Category Archives: Rants

State of the Nation

It seems New Order were right. Back in 1986 they released the single State of the Nation. Let’s look at the evidence.

Last week I planned to travel to London, on Wednesday to be precise. This would have involved an easyJet flight from Edinburgh to Luton (I chose this route for schedule reasons) and a little bit of train travel. My employer booked both the flight and the train trip on my behalf. We paid £27.50 for the train trip from Luton to Londons Kings Cross Thameslink, which is slightly more than normal as my employer uses a central booking agent. Early last week, on Monday, I learnt that the travel would have to be rearranged as the person I was visiting had an urgent client visit to make in Brussels. So I duly set about rearranging the travel. Imagine my surprise when I learnt that the refund my employer would receive was only £7.20. I hadn’t even travelled. Never mind that, I hadn’t even booked a guaranteed seat. Worse, I’ve made that train trip many times, the train is eight carriages in length (FirstScotRail please take note), it’s never full, I always get a seat regardless of the time of day. So why is the train company so greedy? Purchase a £1000 TV from a big name retailer, take it home, let it in its box, take it back unused and you get a full refund. It’s the same with this particular train ticket – it was unused. It’s a state of the nation.

What’s your crime number?
And today, Saturday, to top it off, I found myself reading Jon Ronson’s piece in The Guardian Weekend, 11 November 2006. Of course, friends and regular readers will be asking the question: “why’s he reading The Guardian?” Well, that’s a question that I’ll leave unanswered, but suffice to say, I had my reasons and they were well-intentioned. Jon was lamenting about the loss of his mobile telephone. Frankly, I would love to lose my mobile telephones, but that’s another posting. Mr Ronson had one of those mobile-telephone-replacement policies that let him “throw it a lake and we’ll replace it free of charge”. Of course, he didn’t throw it in a lake, he just lost it. Mislaid it. Put it down somewhere and forget where he had left it. So he called up the “replacement company”. They asked for “crime number”, the sort that the police issue when something has been stolen. Since Jon had merely lost his ‘phone, he didn’t have a crime number and pretty much refused to get one. However, the guy at the replacement company quietly whispered, “the police don’t mind, it happens all the time”.

So Mr Ronson grudgingly telephoned the police…only to be recognised by the policeman taking the statement. The policeman offered to drive Jon around Moss Side with a view to getting the kids who committed this heinous crime. Despite protesting politely, Mr Ronson ended up spending time in a squad car, driving around Moss Side. The conversation went kind of like this: “It might be him…oh no, it’s not…”. Anyway, without spoiling too much of the original article, Jon ended up panicking about wasting police time. He couldn’t have panicked too much about it, well, certainly not after he had told his mother about it, because he then went on to write an article about. An article that was published today, and read by a presumably reasonably sized Guardian readership; we might surmise that a few enforcers of the law are included in that group. So Mr Ronson got his crime number, even though no crime was committed (apart from his own admission to wasting police time). The replacement company were happy, Jon got his replacement mobile ‘phone. It’s a state of the nation.

Mid-life crisis, when or if?
And to top it all, according to Rebecca Williams, in the same issue of The Guardian Weekend, on the subject of a mid-life crisis, it’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”. Mine must be due real soon now.

It never ceases to amaze me…when one reverse light is enough…

I know many cars have just the one reverse light. However those that have two, must have them both working in order to pass the UK’s MOT – a test that determines whether the vehicle is roadworthy or not.

I parked up at my local Tesco store today, with my mother-in-law in tow (not literally, honest), a gentleman reversed into the space next to me, I noticed that his driver’s side reverse light was not working. So I mentioned it to him as we walked to the store.

Imagine my surprise when he said: “one of them is working, that’s enough”. Not the simple “thanks, mate”, that I’m used to getting when I do my good citizen bit.

Of course, I responded with a simple: “oh, that’s alright then, goodbye”.

Now, if he were to turn up at an optician’s reporting that he was having problems seeing out of one eye…imagine his surprise if he was told: “one of them is working, that’s enough”.

Longstanding grudge: Don Coyote Country Pursuits…

Today saw me have a huge clear out of “piles of junk”. My recycle bins are full, I have space to move, I have spare storage boxes.

In this clear out, I came across a photocopy of an advert for Don Coyote Country Pursuits – they were contracted to provide a horse and carriage at our wedding some seven years ago. Except, they didn’t. They happily cashed my mother-in-law’s cheque for £100 (deposit) and then denied all knowledge of the booking. We ended up making other arrangements, kind of at the last minute. This seems reasons enough to boycott an organisation.

Anyway, I don’t take lying cheating sods likely. We wrote to them. We went to see them. All to no avail. We even wrote to the Sunday Post’s Raw Deal and saw our complaint printed:


However, even that didn’t work. So we pretty much left it at that…

…until now. Since I’ve “re-discovered” their advert and the Raw Deal piece, it’s time these folks were ousted.

Do not use Don Coyote Country Pursuits under any circumstances, they suck. If you see an advert like this one, avoid them, turn the page, go somewhere else.


This post will remain on this site until £100 + seven years of interest at 10% (compounded) is paid and a full written apology is received.

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Shopping for an MP3 player…

I’ve been introducing the in-laws to “Internet shopping”.

I struggled to explain this one to them:

mp3 players

“£29.99, you say, nice price, fully featured, state-of-the-art, tell me more.”

Clicking on the first link took us here:

mp3 player

And the second link took us here:

mp3 player

Two totally different prices, nothing like “Our price: £29.99” at all.

Granted, these prices are a little more realistic…

National Lottery…

I don’t know what’s more annoying, the National Lottery site going down just after I click submit whilst buying the office syndicate’s tickets or the fact that they’ve got a happy smiley face highlighting a little anticipation of it coming back up…

…I certainly won’t have a happy smiley face if the tickets weren’t bought: I’ll probably be lynched.

But anyway, rant, rant, etc. Can you believe that they’ve actually put a Trademark on the “site down” message?

lottery down

Security hype “stifling new technologies”

It seems that security concerns are preventing us making progress. Robert Jaques has an interesting piece in the September 2005 issue of PCW (UK). Yes, I know August has just descended upon us, however PCW does seem to be published some two months ahead of the actual month it represents!

Whilst the rest of the world are making progress with IP telephony/VOIP and wireless networking and wireless hotspots, etc. it would appear that there are some folks who are thwarting progress by following the maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Well, in this situation, that maxim doesn’t hold true. For example, I’ve just returned from Microsoft TechEd in Amsterdam, where Microsoft was kind enough to provide [potentially] 6,500 of us with wireless access to the Internet. It was a remarkably liberating experience. I was able to check my e-mail whilst attending sessions, blog “live”, provide session feedback within minutes of the session finishing, etc. It was truly amazing.

How did we ever live without wireless? I can’t imagine the Internet without it now, never mind the connectivity gains that I’ve acquired after pushing the wired LAN into the dark and distant past (OK, so I’ve a wireless ‘bridge converting the wireless into wired for use in the study…it still means that I don’t have wires running all over the house, much to my wife’s delight!)

Life without wireless/VOIP might not be secure according to the hype mongers; however, can we believe them? True, wireless networks do open themselves up to a wider range of potential attacker – the attack surface extends itself to the far reaches of the wireless broadcast. And yes, early wireless kit was delivered (out of the box) with all the security options turned off or disabled…but I seem to recall that some operating systems were delivered in a similar fashion. Nowadays of course, virtually all wireless kit (and the aforementioned operating systems too) arrive with all the security bells and whistles enabled so much so it’s sometimes difficult to miss. With a little care, it is possible to secure a wireless network and/or VOIP such that there is considerable business benefit.

Life without wireless/VOIP means a mess of cables. It means a laptop, a rucksack and a bag full of various network cables and adaptors – I carry five RJ45 cables of various lengths and an RJ45-to-RJ45 extender that allows me to daisy-chain two RJ45 cables together if required. I didn’t carry such excess baggage to Microsoft TechEd…the only wires I saw there were those leading to from laptops to power sockets and from the VOIP handsets to the controlling PC.

Life without wireless/VOIP means having to find landlines or worse, mobile ‘phones. It means having to stretch a fixed line ‘phone across tables/desks to get it close to your laptop which is plugged in to the network and the mains – and because neither the network provider or the electrician spoke to each other, they both kept their infrastructure as far apart as possible. If you’re lucky enough to have a network provider and an electrician who speak the same language, the floor sockets that house their respective outlets/sockets, and this is especially true of electrical outlets, are sunk into the floor, hidden underneath a tightly fitting lid that soon comes away in your hand the minute you lift it open. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you try to plug your laptop’s power adaptor in, oh, the huge transformer prevents you from plugging it in…or, worse, you have a regular-sized plug fitted with a less than flexible cable…the power outlet’s live/neutral plugs so close to the edge of the housing that you can’t even bend the cable to fit.

And just think of the triangulation involved in plugging a laptop into the mains at point A, the telephone at point B and the network at point C. The resulting mesh is a potential safety hazard.

Just in case you had forgotten what life without wireless looks like, here’s a very tame reminder:

not wireless

Agile:Rant: If you do some of the work…

Here’s a snap of the peaches we bought from our local big-name supermarket:

unlucky for some

“Ripen at home”. What’s that all about? I have to do some of the work here…and I’m still paying the same price. I don’t see any payback when I get to the checkout, what’s going on here? Does this mean I’ve bought a product that isn’t ready to use when I get it home?

Surely they should be cheaper? After all, they’re getting picked earlier, thus freeing up space on the peach tree for the next lot, thus…oh, I see, early release means earlier return on investment (and in this case earlier repeat growth). May be we software folks could learn something from this…

Incidentally, I’ve just realised what I’ve done here – I’ve provided some meaningful hints about this posting in the title (agile:rant) and in the categories (project management, rants)…this is exactly the conversation Korby and I had during TechEd 2005. Thoughts on classification, attribution, taxonomy, intelligent searching…coming soon.

SOS – the original text

I didn’t write what follows, but I agree with it and felt it should be published for all to learn from.

Stupid people should have to wear signs that just say, “I’m Stupid”. That way you wouldn’t rely on them, would you? You wouldn’t ask them anything.

It would be like, “Excuse me…oops, never mind. I didn’t see your sign.”

It’s like before my wife and I moved. Our house was full of boxes and there was a U-Haul truck in our driveway. My friend comes over and says “Hey, you moving?”

“Nope. We just pack our stuff up once or twice a week to see how many boxes it takes. Here’s your sign.”

A couple of months ago I went fishing with a buddy of mine, we pulled his boat into the dock, I lifted up this big ‘ol stringer of bass and this idiot on the dock goes, “Hey, y’all catch all them fish?” “Nope Talked ‘em into giving up. Here’s your sign.”

I was watching one of those animal shows on the Discovery Channel. There was a guy inventing a shark bite suit. And there’s only one way to test it.

“Alright Jimmy, you got that shark suit on, it looks good… They want you to jump into this pool of sharks, and you tell us if it hurts when they bite you.”

“Well, all right, but hold my sign. I don’t wanna lose it.”

Last time I had a flat tire, I pulled my truck into one of those side-of-the-road gas stations. The attendant walks out, looks at my truck, looks at me, and I SWEAR he said, “Tire go flat?” I couldn’t resist. I said, “Nope. I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on me. Here’s your sign.”

We were trying to sell our car about a year ago. A guy came over to the house and drove the car around for about 45 minutes. We get back to the house, he gets out of the car, reaches down and grabs the exhaust pipe, then says, “Darn that’s hot!” See? If he’d been wearing his sign, I could have stopped him.

I learned to drive an 18 wheeler in my days of adventure. Wouldn’t ya know I misjudged the height of a bridge. The truck got stuck and I couldn’t get it out no matter how I tried. I radioed in for help and eventually a local cop shows up to take the report. He went through his basic problem. I thought sure he was clear of needing a sign…until he asked “ your truck stuck?” I couldn’t help myself! I looked at him, looked back at the rig and then back to him and said “no I’m delivering’ a bridge…here’s your sign.

Blogging at 35,000 feet

There is an airline meal in front of me; I’m one -third of the way through Jeremy Clarkeson’s The World According To Clarkeson and half-way through the flight.

Now, unless the meal is removed soonish Clarkeson may not be finished for another day.

Which is why I’m writing this blog entry (and a few others) using Pocket Word. I realise that the post title may have misled you…sadly this Boeing 757-200 doesn’t have in-flight Internet access.

I am in fact sharing the 757 with a bunch of neds…streams of them have just gone past me for some sort of party at the front of the cabin, or may be it’s for the WC?

But why did they choose to go to the WC during the meal? Ten of them, I counted them one by one and didn’t fall asleep, all huddled around the solitary WC at the front of the cabin. Behind them, moderate carnage as people juggle their own airline meals, just to let each of these guys out of their seat.

What does It take to get a decent cup of coffee in Britain?

Coffee should be opaque.

I don’t expect my black coffee to be poured into a white cup only to be greeted with confirmation that the bottom of the cup is still white…with the cup still half full.

But that’s exactly what I received during my return flight from Tenerife: a cup of see-through coffee.

This is just one reason why we, Great Britain as we think we should be called, are the laughing stock of proper Europe. This country just doesn’t live up to its name anymore.

Rip-Off Britain

I have just returned from another jolly to mainland Europe .

Folks who know me will appreciate that I like McDonalds Mcflurry – an ice-cream dessert (priced at 99P)

Can anybody please explain how a shot of finest (black, not opaque) espresso topped with a good sized ” dob” of ice-cream costs just 1€? In Europe.

This delicacy is known as an helado e café. One Euro, 70p roughly – how does a McFlurry cost more? Does a shot of espresso in Europe cost 29p? No, we’re being ripped off here in Britain: overcharge for everything, forget “please” and “thank you” and dispense with customer service.

My local golden arches can’t even do me an espresso, never mind a coffee with a dob on top…when challenged to come up with a price, they reached nearly £3.00

I would use the phrase “wake up and smell the coffee”, but the UK’s McCoffee is probably pants too.