny Chow had a fantastic time running to her heart’s content on the beach, I also thoroughly enjoyed sharing a jar or three of ale with you. I did manage to take some pictures which I hope you enjoy perusing.

I hope that you get lots and lots of use out of the chefs knives I gave you and hope that you’ll send me pictures of your culinary adventures.

Anyway that’s all I have to say for now Bon Voyage and until the next time thank you again Great Uncle Bunny Chow we loved having you and hope you’ll come again in better weather, so that we can show you more of our grey little island.

To all the rest of you have a fantastic holiday season and take care

TTFN

Mr Bunny Chow

 

Greetings befitting the season to you all, I thought I’d take a couple of minutes out of my day to have a bit of a waffle about the year that has passed just in case I don’t get another opportunity before Christmas and merriment are upon us.

The year began with terrible weather and a bit of a shock in discovering Mrs Bunny Chow was pregnant again although to be fair it shouldn’t have been a shock as we hadn’t taken the necessary precautions to prevent this happening, luckily for us that whilst unplanned or if not unplanned then earlier than planned this was a happy thing.

This early news did prompt a flurry of activity though as we quickly realised that our happy cosy little home was already crammed to capacity and that we should do something about selling it and moving into something altogether larger and more suburban. I won’t go into all of the gory details but we got pretty far with this plan making offers and accepting offers to buy but our buyer never came up with the readies and as Mrs BC’s belly continued to expand and our bank balance and the economy continued to contract we made the decision to abandon the plan altogether and stay where we were for the time being.

During the process we were very sadly burgled losing many family heirlooms along with many irritating things like my phone charger, I mean seriously why steal a phone charger and the spare keys to both of our cars which had to be claimed under our car not home insurance meaning 3 lost sets of no claims bonus. Still the insurance companies paid out, we are sad to have lost so many memories but life moves on.

I was also offered and accepted a new job, I had been in my previous role for a couple of years and had reached the end of my tether with little or no room for progression it was time to move on and accept the challenge of creating my own department and team. Mrs BC will tell you that it has been a financial disaster and she’s probably right but I am much much happier in my new role and still have faith that in the long-term we will be better off.

We also had the opportunity to go back to Cape Town with The Monkey Boy and attend the wedding of one of our dearest friends as well as indulge in a little wine drinking and relaxing , ok so I did the wine drinking whilst Mrs BC had to make do with watching me and wondering if she’d ever get a decent holiday whilst not being pregnant again.

After such an exciting start to the year the second half has passed us by in a flash and a blur with all of the planning and panicking leading up to the arrival of Granny and Grandpa Bunny Chow and the birth of The Bug, we suddenly find ourselves staring down the barrel of Christmas wondering why it’s suddenly gotten cold again.

Of course I can’t finish off this little roundup without mentioning the fact that I’ve become a blogger, it all began when I realised that Mrs BC was quite rightly sick and tired of listening to me whinge and whine about our terrible luck with customer service and then once I began I found myself looking through other people’s blogs and realised how little there was out there about parenthood from the male perspective and how none of us ever talked about our fears or feelings surrounding the momentous changes children being to our lives.

Then in a throwaway thought I decided to maybe do a post or two about food and was so bombarded with visitors and messages I found myself setting up and running a second blog about my culinary adventures. It’s been a huge adventure and outlet for me and I can’t thank you all enough for visiting and interacting with me.

Well with that all said I hope that all of you and yours have a fantastic holiday season and wish you all a very very healthy and prosperous 2012.

TTFN

Mr Bunny Chow

 © http://www.mrbunnychowcooks.com

I can barely contain my excitement any longer, Christmas is just around the corner and I have kids, I know The Bug couldn’t care less and The Monkey Boy barely gets the concepts but still I’m excited by the whole excitement of being able to do stuff for them and the sheer exuberance with which they take on the most simple of tasks.

You should have seen the look on his face yesterday when presented with a stocking and some baubles Nanny Bunny Chow had sent over for the boys, well actually you can

Ok so it’s a terrible picture but he was really happy honest.

Anyway I’ll stop dribbling on and boring you now, but this blog is here as a place for me to rant and ramble so that’s what I’m doing.

TTFN and Happy Holidays

Mr Bunny Chow

Dear Mr Bunny Chow 

Apologies for sending another email so soon; however, I wanted to let you have some information about the Autumn Statement that the Chancellor delivered on Tuesday and yesterday’s strike.

 

I hope you find it useful.  I’ll send out a further bulletin before Christmas with the revised dates for landfill and recycling collections over Christmas, where you can recycle your Christmas trees etc.

 

Gavin

 

Gavin Barwell

Member of Parliament for Croydon Central

 

Reflections on the Autumn Statement

 

On Tuesday, the Chancellor gave his annual Autumn Statement. He also published the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) assessment of the economic outlook (he deserves a lot of credit for setting up an independent organisation to produce these forecasts – in the past, Chancellors have been tempted to put a positive gloss on the figures; economic forecasting is a pretty inexact science but at least now we know we are getting the experts’ best guess as to what is going to happen).

 

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that the OBR’s assessment made for pretty grim reading. As a result of the crisis in the Eurozone, higher than expected inflation and new data which suggests that the last recession did even more damage to our economy than originally thought, they have significantly reduced their forecast of how much the economy will grow this year, next year and the year after.

 

As a result, the Chancellor is having to make some additional savings and even with these savings it is going to take longer than he originally planned to eliminate the record deficit that we inherited from the last government and get us to the point where Government debt as a proportion of our national wealth is falling.

 

And the OBR warn that if there is a disorderly collapse of the euro things could get even worse.

 

Ed Balls, responding to the statement for Labour, said the OBR’s forecast showed that the Government’s strategy isn’t working but if you read the OBR’s report (see http://cdn.budgetresponsibility.independent.gov.uk/Autumn2011EFO_web_version138469072346.pdf if you are interested) it is very clear that they have downgraded growth projections for the reasons referred to above, not because they have changed their minds about the impact that this Government’s policies are having.

 

Having criticised the Government for not reducing borrowing quickly enough (without apologising for building up the debt in the first place), Mr Balls then said we should cut taxes, increase spending and borrow even more. Now we’d all like to pay less tax and we’d all like better public services but think for a moment what the consequences of following his advice would be.

 

When this Government came to power, we didn’t have a credible plan to reduce debt and as a result our credit rating was on negative outlook and our market interest rates were higher than Italy’s. 18 months later, we are the only major western country which has seen its credit rating improve and our market interest rates are less than 2.5% whereas Italy’s are 7.2%. What does this mean for you and I in practical terms? Well, a one per cent rise in market interest rates would add £1,000 to the average family’s annual mortgage payments. In other words, if we listened to Mr Balls and borrowed even more money and the markets lost confidence in our ability to repay this debt as they have with Greece and Portugal and Italy, the higher mortgage payments we would all be facing would dwarf the extra money we would have as a result of tax cuts. His plan is the equivalent of taking out a high interest loan when you’ve maxed out your credit card, rather than cutting down on your spending. And not only would it mean higher interest rates and mortgage payments for many of us, it would load our children with even more debt. How is that fair?

 

The blunt truth is you can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis. Painful as it is – and I appreciate that it is extremely painful for many of my constituents – we have no alternative but to start living within our means. As a result, the Chancellor had very little room for manoevure yesterday. But by making some additional savings – eg not increasing spending on overseas aid by as much as planned (though still meeting our promise to spend 0.7% of our national income) – he found some money for some important initiatives to help families struggling with the cost of living and small businesses such as:

 

  • doubling the number of two-year old children who will receive 15 hours of free nursery care a week (40% of all children will now receive this with a focus on the most disadvantaged families);

 

  • reducing the planned increases in rail fares from inflation + 3% a year to inflation + 1%;

 

  • cancelling the proposed increase in fuel duty in January and reducing the planned increase in August;

 

  • extending the business rates holiday for small businesses to April 2013; and

 

  • introducing a national Loan Guarantee Scheme to reduce the interest rates small businesses can borrow at.

 

He also found some money for extra investment in infrastructure to try to get the economy moving. Two areas of particular benefit to Croydon are:

 

  • £1.2 billion to provide new school places, half of which will go to local councils like Croydon with the greatest need and half of which will go on new free schools; and

 

  • £80 million for 130 new train carriages to tackle overcrowding on south London rail services.

 

And he confirmed that the basic state pension will rise by £5.30 next April, the largest ever cash increase.

 

All in all, then, difficult times ahead but the Chancellor is taking the tough decisions to get us through the storm and he has done what he can, within the very limited means at his disposal, to help small businesses and struggling families.

 

Yesterday’s strike

 

I’d like to say a big thank you to all those public sector workers who carried on serving the people of Croydon today.

 

I understand how angry many public servants feel about having their pay frozen and changes proposed to their pensions to help deal with a debt problem that they didn’t cause.

 

But even if we hadn’t inherited this debt problem, we would still need to make changes to public sector pensions. We are all living longer – the average 60 year-old today can expect to live 10 years longer than the average 60 year-old in the 1970s – which is great news, but it means that if public sector workers want to enjoy just as generous pensions when they retire as their predecessors do today they need to contribute more while they are working and/or work longer, otherwise the taxpayer will end up picking up the tab. Public sector pensions currently cost taxpayers £32 billion a year – more than we spend on the police, prisons and the court system combined – and that’s increased by a third after discounting for inflation over the last 10 years. There’s a basic question of fairness here – people who work in the private sector are having to contribute more to their pensions and work longer; you can’t also ask them to pay more in tax so that public sector workers can retire earlier than them and contribute a lower proportion of their salaries.

 

And the fact that we have inherited a debt problem – the last Government was spending about £150,000,000,000 a year it didn’t have, money our children will have to pay back – makes this problem even more urgent than it already was.

 

So given there is a strong case for change, negotiations are ongoing, the Government has recently made a more generous offer, the economy is struggling and the public could have done without the disruption, I think it was wrong for union leaders to call yesterday’s strike.

 

And I am concerned that many of their members who have contacted me don’t seem to be aware of the details of the Government’s offer and in some cases appear to have been misled:

 

  • Public sector workers will still have guaranteed, inflation proofed pensions. Only 1 in 10 private sector workers have access to such schemes.

 

  • Most will see no reduction in the size of the pension they receive when they retire and many low and middle income earners will receive larger pensions.

 

  • Those on a full-time equivalent salary of less than £15,000 a year will not have to make an increased contribution and those on a full-time equivalent salary of between £15,000 and £21,000 a year will only face a small increase.

 

  • The pensions people have built up so far will be protected.

 

  • No-one within ten years of retirement will see any change either in the age when they can start receiving their pension or in the amount of pension they will receive.

 

  • Many public sector workers have been told their scheme is in surplus and hence there is no need for them to pay more in. But in most cases there is no scheme – the contributions paid by existing employees are used to pay other people’s pensions rather than being invested for the future.

 

  • A Croydon Labour councillor was on Twitter today alleging that most of the extra contributions people are being asked to pay will be used to bail out the banks. That is completely untrue.

 

The two sides need to get round a table and resolve this dispute so that the public don’t have to put up with any more disruption.

 


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Scam Saga Update

Posted: 02/12/2011 in idiots, Oiks
Tags:

an update from Craig at Damn Fine Food, I’ve suggested he sends them a postcard with a tracking number and a big proud get stuffed from Australia.

Anyway have a read of what he has to say below

TTFN

Mr Bunny Chow

One thing I have to report on is that the scam saga continues.  It really is amazing the lengths that these people will go to.  They won’t fool me, but it annoys me that so many people will get fooled by them.

After not corresponding with them further they went silent and I thought that was it, however I received an email stating that if I did not send the tracking number within 24 hours that my eBay account will be suspended.  Their email still comes from the consultant.com domain so it’s clear that it is them.  The next step that I will take is to notify Yahoo that one of their accounts is being used for scams, and I will also report the scammers to the domain authority and ISP to try and get their domains revoked.

Scam Warning

Posted: 01/12/2011 in idiots, Oiks
Tags: ,

This isn’t so much a guest post as opposed to me reblogging this post from friends Caroline and Craig who were unlucky enough to nearly be caught out.

Please be vigilant.

Ah something to break the blog boredom!

On Tuesday evening I put our old camera on eBay.  I started an auction with bidding at $50, and set a “buy now” amount as $150.

I was surprised the next morning to find that someone had bought it at the buy now amount.  I duly started to interact with the buyer, although I did notice something strange, that I was asked by the buyer to email them directly to confirm something.  Not having used eBay before (I had used a similar service in South Africa), I didn’t think it was a particularly weird request despite their request to quote the item number in the subject.  I should add that at this point everything seemed legitimate from the eBay website.

I received an email from the “buyer” saying that they normally reside in Australia, and that they are currently in the US performing audits for the nuclear industry.  They wanted to buy the “item” (i.e. no specific mention that it was a camera) as a gift for a cousin who is a missionary in Nigeria, and that they would be happy to pay the amount for the item, plus $150 for international shipping.  Alarm bells went off with two keywords in my brain – item, and Nigeria.  Why do scammers always seem to use Nigeria for their nefarious activities?  The email address for the buyer did not match the name of the buyer – not inconceivable that this could happen, but suspicious.  In any case as long as I had the money before shipping it didn’t really matter where the people were or where they wanted me to send the “item”.  I checked with Australia Post that $150 would be sufficient, and it is.  Shipping a 1kg box to Nigeria will cost approximately $95.  Cool, after the cost of the box and packaging I get to make a little bit more profit.  They also wanted me to confirm that the item was in good order as they didn’t want to send their cousin a dud gift.  I confirmed that it was ok, but mentioned that the camera did not have a lens and that this would need to be purchased separately.  In the email they wanted me to confirm that it was ok to pay via PayPal or whether I would prefer a bank deposit.  I indicated that it was fine to pay with PayPal.  I heard nothing except for an email from eBay and from PayPal to say that the buyer had paid and that I was now required to send out the goods.  Everything seemed good … or did it?

The first thing I noticed in the generally very professional and authentic looking emails were a few errors such as specifying my name as the buyer, and the word ‘you’ being spelt with a capital Y.  Upon closer inspection the email address that the emails were sent from were suspicious.  So far, all communication from eBay came from an address at ebay.com.au.  The email that I received, supposedly from PayPal, came from an address at accountant.com, and the email supposedly from eBay came from consultant.com.  By this time I am very suspicious that something is not right.  I log in to eBay and of course there is no mention of this email.  I log in to PayPal and there is no payment.

eBay and PayPal have an email address that you can send a suspected spoof email to, to verify that it is legitimate.  I sent both of these emails to the addresses at both eBay and PayPal, and received a reply from eBay that the email was indeed a spoof and that I should be very careful about continuing the transaction.  Really? :-)

Next I receive another spoofed email, supposedly from PayPal with the title, “You received a payment from your eBay buyer – SHIP NOW”, again from accountant.com, followed from a direct email from the “buyer” stating that they had paid and that I should send the item, and giving me an address in Nigeria (which when I checked on Google Maps appears to be valid).  Since they already have an email address for me I thought I would lead them on a bit, so I replied saying that I had not seen the money in my PayPal account and that I would only ship once it was showing on my side.

The reply from the “buyer” duly came stating that the money had been deducted on their side and that I need to send the item, and then send the tracking number to PayPal for them to release the funds.  Yeah, sure, how gullible do they think I am?

I replied once more saying that I would go to the post office later in the day and send the item.  That’s the last email I was prepared to send to them.

In the mean time I looked up the name of the person whose account it was on eBay and matched the address to the same suburb that was listed as the original shipping address.  There was no exact match, but there was a match for the name at a different street in the same suburb.  I called the number but got no reply.  I wanted to find out from the person whether they did indeed have an account at eBay and warn them that it had been compromised.  What I guess had happened is that somehow that person’s eBay account had been compromised, and the scammers had taken over their account (and their good standing 100% positive eBay record), and changed the email address to point to their own address at yahoo.com.  This is why the name of the account and the email address did not match.

I then received an email from the scammer saying that they would wait for me to go to the post office (no choice there really), but asked that I do it quickly (in their words “as fat as I can”). (I wonder why?)  I did not respond.

By this time, I had already wasted half of the day dealing with this, so I got to doing some work.

A little later I received a legitimate email from eBay stating that my eBay listing had been removed and that all transaction fees would be refunded.  The reason, “The listing has been cancelled due to bidding that took place without the account holder’s authority”.  They continued, “We have temporarily suspended the account used and are working with the account holder to prevent any further unauthorised activity”.  They then warned me again not to continue the transaction.  Good on you eBay.

I figured that was that, and that I could now re-list the camera, but they literally meant it when they said my listing had been removed.  There is now no trace of it, so I will have to set it up again from scratch.  No problem, but if this keeps happening it’s going to be a bit of a pain.

Did I mention that I thought that there would be nothing further?  Yes I did.  I was wrong!

A little later while I was at dinner, I received an email again supposedly from eBay.  ”Restoration Of The eBay Listing Purchased by …” was the subject, and went on, “This is to inform you that we have restored the eBay listing involving you and … Which has been removed back on the eBay database.  We have investigated the issue and have found out the original buyer and owner of the account purchased the item before a third-party had access to the buyers eBay account.  We sent you an email regarding the purchase and the buyers eBay user account.  These issues have now been resolved and you are required to continue with the transaction.  You must remove the item or stop the sale of the item to any other buyer if you have re-listed the item before receiving this message.  eBay is officially guaranteeing you that security measures will be put in place in order to receive the payment for this transaction securely.”

I’ll give them full marks for persistence, and about 80% for grammar and syntax.  Of course a check of the email address shows that the email again came from consultant.com.  IGNORED!

Exactly ten minutes later (a tip that the whole thing is computer controlled), I received another message from the “buyer” stating that I need to send the item and tracking number quickly as the account had been hacked and that they needed to make sure the transaction was completed before the account was hacked again.  IGNORED.

I haven’t heard from them again, yet.

Persistent little buggers, but I like to think I’m impervious to scams.  Perhaps one day I’ll be proved wrong, but it’s not like I go looking for them.  It is clear though that this trail is designed to tap into insecurity about being a new eBay user and not really knowing exactly how things work, and I’m guessing also hoping that the person doesn’t really know how to recognise spoofed emails.  They really are the low lifes of the world.  Scammers I mean, not Nigerians, as this may not have even involved Nigerians.  However, the point of this whole exercise was to get me to willingly send an item to an address (in this case an address in Nigeria), and them ultimately not have to pay for it.  That item will then be received and most likely sold at a local shop to some unsuspecting buyer.

Oh lookie here.  Someone else has mentioned the scam on the web.

And in other news we went to a Korean restaurant for dinner, but you can read about that on our food blog!