Thursday, August 24, 2006

Off the Rails

I accidentally bought a first class ticket for my trip home from Bristol yesterday. I did this by buying it on line at First Great Western's web site. If you look for a return ticket, it'll list the prices and provide you with a link to a list of the various single ticket options which are often much cheaper because they restrict you to travelling on reserved seats on specific trains. I didn't realise but the tickets are listen in more or less price order with the first class options are mixed up with the standard class options. I just selected the top one on the list (or perhaps went for the top one and accidentally got the second one), I didn't realise until I checked my reservation and found it to be in First Class.

The main point of the story is that I sat opposite to a couple that appeared to have no idea about trains, in fact they probably had to take turns to use the brain cell. The man asked me if Paddington was the last stop and how close was Hammersmith and would they need to get another train to get there.

My suspicions were confirmed when the ticket inspector came round. They didn't actually have first class tickets, nor did they realise they were in first class in spite of the fact that every seat has the words "First Class" written on the head rest. That didn't matter though because they also didn't have standard class tickets. It wouldn't have been a problem because you can buy tickets on the train, but when the ticket inspector said standard class tickets are £41 each, it became obvious from the jaw dropping that these people also didn't have £41 each. They managed to blag the ticket inspector into giving them a few minutes to think, so he went down the train checking everybody else's tickets. By the time he came back, they had gone off in the other direction to find some toilets to hide in. I know this because they discussed the strategy while the inspector was away, ignoring the fact that the passenger opposite (i.e. me) would probably sing like a canary if interrogated about their whereabouts.

The ticket inspector followed the couple, but obviously didn't catch up because soon afterwards we pulled in to Swindon and the buffet car attendant and I watched them get off the train and wander out of the exit and then wander back onto the platform again having found out that Swindon has electronic ticket barriers. They are probably still there now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's just not cricket

The Fourth Test ended disastrously and everybody seems to be blaming the umpires. I'm going to stick up for them.

Fact: in the context of a cricket match, the umpire is always right. They may, in reality, get things wrong, and matches have turned on wrong decisions, but it is almost unprecedented for them to be questioned on the field of play.

Fact: in the umpires' opinion the ball was tampered with. They duly applied the correct penalty.

Fact: the Pakistan team failed to turn out for the last session on Sunday. The umpires duly applied the correct penalty.

Fact: the ball was inspected at the fall of the last wicket (and was OK then) and again five overs later. Nobody is in a position to judged what damage had been done to the ball except those people who handled the ball in that period.

The Pakistan team threw a strop like spoilt children and the umpires did their job. Why is everybody coming down on the side of the team? It was them that ruined the match; if they had behaved like mature adults they would have played on, beaten England and registered a protest afterwards. As t is, instead of being up on a charge of ball tampering (of which they might be innocent, if the umpires were mistaken), they are now up for bringing the game into disrepute, a charge of which they are certainly guilty.

It's just not common sense

As I travelled home on the train tonight, a party of three people turned up looking for their reserved seats. They has 13 forwards and backwards and 14 forwards. Unfortunately, the carriage had a different layout to that assumed by the reservation system and seats 13 and 14 were "airline style" i.e. there was no 13 backwards, so there were only two seats for three reservations.

Whoever puts the little reserved tickets in the seat backs had noticed the problem and put 13 backwards and 13 forwards in the same seat back. What on earth made them think it would be OK to allocate the same seat to two reservations?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Crash 2

I was proceeding along the A33 in a Northerly direction. It was dark with no street lights. In the headlights of an on coming car I thought I saw what looked like people silhouetted in the road. Next thing I knew, there was a flock of five or six horses galloping towards me. I did my best to push the brake pedal through the floor of the car and miraculously I failed to hit any of the horses.

Looking in my rear view mirror, I watched the lights of a car behind me veer off the road as it went into a ditch. Both the guys in it were a bit shaken but otherwise OK. The car itself had faired worse. The driver thought he had hit one of the horses and it was, in fact, missing the door mirror. I noticed that there was a bit of a dent in the driver's side front wing and was running my hand along it when I felt something a bit squidgey. There was a small piece of horse flesh caught in the gap between the wing and the driver's door.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Broken Ferrari
I managed to hose my laptop today. Following a failed security update, it failed to restart except in Windows mode. Fortunately, I was able to track down an operating system CD and reinstall it (thank god Apple software does not require activation).

My day could have been far worse though. Andy, my ex-employer picked up his new Ferrari 360 today. Here's one of the pictures he took. As you can see he has already scratched the nearside front wing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My blog is like buses. I have nothing to say for months, and then loads of things come up at once.

Airport Security (again)

I see there have been a number of security lapses on aeroplanes since the clamp down.

Why have all these security issues come up just now, exactly when security is supposed to be tighter? Well, of course, the answer is that they have suddenly become newsworthy. These things probably have always been happening all the time, I have been on at least one flight where a mobile phone rang at an inappropriate moment. I've also been on a flight where somebody needed a cigarette and called the bluff about smoke alarms in the toilet. Sadly for him, the bluff wasn't and when he refused to surrender his lighter he ended up in handcuffs and leg restraints for 6 hours and was met off the plane by 14 policemen and women (I counted them).

There are loads of unsupported rumours flying about, but it appears that the poor 60 year old woman had some handcream that was mistaken for a banned substance. The banned substance in question was vaseline. Why is vaseline a banned substance?


Apparently John Prescott has thrown off the shackles of incomprehensibility and said

Bush is crap

(I heard it on Newsnight, but I can't verify the story)

Three syllables with more more clarity than everything he's ever said before.

A worthwhile campaign

What is the caps lock key for? On my laptop, the caps lock key is twice as big as any other but I only ever use it by CCIDENT WHEN I WAS REALLY fter the "A" key. My laptop has a caps lock which is twice the size of a normal key, but it has no delete key. It does have a backspace, but backspace is useless when you need to press ctrl-alt-del to bring up a Windows login dialogue box. Anyway, some people have noticed.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Airport Security

Many years ago I went skiing with my Dad and our luggage was X-rayed for security purposes. Unfortunately, there was a problem with one of the bags in that it had a suspicious package inside it.
"What's that?" said the security guard lady turning the screen so that we could see the X-ray picture. It showed an X-ray of the bag, in which could be discerned the shape of clothing and toiletries and shoes and the other paraphenalia of a skiing holiday, but right in the middle was an intensely black rectangulsr object. They'd turned the X-rays up to maximum and they still couldn't penetrate the blackness of that rectangle. It turned out to be my mother's bread pudding which had been scientifically (that is to say, deliberately) concocted to deliver the maximum amount of stodge in the smallest possible volume to a hungry skier.

Anyway, now they are clamping down, well "panicking" would be a better word. People's common sense seems to be going out of the window. For instance, I argued with somebody on a forum that it should be OK to take a book on the plane but he thought a book could be hollowed out and filled with a chocolate bar shaped piece of explosive. I pointed out that people were not in the habit of carrying their chocolate inside hollowed out books (except maybe my sister in law) and such a book appearing in an X-ray would certainly attract the attention of the security personnel.

Another thing that annoys me is that, now there is a real bomb threat, you suddenly can't take anything on a plane with you. Why is this? The inescapable conclusion is that the normal security measures don't actually work. That's right, all those X-ray machines and body scanners that you have to queue for hours for cannot be trusted when there is a possibility of a real bomb being smuggled onto a flight. Instead of inconveniencing us by making us take our phones and money and keys out of our pockets and subjecting us to full body searches*, they could have just waved us straight through.

The other possibility is that the government wants to make us frightened so that they can carry on with making Britain a police state without any arguments.

*I don't have the nerve to tell that story.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More e-cards

It seems that there are a lot of people in Apto Solutions that know this Cynthia:

Some Spam e-mails

Cynthia, your card is missing

I received an e-card today from Cynthia. "Who is Cynthia?" you ask. (Hmmm, as an aside, how should that sentence be punctuated? Having a question mark and a full stop seems wrong, but so does putting the question mark right at the end.) The answer is "dunno". Anyway, as you can see from the text of the e-mail:

Content-Type: text/html
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">

<strong><font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Hello ,
<p><font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><strong>You received an &quot;Original Card&quot; from Cynthia<br>
To see your card, <a href="">click here</a></strong></font></p>
<p><font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><strong>This &quot;ecard&quot; will be stored for one week, so<br>
print or save the &quot;ecard&quot; as soon as possible.</strong></font></p>
<p><font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><strong>Thanks again for turning to 'original-cards'.</strong></font></p>
<p><font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><strong>Harry Berg</strong></font></p>


the URL doesn't have any kind of cookie associated with it which means it probably isn't personalised in anyway with a real e-card, but also that I can paste the link into a browser and see where it goes.

Where it went was a redirect to a site selling e-cards. So, in short, this is a spam e-mail which uses social engineering to get you to go to an e-card selling site.

It strikes me as a particularly nasty and dangerous security risk. Let's say I spam 10,000 men with an e-card from Cynthia. A small proportion of those men will actually know and possibly love somebody called Cynthia and may be tempted to send something back. They log into the site which is linked to helpfully on the bottom of the card and hand over credit card details....

Monday, August 07, 2006


Well, I was sort of right, turns out she was in a three way Strangers on a Train scenario.

Leo is rubbish too

I have to be quick because the second episode of Silent Witness has already started

I can't believe Leo hasn't figured it out. The son of the murder victim was being protected by the wife but it turns out he has a cast iron alibi, so twisty-wisty, it's obviously his sister wot did it.

I'm writing this as the episode has just started, so we'll see if I'm right in 54 minutes.

Laptops passing in the Night

I sat oppposite a woman on the train tonight who had a MacBook. Since I had my MacBook Pro we struck up a conversation. There aren't many laptops other you could own that are worthy of starting a conversation with a complete stranger.

Addendum to Integration Hell

My brother pointed out that many combined PDA/phone/MP3 players have a safe mode which switches off the transmitter and renders them unlikely to crash an aeroplane. This is a great idea in theory except that some airlines don't trust you to switch off the phone part and still ban such devices altogether.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Integration Hell

Well WWDC is coming up and as usual there are lots of rumours flying around about what Apple is going to announce there. One of these rumours involves the iPhone. The iPhone is an iPos that is also a mobile phone that Apple is supposed to be developing, although, of course, nobody actually knows, they are just guessing.

Call me a luddite, but I am absolutely against the ridiculous trend towards integrating all your hand held devices into one brick. For a start, if your iPod-phone-camera breaks or gets lost or stolen, that's your whole holiday ruined. At least with my current situation, if one item breaks, I still have the other two.

A more serious issue is the problem of security restrictions. If I could get a phone without a camera, I would, because it can't be long before the customers I work for figure out that a camera-phone is a horrible security risk and start banning them from being taken into their offices. Having to leave my mobile phone in reception would be a disaster.

A variation on the above is the reason why an MP3 player-phone is such a bad idea. Can you imagine going on holiday with your whole record collection (I do now with my iPod) on your brand new iPod-iPhone only to be told that you can't even switch it on during the flight?

Friday, August 04, 2006


Just below the recipe list on the Baxters Spring Vegetable Soup I had for my tea tonight, there is a warning:


I didn't know celery was dangerous, except that, as it has net negative calories (it takes more energy to digest than there is in it), you could die of exhaustion from eating too much.

Disadvantage cards

When I'm working in Aldershot, I often get my lunch at Boots. Every time I buy anything there, the cashier asks me if I have "an Advantage Card". The answer is "no, and please stop asking me", however, I always stop after the "no" part for some reason.

The stupidity of the whole situation was brought home today when I overheard the following while standing in the queue:

Cashier to shopper: "You're in every day, just think how much you could save if you had an advantage card."

Firstly, this shopper was well known to the cashier and every time she asks him if he has an advantage card he says "no". An y reasonable person would have got the message by now and stopped asking.

Secondly, the whole thing is a con trick to get people to pay Boots' inflated prices. If they were really so concerned about us customers saving money, they would cancel the scheme and use the money they saved to make everything a bit cheaper for everybody.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Inspector Linley is rubbish

He was well off his game tonight. I figured out out miles before he did.

For a start, the murder victim had a wound shaped like a hooked spikey implement. I immediately thought "ice axe". That put the lawyer right in the frame, since he was a keen rock climber and had successfully assaulted Mount Everest. Linley had to wait for the pathologist to produce a suspiciously accurate cast of the wound to figure the same thing out.

Once we found out that the clerk had provided the lawyer with his alibi for the murder-that-happened-a-long-time-ago, we only needed to apply the obligatory twist to the situation i.e. was the clerk providing the alibi for the lawyer, or twisty-wisty, was the lawyer providing the alibi for the clerk?

I solved it in under an hour. It took Linley at least two days, even though Havers nearly got it at one point.

And his car is rubbish.

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