Jul 012019

Back in 2010, I wrote ‘Planet Fret’, where I worried about the impact that humans are having on our home. I worried about oil usage and plastic usage and generally about the throwaway society that we live in. I worried that we were doing irreparable damage through a life-style that was at odds with any type of conservation.

Then four years ago, I revisited it with fears that we had just crossed the 1° threshold of warming our planet and that there was little to no sign of us slowing down the damage.

So, now in 2019, many things are happening, very few of them are actually pushing us in a direction that will benefit future generations though.

In the US, the president is the chief of the national climate change denial club. As such, sadly, climate change has become a political issue. The deniers all line up with one side, which happen to also be the heavily religious side. Global warming, climate change, call it what you will is now a belief issue too, if you are a god-fearing Republican, you do are by definition a climate change denier and on a mission to burn as much coal and fossil fuel as possible to any the other side.

I really worry about the impact that our modern lifestyle has on the planet, not just the insistence that everyone should own a car, which then sits around for 95% of its life, slowly crumbling to rust, not just that we still burn coal and other fossil fuels for our energy, but now also because of our appalling inability to clean up after ourselves and our fantastically appalling use of plastics and our innate inability to consider the impact on our environment. The rafts of plastic in the oceans are utterly unforgivable.

We have dumped so much plastic into our oceans that we have floating islands of the stuff, the Great Pacific garbage patch is a huge environmental disaster that is going to take a massive effort to deal with.

Microplastics are a part of our diet, a part of US, this cannot be healthy, surely ?

We personally recycle as much of our rubbish as possible. Each week we put several recycle bags out containing paper, recyclable plastics etc., we also save all of our food waste, garden wastes and then finally the small bag of ‘trash’.

What happens to it all is a little bit of a mystery, we are lucky to live in an area that has decent recycling services, much of the waste, which in our case is a lot of packaging, gets recycled, the food and garden waste is highly compostable too, which leaves only a small trash footprint for us.  Continue reading “Planet Fret Three” »

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Mar 272019

For the last few months, we have been car-less. It was a conscious decision based on a lack of usage and a nagging feeling that we were contributing to the local gridlock. It was the right decision, although we are now viewed slightly oddly.

A car says a great deal about you, not having a car really throws people. In almost any situation, the question ‘So, what do you drive’ comes up. When we say ‘we do not own a car’, we get sympathy. Then we explain that this is not because we are poor, but because we do not need one. This gets a fairly incredulous response. How can we not need a car ?

Well it is simple, we order shopping on line, we walk into town, I ride a motorbike to the office 2-3 days a week and if we suddenly need a car, we simply rent one.

What we are still missing though is a chance for people to judge us based on their perceptions of the various cars on the market. Obviously if we said ‘An 18 plate 7-series BMW’, they would assume that we are super rich, live in a mansion and are probably super posh. If we said ‘an old Ford Fiesta’, then we probably live in a little terrace house on minimal income.

See how this works ?

I started to think about this, and I’ve come up with my assumption, based on what you drive, based on several years of commuting in and out of London and overtaking millions of single-occupant cars

Audi A3 – You really like the idea of a VW Golf, but they are simply not expensive enough. you are probably also not sure how to drive.

Audi A4 – You like the idea of a large car with ah huge boot, but the Skoda Superb is not good enough to show off to your neighbours.

BMW 3-series – You are a low-level salesman. You expect the peasants get out of the way as you feel you are probably royalty

BMW 5-eries – A mid-level salesman that always has a meeting to get to.

BMW X5 – You are an idiot and you drive like a moron all the time.

Vauxhall Insignia – You wish you worked somewhere that gave out BMW 3-series

Ford Mundano – At least you do not drive a Vauxhall Insignia

Any Skoda – Too poor to afford the (arguably better) VW or Audi version

VW Jetta – You would prefer a Golf, but you cannot get enough dead bodies in the hatchback version.

VW Golf R – You really wanted an Audi S3, but mummy would only buy you a VW.

Literally any SUV – You would like people to think that you spend your weekends kayaking, back packing or mountain biking. But really you just like to be able to look down on everyone and you love paying out for all the fuel it burns.

Range Rover – You drive off road a lot. You also define ‘Off Road’ as Waitrose car park.

A lowered shopping trolley with a huge exhaust pipe – you want to be adored. You also like annoying people and I drive like a dick.

Toyota Prius – You dislike petrol stations and excitement in equal measure

Bentley – You play Football 

Aston Martin – You play football a lot. 

Ford Focus – You am a family man/woman 

Ford Focus ST – You are a Yobbo 

Ford Focus RS – Your favourite phrase is ‘hold my beer while I demonstrate drift mode’.

Ford Fiesta ST – You could not afford the Focus RS 

Mercedes A-class – You have no idea how to drive, your daddy got you the car.

Mercedes CLA – You drive with my knees while sexting 

Mercedes B-class – The twitches are not a medical emergency, you are just refreshing facebook.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea……

 Posted by at 10:33 am
Dec 182018

A few years ago, I rented a Nissan Juke and drove it a few hundred miles and I came to actually like it a little bit, despite the fact that I was unable to refuel it and despite having to drive it very slowly to ensure that I got back to the rental company safely. 

Last weekend we needed a car to drive up north and despite booking a ‘Skoda Octavia or similar’, they handed me the keys to a Nissan Qashqai. Initially I was somewhat skeptical, they had given me a compact SUV rather than the big Skoda that I thought I would be getting. 

Having to exit the car rental place onto a busy roundabout with no idea where the clutch was going to bite was a little bit scary, but all was well, the engine had plenty of power and the gear change, while exceptionally long-throw, was predictable. The drive home was uneventful, unless you consider driving something that is perhaps 50% bigger than anything you have driven in a while outside of the B&Q truck, uneventful. The steering was nice and light, the clutch and gearbox easy to use, but the brakes are stupidly sharp, which means that even a gentle touch on the pedal had the nose diving for the tarmac and the passengers trying not to eat the dashboard.  Around town then, this is not the best choice. 

Continue reading “340 miles in a Nissan Qashqai.” »
 Posted by at 3:24 pm
Dec 122018
All cars end up here

Recently we added up what running a car was costing us. Initially we looked purely at the monthly costs, but then we started to look at the ‘per mile’ costs and it was suddenly fairly scary, turning that into a ‘per use’ figure was even more insane. We realised that we were using the car perhaps twice a month and each use was therefore costing over £100, excluding fuel – which given our usage was amazingly minimal. 

We worked out that each mile cost us about £2.50, plus fuel. 

Continue reading “Do you really need a car” »
Dec 072018

I was not raised in an especially religious household, we went to Church on an infrequent basis and I was sent to Sunday school for a while, but in general there was no great emphasis on religion that I remember. I was encouraged to pray, but mostly religion was not a subject that was discussed a great deal

I went to Sunday school because my parents wanted me to go, while there we were told stories from the bible and while interesting, I quickly identified them as fiction. There was no basis in reality that I could see, simple, cute, whimsical stories that often had a moral to them. In near every example the story proved that being good to others would generally lead to a good outcome, while being bad would generally be your downfall. I got good at this, I could identify the bad actors within a couple of minutes. I paid all of this education lip-service, because my parents wanted this.

I distinctly remember some of my peers taking this seriously, they took the stories to be actual records of things that had happened, rather than my interpretation of them as being moral-based stories that promoted better behaviour. Continue reading “My Religious Opposition” »

 Posted by at 6:00 pm
Dec 012018

A long time ago Jeff Lynne wrote a lyric that went like this..

It’s over, it’s over, all over,
It’s all over now
And the way you looked
Don’t even mean I’m down.
When you kick out the sea
And the sun says goodbye
There is nothing much to speak of.

Well a momentous fight that I have been going through for four years and four months is finally over and the lyric has been popping in and out of my head ever since.

On August 1st 2014, I was hit by a car while cycling around a roundabout. The crash broke my collarbone fairly badly, left me with a broken bicycle and a lot of cuts and bruises.

Initially the driver gave me false insurance details, then the owner of the car (his daughter) called me to tell me that I would never get a penny and she was going to sue me for damage to her car. By then I had already filed a police report and had been patched-up at the hospital, so I called a solicitor that specialises in bicycle accident claims to help me to untangle this mess. This turned out to be a brilliant move on my part.

Continue reading “Its Over” »

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Nov 142018

There has been an increase in the number of e-mails and text messages that are landing in my spam folders recently. I am not sure why the upturn is happening, but some of the e-mails are getting very convincing.

It was not long ago that I would get badly spelled, poorly constructed e-mails that were easy to spot,

Subject: Yuor Natwast account has ten tnarsactions pending.

Now, not only do I not have a Natwest account, but the typo’s in the subject line made it super obvious.

Yesterday I got an e-mail.

Subject: Lloyds Bank Fraud Alert. Continue reading “Anatomy of a brilliant Phishing attack” »

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Nov 112018

So, you have just been hacked, now what ?

Firstly, if the hackers have accessed your bank account, call your bank and get them to start sorting this out for you. They are very, very good at this, but it takes time. While you are waiting, lets secure everything we can.

Step 1 – Secure your e-mail account.

First of all, ensure that your e-mail provider supports ‘Multi-Factor Authentication’ or MFA for short.

I cannot stress how important this is, if you use your ISP’s ‘free’ e-mail, there is a very high likelihood that they do not support MFA, even if they do, there is more than a strong chance that in order to access your account from your phone, you are forced to use a static ‘application’ password.

This ‘static application password’ is the email equivalent of having ten deadbolts on your front door and your back door protected by a small, rusty,  99p padlock from Wilco.  Continue reading “Hack Recovery 101” »

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Aug 312018

I am autistic.

My brain is wired a little differently to the majority of the population, I hide it as much as I can and over the years I have got better and better at hiding it, but there is no getting away from it, my brain is wired a little oddly compare to a ‘regular’ person.

This is not a sympathy post. It is far from it – I do not want your sympathy, autism has given me a lot of advantages and has made me who I am today. I really quite like who I am too, so no sympathy please. I am happy.

What autism means in my case is a variety of things;

  • I can, and often do, retreat from everyone around me, disappear into ‘my own world’, which despite what people may think, is far from ‘little’ in order to work things through.
  • I lack empathy. Or more I lack intuitive empathy, I understand it and I use it, but it is not natural for me to use it or display it.
  • I am stupidly good at some tasks and laughably bad at others.
  • I have both infinite patience and zero patience. Very little in between.
  • I struggle to read people pretty much all the time.
  • I can get incredibly emotional about some things and can be entirely cold about others.
  • Being the centre of attention is torture.
  • Big, Loud, Crowds disorient me.
  • I have had quite the career in the computing industry.
  • I can break exceptionally complex things into simple tasks in my head.
  • Explaining some of this stuff is very difficult.

…and quite a few things that are often inconsistent to a casual observer.  Continue reading “Being a little different” »

 Posted by at 2:11 pm
Aug 052018

Many years ago I worked with an extremely sharp, but rather odd, systems analyst. He was a very, very intelligent person, but he drove me utterly crazy.

On numerous occasions, he would sit, silently in a meeting, listening and thinking and then, usually about five minutes from the end, when a general consensus was just about to be reached, he would say ‘Here’s the thing….’.

Every single time he did this, he would throw the meeting into chaos, because his ‘thing’ was nearly always something that we had not considered, or had considered and assumed it was not important and he would weigh in with ‘the thing’, which would mean that we invariably needed to have another meeting to discuss ‘the thing’, which meant that we had just wasted an hour or more of our lives.

He was a brilliant analyst, but I just hated working with him. Most of the time his ‘thing’ would be a seriously edgy edge-case that had no consequence, but delivered the way it was, with gravitas, it nearly always meant that the meeting would fail and we would have to consider his point in the next one before we could be productive.  Continue reading “The Thing” »

 Posted by at 2:00 am