19
Aug 11

Who makes the decisions in your organisation?

I just had a phone call that went something like this:

Man: “Hello, can I speak to the person who makes the decisions in your organisation?”

Me: [attempting to conceal sarcastic tone] “Well if you tell me what decisions you are talking about maybe I can help?”

Man: “The decisions regarding IT purchasing”

Me: “I’m sure I can put you through. One quick question. Do you make decisions regarding IT purchasing in your organisation?”

Man: [pause] “er… no, but … that’s not really relevant …”

Me: [impatient] “Well I am assuming you want to discuss the subject of making IT purchasing decisions in organisations, in which case I’m pretty sure the person who makes IT purchasing decisions in my organisation will only want to speak with someone who has similar experience in that area …”

Man: [pause. hangs up.]

Yes, I know. Utterly imbecilic of me. I was picked-on as a child …

p.s. this blog is now hosted on my new virtual server.


09
Feb 11

Cycling is for the stupid and/or idealistic

(UPDATE 2014: Cycling is no longer stupid. It’s beautiful. My new bike is also lovely.)

Cycling is for stupid people. My brief love affair with the humble bicycle officially ended tonight in Cambridge. There is something positively Darwinian about the concept of getting on a 30kg skeleton of poles and axles and thinking it’s somehow okay to share the same piece of tarmac with one-tonne lumps of steel travelling at 40mph (with Ordinary Human at its helm). It’s not. It’s a bloody stupid idea and I’ve learnt my lesson.

To the taxi driver on Mill Road who didn’t bother to pull out when overtaking me tonight, I really, really appreciate that you didn’t kill me, and it was good that you stopped and calmly wrote down your details for me as I was in shock, however driving into me in the first place, when there was absolutely no obstruction on the other side of the road, was stupid and careless in the extreme and you must be really damned stupid because I’ve never not given a cyclist a huge wide berth when driving in MY car and overtaking a cyclist.

And to the passenger of the taxi who got out to tell my girlfriend who was ahead of me on the bike, before I had even got up from the pavement, that my lights were obviously not powerful enough: you are a horrible insensitive woman and I hope our paths never cross in the future.

(To the nice girls who crossed the road and told me they saw what happened and gave me their numbers… thank you.)


26
May 10

The closure of Becta

The majority of people who are pleased at the closure of Becta are most likely so because they disagreed in some way or another with their leanings on various issues, for example their take on open source software in schools. These people can safely be ignored, along with those who decry “waste of taxpayer’s money!” when really they mean “it doesn’t benefit me, so I reserve the right to think it’s a waste of money”.

That said, Becta is really no different from any other government quango in the sense that you can argue for and against with the following argument:

  • centralised decision-making can bring efficiencies, savings, continuity to the education system vs. centralised efficiencies prohibit independent thought, local buying, and prevent the school from making its own decisions about systems.

I fall into the latter camp: as an independent, self-employed provider of IT services to schools I believe that schools are simply better-off governed on their own.

Yes, there’s a dearth of IT management talent in schools, and I’m already hearing people saying that many local authorities and schools simply don’t have the know-how to hire talent, manage their procurement, advise senior management on strategy, and otherwise fill that vacuum.

But I am making one prediction: we are soon to realise that there was only ever one reason for this dearth of IT talent in schools in the past: Becta itself.

When you centralise, you may be benefiting those schools who already lack this talent – especially those schools in special measures, under-performing schools, and smaller schools – but you are closing another door: the door that allows local business to get involved. The door that allows schools to make mistakes, learn from them, decide to hire better IT talent, and develop their own corporate character in the long term. And you are closing a door that prevents the individual  interests of a top-end school to flourish, form partnerships with local business, or share best practice themselves rather than send their staff on a course. As for the middle- and lower-end schools, centralisation can stifle growth by prohibiting the more modest developments they may need at the time.

Most critically, however, centralisation of this kind has an adverse effect on school’s desire to hire in-house talent.

And when schools don’t have good in-house IT talent, they don’t get good grades in ICT subjects. They may get big money for the use of ICT as a ‘facility’ but they don’t get known as a technologically advanced school.

The one thing I won’t be glad to see the back of is this pervasive view that dealing with local businesses can be a bit dodgy.

Quangos: like them or not, I believe they prohibit independent thought.

Disclaimer: the writer of this blog is not a Tory!


11
May 10

Hung Parliament, 5 days in

So – you voted for a hung parliament!

Well, you may not have personally voted for such a thing, but you have to accept that the British people as a whole did so, and that’s what we have got.

Here’s what I am hearing from the British public right now:

  • “Don’t do it Nick!”
  • “Do it Nick!”
  • “The whole thing is a shambles!”
  • “Clegg is holding xyz to ransom!”
  • “The failing Labour government has no mandate to govern”

Electorate, pipe down! This is what happens in a hung parliament.

Nobody won the election. That means the party with more seats has no more mandate to govern than the party with fewer, at this point.

Our electoral system, whether we like it or not, has already accounted for this potential outcome. The process is clear, and it has been for decades.

Today on Radio 4 I heard one caller actually blame BBC for not educating people enough about the process. How dare!

If you don’t like this process, stop your impotent whinging and stand for election yourself. Or take to the streets in protest of our electoral system. Or write to an MP about the electoral system. In fact, why didn’t you do this a long time before the election? Stop spreading your bile on websites and radio phone-ins. It’s terribly un-British of you.

Nothing is unexpected. In fact, we pretty much knew it would be a hung parliament weeks before the election even took place.

What’s with all the hurrying, the cries of, “I’ll never vote Lib Dem again if…” or “Gordon doesn’t have the right to this or that”?

Rubbish!

I voted with my heart and my head, and I’ll always vote for my party as long as I can, because I believe in what they stand for.

This may just be the election where the leading politicians turn out to be far less fickle and outrageous than the voices of the public! Who would have thought?

The electorate has spoken. And now they should shut right up, and let the politicians get on with what they have to do. In their own time.

If you don’t like it, my guess is that you probably didn’t even vote with your head and/or heart in the first place.


04
May 10

How I will vote

This is a response to the excellent writings of Stephen Fry on the same subject. His is a long piece but well worth the read: http://www.stephenfry.com/2010/05/04/how-i-will-vote/

In the same way I know that writing this blog post (adapted from a message left on the blog of Stephen Fry) has no bearing on anyone’s views, indeed may not even be read by a single person, I believe that my vote this Thursday will have absolutely zero* effect on the outcome of this election.

It is, as one might say, eleven types of invisible. Four shades of pointless.

My vote is, however, a personal expression of great belief and passion in the democratic process. It is a cathartic exercise, one that gives me immense value as a human being and citizen of this country, and I shall cherish it dearly. I shall feel a warm feeling close to how I imagine a religious person might feel. I shall drink Champagne.

(For the above reason, especially at this decisive time for Britons, I believe tactical voting to be both useless and irrelevant.)

Regarding my vote. In this election, I have previously been wavering between voting Labour and Liberal Democrat, and shunning the Conservative party.

Brown attracts me not because of his long-term vision but because of his boring detail-driven policy making; the country needs this. I do not believe that Brown for one minute ‘got us into this mess’; one has to look a little further than our borders. I believe when he says that global problems require global solutions, and that the solution lies in the bigger picture of the direction of global trade rather than the smaller picture of the regulation of our own financial industry.

Clegg attracts me because he leads a party I have great idealogical respect for. I shall say no more at this point, other than the following words: Iraq, the Digital Economy Bill, ID cards, expensive centralised IT systems for the NHS.

Cameron repels me not because of his character per-se, but because of the unchallenged, ingrained nature of his beliefs and loyalties, which I feel will not adequately challenge the status quo.

Deep down I would love for a Conservative party that was led by a philosopher, a champion of human rights, and social idealist. Alas such a party leader does not exist.

Despite my past wavering, my gut, my heart, and my head tell me I must cast my vote for the Liberal Democrat party.

* This is of course not true. My point is that it may as well be, due to statistics.


19
Mar 10

People who look at car crashes

Why does a celeb, posthumously, become a superhero?

I could name a few – who had varying degrees of talent (from ‘zero’ to ‘some’) – who have been raised to this state.

This is not really related to the Radio 4 Feedback programme itself, more to a programme that was played out this week featuring Jeff Buckley singing Dido’s Lament.

I’ve never seen a car crash in realtime, in fact I have never so much as seen a person get killed or even die.

Nor am I one of those people who slows down to look at the crash on the motorway. I believe it’s more dangerous to do so, besides, slowing down can have a knock-on effect on hundreds of people’s lives by causing huge tailbacks; those in cars behind you may be missing their plane, missing a crucial interview for a job, trying to get to the other side of the country to see their dying grandmother. A police cleanup operation is made ten times more difficult by the behaviour of the public.

If you slow down to look, you are contributing to the chaos for one reason only: to satisfy your sick curiosity. I abhor everyone who looks at a car crash.

The only way to help is to look straight ahead and ignore it. Tell yourself people die every day from their own – or others’ – stupidity and thoughtlessness, or by mere chance.

Technically, I should feel similarly about how we humans are morbidly interested in the dead.

I understand our human obsession with venerating people to cultural superhero status just because they died in unfortunate circumstances; there is a correlation between the depth of tragedy and the amount that we consider them a genius. I understand our obsession with venerating stars to cultural superhero status because they committed suicide; they were oh so fragile, society didn’t listen to them, they were victims of the modern world.

But celebrities? People in the pop industry? People who appeared on Big Brother?

Jeff Buckley appears to have been a reasonably talented person, however he does not deserve the veneration to cult superhero status that he has received. Apart from anything, he butchered Dido’s Lament. Here is a beautiful piece of music written in the context of a work of opera, which has been singled-out by a man who appears to be nothing more than slightly interested in gothic things, with no more than a modicum of talent.

From my above views on people who slow down for car crashes, you might assume that I would curse loudly, switch off the radio, move on.

Except I had to listen. The more I listened, the more enraged I became. The more confused I became about why such terrible singing could be seen as so brilliant by so many people.

The positive comments that flowed in to R4’s Feedback confirm this.

Regardless of whether you consider this person to have been a musical talent or not, I believe that either way this kind of veneration is like slowing down to watch a car crash.

There are hundreds of other cars on the roads, millions of other personal stories, thousands of other performances of Purcell that will make you cry.

Is Buckley’s rendition of Dido’s Lament considered to have the depth of emotion that it does, because we only hear it with the knowledge of how he died?


25
Feb 10

Browser Ballot

Browser ballot. Ballot?

What, like an election? You mean, it’s more than a mere choice, it’s a personal statement of belief, a vote?

It appears that way. Each browser has its manifesto. A page held on a politically neutral website that outlines what the browser stands for.

What the hell?

Today I was doing some Windows updates on a client’s computer, and after I rebooted I saw something that led me to believe their machine had a trojan or spyware. For there was no branding, no explanation, just a box that popped up in an unfamiliar window saying that I had an important choice to make.

This has to be dodgy, right? A virus. Someone trying to steal my data.

The only important choice I have to make right now is what to have for dinner.

No, it’s the European Union ruling against Microsoft, telling them that they have to provide users with a choice of browser. A browser ballot. Yay! I get to vote!

It’s like returning home after your cleaner has been only to find someone took your wooden floor away, and left you a note saying you have an important choice to make. You need to choose what type of floor you would like to use from now on. Wait, you surely bought that floor along with the rest of the house? Like five years ago!

NO! Because a floor is distinctly different to a house. Lots of different people make floors! You should be given a choice! Otherwise it’s unfair on everyone who makes floors!

What the hell? Where is my floor? It’s my house, get out!

This only applies to Microsoft, mind. Your floor would only be temporarily removed if you bought a Microsoft house as your home, not an Apple one, or a Ubuntu one. Oh, and it only applies to Microsoft Homes purchased in the last 10 years. Oh, and it doesn’t apply to Microsoft Mansions (i.e. servers) or mobile homes of any sort (iPod, Windows Mobile). Only middle class homes. It’s because Microsoft are the Barratt Homes of computers. Their bigness makes them inherently bad.

Ok so the difficulty with this metaphor is that everyone in the world knows the difference between a floor and a house, but not everyone in the world knows the difference between a browser and an operating system. You, dear reader, are excused if you do not know the difference, deep down. It’s okay. You are quite normal.

Wait. Even worse to think. More people will vote in this arbitrary browser ballot in the UK than will vote in the general election. Many, many more people. That is so wrong it hurts.

Back on topic, let’s get this straight.

Anyone who actually knows what a browser is has already made their choice.

The remainder (75% of actual people – that is – living human beings with souls who just want to go on the internet without any hassles) do not care.

They will have a decision process forced upon them, be told the decision is important, (what, like abortion? Like looking for a new job?) and then be confounded with a load of options they don’t understand. If they click the window away, it will install a shortcut to the desktop, and come up again on next reboot.

I work in the field of IT Consultancy, and I can testify that to the majority of users, this decision is not as important as who to vote for on X Factor.

The consequence: IT Support will be picking up the pieces, after the sorry mess caused by a load of unsuspecting users who accidentally installed the wrong browser because they had no idea where to click, thus losing all of their settings, saved passwords, and not to mention being bloody confounded because the browser they chose didn’t have the latest version of Adobe Flash, etc.

Make it go away.

My mother doesn’t even know the difference between the address bar and a mouse. Give her a change of browser and she will have to go to night classes again just to learn how to do a Google search. Seriously.

Hell, even the BBC, in tech articles, regularly get operating system and browser confused. That’s how tech savvy we are: rightly or wrongly, our own media can’t even get it right. (Cringe.)

In the name of liberation, choice, freedom? It smacks of jealousy, of fanatical technocracy. It’s almost a religious war. Sure as anything isn’t politics. Or regulation for that matter.

The global tech industry requires solid, effective, and rational sector regulation. The EU has proven its worthlessness once again by entirely missing the point and unleashing its mindless red tape on an easy target. Path of least resistance. What a weak bunch.

It’s micro legislation, and it undermines the fact that the industry is suffering a dearth of real regulation, such as in cyber security, or in the environmental challenges.

Nit-picking at the big guy on a tiny point of interest does nobody any favours.

It’s straight bananas, except far worse.

It sure as anything wasn’t for anti-monopoly reasons because for one, browsers are not a major source of income for anyone (except those who only make browsers… cough cough) and secondly because this will do nothing to put a leash onto the fact Microsoft have cornered the corporate IT market – where the money is.

This is the techno-democracy-brigade equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

I’m starting to feel sorry for large conglomerates (for the random outburst of legislation that clearly applies to nobody else) and feeling anger towards libertarian organisations who supposedly want the world to be a better place.

I’m starting to mutter under my breath words like political correctness gone MAD, and I sound like one of those awful Daily Mail readers.

What’s going on with the world?


23
Feb 10

All because of coffee

Today I realised I may have a problem.

I was more than just a little frustrated. I feared the bad coffee served to me in the Beaconsfield branch of Costa Coffee (franchise name: Coffee Snobs) would actually ruin my day. Bad coffee and its effects have ruined my day before. I couldn’t let it do so again.

I am spending a whole day with a client. The work I do for them is important to me. I don’t stop for food or coffee during the day. This flat white has to last me until 4.30pm. It’s 9.30 now. That’s an abnormal amount of time without espresso.

You see, I have become so dependent on making myself a beautiful espresso or flat white that I expect the same when I buy one. And if I don’t get it, I become vile.

Here’s my home routine. 1-4 times daily. I pre-heat the espresso machine one hour before first coffee. I clean and test the group head each time I pull a double. I leave two espresso cups in a bowl of hot water for 3 minutes. I tear-off 4 sheets of kitchen roll and put them aside to dry the cups which are removed from the hot water at the very last second. I grind the beans within 15 seconds of the extraction process. During this 15 seconds I use digital measuring scales to dose 18.5 grams of ground beans into a double filter basket. I tamp with a force of 30 lbs, which I also measure. I throw away approximately 3 cups of espresso for every successful one I make on the basis that the coffee wasn’t the correct temperature, the extraction was 5 seconds too short (weak! eugh!), the fragrance wasn’t right. I always re-steam the milk if I discover that the bubbles in my microfoam are too large.

So why the hell should I pay for coffee that tastes like burnt milk?

This morning I had an ‘episode’ at Beaconsfield Costa Coffee.

More often than not, this place lives up to my expectation for a chain café. This expectation is admittedly low when it comes to quality and high when it comes to high-street availability, but my goodness it is better than the consistently awful burnt weak crap they serve you at Starbucks.

(Note to any Americans reading this: I believe it is a uniquely British phenomenon whereby the coffee sold in Starbucks is consistently offensive. My experience in USA branches of Starbucks is far more positive. The coffee in your Starbucks stores is certainly less than drinkable, but not offensive per se. I think this is something to do with the superimposition of Starbucks corporate values onto the lame work ethic of the British workforce. It results in failure.)

I digress; I have become that belligerent git who makes a scene in restaurants and cafés. I have become that man I always disliked. I am not even 30 yet.

Back in Beaconsfield Costa Coffee. The place is where I go to pick up a satisfactory coffee. Seriously, they get it right a lot of the time. On the most part, very pleasant staff, and talented ones too. It’s the only place I’ll go to out of London to drink half decent coffee.

Sadly this morning they gave me a barista whose incompetence matched only the curtness with which she dealt with me. Don’t get me wrong, I would far rather have a rude foreign barista who made a wicked coffee than a smiling friendly one who made a mediocre one. Fact is, I’ve noticed that friendly professionalism and competence go hand-in-hand. And the flip side is that grumpy baristas usually make a terrible coffee, too.

This particular barista has burnt my milk before. And before, I have politely asked for a replacement coffee without burnt milk. And before, I have felt like an inconvenience for drawing attention to this. Not this time.

I need good coffee. I’m not in central London at Monmouth. I’m not at Sacred Coffee. I’m not at Nude Espresso. This is the only place I can get it right now.

The barista makes my flat white but shoves the lid on before I even get to see the creation. I am in a rush, I grab the coffee and run back to my double-parked car.

I throw my coffee into the coffee holder. Coffee flies all over the car, and over myself. I am running a few minutes late for my client. I don’t like to be late.

Why did the coffee fly everywhere? I always do this with a flat white. The foam on the top sits between the coffee and the lid, it never spills. I open the lid to inspect. It’s like water. Where is the foam? Where is the creamy sweet microfoam? Where is the attempt at latte art? All I see is grey murky liquid, no foam.

I’m in two minds. I’m late, but very angry with the coffee all over me and my car (did I think to bring a tissue – no). Really? Is this sloppy crap going to be my only espresso until 4.30 or 5? Please no.

I run back into Costa and explain that this is not a flat white. This is a latte, with no foam. The curt barista explains it is a flat white.

Please don’t argue. The difference between a good barista and a bad one: a good one would be horrified at the thought their creation was not up to scratch.

I say politely “I’m sorry, the flat white has a microfoam on top with a very smooth but dense texture that prevents me from throwing coffee all over my car. This is not a flat white.”

I lose my cool, and simply place the coffee in front of the barista and say nothing, waiting for a response. (It’s very unlike me to behave in this way.)

To her credit, the barista says “I will try to make you another sir”. Curt but solution-focussed. The short girl who took the order, standing next to her, looks like I just insulted her family and called her mother a whore. Oh really? You are giving me the death stare because your colleague served me bad coffee? I just threw coffee down me and you are giving me evils? Really?

I wouldn’t even dare to serve this to my own house guests let alone serve it for money.

At this point I should explain that I don’t believe my intolerance to be borne out of a sense of innate privilege, nor do I believe myself to be spoilt, nor someone who takes things for granted in life.

It’s more that I have grown used to my own exacting standards for pulling an espresso, foaming milk (this is an art if done well), and more and more frequently I find myself expecting these standards to be exceeded when I drink out.

I take the new coffee and run. I get back to the car, remove the lid to inspect. The microfoam is at least there. There are large bubbles in the microfoam. The milk from my replacement coffee burns my tongue. I am angry. But I am late.

See – this is how I start my day. Angry, late, disappointed, and with a burnt tongue.

All because of coffee.


09
Oct 09

Royal Mail. Doing Justice to its 'Royal' Roots.

Royal Pain in the Arse, more like.

Yesterday, our post came at 2pm.

I ran to the door, because two days ago I had noticed they had delivered mail for another house altogether, and I wanted to ask the postman what he was doing. (Politely. I am always polite, however angry.)

But first, I inspected the letters that had just dropped.

One for me, one for 61 Tunis Road (lucky me!) and one for 61 Stanlanke Road.

“What, AGAIN?!”, thought I.

I immediately dropped the mail, opened the front door expecting to see the postman a couple of steps away. I was ready to lose a little bit of patience, actually.

Even if it was the fault of the sorting office who had put things in the wrong piles, and even if it was the end of my shift, I would still not do something like that. I would look at the post, and think “I should take this to where it should go, one road down”. I would then sacrifice 10 extra minutes of my life to explain to my manager that this has happened too many times now, and it’s not acceptable.

Alas, the postie was half way down the road in a red van by the time I looked out on the street. How on Earth he must have returned to his van from my doorstep, started up, and driven half-way down the road in the space of about 8 seconds, I have no idea!

This is a special skill. An art, you might say. One that requires practice.

The plot thickens.

I walked around to 61 Tunis Road to politely offer them some important mail (return address was PO Box Northampton, does the reader know what this means? Yes, the letter had a credit-card shaped, er, card inside of it, no joke), and was greeted by a lady whose young boy asked if I was Matthew.

Good GOD. This sharp-eyed young boy had remembered seeing my address and name on some mail for me, delivered to them! And it was my online VAT registration details, including membership card. Great, so nothing too important then!

Do these people see “letter from HMRC REVENUE AND CUSTOMS” and think “sod it, I’ll deliver it elsewhere”?

Is it because I made a complaint about them shoving a “while you were out” notice through the letterbox two months ago without having even knocked on the door only to open the door immediately to ask what was going on and to find the postman didn’t even have the parcel he was claiming to try to deliver that day? Was it revenge for the formal complaint I had made about this terrible behaviour?

I visited my next location, where I was greeted by the grateful face of a lady whose HMRC REVENUE AND CUSTOMS letter (yes, another really important letter), or that of her husband, had been missing.

How desperate!

This country is a joke!

I am giving up and moving to Spain.

In Spain, people sit around in sunny piazzas, drinking espresso and talking about important things.

People look after others’ babies without the fear of being arrested or told off by officious social services workers.

Do people misbehave like this in Spain, where it’s hot?

Do people not take pride in their jobs here at all?

Do people have no souls? Not an ounce of goodness? Any sense of right?

Am I the only one who has a sense of basic human decency and duty? No, thankfully I am not. But it’s so hard finding others who also do!

Our road names are different! Our postcodes completely different! They are DIFFERENT ADDRESSES! Your job is to deliver an envelope to an address, not a random letterbox nearby because you are at the end of your shift, you lazy jobsworth-y heap of disrespectful human uselessness!

It’s one thing when we can’t trust others on the street to behave considerately towards others, but it’s another thing altogether when people do so AND take a pay packet for the privilege at the end of the month!

Member of the chattering classes that I am, I feel it’s my duty to apportion blame at this point.

Middle management. Not postmen. Middle management. For it is they who refuse to accept there is a huge problem with their workers. An enormous problem with quality of service. As long as they install customer care lines where they pay people to smile over the phone at you in order to form a convenient black hole for serious service complaints (every call ends with “thank you for your call, I will chat with the area manager and have this resolved as soon as possible“, which invariably masks a complete lack of understanding of the severity and spread of the endemic problems of worker attitude and area manager accountability), as long as they refuse to admit there are management structure problems and wipe out entire sections of the business to remedy the problem, this problem will continue to further plague the Royal Mail and cause its eventual demise.

Talk about an industry giving itself a black eye when it’s already got major health problems.

I only write because mail workers voted in favour of a strike today.

Good one. Imagine if everyone had a little bit of a strike. Postal workers, train workers, politicians, policemen and women, teachers, firemen. Anarchy, it would be anarchy. That’s why striking, in a society like we have today, is practically immoral; if you don’t like your job, or the sector you decided to go in to, why the hell are you staying in it? Sure, try to reform it, if you do care about your job or sector. But striking doesn’t have that effect, it has the effect of stirring up anger from the public and solving nothing between ‘robust’ negotiators for the industry and insolent negotiators for the unions.

God, it’s not like we are sending people down the mines any more, is it?

Striking: in our current societal status, it’s what lazy people who think they deserve more do. Here’s my message to you: everyone in the world thinks they deserve more. Apart from those who really don’t have anything, and they appreciate life in every way they can. Yes, workers think they deserve better treatment and pay, even politicians think they deserve better pay, even after The Scandal. I don’t want this to sound trite, but I have come to appreciate those around me who appreciate what they have got, I am one of these people myself.

Anyway, enough of the happy clappy, on with the vitriol.

Or perhaps it’s lawyers’ faults?

Lawyers have turned our society into a compensation society, like the USA. They didn’t mean to, their motives for campaigning for individuals to have greater power to challenge organisations were pure. After all, they were about power to the people. But actually it has backfired, and it means we are not able to simply get rid of rubbish workers, for fear of tribunals and court cases of unfair dismissal. The public sector, which doesn’t have the money to get serious heavyweight legal assistance in such cases, is the one that loses. Or rather, we, consumers of public services, are the ones who lose. The Lawyers didn’t think about that, they didn’t think about the long lasting effects of handing legal power to the individual.

Sounds good on paper, but actually leads to inefficient, ineffective organisations, ones that have to care more about workers’ rights than the job they are trying to get done. That surely cannot be right.

Sack it, I blame the Labour government. (NB I say this tongue-in-cheek.) Might as well. Spoon feed society, pay them for sitting around on their arses all day, and the wretched disease of indifference about life, the universe, and everything, will filter up into the working classes, god help us because it has probably permeated the middle and upper classes too, and soon enough 99.9% of the general public will be unable to make decisions for themselves and abuse their surroundings and take others for granted. This is the thin end of the wedge. The thick end is crime and intolerance.

Socialism. It may seem like a great idea to give handouts to those who need them the most, but it does nothing for society – all levels of society – in the medium to long term.

It simply means more people spit in the street, and dump their rubbish illegally, and behave in antisocial ways. And drop mess, and eat smelly food on the tube, and carry knives around. And drink and start fights, and can’t look each other in the eye.

That’s why I simply cannot bring myself to vote Labour, however much I don’t want the Tories to come to power.

Rant over.

I wish I were not in the impossible position of having to vote for a party I don’t really believe in, nor do I think will ever have enough power.

Can’t someone fill the political gap?

No, not you, UKIP, you single-minded waste of a manifesto.

A party I could take pride in, one that represents a political ideal I can connect with. One that is in favour of Europe, peace, technology, progress, social justice, reasonable taxes, fiscal conservatism. I wouldn’t mind paying higher tax if we could find one.

Am I a Tory? Please tell me no. I am not a Tory.


09
Oct 09

Yes, I know. (And Google SEO)

Dear readers

I know I have very few readers.

But like Radio 4 listeners, you are all passionate and attentive.

(Yes, I flatter myself.)

Therefore I owe you all an apology that my wordpress blog hasn’t been reachable from its domain name hazymat.co.uk for a while. It’s all the fault of WordPress.com, honest.

Okay, I’m talking like I know you all. In reality, the only person reading this is Mr Schlackman (a big shout out, yo). Sorry, I slipped into Radio 1 there. Or Radio 1 Xtra, or whatever.

Anyway, dear readers, I’ve had nobody in real life to talk to about this, so I shall rant about it here.

SEO is a really fun subject to get into.

But one of my favourite parts of reading and learning about it is hearing things from the horse’s mouth.

The horse (aka Google) has a wonderfully dry, witty tone of writing when it addresses common SEO questions.

For example, they write:

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.
Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

“Dear google.com,

I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

This makes me laugh, a lot. (I have spent too long finding matters of SEO that are normally boring in everyday life, strangely interesting, and therefore Google’s humour makes for relatively hilarious reading.)

Anyway, a special one for Mr Schlackman, if he hasn’t already seen it.

Best Microsoft KB article ever written.

Best Easter Egg (?) ever discovered? It’s subtle, but it’s brilliant.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/281923

This led me to some site searches combining technical terms with amusing words. Such as:

[google search]: site:microsoft.com active directory dog

[google search]: site:technet.microsoft.com ipsec bum

And if you go to this link below (don’t), it takes you to a page that I am dying to know how it got there in the first place given its URL, and what the file *really* actually is, but contains, according to google, within the binary for the ACC file, the C* word. Hilarious.

http://download.microsoft.com/download/6/e/6/6e68730e-6723-412b-9b3c-d527510f0865/aac-21a_9.aac