Life, The Universe and Small Things all covered in one friendly blog.
Remember DON'T PANIC! .

25 February, 2007

Keywords..... The GCHQ Rumour

There is a rumour that every email we send and every web page written is scanned by massive computers deep inside GCHQ or Langley or wherever such things are done these days.
If certain "Key words" are present then our further activities are subject to scrutiny by the grey people who sit in dark room and never see the light, reading page after page of email and web blog on the off chance that we may be planning to smuggle 200cc of water on the the next flight to Glasgow.
The fun thing to do would be for everyone to have an email signature containing as many keywords as they can using white text on a white background, thereby not annoying the email recipients but having a great time with the government mail scanners.
Here are a few to be getting on with (scandal, immigrant,Terrorist, gun, assassinate, blow up, kill, 9/11, Bush, Blair, Nuclear bomb, Washington, Dirty Bomb, Smuggle, Drugs, take over. revolution, attacks ), no really they are there.
The theory also goes that if you put these key words into you emails and blogs then more people will know about you when they search on these words.
I shall just have to wait and see if that one is true.

23 February, 2007

No thanks, I don't need one.......

I phoned British Gas to book a service for the heating, before I could get a date and time I was offered cheaper gas and electricity, nope sorry I don't think it will be, an additional service to cover things I probably don't have, because, "we have just introduced a new range of services covering accidental damage by one legged mice who could be eating your wiring as we speak", nope its probably expensive.
Please, no, stop , thank you, I just want to book a boiler service.

It is not just British Gas though, I phone the bank they want to sell me a mortgage and car insurance, I phone the credit card company and they wanted to sell me some new card protection at only twice the price I can find it elsewhere.
No one can say "what is it you would like" and then after they have listened, provide what I phoned for and simply say "thank you good bye" , it always has to be "is there anything else I can help you with today", well actually yes the car needs cleaning and there is rather a lot of moss in the lawn, but I don't suppose they actually meant help me, they mean sell me.
It doesn't stop there, when I don't phone people they phone me, double glazing , conservatories, a chance to win a trip to Baghdad for doing an online survey.
Does every phone call need to sell something? ....No thanks I don't need one and if I do I'll call someone!

22 February, 2007

Take Notice!

There is a building site which has put up a notice along the lines of "No Parking Vehicles causing an obstruction will be reported to the police and a fixed penalty notice will be issued". This got me wondering when it was that builders took over control of the police and the making of laws.
It is near on impossible to get the local police to take an interest in major crimes, but according to one builder they will, on their say so, issue a fixed penalty to any vehicle that dares to be obstructing by their site. The fact that the builders boarding is blocking an entire length of footpath seems to have escaped their attention.
In this country we love our notices, on any stretch of road there are plenty giving growing concern to various groups that these notices are not only taking driver attention from the business of driving but also making quite a mess of the scenery yet.
It was only when driving in mainland Europe that I began to realise how many signs there are everywhere. Trying to navigate through town in a non-English speaking country I found myself dependant upon pictures on signs to as most written signs, unless totally obvious, were just adding to my confusion. And that is how we are going everywhere. Hundreds of signs telling us information that we probably don't need, or that take us so long to read and comprehend as we drive past that we have missed two restrictions and a prohibition sign.
The most amusing use of signs has to be in Cambridge around the "Backs". Signs proclaim everything from no cycles, no access, no running, no eating, no having fun, to only students attending a certain College may sit on the grass. Obviously once you have been to a college you must develop a certain type of posterior that allows you to sit on grass without damaging it.
During the summer I was sitting on an unrestricted piece of grass laughing at the men in bowler hats running about yelling at a lad who's punt pole was in the centre of the river while his boat was hitting the bank, the men in bowler hats were reminding him of the notice that he could not moor up. Suddenly another urgent notice is ignored and one of the men in a bowler hat runs across the lawn, obviously he has training in running on lawns, shouting at a group of Japanese looking tourists. "Can't you read, can't you read, get off the grass". The so called grass was dead parched mud and weeds and the man in the bowler had made the group walk 50 metres back, turning them away from the path a few feet in front.
My final bug with notices is that people do not care what they put on them. "Strictly no parking" is that different from "No parking" and "Keep clear at all times" is that different from "Keep clear". And the door with "Keep Closed" could that have more easily been built as a wall?

Congestion charging and the case of the London Sewers

As I walk into town I past the queues of traffic that are heading in the same direction, the main road is probably about a mile and it is not uncommon for me to arrive at the end of the road well before the vehicles I pass at the top. Some of the drivers are wise to this and the entrance to our estate is used by some as a park and walk or park and bus scheme. But I have to wonder how when the local council eventually join the band waggon and install its first congestion charge things will be better.
We have bus and cycle lanes, which are also for the use of BMW's , Chavs, Mercedes, mothers on the school run, white vans and 4x4s. These lanes don't help to keep the traffic moving because of unauthorised users trying to push back into the main lanes causing delays and no small amount of road rage.
The transport system around here, like many other places, is a mess.
Enter the latest weapon to reduce road congestion, a Congestion Charge. Note the word "Con"
The great idea is that those of us who have registered our cars correctly will be tracked, recorded and charged to drive on the roads and this will reduce congestion and make the world a better place. Those many millions of people driving about in cars un-registered will simply go about the roads for free.
Reports I saw say that about £53 billion is made from vehicles each year and £7 billion is returned in some way back to transport, which leaves me wondering where the rest goes.
We are told in order to stop us driving we need to pay more and that will save the planet.

In London for many hundreds of years there was a problem with the sewage; sewage originally from a word meaning sea wards where it was ultimately heading.
The sewage in London was causing deaths, illnesses, very unsavory conditions and a generally nasty pong about the place.
It took years before a solution was found, ideas such as making people responsible for the piece of sewer flowing past their property and fining them if they failed were tried but had little impact. Sewers were little more than a gully flowing along the streets and places where cesspools from under houses could empty into.
With today's system of dealing with things the solution to streets full of human poo is simple, tax people for having a crap. Obvious that will solve it, won't it?
Yes you can take the tax you collect and spend it on other things so everyone wins, the sewage will be gone and the government will be rich. But hang on, unless the entire population becomes constipated there is just a chance that the roads will still be flowing with poo.

No, hang on, I don't think I have totally lost the plot, well not yet. I think that today's roads are a bit like the sewers in London back before the Victorians took control. No amount of tax or responsibility on the people solved the problem. It was only solved when they had the sense to build new big, underground, sewers.
Roads today are the congested overflowing sewer of pre 1844 London. The way to solve the problems is not more tax and congestion charges trying to remove people from the roads, what is needed is new roads, more bypasses, more motorways and more investment. After all there is £46 billion pounds a year "unspent money" collected from motorists.

21 February, 2007

A word about cats.

I was having an early spring tidy up in our garden today, it's not an especially large garden but I like to think it's rather well laid out and we have spaces for sitting etc when the weather is suitable. As I walked up the sorry excuse for a lawn, more moss and mud than grass this time of year, there was one thing that hit me. Cat piss!
The top half of the garden was overpowering.
As a kid we lived in the country and I had two cats, not both at the same time, the first dropped dead and the second got its self caught in a rabbit trap and after several weeks limped home half dead on three legs so the vet from up the road finished it off, for a fee. I think that's when I first began to hate cats. Then it was that they let me down, they were supposed to be a pet for a young child but they just made me sad by getting dead.
Back to today, the top of the garden has been "marked" by one or all of the 10 or so cats that live in the surrounding 400 metres of the estate.
There are far too many cats in this area and all of them seem to like to toilet in our garden. I even have to clear up cat doings from the very small piece of grass out the front of the house almost daily. "Cats don't do it on grass" one owner told me, oh yes they bloody do!
Our back garden has more anti-cat devices than the average garden centre sells and none of them work, and so the locals cats have sprayed all over the top of my garden again.
Its the most awful smell and I really don't see why as a non cat owner I should have to put up with it. I don't have a cat, I don't like cats and I don't want them in our garden. I don't even want them to walk through it, not even if they are on the fence. Yet for some reason cat owners are not responsible for their pets in any way at all once they have opened the door and said "Off you go shitty, go have a nice dig in someones garden" It makes no sense at all that someone can let an animal they own into my garden to do as it pleases and they have no responsibility for it at all.
I read a while ago of an elderly gentleman who had electrocuted a cat in his garden ,good man. It was destroying his plants, and some magistrate, no doubt a cat owner, had fined him a hefty fine and threatened him with prison for having the audacity of protecting his own property against the vermin that are cats. The article also included a piece from the mother of the young child owner saying how devastated the girl was and that the man was a monster for killing the cat. Oh come off it the victim here is the gentleman who sees his hard work and plants messed on and dug up. Lets face it cats die as I found out as a kid, its what cats do, and the more around here that go to kitty heaven the better my garden will smell.

Banks. The black hole of payments.

I paid a credit card bill the other day, but as always nothing is that simple in the world of banking.
The bill was due to "arrive by" the 11th Feb which fell on a Sunday, but I guess the credit card company know that.
In the age when people ran banks and I stood in line to hand over my cheque and bill to make a payment then paying on a Sunday was obviously not an option, I didn't mind the hard working bank staff having a day or two off, but now the only time I am likely to see person in the bank is when I need money to travel abroad.
We all know computers run banks, every time there is a problem its a "computer error" or the "computer is not running at the moment" but I didn't realise until paying the credit card bill that computers are the only things that still don't work Sundays.
I want £x to reach my account on 11/2/07 I tell the bank. That's a Sunday the bank tells me, yes I know but its the date on my credit card bill so I must be able to pay it on that date. Nope it will have to be paid on the 9th. So how do I pay it on the 11th as the credit card company say I can. You can't its not a banking day.
So it needs someone to actually move the money does it, no, the computer does it automatically, and when was the last time "Error 404 this is a Sunday" popped up when I turned on a computer.
Ok, Ill pay on the 9th then, no, not that easy it will have to leave my account on the 6th. Well that's 5 days before the bill is due I would rather pay it on the 9th, but if you pay in on the 9th it will reach the credit card company on the 14th.
I can fly to Australia in 23 hours, I can send an email there in about .5 of a second but the bank can not get the electrons representing my £x from their computer to the credit card company computer in under 4 days, are they using smoke signals or something.
Where is my money and the billions of pounds of other peoples money that is on its way between banks and credit card companies, washing around in a pond somewhere, taking a short break or, just possibly, making the bank a few million on the overnight money markets more likely.

20 February, 2007

Oh come on, Blogs. What a waste of time........

Blogs, Now someone tell me what is this all about. Everyone is doing it, but why, and what does it achieve ! ?
OK, if I am off on some fab holiday or doing something really really exciting then just maybe someone might take a passing interest but who otherwise cares what I did yesterday, where I am going today, or who I had dinner with last night.
What does it matter, and who is going to read it anyway?
I really can't see the point of spending ages writing a blog that, lets face it, its unlikely to be read by anyone other than me because, to be honest, I don't actually think I do much with life that will be of interest to anyone else.
But then there is Mark, he's saying "I've got a blog look at it, why don't you start one" And I am thinking, well I don't have anything to say that would interest other people.
Then again I think maybe I will start a blog and just see what happens. I am the first to admit that I have an opinion on everything, name a subject and Ill have an opinion, well true my opinion might change the next day and will certainly differ from most people's opinion on a given subject but that's just me.
Take for example punctuation and grammar, I bet someone well educated would cringe already at my use of the comma, I just like to put one where I think it fits, and I never remember where apostrophe's go with 'S' but anyway if you are the sort of person who worries about these things then maybe its best if you read another persons Blog.
So, well here begins my Blog of observations on life, AKA the ramblings of a 40 something Englishman.
- Blimey there is even a spell checker on this Blog site - now that is a bonus for the man who had an American as his English teacher.