Thursday, March 22, 2018

Link Me Out, If You'd Be So Kind

I joined LinkedIn a long time ago in the vague hope that it might in some way benefit my career. It didn't. I remain a member purely to see what may happen. I don't mind people who know me asking to join my "network" but I see no reason why total strangers should be given this privilege. Today this appeared in my email

I have never heard of Blumbo Smith. I have serious doubts that this is a real name. What must the other children in the nursery school have made of it? Blumbo the Jumbo perhaps, or Blumbo the Dumbo. Down in New Orleans it would be Blumbo the Gumbo. Seems really cruel to me. And the pathos of that "Smith" at the end. I mean - if you were going to call a child "Blumbo" then surely you would have a surname to match, such as Farquarharson-Colqhoun of that Ilk or Butterbread or Von Strassenbergergemeitlich, Jr.

Anyway, this person, be they male or female (or trans gender or transitioning or androgynous, God you've got to be so careful these days) is not numbered amongst my acquaintances nor have I ever done business with them. I think I would remember a Blumbo, somehow. So why does he/she/it wish to connect with me? I guess the answer lies in that job description - Telesales. Poor old Blumbo, desperately trying to get his 1 sales quota up before the month end and another missed bonus. Maybe there is a final warning hanging over his head?

Enough of Smith and his distinctive forename. What am I to do? My good friends at LinkedIn have thoughtfully allowed me to say yes to his ludicrous suggestion but not to say No.  There is no way I can send Smithy a little note pointing out that he's not getting his grubby telesales-grasping hands on my vast list of contacts and no way I can tell LinkedIn that it is stupid that I am unable so to do. So I shall do nothing. There, that was easy. The email is deleted. Bye-bye, Blumbo, raise a final glass to me from your little cubicle as I depart from your life and better luck with your next victim contact.

1. Male is henceforth taken as signifying all other genders.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Facing up to the Inevitable

Just fancy that. Facebook is under investigation for passing on the personal data of its users to a data analysis company, Cambridge Analytica, who may have used the results to assist in political campaigns, including that of D. Trump recently. This is the outfit [Facebook, not the data analysis people: Ed] who, if I recall rightly, used to claim that any photographs uploaded to their servers became their copyright. Users don't pay anything to store data or to exchange messages with friends on Facebook. These two facts alone ought to be sufficient to make it clear that it is very much caveat emptor when dealing with tech firms. Consider the Facebook terms and conditions. Have you ever read them? If you did and you disagreed with any, can you negotiate with the firm to have them changed? Obviously not.

The funny thing is that there is, inevitably a "backlash" on social media (which largely takes the form of people relaying messages with the same hashtag in). But they use other forms of social media to send these messages. If they cease using Facebook they will use something else which they don't pay for. Naturally the owners of these sites will seek to monetise the data that they are accumulating, no matter how many fine promises and mission statements they may publicise.

Moral: Don't put your personal data online. Or if you do, be aware of what it is and how it may used.

Oh, by the way, nothing in this piece should in any way be taken to suggest that Facebook might have done anything wrong. We totally deny that allegation absolutely. It must surely be the most amazing coincidence of all time that "forensic auditors" employed by Facebook were at work in the offices of Cambridge Analytica just when it would certainly have been convenient if the data that Facebook supplied could all be deleted before any Government investigators could get a look in.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Snow-Bound in Sheffield

The plan was simple. Drive up to Sheffield on Saturday, stay over, and on the Sunday morning collect Mrs.C's mother from her retirement home and drive her to London where she was due to take up residence in a new home. All went well until the blizzard struck on Saturday evening. Sheffield, sprawled over many hills, became a paralysed city. On a particularly steep rise that led from our nephew's home to a nearby restaurant to which we were driving, we watched in shock as a car coming  down towards us seemed to lose control. It bounced off one car parked just ahead (not parked particularly well and with its hazard lights on) and ricocheted off to hit another on the other side of the road. As the drivers began exchanging details (and perhaps a few choice personal remarks), I drove gingerly past, the wheels beginning to skid. Later that night a short drive to the flat owned by Mrs.C's brother and sister-in-law was a tense affair as we slewed and crunched down a windy hill, nearly slamming into the car crawling along just ahead, then it was eyes straining to see through a near white-out as we chugged in second gear; fortunately the roads had become very quiet by then.

I thought I was pretty clever parking overnight on a side road rather than risk the steeply raked drive to the flat's parking area but the next day the car was in a foot of snow, the wheels merely spun when I touched the accelerator and, given that we had no easy way of digging the car out and that the idea of driving back to London with a 90 year old seemed pretty crazy in any case, that was that for the day.

So we spent a day holed up in the flat (my in-laws were themselves lying low in London), venturing out just once to the local Tesco to get something to eat, and watching the news which, when it wasn't all about Russians murdering anyone they didn't much like, showed  transport mayhem all over the country. It stayed at freezing point all day but the second round of snow promised in the forecasts did not materialise.

Today we managed to get back on track, albeit a day later than intended, and apart from a nasty few feet of sheer ice on the pavement (I was so worried about falling I was seriously pondering about sliding down on my bottom), the weather caused no further problems. By lunchtime at Leicester the snow had virtually vanished, the temperature was a reasonable 6 or 7c and the motorways were safe and dry.

That's the first time I have been marooned in this way and it brings home how much at the mercy of nature we are.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Fantastic, though a little late, news that must surely grip all residents of the most beautiful suburb in commuter-land. Only a few years ago (geologically speaking), Ruislip was by the sea. Yes, our ancestors strolled up and down the strand, threw pebbles at passing coelacanths, bought tasty mammoth-on-a-stick treats and spent hours in the amusement arcades with the one-armed bandit (or Ug the 'armless as he was known).

Ruislip 56 million years ago

Ruislip today - the bustling heart of the suburb

OK, it was 56 million years ago so there probably wasn't even a Dreams' sale going on and the only extensive delays to public transport would have been when a sabre-toothed tiger jumped in front of a dugout canoe, but there was plenty going on in what they are already calling the "Ruislip beds" - marshes, swamps and animal in trees according to the boffins who are digging the test pits along the proposed route for HS2. That doesn't surprise me much. As one who regularly walks in that area, I can testify that there are plenty of marshes and swamps in which the unwary hiker can easily step thus blasting mud all over one's lower trouserings.

So come to historic Ruislip and marvel at the prehistoric landscape just 33 metres under your feet. Genuine samples of mud, which must surely resemble very closely the stratum that is so exciting the geologists, may be purchased, at very reasonable prices, from this very establishment. You can also buy pottery very similar to the stuff made by the Beaker folk, pencils on which you can scratch the word 'Ruislip' if you so wish and why not take home a box of our very special rock cakes (made with real local rocks which may be the very same that once stunned an inoffensive trilobite).

Bad Taste Corner - 3

I can't help feeling that some names should be kept out of public view if the owners wish to avoid smirks, sniggers and inappropriate comments from the ignorant. This column, sadly, is forced to align itself with the mockers upon reading the following in today's paper

I can't help but picture the scene as young Keith meets his careers master during his final term at his dear old school back in County Down.

"So young Bomber, have you given any thought to what you will do when you leave us? Engineering perhaps? Finance? Medicine?"
"Well sir, I'm determined to do something in politics. The paramilitaries are the answer. We must defend what we believe to be right and I just know I can do it without anyone suspecting a thing"
"Umm - have you thought this through, Keith?"