If you're looking for a post about Cait Riley, click here

Want new Blog posts sent to you automatically when the Blog is updated? Enter your email address & click the GO button. I won't spam you.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Why we seek out violent or abusive people

One  way to avoid suffering violence is to pay the State some taxes to fund a police force and military. That force usually depends on the ultimate threat of violence to do its job. We’re proud of these potentially violent people, celebrate their victories and mourn their defeats.

We may also choose to associate with people who we believe are strong enough to protect us. Or in some cultures, carry weapons or own a "fighting" dog.

Essentially we manage the risk of being a victim of violence by keeping our own supply of violence at hand. These are two edged swords though – the police, military, dogs, etc. sometimes turn on us. 

Of course, these "risk management" decisions are rarely carefully thought out - they are more likely to be unconscious and emotional in nature. A possibly related phenomenon is Hybristophilia - sexual attraction to violent criminals.

In the political sphere consider, Stalin - arguably the most violent Russian leader  but "A survey from late 2006 found that 47 per cent of Russians viewed Stalin as a positive figure, and only 29 per cent as a negative one" 

To be sure, there are some victims of violence and other abuse who in no way "courted" their problems but those who liked what Donald Trump was offering enough to vote for him will not be in a good position to complain if he turns against them.   They've taken the risk that overall he'll be good for them despite the red flags. And if in a few years time if he does something awful, is it his responsibility? Or is it the responsibility of those who knowingly voted him in and made it possible?


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

FtpGetFile bug and resolution

I was using FtpGetFile in some VBA to download some files from an FTP server but I was losing data from the end of the files. Downloading the same files with an FTP client got the complete files - no problem.

The files concerned got onto the server via some PHP on a web server that opened a file for append, wrote some data, closed it and  sometime later did it again (and again) like this:

$myfile = fopen("Afile.txt", "a") or die("Unable to open file!");
fwrite($myfile, $stuff1."\r\n");
fwrite($myfile, $stuff2."\r\n");
fwrite($myfile, "stuffN"."\r\n");

(up to an hour passes)

$myfile = fopen("Afile.txt", "a") or die("Unable to open file!");
fwrite($myfile, $stuff11."\r\n");
fwrite($myfile, $stuff12."\r\n");


I noticed that the incomplete files always had complete sessions/records - just not enough of them while the FTP client got them all.

Eventually I dug into the documentation for  FtpGetFile  and found there was a flag INTERNET_FLAG_RELOAD I could set which "Forces a download of the requested file, object, or directory listing from the origin server, not from the cache."

That fixed it :-)

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Des Res

A friend drew my attention to this "affordable property" - a former Telephone Repeater Station in rural Gloucestershire with easy access to Gloucester and Cheltenham and is a snip at £29,990. A few days later I was passing that way with my camera and took a closer look

View of the front door through the garden from the front gate

Front door - note letterbox

Full fire precautions. Health and Safety is the last thing to go
Reception/Master Bedroom/Kitchen/Etc

The rear of the property has access to open fields

So is it worth the £30k price tag? Sure, it's an expensive location but the total plot is only around 1000 square feet so you could put a modest 3 bedroom house on it with a little over for a garden. In theory, loads of parking is available at the adjacent lay-by. The only services are electricity. So it could work - if you can get Planning Permission

Yodel, Sports Direct and Amazon

My old sandals fell apart and as I had a camping trip coming up, I needed to buy another pair. Browsing Amazon, I spotted a nice pair and placed an order - paying extra for expedited delivery to ensure I got them in time. Amazon passed the order to Sports Direct who passed the goods to there "delivery" company, Yodel.

With a day to go before my deadline, I checked online for progress and found that Yodel had already made three delivery attempts. This was odd since our receptionist hadn't seen anyone. Confusingly, when I tried to interact with the tracking site, it told me:
Your parcel(s) cannot currently be collected from our service centre. Your parcel has not yet had a delivery attempt. Your parcel(s) cannot currently be rearranged. Your parcel has not yet had a delivery attempt
I got on to Yodel who told me that their driver had been to the wrong address and they'd get the stuff to me the next day. Sure enough, at 10.00am I got a text announcing that delivery had taken place. I shot out to reception who'd seen no one. The tracking now claimed delivery.

So I got on to Amazon who said they'd arrange cancellation with Sports Direct and went out and bought a alternative pair of sandals the old-fashioned way.

When I got back from my trip I found an email from Yodel advising that they had delivered the sandals to a cafe on the same street as my workplace but with a different number. They claimed they'd delivered to the number on package.

At this point, I didn't know if Sports Direct had put the wrong number on the box or Yodel had messed up but I didn't much care. I filed an "A-z" claim with Amazon.

Amazon denied my claim because Yodel had obtained a signature on delivery (to the wrong place)

Then the package did turn up, damaged but showing the correct number.

So I was facing being out of pocket because Yodel delivered damaged goods late and to the wrong place. So I wrote to the Chief Executive of all three companies. As a result, Amazon refunded my money and told me to dispose of the damaged parcel as I saw fit.

Yodel weren't done though. They sent someone to try to collect the parcel. I wish I'd been there. The driver started off by asking for someone nobody had heard of. My colleagues having heard a little of this saga suggested they might be looking for me and the Yodeller confirmed that was who he was looking for. He says he's coming back tomorrow. Oh joy!

Are there any takeaway lessons from this?

1. Don't buy from Sports Direct

Their Amazon site is very clear it will always involve Yodel
We have selected our courier partners Yodel on the basis of their success in meeting delivery guarantees. However we cannot be held responsible for the failure of the courier to meet such a guarantee.
2. Check with sellers if they use Yodel for deliveries and buy elsewhere if they do
3. Always escalate poor customer service to the top
4. Use the Internet to check on the reputation of those you are doing business with. Yodel have horror stories going back years,

Monday, 4 April 2016

MBNA nonsense

They think they're a bank...

MBNA: You filled in our form incorrectly

Me: What did I get wrong?

MBNA: I can't tell you that. I suggest you download the form again, print it out, fill it in and post it off to us.

Me: I think I'm using the wrong bank

MBNA: I can see it's frustrating, The only thing I can suggest is that you download the form again-

Me: No, let's just close the account

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Sherborne Cinema

There wasn't a dance I wanted to go to tonight so I decided to go to "the pictures" and see the (fairly) new Star Wars film. Google told me of several places showing  it including the Sherborne Cinema.

This turned out to be a small art-Deco establishment in the back streets of Gloucester charging £5 to get in and for an extra pound, Mark made me nice mug of Earl Grey tea. There was even a small car park for "patrons" but they don't take cards or on-line bookings.  Cash works though.

The Foyer 

The end of cinema had long been predicted but it refuses to die. Television didn't see it off and despite on-line video on demand ventures like this still get off the ground. It's less than a year old although the building is over 100.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

An end to political arguments?

Well, probably not but I've found a very useful document for some of those arguments down the pub (or more often these days, on Facebook). It works like this:

  • Person A wants the government to spend more money on something
  • Person B says we can't afford it
  • Person C says of course we can - tax the rich/cut benefits/etc.
Trouble is, even if Person A knows exactly how much money s/he wants spending, no one knows whether the bill will in fact be covered by what Person C proposes.

Well, I found an answer. It's a government document and I'd be the first to agree that "Direct effects of illustrative tax changes" is not the snappiest title - but stay with me!

The short version is just two pages long and shows just how much money you could raise by adding 1p to the major tax rates - around £4 billion for a penny on standard rate income tax for example.

You want to spend around £800 million? Easy - raise Corporation Tax by 1%. Even better, that will yield twice as much by the end of the decade.

For the unabridged and Excel versions of this fascinating document go here