Saturday, 31 January 2009

'A Significant Snow Event'... apparently the modern-day weather forecasting way to refer to this kind of thing:

Please, weather forecasters, can you go back to using the English language properly, and some time soon? This habitual generation of grand, pseudo scientific sounding phrases to describe the bloody weather of all things is really annoying*. Will a nice hot day in July be a 'significant sunshine event'? No of course it won't, it will be 'A Scorcha' (phew).

Anyway, back to business. WARNING! WARNING! Could anyone reading this please heed all Official Orders to stay inside and do nothing whilst this dangerous Snow period passes. If everyone co-operates with the Authorities' advice Great Britain, already in dire straits, will be completely broke by the time you emerge into the sunshine, sometime in mid-May to be on the safe side. But never mind - Health and Safety comes first. It does in my book and it should in yours.

If however, you retain even a little faith in your capabilities as a developed human being and are reasonably careful about what you do and where & how you do it you should be able to soldier on during this coming week of Snow. As my two research scientist friends below are helpfully demonstrating, Snow is not poisonous nor possessed by killer demons. It can be safe, fun and picturesque.

Remember to:- check on the elderly and infirm; feed the birds; don't drive like a lunatic; avoid others driving like lunatics; leave plenty of time for your journey; eat plenty of Cadbury's chocolate and don't expect the trains to work.

Just BE CAREFUL out there, and we can get through this together.

*Note to Met. Office - the accuracy of the forecast is of far more importance than thinking up new, sexy ways to describe the weather.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Dancing On Thin Ice

We like Dancing on Ice in our house. But it seems that all of a sudden, ITV are trying too hard. What used to be a programme with its own character, with the presenters operating at about 7 on an 'out of 10' scale of intensity, suddenly appears to be pushing all the sliders up to 13. And the presenters cannae take it, Captain! We have....

...Phil, who now SHOUTS ALL THE TIME, whether it is a dramatic moment or not. It's not the final Phil, and it's getting wearing already. Then there's....

...Holly. Who is perfecting her Stepford-cum-bovine act to the point of stupefaction. Is Phil overcompensating for her lack of energy?

Finally there's Tony....

...the Voice-Over-Man. What programme couldn't be improved by not having his dirty old man sleazy comments after every female turn?

Is it too late to turn the BBC Licence Fee debate on its head and ask if it would be ok if we paid double, so that commercial TV and radio could be finished with, and ALL the programmes made by the BBC?

Imagine, no more adverts on TV and Radio, and no more shite TV production compromised at every turn by the scheduling of ad breaks, the fevered rush for ratings, cross promotions of a blatency to make your eyes water and all with one eye on the front page of The Sun.
Less of that? With presenters allowed to breath? I'm up for it.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

And the culprit is.....BT

Well, well, well. What a surprise. The fault has been identified by Tiscali broadband support as the BT exchange constantly dropping the DSL signal. For those that don't know but who would care to, your normal home phone line can be enabled to carry two signals, one for speech and one for digital services, like internet. So it is possible to have what appears to be a fully functioning phone line which isn't all there actually, when the DSL bit has gone out.

Do BT self check their own services? No - at least not for broadband wholesale customers like Tiscali or other ISPs. They appear to wait to be told of a fault, which has come in turn from a customer call, and then they fix it - WHEN THEY'RE READY!
They fixed it on Sunday. The fix stayed in until Tuesday morning, went out, and remains unfixed.

Would a direct, private customer have more clout with BT if they bought their phone and broadband from them as well? Well, that's what BT would want you to think. But I object to being corralled down that particular road just to get a service which is akin to the description I was given by the various service providers when I bought the phone and broadband services in the first place. I moved away from BT because of their crap attitude before, so to have to go, it doesn't sit well, not at all.

The alternative, chucking it in and saying fuck the internet and the horse it rode in looks more dignified than this toothless begging of BT to do what they're paid to do. They are too powerful, and their monopoly on infrastructure service levels must be broken.
Unfortunately we have no direct alternative, not being in a cabled area.
Maybe there's a mobile phone solution that doesn't cost the earth?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

I am disappointed.

I have been led, easily, to the conclusion that the suppliers of 'the internet' are thoroughly shit. The latest in a long line of intermittent problems has resulted in internet access from home becoming sporadic and inherently unreliable, before finally packing up altogether*.

Let’s take a look at what I’ve been reminded of – because I already knew – whilst wasting approximately 15 hours over the last week on phone calls, and many more fiddling about with wires and plugs, with NO progress made:

It could be the BT exchange.
It could be the BT wires from the exchange to my house.
It could be the telephone socket in my house.
It could be the telephone wiring to other sockets in my house.
It could be other things connected to the telephone sockets in the house.
It could be the DSL filters.
It could be the lead from the DSL filter to the router/modem.
It could be the router/modem.
It could be the lead from the router/modem to the computer.
It could be the plug on the end of the lead from the router/modem.
It could be the socket on the computer.
It could be the software in the computer.
It could be a board problem in the computer.
It could be a disk problem in the computer.
It could be a virus.
It could be a service interruption from the ISP.
It could be a capacity problem with the ISP.
It could be an account problem with the ISP.
Then again - “It might be something else.”

What it definitely is, is SHIT.

I have been polite, friendly and co-operative throughout, even when provoked. I have wasted my time and spent my patience going through interminable ‘help’ desks (they didn’t), answering the same questions time after time and have got precisely no-where.

Naturally, I have disconnected every other piece of telecom equipment in the house and am now running straight to the secret socket inside the BT master box. But it still Doesn’t Work!

What I need is an internet ‘fixer’ who can come to my house and accurately identify & maybe even resolve the problems whilst I provide the tea and biscuits. He/She could provide the sympathy to me if it doesn’t work out. Do such people exist? Do they charge more per hour than shrinks or surgeons? They could you know, if they wanted to.

My only other option is to cancel the internet, cancel the phone line and go back to writing letters and watching the TV, before I end up dead from a stress induced heart attack.

My dreamland wish is that the motley crew of suppliers involved in the current quilombo would behave like they believe that the expected outcome for a customer of going through any help-desk scenario is ‘fault identified, solution implemented and problem solved’, rather than ‘script completed – TICK’. But, demonstrably, not one of them does.

This means you:

1. BT
2. Openreach
3. Post Office Telephones
4. Tiscali
5. Belkin
6. Acer
7. Thomson

Individually, each one of you is shit. Together though, you’re special. You create a CESSPIT of mediocrity and a MIDDEN of despair. I wish your organisations nothing but disaster, ruination and humiliation for 2009 and for evermore. I don’t feel bad about saying this because you have all, during the past week, blamed each other, and on a couple of occasions you have blamed me for your shortcomings.

So now I’m damning you all, collectively and irrevocably. I know you won’t mind if I do this, because we all know, don’t we, that it WON’T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER TO YOU.

You f-----s.

*Obviously, I’m posting this from work. I won’t be making a habit of it though.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The peace and quiet of the countryside

This part of the world was once heavily quarried for ironstone to feed the iron and steel works which many towns had. Much of the excavated land has been reclaimed and used for farming or latterly building. Sadly, many of the larger quarries have been steadily filled up with rubbish, which seems both undignified and a waste of an interesting and relatively wild and unusual habitat. Quite apart from the ongoing ecological impact of the practice.

But quite a few sites remain and I expect a lot of people enjoy walking in them, around them or to them. It's certainly a lot quieter these days than when they were worked. Explosions, excavators, dust in the summer, mud in the winter, and of course the inevitable railways, the tracks for which were laid on a temporary basis and then moved to follow the seams. From what I can gather local people seemed to accept the net effect of this 'rural industry' on their lives in a way which the current residents of Ironforge Close probably never would. Personally I find the modern replacement, large distribution warehouses, a blight on the landscape. Other people think they're tidier. We differ.

My regular weekend walk with my father takes in some old ironstone workings, now overgrown as they were closed in 1932, coincidentally the year he was born. The signs of quarrying are still very visible though as the land was never reinstated, just planted with trees, 'hill and dale'. It makes an interesting walk whatever the season. In winter though, on a day like today when the ground was as hard as iron, the leaves gone and all the grass laid low, it is at its least compromising and most revealing. We stand and look and wonder how the job was done and look for remnants. A glass stopper ball from a 'spruce' bottle here, a piece of railway track there.

The picture at the top of the post was taken at a different quarry by my Dad in 1968, but it could have come from any year during the previous 80, which is some kind of statement given that Apollo 8 was orbiting the Moon at exactly the same time. The picture was taken on Christmas Eve of '68 and is one of my favourites. Technically speaking it's not the greatest picture in the world and I'm afraid it didn't scan too well. But it captures the essence of the makeshift and basic nature of the industry, and gives an impression of the rural setting of this almost forgotten side of what was everyday life. What you may also sense is the cold in the air, the smell of the coal smoke and steam and the sound of the engine and wagons, squealing up the track. That I can't convey these to you is a current limitation of blogging, but maybe one day Google will add a gadget to fix that.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Not so Wonderful

My local branch of Woolworths closed today. It was amongst the last 200 to go and it was a sad day, primarily of course for the employees. I realise that Woolworths had run itself into trouble, but quite why it received zero help from the Government to keep it going until a reasoned appraisal of any options could be considered I do not know. After all, every other business of comparable employing size that has run itself into trouble over the last year or so has been presented with a number of fat cheques under the guise of 'maintaining national stability'. Even though those recipients have arrived at that parlous state through greed, self interest and ineptitude. But Woolworths wasn't a bank, just a shop.

Presumably the destabilising social and economic effects of 30,000 people being thrown out of work, and the knock on effects on suppliers, maintenance people, lost revenues for town centres and the nasty taste this has left in a lot of people's mouths is something the Government think that they, and we, can handle. Maybe they're right. Time will tell. Right now though, I object to the Government's assumption that 'I' will think it's okay to save each and every tinpot bank with 'my' money, but not extend the same courtesy to a shop. I guess Gordon is a banker and always will be a banker.

Anyway, in the shop this lunchtime it was a grim affair. The young staff carried on serving customers with good humour whilst the scenery of the shop was literally dismantled around them. A few people milled around the remaining items, looking both guilty and avaricious, perhaps like people picking over the contents of a house whilst the owner was simultaneously being carried into the crematorium. I was one of them. A middle aged woman found a card saying 'Sorry You're Leaving' amongst a pile of random items. She started chortling to her companion, held it up and shouted out to the people around her, "Look, we could all sign this and leave it for the staff".

Everybody looked at her. But nobody laughed.

Monday, 5 January 2009

More, please

I hope we're going to have a proper Winter, like 1948 or 1963. I want* snow above the hedgerows, motorways impassable, the sea frozen, airports closed, the trains marooned and a 'Minister for Snow'. Hazel Blears might get that, "snowing on us is what the clouds want" she might say.

* I don't want anyone to get hurt or killed though obviously.

Do you like snow?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Omma Toime Lord, me duck.

No, the next Doctor Who is not Andrew Collins, but Matt Smith, also from Northampton. Congratulations Matt Smith. I look forward to Estuary English being replaced by some proper talking. Omavailable as a voice coach / interpreter for alien races, as required.
Ooz got the kee t~thuh Taardiss?

Friday, 2 January 2009

Beyond Pathetic

Couple of hints to scammers everywhere - learn to use the English language the way we're used to seeing it. Furthermore, if you're going to put a name in the text to make it 'look authentic', spell his name right and make sure he's still alive. Francisco Gomez-Roldan died in July 2006.