Perelandra (C.S. Lewis) and That Hideous Strength (C.S.Lewis)

Part 2 and Part 3 of a trilogy I started in the summer with “Out of the Silent Planet“. I loved the first book, giving it a Rootie rating of 5 out of 5, surely these would carry the trend, may be drop to a 4?…

Perelandra sees our character visit a different planet. This planet is almost entirely covered by sea and floating islands made of plants. The description of the environment was great but for me the story dragged more than if I’d had to read it as part of my English Literature lessons at school. I really can’t say I enjoyed this story, just forced myself to continue turning pages. I give it a Rootie Rating of 1 out 5 and hope the third part of the trillogy is better.

That Hideous Strength is different from the first two. Hmmm, how to describe the difference; instead of traveling to another planet, the whole story happens on earth. It links into early medieval history and the time of Merlin the magician. It has a clever set up where people are used by others to control the media and alter the perception of society. For all that, I found this story very hard to read through. This trilogy started so well for me, but I can only give this part a Rootie Rating of 1 out of 5.

15% VAT – How to work it out from 17.5% inc prices

It appears a lot of people have been looking at my waffle on “Markup and Margins” page in order to convert prices from “inclusive of 17.5% VAT” to “inclusive of 15% VAT”. By the way, if you’re not in the UK, VAT = Value Added Tax and after many many years of it being 17.5%, it’s just been changed to 15%. The government have said they will increase it again after one year.

So, if you want to know WHY the following calculations work, read about Markup and Margins – VAT is a Markup type of calculation. If you just want to know what to tap into your calculator or spreadsheet, here’s what you do:

To convert a price from 17.5% inc VAT to 15% inc VAT – Multiply by 0.9787 (beware of rounding!)
Example: 117.50p x 0.9787 = 115.00

To convert a price including VAT at 17.5% to an Excluding VAT price – Divide by 1.175
Example: 117.50 / 1.175 = 100.00

To add VAT at 15% to an Excluding VAT price – multiply by 1.15
Example: 100 x 1.15 = 115.00

The dangers of rounding.
Currency is used with an accuracy of 2 decimal places, the smallest unit being 0.01 or 1pence. The exact result of 117.50 x 0.9787 is 114.99725. As we don’t have a coin for 0.725 of a pence, we need to round up. Depending on when you round a number in a calculation, you can get an error that grows as you use that number in further calculations. To help prevent this you have two options,
1) you could multiply by a more accurate figure, like 0.97872340425531914893617021276596,
2) divide by 1.175 then multiply that answer by 1.15, which is the method I prefer as I find it easier to remember

Steve meets the president (yes, the nice one, from America)


12 months ago I never thought I’d title a blog entry like that. Then again, 12 months ago I didn’t really know anything about Rotary – a lot has changed this year.

The picture is of me with Rotary International President D.K. Lee. DK (He’s always introduced by his initials, his full name is Dong-Kurn) is a Rotarian from Korea. His day job is chairman of a company called BuBang Techron, though I have to wonder how he gets time to work there and make time to travel the world serving Rotary

I’ve just returned from the “Rotary Presidential Membership Conference”. Membership is a big issue in Rotary at the moment and to address the problem the DK Lee is traveling the world to attend special conferences to address the problem. Membership levels in Rotary are important because without members Rotary can’t continue to do all the good things it does in the future. More members also means more opportunities to do good things. Simple stuff really. So why did I, new Rotarian in a new club go? To get answers.

As a new Rotarian in a new club, I thought Rotary in the UK was growing. Surely 30 new members in the last year was a common occurance in every town and city in the UK? No, I’ve mentioned that I asked for some real statistics and when they arrived they were surprising. In the UK 10 years ago there were 60,000 Rotarians. Today there are 55,000. My next thought was “how many should there be?”. I got two answers, one I worked out myself and one worked out by my friend Clive. Clive looked at the population of the medway towns, compared it with the membership of the clubs in the area, did some thinking, and came up with the idea that there could be around 3 to 5 million Rotarians in the UK. I was a little more pessimistic. One of the ‘qualities’ a Rotarian has is to be a ‘leader in the community’, leader in the sense many will be senior managers in business. Now that’s not the most accurate of defnitions but it was enough for me to extrapolate from. Let’s say, I will only count people who run a business as potential Rotarians. There are 4 million small and medium businesses in the UK, so let’s make that 4 million potential Rotarians. Let’s say half of those don’t have the attitude or ability to put “service above self” in rotary words, or put back into their community. For example, in the early years of my business I didn’t have the free time. So, 2 million people in the UK, by my rough reckoning and not counting a huge proportion of people who are actually members, could be in Rotary. There are only 55,000 now, so why am I so special to get an invite to join?

The answer is someone made the effort to form a club in my local area and I was lucky enough to be invited. Lucky too, in that they formed a club that decided to meet at I time I could manage (breakfast). I couldn’t join 5 of the nearby 6 clubs simply due to the time they meet, let alone never being invited. My question developed into “Why is there only one person in our district (covering 82 clubs) working on creating new clubs? Why is club formation not a task encouraged of individual clubs?”.

I was told that the PMC (Presidential Membership Conference) is a place where that would be answered along with many other things. So I decided to go. I was also asked if I would mind being interviewed ‘on stage’. Now, I didn’t know how many people were going to be there (around 250 as it turned out) but that didn’t worry me. As you have probably guessed by now, I don’t mind giving my opinion. Fortunately the interviewer emailed questions to those of us being interviewed in advance so we knew what was coming. I can’t say I ever enjoy presenting, more that I’m willing to challenge myself and learn from it. This challenge was not in the questions or the audience, it was the first time I’ve used a hand held microphone. Anyway, John the interviewer delivered a perfect question (just as he said he would before hand) – “Steve, you’ve got an idea that we could double the size of Rotary in the UK in a very short time, tell us more about that”… so I explained breifly my introduction to Rotary, my surprise at the declining numbers and my question to everyone there as to why only one person in a district forms new clubs, and not every club working on forming new clubs.

It appeared to be well recieved. Several people stopping me during the rest of the afternoon and complimenting me. When I questioned them as to what they heard me say, it appears they understood my question and didn’t have any reason why a new club couldn’t be formed by a club, that is, if the club (or rather, just 2 members of the club) would make an effort and make that their personal service project for the next 2 to 12 months. One specifically commented without prompting that I did well with the handheld microphone, keeping it close enough to my mouth to be heard, not too close to be too loud and distorted and especially since we were all sitting on stools limiting our movement on stage. Apparently I didn’t speak too fast either which is my normal failing when presenting things.

Hopefully delegates found my opinion useful, for me though I have learnt lots of different things:

  • I got two ideas for a service project that may be effective for our club to copy. There’s nothing wrong with copying good idea’s around Rotary.
  • I got an idea for a way of improving the ‘Outdoor Skills Day for young people’ our club is organising.
  • I was speaking with Clive about something my brother had said to me and he thinks there may be a way we can capitalise on it… if we do, it could be huge… so we both said we’ll investigate the opportunity further.
  • I spoke with DK Lee and asked him about how he was so succesful in growing membership in Korea (that’s within the standard text you read about him in all the Rotary publications). He said “If you start a new club, you need to find the right first president”. He started 32 clubs in one year I gather. Sure, there’s always more to something than one line could convey, but if/when I’m able to sponsor the formation of a new club, I’ll keep that in mind.

In summary, I’ve learnt a lot from the membership conference, and it’s not every day you get to say you’ve spoken with the president.

PS – I know the title is misleading, but Rotary International’s head office is in the USA and he had come from America, via several other countries, before returning to his home in Korea for Christmas 😉

4 Years of blogging

Wow. 4 Years. Amazing. Amazing I can still type so much waffle. Amazing to me anyway.

Last year’s comments are still valid. Statistic wise, page views grew to over 26,000 this November (10,208 Nov 2007, 6,024 Nov 2006)

My backlog of unposted things is growing longer by the week but I don’t mind, it’s because I’m busy with other things. Eventually I’ll tell you about the Australia Photo used in a CGI competition and the reply I wrote to a trade magazine that became a full page article in it’s own right. Some things though will never see the electrons of publication, despite my lack of writing ability, waffle seems somewhat thereputic.

Most popular pages are:
Useful Windows Shortcut key to show Desktop – This was written for XP but I’m told works in Vista too.
BBC iPlayer and it’s built in Kontiki software
My Best PDA Phone Ever (which I still rely on every day by the way)
Margins and Markups – more relevant than ever as the whole country get’s used to the new VAT rate.

Laughing Horse? It's a comedy club a friend was performing at…

How do you spell “hungry horse” in 4 letters?


Now you know why I’m not a comedian, but when my Nan told me that joke I thought it was very funny. Well, actually, she had to explain that another name for horse was gee-gee which is why I remembered it so I guess I didn’t find it funny.

Still, the reason for the bad joke was a weekend or two ago Rhonda and I went to London for the evening to see a comedy show. It began as a west end musical but the phone line of the show said they’d sold out for every Saturday. Then I remembered my friend Richard. I’ve known Richard for many years, first as a talented script writer, more recently as an Actor and Comidian. True, I’d seen more of him on TV in recent years than face to face but I’d never seen his comedy. From his myspace page I found out he was going to be at a comedy club that same weekend so I booked to go and see him. All of this was a bit of a surprise to Rhonda, this was a romantic weekend away complete with posh hotel. Best of all, I discovered comedy clubs are cheaper than west end shows.

This particular gig was organised by the Laughing Horse comedy club “Upstairs at the Old Goat Tavern” not far off… was it Oxford Street? I’m terrible with London places. Anyway, the upstairs room was about 8m long by 4m wide and comfortably seated all 20 or so of the audience. Intimate? Yes, giving me the feeling it would be very good or very bad.

It turned out to be very good. Richard told me afterwards that this sort of venue is great for testing out material before using it in bigger clubs. There were about 8 performers and a compare who was funny in his own right. I felt that the performances were lined up in order of ability, best last. Although, that may be simply the audience had warmed up more as the evening went on. Come to think of it, there may be a correlation between the amount of Ale drunk and how funny I remember people being.

Best of all, Richard was funny. When I booked I hadn’t considered the possibility of him being rubbish and then having to be honest with him afterwards. Rhonda enjoyed it too, we’ll definately go again.