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 ūüė¶

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‚Äé

 Rating for russellworthsolicitors.co.uk: 4.8 Р159 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 ‚Äúexcessive‚ÄĚ 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.

‚ÄėVULTURES‚Äô¬†‚ÄėAmbulance-chasing‚Äô PPI lawyers slammed by car finance expert for now hounding mis-sold PCP deals

Banks face ‚Äėshockwaves‚Äô 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: ‚ÄėBank‚Äôs [SIC] PPI selling was a systemic, deliberate, scripted, protection racket to¬†missell¬†¬£30bn+ of insurance. ‚Äė

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¬ģ Gorilla¬ģ Glass enables today‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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 Рplain 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 Рor 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 Рbut think what could be done with the £56bn that HS2 is currently forecast to cost Рone 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 РHeartland 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, ‚Äú2018 Global Smart Home Market Forecast‚ÄĚ, 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 ūüôā 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 Рthanks 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 ‚Äúenter your Wi-Fi password‚ÄĚ means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you‚Äôll 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Bloated apps or developer diets?

Here’s a thought – have you seen just how much of your phone’s memory is taken up by your apps?¬† I think you may be staggered to see that it’s a pretty big chunk of your total available memory!¬† In fact have you noticed how big some of these apps are getting?¬† Here’s just a selection of the “A” apps on my phone.

  • Adobe Clip – 108MB
  • Amazon Alexa – 271MB
  • Amazon Shopping – 191MB
  • Anchor – 142MB
  • AutoTrader – 95MB

5 apps accounting for 807MB – pretty bad, but it get’s worse, much worse!

  • Chrome – the web browser from Google accounts for 730MB – on it’s own,
  • then there’s Google, the search bit – another 606MB!!
  • But of course the real memory hogger is, yes you’ve guessed it, Facebook:
    • 1.12GB, for the Facebook app itself,
    • 1.38GB for Instagram – and then there’s the¬†separate Messenger app
    • at this point I went ballistic and installed the Messenger Lite version – a mere 43MB – hooray!!

Just doing some research on Google and discovering that back in the deep, dark , past of 2010, (yikes – very much the dark ages!!) most Android apps were approximately 2MB – yes you read that right 2MB!!¬† It seems that as phones have “improved” over time apps have expanded to take up the available space….

It’s getting crazy and, boy oh boy, the almost continuous updating of apps is sucking up my bandwidth – 23 apps recently updated!¬† Just look at Facebook’s history – here is its timeline as detailed by Wikipedia – boy was 2017 a busy year, and just checking on my mobile to discover that I’m on version 198.0.0.53.101!!

I wonder if these app developers have a deal with the mobile networks.  you know they get a cut of the data charges!

If they’re not then they’re missing out on a trick AND a load of dosh!¬† I also find it very interesting that at a time when Google is penalising websites for the time it takes them to load it is also producing massively bloated mobile apps that do just that – take a long time to load!!

I wish….there’s another trend that is irritating and that’s the decision by some of the major device manufacturers to embed some apps into the OS – so you can never fully delete them, only stop them from functioning – they’ll still hog your memory though!¬† I moved away from Apple ,many years ago because of their walled garden approach but Samsung you’re doing it¬†too now!!

So, is that it?  Are we destined to a life of feature-rich, over-bloated apps that continuously update Рor is there another way?  Thankfully there is!!

I’ve already mentioned that I installed the Messenger Lite app – it does the job perfectly well and takes up a fraction¬† of the memory of the full-fat version.¬† So when i found this list¬†I thought – yippee…

  • Google Go
  • Gmail Go
  • YouTube Go
  • Files Go
  • Facebook Lite
  • Messenger Lite
  • Skype Lite
  • Twitter Lite
  • LinkedIn Lite

But sadly the Google apps aren’t compatible with my device, in fact none of my devices!¬† Hmm I smell a rat here- but actually I’m just misinformed – these apps are for Android Go devices – bummer!¬† If I can run a Facebook or Messenger Lite app on my Samsung Galaxy S8+ why doesn’t google step up?¬† I think we should be told!!

More digging and finally some progress…here’s a starter for 10 – a browser with a size of just 400-500Kb – sign me up!!¬† Now I’m on the hunt for a few more small footprint apps…email, other social media apps…. and some more

So now it’s time for a play, to see if any of these small footprint apps can deliver a suitable user experience…

 

 

Opting out – it’s an omnishambles


Royal Mail is an omnishambles! GDPR is an omnishambles and together they’re just ludicrously inept!

I continually get unsolicited direct mail popped through my letterbox by my lovely postie – he’s a really nice bloke and this is nothing about the excellent service that he provides (in shorts) all through the year.¬† Now I’m pretty sure that I’d already opted out and when I explore things – guess what?¬† I had!¬† But that over 2 years ago and apparently you have to renew your opt out – every two years!¬† I wonder if that applies to GDPR compliance?¬† I’ll need to check – it would seem logical that one rule would apply to all – wouldn’t it?

Here’s the guidance that Royal Mail offers and you may wish to cut to the quick by reading the headline below and then scrolling down to the headline that’s in red.¬†Because the bits in between are directing you to external sites – or as I would put it examples of the Royal Mail, abrogating responsibility for what they stuff through your letterbox.

How do I opt out of receiving any leaflets or unaddressed promotional material?

Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door stops all unaddressed items from being delivered by us (although we do work with Government to get a message to every UK address in exceptional circumstances where delivery of the message is deemed to be in the national interest).

Things you need to¬†know before choosing to ‘opt out’:

  • It is not possible for us to separate material you don’t want from those you do want. For example: advertising offers or leaflets from material from Central and Local Government and other public bodies.

  • Opting out means no one at your address will receive unaddressed mail items.

  • We deliver a minority of the total volume of unaddressed mail items in the United Kingdom. Our opt out does not cover any other distributors, who will continue to deliver unaddressed mail items to your property. Opting out of Royal Mail Door to Door deliveries will not necessarily reduce by a significant amount the number of items you’ll receive.

Opting out from other unaddressed mail deliveries

To opt out from deliveries from other unaddressed mail distributors you may wish to register with the ‘Your Choice’ preference scheme run by the Direct Marketing Association.

They can be contacted at:
‘Your Choice’ Preference Scheme
Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd
DMA House
70 Margaret Street
LONDON
W1W 8SS

Telephone: 0207 291 3300
Fax: 0207 323 4165
Email: yourchoice@dma.org.uk

If you would like to stop any other unwanted communications please visit The Mailing Preference Service www.mpsonline.org.uk Opens in new window , which provides details on all other preference services, or call the Mailing Preference Service on 0845 703 4599

Opting out of receiving charity appeal communications

The Fundraising Preference Service is a website-based service that can help members of the public control the communications they receive from charities.

By registering your details with the Fundraising Preference Service you can choose to stop email, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages directed to you personally from a selected charity or charities.

To find out more and register please visit the FRS website Opens in new window or call their helpline on 0300 3033 517.


Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door” – that’s another link by the way and finally…

Opting out from Royal Mail Door to Door

If you still wish to opt out of receiving Door to Door mail items please complete our opt out form and return it to us at the address shown.

Royal Mail Opt out form РEnglish
Royal Mail Opt out form РWelsh

We’ll action your request within six weeks of receiving your completed form. Your opt out will last for a period of¬†two years. During this time every effort will be made to prevent the delivery of Door to Door items by Royal Mail.

At the end of the two year period, in order to continue with your opt out, you will simply need to repeat this process and complete a new application form to confirm that you are still resident at the address and wish to continue opting out of Door to Door deliveries.


So you have to fill in a form, every two years, that can only be posted – not completed online nor done over the phone….and on it the form has the following weasel words.

  • I confirm that I have read and fully understood your letter advising me of the implications of
    ‚Äúopting out‚ÄĚ of receiving deliveries by Royal Mail of unaddressed Door to Door mail items to
    my address.
  • I understand that I may miss important information from local or national government or
    other publications that are sent using this service.
  • I understand that I will continue to receive unaddressed material delivered by companies
    other than Royal Mail.

First off, where’s this letter?¬† I haven’t received a letter from them mentioning this – and frankly it’s just a waste of time – just get on with it!!

Secondly – I hope this isn’t a get out for Royal Mail losing correctly addressed letters to me.

You mean the chaps who wander around stuffing promotional crap through letterboxes – of course I understand that you morons!

Just to let you know if you, like me, get loads of charity mailings and want to stop their garbage from arriving you need to stop them individually on the FRS site – yep individually!

I’ve also been on the MPS site and registered with them (pretty sure I’ve done that before too!).


How tedious is that.¬† Actually it’s about the same as trying to opt out online.¬† For starters every website seems to use a different method or allows you to opt out of some things but not necessarily the same things that the next website you visit allows…and then of course if you don’t allow them to store cookies on your machine then you have to go though the same system EVERY time you visit the site.

Now tell me…how is that helping me as a consumer, to manage my own data?

It’s not is it?

This is from the Information Commissioner‘s website:

You cannot rely on silence, inactivity, pre-ticked boxes, opt-out boxes, default settings or a blanket acceptance of your terms and conditions.

Oh really?¬† I wonder what percentage of sites comply with that…5% maybe.¬† There are plenty of sites that don’t give you the choice of whether a 3rd party can see your data – as there’s no option there end to switch that functionality off!¬† And what about those emails that say it’ll take 10 days (or whatever) for this opt out to take effect. Why?¬† Surely once the fact has been established that you don’t want what ever it was then that should be that…digital update of data and all that jazz!!¬† It’s a bit like allowing a rapist a couple of weeks to process the fact that you’ve said “NO, No and thrice NO!” before you can say he’s committed an offence.¬† It’s bloody stupid!

What is required is some joined up thinking and some joined up legislation – but, sadly, knowing the legal profession there’s very little likelihood of that ever happening..but we can dream people – we can still dream!!


So as part of my day job I end up looking at a number of websites and coming across a range of opt in/out privacy details-¬† and I’ve just found this – possibly the most convoluted I’ve ever come across.¬† What follows below is the home page of the Oath privacy centre – there are 5 other pages for you to trawl throigh and msot of them mean you have to do a shedload of work to actually opt out!

 

Welcome to the Oath privacy centre

In June 2017, we announced that Yahoo and AOL had joined together to become Oath, a digital and mobile media organisation and part of Verizon.  We’re now bringing Oath and Yahoo together under a single privacy policy.  Some things haven’t changed, such as the control tools that we provide to help you manage your experience with us.  If you have an existing Yahoo or AOL account, you will need to agree to parts of this Privacy Policy.  If you have not yet agreed and consented to this Privacy Policy, the legacy Yahoo Privacy Policy or legacy Oath Privacy Policy (for AOL) still apply to your account.  For Oath products or services that are accessed without signing in to an account, this Privacy Policy applies to those products and services as of 25 May 2018.  If you are creating a new account, the terms below apply as of today.  

Last updated: May 2018

Our privacy pledge

Our commitment is to put users first. ¬†We strive to be transparent about how we collect and use your information, to keep your information secure and to provide you with meaningful choices. ¬†This Privacy Policy is intended to help you understand what information Oath, its¬†affiliates¬†and its house of global¬†brands¬†collect, why we collect it and what we do with it. If you are located in Europe, the Middle East or Africa (‚ÄėEMEA‚Äô), this policy applies to you. ¬†It sets out how Oath controls and treats your information in its¬†brands, websites, apps, advertising services, products, services or technologies (we‚Äôll collectively refer to these as ‚ÄėServices‚Äô). ¬†Except as set out below, when we refer to ‚ÄėOath‚Äô, it means Oath (EMEA) Limited, the Irish-established company that supplies the Services to you (and acts as data controller of the personal data Oath collects when you use those Services). If you are a user of HuffPost UK, Sky | Yahoo Mail, BT | Yahoo Mail or TalkTalk News & TV Guide, ‚ÄėOath‚Äô may refer to different entities in relation to who controls your personal data. HuffPost UK, Sky | Yahoo Mail, BT | Yahoo Mail or TalkTalk News & TV Guide users can find more information by¬†clicking here. ¬†Furthermore, additional privacy practices for certain Services can be found in¬†Details for specific products and services.

This Privacy Policy does not apply to the practices of Oath affiliates or companies that Oath does not own or control.

Your controls & privacy rights

We believe that you should have control of your information. In some cases, you can review or edit your account information, including your marketing preferences, location data, mobile choices, advertising settings and search history, as well as account deletion controls by visiting Privacy Dashboard. Some of our Services provide additional controls.  Please see our Details for specific products and services.

In many cases where we process your information, you may also have a right to restrict or limit the ways in which we use your information. ¬†In certain circumstances, where we rely on ‚Äėlegitimate interests‚Äô to process your information as described in the ‚ÄėLegal bases‚Äô section below, you also have the right to object to the processing of your information by us.

You can also request the rectification of your information by us.  You can request that we delete your information, and Oath will carry out this request unless certain exceptional reasons arise permitting Oath to keep certain information about you.

You also have the right to obtain a copy of your information in an easily accessible format. ¬†In certain circumstances, you can also request that we transfer some of your information to third parties. ¬†Oath will help you exercise these important rights. Please use the ‚Äėfeedback form‚Äô available in the¬†Questions and Suggestions¬†section below to learn how you can receive assistance in exercising any of these rights.

Withdrawing consent

You have the right to withdraw your consent to our processing of your information and your use of our Services at any time. You can exercise this right by going to the controls available in our Privacy Dashboard, or you can use the ‚Äėfeedback form‚Äô available in the¬†Questions and Suggestions¬†section below to receive assistance with exercising this right. Similar to the way in which you can give consent by interacting with our Services, you can also withdraw your consent through our Services. You can choose to delete your Oath account via your account settings and we will delete your information.

If you withdraw your consent to the use or sharing of your information for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy, you may not have access to all (or any) of our Services and we might not be able to provide you with all (or any) of the Services under this Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service. In certain cases, we may continue to process your information after you have withdrawn consent if we have a legal basis to do so, or if your withdrawal of consent was limited to certain processing activities. For example, we may keep information if we need to do so to comply with a legal obligation, to resolve disputes and to enforce our agreements.

Information collection and use ‚Äď general

Certain categories of information collected by Oath are necessary to use our Services, such as the information you must provide when registering for some Services.  We may collect and combine information when you interact with Oath Services including information outlined below.

  • Information that you provide to us. We collect the information you provide to us in order to enable us to operate and provide our Services, including:
    • When you create an account with an Oath Service or brand. (please note that, when you use our Services, we may recognise you or your devices even if you are not signed in to our Services.)
    • Oath may use device IDs, cookies and other signals, including information obtained from third parties, to associate accounts and/or devices with you.
    • When you use our Services to communicate with others or to post, upload or store content (such as comments, photos, voice inputs, videos, emails, messaging services and attachments).
    • When you otherwise use our Services, such as to view the content that we make available, perform search queries or install any Oath software such as plug-ins.
    • When you sign up for paid Services, use Services that require your financial information or complete transactions with us or our business partners, we may collect your payment and billing information in order to provide you with those paid Services. We may remember the payment information that you entered during a prior purchase for paid Services and provide you with the option to use that payment information during the purchase of a new product.
  • Device information. We collect information from your devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets, etc.) in order to provide you with our Services, including information about how you interact with our Services and those of our third-party partners and information that allows us to recognise and associate your activity across devices and Services. ¬†This information includes device-specific identifiers and information such as¬†IP address,¬†cookie information, mobile device and advertising identifiers, browser version, operating system type and version, mobile network information, device settings and software data.
  • Location information. ¬†We collect location information from a variety of sources. ¬†You can learn more about and manage your location permissions on our¬†Locations page¬†or by visiting the location settings tool on your devices.
  • Information from cookies and other technologies.
    • We collect information when you access content,¬†advertising, sites, interactive widgets, applications and other products (both on and off our Services) where Oath‚Äôs data collection technologies (such as¬†web beacons, development tools,¬†cookies and other technologies, etc.) are present. These data collection technologies allow us to understand your activity on and off our Services and to collect and store information when you interact with Services we offer to partners.
    • This information includes the kind of content or ads served, viewed or clicked on; the frequency and duration of your activities; the sites or apps you used before accessing our Services and where you went next; whether you engaged with specific content or ads; and whether you went on to visit an advertiser’s website, downloaded an advertiser‚Äôs app, purchased a product or service advertised or took other actions.
  • Information from others. We collect information about you when we receive it from other users, third parties and¬†affiliates, such as:
    • When you connect your account to third-party services or sign in using a third-party partner (such as Facebook or Twitter).
    • From publicly available sources.
    • From advertisers about your experiences or interactions with their offerings.
    • When we obtain information from third parties or¬†other companies, such as those that use our Services. This may include your activity on other sites and apps as well as information that those third parties provide to you or us.
    • Information that we receive from Verizon will be used consistently with Verizon‚Äôs privacy policy.

How we use this information

In order to deliver, personalise and improve our Services, we combine and use the information that we have about you (including information we receive on and off our Services) to understand how you use and interact with our Services and the people or things that you’re connected to and interested in. We may also use the information we have about you in the following ways and for the following purposes:

  • To provide, maintain, improve and develop relevant features, content and Services.
  • To analyse your content and other information (including incoming and outgoing emails, instant messages, posts¬†photos, attachments and other communications) in order to keep our Services safe and secure. This analysis also assists us in making the content, Services and ads we provide to you more personalised (except in¬†BT | Yahoo Mail). ¬†You can review and control certain types of information associated with your Oath account by using ¬†Privacy Controls.
  • To fulfil your requests and when authorised by you.
  • To help advertisers and publishers connect to offer relevant advertising in their apps and websites.
  • To match and serve targeted advertising (across devices and both on and off our Services) and provide¬†targeted advertising¬†based on your device activity, inferred interests and location information.
  • To contact you with information about your account or with marketing messages, which¬†you can also control.
  • To associate your activity across our Services and your different devices as well as associate any accounts you may use across Oath Services together. We may associate activity and accounts under a single user ID.
  • To carry out or support¬†promotions.
  • To conduct research and support innovation.
  • To create analytics and reports for external parties, including partners, publishers, advertisers, apps,¬†third partiesand the public regarding the use of and trends within our Services and ads, including showing trends to partners regarding general preferences, the effectiveness of ads and information on user experiences. These analytics and reports may include aggregate or pseudonymised information.
  • To provide location-based Services, advertising, search results and other content consistent with your¬†location settings.
  • To combine information that we have about you with information that we obtain from business partners or¬†other companies, such as your activities on other sites and apps in order to ensure that the ads, Services and content we provide to you are more suited to your interests.
  • To detect and defend against fraudulent, abusive or unlawful activity and to keep our Services safe and secure.

We provide you with controls to manage your experience with us. To review and manage your privacy settings, please visit our Privacy Dashboard.

What are our legal bases for the use of the information?

We mainly rely on three separate bases to lawfully process your information. First, we need to process your information in certain ways to provide our Services to you, in accordance with our Terms of Service. This processing is necessary to perform the contract between you and us, and our Terms of Service make it clear that processing of your information for the purposes of personalised content and ads is a necessary part of the Services we provide. Second, where you have given us consent to use your information in certain ways, we will rely on your consent. Third, in certain cases, we may process your information where necessary for the purposes of our legitimate interests or the legitimate interests of third parties, where those legitimate interests are not overridden by your rights or interests.  Occasionally, Oath may rely on other legal bases to process your information, such as to protect a user’s vital interests (such as where there is a risk of imminent harm) or to comply with a legal obligation. Please see our Legal bases page.

How we share this information

Oath shares information within its affiliated brands and companies and with Verizon. We also share information that we have about you in accordance with this Privacy Policy, including to provide Services that you have requested (including when you connect to third-party apps and widgets). We do not sell, license or share information that individually identifies our customers with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Oath unless one of the following circumstances applies:

  • With your consent.¬†We will share information with companies, organisations or individuals outside of Oath when we have your consent.
  • With Verizon.¬†As part of Verizon, Oath may, to the extent permitted by law and in accordance with user controls, share information with Verizon and Verizon affiliates. This information will be used in accordance with¬†Verizon‚Äôs privacy policy.
  • Within Oath.¬†Information may also be shared within Oath, including with other Oath Services and¬†affiliates. Oath affiliates may use the information in a manner consistent with their privacy policies.
  • With partners.¬†We may share your information with non-affiliated companies who are:
    • Trusted vendors.¬†¬†We provide user information to trusted vendorspartners who work on behalf of Oath based on our directions and in compliance with appropriate confidentiality measures.¬†Learn more.
    • Advertising, analytics and business partners.¬†We may share aggregated or¬†pseudonymous¬†information (including demographic information) with partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps or¬†other companies. For example, we may tell an advertiser how its ads performed or report how many people installed an app after seeing a promotion. We do not share information that personally identifies you (personally identifiable information includes your name or email address) with these partners, such as publishers, advertisers, measurement analytics, apps or¬†other companies.
    • When you use third-party apps, websites or other products integrated with our Services, they may collect information about your activities subject to their own terms and privacy policies.
    • We allow¬†other companies¬†that show advertisements on our web pages or apps to collect information from your browsers or devices. Other companies‚Äô use of cookies and other data collection technologies are subject to their own privacy policies, not this one. Like many companies, we may allow cookie matching with selected partners. However, these parties are not authorised to access Oath cookies.
  • For legal purposes.¬†¬†We may access, preserve and disclose information to investigate, prevent or take action in connection with: (i) legal processes, and legal and governmental agency requests; (ii) enforcement of the¬†Terms; (iii) claims that any content violates the rights of third parties; (iv) requests for customer service; (v) technical issues; (vi) protecting the rights, property or personal safety of Oath, its users or the public; (vii) establishing or exercising our legal rights or defending against legal claims; or (viii) as otherwise required by law.
  • New ownership.¬†If the ownership or control of all or part of Verizon, Oath or a specific Service changes as a result of a merger, acquisition or sale of assets, we may transfer your information to the new owner

Details for specific products and services 

Additional privacy practices for certain Oath Services are included here.

Information security and data retention

Oath has technical, administrative and physical safeguards in place to help protect against unauthorised access, use or disclosure of customer information that we collect or store.

To learn more about security, including the steps we have taken and steps you can take, please read Security at Oath.

Oath will retain your information only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy, for as long as your Oath account is active or as needed to provide you with the Services. If you no longer want Oath to use your information to provide you with the Services, you can close your account and Oath will delete the information it holds about you unless Oath needs to retain and use your information to comply with our legal obligations, to resolve disputes or to enforce our agreements.

Protecting children’s privacy

Our Services are for a general audience. We do not knowingly collect, use or share information that could reasonably be used to identify children under the age of 16 or as otherwise consistent with applicable law.

Data processing and transfers

When you use or interact with any of our Services, you consent to the data processing, sharing, transferring and usage of your information as outlined in this Privacy Policy.  Regardless of the country where you reside, you authorise us to transfer, process, store and use your information in countries other than your own in accordance with this Privacy Policy and to provide you with Services.  Some of these countries may not have the same data protection safeguards as the country where you reside.

Oath may process information related to individuals in the EU/EEA and may transfer that information from the EU/EEA through various compliance mechanisms, including data processing agreements based on the EU/EEA Standard Contractual Clauses.  By using our Services, you consent to us transferring information about you to these countries.  For more information, please visit our Data transfer page.

Oath is part of a global service and so shares information with affiliates and other companies based outside the European Economic Area (‚ÄėEEA‚Äô) for the purposes described in this Privacy Policy.

The United States and other non-EEA countries have different laws on data protection and rules in relation to government access to information. If you are based in the EEA, when your data is moved from your home country to a third country outside the EEA, some of these countries may not have the same data protection safeguards as your home country.

To the extent that Oath is deemed to transfer information about you outside the EEA, Oath relies separately, alternatively and independently on the following legal bases to transfer your information:

Standard contractual clauses. The European Commission has adopted standard contractual clauses that provide safeguards for personal data that is transferred outside the EEA. We often use these clauses when transferring personal data outside the EEA including to our affiliates.

Contractual necessity. You can choose whether or not you want to use our Services. However, if you want to use our Services, you need to agree to our Terms of Service, which set out the terms of the contract between us and you. As we operate in countries worldwide (including in the United States) and use technical infrastructure in these countries, to be able to deliver our Services to you in accordance with the contract between us, we may need to transfer your information to other jurisdictions where necessary. We can’t provide you with our Services without moving your data around the world.

Privacy Shield. Some companies to which we may transfer your information in the United States may be certified to receive your information under the Privacy Shield programme. For more information, please visit our data transfer page.

Other important information

This Privacy Policy applies only to Oath. This Privacy Policy does not apply to the practices of companies that Oath does not own or control, or to people that Oath does not employ or manage. In addition, some affiliated products (such as Tumblr) may have different privacy policies and practices that are not subject to this Privacy Policy.

Changes

We may amend or update this Privacy Policy from time to time, so you should check it periodically.  If we make changes of a material nature, we will provide you with appropriate notice before such changes take effect.

Questions & suggestions

If you have questions or suggestions relating to your information, or wish to make a complaint, please complete a feedback form, or contact us at:

Customer Care ‚Äď Privacy Policy issues

Oath (EMEA) Limited
5-7 Point Square
North Wall Quay
Dublin 1

For queries related to the processing of your information, you can also contact our Data Protection Officer at:

Oath (EMEA) Limited
Attention: Data Protection Officer
5-7 Point Square
North Wall Quay
Dublin 1

Without prejudice to any other rights you may have, you also have the right to file a complaint against us with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which is Oath’s lead supervisory authority.  You can also complain to the supervisory authority in the EU member state in which you are based. Click here to find your local supervisory authority.

er….doh!

 

Lights at nights and prats on the pavement!

As the evenings are drawing in, earlier and earlier and the dawn rising later and later, the growth in cycling on our roads (mostly!) grows ever more dangerous.¬† There’s a combination of bad behaviour from both cyclists and motorists part that can lead to accidents and when this is compounded by the advances in lighting technology, the lack of practical legislation and the result of government budget cuts – well just look out that’s what I say!¬† Allow me to expand on this…

From a UK health perspective the growth in cycling is a bonus – especially for those older people who are trying to exercise without adding undue stresses and strains on their ageing joints.¬† Not everyone can afford to join a gym, or wants to have their own static bike when the draw of the open air, the the feel of lycra on your skin and the “crack” of riding en masse exists.¬† Good on you I say.¬† If the roads had been kept in better condition and not left to rot away until they offer nothing less than an assault course for the rider I’d be with you – at least in summer when it’s warm, and light!

First off bad behaviour – on both sides!

I’m a driver not a rider.¬† I appreciate that my 2 tonne vehicle is perfectly capable of turning a cyclist in a bloody pulp.¬† So I do NOT drive up their arses, jump (or even totally ignore) red traffic signals, I indicate clearly what my next move is going to be and I give them as much space as I give a horse when I’m overtaking them – safely.¬† So I get extremely p*ssed off when I come across a pack of lycra clad morons who are either, totally oblivious to the queue of traffic that is building up behind them as the saunter down a country lane – 2 abreast (and when there are lot of them even more abreast!!), or just being ****ing arrogant!

I drive patiently, whilst I may be seething inside my comfy cabin, I understand the argument about “safety in numbers” but still, c’mon these are roads we are talking about not the bleeding Serengeti!¬† Drive responsible – everyone!

Jumping red lights –¬†According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, 57% of¬†cyclists¬†admit to running red lights. A 2013 YouGov poll found that 35% of¬†cyclists¬†admit to ignoring¬†red lights¬†at least ‚Äúoccasionally.‚ÄĚ If caught jumping a¬†red light,¬†cyclists¬†can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice of ¬£30. OK these are kids – bloody stupid kids – but they’ll grow up into bloody stupid adults – if they’re lucky!

Let’s now focus on technology, specifically lighting technology.¬† When a car approaches with its headlights poorly adjusted there’s every chance that the driver is going to get a taste of his or her own medicine as the recipient of the dazzling elects to give the other driver the benefits of his or her own full beams!¬† Modern lighting is getting too bright, so when it is badly adjusted it’s actually dangerous – if you have to close your eyes, even for an instant, to avoid being dazzled (and having your night vision destroyed) you can’t see where you’re going… Now this isn’t as some writers have shown, down to my age – I’m not talking about the deterioration of my eyes – I’m talking about lights that if the individual was driving behind you would be dazzling you in your rear view mirror – i.e. too high or those lights which seem to be permanently readjusting themselves by flicking up and down or aligned incorrectly – too far to the right!

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders maintains there is no evidence that factory fitted high-power lights distract drivers and that lamp-levelling technology ensures they are safe.

Yeah, right….bollocks!

In fact there is clear guidance as to how they should be set up – this from Wiki-How :

There are mounting screws and adjustment screws above, below and to the side of the headlight. Park your vehicle 25 feet from a wall, and place a piece of tape horizontally 4 feet high across the wall in front of your vehicle. Turn on the low beams. Adjust the headlights until they shine on the tape.

Your car would fail its MOT test if your lights are poorly set up.¬† So you’d expect the same for those “xenon” style LED lights that bicycles are now using – wouldn’t you…and you’d be WRONG!

According to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR), it’s illegal to cycle on a public road after dark without lights and reflectors and rule 60 of the Highway code says:

“At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”

Bike Radar offers guidance on bikes and lights –

Is there a maximum brightness for bike lights?  No there isn’t, but you don’t want to dazzle oncoming drivers, for obvious reasons!

‚ÄúIf your lights cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other road users, then you’re breaking the law and the police are within their rights to Ô¨Āne you,” says Cycling UK. In practice, though, as long as your bike has a front white and red rear light it‚Äôs rare to be stopped and Ô¨Āned by the police, but please be considerate to other road users.

One more word of advice ‚ÄĒ don’t mount your most powerful front light on your helmet. It completely dazzles oncoming road users, and is very inconsiderate.

So it’s mostly you MUST have lights at night and only an aside about don’t dazzle other road users…well let’s go back to that image at the top of this post.¬† Have another look at it – here it is again…

Have a look at the right hand hedge.¬† It must be at least 6 foot high.¬† And it’s being illuminated brightly by the light on the front of the bike…¬† Now take a look at the left hand hedge…it’s almost in the dark.¬† Now if that was me driving towards this numpty I’b be less than impressed.¬† In fact I’d have to say that at least 50% of the bikes I meet at night have overly bright, even dazzling lights, whereas for cars the figure is closer to 5%.

Maybe it’s about time that bikes need to have MOTs – to get their lights tested at the very least.¬† Maybe it’s about time the Police stopped some of these morons who give the rest of the cycling community a bad name and did something about it – but they won’t ‘coz Theresa May has cut their budgets by 25%, and officer number are way down, and they don’t even investigate burglaries anymore – so to expect them to leave the city centres late night opening establishments to pull cyclists over for jumping red lights and having dangerous headlights is never, ever going to happen – until someone changes the priorities.

I mean, for a PR stunt, you could always knock BoJo off his bike to generate aware of bike safety, or even better stop the twat from riding around by making him MOT his bike.

Also I would like to make 2 final points about cyclists – specifically those in Oxford.¬† Oxford is a city that pats itself on the back (repeatedly) for being extremely bike friendly.¬† Loads of bus/bike lanes for them to use, masses of “parking” spaces for bikes, speed humps and other road calming measures to slow the traffic down.¬† They’ve even gone so far as to reduce the amount of parking for cars in the centre so you have to use the park and ride schemes they have introduced.¬† Great, all those measures must make it a paradise for you cyclists out there…well there are 2 things that you can do to make it safer – for us drivers who now have turned into pedestrians so we can get around your city:

  1. park your cycles nicely – don’t just strew them around making it tricky to get past them..
  2. don’t ride on the ****ing pavement!

That 2nd one is actually an offence –¬†it seems to confuse many cyclists about whether or not they are allowed to cycle on the pavement. According to Laws HA 1835 section 72 & RSA 1984, section 129, cyclists must not cycle on the pavement.

The World’s Best Biscuit

I’ve said this before, there is no argument here – Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings ARE the World’s Best Biscuit – period! End of!¬† If you haven’t tried them then your view is irrelevant, if you have – you know what I’m saying is true – right?

I was brought up on these crunchy ginger biscuits.¬† From my early years on the cliff at Whitesand Bay through my years away at college in Coventry and then Reading the taste has never left me – not even now another 40 odd years later!¬† I’m delighted to say that thanks to my daughter I have a box in my cupboard right now – dunked in coffee – oh, I can barely contain myself ūüôā

Who would have thought that the combination of the following ingredients would deliver such joy?  Wheat Flour, Sugar, Invert Sugar Syrup, Butter (Milk), Vegetable Fat (Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil), Rice Flour,  Raising Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate), Rusk (Wheat Flour, Salt, Raising Agent: Ammonium Bicarbonate, Spices), Salt, Natural Lemon Flavouring.  But Mr John Cooper Furniss and his descendants have created the perfect match of flavour, crunch and dunkability!

No surprise then that…

In 2007, Furniss secured an official trademark to preserve Cornwall‚Äôs most famous biscuit. Now we‚Äôre the only bakery licensed to make Original Cornish Fairings‚ĄĘ. If you find yourself eating only one then stopping, please check the pack…they might be imposters.

Some people, yeah like imposters, have tried to come up with a recipe for Cornish Fairings – Paul Hollywood¬† and Mary Berry to name but 2 (charlatans indeed!) – sorry Mary, but they don’t look anything like the real deal.

Cornish through and through, Fairings should be gently spicy, crunchy and very moreish. The name ‘Fairing’ comes from a present bought at the fairs which were held every year at Whitsuntide and Corpus Christi – a little gift for a loved one or a sweetheart consisting of a gingerbread, sugared almonds, cinnamon sticks or macaroons.

Sadly as well as baking imposters and charlatans there are there are other views about what the best biscuit is out there!¬† Poor misguided fools who have probably¬†never heard of Fairings or of Furniss of Truro – they have my pity… Channel 5 even did a survey for a TV programme ludicrously named “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit¬†(snort!) and came up with the following list:

  1. Chocolate Digestive
  2. Chocolate Hobnob
  3. Jammie Dodger
  4. Custard Creme
  5. Shortbread
  6. Bourbon
  7. Jaffa Cake
  8. Ginger Nut
  9. Digestive
  10. Wagon Wheel
  11. Kit Kat
  12. Caramel Wafer
  13. Double chocolate chip cookie
  14. Rich Tea
  15. Fig Roll
  16. Milk chocolate chip cookie
  17. Malted Milk
  18. Chocolate Finger
  19. Hob Nob
  20. Chunky Cookie

Dog biscuits – the lot of them – and a chocolate digestive at #1 – oh, p-lease!

The Metro fared no better when it released it’s findings – not even close people, not even close!

So, what, you may ask, makes the perfect biscuit?¬† Well here are 10 tips – thanks to cupcakersandcashmere.com for starting me off…

  1. Freeze your butter. Start with frozen butter. …
  2. Use a sift to mix your dry ingredients. …
  3. Never use your hands. …
  4. Use the well technique for combining dry and wet ingredients. …
  5. Only work on cold surfaces like wood or metal. …
  6. Cut and stack the dough. …
  7. Do not twist the ring mold. …
  8. Do not use the leftover dough.
  9. Throw all of this away
  10. Buy a pack of Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings

There you are!¬† It’s really very, very simple.¬† So just give up – the champion has been crowned – Furniss of Truro’s Original Cornish Fairings – take a bow!

 

That’s just the name of the company

Those of you who have reached well into middle age or are comedy geeks will have spotted that the title of this post is a Monty Python reference – but more of that later…

I really wish that I had the practical gene, you know, the one that allows you to be a DIY god, to transform your home at a fraction of the cost and to the envy of all men like me – but I don’t!

For anything more than changing a lightbulb or building an Ikea flat-pack piece of furniture I need a skilled person – to do it for me – I am perfectly happy with that – my skills lie elsewhere (at least that’s my story!).

Now I don’t think I’m alone in not having this gene, and increasingly it seems that I’m in the vast majority – well judging by the level of response when posting on ratedpeople.com (other websites for sourcing skilled tradespeople are available) anyway.¬† Sadly the work was outside the skills of my mate Handy Andy who has done lots of other stuff to my home – brilliantly I have to say – hence the need for my alternative approach!¬† Unfortunately, either the work I need undertaking is too piecemeal or these skilled individuals have become overly blase about meeting customers’ needs!

‘Cos let me tell you I’m not a happy bunny…

Today is the 6th November.¬† I posted a job on 17th August and got one response – but he seemed knowledgeable and keen so excellent. However, almost 4 months down the line and all I’ve got is a hole next to my garage and a lot of unanswered texts.. The most recent communication I’ve received from him was on the 11th of October.¬† The phrase “can’t be arsed” comes to mind.

If I had another alternative (bad grammar I know) I’d tell him to forget it – but I need the work done and as I said he was the only person to respond.

I wonder if I should start blaming the government for shafting the economy (look it’s still shite, whatever they try and tell you) which has dramatically reduced the number of house sales and turned the focus on spending money on your existing home and trying to make that better instead.¬† The logic here being that this upsurge in maintenance etc will have reduced the availability of these skilled individuals – supply and demand and all that jazz!

But there’s more to it than that – of course there is.

Is the man too busy to respond?  Has he lost his mobile phone?  Or does he just not give a ****?

I simply do not know – all I can do is highlight the time period, the lack of communication and what this makes me conclude and how that makes me feel. This feels less like rated people’s slogan –¬†“Tradesmen at your Fingertips‚Äé” and¬†more like a tradesman has “slipped through my fingertips”!

The really important thing here is about setting and managing expectations – this has all the hallmarks of that excellent Monty Python sketch about the dry-cleaning service.¬† Irritatingly I’m unable to find it using good ‘ol Google but it featured a segment where the “customer” in a dry cleaners called “1 hour dry cleaning” asks why his dry cleaning isn’t ready yet and the shop owner responds – “That’s just the name of the company”….you get my drift??

This is from Quora as written by Eric Siu, who works at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency:

If you’re in a service business, your job is to retain your clients for as long as possible. That means doing the best job that you can and meeting their needs. But it also means meeting your own needs so that a long-term arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved.

He’s not wrong! He’s just set out the positive side of setting and meeting expectations with your customers – it’s when there’s a mismatch that things go wrong.


My current situation makes me want to add a review – right now – before he’s really even started on the job itself.¬† But what would that achieve?¬† Well if he bothers to check the rated people site he could see that I really was rather p*ssed off (but he should have realised that anyway) and I’m fairly confident that I be whistling for it if I thought he’d complete the job itself!!¬† That said it might be of assistance to someone else who thinks that this individual might help them solve their problems – DIY wise!

Online reviews are increasingly important – especially on sites such as ratedpeople – it’s in the very name of the site ffs – “Rated” people!!

Consider the following from an article by Andrew Thomas on inc.com:

  1. When customers are unhappy, there’s a 91 percent chance they won’t do business with a company again (Lee Resources).

  2. Dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to 15 other people about their experience; some tell 20 or more (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).

  3. A negative customer experience is the reason 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company (Customer Experience Impact Report).

  4. Good customer experiences lead 42 percent of consumers to purchase again (Zendesk Customer Service Study).

It’s even worse – he goes on to state that it can take 40 positive reviews to get over 1 bad review, he calls it the Secret Ratio – something that, as a service provider, you’d better learn it fast!

So, dude, get your communication sh*t together – pronto!!

Motorway behaviour – it’s just plain embarrassing

Here’s a question for you…

I can guarantee, from my observations, that not everyone knows the correct answer, which is, according to Driving Test Success website:

A two-lane motorway Рkeep to the left-hand lane for normal driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. Once you have finished overtaking you should move back to the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are permitted to use either lane.

Three-lane motorway Рyou should stay in the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower moving traffic. To do this you should use the middle lane. If you need to overtake several vehicles then stay in the middle lane. There is no need to weave in and out of the left-hand lane as you overtake individual vehicles.

You should only use the outer lane to overtake slower moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied with slower moving traffic.

When in either the middle or outer lanes, you must be prepared to move over, to the left or middle lanes, to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Indeed!  If only!!

Basically, whatever motorway you are driving on, these “rules” are simply ignored – by almost everyone!¬† ¬† Which still baffles me as to why our motorways are statistically the safest places to drive in Britain.¬†¬†Research by the Road Safety Foundation, and published by the Telegraph back in 2013, showed that single carriageway roads seven times more dangerous than motorways! It’s there in black and white so it must be true!

In 2018 Erin Baker, writing for the¬†RAC highlighted the 11 of the most annoying driving habits and at guess what people –¬† #1 was Middle Lane Hogging.¬†¬†Despite police pledges to prosecute¬†middle-lane drivers, nothing has changed.¬† There you’ll find the older person keeping plenty of space around him or herself, totally oblivious to the law and absolutely insistent that they have the right to be where they are and drive at the speed they want.¬† Or it could be the timid mouse clutching, terrified, to the steering wheel with a fixed gaze – forward – and in no other direction, at any time.¬† It could be a young guy lost in his music, a family having an argument – it could be you.¬† In fact it is highly likely to be a lot of you!¬† Just today I was heading back up the M40 from London and I spotted¬† a silver Mercedes Vito (registration beginning EN17 Z.. – and yes I do know the rest) in my rear view mirror, who was moving slightly faster than me, I was doing 70 (on cruise control) in the inside lane – honest I was! He slowly passed me – couldn’t have been doing more than 1mph more than me.¬† About a minute later I had to overtake someone in the inside lane and he appeared in front of me – going significantly slower than he had been previously – but still in the middle lane.¬† Why? Because he was looking down at his phone, possibly texting someone.¬† I overtook him, returned to the inside lane and within a minute he came whizzing past me, clearly having finished his “chat” and keen to catch up the lost time – he was doing well over the national speed limit (god I sound virtuous here – pass the sick bag).

That’s not an isolated example – in the past few weeks I’ve driven to the top of Scotland and back and can confidently state that it happens everywhere – people driving in the wrong lane.

In fact I’d go so far as to say we British are the World’s worst motorway drivers – although according to HotCars we don’t even make the top 20 – to be fair this is actually about people who just don’t seem to be able to drive at all…¬† India only makes #12 – and having been there that’s one place I certainly do not want to drive in!

OK let’s say we’re the worst in Europe – well we can until Brexit happens and then we aren’t in Europe anymore (Cameron you **** – thanks for ****ing it up for us – and now you think we’d be prepared to let you back into politics – think again you total numpty!).¬† The only place that comes close to us in terms of motorway bad behaviour is Germany, and then only in the rain – the rest of the time they seem totally sensible.¬† The best motorways to drive on are in Belgium (hey some of them even have their own Wikipedia pages!) and from my experience the most organised and responsive motorists are the Italians – strange but true.¬† In 2014 Autoexpress published a survey that showed us Brits thought that the Italians were the worst drivers.¬† And that may well be true in cities and on the twisty roads such as the Amalfi coastline – BUT it’s a different story on motorways.

At least they are predictable and in general they follow the rules.¬† The drive fast – true, they will let you know they’re coming – also true but unless they are in what many seem to be, a terrible hurry, they WILL stay in the slow lane – they do NOT hog the middle or other lanes.

The problem with drivers hogging the middle lane is then what happens…

  1. for starters on a 3 lane motorway this will lead to more and more people moving to the outside lane to get past them, this naturally causes the traffic to slow, as a concertina or ripple, effect builds up leading to what are termed “phantom traffic jams” – this is one reason why your are more likely to see an accident in the outside lane of a motorway.
  2. undertaking – passing them on the inside – usually accompanied by a long hard stare at them as you go by, possibly accompanied by a bit head shaking and/or finger wagging.¬† Go on, admit it – you’ve done it – I know I have, and whilst it’s perfectly permissable in the US it isn’t here – ok to be accurate – it is permissable here but only where the queue of traffic in the lane to your right is moving slower than your lane – but that is not the example I am describing here!
  3. overtaking and making a point.  This is the practice, especially on an otherwise empty motorway, of driving up behind a MLH (middle lane hogger) then dropping back and moving into the inside lane before flooring it and zooming quickly up the inside lane and at the last moment swerving to the outside lane to pass them before moving sharply left and back into the inside lane again.

Maybe it’s down to a lack of education – certainly all those years ago when I learnt to drive I didn’t drive on a motorway until after I’d actually passed my test!¬† Thankfully things are changing:

With the changes that came into effect in June 2018 road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.

“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”

But even then, according to the AA: “more than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that‚Äôs you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.”

Plus you then have to factor in the growth in the volume of traffic – which seems never ending:

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.

‚ÄúThe data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.‚ÄĚ

The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.

And there’s more – the shift from shopping on the high street to out of town shopping centres not only started the demise of the traditional high street it also increased the number of journeys people take in their cars.¬† That trend has now been amplified by the shift to online shopping.¬† The consequent increase in the number of delivery vans on our roads has only fuelled the frequency of traffic jams.

For the last four years, van traffic has increased on average by 4.8% a year, and has been the fastest growing traffic type (in percentage terms) over this time.

Dear god is there no hope for us?¬† Well clearly there is – but you’re not going to like it, well if you knit your own yogurt, you’ll definitely hate it!

BUILD MORE ROADS!

Don’t spend ¬£42billion (or ¬£60bn as it might finally cost) on a crappy bit of railway – build more roads and help millions of people drive more efficiently as their cars can travel at the average speed it was meant to (c.56mph I believe) and give us more space just like driving in Belgium – ah bliss.