Friday, December 16, 2005

Internet domains

What's with all these new Internet domains? It was bad enough having to register your name and company with .co.uk, .com, .net and .org. Now there are .eu, .org.uk, .me.uk and a hundred others. I really can't be bothered with keeping up with the rest of the pack on this one. It's just too costly and too much hassle. The agencies concerned are doing it to rake in more money and that's it. It's a cash-making exercise. As to finding a company on the web by guessing its URL - it's 10x faster these days just to type it into Google. My main site (http://3lib.ukonline.co.uk) has one URL and one URL only, and it's staying that way. If people want to find me, they will... (Actually, I've also got www.3lib.com, but only because a kind customer gave it to me)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Supermarket huddles

Now look. The whole point of having multiple checkout operators in supermarkets is so that multiple queues of people can be served in 'parallel', i.e. all at once. If there's a problem with one queue, it shouldn't affect the others, otherwise the whole system breaks down. Which is why supermarket huddles are so frustrating. Mavis: "Alice! This customer has some vouchers (or whatever) I don't recognise!". Alice leans over, abandoning her own customers: "Hmm... I haven't see that before, either. Gladys?" Gladys peers over from aisle 3's checkout: "Yes, you just have to press D and then 56.... oh, hang on, I'll show you." We now have three people sorting out the one problem and noone's getting served. I've seen this syndrome in banks, post offices and many other establishments where there are more than one operator. And it drives me mad. Look, if there's a problem, call in a manager, or the cleaner, or 'phone a friend'. But HANDS OFF the other queues!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Litter louts

It all comes down to sheer selfishness, I suppose. But I'm staggered at the way 80% of the population of this country seems happy to throw down their fag ends, sweet wrappers, crisp packets and so on, without a thought as to what'll happen to them. Imagine if there was no-one to pick it all up? The planet would soon be knee deep in rubbish - I wonder at what point people would notice and start being conscious of their own throw-away habits? In many areas, councils pay people to go around picking up litter, but if we didn't make a mess in the first place, the money could be reassigned to schools, hospitals and other worthy projects. Litter makes me mad...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Over-obscure TV adverts

Now, listen up. The whole point of advertising is to get the message of a patricular brand of something scross, whether it's Carlsberg beer or a Vauxhall car (spit) or the latest perfume. So why do my wife and I end up playing the "Guess what this is an advert for" game every night? What on earth's the point in a company spending an obscene amount of money creating and paying to show an advert that's so arty that the thing it's advertising is only shown in the last two seconds? And those last couple of seconds are so tenuously linked to the preceding twenty-eight that although people might remember the arty advert, there's no way they're going to remember the brand, completely foiling the point of doing the advert in the first place. What a waste of money and time.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Singing and Dancing Santas

Bah Humbug. Oh, how I hate this time of year. Not Christmas itself, I'm all up for the season of goodwill and remembering the Nativity, and so on. But the now inevitable torrent of houses lit up with garish Santas and gaudy reindeer, each animated and with strobe-like accompaniment from gardens full of beads of lights, is just all too much. And pray tell me what a Star Wars advent calendar, a Santa in a helicopter and a parachuting reindeer have got to do with the birth of a penniless and naked baby Jesus in a stable in Israel 2000 years ago? Not an awful lot. Christmas for most people round here seems to be about time off work to get plumped up and drunk a lot, present buying hassles, office parties and the aforementioned gaudy light shows.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sites which force you to open an account just to buy one thing

The title says it all, in this case. You'll recognise the scenario. You track down something on the web, like the price and click on 'Buy'. Next thing you know is that you're being told that you have to 'open an account' with the site/company before you can proceed with checkout. It's not so much the time taken to enter your details - you'd have to do that anyway, so that they know where to send the goods - it's that you've then got one more username and password to remember, to add to the 218 you already juggle in your head (or, if you're smarter, in an encrypted database on your PC or smartphone/PDA). And it also means one more company holding on tightly to your personal information. Look, I just want to buy this ONE item! There's nothing else on your site that tempts me. Yes, I'm sure, just let me buy it, and no, I really, really DON'T want to open a permanent account. Good sites, of course, make the account bit optional.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Suicidal Smokers

Look. It's hard enough to get to three score years and ten anyway, what with all the things that could go wrong with the human body. So why on earth do hundreds of millions of people across the world continue to pollute the innards of their body with nicotine, tar and other chemicals, when every single packet of cigarettes they buy has HUGE WARNINGS (yes, like that) telling them they're seriously damaging their health and could die as a result? Addiction? Sure, but we're not talking heroin here, we're talking about a little will power and the desire to change one's life for the better. And they'd save themselves a fortune into the bargain, what with the current price of 'smokes'. Cancer isn't a disease that can be caught, it's simply the natural cell reproductive process starting to go horribly wrong. And the presence of cigarrette smoke and chemicals is a damn good way to start that sort of mutation off. Continuing to smoke is suicide. Literally.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Prices ending in 99p

The really horrible thing about the 'system' is that we all know it works. I see something marked £3.99 and my mind sticks it in the mental category 'between £3 and £4'. And if it's something I really want, my mind's liable to dismiss the 99p altogether. But imagine a world where everything was priced in nice round numbers, say in multiples of 50p (or 50 cents, if you're American). Quite apart from making prices simpler and shorter, we wouldn't need the vast bulk of today's small change (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p), everybody's pockets would be lighter and cleaner, adding things up in your head accurately would be a doddle, and the world would surely be a better place. And guess what, the shops and manufacturers would be happier too, as they'd be able to round all the prices up. I'd happily pay a little extra for a simpler, more efficient pricing scheme.

Friday, November 25, 2005

TV auction channels

You know, 'Bid TV', that sort of thing. Or, as we refer to them in our house, comedy channels. They're usually so awful that they're funny. You've got some camp-looking guy with a cheesy accent and equally cheesy and ingratiating smile calling you 'mate' and 'darling' (depending on whether he's aiming the product at men or women) and referring to everything as already yours. E.g. 'Here's yer strap, here's yer fake-diamond encrusted watch face, here's yer remote control'. I'M NOT YOUR MATE and I DON'T WANT TO OWN ANY OF THE STUFF YOU'RE SELLING! Really. Most of it's jewellery anyway. The funniest (or most awful, depending on how you look at it) bit is when the item is quite, quite dreadful (a £30 plastic animated loony tunes tribute clock springs to mind) and the presenter has to go on and on (and on) about it being such a special item for as long as it takes the 500 units in the channel's inventory to sell. Which could be a while.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Everything on a plate?

It still amazes me how many people in the Western World have become so complacent. There's a culture of 'I don't even have to work, my country will sustain me, with benefits, free everything and a God-given right to cable TV and enough money for going clubbing'. Not so. We come into this world naked and penniless and we go out pretty much the same way. And in huge swathes of the world, you basically spend most of the intervening years also nearly naked and penniless. When the teenagers of today complain about their rights and when workers start industrial action because their payrise was 'only' 5%, it makes me want to ram the Third World down their throats. There are no rights in this world - God has given us each a body and mind and it's up to us to work for what we want to achieve. There's never an excuse for laziness. I'm not knocking single mums on benefits or genuinely needy cases, it's general greed and consumerist culture that makes me mad, when people the world over are starving. And yes, if you click on the affiliate link on the next line, I'll donate the 10% I get to a third world charity. Really.
(This post brought to you by the letters Q and Z and a chocolate fountain)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rap music

It's supposedly a well established phenomenon that new music sounds terrible as you get older, so that you still get the chance to shout up the stairs to your kids "Turn that racket down!", just as your parents did when you were playing Deep Purple or Jimi Hendrix. But I don't believe it for a second. There's plenty of modern music that I absolutely love, from Coldplay to Keane to the Manics to Dido to Moby to Karnataka. Good music, good tunes are timeless. But rap music - well, it's isn't really music, is it? I mean there's no tune. Yes, some of the lyrics are cleverly rhymed and I'm sure some rap songs show a great social conscience. But to listen to rap track after rap track, with just a discordant rhythm section backing rap 'singers' talking out their compositions at 120mph, with little attempt at melody or variation, isn't my idea of fun. After a minute of lines all ending in "ation", I feel an uncontrollable urge to switch station or switch off. Simply awful.
(This post brought to you thanks to the letters A and B and the Bedlam Cube)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DRM and Copy Protection

You really would have thought the music industry would have learned by now. According to this post, the latest Sony DRM hoo-ha can be circumvented anyway with a bit of Gaffa tape. Then we had earlier systems for which the expensive workaround was a swipe with a marker pen. In every single case of digital rights when applied to movies and music, honest consumers get inconvenienced while the people intent on getting the stuff for free merely use the appropriate workaround or utility. In other words, it's a lose-lose situation, for the studios and the consumers. The music industry should concentrate on making CDs cheaper (say £5 or $10) and then people wouldn't bother pirating them in the first place - after all, I'd rather have the real deal on my shelf than a CDR burned from some MP3 files I 'found' on the Internet. Sony, EMI and the rest of you - time for a drastic rethink.
(This post brought to you thanks to the letters K and R and some key-ring pliers)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Commuting

So let's get this straight. It's 2005, we can do business online all day every day, we have telephony coming out of ears, motoring and public transport costs have risen and risen, yet every single weekday the roads round the country get clogged up with all the people in town B commuting to towns A and C, while those in A are off to B and C, and the people in C are simply trying to get into their own town centre. Sure, there are some businesses where a certain amount of physical presence is needed from their staff, but for the rest of the workforce, think how many gazillions of man hours could be saved each year by letting people work from their homes. Employees, you'll double your standard of life. Bosses, you'll save your staff time and make them more productive and motivated because they'll be judged on results rather than punch-in, punch-out timekeeping. Meanwhile, rats in those jams, I'll be thinking of you stuck in your '8 mile tailback on the A46' next time I make the 10 second journey from kitchen to office with a plate of hot toast....
(This post brought to you by the letters P and O and an incandescent globe)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Snobbish classical music buffs

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not dissing people who love classical music. I own quite a few classical CDs and at certain times I love listening to them. But I also like Motorhead, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Keane, X-ray Spex, Santana, Deep Purple, Hawkwind.... and even a bit of Robbie and Madonna. And apart from rap (another rant for another day), I enjoy the best of just about every genre of music. So why do a high proportion of classical buffs turn up their nose at anything written since about 1930? What's so scandalous about the Beatles writing something that's as good as one of Chopin's sonatas? What's wrong with a piece of music with rhythm? It's just pure snobbishness, that's what it is. Mind you, maybe I'm just jealous that classical fans get their own sound-proofed room in many big HMV and Virgin shops. Why can't we have similar rooms for proper music and leave the till area for piped Kylie and Eminem?
(This post comes to you thanks to the letters I and E and a very special key)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sunday drivers

There are enough bad drivers on the road at the best of times, but Sunday brings out the very worst of them all. You know you're in trouble when you come up behind a 20 year old car that still looks new, moving at snail-like speed. It's basically kept in a garage all year and comes out on sunny weekends for a trundle round town and it's being driven by a 60 year old how's eyesight and reflexes are seriously letting him/her down but they're loathe to admit it, so they just keep on driving. Wandering all over the lane (and sometimes adjoining ones), slowing down for corners while they're still in the previous county and building up to the big finale, where they completely fail to park anywhere within the lines prescribed. I know all this because I come up against drivers like this every week. And because I've had relatives exactly like this, one of whom eventually admitted defeat when he couldn't see the road anymore and handed in his license. Just keep Sunday drivers away from me...
(This post comes to you thanks to the letters W and R and an almost real light saber)

Litter louts

Imagine if every smoker who dropped his fag ends on the ground, every teenager who spat out their chewing gum on the pavement, every kid who scattered their sweetie wrappers all around them, were confronted en masse and the reality of what they do made to sink in. If it weren't for councils paying people to go (walking or driving) round picking up all their rubbish, the entire country would be covered in a layer of litter and c**p to a depth of one metre (from dept of statistics). If they could take the effort to use the appropriate bins, our council bills would be much reduced, we'd all be better off, giving them more money to spend on cigarettes, chewing gum, sweets,... no, hang on, that could make the situation even worse.....
(This post brought to you by the letter Y and Z and some wristwatch walkie talkies)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Soap operas

Look. Real life is challenging. There are families to raise, bills to pay, work to do, hobbies to enjoy, friends to meet and generally things to do. Trying to get all this done and remember all that you need to remember before your brain cells finally all die is, I would have thought, enough of a challenge. But no, it seems that a vast proportion of the population don't seem to actually have a life like this and feel the need to fill their time and brain with hour after hour of other people's imaginary lives. As evidence I bring you Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale, Casualty, Hollyoaks, the list is virtually endless. You could quite happily surf the channels and fill your entire day with imaginary melodramatic nonsense. I can partly forgive the current craze for 'reality TV' - after all, this is at least a window into someone else's real life. But soap operas have no redeeming features whatsoever, waste billions of man hours of a country's population each year and, from what I've seen, just depress people by exagerating the problems in real life to murderous proportions. Grr....
(This post brought to you by the letters W and V and a wristwatch TV)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hospital layouts

Yes, I know that most hospitals are just glad to get the money they get, and that they grow as-and-when they get the chance. But they really, really could do a better job of telling people how to get to their appointments. After half an hour of wandering corridors, with coloured signs advertising all sorts of things ending in 'ics' and multiple conflicting arrows pointing up ever longer corridors, all you want to do is shout 'Just tell me where to go!'. Maybe they should send you a sketch map with your appointment letter: 'x' marks where you need to go? One hospital I went to last month had a great idea: in one central junction was an elderly couple (volunteers?), whose sole purpose for being there was to direct people as to where to go. Great idea. Why can't we have more like this? Never mind the fancy signs and hospital jargon, just give us more grandads and grannies.
(This post brought to you by the letters R and R and a remote control dalek)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dogs

Just don't get me started on dogs. They bark and yap (especially at each other) and mess up the parks and frighten my daughter and wee on everything in sight need constant walks and grooming and vets bills and drool and moult and I can't for the life of me see why anyone (other than perhaps a really, desperately lonely pensioner) would want to own one. Why, why, why? Did I mention 'Why'?
(This post brought to you by the letters R and R and a UFO)