Saturday, 10 June 2017

Society in an echo chamber

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The internet is like the force in Star Wars
"It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together"

The internet empowers us, it gives a voice to those that previously had none, it has been used to great effect in toppling unjust governments and revealing corruption in those we thought to be uncorrupt.

Yet now I can see an accidental sinicism rearing its ugly head.  I don't mean the obvious ability to allow unimpeded communication between inhumain groups, or facillitating the exchange of degrading and humiliating information, no this latest wrong doing isn't planned, it has no direction and isn't promoted by a single voice moreover it's promoted by every voice.

Information services such as google, twitter and facebook seek to present the user (us) with only the information we find useful or interesting, for if they didn't we wouldn't consider them very good information services, and here's where the dilema starts.

Let's take twitter as a prime example because the links are more obvious to see.  The information that Twitter promotes to me are tweets, retweets and messages from a group of people I've chosen to follow.  Just as with real life physical friendships we don't befriend people we don't like, people whose views and opinions are contrary to our own.  This means that the tweets that I am most likely to see are those from people whose opinions already match my own, my twitter feed has thus become a source of validation of my own views and opinions be they right or wrong.

The same is true of every user of these information services too, therefore these services now simply re-enforce views of those that use them, there's little or no counter argument to a users view from the followers they have.

With the human race using this wonderful tool, and let's face it the internet truly is a wonderful tool, we may be sleep walking into a world where we as humans are blinkered to what is really going on around us.  We already defer more and more decision making to artificial intelligence, so if we have the devil on one shoulder telling us to do something and nothing countering that then we do exactly what we're told.  For example would Theresa May have called a general election if she listened to anyone other than the 'yes' men and women that surround her, doubtful because that would make her incompetent.  

If a confused young adult is grappling with the decision to commit something that they deep down know to be wrong and there's no voice of reason that they trust telling them to think again, then of course they'll act on those unfettered impulses.

I learnt today that there's another aspect to this, learning!  That's right learning is disrupted by the world becoming more efficient at giving us what we want, by becoming good at something it's actually making us bad at something, seriously how counter-intuitive is that!?!?  There's method to my madness, it comes from television, the way in which we consume media has changed, drastically irrevocably and in most cases for the better, but there's one unfortunate yet obvious conclusion that can be derived from it, we don't see what we don't want to see which isn't always advantageous.

When I was growing up I would be at the mercy of broadcast telivision schedules, I had to watch only the subject matter that was chosen by someone else at a time that someone else had devised.  This meant that on occasion when I was winding down I did end up watching subject matter I wouldn't have chosen had there been something else on.  Let me put it this way, if a child is given a choice between healthy food and sweets then nine times out of ten they'll go for sweets, do this often enough and the child suffers bad teeth and diabetes.  Now take that choice away, as in the case that there are only 4 broadcast chanels and no on demand services, and that same child will eat the healthy food because despite it not being what they'd chose given the choice they are still hungry after all.  It's largely for this reason as a child I ended up watching many beautiful programs with the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, through his pograms I witnessed the love songs between humpback whales, the amazing journey taken by salmon each year and the invisible movement of plants, all of which I cherish now, yet at the time if I was given the choice between that or cartoons I think I'd have wasted my intellect watching an inept coyote single handedly fund Acme whilst in pursuit of a fast paced bird, why he never simply ordered take-out I'll never understand :)

So that's it, there no evil or malice behind the AI that's serving us precisely the data we request in an ever more efficient way, but the eventual destination of us as a race is slowly revealing itself and it isn't a pretty picture, as VIKI says in I, Robot "my logic is undeniable"


Thursday, 25 May 2017

EV cars idea

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I can't remember who it was that said it but "a captain thinks of weapons a commander thinks of logistics"

I guess it sort of means even if you have the meanest weaponry if it's not where you want it when it's needed you might as well not have it, which may well be why the Romans were so successful because of all of their roads.

So the secret to success is logistics, and that's where I came up with this idea

Making EV cars with bigger and bigger range may not be the answer.
Make EV cars that take exchangeable batteries, each battery could give a limited range as long as there’s another charged battery ready for them to pickup.

The batteries themselves could be recharged at any number of charge spots by any means of creating electricity, this could be sunlight, wind or fossil fuel.  Once charged these batteries could be shipped to outlets such as current petrol stations ready for someone to exchange.

The change of a battery should be simple so that it doesn’t take a long time.

People on the scheme could pay-as-you-go so would be charged at a higher rate for the energy used and some people could be on a pay-monthly subscription where they have an allowed usage and anything over is charged at a higher rate, exactly the same as mobile phone usage.

Batteries could be constantly monitored with regards, charge, capacity and even location.  Through this monitoring it should be possible to ensure there’s always a battery charged and ready within range of a car running low.

People could join a subscription whereby a new battery is delivered to them when the current battery runs low just like the milkman used to deliver milk, often using an electric vehicle.

By doing this you could even have different vehicles being able to carry more batteries and even allow a smaller half charge emergency battery to be carried that would give enough power to get to the next battery depot.  This could be a rechargeable battery and the main batteries are only chargeable by the charge stations.

The monitoring could be used to check for tampering and actual usage statistics could be used for billing just as meters are used on households at the moment.

Friday, 31 March 2017

So that was 2016

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I am sure lots of things happened at the beginning of the year but the things that stick in my mind the most are the things that happened at the end of the year.

Number one amongst those is Britain or at least a slender margin over half of Britain (52% of people that voted) decided that rather than take advantage of a common market and the prospect of reduced trade restrictions it would go it alone

Arguments against second home renting

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The very title of this is wrong because the moment someone vacates a home but keeps it in order to profit it ceases to be a home (at least for them) and becomes little more than an asset.

#1-I need to rent it


I call bullshit! Ask why you need to rent it rather than sell it, if you need the home you couldn't rent it to someone else so if you don't need the home there's no reason not to sell it.

#2-I am not profiting from it


Again bull, unless your renting at a value that pays back the tenants an equivalent to the inflation felt on the house you're profiting by the fact you own something that is gaining value against a loan that you are not paying but your tenants are.
Or to put it into even simpler terms, you're accruing equity while the tenants are taking the risk.

#3- but if I sold it someone else would buy it as a rental


This I can't deny, yes there are plenty of greed driven people out there that wish to make money by virtue of the fact they already have capitol. But I ask you if you see an abandoned item at the side of the road do you take it home because"if you didn't someone else would?" That's my point one is somehow seen morally wrong and the other somehow acceptable.
In other words I better do something bad before someone else does, and profit by it.

#3- people need to rent


The irritating thing about this is that due to current circumstances ie. too few owners compared to houses this is true and the people who buy to let tend not to understand far reaching economic principles. 
Essentially if buy to rent were to be abolished the result would be a property glut and prices would plummet, all be it to a level they should've been at, and of course those that are renting at a rate more or less equivalent to paying back a mortgage would actually own. In fact the one and only reason for rental is short term, which is not what angers me.

I find people who rent out a property are greedy by virtue of the fact they seek to get money literally while they sleep, so providing no true benefit to the populous and no driving force for betterment.

These people sicken me but are most likely too thick to realise they're part of the larger problem

Monday, 14 November 2016

Well that did it

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So Britain taking the mind numbingly stupid decision to leave the EU isn't the last stupid thing to happen this year, the Americans have become an even bigger galactic laughing stock by electing an orange cartoon with attention deficit disorder as their president.

I strongly believe that Trump simply did what he had to to get elected, so all the crazy stuff he did wasn't really his views he just did what he needed to do to meet his goals.  The trouble is he gave no thought to the consequences of his actions, people are dumb and mob rules, I fear what his disciples will do.

So here's my prediction for the future.

The EU is basically going to shatter under the strain of each individual country tearing themselves apart, Putin will take advantage of this and the fact that Trump has no belief in NATO, the EU will need to get an army quickly and Turkey will say "hey we have one of those".  Turkey will then set about basically destroying Greece, then in the light of other EU nations expressing support in favour of Greece the army will install itself as European dictator.  Meanwhile America have been kept busy with the huge influx of terrorist threats due to the victimisation of muslims in the states, the Mexicans in economic despair turn to Russia just as Cuba did so many years ago.

So with most of the worlds countries splitting from any collective unit and the populations being torn in two everyone starts to fight for whatever scraps they still have.  So those little bubbles of rich people start to exact ultimate suppression of the hopes and dreams of the un-rich masses.

We should've tried to stay together because apart we're doomed to fail, the banks are fallen it's time to recognise the failed experiment that is capitalism and bloody well cooperate together!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

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Boris only wanted to give David a bloody nose, the ideal result he wanted was a
49/51 split, just enough to make the PM stand up and take note.  A risky
strategy but remain had to win as it was the only common sense decision,
anything else would be like turkies voting for christmas.

So imagine his shock and dismay when the public actually did vote to leave the
EU, not only shock but a sudden feeling of regret, closely followed by panic as
there was no plan for actually leaving the EU Britain was now indeed in freefall!

The only reason the referendum was even called was because the PM got worried
about the level of support that UKIP were getting as this deminished the control
the tory party had.  So arrogant was the PM that he'd win the referendum that
he didn't stack the deck in the same way it had been during the proportional
representation vote, not required majority was set, meaning that 1% really could
decide the fate of the entire nation and all those united with it.

As for the opposition Labour didn't even turn up, the personal views of the
Labour leader are that we should never have joined the EU in the first place so
it should've been no shock that he gave such a lacklustre campaign as to be no
real campaign at all.

As stated earlier it wasn't just England that was being held at ballot point,
but a united collection of countries.  Now we know from earlier in the year that
Scotland wanted to remain in the EU and the whole country voted for this with
its own referendum so it's almost certain that if Britain leaves the EU
Scotland with resign from the united kingdom, probably to be closely followed by
northern ireland.  This in itself would lead to calls for a united Ireland and
the resumption of the troubles many fought and died to preserve.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Testing

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It's a bit weird for me to write a blog about testing but with TestBash happening at the moment I thought I'd take the time to at least document a recurring conversation I keep having with a colleague of mine who is funnily enough a tester.

The conversation usually revolves around me trying to assert the idea that there is no developer or tester, there is simply someone involved with software.  What I mean by this and typically fail to impress on is that a developer does (or at least should) also test code just as a tester can write code if they want to.

The important thing in this conversation is the statement "if they want to".  There should be no impediment to a tester getting involved with writing code if they want to, just as there should be no reason a developer can't come up with all manner of ways to test a system if they want to.  There should be no voice of dissension should either camp decide to get involved, if there were this would be like some sort of apartheid and detrimental to the individual as well as the team.

There are advantages and disadvantages to allowing this but let's be honest we're all people not our designated labels so choice should be the driving force and we should aim to integrate these two areas of discipline that exist within the same sphere of influence, they are not polar opposite, far from it so let's realise that and work together!

When testers code it can on the one hand lead them to focus on the possible issues that will be encountered from a programming point of view such as numbers being out of range e.t.c., this focus can lead to identifying areas worth testing rapidly...however...this focus can lead away from possible odd scenarios.

This all leads on to the fact that finding bugs and prioritising bugs are two very different things, if a bug is found but the likely hood of it happening is a million to one shot and the cost to the customer is minimal as compared to the cost of repair then does it need to be repaired.  This philosophy reminds me of a scene from Fight Club where the Ed Norton character is telling a passenger on a plane that if the cost of an out of court settlement multiplied by the frequency that the failure could happen is less than the cost of a recall they simply don't do one, this is probably closer to fact than fiction than we want to admit, after all businesses are in the business of making money and this sort of gamble is how they keep the bottom line healthy.

Anyway testing and development need to share as divided we fall!

This particular conversation keeps happening almost as regularly as the non-argument about test automation...don't get me started on that though!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Power

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I was just thinking about energy and thought of one of those "sounds stupid now but might work" type of things.

Imagine the energy we use actually gets stored not in lithium batteries but instead was simply a huge weight stored off the ground, hey if it also captured water in it then we'd be getting more energy still for free.  So towns have tall towers with many large weights that get hoisted up in order to store power and released through a geared dynamo of some sort to convert it to electricity, each house could have it's own tower and weight.  People could earn money by lifting the weights by some sort of winch and the amount of energy any one place had would be totally visible from the height of the weight.  By making the energy usage visible to everyone maybe we'd stop leaving office machines on standby or all lights on in an office block or leave the tv on when we go into another room because we intend to come back but something distracts us.

Prisoners could maybe get some sort of allowance if they helped to raise the weights and we could end up in a pay as you go/ get paid as you go sort of idea whereby you needed some cash so popped into a booth to raise the town weight a little.  Imagine your energy is low so you pop next door, not to borrow some sugar but to borrow some of the potential energy they have.  I am sure not all needs could be met by this so in the evening every tower could draw energy slowly from the grid in order to raise their weights.

It's one of those stupid ideas that may have legs, maybe I should do some maths on it :) I vaguely remember the guy who pioneered the clockwork radio used a large weight suspended from a tree for one of his radios once.

What if you knew it was going to rain, you could hoist up an empty container and let all the rain landign on the house roof drain into it, extra weight means more energy right?  Not sure how much of a bonus you'd get so the empty container would have to be "as well as" the weight rather than instead of.

Friday, 30 October 2015

What's become of society

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Recently a clip of a young girl in Magaluf blowing over twenty guys for a drink went viral. When I heard this I was shocked, at first for the girl and her low self esteem, then for the sad depraved men willing to let a stranger slobber on their junk and become part of the humiliating joke. Then I felt disgusted for the organizers for encouraging this activity then for the venue allowing it to happen and the authorities for allowing the venues to do this. But then the thing that disgusted me was the fact that I wasn't more disgusted, nor were the people in the bar in Magaluf, nor it would seem were any of the aforementioned participants including the authorities, this behaviour has become accepted in some circles. It's no business of mine if some chav wants to go to a place and do this sort of thing, but it is surely the business of the country in which it happens. This is an example of how society is taking the wrong path when people are incapable of making the right decisions then those who are responsible need to help make those decisions for them. An outright ban on this behaviour wouldn't work, we saw the mess that occurred in America during prohibition. The European smoking ban seems to have changed the view of most people about smoking and this was done by banning openly smoking and banishing those to a smoking area. This is when I realised that this is exactly what Magaluf has become, it's the free sex binge drinking smoking room of the world so that only those people who are interested in sucking off total strangers and making decisions that could ultimately destroy their entire lives need to go there. It's not an exaggeration that the decision could ruin your life take these surprisingly likely scenario's 1) Stranger you sleep with gives you an STD, some can be deadly many render you infertile. 2) Stranger doesn't take no for an answer and rapes you, you're too drunk to fight back. 3) You suffer alcohol poisoning and likely choke on your own vomit, most people ignore your corpse in the street as they assume you'll wake up. 4) Someone video's you at your worst and uploads it, like blowing over 20 strangers, your friends your family and any employer or future employer will never treat you the same way. That note on the future employer bit is very true, you think a company won't Google the person then intent to employ! 5) You wake up and remember all the things you did and are so ashamed that you end it all! I suppose you have to thank the people of Magaluf for volunteering to be the penal colony for the those that don't respect themselves or anyone else enough to have a relationship and basically can't afford prostitutes so use those that are free in Magaluf. I've read many comments on forums about the girl saying that she thought she was getting a holiday not just a drink called a holiday, like the amount that you're willing to prostitute for somehow makes it better?? Yes performing sex acts for remuneration financial or otherwise is prostitution, she was a hooker that night and all the blokes were clients, the organiser was a pimp and the venue a whore house. I've also heard many people saying that it wasn't the girls fault she was tricked e.t.c. they're right but only so far as it wasn't only her fault, in the clip she's walking about not staggering, she's drunk but not totally gone she knows what she's doing. All of the grubby sweaty fat men so desperate for action they get their cock out in the middle of a busy bar for a complete stranger, who as far as they know could be under age, are also responsible. The DJ egging the girl on encouraging that crowd/herd mentality to pressure the girl into continuing and enticing the guys to get it out is responsible. The owner of the venue is responsible for not checking or maybe even caring about the behaviour going on in there. Once again the buck stops with the authorities in Magaluf itself because this stuff is so common place that there's a term for it and if this girl was videoed with 24 men you can bet in another bar on another night another girl with no self respect will have done 50. Here's a simple test for those that think it's a good idea to go to these places and these things, ask yourself "would I let my (future) son or daughter do what I am about to do?" if the answer is yes then that's probably cause for mandatory sterilisation!

Beachyhead Marathon

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So it's that time again, time to run 26.2miles across some of the nicest countryside of Sussex, the south downs :)

I've been doing a mediocre amount of training, only doing maybe 3 10km runs midweek and a longer one at the weekend, I only managed to do a single 30km run as the longest distance training so I was a little concerned that I wouldn't even make it round the course let alone get a good time.

All week I decided to drink plenty, avoid caffeine and get plenty of sleep.  This seemed to be going well until the Friday night before the race when the girls woke at 3am then again at 6am, having woken at midnight when Lisa got back from work I hadn't really got a long nights sleep.  So not a good start to the run!

I did manage to eat some porridge in the morning despite being attacked by two restless girls wondering why daddy wasn't playing with them.  Got up and out in plenty of time but I didn't have enough time to go to the toilet before the start as there was a massive queue and the announcer was requesting everyone to get ready.

The crowd was the same friendly crowd I've seen in the past, just more of them, as this year there were around 2000 runners.

The gun went off and it took 2 minutes before I crossed the start line, which to be honest is a long time for this particular run.  The start is amazing for this race a really steep hill, only the most hardened or foolish tend to run up this hill.  As usual I got talking to people, there was a nice guy running accompanied by a couple of beagles.  Sometime the dogs just get in the way but this guy and his dogs were so well behaved, plus he moved over to get out of the way.  I was concerned that a dog with such short legs would struggle to travel so far and he explained to me that they were essentially bred to hunt on foot all day long so this little run was a walk in the park for them.

I saw plenty of club runners and noticed far more 100Marathon club runners.  One of them that I spoke to was in his sixties and had run 60 something marathons, on this particular run someone completed their 600th marathon.

As always I was struck by the camaraderie amongst the runners.

Up on the ridge I bumped into a really nice lady called Jade, she had arm bands and a shirt with her name on it, she told me she ordered them only that week because a friend told her it'd be a good idea, I think her friend was right as it's always nice to hear your name shouted by the spectators.  Sadly she started to fall back when I kept on going and I never saw her again, I hope she completed the course as it was her first ever marathon.

I thought that I was going to struggle on this run so kept holding back as much as I thought necessary, I managed to reach Alfriston after less than 1 hour 30 minutes, pretty good going I thought.  I did have to walk a little up the hill out of Alfrston with some woman wittering on about takking faster than running e.t.c. I don't know why she bothered me, I think it's because she made me feel self concious which caused me to lose my rhythm and walk rather than run.

The next bit of the run was largely uneventful, in fact as it goes this bit is all a bit dull, but Litlington makes up for all that.  This is such a nice village everyone cheers you on and they provide hot cross buns, sausage rolls, tea and water and juice and a fantastic band.  I stopped here for about 15 minutes enjoying the sounds because I had reached it at roughly 3 hours.  The band even played the music from the canteen bar in star wars which brought a smile to my face.

I was overtaken by sooooo many people at this point I really had to exercise my non-competative spirit and let them.

I felt quite chipper out of there and even the steps in the forest didn't seem like much of a problem, admitedly I didn't run up them this time but when I reached the top there was the happiest race marshal I've ever seen, he really raised spirits.

A little jog down to the road and across thanks to the police holding traffic up for us.  Then the oh so long climb up the ridge by the side of Cuckmere Haven.  When I eventually reached the top I looked to my right and saw the wonderful sight of the beach way way below, quick glance at my watch and I am here at 3 hours 30 minutes a frankly amazing time, I must be running too fast so should take it easy, not a problem because from now on the climbs are seriously long.

When at the top I can see the lighthouse, I vaguely remeber that we won't run up to that but do go around it so think nothing of it and press on.  Then I suddenly feel tired, not ready to quit but every hill now feels like a real struggle so I opt for a strategy of run down and walk up which seems to work well.

I continue doing this and it feels a bit ridiculous as one of the climbs seems to go on for miles and I am walking it, but then again at this point in the field most other people are too :)

I see Birling Gap and run down to the check point.  What's amusing is I see a man in a red jumper that I also saw at Alfriston and Cuckmere Haven not to mention the start line, he's a dedicated supporter.  I say that I recognised him and he too recognised me and that I should look out for him at the later stops, it really is people like this that make the run a bit of a laugh.  At birling gap I stop for a bit of a while and sit down, even have a cup of tea, I tried tea because at each of the stops so far I've tried juice and everytime I feel sick.  I sit and talk to a few other blokes who are discussing whether 5 hours or 5:30 or 6 is within the realms of possibility.  One of the guys in a stripy top was feeling faint earlier on one of the hills so I am surprised that he suggests running on.

The number of people my age that seemed to have 'moments' during the race are the reason that I don't think I should do a marathon on my own, well unless I seriously get more training under my belt before hand!

Anyway I leave Birling gap and run, admitedly I feel tired very quickly and end up walking but it was a valiant effort, at this stage I just want to finish the race so not concerned about speed.  I continue my walk jog walk routine until I hear someone shout 1.4 miles up somewhere ahead a bit closer to the Beachy head pub and I decide that all this holding back is for wimps and start running.  I must admit I surprised myself because my legs didn't hurt and I had plenty of energy, made me wonder why I hadn't started running before now but never mind.

I run and run at a steady pace and actually pass quite a few people who are walking.  I pick up speed going down the last bit which I remember is probably a mistake given how steep the finish is, in fact the marshals warn me quite rightly to "check my brakes" before I have an injury, so I do slow down, just not as much as the grouop in front of me who are walking down the steps, not wanting to be held up or interfere with them I run down the trickier steps and reach the bottom running almost flat out, which I continue all the way across the line, receive my medal and grab a bottle of water.

What a fantastic day, my family meet me and I decide to walk on, which on reflection was probably a mistake as I feel sick and a little faint, a feeling I've not had previously, but then again I usually end up waiting for a long time to get into the hall and have some food but this time decide to simply get home quickly.

Later that day I can walk freely, the following day my legs only mildly ache.  By Monday I am back to normal and manage a 17km hill climb in 30 minutes on the bike with a rather tasty heart rate of just 140bpm, all this running really is good for you.

So, when's the next marathon :)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Politics of politics

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I've never relly considered myself as _being_ any particular political party, my ideals tend to agree with those of the liberal democrats.  However I realise there's no way I am going to vote for a party that has proven itself to be spineless, if Nick Clegg couldn't stand up to posh boy Cameron then how on Earth could he ever be expected to stand his ground against the likes of Merkel.

I fit quite nicely into the 1.5% of the population considered quite inteligent, with this ability it allows me to reason about the things around me, it actively encourages me to question the things that are presented to me as fact.  This means that when the media tell me that Labour was responsible for the *global* economic meltdown, alarm bells start ringing as this is obviously impossible as Labour don't control global spending habbits, but that does mean 98.5% of the population won't query this which is annoying.

So this got me thinking about which party actually suits me:

Conservative/Tory: seem to prefer bullshit and spin rather than real action.  I am sick of hearing "we haven't fixed X-Y-Z because of the previous administration"  if 5 years after being hired a new manager of a company was spouting this line they'd be out on their arse quick as you like.  I also really despise Osbourne considering the number of 180's he's made and his seeming lack of knowledge of basic economics when he says "his measures have ensured our recovery" I really do think "no you prick, the recovery has taken place _despite_ your terribly misguided and shortsighted misadventures".  Dislike the "friends" that the tories keep too, going all the way back to the days when Thatcher made many of her friends rich by taking advantage of the great public service's sell-off and it looks very much like the new lot are trying the same thing with the NHS, although private tender was a mistake made by Labour that improves finances at the expense of quality.

Liberal democrats: I used to agree with their policies, in fact I probably still do but to be honest after turning their backs on all those that supported them just so Cleggie boy could sit in the big seat and pretent he's no longer the butt of the public school boy jokes is enough to let me know their hopeless.

Labour: This one surprised me, I do agree with a lot of the policies and after seeing Milliband speak to Paxman I think he does have the balls needed.  I did get turned off when I thought they were mud slinging rather than creating valid policies until I realised that they weren't mud slinging they were just listing the twisted things the *unelected* leader was getting up to _in my name_!  I don't agree with cutting tuition fees though as I can't really see where the benefit happens, remember it's not how much further education costs but how much you pay back that matters and when fees are reduced to a low enough figure those students who get highly paid jobs will pay off the amount before it acrues mush interest and therefore be free to pocket more of the gross pay received from highly paid jobs, whereas not such high earners will pay back mostly interest for the rest of their careers the equation between earnings and initial fees is relatively simple so the party surely know this.

UKIP: The less secretly xenophobic, less introverted racist elements of the conservatives.  So far I can see that these lot won't everything they can get their hands on but have little or no understanding of how trade works now that we're a part of a global consumership.  I'd be scared if they didn't prove themselves to be inept at every turn.  Their more like the posh boys national front.

BNP: Racist party fronted by a criminal.

Green: Nice policies but sadly there doesn't seem much substance to back it up so unless they discover the same unicorn tears used to power the latest iPhone that looks the same as all the others but will still have drones queueing for through the night I am not sticking an X in this particular box.

SNP: I know it's Scotland but thought I'd put it out there, as a person I kinda liked Alex Salmond but really think Nicola Sturgeon is a poisoned troll that's rather see Scotland become a poor backwater slum than swallow her pride and accept assistance from any party of England, the very essence of cutting your nose off to spite your face and the only ones to suffer would be the people of Scotland.

One thing that I should really do as soon as I have time is take a few typical people working typical jobs found at different levels of the pay spectrum and see which one's are better off now than they were under Labour.  My finger in the air guess is that rich bankers are better under the conservatives and even the increase in untaxed earnings benefits those that work under a company as a contractor so they can pay _wages_ into an offshore trust, give themselves a dividend and then pay themselves a real wage up to the limit now set by the conservatives.  The whole zero hours discussion is worth talking about since the majority of people forced to work under these are at the lower end of the pay spectrum.

Does democracy work?

I hate myself for reaching this conclusion but sadly I don't think it does, here's my reasoning, the majority of the public lack the ability or inclination to question or disagree with what they're told as it's just easier to agree and accept the conclusions laid out before them by the media probably because it requires no effort to draw their own conclusions.  Add to this the fact that the people in charge have been shown to be out for themselves (not all but enough to be wrong) rather than to be the public servants out to represent those that can't represent themselves.  Now consider the fact that the way our out-dated unfair election process operates means that more and more we're going to see coalitions deciding on how to govern us rather than any one single party.  I'd actually like to see a system where a committee of intelligent people who've proved themselves to be at the head of their particular field make the decisions and another committee who are charged with ensuring that the first group don't get corrupt.

Or a dictatorship where I am in charge, but I doubt anyone would like that one :)

Monday, 29 December 2014

Dissapointed

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I seriously love the film Sin City, and now I have other responsibilities couldn't hope to get the cinema to see Sin City 2 so have been anticipating getting it on DVD (or blu ray) at a later date.

I waited till after xmas just in case someone got it for me and hey presto my wife got it for me :)

I didn't get a chance to see it until a few days after xmas so the anticipation was palatable, then I sank just a little bit.  The first thing I noticed was that the make-up for Marv was a little different from before but that didn't bother me too much the dialogue was deliberately ham'ed up which I kind of like.  But the stories were, well...dull during Nancy's last dance I wanted it to end, I'd had enough.  Such a shame.

The gambler in a bad night part 2, I mean really WTF! I expected him to die but not to have a pointless end, just makes his very existence in Basin City a waste of protein.

It could be far worse, I did still like the way the film was shot and the way it gives the impression of a comic book made real I find amazing.  It was as bad as Promethius now there is a fantastic pile of crap, amazing backdrop questionable acting and virtually devoid of any storyline.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Benefit or not?

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I just had a discussion with someone about the fact that the government has raised the amount of tax free earnings a person is entitled to.

On the face of it this seems like a wonderful thing that would benefit the lower wage bracket of the UK, which I am sure it does...however what most people may not realise is that it also benefits the large earners that circumvent the taxation system by using means that adhere to the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.

Take for example someone who 'earns' a lot however they're self employed and the company is the entity that gets the actual money, the self employed person can now pay themselves a larger chunk of profits without needing to pay tax as an employee whilst at the same time allowing the company to offshore income and pay the owner a dividend on profits.

Since the number of self employed has risen dramatically I imagine lots of people are doing this.

So on the face of it a nice gesture to the underpaid, in reality yet more kickbacks for the rich

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Royal Mail madness

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Disclaimer: Although this blog has come about because something didn't go according to plan there are some good points that I thought should be mentioned too!

Scenario
I had some important documents that had to reach their destination asap, the value of the contents wasn't all that much it was just paper after all, but what was important was that the documents should reach the destination in time to secure a mortgage so to me pretty important.

Realising the importance of such a delivery I decided to spend a staggering £6.22 to get the letter where it needed to be, sadly due to other things that were happening on the Saturday I missed the last outbound delivery but was assured that the letter would be sent out first thing on Monday so was guaranteed to arrive by 1pm Tuesday this was good enough so I went for it, like I said spending £6.22 to post a single letter is quite a lot but it does guarantee arrival by 1pm Tuesday.

Pit fall number 1!
All through Tuesday I kept checking the Royal Mail tracking system, this was a very simple webpage, the sort that I tend to knock up in less than an hour, I am not joking a single text box and response to a query doesn't take a genius.  Anyway the tracking system just told me the letter had been posted on 5/10 which is something I already knew because I was there at the time :)

As you can imagine the letter didn't arrive when it was guaranteed to, otherwise I'd not be writing this blog.  Luckily I was able to make alternative arrangements, but that didn't stop the fact that I'd been totally let down by what I considered to be quite an expensive service.

At lunchtime on the Wednesday the day after the letter was supposed to arrive I went to a post office, just to note this was a different post office from the one that I posted the letter at since I don't work where I live and I asked the simple question about what do I do next?  The ill informed clerk informed me that there was nothing that she could do and that I'd have to go back to the post office where I posted the letter to get a refund!  What!!  So let me get this right if I post a letter whilst on holiday in Scotland and it didn't arrive I'd still have to travel back to the exact branch I posted it at to get a refund for a service I'd paid for but not received, seriously was this clerk not listening to the words coming out of her mouth!

Ignoring the lady to whom I shall refer to as dimwit I decided to call the Royal Mail help number which is prominent on their contact us page.  The man on the other end of the phone was exactly what I wanted, calm competent and reassuring, even though he wasn't telling me what I wanted to hear in my book that's a good phone support guy!  The reason he wasn't telling me what I wanted to hear was that he was saying although the letter will be late, as it hasn't arrived yet they can't give a refund.  As processes go this is already stupid, I would assume the best way to keep customers happy is to be proactive when things go wrong.

It gets better/funnier
When I eventually found the information about refunds for guaranteed delivery the text is;
A refund of your Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed™ fee/postage if your item arrives later than the due time of delivery. Claims must be submitted within 14 days of posting.

For Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm™, additional compensation of £5 if the item is delivered more than 24 hours (Mon-Fri) after the guaranteed time. Or an additional £10 if delivered 7 or more working days (Mon-Fri) after the guaranteed time. Evidence of posting is required. If the sender is claiming they must apply within 3 months of posting. If the recipient is claiming they must apply within 1 month of receipt.

Consequential Loss for up to £10,000 is available to purchase at the time of posting at an additional cost. Evidence of Consequential Loss purchase is required. Claims must be submitted within 14 days of posting.


So let's start to examine this policy in a bit more detail, in my case the letter hasn't yet arrived so I can't yet claim for a late arrival, however if the item arrives more than 14 days after I post it then the first line excludes me from claiming a refund.  This means that if the mail is extreemly late Royal Mail get out of providing a refund, so by being more terrible than you think they'll be they get out of refunding!  Sounds crazy but you could read it like that!  
Luckily I think this interpretation of the policy is incorrect and a claim can still be made after this time period although I am not sure if the fact that I called as soon as the letter was late i.e. 24 hours late or 3 days after posting counts as starting a claim.

It arrived woohoo
At this point I assumed that the letter had been lost so was amazed when I received a letter in the post that contained the original copies of the documents I'd sent to arrange the mortgage on 23/10, which means I'd probably have been better off posting the letter by standard first class post!

The very next day I made yet another call to the Royal Mail and once again I spoke to a very nice lady who sympathised and was shocked that the delivery had arrived so late, it had arrived on 22/10 some 14 days late, 17 days after posting.  The lady on the phone said that I could start a claim by going to the post office and filling out a p58 claim form but that would mean sending proof of postage e.t.c. and that it'd be easier to submit an online P58 claim.  So I did the online claim and was given a nice little email that said:

"Your claim has been submitted and will be allocated to one of our claims handlers within the next 24 hours.

 Your reference number is P58_cXXXXXXXXX

We're sorry you've had to report the loss, damage or delay of a letter or parcel. Our claims department will review the information you've provided and start making the necessary enquiries.

 if you're claiming for the contents of a letter or parcel that's been lost or damaged whilst in our care we would kindly ask you to print this page, attach your supporting evidence and send it to the relevant freepost (no stamp required) address below:
"


So my claim will be submitted to a handler within 24 hours, and the information provided will be reviewed.  I only need to send further proof if claiming for the contents of a lost or damaged parcel, excellent so I should expect to hear something very quickly since it's pretty obvious that my letter is delayed and the standard £6.22 plus £10 compensation is due.

I waited and waited
Much to my surprise actually it's no longer a surprise,  I hear nothing from Royal Mail so once again I call the support centre, once again I speak to a very kindly and courteous support person.  However she tells me that the reference number I have from the online claim form can't be queried on her system.  Then when the claim information is located by using my postcode the lady tells me that I need to send proof of postage in and that if I'd just made the claim over the phone I wouldn't have needed to send any details in.  For a start this information is now (a) in direct contradiction to the information given earlier and (b) complete nonsense.  The reason that it's complete nonsense is that the proof of postage is the postage ID, that ID ties in the postage to the delivery and even the digital signature at the other end, the only information that the postage receipt could possibly provide is the number that's used on the track&trace system.  I asked this person how I could make an official complaint, not against her, but to let the people in charge of writing the policy that they can't have run any story-boarding or use case analysis for this particular case and it needs to be reviewed.  She very helpfully gave me an email address royalmail@royalmail.com

So I wrote an official complaint

I spent even more of my own time, and I don't have much spare time, writing a complaint.  I made sure the language was calm and devoid of emotion as getting angry never solves anything in these circumstances.  The email contained references to everything that would help the policy makers in charge to make the policy better.
I sent the email and...
Alomst instantly received a bounceback informing me that the email address didn't exist, I tried royalmail@royalmail.co.uk in case the lady had made a simple mistake, although I did ask twice as I was writing everything down as I always do when talking to any support department, I really should invest in some recording equipment to save time!

So How do I email Royal Mail!
I went to look on the website:


  1. The online contact us form asks for a reference number when you've contacted the support by phone, although I'd contacted Royal Mail 3 times previously I'd not once been given a reference number.  In fact the only reference number I had been given (save for the initial postage ID) was the online claim number that apparently couldn't be used to query for my case!
  1. The contact us contains no email address, none and hunting the site was a miserable experience.  I write online applications and I am pretty sure that if the flow for my sites were as misleading and frustrating as the Royal Mail site I am likely to get the sack, it's not that it really bad, just that it's bad enough to be frustrating to the user which is enough to lose sales!
I did find a few email addresses that pointed to [places that I'll put on when I check my other laptop]

Then it struck me, I wonder if they have a twitter account and if anyone reads it, surely if I said something to cast them in a bad light someone might listen.  So I tweeted [actual tweet in here] to my utmost surprise I received a barrage of tweets and emails from [list people, show tweets and emails] which might be the same person and the delayed postage claim was resolved, apparently since the cheques in the post.

So a staggering 43 days after posting the letter I am close to getting the issue resolved, is this good enough?  In short no and I will be happy to pay more from a different provider if they can give me more of a guarantee, a proactive refund policy and better trained staff.  A note on proactive refunds the computer tracking system tracks everything so it will already know a delivery is late, the postage originally had my home address so there's no reason an automatic refund couldn't have been applied which would have saved me plenty of time and the loss of faith in the mail system!

I am still waiting

I am still waiting for the cheque to arrive before I give my absolute final conclusion but my experience so far with Royal Mail has been that the telephone support are nice yet not well trained and the people in charge of making the policies simply aren't demonstrating due diligence when it comes to designing and implementing processes.  One thing I can see from this is that the government surely hasn't undervalued the company when floating it because it too badly run to compete as soon as private enterprise sink their teeth into letter delivery...yet to happen!

The cheque has arrived almost 2 months after posting, well done Royal Mail!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

OMG, they don't understand money!

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The argument

I had an argument today that someone couldn't change to use direct debit instead they'd rather bitch about the payment handling cost of their bill.

Ok, let's forget for the time being that they could if they wanted set up a quarterly direct debit rather than a monthly one and see what their argument is for not having a monthly DD.

It goes like this;
At the end of each month say I only have just enough to cover the direct debits then I am not able to put much aside for one off payments like the car going wrong. If I pay quarterly then at the end of each month I can put something aside so that I have some money in an emergency! My argument is that if you're still paying the same amount for the services you have then regardless of whether you pay in 3-month chunks or single month chunks you are still spending the same amount so would be able to put the same amount aside.

I genuinly had to check my logic in a spreadsheet since the people that were telling me this pony I normally respect their opinion but this time it's just bubkiss and prooven bubkis at that!.

The reason this came about was a phone bill, the processing fee for non-direct debits was £6, a lot but they do offer a way of not paying it, I think they also add a further money off incentive when using monthly direct debit too, so let's do some maths on it.

Ok so hypothetically lets assume our person takes home £40 a month and each month the bill would be £10. These numbers are totally made up and are just to show the point, you can replace them with whatever numbers take your fancy and still end up at the same conclusion. For using a monthly direct debit the company offer £1 off that months bill, however opting for a payment method other than direct debit you're charge £6 for each payment as a processing charge, totally scandalous given the actual cost to the company but that is also an irrelevant detail to this argument.

description amount
bill £10
DD discount -£1
total £9
So this is the payment structure each month, therefore over the quarter it's going to cost £27 and over a year that cost will be £108. With a monthly income of £40 this means they'll be able to save £31 a month, that's £93 per quarter and £372 per year. So lets look at the quarterly billing.
description amount
bill £30
added payment processing £6
total £36
So this time over the quarter it costs £36 and over the year it costs £144. With a monthly income of £40 this means that they'll see their savings creep up to a whopping £120 each quarter before seeing it slashed to £84, and I think this is where the false sense of it being a better deal creep in because your bank balance will look much healthier for a fleeting minute but that money is really already spoken for. So each quarter they'd save just £84 and each years that only £336.

You don't have to be a genuis to pull this one apart, I think there is a false belief that you somehow have more money when you see it in your account and decide to ignore the fact that the money is really already spoken for.

The argument went that you have money available to pay for incidental expenses like car repairs e.t.c. so let's examine that hypothesis. That incidental money has to come from somewhere so you have to have some savings, the idea is that paying quarterly means you can put more aside each month, and yes the cash sum will be greater, but remember this money is always already spoken for, so unless you're entering into the realms that you decide not to pay a quarterly bill at some point when it's due because the money is already spent this argument really doesn't hold water, see the figures above. For example a car repair comes in right before a quarterly bill needs to be paid, if you've been paying by DD and making the savings listed then you have £93 saved up, let's assume the repair is £93 so you now have no savings left, boohoo. Let's make the same deductions from the quarterly payment, so you currently have £120 in the bank so paying the £93 for the car leaves us with £27 phew so we still have money in the bank when the phone bill lands on the mat, and that bill comes to ... £36 erm, we don't have enough to pay that bill!!!!!!!! This is the goddamn point I am trying to make you're worse off by deluding yourself about quarterly payments

Second part of argument

The £6 handling fee of non-direct debit payments, yes I don't think any company can really justify a figure this high, but they do charge it and my argument was the fewer customers that use this method the more expensive it becomes per customer. This seemed logical but was once again argued!

Hypothetically let's say it costs the company X amount to process non-direct debit payments for Y numbers of customers. The company are in the business of making money so take what it costs them to process these payments and shares it across all those customers that are using this service. So the cost per customer is X / Y. Therefore as the value for Y tends towards 1 the cost per customer tends towards X, meaning that fewer customers means each one will need to pay more, this I saw as a simple equation but apparently it doesn't matter how many people the cost is spread across it's still wrong!!! Give me strength.

Final Straw

This was the clincher that finally told me that the grasp of money simply wasn't there and is so laughable that I won't even go into detail about it. I said when you pay into your pension from your savings rather than as part of PAYE doesn't that mean you're taxed twice, once as you receive your wages then again when you draw the pension you'll get taxed as income? Only to be told it doesn't matter I'll get taxed it's all the same!No, NO it really isn't the same making a payment to a pension pre-tax means you're only fucking well taxed once so NO it's not the fucking same you financial wizard you I despair I really do, how can anyone in this day and age think this way, it's driven me to tears!

 
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