Category Archives: business

Aegon and the Great British Pension Robbery


Aegon
expects you to have read its terms and conditions.  In fact if you haven’t read their terms and conditions they’ll refuse to enrol you into their schemes.  Now we all know that people don’t usually read the t’s and c’s – we all just tick the box – especially as companies don’t make their t’s and c’s user friendly – they’re usually full of legalese and cross referenced – I’m sure that corporate lawyers can understand them but – you and I – the people who are supposed to be protected by them – can’t!

I recently tried to combine my workplace pensions (my company decided it would be a good thing – for them – to change the pension a few years ago) and on my second telephone call (plus emails btw) I was asked had I read the terms and conditions.  I was informed that they ran to 180 pages – I kid you not – I asked her to repeat this figure several times – and because I said obviously I hadn’t read them she refused to do what I had requested – so I’m moving my money elsewhere – to hell with them.

Now I have already identified that the wording of these terms and conditions will be painful for the average human being to read AND then understand what they mean to him or her so here is a list of books – yes that’s right whole books – some of them classics which are under 200 pages….

Here’s just a few of them, how about:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I’m sure a lot of us will have read one of more of these books – but just how long did it take, did you have to go back and re-read bits, did you understand what was going on whilst you were reading a passage or did you have to look elsewhere before you could fully understand it?

…and these were primarily for entertainment, your pension and future life wouldn’t be impacted if you failed to grasp the subtle meaning of a phrase here and there…

I’m going to try and find the document/s that make up this 180 pages and post them here for your enjoyment.  But in the meantime here are some short stories to keep you going…

Here’s just a few of their documents they expect you to have read.

…and there are loads – and of course every so often they update them – it is beyond the wit of man to keep up with them – but of course that’s exactly what they want!

I shall return to this topic once I have completed my download task!!

Watch this space!!

Things the world can do without – part 2

Profiteering

Disproportionately large or grossly unfair profit, generated often through manipulation of prices, abuse of dominant position, or by exploiting a bad or unusual situation such as temporary scarcity. There is usually no governmental control over profiteering unless it involves illegal means or the government can be arsed to sort it as it benefits their cronies!!

Think about the privatisation of power supply – I mean how has that benefits us, the masses?  Answer not one iota!  You’ve got the likes of Scottish Power and their friends constantly claiming that costs need to rise (presumably so they can pay their own bonuses) yet the service that you and I receive is appalling.

Apple is another company that has promoted profiteering – and sadly the rest of the mobile industry has caught on – I mean when you can buy a touchscreen 15″ laptop with shed-loads of memory (RAM and ROM) and a whole host of components and that massive screen for around £300 – why does a phone have to cost £1,500?  Simple – so Tim Apple can sit on a $285Bn cashpile – that’s why!

 

 

Donald Trump aka f**kwit!

Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Nov. 8, 2016. He has been a real estate developer, entrepreneur and host of the NBC reality show, “The Apprentice.”  Trump’s statements were awarded PolitiFact’s 2015 and 2017 Lie of the Year.

Born and raised in New York City, Trump is married to Melania Trump, a former model from Slovenia. Trump has five children and eight grandchildren. Three of his children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, serve as executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization.

Basically he’s a self-publicist and a liar!  Here are some of his lies…

He claims to know more about almost anything than anyone else and that he is an extremely (perhaps the most) successful businessman ever…really?

Well here are some of his business failures:

  • Trump Airlines
  • Trump beverages
  • Trump the game
  • Trump casinos
  • Trump magazine
  • Trump mortgage
  • Trump travel site
  • Trumpnet
  • Trump University

Yeah basically he’s the son of a successful businessman who is pissing his father’s inheritance up against the wall – and sadly forcing us to watch.

Putin’s calendars

One month, there’s Vladimir Putin topless in the woods with a gun. On the next page, he’s fishing in a white button-down shirt and trousers. No, they’re not pictures from the Russian president’s eHarmony page.

They’re from a calendar devoted to pictures of Putin that make him look strong, yet likeable. P-lease!

Enough of this fake fandom – this is an odious individual with a personal image complex.  We do not need to see images of Vlad topless (unless he’s missing his head that is) nor on horseback, nor cuddling leopards, holding up gigantic fish or even petting fluffy (but sufficiently manly large) dogs!

And of course it’s only going to get worse.. Those man-boobs are going to sag further, the bingo wings will develop and the comb-over will slide further and further back.  Vlad it’s not going to look pretty so just stop it please.  you know it makes sense!

Brussel Sprouts

“19 things you didn’t know about Brussel Sprouts”, yep somebody (Olivia Parker) actually wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph on that very subject – and some of them defy belief – powering Christmas trees ffs??

I can tell you a number of things about sprouts – they are, most definitely, the spawn of the devil, not only do they smell disgusting when being cooked they taste disgusting too.  Any recipe which includes sprouts as one of the ingredients like Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts will ruin those other ingredients – instantly!

Frequently sprouts are boiled to the consistency of Ulva Lactuca – otherwise known as Sea Lettuce – it’s an algae and frankly pretty gelatinous once cooked.

They’re now an integral part of Christmas – though lord knows why – some have suggested that it appears to be a case of timing. Not only is sprout season slap bang in the middle of Christmas, but the modern roast dinner was invented around the same time that sprouts were first imported to a large scale.

Either way they’re disgusting and we don’t need them – I’ll get my vitamin C from an orange every time!

 

Trophy Hunters & Poachers

Trophy hunters, those who kill animals for recreation rather than out of necessity, imported more than 1.26 million trophies to the U.S. in the decade from 2005 through 2014, according to an analysis of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s import data by Humane Society International and the Humane Society of United States. That’s an average of 126,000 trophy imports a year, or 345 a day!  And that’s disgusting!

I’m delighted to see that there’s a Facebook page dedicated to publicising the morons who think that killing animals for sport is perfectly acceptable thing to do!

Poachers are doing the same thing put this time for money, think of all the elephants and rhinos that are systematically slaughtered for some ludicrous alternative therapy or for the vanity of many around the world.

An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining. An insatiable lust for ivory products in the Asian market makes the illegal ivory trade extremely profitable, and has led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of African elephants.

In just a decade, more than 7,912 African rhinos have been lost to poaching.

Enough is enough people!

Middle lane dawdlers

The British really do have some appalling diseases and this is one of their worst, an almost pathological fear of being in the inside lane on a motorway.

New fixed penalties were intended to reduce the number of people lane hogging and carrying out other acts of careless driving on UK motorways, but it’s still prevalent today.

With the number of traffic police falling, it’s increasingly difficult for police to fine lane hoggers, and it’s not something that can be monitored using cameras in the same way speeding can.

Education, rather than punishment, is a more viable way of reducing the number of lane hoggers in the long term.

The Government has announced motorway lessons for learner drivers will be an option from 2018, but they will not be mandatory. If learner drivers were given practical lessons in lane discipline, this would help reduce the number of lane hoggers.

Wasps

Not the rugby club, nor even the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants but the annoying stingey, stripey things that appear to serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  Wasps aren’t just annoying – if you are unlucky, you might end up with a sharp reminder that wasps, like their close relatives the honeybee, pack a powerful sting. That combination of nuisance and pain makes wasps many people’s least favourite animals.

Unlike bees, the vast majority of wasps play no role in pollination – at all – however according to scientists from University College London (UCL) and the University of Gloucestershire a world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens!

Apparently the social wasps that irritate us sooo much consume 14 million kilograms of insect prey across the summer!  Hmm I’m still not convinced that I think there’s a better way!!

Right – that’s enough for part 2.  In part three we’ll finally get to topics such as whaling, Irish pubs, Scottish Power, tattoos and yes, RyanAir!!

 

 

Things the world can do without – part 1

This is in no particular order – other than that’s the order I wrote them down in initially – I was having a coffee at Wisley – the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens in surrey when the idea/s came to mind.  This list is definitely not exhaustive – I’m sure more will come to mind as I’m writing it – and yes maybe it is cathartic – so ignore what some people might say – when it is done it is sorted, packaged and filed away – and the world is once again a pinker and fluffier place 🙂

So let’s get stuck right in:

Nigel Farage

Let’s be honest – what a twat!  A lying, self publicist who slags things on one hand whilst trousering their dollars with the other.  Like Boris Johnson (see later) he shifts his position with the wind.  He’ll spin a story, bend the truth, hide the evidence and generally slither around like the odious piece of human excrement he resembles.

One of these days the media is going to realise that he’s a clown, and deny him the air of publicity he thrives on.  Go on Nigel bugger off – for good!

Christopher Chope

Like Farage before him this man also smells of shit.  But this one is actually worse. This insane individual who believes that he is really helping by blocking the sort of legislation that needs to get through Parliament asap because there is some itty-bitty technical misspelling or something needs to be de-selected as a matter or urgency.

He claimed £136,992 in parliamentary expenses in 2007-8.

He helped to lead backbench support for the motion calling for a referendum to leave the European Union.

He voted against the legislation for same-sex marriage in 2013.

He voted against requiring all companies with more than 250 employees to declare the gap in pay between the average male and average female salaries.

He objected to the second reading of the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill.

He blocked the passage of a private member’s bill that would have made upskirting a specific offence.

He objected to a bill which would have amended the Children Act 1989 in order to increase the protective power of courts over girls at risk of female genital mutiliation.

He really is a self-centred nasty, mean minded individual.  We need him out of our lives – pronto!!

Chris Grayling

This one is more dangerous as he has more power (unbelievably).  He’s held any number of high level government posts – yep at Ministerial level.  but there’s one thing that marks his tenure at each of these and that’s his complete incompetence.  He really is a fuckwit!

The list of his cock-ups is legendary, Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian sets them out far better than I could 🙂

The following is a direct lift from his wikipedia page:

He published a number of books as well as working for the BBC and Channel 4 before going into politics. A member of the Social Democratic Party until 1988, he then joined the Conservatives. First elected to Parliament in the 2001 general election for Epsom and Ewell, he was appointed to the Shadow Cabinet of David Cameron in 2005 as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

From 2007 he became the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and in 2009 he was appointed Shadow Home Secretary. Following the 2010 general election and the formation of the Coalition Government, Grayling was made the Minister of State for Employment.

In September 2012, he was appointed to the UK Cabinet as the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2012 to 2015. He was the first non-lawyer to have served as Lord Chancellor for at least 440 years. He was the Leader of the House of Commons and the Lord President of the Council between 2015 and 2016.

I’m flabbergasted….how can this happen?

Momentum

Momentum describes itself as a new kind of politics.  Really?  Seems pretty Stalinist to me – with its attempts to erase any form of alternative viewpoint than Saint Jeremy’s anaemic view of the world.  Hmm what it has actually done is to polarise things. So rather than build momentum behind getting rid of the Tories and installing a decent Labour government it has alienated a large chunk of the centre Labour vote.  so much so that even this ludicrously incompetent Tory government is still ahead in the pools after all the crap they’ve dumped on the British public- it really beggars belief!

Infuriatingly Saint Jeremy has contributed to this by basking in their fawning glory and refusing to have any sensible opinions of his own!!  Twat!

Momentum isn’t all bad – getting everyone eligible to vote on the list is a good thing, as is opposing the Tories per se but they’ve just gone about a lot of things the wrong way.  We don’t need them.

Racism

I’m sorry but I really really don’t understand why the colour of a person’s skin should make any difference what so ever.  People are people – some are nice, and some are nasty, some are funny – some aren’t, some are criminals – some aren’t. In fact it clearly isn’t just the “colour” of your skin it’s the “shade” of the colour of your skin.

This is getting ludicrous.

I’m white and I’ve experienced racism and it isn’t good – but that was a single occasion and it was over fast.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience it – day in, day out.  But focus on the core issue not some spurious argument based on tribal differences.

 

Religion

Where do I start? Look I get it, some people need a “religion” to enable them to make sense (or rather abrogate any intelligent thought on the matter) of their place in the universe. It’s a scary thing to try and get your head round the ultimate question – no not that one – the other one “Why am I here?”

But if we were to say, outside of any religious connotations, that we had an imaginary friend, who spoke to us we’d be carted off to the funny farm or dosed up with chemicals to manage the medical diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Worse than that the people who claim to be “holier than thou” are actually a bunch of money grabbing, misogynisitic, paedophiles!!

You might argue that Buddhism is a nicer religion but it’s still based on beliefs which cannot be proven scientifically – so I’d argue it’s just safer to steer clear of them – all of them!!  They just cause too much trouble.

Anyone who voted for Brexit!

You are all complete idiots.  see definition of idiots

  • noun: very stupid person, or alternatively fool, jerk, moron, nitwit, stupid, twit, blockhead, bonehead, cretin, dimwit, dork, dumbbell, dunce, ignoramus, imbecile, kook, muttonhead, nincompoop, ninny, pinhead, simpleton, tomfool, out to lunch.

 

In part 2 read what I think about topics such as profiteering, Donald Trump, Putin’s calendars, trophy hunters and RyanAir – amongst others 🙂

 

Bravo Mr Bezos

Ok for starters, let me say upfront, that playing away from home when in a relationship is not a good thing. It’s often symptomatic of a relationship that is already broken. However in this particular instance the are others issues, issues that impact on many more people that take priority over any moral indignation.

I’m referring to the recent public admissions of infidelity by the head honcho of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.

in this instance AMI, the publishers of the National Enquirer, had managed to get hold of some intimate texts and “dick-picks” that the Mr Bezos and his paramore had been sending to each other. AMI has been trying to use these to blackmail Bezos into stopping an investigation into how the tabloid obtained text messages exposing his extra-marital affair.

Federal investigators and legitimate media have of course suspected and proved that Mr. Pecker has used the Enquirer and AMI for political reasons. And yet AMI keeps claiming otherwise:

“American Media emphatically rejects any assertion that its reporting was instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”

Of course, legitimate media have been challenging that assertion for a long time.

AMI threatened to publish the pictures and the texts thereby embarrassing Mr Bezos into stopping this investigation.

However, rather than capitulate to the blackmail, Mr Bezos decided to go public about it and has published the specific details of what AMI have actually said, including the detailed descriptions of the texts and images!

Well done Mr Bezos, in this instance – even though some might argue that being one of the richest men in the world he has an ego similar to that of Vladimir Putin and the idea of people seeing him as some kind of Lothario, at his age, might just give him a semi!!!

But well done anyway for exposing the extortion, the corruption and the hypocrisy that exists in Trump’s America.

But not so much well done in the infidelity bit!!

KickStopper and IndieNoNo

What a fantastic idea it was – to crowdfund the development of cool new tech, new gadgets and stuff that the mainstream manufacturers thought too risky.  And what a shame that it has developed into a den of iniquity, of unfulfilled promises and downright lies from those running the campaigns.

According to their own stats Kickstarter claims over 150,000 successful campaigns raising over $4bn – that’s non too shabby.  But hold on just a cotton pickin’ minute – just because the campaign is successfully funded doesn’t mean it will ever deliver on its promise. A CNNMoney examination of the top 50 most-funded projects on Kickstarter found, way back in 2012, that 84% missed their target delivery dates -and that’s just the top 50.

How many of those 150k+ “successful” campaigns ever delivered anything?  Hmm, difficult finding any statistics – I wonder why?  Thankfully there are enough examples of campaigns that have been investigated to highlight the level of criminality that is going on – I particularly like this exposé from March 2018!

Indiegogo has raised over $1.3Bn from 800,000 campaigns.

Indiegogo is a less stringent alternative to the more successful Kickstarter and as such, its failure rate was always doomed to be high. Founded in 2008, the crowdfunding site has had its ups and downs. Guttulus, the Marketing Internet cat lists the top 17 failures and boy oh boy some of them are really big!!  I’ve got a 50% success rate with them:

Just put it on to take a call or hear music on your phone or PC. No earphones required!  I’ve backed them as the product is really innovative.  It certainly delivered what it promised – except that my head doesn’t seem top generate any bass, so the sounds comes across as tinny.  However if you copy their video of a guy pressing the cap against his car then yep, that works – some serious weight of sound!
With Kickstarter I’ve backed 5 projects – with varying success:
Wearable Input Device that lets you control anything. Gesture control, text transmission, payment, and more! Well in reality it was too flaky to actually be usable – but from memory it did turn up when expected – so that’s a positive!!
Exploding kittens by Elan Lee
This is a card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats.  Truly surreal, arrived as promised and does what it says on the tin (box!) – brilliant!
Sowatch by Farasha LLC
The world’s first autonomous smartwatch that tracks cardiovascular health, blood pressure and customizes your workouts !  A mega rip off.  Still, after keeping people waiting for 3 years, I still don’t have the item.  Not really sure if it will ever arrive and not sure what it might actually deliver in terms of usefulness – as after all it’s now 3 years out of date.
Amabrush is the first toothbrush, that cleans all your teeth at once in just 10 seconds!  Allegedly!  Some people have received products and the reviews are rather mixed, so I’m not holding my breath about this one either.
A new innovation in the way you shower; luxurious experience and superior cleansing…  Well this actually arrived – approximately a year late.  And it meets some of what it claims.  It does use a lot less water..which means that the showering experience is pretty crap, it’s turned my power shower into a trickle.  So I’ve removed it….
So looking at my experience here I’d say I’ve had a success rate of 1 in 7 – Exploding Kittens.  Everything else has either not turned up or just hasn’t met the hype.  And sadly for anyone out there who is looking for backing to fund their innovative project these people have screwed it for you I’m afraid.  I know that there’s a higher rate of failure in technology start ups but judging by what I’ve seen on these 2 crowdfunding platforms there’s a higher level of fraudsters and get rich quick merchants – that’s a shame as it will make many more people than me look at what they’re investing in more carefully and at the same time tarnish the reputation of these crowdfunding platforms to the point where they no longer provide a viable route to market for some of the brightest thinkers of our time.  Sad but true!

Fly tipping – worth bringing the death penalty back for it?

Fly-tipping is a serious criminal offence for which you can be prosecuted. The courts have various powers available to them to tackle fly-tipping, including imprisonment, substantial fines of up to £50,000 orders to pay costs and an order to deprive rights to a vehicle used to commit the offence.

Sounds pretty serious to me, and having seen so many examples of on my daily commute I can sympathise with those whose lives are affected by it.  It’s an insidious crime, done in the dark, when no-one is around to witness it.  The people who do it are the lowest forms of life, they can be grouped along with child molesters and self-serving politicians.   As some might say “hanging’s too good for them!”

Yet so many people seem to be getting away with it – the statistics from Defra are astonishing:

  • For the 2017/18 year, local authorities in England dealt with just under 1 million (998,000) fly-tipping incidents, a slight decrease of 1% from the 1,011,000 reported in 2016/17.
  • Two thirds (66%) of fly-tips involved household waste. Total incidents involving household waste decreased by 4% from 2016/17.
  • As in the last few years, the most common size category for fly-tipping incidents in 2017/18 was equivalent to a ‘small van load’ (33% of total incidents), followed by the equivalent of a ‘car boot or less’ (28%).
  • In 2017/18 34,000 or 4% of total incidents were of ‘tipper lorry load’ size or larger, which is similar to 2016/17. For these large fly-tipping incidents, the cost of clearance to local authorities in England in 2017/18 was £12.2 million, compared with £9.9 million in 2016/17. This increase was driven by an increase in the number of incidents in the largest size category of ‘significant/multi loads’.
  • Local authorities carried out 494,000 enforcement actions in 2017/18, an increase of 18,000 actions (4%) from 2016/17.
  • The number of fixed penalty notices issued has continued to increase, up 20% to 69,000 from 2016/17 and up 91% on 2015/16. This is the second most common enforcement action (after investigations), and accounted for 14% of all enforcement actions in 2017/18.

So over half of the reported incidences of fly tipping, that’s 528,000, were done by people like you or me and white van men.  Basically, people who were too lazy to go to the council tip!  You lazy bastards, it’s actually free to dispose of most household refuse at the tip!

Enforcement cost councils £16.9 million in 2016-17. This was on top of the £57.7m spent cleaning up fly-tipped rubbish.  Add to that the money reportedly spent by members of the Country Landowners Association, on cleaning up rubbish dumped on their land, said to between £100m and £150m a year, and you have a serious, and expensive problem.  Unsurprisingly they’ve come up with a 5 point plan to improve things:

  1. Impose and enforce penalties which better reflect the seriousness of the crime
  2. Enforce fines for home and business owners whose waste is found in fly-tipped locations
  3. Appoint a national ‘Fly-Tipping Tsar’
  4. Develop new ways to clear up and support victims
  5. Promote education and working in partnership

A noble attempt but frankly I’d still recommend hanging!

The Guardian posted a series of readers’ photos of “surreal” fly tipping in London…

And it isn’t just a British phenomenon, in New Zealand a graffiti-strewn and derelict bungalow appeared on an area that had recently been cleared for a new retail centre in Takanini, to the south of Auckland!

Closer to home, in Italy, according to Wikipedia, the Triangle of death in Campania, is Europe’s “largest illegal waste dump”. The area, which encompasses Italian municipalities Acerra, Marigliano, and Nola, experiences illegal waste disposal practices by the Camorra such as unauthorized burying of toxic waste under places frequented by humans.  Frequent fires at dumping sites and illegal waste fires have resulted in contamination of the air and drinking water.  And this raises a second issue driving this practice – fly-tipping has become a source of income for criminal gangs – here in the UK, as well in Italy.

So, what can be done about it?  Well for starters I hope that all the offenders in the videos that can be found on this BBC website were punished, if nothing else for the lame excuses they came up with!

Well one thing I’d recommend is to undertake some DNA analysis of the waste itself, swab the sofa, or the ties of bin bags, or the handles of the drawers and doors, I’d bet a few DNA profiles that could be checked with the National DNA Database would be found, and then maybe a few less criminals could be locked up, or hung, whatever!

Equally analysis of the contents of bin bags can lead to identifying whose waste it is – just think of the amount of junk mail (that you just bin) that either has your address or even better your name and address on it…you’re with me, I can feel it 🙂

However the greatest improvement can be made by standardising recycling and waste management – across the nation. Just telling people in one area what they can and can’t recycle, via some dull piece of local authority marketing, isn’t going to hack it.  It needs concerted centralised action – I mean Jeez, the bins are different colours in different areas – for those of you who want to know what you can recycle, and where check this link out!!  The rest of you, I suggest you start writing to your MP, start lobbying them and get the major waste companies involved too.

And stop trying to charge small businesses for taking their waste to council tips – encourage them to come to you – in the long ride it’ll save money!  Just make it as simple as possible and then the system will work better, and we’ll all benefit.  It’s either that of bring back the death penalty…

I hate lawyers. Well some of them anyway and so should you.

Agreeing with Ian Hislop?  Blimey – I didn’t expect that would ever happen, I am getting old 😦

I should say that I don’t hate all lawyers but there are a few types of lawyer that, frankly, the world could do without.  The first group are those who decide that they need to go into politics – 15% of all MPs were either barristers or solicitors.  This lot just need to go away now! Between them they’re responsible for the current Brexit mess we find ourselves in – and plenty of other messes as well!

This group is particularly irritating because they think they’re doing good when actually they are screwing things up for everybody except their rich friends!  Hateful, lying, toadies – the lot of them!!

The second group are those ambulance chasing Injury 4 You type of low-life shysters.  There is one TV advert that features a woman in a shopping centre who manages to slip and injure herself at the top of an escalator.  Hmmm if I remember correctly her view is obscured by a host of shopping bags she’s carrying.  I mean c’mon, really?  Are you suggesting that it’s the shopping centre’s fault?  That really does take the biscuit!

Here’s the google ad for one of these leeches:

Injury Lawyers UK. Specialists | Check How Much You Can Claim‎

 Rating for russellworthsolicitors.co.uk: 4.8 – 159 reviews
Free Claim Assessment. Discover Your Rights Now. No Win No Fee. Call Us Today.
Check how much you can claim? Clearly there’s nothing like the Hippocratic Oath that lawyers have to observe. Weasels – the lot of them.  How their advertising meets the ASA standards – Legal, DECENT, Honest Truthful – I just don’t know.  There are loads of these kind, peddling their services to the weak and the vulnerable – those desperate for money.  They’re one of the reasons that your and my insurance premium has been rising over the past few years – their behaviour is encouraging spurious claims and that results in higher policy prices.
What they do for you?  What they do is for themselves – not for you.  They aren’t charities they’re out for a quick buck.  Avoid them like the plague….  They’re so heinous that the law had to be changed to stop them profiteering..
The Civil Liability Bill has officially received Royal Asset today (December 20) marking a reform of the way England and Wales addresses whiplash claims and the framework around which the personal injury discount rate is set. Its aim is to reduce the “excessive” compensation claims impacting the NHS.
See I told you!!!
And now the third and final group that need to be eliminated – PPI claim insurance companies.

‘VULTURES’ Ambulance-chasing’ PPI lawyers slammed by car finance expert for now hounding mis-sold PCP deals

Banks face ‘shockwaves’ with up to £18bn in PPI payouts</<blockquote>
PPI has ‘turned portions of UK into fraudsters‘ – bank chief

Possibly the worst of the 3. And they are allowed to bombard us with their advertising, pleading with us not to miss out on up to £7k.  They really shouldn’t allow it – but they do – on TV, on the radio…it’s everywhere.  Even though there are people out there who deserve the support of good lawyers to get their money back there are standards that should be applied and followed – by all parties!

Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website, said banks had lied to customers that certain types of insurance were compulsory, yet no banker had been prosecuted over the issue.  He tweeted: ‘Bank’s [SIC] PPI selling was a systemic, deliberate, scripted, protection racket to missell £30bn+ of insurance. ‘

Lots of “No win no fee” claims out there but buyer beware.  Stories of claims companies wanting 40% of the payout are not unusual!  Like I said earlier – they aren’t in to help you – just to help themselves, and the worst thing about this is that as soon as this peak is over, we pass the deadline for claims, they’ll be gone, moving onto something else, some other group of people who think that a quick buck is their right.
These kinds of lawyers are simply not fit to bear the name lawyer.  They’re con men, disgusting low life who should be shunned by society – they’ve reached the level of disdain that we used to reserve for estate agents!!

The folly of phone design

So, tell me, why after the development of phone design over the past 20 years that has claimed to make them so robust e.g. Gorilla Glass, ceramic backs and the like are they so bloody fragile?

My Samsung Galaxy S8+ is actually cracked in 2 places on the front and the back has several cracks running the full length.   I was quoted £250 to replace them but as it turns out to be an “International” version the company wouldn’t touch it.  I’m not even aware of how it got so damaged.  The only thing I can think of is that it came into contact with something else in my trouser pockets – possibly a key or possible a coin.  I’ll admit to having dropped it a couple of times but on both occasions it has either been fine or been protected by the case I have had to purchase to protect it since it got cracked!!

This from Tom’s Guide – Phone Drop Test results 2018:

Good news: Chances are, your phone will survive a 6-foot fall onto wood and, if it’s lucky enough to land on its edge, withstand drops onto concrete with minimal damage.

Bad news: If you don’t have a screen protector, there’s a really good chance something’s going to break.

It seems that the Motorola Moto Z2 Force was the winner – in fact, Motorola guarantees that the screen on the Moto Z2 Force won’t crack – and in Tom’s test’s – it didn’t! – but the rest suffered in varying degrees.  Sadly they aren’t planning on producing a Force version of the Moto Z3 – shame on you Lenovo!

So what else is happening in the world of screens and screen protection – improving that area is absolutely key.  Well the current leader in this area has to be Corning and their “Gorilla Glass” product which has been lauded around the globe by just about every phone manufacturer.

Visually stunning, incredibly tough Corning® Gorilla® Glass enables today’s sleekest smartphone and tablet designs, while providing exceptional damage resistance to the scratches and bumps of everyday use. Gorilla Glass is sensitive enough for today’s most sophisticated touch applications, and is available with an easy-to-clean coating.

Hmm the scratches and bumps of everyday use…I’d like to see their definition of that!  As millions of phone owners will testify Gorilla Glass is about as robust as a paper bag! Samsung did announce in July 2018 that they’d developed a bendable and unbreakable screen – I’d settle for unbreakable – the folding phone is interesting but not essential – an unbreakable screen IS essential!  and why do I say that?  Well it should be obvious – just look at the sumptuous photo shots that are being used to sell us this year’s latest phone – just check out those curves – I mean phaaw, c’mon!  Manufacturers have invested billions in designing “sexy”, “cool”, phones but sadly they also appear to have built in “built in obsolescence” as well.  I shouldn’t really be surprised.  However as the price of these phones skyrockets it is inevitable that replacement cycles will grow longer – so c’mon guys make the bloody things last better!

In some products’ life-cycle the manufacturers can make as much profit from marketing the accessories as they can from the main device itself but the ludicrously high cost of today’s phones (and no I don’t buy the precious metals argument I bit!) is such that it wouldn’t be worth the issues of product inventory management – lots of low value accessories is a real pain to manage!!  And easy to get wrong!

So please, will someone get the cost of producing Micro-LED screens down so we can start using them, thus saving power (and therefore eliminating the current issue of running out of juice) and at the same time due to their power efficiency and increased brightness can we have plastic coating applied which stops them cracking so damned easily – please?

What are Micro-LEDs I hear you ask? Well this – thanks to Anroidpit.com for the words!

Micro LEDs is a new technology still in its infancy, but it has great potential to become the next big thing on the display market. Micro LED displays work similarly to OLED panels, but are even thinner. They consist of inorganic semiconductors, specifically a gallium-nitrite combination. Like OLEDs, these are light-emitting diodes, but they are much smaller.

Backlighting is not necessary with micro-LEDs, nor is a polarization filter required. The glass layer above the panel can also be slimmed even further. The brightness per watt, which simplifies the efficiency of the displays, is even better than that of OLED panels and beats LCD by far. With the same brightness, a micro-LED display requires only half as much energy as an OLED screen, in some cases even less. The extremely small diodes also allow higher resolutions on the same surface – a 4K smartwatch would be conceivable with micro LEDs. Last but not least, micro LED screens are not as susceptible to pixel burn-in as OLED displays.

And as wireless charging is the de facto standard these days let’s just make sure that the phone back will allow inductance charging, avoid unnecessary fingerprint smearing and oh yes – stop bloody cracking!!

So c’mon Lenovo, Samsung, OnePlus etc etc – let’s see all of this in the new Z4, S10, 7T etc etc- I know it’s CES time – so go for it guys!

Charity begins in central government

One of the annoying things about daytime TV is the number of charity adverts.  You can’t go a single ad break without at least one!  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against charities, well scrub any that uses religion, but generally I think that being charitable is a wonderful thing.

But why is the focus for these charities to put the burden of supporting them onto the British public?  The answer is clear – it’s because the UK government has decided that they’d rather give large sums of money to their cronies in the private sector than provide a decent range of public services.

And frankly I think that is unacceptable.

It is, however, a complex issue

  • Since 2010 healthcare expenditures have declined, down to 7.1 percent GDP by 2020.
  • Nearly 12 million UK residents aged 65 years and over.
  • The government has increasingly pushed the burden on local authorities – here’s just one clause from the latest guidance they issued:

To ensure that the pressure on council tax is kept down, the net additional cost of all new burdens placed on local authorities (including parishes, police and fire and rescue authorities) by central Government must be assessed and fully and properly funded.

…and by properly funded they mean dumped onto you. Ensuring the pressure is kept down my arse.  The Conservatives are openly the party of “small government” – lower taxes – more money in your pocket!  Allegedly!!  However the statistics published each budget day seem to show that the people who end benefiting most from Tory policies are the better off…  Basically the people who least need to benefit!!

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is an aphorism due to Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Just this morning (19/12/2018) it seems that the entire BBC Breakfast programme was based around the issue of Special Educational Needs – and that’s brilliant.  But the reason they’ve chosen to do that is because the investment in providing the service from central government simply isn’t good enough.  The current Tories in government would rather invest £1.5bn in ensuring that a bunch of rapid racists and bigots in Northern Ireland would support them so they could form the government than paying for 66,000 qualified registered nurses! And look where that got them – a total and utter waste of money.  Oh and guess what, the current shortfall in nurses means that the government has to pay another £1.5bn on temporary staff.

..and to compound matters the Brexit vote has also contributed to a growing recruitment crisis. Since the referendum there has been a 28% increase in the number of EU nurses leaving Britain, which could exacerbate the problem, said the report. Overseas applications for nursing roles has fallen by 87% in the past 12 months!  Didn’t I see something about the Chancellor allocating £4.2bn for EU exit preparations…yesI damn well did!

These examples are just symptomatic of a policy of reducing, or rather minimising central government expenditure.

Look, I know we have an ageing population and health and pensions are time-bombs waiting to happen but making the old, the infirm and those who were just born that way suffer is wrong – plain wrong.  Society has to do better and governments must take the lead.

I’m of complex politics – decidedly left wing – but I believe in a mixed economy. I don’t believe in privatising the NHS – healthcare should be free at the point of need, irrespective of how much money you have, but it could be run much leaner – less need for “management” and targets – more focus on doing stuff than measuring it or sitting in committees deciding on which policy to adopt – just keep people healthy!

I’m all in favour of nationalising the utility companies – I mean I’m sorry but HTF does Scottish Energy/Scottish Power survive – the worst customer service, the most unintelligent staff – and the railways and then doing some intelligent planning and putting some intelligent people in charge of running them and making sure that none of the contracts gets awarded to Tory cronies like Carillion.   (Apparently the government awards £200bn worth of public contracts to private companies EVERY year!)

Subsequently the government is to bring in tougher contract terms for outsourcers following Carillion’s collapse – or closing the stable door after the horse has bolted as we call that!

Frankly I think that charity should be nationalised and most definitely secularised. We have an overseas aid budget which is functionally designed, not to aid those in most need but, to smooth the path for the Tories rich friends to do deals with 3rd world countries so they can fill their pockets with even more money!

Since 1980 BBC Children in Need has raised over £1bn, Comic Relief has raised over £1bn.   The generosity of the British public is amazing, and legendary – but think what could be done with the £56bn that HS2 is currently forecast to cost – one estimate actually puts it nearer to £80bn.

Just think how many people we could help – here and abroad – if our government used our money better….

Seems I’m not the only person thinking aloing these lines…

Just done some sums. £4,200,000,000 would pay for 146,000 band 5 nurses for a year. Or, it would pay for 138,000 police officers for a year. Or we could have 146,000 newly qualified teachers. Oh, the things we could spend £4.2 billion on. Instead we’re spending it on brexit.

Today we are allocating £2 billion of funding to help departments prepare for #Brexit. The Treasury has provided more than £4.2 billion for Brexit preparations since 2016. gov.uk/government/new…

And more to the point I wouldn’t have to watch those bloody annoying ads for charities, here and abroad, scrabbling for money, money that that is being wasted by government who are simply abrogating the issue – forcing us to pick up the baton for solving problems that can only be solved through government intervention.

Matt Johnson of The The said it right back in his song The Heartland in 2006

This is the land, where nothing changes,
the land of red buses & blue blooded babies,
This is the place, where pensioners are raped,

& the hearts are being cut, from the welfare state,
Let the poor drink the milk, while the rich eat the honey,
Let the bums count their blessings, while they count the money

Read more: The The – Heartland Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Technology is great – when it’s smart and when it works!

I’m not sure if it’s because there’s tech all around us and we’ve had years and years of “plug and play” but I’d really like to understand the frustration I experience shortly after I get some new tech.  I mean why does so much tech take so much effort to get it working properly?  Well from research undertaken, whilst I was having my lunch, it appears that there are a range of factors/aggregation of said factors that can make human blood boil…

  1. Why doesn’t everybody use the same damn standard?
  2. Why is it sooooo difficult to set these things up in the first place?
  3. Why does the damn device keep losing its connection?
  4. Are things getting too complicated?
  5. Am I stupid?

For starters why is this so important?  Well…According to the report, “2018 Global Smart Home Market Forecast”, worldwide consumer spending on smart home devices, systems and services will total nearly $96 billion in 2018 and grow at 10% CAGR over the forecast period (2018 to 2023) to $155 billion. Adoption of smart speakers from Amazon and Google is boosting the market. – yikes!!

Now whether this is driven by the desire for us humans to have an easy life and achieving this by automating many of the hugely labour intensive chores at home (like playing music of turning on/off lights – Hey Alexa/Siri/Cortana/OK Google et al) or if it’s some quasi-ethical, anti-fossil fuel, tree-hugging instinct to monitor your energy use that is emerging (possibly only really amongst “millenials”) it appears to be a fact – the smart home market is growing apace!!

But what proportion of the population considers themselves to be “techies”?  I dunno -but back in 2013 IDG helpfully offered the following “10 Signs You’re Probably a Techie” – check your selves out – be my guest.  I consider myself to be one, I’m an early adopter who loves the latest “shiny-shiny”; gadgets and “cool-tools” – but I still find it a challenge to integrate my latest fave piece of tech!

Standards:

When I worked in the hi-fi world (hold on to your horses but we’re talking in the last millenium – yikes I’m old!!) there was a term that was used – “super-compatability”.  This meant that your devices not only connected up, but they played together – beautifully.  Sonic perfection with the minimum of fuss (although a not insignificant level of expenditure was required to achieve this aural nirvana). However, today we have a plethora of disparate operating standards across multiple operating systems and each designed to maximise the profitability of each brand’s “eco-system”!   Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Xiaomi, ZigBee, Philips, the list just grows and grows. Allegedly you can get some of these to talk to each other – you note I say allegedly!!

In fact it is far more complex than just that.  The Internet of Things organisation in the UK has helpfully provided a wealth of information for those of you who are the true connected home nerds:

Powered by Digital Catapult and Future Cities Catapult, IoTUK was a programme of activities that sought to advance the UK’s global leadership in the Internet of Things (IoT) and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

IoTUK was a national programme designed to accelerate the UK’s Internet of Things (IoT) capability, launched as part of the Government’s £32m investment in IoT.

Just check out their “IoT Standards and Protocols” – an overview of protocols involved in Internet of Things devices and applications. Help clarify with IoT layer technology stack and head-to-head comparisons. Yep, that’s what I thought too!  No wonder it’s difficult.

Difficult to set up

Remember Plug n Play?

Plug and Play (PnP) is a capability developed by Microsoft for its Windows 95 and later operating systems that gives users the ability to plug a device into a computer and have the computer recognize that the device is there. The user doesn’t have to tell the computer.

Yeah right, that sounds cool.  Sounds perfect for the non-coder early adopter such as myself!!  And maybe, just maybe, you can connect your new device to your home wifi network without too much problem – although if like me you’ve wasted money on TP-link smart plugs you’ll know that’s not a given – just check out those reviews – ouch!  Even if you’re fortunate to achieve that there’s no guarantee that, just for the hell of it, the device won’t suddenly decide it can’t be arsed to work and whatever you try it will just sullenly refuse to re-connect.  Shocking waste of money team – don’t do it.

Even Amazon – the accepted leader in the home automation world – still doesn’t make it easy on you.  Have you read my earlier post on the subject – or this one – they don’t like being criticised, do they?    I’ve got plenty of Echo devices, fire Sticks etc etc but if I wanted them to control the turning on and off of my TV/satellite box I need something else – a Harmony Hub. so I’ve got one but it was so damn difficult to get it to stay connected I switched it off.  Plus you had to say stuff like “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV”!

Here are the instructions for setting up your Harmony Hub

#update!!!  I have just discovered that as of November 10th (no idea which year!)…

 On Friday November 10th, Logitech Harmony introduced a deeper and more natural integration with your Amazon Alexa voice experience. Play, pause, stop, fast forward, adjust the volume and tune to channel numbers, all without having to say, “ask Harmony to”. Update to the “Harmony” Alexa skill to make use of these new features.

Well I’ll just have to try switching it back on and see 🙂 apparently all you have to say now is….

“Alexa, turn on sports” to power on your TV, set your stereo to surround sound, lower your window shades and even set your table lamps to your team colors.

Stable connections

I’ve already highlighted the propensity of the TP-Link “smart” plug to lose the plot but that’s not all – my broadband router, as supplied GigaClear offers the poorest of home wifi capability, although it does offer guidance on how to improve things via its website.

  1. Powerline ethernet:  I tried that and as soon as I switched it on the router just dropped ALL internet connectivity – thanks for that one!
  2. Direct ethernet connection: Er, isn’t wifi supposed to be much easier, and no messy cables around the house…
  3. Wireless access points.  They actually suggested I purchased and intalled a slave router.  I did. Trouble was every time we had a power cut (I live in a rural area…with no good BT broadband…hence using fibre from GigaClear…) the slave router was quicker faster and betteer than the GigaClear one so..all the wifi devices connected ti ti – but of course it was a slave so it didn’t have it’s own internet connection – doh!
  4. They said avoid wifi extenders – I haven’t and thank god I didn’t although I still get the odd drop out
  5. Their final option was using a different router – see 3!

So it’s clear that much of the issues are a mix of crap tech (the product) or crap service (broadband/electricity).  If you thought that broadband over fibre was stable – think again.  Here’s how Virgin Media and BT have been doing over the past 24 hours (live data so it will change) – so there’s still a way to go to provide the kind of stability that is required to cope with the flaky technology that we’re being sold!!

Too complex

At the beginning of this year (2018) Nilay Patel wrote a piece on the Verge called “Everything is too complicated” and in it he said:

Think of the tech industry as being built on an ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.

And you know what?  He isn’t the only one!

I could go on…and on, and on, and on!

Too stupid?

Am I really the reverse of Marvin the Paranoid android?  Do I have a brain the size of a pea?  I think NOT!

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to take you up to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong-  I’m no genius – but I’ve got an above average IQ (c.140 – whatever that means!) and I can grasp quite complex concepts like “Cognitive Dissonance“, “Bounded Rationality” and “Black Holes” and answer equally difficult questions such as “Why am I here?”, “Who is Linda Clayton?” and “What is The Infinite Improbability Drive” so I’m not a total idiot – I just have problems getting my tech to talk to each other and the outside world!

The answers are, btw, a. Because I damn well am, b. a figment of someone’s imagination and c. an example of Douglas Adams’ genius.