Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bloody layabout idiots >:(

So, there I was, nice and early into the depot this morning, and what a surprise, someone else blew out, resulting in my getting roped into doing their (longer) duty instead of my scheduled duty, doing the route from our depot that goes through the middle of London.

Nice, you might think, a little variety, and all that.

Not so nice, however, when a bunch of f***wits from "UK Uncut", "Occupy", and some rather more radical than usual disability groups chained themselves across the sodding road and block it up tighter than a double dose of kaolin and morphine mixture.

With the exception pf the disability people, who've got a very real worry over benefit cuts, the rest of the hangers-on and spongers from "UK Uncut", "Occupy", and the rest of these full-time layabout oxygen thieves need a bloody good smack around the chops (preferably with something larger than a wet kipper) to wake them up to the REAL world, not their make-believe "let's piss everyone off to make change happen" crap.

For f*** sake, why can't they get a sodding grip, get a bloody job, and join the Human Race? It's not difficult, you just have to apply yourself - if they were instead to spend even a fifth of the effort they put into planning these stupid stunts into looking for a job, I dare say that the country would be a damn sight better off.

So, casting your minds back, these are the sorts of people that caused mayhem with CND, NIMN, and other so-called protest movements between the 60s and 80s during the Cold War.

Now this rent-a-twat bunch have found another way of goofing off and pissing off the rest of society, and that's protesting capitalism and trade in most of its forms. The fact that the capitalist system provides them the clothes they wear, and the food that they eat, probably escapes their single-cell brains. The fact that they harm society when they pull these mindless stunts also probably escapes them completely. They make me sick. They really do.

And today, when I'm a mere quarter into my second half of the duty I got roped into this morning, we had a bunch of these layabout losers stuffing up central London with their completely maladjusted piss-poor attitudes and drums (yes, bloody drums. And bongos, would you believe. They also succeded in giving me a bloody headache while my bus was stuck in that mess of their making), buggering up ordinary subjects daily lives with their adolescent attitudes that say that the rest of us owe them a living. See the photo to the left? Nothing could move. This happened mere moments after I left the bus stand near Oxford Circus. Talk about crap timing. Oh, and by the way, that's the environment they were messing with as well, because they'd just caused a massive traffic congestion - and thus more smog - leading all the way back to the A4. Another thing I'd like to stuff down their stupid throats - the smog, not the traffic... although...

I have two words for them on all of the above: It's Bollocks. And you can quote me on that.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Gùng héi faat chōi!

Just a brief one, this time:

恭喜發財 (Gùng héi faat chōi) to you - it's now the Year Of The dragon, so Happy Chinese New Year, may it be a prosperous, happy, and rewarding year for all of you!

Friday, 20 January 2012

This somewhat proves the point...

...that the US does NOT need new laws (SOPA/PIPA). They've just closed down what they call a Piracy filesharing site using existing US laws - laws that certain US Senators and Representatives say aren't up to the job that they've just achieved...?!

The Register: BREAKING: Kiwis collar Kim Dotcom as US throws the book at Megaupload.

Of course, the likes of Anonymous and similar have retaliated with DDoS attacks at certain US commercial and Federal Agency websites, but that was probably to be expected, really.

Now, the protests over SOPA and PIPA appear to have achieved their aims: Both bills seem to be, for the moment, dead in the waters of notoriety. But make no mistake, someone'll resurrect them, not in their current forms, of course, but as something similar, or probably even more insidious.

The point is this - and please bear in mind that I'm not a conspiracy theorist or similar form of nut, but you have to wonder - Why, when your existing laws are up to the job at hand, do you have to add to the number, with much more restrictive and none-too-specific laws?

Answers on a postage stamp, please.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

On internet censorship...

Currently, two bills (a bill is a draft of an act of law, before it's is subjected to a vote; if the vote accepts the draft, it is passed to the President of the United States to be signed into US statute law) are going through the United States Senate, and the United States House of Representatives; these are SOPA and PIPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protection of Intellectual Property Act.

Much has been written about these two bills, and much information and disinformation spread thickly and widely about.

Here's the details in a nutshell from CNET...

And here's an article (with a helpful video) from The Guardian...

Food for thought point one: Broadly put, a malicious infringement claim could put a website out of action, and subject the owner to court action in the USA.

Food for thought point two: Since this would be a court action played out in the USA, it is reasonable to assume that, given that the offence created would be a 'felony' one in the USA, jail time could - and most likely would - be involved. As a result, an extradition request would most likely be made from the USA to a British Court. And remember, whether you're innocent or guilty of the alleged offence has no bearing on the extradition process; for a British Subject to avoid a US extradition request is in all practicality impossible at the moment, due to the exceedingly poorly judged agreement in force, brought in by the previous Labour government over here.

Food for thought point three: The USA had continually been harping on about preventing internet censorship, with such examples as China's Great Firewall being bandied about left, right, and centre. Guys, you can't have it both ways: Either you condone censorship, or you condemn it. You can't do both at the same time - that's called being a hypocrite. Of course, that's an oxymoron too, as most politicians appear to be hypocrites at some point in time or another. Nature of the beast, and all that.

Still, the points above are very valid.

Let's go with a vexatious (that's legalese for vindictive) infringement claim. A blogger, let's call him Tommy Goodshoes, based in New Zealand, comments that he thinks a certain brand of American hot dogs, available on many supermarket shelves, don't taste very nice, and prefers, instead, Cumberland Sausages. He posts photos of the tin that the hot dogs are shipped in, and a photo, for comparison, of the sausage. The hot dog company regularly monitors (searches) the internet for mentions of their product, and sees Tommy's blog entry, laughs it off, and does nothing more about it, realising that it's fair use of the photo.

Unfortunately for Tommy, a rather over-enthusiastic hot dog fan takes exception to his blog, and posts an infringement claim on behalf of the hot dog manufacturer. You can see where this is going. OK, not a very good example, I'll grant, but the potential for genuinely vindictive infringement claims is massive.

There are other massive problems with SOPA/PIPA that are addressed elsewhere online, and a simple google search on SOPA/PIPA will show these.

As a British Subject, I cannot do anything about these insidious and very poorly-thought-out proposed acts; I can, however, ask any Americans reading this to research, quickly, what the implications of these bills would mean if brought into law, and ask that they contact their elected representatives as quickly as possible, to ask them to vote 'nay' to the bills when presented for a vote in the two houses.

Thanks for reading this, and good luck.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A few pleasant days away with the other half...

...Only buggered up by First Great Western's appalling customer lack-of-service.

I've been spending some quality time with my other half, in the sticks, in the middle of nowhere. It's very nice to get away from London, with all its' hustle and bustle, and greased whippet (to coin a northern friend of mines phraseology) speed of life, and instead, wind down to a slower pace of life, and have quality time with one's partner.

Last time I came over here, the trains were well stuffed up; seems a goods train, shortly before Christmas, parted company with a few of its' carriages, and blocked the line towards Newbury from Reading.

I use Newbury, as my other half lives in the middle of nowhere, West Berks, and it's perfect to get to, grab a (once an hour) bus, and walk the rest of the way (the house isn't far from the bus stop on a country lane). I can get a taxi from Newbury (and sometimes have to if delayed), but that's the exception, as like London, they're hellishly expensive.

Anyhow, when the trains got stuffed last time, First Great Western (FGW) had to lay on a replacement bus service for us, which I only discovered by chance from the Duty Station Manager (I dog eared him as he was trying to slip off the platform to his nice, safe, away from the great unwashed public, office!), his staff having been very bloody unhelpful to that point.

I wound up being over an hour late into Newbury, and had to get a taxi from there, having missed the last bus (County bus services tend to end a LOT earlier than London ones).

This time around, the connections worked well enough, but I wanted to ensure that I travelled at the right time of the day for the ticket that I had (an off peak open return, valid for a month from the day of outbound travel).

So, given that FGW, who run the Newbury to Paddington part of the trip, are the logical choice to make such enquiries of, I decided to use their Twitter feed to get my answer, that being what it's there for. Or so I thought. I posted the question after they knocked off for the night, figuring that they'd get to it first thing in the morning, while clearing the overnight queue of questions.

Here we went again: I'd made an assumption, and as we all know, "When you assume something, you make an ass of 'u' and 'me'." Well, the first Twitter question went unanswered, so I asked again. No reply. So, close to ten hours after I'd made the first enquiry, I lost patience, and called, on an expensive 0845 call from a mobile phone, National Rail Enquiries. Should have gone there first, I guess.

I got a very pleasant Indian-sounding lady, who asked two questions: what kind of ticket was it, and how much did it cost? These two questions answered, I found that I could travel at any time after 09:30am, with no further timing restrictions. Excellent reply, marvellously swift, and perfectly satisfactory. Colour me very happy with NRE.

So, I fired off a 'forget it' message to FGW. Guess what. They never even replied to that, either.

Here's the series of Twitter messages to FGW:

RogersBlant @RogersBlant
@FGW Question: I have an off peak return, Newbury to a south London station. When can I NOT begin to travel on Tuesday?
12:22 AM - 17 Jan 12 via Twitter for Android

I'd expected to see a reply by around 09:30 or so that morning. Guess again.

RogersBlant @RogersBlant
@FGW Repeat from earlier; I'll be travelling off peak newbury to south London via paddington; what are the off peak hours, please?
10:07 AM - 17 Jan 12 via web

This is when I finally lost patience with them, and contacted National Rail Enquiries.

RogersBlant @RogersBlant
@FGW Never mind. Rang NRE and got info from them. Odd that I had to call an 0845, & that you couldn't answer me in over ten hours, though.
10:47 AM - 17 Jan 12 via Twitter for Android

Now, I've heard from other travellers in the past that FGW only answer when it suits them, and that their customer service department makes the Civil Servants in the BBC telly series "Yes Minister" look like a model of efficiency, but I always thought that this was the result of not getting what they wanted, such as a refund for a completed but delayed trip, or whatnot. Having just experienced this appalling lack of respect for a paying customer - not even an acknowledgement of my comms to them, for pities' sake?! - I can see why people hate these folks with a passion.

The fact that I had to pay a hefty fee (0845 numbers are treated as being practically premium rate numbers on mobile tariffs, and are NOT counted against any free minutes you may have on your contract) via Vodafone to talk to a human at NRE, rather than wait for bloody ages for a non-existent reply from FGW, not only adds insult to injury, but it tells me volumes as well.

Twitter is intended to aid communications, by providing a social media platform with which to communicate. It's supposed to be quick, fairly painless, and is touted as a marvellous way to communicate with friends and businesses alike. Well, for the most part, such as when connecting with your friends, yes, it does that remarkably well.

But I'll say this as well: For a business, it is not just a mouthpiece from which you can utter corporate propaganda, or be selective in your choice of whom to answer. It requires, absolutely, that you answer all queries put to you, lest it be ignored by your customers.

Remember this well, FGW, because you're well on your way to making the above a prophesy, not just a rant on my blog.

Here endeth the lesson.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Why are these empty?

The blue frame in the photo to the left is a gas holder, or "Gasometer". Note the filled one to the right in the background, which is very much the exception to the rule these days - normally, it appears that they're both empty. You can tell, by the way, which one if the newer of the two. It's the blue framed one. The grey, filthy-looking one, dates back to before the Second World War; the blue one is much more recent.

Anyhow, there was a time, a few years ago, when all these things were almost always full, maintaining reserves of gas under pressure for people in local areas, thus ensuring a ready supply of gas on demand for cooking, heating, and so on. Gas was the first properly clean, cheap, and affordable energy source in the home; prior to gas, coal and wood was used, both of which being both messy and occasionally somewhat smelly; in my youth (like before I was twenty), people swore by gas for cooking - not much of a surprise that, as electric cookers, while lacking the danger of leaking gas, were notorious for taking ages to get to working temperature, and for using the actual temperature as a gauge for oven heat (which confused all manner of folk - including me!), rather than the existing 'Regulo' or 'Gas mark' system.

Granted, gas is a fossil fuel and a greenhouse gas, all rolled into one, but the vast majority of homes in Great Britain use the stuff. I still do, for both main purposes, heating and cooking. I also use elecricity for all those (can you say "Microwave Oven" and "Immersion Heater"?), and much more besides. But you don't see massive capacitors dotted about the landscape, storing electrical energy to tide over high demand periods, instead, all you see are zillions of pylons and thousands of miles of cables.

So, with all this said and done, here're the burning questions of the moment: Why, given that a great number of us still use gas at home, are do the gasometers all seem to be empty these days? Are the gas companies not storing the gas locally any more? If this is the case, are they instead relying on pipelines from far-flung lands to supply a constant supply of gas to us, without managing a national gas reserve? We've seen what happens in those cases over the last few years - and if I recall correctly, wasn't it Germany that was one of the pigs-in-the-middle of the Russia/Ukraine gas dispute in 2009?

The idea of National Energy Reserves is not a new one; during the Cold War, we maintained strategic emergency stores of various types of fuel oils and gas; the USA does the same to this very day, as do most sensible nations - especially in these extremist terrorist-infested and troubled times. So I'll ask again: Why are the gasometers empty?


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

"Red sky at morning..."

Every so often, the morning sky is full of colour, even if it does tend to portend some really grotty weather for later in the day.

This morning saw one such example. The following photo was taken from near the western end of the route I drive, and it's also by far the best morning sky shot I've had the pleasure to snap with this phone this far - and yes, I was parked up, standing by my bus as I lost time due to still-empty roads and a timetable intended for use on crowded rush-hour mornings - that'll come back next week, of course.

Anyhow, I hope you like it as much as I do :-)

Hmph. Just noticed that I need to clean the lens on the camera on my phone too. Oh well. Easy enough to do, just have to get a decent lint-free cleaning cloth first!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's a shame...

...that we're not allowed to do certain things at work...

It's been one of those days, and my sarcasm senses are vibrating away on 'Full'... best you run for cover...!

Were we allowed, I'd probably be about ready to stick a sign up in the window of my cab, facing boarding passengers, that said the following:

Like I said, it's a shame we can't stick up notices like this, but then company lawyers are pretty notorious for having their senses of humour removed by a blunt and rusty melon baller...!

Monday, 2 January 2012

"An' I got up special, too!"

You have to feel sorry for some folks, at times, like the poor old gent who got on my bus at the mid-point bus station earlier today.

He was rather put out, to say the least. He'd made a special effort to get into the shopping centres in town, to find that they were, for the most part, closed up tighter than a bankers' wallet. What he was most annoyed about, though, was not that they were all shut. No, not at all.

He was annoyed because he'd turned down his wife's offer of kippers and toast for breakfast, in favour of getting ahead of the crowds for some early morning shopping!

I'll give him this: At least he was laughing about it!