The Blog of Zakspade

September 2016 Archive

Mansplaining My Own Posts
Thursday 29 September, 2016

The trouble with being honest is that one occasionally takes a gun and aims and fires at one’s foot.

Today’s Blog is a case in point. I had to look up the word ‘mansplaining’ before being able to even begin to consider possibly hanging something off the word. But look it up I did.

Firstly I was surprised to see that the word actually existed and wasn’t merely a typo. Secondly it turned what was merely an incomprehensible Post into a deeply mystifying ambiguity.

In order to understand what the word ‘mansplaining’ means, I need all you ladies to listen carefully as I will be talking slowly so as to minimise blank looks and endless questions. Mansplaining is a portmanteau of the words man and explaining. It should be understood to mean a man explaining something to someone, typically a woman, in a condescending or patronising manner.

Various online versions of printed dictionaries have the same, or similar, definitions. Apparently a good example would be a man explaining to a mother of five what childbirth is like. In the old days one would have suggested the explainer might wish to avoid teaching their granny to suck eggs.

That would be true were it not for the fact that the modern term (I traced it back to 1998) seems to labour the man to woman explanation aspect as opposed to the student to teacher variation.

Given that the person who Posted the puzzling phrase is a woman, it becomes even more cryptic.

Maybe she’d like to consider explaining her Post as opposed to me mansplaining my own posts.


There Should be a Financial Penalty for Recovering Users’ Deleted Files
Tuesday 27 September, 2016

Someone I know from the world of IT has obviously had a ‘moment’ with a user over missing files, if the Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline is anything to go by.

People deleting wanted files off their computer or network drives is one thing, but some go further.

Some years back I worked for a computer company that provided technical and user support for a number of clients. One such was a firm of solicitors.

Late in the day a call came in from the PA of a high-ranking solicitor in the firm. Their boss wanted the helpdesk to recover a Word document that they had spent all day working on. It was logged as a priority call because it was a very important report that was needed the next day.

I took the call and resigned myself to working on past my finishing time in order to et the job done.

Contact was established with the user’s PA who passed me onto the user himself so that I could collect as much information about on the file: location, size (estimated by establishing contents/structure), filename (if known).

The first inkling that something was wrong was when the gentleman solicitor (tagged as a ‘VIP’ on the logging system) was unable to provide the location OR the filename. Further probing revealed that there was no filename because the document had never been created in the first place.

What I was being told seemed odd so I dug deep to ensure that I correctly understood what had happened. It turned out that the clever, well educated man had started a document in the morning, typed and typed, gone off for lunch, come back and typed some more, then a brief power outage turned his PC off. In the five hours between starting the document and the electricity cut, the man hadn’t created a file and saved it. Not once.

Incredulity smothered me but I plugged away in the hope that the story of events were muddled and that there really was something to recover.

After confirming what had happened, I carefully explained that there was nothing to salvage because nothing had been written anywhere. Yes I was privately aware that a hands-on examination of the PC itself would very possibly yield temporary files that might allow a person to piece together some of what had been written, but equally I knew it was going to mainly feature metadata as opposed to solid content.

As I didn’t want to get his hopes up unnecessarily, I opted to not reveal the forensic examination option. Besides, such an examination would take too long to have it ready for tomorrow when the report was required.

I tried to let him down as gently as possible while at the same time thinking, ‘What moron works on a super-important document for five hours without saving it, let alone not bother to initially create a file?’

Law School obviously doesn’t weed out idiots when churning out lawyers.

Said moron actually raised an official complaint and cited me. His idiot approach to his own stupidity caused me a great deal of grief as I had to explain to management why what he wanted was not possible. To cover the costs trying to wreck an IT analyst’s career, there should be a financial penalty for recovering users’ deleted files.


Happy Anniversary
Sunday 25 September, 2016

...goes the start of a Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline.

So I decided to take a look into which anniversaries we should all be celebrating today. Some are good and some are not so good - depending on your point of view.

For instance, it was 950 years ago to this very day that Harold II of England repelled an invasion by Harald Hardrada of Norway, at Stamford Bridge near York. That a foreign incursion to these islands was thwarted, has to be good - that he went and marched his troops south once he had done so and went and managed to place his head in the way of a Norman arrow, has to be less good.

But it was 950 years ago and the only Stamford Bridge that seems to matter to people nowadays is the one that exemplifies the degree to which top flight foreign footballers are invading these shores.

In an attempt to be more contemporary I now jump forward 577 years to examine another anniversary of an event that took place a mere 373 years ago - The 'Solemn League and Covenant' between English and Scottish parliaments against Charles I of England was finally agreed and accepted by the English parliament after the Scottish acceptance on 17 August that year.

It was intended to be a unification of sorts between the Scottish and English parliaments in their resolve against Charles I and was supposed to guarantee that Scottish religious teachings would be free from Papist intervention. Actually it was an awful lot more than that, but the whole thing was a fudge that appealed to everyone and harmed no one except those who favoured Rome over Charles I, or Charles I himself.

There is nothing left from this nowadays that affects football in any way unless one follows the fortunes of the Scottish Premiership and is aware of the religious divisions between Celtic and Rangers.

In an attempt to come up to date, I now wish to look at this day a mere 101 years back. The British Army first used poison gas (at Loos, France), but ended up gassing many of its own troops. Funny how gassing in the Middle East by dictators (or rather, leaders not picked by the CIA or MI6) is a thing to be criticised and demonised, but is in fact a little more effective in that at least they only gas their enemies as opposed to their own troops and supporters.

When asking about, many seem to think that in WW1 poison gas was a weapon used solely by the Germans. People seem to forget that the French fired tear gas grenades (xylyl bromide) at the Germans during the first month of the war. The Germans responded by using respiratory disrupting gas at the French the following October. In January 1915 the Germans utilised xylyl bromide against the Russians on the Eastern Front.

Things got a little nastier after that and chlorine gas was first employed - and this was by the Germans. Later in the year, on this day 101 years ago, in order to not feel left out of the escalating badness being perpetrated by the other warring nations, the British used chlorine gas in advance of a planned infantry attack on German lines.

Unlike all the previous uses of gas, this attack was a bit of a failure in that instead of gassing the enemy, the chlorine decimated their own infantry that was supposed to storm the gasping enemy lines. In keeping with the football thread that seems to be running through today’s Blog, the words own goal come to mind.

You decide on which ought to be thought of as a happy anniversary.


So Kids...
Friday 23 September, 2016

The Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline today gave me today’s title and it seems to be quite well timed given that I attended an open evening at a local upper school last night. Ah the joys of trying to determine the best educational opportunities for one’s children...

The Head of the school gave a talk in the main theatre hall to those of us there to check the place out. Right from the off I spotted that he was careful not to refer to potential incoming pupils as children but as sons and daughters.

It seemed a good way to avoid using a patronising tone to those looking to join in Year 9.

I was impressed. It was a subtle yet clever way to avoid alienating the young ones who might be considered new bums on seats, as it was colloquially known in my university days.

As adults we are acutely aware that there usually isn’t anything a child can say or do that hasn’t passed though our minds when we were their age. If the youngsters ever managed to catch on and work it out for themselves then we oldsters won’t find it so easy to outsmart them.

Of all the tricks we use to stay one step ahead of them; having been there before them is our greatest.

However, I am feeling as positive towards the upcoming generation as the Head who spoke to that large room of adults and wannabe pupils of his school. I want to educate children by blowing the gaff on how it is that adults always seem to be so smart regardless of their own education. No more secrets will be kept from them - it is time they knew all.

So kids...


Take the Quiz
Wednesday 21 September, 2016

Having made a promise to myself that I would use the first words of the Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline, I find myself having to construct something from ‘Take the Quiz’...

I like a good challenge, but sometimes I fear I might need the support of Saint Jude.

Saint Jude? That would be the Apostle known to some as Judas Thaddaeus/Jude Thaddeus - not to be confused with the other Apostle; Judas Iscariot or the Disciple, Thaddeus of Edessa.

English language translations of the Bible tend to use the abbreviated name of Judas Thaddaeus; using Jude instead, so as to distinguish between the two disciples. My wife does similar when I am considered to be in the wrong - she uses the unabbreviated version of my forename as opposed to the friendly, short form. To those who offered the English translations, Judas Iscariot was ultimately a bad man whereas good old Jude was good to the end.

Who is Saint Jude? In the Roman Catholic Church, he is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes.

Well I tend never to give up when writing about something, so perhaps it might be a bit much to consider a tricky Blog title to be a lost cause. However, that’s not to say the case isn’t desperate.

It would make a good pub quiz question: Name the twelve Apostles.

Of course that presumes the number to be twelve. Different translations of the Bible use differing names for them and sometimes even use the terms Apostle and Disciple are used interchangeably. Some sources claim there were up to 70 Disciples.

A good point to argue over if one is unable to come up with twelve names.

What does seem a clear is that the resurrected Christ sent ELEVEN Apostles out to spread His teachings to the world. That seems to suggest twelve is the original number as Judas Iscariot had died or gone away on his own by this time - it really depends on which reported version one wishes to believe. After betraying Christ he either, committed suicide shortly afterwards; bought a field and fell within, hit his head and died bloodily; ran off when he had visions of the remaining Apostles stoning him; or went on ‘walkabout,’ became fat and got run over by a chariot.

Can you imagine remonstrating with Dave the pub quiz master over the finer points relating to the question?

If you fancy the chance, go to as many pub quizzes as possible in the hope that the question comes up. It has to, one day, surely? It must be a good idea to go to as many pubs as possible and take the quiz.


Scooter Madness
Monday 19 September, 2016

Today’s Blog title came from the Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline when I sat down to write. The
last time I rode a scooter was probably over 30 years ago - over 45 if we are talking about the sort that are propelled by the rider as opposed to an internal combustion engine.

My personal view when I regularly rode a motorcycle was that scooters were comparatively unstable. At the time I studied vehicle design technology and can tell you how tyre section radii affect turning on a means of transport with only two wheels. If you really fancy a good night’s sleep I can go on about gyroscopic effect and its benefit when one wishes to maintain an upright position as opposed to sliding along on one’s bottom down the road.

If a coma is what you want, I can probably still do the math surrounding angular momentum and its relationship to what a rider thinks of stability over bumps and grooves in the road surface.

One thing for certain; I was not was a motorcyclist who considered scooters to be beneath contempt just because I rode a motorcycle. However, you would have had to press much gold into my hands before I would deign to consider ownership. A gun might need to be employed to get me to ride it on the road.

I was not blind to their weather protection and how riders always had dry legs when it rained. I was bowled over by the idea that a spare wheel rim could be carried to allow a roadside fix to allow journey continuance in the case of a puncture. Being able to carry a chicken or small dog near one’s feet was also cool, but I never really thought of it as something that I personally would find useful in the world in which I live.

Overall my heart was in motorcycling and never anywhere near scooter riding. In my mind the advantages never made up for the inherent lack of stability when compared to their larger-wheeled cousin; the motorcycle.


Lovely Lunch Meeting
Saturday 17 September, 2016

I had an early lunch at the Xscape building in Milton Keynes today.

The original plan was to go to the cinema and see a film. Two adults and a twelve-year-old wanted to enjoy Bridget Jones's Baby but upon our arrival we discovered that it is a 15-rated movie. The Cineworld chap who was stationed at the electronic ticket purchase units told us it would be against the law to allow us to buy a ticket for it. He then proceeded to make me feel uncomfortable as we looked to see what else was being shown that would be more suitable.

The zealot was obviously keen to ensure that although he had missed his calling to traffic wardenhood, he was going to hover so as to keep me aware of his power over mere mortals. He seemed quietly determined to make sure we didn’t sneakily buy a ticket for the forbidden film.

I lost heart and no longer wanted to see a film at the cinema. My desire had evaporated after being superheated by the heat of his fervour.

Hence the early lunch: almost a brunch, in fact.

Cineworld must be proud to employ such losers. Given the cost of going to the cinema nowadays, he probably cost those who pay him a wage commensurate with a car park attendant, somewhere around £60, once snacks are taken into account.

I was tempted to write a letter of complaint to Cineworld, but after a period of reflection, I decided against it. The memory of the last time I had reason to engage in communication with them came to me. It was while I was being employed as an editor of a Milton Keynes based website that I had cause to converse with them and it was a rather fruitless affair. The PR department of Cineworld seemed to employ recalcitrant cuttlefish and seemed hell bent on proving to be a waste of the world’s oxygen.

Instead I determined to not bother myself any further and just gave up on wasting effort to buy tickets to see a film in their cinema. My lack of complaint letter will go some way, I hope, to aiding the failed example of the human race to continue to cost his employer takings. Given their treatment of people who ultimately keep their top management in nice cars, I’m not feeling bad over the matter.

Conversely, the early lunch was a delight and is one of those that will be favourably remembered for some time to come: Frankie & Benny’s if wondering.

Because we ended up lunching so early, the person who Posted what became this Blog entry’s title and we had no joint lovely lunch meeting.


The Whole World is Collapsing Around Our Ears
Thursday 15 September, 2016

The Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline makes a claim that is hard to dispute. Earthquakes in Europe spell death and destruction, Global Warming promises doom for the human race, and The Great British Bake Off looks to be coming to an end as we know it.

The changes: Ads.

If that were it, then I strongly suspect that a great many fans of the show would be happy to go grab a biscuit to go with a cuppa so as to do a little dunking as the latest challenge is baked to perfection. However it is beginning to look like it will be a little more than that.

Already the presenters, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, have revealed that they will not be following the programme from the BBC to Channel 4. If the judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, follow in their footsteps, then what Channel 4 ends up with is the programme format and name, but nothing else.

As I write this Blog entry, no word has been heard from the judges as to whether they intend to move to Channel 4. Maybe they are still in talks regarding the remuneration they expect for remaining with the programme. Given that the production company rejected the BBC offering of £15m a year for three year’s worth of rights, and they accepted Channels 4’s offer of £25m a year, one might reasonably expect those working on the show to also receive a 40% hike in their wages.

A 40% pay rise might be too much to bear - but under the circumstances it may well not be too much given that without those who are the programme, Channel 4 are potentially left holding a turkey by the legs.

But wait, it gets better.

It appears that the £25m a year Love Productions managed to extract from Channel 4 is a rise from the approximately SIX million pounds a year the BBC were paying before they lost the rights. So out comes my trusty calculator and we see that Love Productions are now going to be paid over 400% more per season that before. Now I wonder what will be said if Hollywood and Berry demand a 400% rise in their pay?

Oh but the intrigue just keeps on giving. Berry has her own show starting soon on BBC2, Foolproof Recipes. Hollywood has already been given his own show on BBC1, Paul Hollywood's Pies & Puds.

It would be a great surprise to everyone if it turned out that the BBC didn’t have both of them under contract already. Not a deal-breaker by itself because they would probably be able to buy themselves out - and any decent agent would make sure that such an option was written in to a contract.

So, the 400% would need to cover that purchase - or maybe Channel 4 would be asked to do the deed? And we have to forget their current programmes on the BBC.

Could there be any more? Yes - I understand the current agreement with the BBC has a clause that prevents anyone else from airing the standard version of the baking show for a year after the current series ends in the event of the BBC not renewing their own rights for whatever reason.

The whole world is collapsing around our ears might be a touch much to claim regarding the BBC to Channel 4 move, but if it falls flat like a badly baked soufflé then the world will collapse around the ears of the person at Channel 4 who gave the go ahead to lay out their 2015 profits for a single series.


In the Hospital
Tuesday 13 September, 2016

A glance at my Facebook Timeline gave me today’s title. However, that’s all it gave me, so the pain began and went on and on.

And there is was: pain.

What is a hospital without it? There is the pain of illness; the pain of injuries; the pain of having to offer treatment despite much of the budget going into the pockets of upper management.

It has been said that just being confined to a hospital bed is a pain unto itself.

Without hospitals we would have nowhere to take ourselves when critically unwell or injured. I say, ‘take ourselves,’ because I fear that the ambulance service is no longer what it used to be and cannot be relied upon to attend when hailed.

At least that is what is claimed in some quarters.

Figures for response times are all well and good, but what one has to remember is that the statistics that are collected are not just meaningless numbers: whether prompt or tardy, a real human suffered or was saved.

Maybe a better way would be to gather data in a controlled and safe environment. The person making the call ought to not really need an ambulance but this is something the service would not know.

Such a test to collect facts might go something like this after managing to convince someone an ambulance needs to be despatched:

‘Can I have your location, Caller?’

‘Yes, I’m in the hospital.’


This Comes Around Every Year
Sunday 11 September, 2016

I held off from posting a Blog entry yesterday so as to be able to do so today: the date known as 9/11 and of great significance to many people around the world - not just the Americans.

Usefully the Post at the top of my Facebook Timeline gave me an ideal title for today’s 15th anniversary of the act that was the crashing of aeroplanes into New York’s World Trade Center Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with United Airlines Flight 93 ploughing into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

The total death toll on that day in 2001 was just under 3,000 souls; making it a day to remember and not for any good reasons.

On 11 September, 1973, a US-backed coup d'état took place in Chile. Although around only 60 people died on the day, the resulting dictatorship murdered over 3,000 people (or made them ‘disappear’). Over the first three years that the Junta ruled Chile, over 130,000 people were arrested for being suspected of, or alleged to be, resistant to the rule of General Augusto Pinochet.

The CIA provided support to those seeking to snatch power, and once the deed was done, the US wasted no time recognising the newly installed Junta and provided ongoing support as they tightened their grip through the use of fear upon their people.

The population of Chile over the first three year s of Pinochet’s rule was just over 10 million. Simple maths tells us that he oversaw the imprisonment of 1.5% of the population. Junta murder and ‘disappearances’ only accounted for around 0.03%.

In 2001 the US suffered no arrests and a death or loss of 0.001% of the US population of that time.

When thinking of the US, we all remember the day in 2001 when they suffered.

When thinking of the US, no one remembers the day in 1973 that led to butchery, murder, torture and great sorrow for so many.

This comes around every year.


For Some Reason I Cannot
Thursday 8 September, 2016

Yesterday I read about a driver who drove down the M60 at 55mph in the middle lane and ignored the fact that the nearside lane was devoid of traffic.

Not really a news story that should command column inches, but it made the news in a number of publications and online.


Was it the fact that the driver of the car that came up behind it flashed it in order to try and communicate that it was in the way and ought to pull over to what some people erroneously call the slow lane?

No, that happens all the time. Idiot drivers who attract flashed headlights are certainly not rare. Again, that would not be newsworthy stuff.

When one learns that the car that flashed the lane hogger was an unmarked police car then it starts to become a story that might help fill space in a newspaper on a quite news day.

But even that wasn’t the reason it made the news and caught my eye, no.

The idiot driver not only ignored the flashing from the car behind, and remained stubbornly in the centre lane without cause or reason, but, he only went and started a phone call on his mobile.

Again, while this has the beginnings of a tale worth reporting, it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. After all, the idiot wasn’t to know that the car flashing him was a police car. Why bother driving properly for ordinary folk?

No, what made this a true story of value for the Press was the fact that the reason for him using his phone while driving was to phone 999 to report a driver behind him flashing their lights at him.

I know, it read like one a stupid end-of-summer-lack-of-real-news type of stories but I looked it up and traced it back to the original release of details from the police force involved. It happened, it was real, there really are people out there in charge of vehicles capable of killing a child who do not possess enough brain cells to walk and talk at the same time.

Can anyone think of how they manage to trick the DVLA into granting them a driving licence in the first place; for some reason I cannot.


This is so Clever
Tuesday 6 September, 2016

Yet another Facebook post from where the title for this Blog entry is taken. Raiding Facebook for Blog titles is all well and good, but it really makes one think hard how to incorporate it into what is to be written.

Well, today’s title coincided with my submission of a piece for the local newspaper written as if by my beagle, Darwin. The head-and-shoulders picture above the column features him sat begging for a treat. I’m regularly told that he must be very clever to write a column, but what people fail to see is that it is a joint effort: I have to open the lid of his laptop because he can’t do it himself.

Yes, putting words together that we humans can read is so clever of him, I think.

However, it isn’t the fact that my dog can write newspaper columns that is the clever thing. I mean, where would he be without my IT knowledge gained from my past life working in the industry? The network at home runs smoothly and efficiently from the perspective of all who use its resources. What they don’t see is me pulling my hair out to ensure that everything seems flawless and just works.

Those I know who are still working in IT will understand and know exactly what I mean when I refer to the analogy of the swan: graceful and serene above the waterline but legs thrashing about like crazy to keep up forward motion below the surface.

The work keeping things together for everyone is relatively unrecognised and unappreciated, but without it, Darwin doesn’t hit deadlines, my wife can’t operate her Bijour Bears Jewellery business, and my daughter possesses a doorstop rather than an iPod Touch.

I understand how computer stuff works. Of all the clever things in the world, this is so clever.


Briefing Over
Sunday 4 September, 2016

Women seem happy to go off to have their bumpy bits measured up by strangers from time to time. I believe it is known as a fitting and is to do with ensuring they purchase suitable brassieres.

Suitable for what, I wonder, but none of them will tell me.

Whatever the true reason, it got me wondering. We men might wish to avail ourselves of the opportunity to go off to the menswear section of the local superdupermarket and ask for an assistant to come and measure us up for suitable underpants.

It is just a thought - I’m not advocating a movement. That said, there may well be a drift of shoppers towards the exits when the request attracts attention and a member of security is in attendance.

I imagine the ladies discuss their fittings with their female friends. The odd one or two might even talk with their male friends and colleagues about how things went. I’m not sure as I have never been invited in to such a conversation.

However, being a bloke, I feel better qualified to speculate on the matter if applied to men. I can see men talking to men about going into a cubical to be measured up so as to make sure they have adequate room and support.

Of course, we men are renowned for not engaging to the same degree as women when it comes to details - especially those of a personally intimate nature. So such an exchange might merely consist of the words, ‘Briefing done.’


The Day Has Finally Arrived!
Friday 2 September, 2016

This month I reckoned with taking the first line of the first Post on my Facebook timeline and using it as a title for that day’s Blog entry.

The idea is to force creativity when faced with something not of my own. When writing, I find myself needing a decent title or working title in order to create something worth reading. In a way, a carefully chosen title acts as a crutch to lean on when I am literary limping (groans).

However, I sat down to write today’s entry and the first 16 Posts from Facebook Friends were images, memes and Shares - all without a single written word from the person who Posted. Then along came Post number 17 which gave me the title for this particular piece, but it made my eyebrows shoot up to see just how little people actually write when they stick something up on the internet.

What could the title refer to with respect to my Blog? Perhaps it means yesterday - the day when those with pots of money went out and collected their brand-new cars with ‘66’ number plates. Or maybe it might relate to the fact that today marks my return to work after the school summer break.

As it happens, it fits nicely with my decision to adopt a new theme for Blog title gathering. A rather handy coincidence and fortunately it makes things easy today. When it comes to starting a writing exercise centred about titles, the day has finally arrived!