Friday, October 21, 2016

What does a gorilla drink? *

Source: BBC

There was the usual crowd in the bar that afternoon. A couple of orang-utans nursed beakers of lemonade as they played cribbage in the corner. A baboon was hitting the Irn Bru hard, but quietly, over by the window. Some chimps were huddled over a very large bowl of peanuts. At the bar the ring-tailed lemur polished a couple of glasses.

The street door swung open and an enormous shadow filled the room. The lemur froze, glass in the air. The chimps fell silent, a few stray peanuts falling to the floor unheeded. Even the orang-utans looked round, scratching nervously.

The gorilla just stood there, filling the doorway, sizing up the joint. 30 stone of raw muscle and bulk, swaying lightly from foot to foot. His eyes fixed on the bar and he ambled over. Nobody got in his way. You figured that nobody ever would get in his way, not if they didn't want to be flattened.

"Yus Mr Kumbuka, sir, what will it be?" croaked the lemur, never taking his eyes from those huge hands swinging easily on either side of him. The place held its breath. If he was in one his nasty moods...

"Blackcurrant. As much as you've got. The real stuff, no water. Got it?"
"Yes sir, got it".

As the lemur began hoiking the huge bottles onto the bar we all began to breathe again. If the gorilla was going to go on a blackcurrant bender, he was in a placid mood. Maybe none of us would have our arms torn off today. The chimps nibbled peanuts. The baboon took a swig of his orange-coloured poison. It was going to be all right, just another hard day's drinking at the Zoo.

*Anything he wants.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Plan B fails

I ceased real commuting some years ago but I regularly take the train from beautiful Ruislip to Finchley Road. Today I was nice and early for the departure from the Manor. We stopped short on the approach to Harrow, with another train on the fast line also stopped. Potentially a bad sign, suggesting congestion ahead. We eased into the platform and the driver told us the other train was going first. So almost the entire trainload crossed the platform. So far no problem. Except he did mention something about a track problem...

No sooner had we pulled out of Harrow than we were told our train was now stopping at Wembley Park. We arrived, about three hundred people piled out and we all played the same guessing game - was it worth taking a Jubilee? The Met driver announced that it was possible the train behind would be running normally but he didn't sound very confident.  A Jubbly arrived and almost everyone got on. This is my normal fallback in the event of a problem on the Met and it usually works.

Except today it did not. We reached Dollis Hill (and if a station in London could be described as the middle of nowhere this surely must be a good candidate), stopped and were informed that there was a suspect package at North Greenwich and all Jubbly's were being held. Oh Joy. Naturally the Mets began running again but from this station all one can do is watch as they thunder by on the fast track. I decided to return to Wembley Park. Good plan.  A minute after I took my seat in a Stanmore-bound train, almost everyone from the inert southbound joined me, the driver no doubt having advised it. Presumably they could maintain a reasonable northbound service?

No. We sat at Dollis Hill for a long time due to "the trains ahead". Eventually we moved off, we all crossed over at Wembley Park and got back on the now normally running Met and back again past Dollis Hill (southbound still stuck there) and so on to my destination a mere 35 minutes late.

The only laugh was when the driver of the northbound Jubbly at Dollis Hill made his third announcement about the ongoing delays and suggested we all take local buses instead. Yes. Good plan. When I got home I checked if such a journey were possible. It is. London Underground  TFL's website allots 54 minutes to a trip that takes 7 minutes on the Jubbly and about 4 on the Met. We won't be bothering, thanks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dr. Commuter Helps Out ... Andy Murray

Source: BBC Website
Dr. Commuter writes:

This is a hard one. I suggest he plays in ranking tournaments and does his level best to win some of them and if he works jolly hard and hits the ball accurately and hard into the court (and not into the net, you'd be surprised how many players fall for that one) then he should manage to score more ranking points than any other player and he will be rated world number one.

If you have any questions for Dr. Commuter,  do contact us at the usual address.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Brexit and Parliamentary Democracy

Funny thing, your Johnny referendum. Supposed to be the ultimate expression of the people's will. Overrides parliament. And yet in the vexed case of Brexit, the total lack of detail about what is to replace our membership of the EU demands the utmost involvement of parliament. The government grudgingly suggests that maybe there will a debate at the end of the negotiating process. The government, voted into power in 2015 on a platform of supporting British membership, not of leaving, now claims to have some sort of direct mandate. So a handful of MPs, nearly all of whom stood behind our membership of the EU, are now going to decide how we exit and parliament will get a chance to rubber-stamp it. And it really is a rubber stamp for the government has made it clear that parliament may not change anything that is negotiated.

Oh, and we are not allowed to know what it is that is being negotiated because that would jeopardise our bargaining position. Umm, we've already done that, fellers. We've given unconditional notice that we are out. We don't really have a negotiating position.

Maybe Mr Johnson, our make-it-up-on-the-spot Foreign Secretary can sort it all out. Or should we all invest in Irish citizenship while the going is good?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The wonderful mind of the spammer

I know I've sounded off about email spammers before (for example in this little rant from 2005) but they seem to be increasing in number and I now receive about half a dozen a day. I don't really know why they bother because my ISP flags them up as spam anyway and then my email client puts them straight into the Deleted folder.

Even if these emails did make it into my Inbox, they would face one insuperable hurdle. The first thing I look at is the sender. And these emails have one fascinating trait that instantly marks them out - they all have incredibly silly sender names. Here are the examples from today's crop - see if you can spot what they all have in common.

Got it? They each contain a number as part of the "sender's" name (obviously we all know these names are generated by computer). Presumably the authors of the software that produces them thought that the digits make the names look more authentic. I think they make the names look utterly ludicrous. I mean, are we supposed to think that there are 500 people with the surname French (none of whom use a first name) based at enitel (whoever they may be)? And over 80,000 people rejoicing in the identity of Jacquelyn (no surname, you will have noticed) using gmail? And as for Francis Civeen (no, sorry, Francis M Civeen if you please), do they really think we will accept that he shares his unusual name with some 480 others?

We must be presumed to make such assumptions since there is absolutely no reason to have a number as part of an email address except to distinguish oneself from someone with an identical name at the same domain. So yes, I would accept JohnSmith05@gmail as perhaps legitimate. Perhaps even JohnSmith5000. But dear old Johnny doesn't write to me. Instead it's Ms Cuppaidge (one of a hundred or so) and poor old Washington down in South Africa. And it was good to hear from darling Deloris again.

So come on spammers, this a game you are losing badly. Try a bit harder. I can always use these names as characters in some of the dramatic entertainments I pen from time to time so your creative efforts may not entirely be wasted.

Update written a day later
Someone out there must have read the piece above. Today another seven or eight emails trapped by my ISP and most of the "senders" did not have numbers after their names. Strange, eh?  

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Windows 10 - Designed by morons

My computer installed updates tonight. It did so without asking me. The procedure included a reboot which meant anything I had been working but not saved would have been lost.

When I regained control I checked  to see if there was anything I could have done to prevent the unwanted interruption and found that there is a new feature called "Active hours". You can tell your computer when it is not to reboot without asking. But only for a set 12 hour maximum period. The preset is 8:00am to 5pm.

What does this tell us? Even though I have the "home" version, Microsoft assume I work office hours. I actually use my computer any time between 9:00am and midnight. Am I allowed to prevent reboots for this time period, leaving an utterly reasonable 9 whole hours for the system to bugger about? No, I am not.  Furthermore the time slot only relates to reboots, not the tedious installation of updates that takes place before when the machine will be locked up with the ominous message "Do not switch off your PC".  Great. So even if I specify when I would like not be interrupted I can't prevent an interruption. There is a temporary override for the reboot - provided I spot a warning message in time because you can't set it until an update is due. Given that the little icon that warns of messages is also used to promote crap like Cortana, I don't look at it too often.

It is genuinely baffling that Microsoft think everyone works standard US office hours, that the "home" and "professional" users should be subject to identical regimes and that users may not set hours within which no updates or reboots shall be applied. I keep thinking about ditching Windows and trying Linux and it gets more tempting all the time.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Those awful advertising slogans - no. 11 - Money Supermarket

Down in one of the lower circles of Hell, amongst the liars and fraudsters, must surely be the eternal resting place of people who make advertisements like that currently used to promote a website called Money Supermarket. The website is nothing in any way special. It is simply one of many comparison sites, listing various things one can buy online and purporting to find the best deals. However, the name is not the issue.

The advert, which is screened so often on certain TV channels that it is inescapable, shows a group of dancers dressed as builders facing, across a deserted city street with a vaguely American feel, a group of dancers wearing suits. The groups dance around, making grotesque poses with much flaunting of bottoms. No information whatsoever1 is provided until the end when the following slogan is broadcast: "You're so Money Supermarket". I suppose that the admen (I learn from my good friends Google that the agency that employs them is called "Mother")2 think that the endless repetition of this phrase will strengthen the image of their client. Perhaps. But then you could screen an ad every adbreak with the slogan "We're crap. Honest" and it would undoubtedly raise brand awareness and win loads of awards. Does it make me want to visit the website? Yes it does, actually (and I bet you didn't see that one coming). Assuming I had the technical expertise, I'd like to visit it in order to deface it, to inject viruses into their webservers and to so damage the commercial reputation of the company that they would be unable to pay Mother who would sue them and they would all end up in court. And then I would phone up Mother and ask "Who's the Daddy now"?3

You cannot be a brand name. Even less can you be "so" a brand name. I suppose the "You" is meant to be the hapless viewer (who I picture as an unshaven man slumped in a sagging armchair, scratching a bare chest and slurping beer while belching "Blimey, I am so Money Supermarket, I really must switch my insurance supplier, oh no, hang on, I don't have any and I can't afford it anyway" - am I close?). Or is it one of the bum-wagglers in the ad? My point is that it is not me. I am not "so" anything. I resent the idea that, just because some ludicrous prancers have been filmed doing something pointless, I identify with the advert. I positively recoil from it. I am not Money Supermarket and I'm proud not to be and they are not getting any of my money.

Thanks for reading. You're so Ruislip Commuter.


1I could be wrong. I mute the sound and look away as soon as ad breaks start. One cannot help one's eyes straying back to the screen from time to time but whatever ghastly soundtrack or braying voice-over accompanies this ad is unheard in the Commuter household.
 2 Yes, really, I kid you not. The agency is called Mother.
3 Apparently still a popular phrase, though I assume it derives from the well-known 1960s TV wrestler Big Daddy.