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Archive for November, 2009

British Rail Broadband

On the London to Edinburgh line today, this is the BEST I could get checking the broadband speed….. that’s when it worked AT ALL.. Note the ping time of nearly 1/4 second and the almost non-existent upload speed. 2 commercial companies and now the government and they STILL can’t get this right… Facebook says we’re in an “unknown location” and Google thinks we’re somewhere in Europe!

Rubbish broadband with British Rail

Public Services – or not?

With the utter failure of various commercial entities trying to run our Eastern rail, the names on the trains have once again been changed  – this time to the singularly unimaginative “east line”.  It is lunchtime on Sunday and having had our very expensive first class tickets checked while standing in a queue in the station, we’re now sitting on the train having them checked again.

In the background I can hear a member of staff uttering “I don’t make the rules” as yet another disgruntled passenger fires off a salvo. In the space of 5 minutes we’ve been deafened by the Tannoy, followed by another message buried in static.. and now we’re told there will be no trolley service due to the over-crowding (we’ll it beats “leaves on the line” as an excuse”). The first class compartment is packed – this is not going to be a pleasant 3-hour journey to Newcastle.

It worries me immensely that on the one hand many of us have worked our entire lives to maintain a level of comfort and yet our various public services live in another world completely and simply don’t see our comfort as being important. If the car as a method of transport fails in the future due to fuel shortages or climate change dictats – are we to suffer being treated like cattle as we’re forced onto public transport? The cost at worst of getting from London to Newcastle on the train would take most budget holidaymakers to France AND BACK…indeed it would cover a month’s car payment for many -  and VASTLY exceeds the combined fuel and depreciation costs of a typical motor-car despite what you might expect to be economy of scale…  and yet I cannot remember the last time I got on the train WITHOUT a Tannoy apology for SOMETHING they’ve gotten wrong… and that was in commercial hands… goodness knows what delights we’re in for now that the government has it’s grimy hands the trains again.

As we leave the train late afternoon, the staff have left the trolley to one side of the door and a bag of waste to the other – handy for them, about as ill-placed as is possible for those leaving the train, as a fellow passenger pointed out to me!

London – the New Middle-East

When I was a youngster, one of my favourite treats was to come down to London to Edgeware Road, a delightful place full of electronics and hifi junk stores, one of the more interesting being MORGANs who used to sell surplus gear at really good prices.

Well, Morgans is no longer but more worryingly, yesterday we spent a couple of hours on the street to see what’s new. What’s new (to us, though not to Londoners) is that streets like this are now an object exercise in how NOT to achieve racial integration.  Far from the ideal of integration where people from all over the world would come over here, adopt our ways and become “British”, the exact opposite has happened here.  For all the world, walking down Edgeware you’d think you were in a foreign country, far away from the British Isles. Shops proudly display signs in utterly indecipherable language and to the last one are oriented to promoting foreign culture, not the opposite.. and frankly, the place is a DUMP.

I think that’s probably the last time I will ever visit Edgeware road. I felt like a minority. From now on when I hear Londoners complain, I shall reply appropriately – you get what you ask for.

Progress on the Rails

Shiny new stiles at Newcastle Central Station

As you can see by the photo on the right, Newcastle Central Station now has itself a shiny new set of people control booths. Apparently the idea behind this is to keep scruffs without tickets away from the trains. It certainly can’t be to stop them boarding trains without tickets as they pester the life out of people every single time I get on the train for their tickets.

Unless there’s a more sinister background to this?  Reducing staff levels on the trains? Allowing them to employ hapless, untrained kids without fear of them being attacked by ruthless, ticketless passengers perhaps?

Crappy old lounge at Newcastle Central StationThe problem with all of this is priorities… clearly the rail authorities feel that this is where they want to spend their money. The fact that when waiting in Newcastle station you generally end up freezing your PARTS OFF unless you happen to have an open first class ticket (they don’t let the unwashed riff-raff with discounted tickets into the first class lounge, the only place that is even remotely warm in the station apart from Burger King. The only other place is the excuse for a lounge you see on the right, a few plate glass windows and a large sign that says “no eating, drinking or smoking” -  I’m surprised they don’t add “or having sex or breathing”

So they COULD have spent the money on a decent “second class” lounge for us commoners, OR they could have spent the money on a TOILET (the attached pub doesn’t take kindly to non-customers using their facilities) – or HEY – Packet of mini-cheddars destined for jamming behind a sign somewhere at Newcastle Central Stationhere’s a thought – how about some BINS!!!  Having encouraged us to buy food and drinks, once out of the shop we’re faced with a total absence of anywhere to put our rubbish… leading most of us – and I include myself as a matter of principle, to find little nooks and crannies to shove our empty packaging. Hey – if they don’t like it – give us some bins!

Still at least now we won’t have to suffer the INDIGNITY of standing next to someone who doesn’t have a ticket.  That’ll be a relief then.

Everyone is Waving

With the impending release of the (quite exciting) Google Wave, you might find it interesting to watch everyone’s attempts to get on the bandwagon and in particular watch Microsoft…. is this a coincidence?

http://www.microsoft.com/uk/wave/home.aspx

VAT Attack

This morning I received my regular “Dickinson-Dees” Vat Bulletin – something I normally ignore… until I noted… “On the 1st of January 2010, there will be a major change to the VAT and administrative treatment of services supplied cross border.” – with of course MORE penalties for non-compliance.

New to you? Well, I must admit it was to me – and I should know better. There are so many things going on right now that one could at least dream that the government would be giving us all a break from their constant changes – but no, never let a recession get in the way of another excuse to squeeze more money out of us.

Meanwhile a report from the FSB says “FSB survey reveals eight in ten could go to the wall, and calls the Government to listen to its ‘Give us a Break’ campaign.” referring to changing tax rules on holiday properties. Under current rules, businesses run in the holiday sector – known as furnished holiday lettings – must be available to rent for at least 20 weeks of the year and must be rented out for 10 weeks. As a result, they receive a number of tax breaks. Following Government proposals to change the tax rules, businesses in the holiday sector will be considered as residential landlords rather than as trading businesses. The FSB’s survey results on the subject show that these tax changes could stifle trade, threatening the existence of the 60,000 self-catering firms across the country and costing jobs. The tourism industry alone could lose £200 million a year.

It simply beggars believe that in the worst recession in living memory, our stupid government STILL can’t see through their long-established political anti-business goggles. Of course, after more businesses go bust, the people will soon throw these idiots out and elect a new government. Posts will shuffle but all those responsible will keep their jobs in some form or another…. and their houses and cars… more than can be said for the businesses they are destroying through their incompetence.

ACT on CO2 – or NOT?

“Hey diddle diddle, the car and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon on discovering just how easy it was to reduce our CO2 emissions”

That’s how the latest “Act on CO2” advert features in last weekend’s telegraph. It then goes onto say that “40% [of Co2] is caused simply by the way we heat and light our homes and drive our cars”.

I’m assuming tax-payers paid for the pile of nonsense. Firstly, this kind of woolly, misleading marketing is on a par with “up to 8 meg broadband”.  At a casual glance, we’re responsible for 40% of emissions and really CAN do something about it.

Or not. Firstly CO2 is only part of the emissions issue and in fact the COW in the advert is probably at least as responsible for greenhouse emissions as we are….   no mention then of reducing meat consumption (and I’m not a veggie). I had planned to point you to a very informative TED conference on the subject of how much damage METHANE causes (a kilogram of methane is something like 23Kg of carbon monoxide) but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared off the web. If you want the full, excruciating facts check on Jamais Cascio’s blog here.

The fact is that in this freezing cold, wet country there is not a lot we can do with our heating other than to make sure we’re fully insulated. In a recession these people are DREAMING if they think we’re all going to pop out any buy newer, more efficient systems – I just had to replace our oil heater (not voluntarily) and its going to cost over 2K all in – who’s going to do that right now? As for the car… the stupid idiots could not have timed it worse – like we’re all going to leave our cars at home and take the pushbike in the freezing snow?? Spring might have been better timing!

And when we’ve done all of that, what influence do we have as a diminishing economy over China and India  who’s burgeoning economies and conversion to western diet (see the blog above – cheeseburgers) will ensure any efforts we make have virtually no effect whatsoever on the environment – we’re a tiny little island for heaven’s sake – what, they’re all going to follow our lead? I don’t think so.

There is of course a solution that solves all of the problems – it requires less cows, smaller factories, less movement of goods, less travel – indeed it covers all angles of the entire pollution problem.

HOW ABOUT HAVING LESS KIDS!

A dramatic drop of children now would be disastrous for any economy and our short-sighted politicians should have been working on this in the 70’s when it was plain for all but politicians to see that automation was going to reduce the need for manual labour – but no-one had the stomach for it – and now we’re paying the price. With the massive societies we have now, any breakdown in our systems (collapse of the automobile industry due to running out of fuel, massive power cuts etc) would result in us spending our lives in total civil disorder, wallowing in our own waste products. Our lack of foresight and lack of ability to take stern action will be our undoing – and what is the solution…   take the pushbike out once a week.

Give me a break.

The future is Grim – the future is ORANGE

They’re at it again…. the incompetents at Orange have well and truly surpassed previous levels of ineptitude this time.

I’ve just been told we’ve not had an Orange bill recently and I remembered I’d had something from them recently in email. I looked up the email and sure enough – get your bill online… so I tried – it wanted an email and password.   I’ve never used this before so I rang them up. Wrong department.

The right department then told me I had to go online – to get my bill. I said I had no password. They said register.. to register you have to receive a text message to your mobile and answer 2 questions you set when you signed up. I signed up YEARS ago and my mobile doesn’t work at home.

I range back and went through the usual raft of automated messages – at 14.4p per minute cost to me of course – I’m currently running at just over £1. All through this AS USUAL “we are currently very busy” – which in English means “we don’t employ enough staff because WE DON’T CARE!”   In the meantime I managed to find a message that told me I could ask for printed invoices – at £3 each!!! But I could only get these by going online – which of course I can’t do because I don’t have my password..

What a complete bunch of asses…… I’ve had to resort to writing them a letter!

A run of bad luck

Of course I don’t actually believe in runs of bad luck but sometimes… let’s see in the last couple of weeks, we discovered the new house needs re-wiring, our son-in-law is deathly ill in hospital, in our own home the heating system is bust and need replacing – some leak in the back of the oil boiler. We found out tonight that the place in Spain has been burgled… and just to round it all off I’ve just had my first Windows 7 blue screen.

What next… outbreak of nuclear war…… flue pandemic (oh yes we already have that)….

BULL

Don’t you get sick of commercial BULL?   We were told that WOLFRAM ALPHA was going to be the be-all-and-end-all.   I just tried a couple of simple queries…  “who is Peter Scargill”  – and “what happened in 1954” – both produced nothing but garbage – but in each case Google was spot on as usual. Everything I’ve ever tried on WA has failed miserably.

Anyway, I digress….   I’m sitting here in front of a calendar entitled “101 THINGS EVERY WOMAN SHOULD DO BEFORE SHE DIES” …  something Maureen must’ve picked up.. anyway, the BIG sign on the back tells you all about their GREEN credentials. It’s a company called Time Factory Publishing based in Indianapolis.

All of their calendars use forestry stewardship council certified paper….     they are powered by their own windmill, they recycle and suggest ways to re-use the calendar (I can think of a few).

All of which is GREAT until you look at the corner “printed in South Korea”…. and they’re selling them in the America!!

So assuming the best and they used electronic means to get the info to South Korea, the calendars are then travelling half way around the world to get to Britain. What’s wrong with “printed in the US” ??? Don’t we have any printers? GREEN CREDENTIALS? BULL more like it.

Of course in this case the goods were sold in America then shipped over here in the UK by a friend – but that’s another matter.