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Showing posts from November, 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.

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. Literall…

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.

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…

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 m…

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 swi…

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)

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'…

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 let…

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 S…

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)

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 ea…

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)

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)