Thursday, 13 November 2014

Baton Rog

Well, now I'm in retirement and spending my days fussing over refuse bins, watching Loose Women (neighbours, eh?) and chewing Werther's Originals with my three remaining teeth, I can settle back in the knowledge that the mighty baton of blogging has been safely passed on to two of my children.

Eldest daughter Lucy in Lucy's Stories is producing wry and touching tales of life and loves.

James is starting to write about his experiences as a stay-at-home Dad in the wittiliy titled Paternity in the UK

Anyway I must dash - it's Bin Day tomorrow and I need to get our Green in position before those so-and-so's an number 7 usurp our place or even try to switch bins.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Luckily we all saw the funny side...

It seems that Smartphones have been with us for decades now yet it was only June 2007 when the very first iPhone was launched, since when the Apple brand alone has sold upwards of 500 million units. You need to discount the first Star Trek Communicator which made its first appearance in 1964 of course:

Or the Motorola Dynatac from 1984:

The brilliant business Guru Alan Sugar (Now Lord Sugar) was the genius behind the ground breaking Amstrad Emailer which became such a success in the world of high speed communicators (once you had mastered the 478 page manual of course):

Anyhow, my point is merely how successful 21st Century communicators have become and we all seem to spend an inordinate proportion of our lives staring at their tiny faces and jabbing at them with our inelegant fingers. Perhaps its just me then....

My regular reader may remember the hilarious story of the time I packed a very large parcel for delivery to Scotland and whilst we were awaiting for the courier to collect it I noticed my iPhone had gone missing. Frantic searching and "where was it when you last saw it" inquisitions proved fruitless until in desperation I got Mrs Rine to ring my number. The large parcel waiting in the hall started giving out my distinctive ring tone.

Well here is a follow up tale. At the weekend I spent some time digging over the side garden which involved lots of bending down to pluck out weeds and roots. I was nearly finished when it occurred to me that the iPhone in my top shirt pocket was not there any more.

Looking at the large expanse of neatly tilled earth I once again went into lost-iPhone panic mode and started running the fork across the soil in search of my constant companion. Remembering my previous tale I called Mrs Rine out to ring my number and sure enough I could hear a muffled ring tone coming from the soil. We started digging but nothing appeared. I moved nearer the centre of the bed and we repeated the excercise - once again a muffled ring tone but nothing but earth and worms.

This frustration went on for 20 minutes, with the elusive ring tone appearing to come from all corners of the newly dug patch.

I went into the kitchen for a drink of water as I'd become so hot and bothered. As I filled a glass I heard my distinctive ring tone, but this time it was coming from the inner lining of my cardigan.

Friday, 31 October 2014

All Hallows' Day

Our 12th Century village church is called All Saint's and it seems fitting that it has emerged today on All Saint's Eve from months of very intense work on its tower financed largely by English Heritage. It has a wonderful octagonal tower with castellations and backs onto a fully thatched main roof.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

New Speed Camera Loophole Exposed!!!

If you are a motorist, then you'll be delighted with this news from the EDP which exposes a hitherto unknown but gaping loophole in the law of speed cameras. In your interests of avoiding prosecution in the future I urge you to read and take note:

"Magistrates' courts could grind to a halt if thousands of motorists exploit a legal loophole unwittingly exposed by a Norfolk driver. 

Magistrates had no choice but to find Lily Bassett, of Garboldisham, not guilty of speeding when her case was heard on Thursday.

She had found a foolproof and legal way to avoid prosecution - and Norwich magistrates said they could find no way of proceeding with the prosecution.

"How did she do it?", asked our reporter when he caught up with her yesterday (The fact that he had to catch up with her may have resulted in his breathless prose).

"Simple", smiled Lily. "I used a little known technique that hardly any drivers are aware of. I drove within the speed limit".

Police have no power to compel car owners to exceed speed limits and have been expecting someone to spot the loophole.

Yesterday the Association of Road Side Experts, representing about 2,500 ARSE members, predicted drivers would soon get wind of the court case.

"Motorists are always very quick to seek any way to avoid paying for their speeding ticket, particularly when they've been caught by cameras because they resent very much the way the cameras operate," said spokesman Ivor Nowdie.

"The cameras have very much reduced public respect for the police and local authorities.

"People are only too glad to find a way to beat the system. Driving below the speed limit is something which none of us had ever thought of and it's a master stroke! It could empty the courts within weeks!"

The prospect of using the loophole could look especially appealing to people who already had endorsements on their licences, said Mr Nowdie.

"It's a useful indicator", he said. "As I never use my indicators anyway it will be doubly useful",

Mr Nowdie is the National Arse spokesman."

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Scots Wahey

As a half-Scot who was brought up on The Broons and Oor Wullie, I must just chuck in a few thoughts on the imploding (I was going to put "impending" but I'm probably nearer the mark now) referendum.

1. I told you so
This referendum should never be happening. It appears to have been a quick fix made by middle manager Cameron a few years ago to defuse a bit of political flack which he assumed would be a foregone conclusion. We now see the prospect of an historic 300 year Union going up in smoke because of his slick PR fix. It's a bloody tragedy.

2. Words
The next big mistake he made was in the wording of the referendum in which all the positivity of the word "YES" is given to the fracturing of the UK whilst those sensible souls who see us as better together are left with a negative "NO" vote. As a PR Middle Manager he should have KNOWN all about the effect on survey results of the loading and phrasing of questions. What about "Are you in favour of retaining the 300 year Union of Scotland as part of the United Kingdom?" - that would have helped.

3. Celebrities
Nobody had reckoned with the enormous power of Twitter and Facebook which has been hijacked by celebrity Scots to whip up a political fervour and make themselves look like folk heroes to the people around them. That would be Americans mainly as that's where most of these home loving kilted celebs live.

4. Fish
I think one look at Alec Salmond or Alex Hammond (I can't be bothered to look it up) should have been enough to turn voters away in droves in what's known in political wonk circles as "The Brown-Milliband effect". He must be a lot cleverer than he looks.

5. But Seriously
Scotland has been doing well over the last few years as part of the UK - one has only to look at parts of Europe to see how badly things could have gone. If this split actually goes ahead then a much smaller Country is going to flounder without the joint financial infrastructure which has helped dig us out of the financial hole - we'll all be worse off but the Scots proportionately more so. .
I'm also not sure people have quite taken account of the feelings of the English population who have had to sit quietly like long-suffering parents of teenagers whilst celebs North of the Border play their Braveheart cameos. If the split proceeds, then everyone South of the Border will start to feel resentful and bitter about this upstart flouncing-off and be in no mood to help finance the new start up. And if they think they're watching our Strictly Come Dancing for nothing they can Rabb C. Nesbitt off..

We'll be a bit like the Dragons faced with a particularly naive young entrepreneur who hasn't thought things through at all - and for that reason - I'm out!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Internet of Things

Next week it will be 19 years since eBay was founded in San Jose, California by French Iranian Pierre Omidyar. His previous joint venture with Albert Whatcanthematterbe was caught in a storm of controversy involving the three old ladies locked in a lavatory scandal.

One of the first items tested in 1995 was a broken laser pointer which sold for $14.83 and Omidyar is reputed to have contacted the buyer personally to check that he realised the laser pointer was broken. "I'm a collector of broken laser pointers", came the response.

Omidyar knew that he was setting out to create a "perfect market", which as my school economics lessons used to teach involved a "perfect" flow of information, infinite buyers and sellers, no bars to entry and several other things that escape me now. Certainly the ability for a seller of a broken laser pointer to find what must have been one of very few collectors of such does illustrate the principle.

EBay now produces over 16 billion dollars revenue and is the accepted single best place to buy and sell stuff. Although it is a lot smaller than the mighty Amazon it is far more interesting, flexible and transparent with greater scope for individuality. It has had a significant impact on all the major "collectables" markets in the world, with a steady downward pressure on prices as items which in the nineties were considered extreme rarities gradually became more common with the much more perfect market.

Key to the success of eBay has been the concept of feedback and the visibility of price data. Feedback was one of the earliest examples of internet crowd sourcing and really essential to building confidence in the site as it would certainly not have taken off without it. The price data of all sales transactions is available to all, so buyers and sellers can both get a pretty good idea of what prices similar lines to their own are making, not just in their own locality but Worldwide.

We've been part of this madness for quite a few years now and it was a vital ingredient in our downshift of lifestyle about seven years ago when we walked out of proper salaried jobs. The only regret is that eBay hadn't been around a few years earlier. We've sold stuff to celebrities like Jonathan Ross and Tracey Thorne, to famous museums and collections and to 40 or 50 different Countries but most transactions are to ordinary bods in the UK with similar interests and passions to our own. The only thing missing is the personal and individual contact that you get if you sell at antique fairs or in a shop and generally people can be more abrupt and curt online than they would be in person. Every now and then, however, we come across an extra special customer and it's very nice when you get nice feedback such as this letter which arrived the other day from a young chap who bought a vintage typewriter from us recently.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Cookie Crumble

A while ago I made a joke via gmail to my brother about his posh new shed, implying it just needed a toilet to complete it. I was a little surprised to find within 24 hours the banner ads on my eBay page comprised little else apart from sheds and ,er, toilets.

Then last week I searched for brown tape on eBay and shortly afterwards a sponsored advert on Facebook loomed into my timeline proffering brown tape and coyly wondering if I may be interested.

Now I think all of us apart from the criminally naive realised that Web 2.0 involved a pact with the devil. The devil provided lots of exciting free services and diversions in return for us letting them know the ins and outs of our cats bottom and inviting targeted advertising. As someone old enough to remember paying Compuserve a small fortune just for a dial-up email account and someone who used to buy Exchange & Mart for light entertainment on train journeys I was quite happy with the deal.

However the tracking of every move by mysterious "cookies" on virtually every web site one visits is starting to get just a little bit spooky. Even the name "cookies" is a euphemistic disguise to make "3rd Party Keyloggers" seem all cute and fluffy. It becomes so normal and pervasive that one gradually forgets how odd it is for Big Brother Google to be keeping such close tabs on one's activities. How does it relate to real life?

In, say, 1984 (30 years ago folks) imagine wandering around Woolworths and constantly being confronted by an annoying sales assistant who lunges out into your path as you proceed through the store.

"I couldn't help noticing you paused briefly to examine our range of toilet brushes. I wonder if you'd care to examine this polypropylene bucket in matching cerise?"

"You spent some time in the pick 'n mix section. Would you like to prepare for the inevitable demise of your teeth by investing in some Winfield denture fixative?".

"You just purchased the Beatles Revolver Album. Other customers also purchased Sugar Sugar by the Archies..."

It's all getting a bit weird and odd. And my brother HAS installed a toilet in his shed.