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24 June 2006

Hunt the teaspoon

I had to play hunt the teaspoon in a major supermarket today. This hiding of teaspoons has become an annoying trend.

I don't like having to queue and wait and ask staff for a utensil just so that my child can eat a yoghurt, something that is impossible with a tea stirrer.

Please remove the stirring device and replace it with something practical that not only can be used for eating as well as stirring, but also means we don't have to queue to get them.


Closed for lunch

I visited a popular roadsite halt today, on a busy trunk road and the main roadside eating place for over 30 minutes in any direction.

Yet despite the popularity of this place (the car park was nearly full at 11:30am), they were closed for lunch.

Lunch began at 12 noon. What a pity we had made good progress on our eight hour car journey, we then lost 30 minutes waiting for 12 noon for decent hot food to be served.

The hot options for a family of 5 at 11:30am were either soup or a steak sandwich. The other option of a fried breakfast didn't seem to be available either but neither was really what I had in mind for a 2 year old.

Naturally, come 12:00:00 the queue was about 30 deep and nearly out the door as everyone who had been waiting for the last 30 minutes for a square meal suddenly piles up in starvation.

This irritating habit of determining when customers are allowed to eat appears to be quite widespread and is something that most fast food outlets have long since learned not only irritates customers, but makes queues excessively long and discourages repeat business.

It's too bad there's no decent competition to The Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, they might start opening for lunch (at 11:30). They are however, not unique. Many pubs are the same, although at least they have some excuse as they have the complication of licensing laws to deal with.

Maybe I'll try selling the idea of closing for lunch to a customer centric organisation and see how many laughs I get.

Business funding without the red tape

Due to the popularity of as well as its prominent search engine placement, I have for some time taken advertising on the site and it has covered costs. However, it's not enough to take on additional staff full time and invest in new development.

That being the case, I thought I could put the advetising to more effective use and cut some of the red tape associated with funding a new venture. It would work like this:
  1. Offer an advertising campaign for say anything between $100 and $1000 for a year depending on placement on the site.

  2. Said person gets advertising as promised and helps to raise finance for startup

  3. Startup is launched and shares are given out to advertisers in proportion to the advertisements they have paid for

  4. If said new venture fails, then the advertisers still got their money's worth through the advertising campaign

  5. If the new venture is a success then advertisers may recover their costs several times over as the share value rises

Investment without the risk?

23 June 2006

The spammer conundrum

How come spammers are bright enough to figure out how to send several million e-mails, harvest email addresses and set up money laundering schemes but they frequently make themselves look like even bigger complete idiots with laughably poor grammar?

From example just received:

eBay sent this message to you because you have a reclamation that you have take the money from a client and we think that you are a big scammer.

(I sent this message to you because you think this will be a big laugh. I think you have take this message and are having big laugh too, no?)

Families with 3 children - Can Disneyland change the rules?

Simple maths:

If the maximum family size is two children, then this is insufficient to replace the population at each generation, due to some people having only one child, choosing to have no children, being unable to have children or dying before reaching adulthood.

The fertility rate in the UK is approx 1.73 children born/woman

Not including effects from immigration, this means that in one generation (30 years) we will have 1.73 people for every 2 people alive today. This means less people to pay for services which the adults of today will need funded in their retirement (e.g. police, hospitals etc).

Clearly then population replacement would seem to be a Good Thing.

However, the places you think would be most welcoming of children still stick to the "2 children only" rule.

Today, I received yet another competition with my daily paper (this was a trip to Disneyland). Once again it was open to a family. Once again a family was defined as being a maximum of 2 adults and 2 children and once again I didn't enter because it would have meant leaving a child at home.

I wonder how many prospective customers the people running these competitions lose through having such inflexible rules? How about simply apportioning a prize fund to be spent at the resort, including travelling there and spending money and then leaving it up to the winner how many people to take along?

To see how commonplace the "2 children maximum" rule is, see the following resultset for competitions to Disneyland

No prizes here for three children

18 June 2006

Some good puzzles

Some good puzzles.

May be useful as standby interview questions.

Mobile phone ban to be lifted in hospitals

The Scotsman reports that the mobile phone ban is to be lifted in hospitals.

One thing that has puzzled me. If the equipment is potentially sensitive to a mobile phone being used nearby and transmitting a signal to a very large receiver, surely the very large transmitter sending a signal strong enough to be picked up by a very small receiver (the mobile) would also have had an effect.

So if the hospitals were complaining about interference from mobile phones, why were they not complaining about the outbound signal from the masts at the same time?

Can anyone explain the physics?

15 June 2006

Soccer site aims to score big for charity during Football World Cup

Site aims to get 20 million hits before the final whistle of the final game of the 2006 World Cup. If this is reached then a charity, chosen by a poll which the viewers will decide upon, will receive 75% of all the revenue this site receives from advertising.

read more | digg story

14 June 2006

Not Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

I was wondering if those high powered executives with their executive toy the Blackberry realise that it's not rocket science to remove the spam advert which appears by default on the email signature.

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

this is how you do it. Anyway, as this funny article suggests it can be the subject of some ridicule, so I invite readers here to submit their own alternative signatures as comments to this posting.

How about

Not Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld, because I "Have Friends I Speak To"
(remember to keep the weird capitalisation)


Not Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld because I have a 3G Laptop with a Real Keyboard Big Enough for Your Fingers. Yah boo, my toy is better than your toy.


Not Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld bcoz txtning is gr8, roflol :-)


Blackberry Lost! Not sent an email for 24 hours. My coordinates are (insert link to Google maps), please call the police.

Football originated in Scotland?

A book published in the 17th century suggests the modern game of football may have been invented in Aberdeen.

read more | digg story

13 June 2006

Please help this blog - links sought


In the last few months, I have seen the traffic to this blog rise to a reasonable level and there's been a lot of diverse comments added to the various stories. There's also various people picking up the blog through readers and site feeders such as feedburner. However, what I could really use is more people actually linking to the blog at (front page stories) or to individual articles in the site.

So please use the search box above to look for interesting stories and if you see anything particular you like or if you like the blog in general please link to it from your site or blog and encourage anyone you think might be interested to do likewise.

This isn't for search engine optimisation purposes, as the site is already doing well, but it will help the blog to reach a wider audience, draw in users and make it more interactive for everyone.

many thanks


Technical Support

I sometimes have to deal with customers having a problem using a website and indeed tonight I found the site unbelievably slow. Rather than going through the eternal question and answer of "what browser are you using" "what version" "what ISP" and so on endlessly, I just went to Project IP and sent the same output that I get customers to send me.

Very useful, very thorough and helps everyone to knock off a few of the basics first and get closer to the real problem.

Dunblane gun register unfit for purpose

Another government IT disaster. 10 years behind schedule, the Dunblane gun register is 'unfit for purpose'. The article also mentions it is 'fundamentally flawed'.

I've already blogged about the firearms register in the context of ID cards.

If we can't put together a firearms register after 10 years of effort, if it is 'fundamentally flawed' and 'unfit for purpose' (according to the Police), how much money do we think the government's going to waste on ID cards? Once again the tax payer will be footing the bill for another broken IT system.

In the context of ID cards:
"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities"

These are the words of Tony Blair, in a passionate speech against Identity Cards to the 1995 Labour party conference in Brighton.

And it's cheaper and more effective than a broken computer system.

11 June 2006

Double standards

Scots join World Cup party - Sunday Times - Times Online reports the issue of Scots supporting, or not, England during the World cup. I have already blogged about this.

Comments such as:

In schools across the country, pupils have been warned they face expulsion for making anti-English remarks during the tournament.

are completely unhelpful.

One would have thought that in the interests of fairness that the same punishment, whatever it is, is handed out regardless of which team people are speaking out against (if any). One would also hope that any discrimination and racism is also dealt with in a consistent manner regardless of whether a football tournament is taking place in Germany or not.

In a similar vein, the article continues

A similar poll of 3,500 Scottish Gas employees revealed that just one in 10 wants England to win and the Scottish crew of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier are said to have been incensed when they were ordered to line up on deck in formation to spell out "England expects". One said he would rather cut off his own limbs.

Rather an over-reaction, however if the crew of the ship were asked to line up and say "We support Christianity" one might suppose that those with different religious preferences would have something to say about it and there would likely be outrage from the Moslem community.

Why then is religious difference of opinion acceptable in the armed forces but sporting and national pride has to be subsumed for England?

When these double standards are addressed, then we will be closer to harmony and understanding.

"England Expects" a country of equal opportunity, where differences of opinion are accepted. A country where speaking out for fair treatment should not be misconstrued as being anti-English and a country that accepts the consequences of a kingdom made up of four distinct nations.

Webforms and mandatory fields

I find when I encounter a webform that has excessive mandatory fields, putting the word "optional" into the windows clipboard and repeatedly pasting it into the mandatory fields allows the form to be completed with the minimum of time wasting and also sends a strong message to any interested in the (ahem) "essential" data collected by the form.

Hitting the delivery window on time

It's been a busy few weeks lately as the product I work on as a hobby won the PC Magazine editor's choice award and we've been ramping up for a new wave of customers and downloads.

Now that the development is largely out the way, the issue of hitting delivery windows reminded me of a longstanding campaign of mine about home deliveries and which the Consumers' Association also mention on P77 of the June 2006 issue.

This all began for me in 1994 when I wrote the following letter and which was printed by Scotland on Sunday under their "SOD the public" column which highlighted poor customer service.

14th May 94
To: SOD the public, Scotland on Sunday.

Dear SOD,

I would like to complain about some atrocious service I received from an Edinburgh company who recently fixed my fridge. This is easily the worst service I have ever received from any company and I am writing to you to see if an end can be put to treating customers in this contemptible way.

Here is the saga so far:

My fridge broke down on Tuesday 2nd May.

I called a company offering 7 day a week , 24 hour a day service. I thought this would be really convenient as I go out a lot and 24 hour pickup and delivery would be really handy for me.

The chap was supposed to come on the Wednesday evening between 6pm and 7pm. He didn't show. They did leave a card, but obviously turned up after 7pm. It seems they assumed it was OK to change the appointment times without checking with me first to see if it was OK. I arranged another appointment for the following day for between 6pm and 7:30pm. At about 7:30 they called and said they would be over later. He turned up about 8:15 and to my disappointment did not remove the fridge for repair but had a look at the fridge and said the van would be along later to collect it. I said I was going out but since they offered a 24 hour pickup service, I thought I'd try it out and asked them to collect the fridge after 11:30pm that night. He said no problem, but again I was let down and no-one appeared. There was also no message to say why not, and no apology on my answering machine. Eventually they turned up on Friday and took the fridge away. I got a call on Sunday 8th to say the fridge was ready to be delivered I arranged a delivery time of Monday 9th between 6pm and 7pm. Again, no show and no explanation. Tuesdays times were 6:30pm to 9pm. Again, no show and no explanation. I called early on Wednesday morning and gave them times of Wednesday 6pm-7pm and Thursday 6:30pm-8pm. They got the two times mixed up and turned up on the Wednesday at 7:40pm. Not surprisingly, I wasn't in. They didn't turn up on the Thursday and when I phoned to ask why they said they had attempted delivery the previous day. It would have been nice to know this on Wednesday night so that I could have reconfirmed the Thursday appointment in time!

I phoned on Friday night and asked them when it would be convenient for them to deliver the fridge. I imposed no conditions or time limits. They asked me what times would be convenient for me and I said 12-2pm on Saturday. At 2:15, I got a call to say he'd be over in half an hour at most. The chap eventually turned up at 7:35pm. What kind of an excuse for time keeping is that? The company is currently having problems because one of their delivery cars has broken down, but if they call me and say they can deliver in half an hour, I don't see what excuse can be offered for not turning up until over 5 hours later!! This is completely inexcusable - I simply cannot afford to hang around indefinitely waiting for a bunch of incompetents who waste my time.

I realise that delivering items can involve unpredictable delays, but this is over the top. If the employees of this company treated their doctor with the same casual disregard when making an appointment then they would be laughed out of the surgery. "I'd like an appointment between 12 and 2 but I hope you don't mind if I'm 5 hours late". I bet that they turn up on time for people like that.

The company has failed to make allowances for only one of their cars being in service and has continued to set appointments they can't keep instead of rescheduling appointments to cope with their reduced delivery capability. I would hope that a letter in SOD would remind this company and others like them about the importance of keeping appointments, and of checking with customers in advance if an appointment cannot be met. The company doesn't even have a mobile phone - an essential item for this kind of work. I couldn't even post them a cheque and get them to deliver the fridge to a neighbour as they couldn't tell me the size of the bill when I phoned!!!!

That was 1994 and a small local company. Back to 2006 and major national retailers. currently offer the following delivery times:

" Delivery times are usually 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am - 2pm on Saturdays."

A 10 hour delivery window!! How many people do they think want to take a day off work for their convenience?

Tesco can manage a 2 hour delivery window. Taxi drivers typically turn up 5-10 minutes before the booked time. If these people can manage to have sensible delivery windows, and if the said delivery people can turn up for their Doctors, Dentists, etc on time without giving their Drs a 10 hour delivery window, why can't the same standard of service be applied to paying customers?

As one person commented in this month's Which? magazine:

Any delivery company able to deliver in the evenings and at weekends could become very successful indeed

I'd make a start with delivery companies and trademen that can quote a delivery window of a few hours and reliably stick to it. Evenings and weekends a bonus.

06 June 2006

Diet Coke and mints

As someone who likes Diet Coke, I think I'll be a lot more careful about what I eat afterwards after seeing this video.

04 June 2006

World cup: broadcasters fail to qualify

Why I won't be supporting England in the World Cup

It's the sign of a nation that never really grows up that every 4 years we have to go through the same old debate. Regardless of your point of view on supporting another footballing nation, the continual return to the same question over and over is about as predictable as hearing about 1966 yet again. The Scots can certainly not claim to be innocent either - for every mention of 1966 we can retort with 1314 and Mel Gibson impressions.

Scotland and England are independent footballing nations - they compete as two separate teams on the international stage. In that regard on a purely sporting level they are no different to Austria and Germany.

Austria, with a population about 50% bigger than Scotland has its own TV channels and its own broadcasting network. It doesn't have to endure a regional opt-out of a few hours a week. This is a normal state of affairs for a country and it is a sign of the power of the media that in countries where there have been coup d'etats, that the media is often the first thing to be overthrown.

However, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales find themselves the only footballing nations not in control of their own broadcasting. Worse than that, they are part of a nation where one part (England) comprises over 83% of the population and almost 5 times as much as the other three parts put together.

Hardly surprising therefore that the BBC, or to give it its satirical name, the English Broadcasting Corporation has an England bias.

To illustrate just how biased this is I reproduce here an extract from an article written in January 2000 for the Scots Independent.

Just suppose that a millennium meteorite landed on the Greenwich dome and caused an electronic storm so powerful that London, as a centre of communications, was completely paralysed.

And just suppose that the BBC decided it was best to move lock, stock and barrel to Scotland to reorganise its operations under a new Scottish based regime. What would our UK audiences make of having their schedules turned on their heads?

In Scotland, there would be a massive increase in all forms of broadcasting activity and connected industries; and Scottish viewers and listeners would be spoilt for choice with four or five indigenous television and radio stations with which to choose their fare.

In England, the story would be very different. Audiences there would have to get accustomed to merely nominal English output; and to news, analysis and current affairs programmes, being dubbed with the tag "BBC England" when broadcast south of the border. But the real draught would be felt on the radio scene. England's "home service" - Radio Four, would be lost to Scotland - together with their own light, classical and pop channels. In their place they would have one single "national regional" Radio England (probably produced from Manchester when London was disabled). Worse is to come.

Radio England would be set to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the cultural spread. Its morning flagship would be hosted by a comedian and interspersed with reports of England's national weather and national traffic problems. There would be lengthy sports bulletins every half-hour and sport would completely take over the station at week-ends under the slogan "We are the only people who dare to broadcast sport all day long up to the limit that the law allows". The evenings would be dominated by an eclectic mix of pop, rock, funk and jazz music with a strong North American influence. Those listeners not courageous to have switched to the other five Scottish based channels would be greeted with such programmes as the "English Connection" and on Saturday nights "Anglo Saxon connections" with musical contributions from equatorial Africa, the Red Army choir and the Amazon basin. On Sundays they will be spared any religious observance. At every pause between programmes there will be banal and repetitive programme trailers. Their impact will be enhanced by an in house sense of humour redolent of a Primary One pantomime skit. Meantime, back on the tellies, sports reporting will carry detailed Scottish results first followed by a brief "round up" of English ones. Whole selections may be altered to cover shinty cup finals.

The English would soon learn that to complain, with any persistence, to the BBC about any of the contents of their national regional TV or Radio England would result in their being placed on a black list of those deemed unworthy of further communication.

There would be one concession for English viewers. A select panel, chosen by the broadcasters themselves would form the "Broadcasting Council for England". This would at least lend the appearance of some form of consultation with the public over what they require; but, of course, it would have no executive remit - and it would be subject to being over-ruled in such fundamental areas as news provision and political coverage.

It was the English who put up the stiffest fight against Margaret Thatcher's fatal poll tax, although Scotland had tholed it for a full year first. Perhaps if our southern neighbours were to be given a dose of Scotland's broadcasting regime, they might show us how best to dispose of that too. But do we really have to wait for a bolt from the blue to obtain broadcasting in Scotland fit for embarking on the third millennium?

[article ends]

Back in 2000, I added a few more satirical comments

1. England would be told about going back to work on January 3, the Scottish return to work even though England goes back a day early. On the Scottish August holiday, England would receive children's programmes even though their children are not on holiday. During the summer, the schedules would observe the Scottish summer holiday and articles about "back to school" would be broadcast before English schools have even broken up.

2. Any article about England, particularly ones about high technology would be prefixed with a tired old cliche, an attempt at a joke and some faint Anglo Saxon tune drifting through the mist with battle cries in the background before opening the article with "You wouldn't think that this remote part of England could be hi tech, but ..."

3. Any article about London would be prefixed with "And now from our England correspondent down in London, what's the weather like down there".

4. In celebration of England's main cultural icons a combined national event would be instigated on St George's day (also the day Shakespeare was born on and died on). To reflect the cultural significance which England has had worldwide, this event will be covered worldwide with English descendants around the globe joining in the fun. This event would be broadcast from Edinburgh with particular emphasis on a new building by the shore in Leith. The main events would of course all take place in Edinburgh as it is the capital (naturally enough). We would go "around the regions" to see how English people in Scotland were commemorating this event and during this regional interlude would receive token input from London, Manchester, Birmingham and in the bard's birthplace there would be traditional morris dancing to anglo saxon instruments in a small back room. A fringe event in this global festival would be for broadcasters to see how many cliches, stereotypes and historical inaccuracies they can carry off within a 2 minute regional opt-out.

Back to the present day

All of these serve to underline the English emphasis on Scottish Broadcasting schedules - an emphasis that is there all the time but which is particularly noticeable during the World Cup and especially when England qualify. This influence means that much of Scottish life is set within an English context, even where such context is not relevant or applicable. France does not define itself in relation to German attitudes. Ireland does not define itself in relation to English attitudes. Scottish icons and attitudes therefore should not have to define themselves in relation to what "England expects" either. A bit like going to Northern Ireland and being asked if I'm protestent or catholic and my response would be "I don't think of myself in those terms".

I mentioned Austria earlier. Whilst independence would establish a Scottish broadcasting authority, it is not a precondition for a more balanced broadcasting regime. We could have more balanced broadcasting within the devolution framework.

I was one interviewed on the NBC Today program when I was in Minnesota on a cultural exchange programme. The TV station, KTTC is based in Rochester Minnesota. (K is the prefix for US broadcasting stations west of the Mississippi, W for East). TTC stands for Tri-states TV coverage. Yes, a town 2/3 the population of Dundee has its own TV channel and can be picked up in three states and has a catchment area about the population of Edinburgh.

A few years later, I was in Chicago and was impressed with the variety there which eluded me in Scotland. WNUA filled my needs in terms of Jazz and new age, neither of which is available on Scottish terrestrial radio. In Boston WUMB was great for folk music. I did some of the research for my Masters in Seattle and the radio there was similarly interesting.

So the trend is repeated across America, even colleges have their own broadcasting. There is choice and variety. In Scotland, we have just seen Grampian TV gone forever and merged into the monolith which is STV. Pretty much all the commercial radio stations play more or less the same chart material with the exception of Classic FM.

The token joke that is Radio Scotland is another case in point. What a mess. Yes, Scotland's broadcasting equivalent to making it to the world cup then being eliminated on goal difference, the national embarrassment. Radio Scotland, like the football team, simply fails to progress to the next stage. Put into context, what other national radio station can you think of anywhere in the world which when you turn it on might be covering sport (for hours on end), then it's gardening tips, then its current affairs. Anyone interested in music is relegated to evenings only and it's an eclectic bunch there too as it tries to figure out if its aiming itself at people interested in traditional music from Scotland or unusual music from the other side of the world that's about as relevant to me as hearing about 1966 all over again. We don't even get The Thistle and Shamrock (a hugely successful program about Celtic music) - perhaps this could be made available in Scotland.

It is that inadequate broadcasting background which if we addressed properly would allow us to opt-out from English specific commentating and broadcasting for a more Scottish perspective on football or indeed any other matters, if we wanted to. Rather more productive than having the same sad debate every 4 years.

So like Jack Mcconnell First Minister I won't be supporting England. David Beckham, England captain supports the First Minister's stance. Being a supporter means giving support. Like giving money to charity, like going along and cheering your team, like fundraising for a good cause. That's support. The thing you are supporting is changed by your efforts. Being stuck at home however in front of a TV with a few tins and some mates is hardly support is simply enjoying yourself and wanting one team to win.

If Scotland was in the competition, I would want them to at least progress to the next round. Since my country isn't competing, I don't feel any more obliged to "support" England than an English fan should feel obliged to root for either of the teams in a Germany Vs Argentina final. Why I don't want to support England is because of the presumed support that I will and the fact that I need to justify myself if I don't. No such justification should be required. Lost amongst the headlines of papers covering this story recently is information from The Scotsman showing that although 1/3 of Scots support England, more than half of Scots support Ireland. Clearly plain to see where our cultural allegiances lie there then. It's about celebrating differences and I should no more be expected to change my allegiance to another country than a Moslem would be expected to turn up and support the Pope if he's in town. This isn't meant to be anti-English, many of my relations are English and they see this as a perfectly reasonable point of view. It seems to be media bias which is the main culprit here rather than English citizens.

I would like to see the best team win. And I wouldn't even mind England winning either if I didn't have to put up with broadcasting from England mentioning it at every opportunity for almost half a century. The England Team winning the Rugby World cup was rather more moderated, hopefully the football commentators have paid attention to this.

From a recent article in the Sunday Herald.

If the England football team prove themselves on the pitch in Germany by their sportsmanship (ha! an archaic concept, that), their commitment and their brilliance, then they will have earned the support of the Scots. But then, I can'’t promise that I won't turn off the commentary.

I agree. I hope the commentators and the media will also appreciate the fact that support should be earned, not taken for granted.

I thought this article was over a few paragraphs ago. Well, it is now.

03 June 2006

Toilet troubles queue up

The queue for the ladies toilet

Until recently I would have been a bit surprised to find myself commenting on ladies toilets but with three young girls I find myself in situations that are perhaps foreign territory to many blokes.

One of the girls was in a ballet show tonight and aged 4 I went to take her to the toilet. Being in a high school, there was no disabled toilet. More correctly, there was no unisex toilet since clearly many people with disabilities could use a normal toilet and many people (especially with children) often use the so called disabled toilet. Since the ballet show comprised about 500 girls and no boys you can imagine the ladies toilets were running at full capacity.

So I waited outside when she went, hoping that this time there wouldn't be another disaster with her turning on the taps and managing to flood the floor and in the process using up all the paper towels trying to mop it up. Such are the problems when you're a bloke, your daughter needs the toilet and there's no unisex facility readily available.

The queuing made me think - every building design I've ever seen has identical size and capacity for the gents and ladies toilets. Yet, women on average take twice as long and go more frequently. Moreover in many public places such as shopping centres, women make up at least 2/3 of the customers. It doesn't take a Mensa member to work out that if women are in the toilet twice as long and use them more often and there's more of them in a particular place that they are more likely to encounter queues. To counter this, the female toilets need to be about twice the size. So if the typical blokes toilet has two urinals and two cubicles, the typical female toilet should need around 8 cubicles to ensure that women are just as unlikely as men to have to queue.

So why is this not the case and why do women often have to queue? Are all the people who do building regulation design all men? Have they never noticed that on a Saturday afternoon at the shops women are having to wait but there's no queue in the gents? Try a major music event and the problem's even worse.

However, why do we obsess with having male and female toilets at all? The division simply creates inflexibility. Like waiting in the post office queue and finding tellers 1-10 are only serving blokes today and tellers 11-20 are for women. The disabled or unisex toilets are used by both men and women and society as we know it hasn't ended, so why not just create more unisex toilets and dispense with the gents and ladies altogether? That would create flexibility and flush the queues down the pan.

It would also solve the problem of the woeful amount of unisex (sorry, disabled) toilet space. For example, Asda Walmart in Livingston Scotland is one of the biggest stores in the UK at 100,000 square feet. Yet, they have only one family toilet. Fairly incredible for a store group that wins the Tommys child friendly awards. Try telling that to your children who are about to wet the floor while they wait for the one available toilet a bloke can legally take a 4 year old into. Never mind also the fact that the store lift is the size of the proverbial postage stamp and you can't get a double buggy in it (nor can you lift a double buggy with two sleeping children in it up a flight of stairs very easily).

Would the person who devises these ridiculous arrangements for women's and family toilets please take note because this bloke is getting fed up waiting for three girls to go every time he's out and about.

Bog standard is no good. Flush it away and wipe the slate clean with something that's flush for the job, eh! (had to get some toilet humour in somewhere!).

01 June 2006

Orange flavoured spam

Orange or Lemon?

On Mull, Orange is known as Lemon due to their lousy coverage. When we were on Mull last year, the nearest Orange reception was a half an hour drive away. However, Vodaphone had decent coverage pretty much everywhere.

However, one good thing about Orange is their pricing tariff. I'm not one of those people who is glued to the mobile all day txting r u gr8 lol wtf cu l8tr and other such nonsense. However, I do know the Gaelic shorthand SMS for tonight (an nochd) is an8. Nonetheless, between phone calls to business contacts, recruitment agencies, sending email from the mobile and browsing the web using mini Opera, my combined phone bill per month for two phones is invariably under £15. That's including line rental, because there isn't any. I'm not on pay as you go either, I get paper bills which get paid by direct debit a few weeks after they arrive.

Yes, Orange Value Promise Virgin tariff is the tariff where you have the convenience of bills (no top ups to buy plus pay in arrears) but without the expense of line rental and it's contract free. wtf? gr8!. lol :-)

However despite this, Orange really takes the biscuit when it comes to customer service.

Here's some sample correspondence I dug out of the archives:

10 August 1999: "Dear Orange, please tell me when I can receive emails on my mobile"
10 August 1999: "Dear Craig, I am afraid that Orange do not currently offer this facility and we have no information as to whether it will be available in the future."
5 September 1999: "Dear Orange, For your information, I now have the facility to send e-mail to my Orange mobile"

20 August 2003: "Dear Orange, please tell me when I can send emails from my phone"
22 August 2003: "You have now signed up for the text to email service"
26 August 2003: "Dear Craig, I would like to advise that you are unable to send send and receive emails through the messaging menu"
28 August 2003 : "Dear Craig, The only way Orange support sending and receiving emails is via WAP"
(maybe I should tell them I got it working on the 22nd, via SMS messaging. ROFL.)

However, more irrittating than the above tomfoolery is the repeated calls I'm getting trying to offer me a free upgrade on my phone. The so-called free upgrade involves emptying your wallet in line rental and then getting a free phone. Hmm, doesn't sound very free to me.

However, as related on uk.telecom I've been plagued with these calls for a while, despite being on the Telephone Preference Service.

I got another "free upgrade" call on Friday. This time, in the words of Bugs Bunny, it's war. Maybe Orange don't know I've signed up to the "fight spam legal action team" which via Nigel Roberts, successfully sued one spammer. I'm also active on the very useful grumbletext site.

Being incompetent is one thing, but repeatedly bombarding me with spam phone calls and offers I'm not eligible for is something completely different. Especially when these providers can also check my account details and what billing tarrif I'm on without my permission.

The future's bright, the future's SPAM FREE. XLNT.

If we don't take a stand now with mobiles, what will it be like with 3G and your phone going beep every 5 seconds when the next spam arrives?

If Orange get bad publicity for the spamming, I'll definitely be FOTFLOL. Really GR8.


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