Monday, September 27, 2010

Sticker Shock

An American term for what you feel when you see the bill - or the quote in my case.

So it was down to the Wells Accident Repair Centre this morning shortly after 9 a.m. Now I would finally discover what it would cost to fix the scratch I had made in the car door a couple of weeks ago. (When we made our driveway wider we should also have made it straighter.)

On returning home I said to Clare: "What do you think they quoted to knock out the dent and repaint it?"

She thought for a moment and said "Eighty quid?"

Yes, that had been the upper end of my estimate too as the thin guy with the round glasses finished inspecting the damage from all sides and had then spent a further minute silently checking me out and thinking about it.

I waved the slip of paper bearing the quote.

"It says: £363.07 including VAT."

As I had made my way out of the Reception area aghast, the guy had muttered defensively: 'Well, you won't find anything cheaper around here.'

"So Clare," I continued, "what do you think? Can you do it?"

An hour later found us in the local Halfords parting with £10 for a bottle of Barcelona Red. And then the home-repair operation was in full swing.

Clare's cost-efective accident repair work

It's already looking better

Original Damage

After my sticker-shock experience I walked across to the computer-repair shop and handed in my thermally-challenged business notebook computer. We powered it up in the shop and set it going on something disk-intensive and heat-generating: a full AVG scan. After a while the shop person, Richard, scared me by saying 'I can hear the fan I think'. No, it was just the hard drive. I really don't need my machine to play nice just when it's in for fixing.

Today is a kind of holiday as I have essentially finished my contract. Just a quick visit tomorrow to attend a final meeting and hand back the computer. Then a meeting with one of the companies I contract with, Pro4, to discuss some future work opportunities.

I therefore wasted no time in getting down to stuff that's been parked for a while. The Amazon Vine book which Clare reviewed "AD 410 The Year That Shook Rome" needed to be finished and I was just as impressed as she had been. Two things stood out: the Roman aristocracy were incredibly arrogant, snobbish and detached from reality and made avoidable mistake after mistake. And secondly the empire did not suddenly implode in AD 410 when Rome was sacked by the Goths. In fact only a few years later Rome had recovered but was then sacked twice more, in 455 (the Vandals) and in 547 (the Ostrogoths).

What happened overall was a slow-motion implosion in which former regions of the empire were taken over by "Barbarian Kings" from the outside-in until the last Roman emperor died in AD 480 and there was no remaining social base capable of supporting a successor. It had now become the Byzantine empire in the east vs. the Barbarian kingdoms which were rapidly developing into early feudal states in the west.

I also picked up "Quantum Field Theory Demystified" which seems just the right level for me as I still recall the OU QM course I took last year. The reviews generally praise it for what it is and point out there are numerous typos. This is disastrous in a self-study guide but luckily one of the reviewers made a long list and I transcribed his corrections into my copy. Onwards to Chapter 2 and the Langrangian.