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  Batteries and 2FA
Tuesday 31 August, 2021

I can imagine people asking, "What on earth is he going on about now, 2FA?"

For those who haven't made the connection, 2FA means two-factor authentication. And those who think it is just a geeky thing might like to make sure that they own a mobile phone and that it is always charged and ready to work.

Eh?

Well, there is a drift towards 2FA by companies who have a presence on the Internet. It used to be something which only affected those trying to reset a password or similar. However, it is now becoming something encountered when trying to access one's bank account, shopping or email.

It works like this: you provide an ID and password. The website then tells you to input a numeric code in the box below which they will send to your mobile phone. No choices. No options. Just do as you are told, slave.

If you never supplied a mobile number then welcome to days, weeks, or longer, of email ping-pong while you try to get their tech support to help you.

Note the mention of mobile phone number. Try and ask them to email it to you or use a landline. No chance. Code sent. Done. Not their problem if you dropped in down the loo last night or forgot to charge it.

Suddenly the importance of batteries in terms of 2FA has been promoted.

What about those who don't have a mobile phone? I spent many years working in IT and resolutely refused to have one. I didn't want to be at the beck and call of an employer.

I once watched a colleague hurriedly chomping down a sandwich as he trotted back into the workplace because his boss had asked him to fix something while he was on his lunch break. I swore that would never happen to me, so I never had a mobile until quite late.

Did I mention I worked in IT? I am no stranger to the Internet. Yet, if I were still working in a similar role, I'd probably still not have a mobile phone. And websites insist I have a mobile phone?

What happened? Did 1984 pop up while I was sleeping?

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  The Rules of OCD
Friday 27 August, 2021

Rules are there to ensure we all get along. Without them society would freefall into chaos and anarchy. Rules are good.

There are the rules of the road. By and large they are responsible for the ability to drive a car from home to work without witnessing hundreds of injuries and deaths on the daily commute.

Rules are good.

Then there are the rules of the dinner table. Use cutlery from the outside inwards as you make your way through the many courses laid on. No need to be embarrassed by not knowing which knife to use. Use the rules.

Rules are good.

Let’s not forget the rule of law. Take it all away and it wouldn’t be safe even in one’s own home. Imagine trying to watch Strictly while some miscreant loudly levers open your front door with a heavy duty screwdriver. No one would bat an eye because forcing their way into your home to steal or murder isn’t breaking any rules. We need those rules.

Rules are good.

Are there rules of Nature? Yep. Things with big teeth tend to eat those without big teeth. Therefore it is best to keep away from beasts with big teeth.

Rules are good.

Turning the bedroom light on and off five times and placing ones slippers exactly 2.5 centimetres apart and pointing due south is important to some. It may mean the difference between managing to get off to sleep or remaining prone and awake all night. If it helps, then such rules are good.

Rules, rule! Okay?

   
  The Clicking
Wednesday 25 August, 2021

Another traipse to my local post office. Another opportunity to burn in the sun, get wet in the rain, or be run over by a mad homicidal lorry driver.

Okay, the latter is less likely, but as my town grows and expands according to the whims of planners who don't understand how a quart can't be poured into a pint glass, the chances are probably on the up.

Today was neither hat nor brolly weather. Not too hot and not too cold. I almost expected a perfect bowl of porridge to materialise in the air in front of me.

No rain. No sun. No lorries being driven at speed on the pavements. Just a clicking.

I couldn't hear the clicking. It was more a case of feeling it as I walked. Every other pace; click, click, click.

As I rolled over the ball of my right foot, a clicking reminded me that I was dosed up on anti-inflammatory drugs and that I was going to pay a price once I arrived back home.

Step, step/click, step, step/click, step... Asymmetrical and annoying. However, it would mean that sitting down would be accompanied by just the one sore foot. Perhaps a blessing which would have me rejoicing as I set about hopping about the garden yelling and shouting about how good life is for everyone.

And at least my dogs would only stand a 50% chance of of crushing the bad foot.

Happy days!

   

Archie Cat

Archie and Birthdays
Tuesday 24 August, 2021

Published in my local newspaper under the name Archie Cat as:

This whole birthday malarkey seems such a waste to me!

- o - O - o -

Another of my human servants has celebrated something they call a birthday. It is a peculiar thing which, I hate to admit, causes me great confusion.

One of my humans placing food and water down for me is an act which makes perfect sense. However, when that same human voluntarily puts what looks to be wrapping paper on their head which then keeps slipping down over their eyes, it seems both odd and fatuous in the extreme.

The other aspect I find confusing is that of eating food merely because it is there. Normally members of my staff will either eat when needed or do so at predetermined mealtimes. On the other paw, the dogs living here will eat whatever comes near their mouths. When birthday celebrations are not part of life, I think of my tame humans as being a little way above the level of the dogs who share my house. However, when a birthday comes along, they seem to slip down the evolutionary ladder and become somewhat lessened in status. Arguably, they are then merely on a par with the canine contingent.

Then there is all the wasteful expenditure of energy in the guise of something known as ‘party games.’ If they were to put as much effort into my needs as they do for such activities then there would be a more regular change of my comfy cushions in all the rooms of the house.

It wouldn’t be too bad if it only involved members of my household, but there are always humans unknown to me. I have no idea what their names are, but when I think about how there is never a need to learn the names of my staff, why would I bother with those of the strangers who turn up and seemingly eat lots of food just because it is there?

A smaller human noticed me near the table and he offered me the filling from a tuna sandwich. He seemed quite tickled by me accepting it. Then he stroked me. Naturally, the little human had the right idea, so when he once more proffered some tuna I again accepted and ate it.

This birthday malarkey is usually rather tedious, but if the humans could get rid of the party paraphernalia and concentrate on the giving of tuna to their master and superior, then I think birthdays are something I could grow to accept.

   

Jago Phillips

Too Late!
Tuesday 17 August, 2021

I had a piece published under the name Phil Wilkinson last week in my local newspaper and I never use any particular name two weeks on the trot. This was a pity because I was particularly aggrieved at how the market town in which I live has almost been cut off from the rest of the world by moronic planning on the part of Central Bedfordshire Council:

I wanted to vent and make a point, so Jago Phillips galloped to the rescue with a piece that became titled by the paper as:

Too late! My prophecy has come true and aliens are rife among us

- o - O - o -

I have been warning people for a very long time. However, would anyone listen? No, everyone dismissed me as a crackpot. Mention of invasion by space aliens was enough to have people think the word, ‘loony.’

That was despite my revelation of their invasion plan. Leighton Buzzard was chosen as a starting point because of its proximity to major routes, along with the London seat of government being relatively close. At the same time it is considered to be a quiet backwater which wouldn’t attract any unwanted attention from the authorities as the invaders established their initial force.

Well, my words of warning were unheeded. Nothing has been done to head off their maliferous intent. They are currently paralyzing the area by setting up road closures and roadworks. Once it becomes impossible to physically get in or out of the area they will cut off power to the region. They have been practising this over the last few years by turning off neighbourhoods for short periods. The idea is that it will cause electronic communications to collapse if the power outage is over the whole area and not just places like the High Street.

At that point they will have cut off Leighton Buzzard from the rest of the country. Then they will be free to billet their invasion soldiers in the new houses which they caused to be built through careful installation of fifth columnists within the planning department of Central Bedfordshire Council. No word of the occupation of part-built new homes will be able to get out to the headquarters of the many developers who think it was their idea to cover the whole place in what are effectively barracks.

Even as I reveal the full horror of what is set to befall our wonderful town, there are still detractors who try to publicly reject everything I have said. They seek to ridicule me with the labels they apply. However, look around you. What do you see? Is the disruption really the result of careful planning and execution by an authority which is benefiting the area? Or, is it strangulation by a military force intent on subduing resistance ahead of the main invasion?

In the past you may have asked, ‘Can anyone really believe Jago?’ Now I ask, can anyone really not believe Jago?

   
  Squeak
Tuesday 17August, 2021

I like the car I drive. I think it likes me, but it never says much, so I can't be totally sure.

When I test drove it, there was a hint of a squeak coming from somewhere underneath. I supposed it was something touching and rubbing occasionally.

After a week's ownership the squeak was quite consistent. At first I thought it was just something jiggling about under the car as I drove. Then investigation revealed that it was the steering. Driving in a straight line had the squeak, but because the steering is twitching there is the squeak.

Negotiating a small roundabout driving through a housing development told me it was steering-related. The long squeak as I turned the steering wheel from straight to full lock was hard to ignore.

When raining the squeak lessened, but after a few weeks it was rather pronounced. Delving into the stuff under the engine bay and about the steering mechanism didn't have me find an obviously loose heat shield, or similar, touching and dragging on a moving part. Additionally, what I thought was emanating from the front right seemed to be from front centre, front left, front right depending on the position of the stars.

Back to the garage from whence it came, I decided. Up on a ramp and have a peek. They'd probably find in in two minutes and fix it in three.

After a full day of trying, they discovered a few things. When the car was raised and there was no weight on the front wheels, there was no squeak. None of the mechanics could determine whether the squeak came from the right, left or centre. Whatever the squeak was, it wasn't the suspension as they degreased and checked the lot (hence the full day).

Upon getting the car and the squeak back I was told they wanted me to book it back in and they'd swap over the steering box in case it was the cause!

Not a huge issue for me as I'm not paying anything to have this remedied. They told me they'd be in touch to arrange things.

And that was a couple of weeks back and I've had no joy speaking to the right chap since.

Meanwhile the squeak is louder and impossible to ignore. Also it really sounds like something it touching a moving part that is linked to the steering and making a noise in the process.

I once drove to work in a car that made a 'meow' sound every time I negotiated a roundabout or a junction. Upon arrival I had the bonnet up and found a cat wedged tightly behind the battery.

No mouse nest has been found.

   
  Sleep
Sunday 15 August, 2021

I usually don't respond well to a lack of sleep. However, when I was (much) younger, I tended to manage quite well.

As a teenager I was into Dungeons & Dragons. A group of us would meet together on a Friday evening and play into the morning. It wasn't unknown for me to work all day Friday - meet up with my friends that evening - play to around 6am - then pop back home for a quick bite and change of clothes before heading into work for a morning's overtime.

Once home again at 1pm, the rest of the day would pass as any other Saturday and the usual Saturday night would be spent doing the things that nineteen-year-olds do on Saturday nights.

Then I grew old (I hit twenty-nine) and such a combination of days and nights would reduce me to a drooling fool slumped in a corner.

Then a couple of month's back I found that I would read or watch a film until past midnight but still wake up between 5am and 6am. I wouldn't be tired. I would try to stay in bed and get back to sleep, but it was usually a waste of effort on my part.

For the first few weeks I would get up and enjoy a normal day. Sleep would never come again until it was gone midnight and I'd wake between 5am and 6am. In fact, for a few days it was nearer 4am! I anticipated a meltdown and was always on the lookout for somewhere soft to land should my brain decide that enough was enough.

However, it suddenly seemed that my body was happy with four or five hours sleep in any twenty-four hour period. It was quite puzzling.

It was put to me that as people age they require less sleep. It sounded plausible, but I was mystified as to why it seemed to have kicked in so abruptly.

Before dropping off to sleep at 1am in the morning, I resolved to investigate the matter in depth the next day so as to ascertain the veracity of the assertion and see if I could determine why it had come my way so swiftly and unexpectedly.

I woke to the alarm at 7:30am and felt shattered. I was too tired during the day to dig into anything dealing with sleep. Research was supplanted by a constant need to try and remember my name.

The months of requiring next to no sleep seem to have vanished. If I now don't get to sleep by 11pm, then I am exhausted if I am woken before 8am the next morning.

Either I have become twenty-nine again, or some complicated biological explanation exists. Either way I feel as if I missed a wonderful opportunity to go clubbing.

   
  Stairs
Friday 13 August, 2021

Writing and maintaining a Blog can be tricky at times like this.

In my street there is no house number 13. The same is true of a number of streets in the area in which I live and I suspect it is true far wider afield.

Hotels are known to not have a 'floor 13' so as to not upset those with either triskaidekaphobia or an ability to harbour totally irrational beliefs.

I tend to avoid passing people on the stairs. This is for two reasons: the first is that I don't want to accidentally knock elbows and end up falling down a flight of stairs. The second reason is that of not knowing whether the other person is superstitious. I am most certainly not superstitious. I might have some odd ways, but conducting my life according to random numbers or ritualistic shenanigans, really isn't going to happen.

But I don't wish to impose my self perceived rationality upon others. So I don't pass people on the stairs...

That had me wondering whether to omit the date at the top of today's Blog entry. I spend hours trying to decide. The pain was intense.

Then I decided to include it because my horoscope didn't warn against it.

   
  The Bleeding Obvious
Tuesday 10 August, 2021

My local newspaper under the name, Phil Wilkinson, as:

The bleeding obvious is most certainly missed!

I do enjoy a good grump over things. When writing as Phil Wilkinson, that is what I do. Typically I will read the local paper and pick something to have a moan over. I've been doing it since somewhere around 2011, so if I don't get a badge for it I will become even more grumpy!

And as if to add to the thrust of the piece... Some moron at Central Bedfordshire Council gave the okay for roadworks on the road through town which is slated to last four weeks (commenced yesterday). Now there are no routes available to anywhere which don't include long waits in stationary traffic...

- o - O - o -

Planning in the Leighton Buzzard area puts me in mind of the BBC series, Fawlty Towers. I fondly recalled all twelve episodes upon reading a letter in the LBO detailing the somewhat oddball traffic management strategies employed by those who clearly do not live in the area.

I am so glad to learn that I am not alone in believing we are effectively a backwater which is totally misunderstood by bureaucrats back at Central Bedfordshire Ivory Towers. In fact, I strongly suspect that a very large majority of residents in the area are aware of the problems we experience and know that merely slowing things further by introducing obstacles, just adds to the problem.

On that note, the 1979 episode, ‘Basil the Rat’ comes to mind. Basil Fawlty says to his wife, “Can't we get you on ‘Mastermind’, Sybil? Next contestant Sybil Fawlty from Torquay, special subject the bleeding obvious.”

The nonstop farce, known to some as infrastructure planning, continues. Most in the area see and understand it as apparent idiocy. When it is pointed out by local residents, it is tempting to suggest that such comment is merely stating the “bleeding obvious,” but it seems not to be obvious to those who keep coming up with the ‘brilliant’ ideas.

It has been mentioned before: we have a fixed and limited number of arterial roads in and out of the area. No amount of roads crisscrossing the new developments changes that number. We now see the effect of restricting just ONE of those arterial roads. Am I correct in understanding that planners want to extend said restrictions in order to stave off further congestion? Is someone ingesting something hallucinogenic?

It might be that the problem isn’t planners residing in a tall tower oblivious to the actual effects of their pronouncements. Could it be that Central Beds Council employs space aliens who have never set foot on Planet Earth? How else could things be obvious to so many people, but not so to those who formulate and implement plans that adversely impact the very people they claim to be helping?

I suppose it is bleeding obvious to many local residents that those from the planet Zog don’t have a clue about where we live. While bleeding obvious to members of the Human Race, I fear it isn’t registering with the little green men.

   
  The Life of the Web Master
Monday 9 August, 2021

At university I was required to create and maintain a website. As I was doing a Computer Sciences BSc degree, it seemed very sensible.

However, what I did was author it using Windows Notepad rather than a dedicated web authoring application. All I was required to do was was have a presence. So a photo and some words telling visitors my favourite colour and fast food, was all I did.

I learned how to write HTML when it was simpler than it is today.

Consequently I never moved on very far from those days - hence the simple (boring) appearance of The Blog of Zak Spade.

What I write is important to me. The stuff concerning web and techno wossiname isn't.

When it was suggested that I update my online archive of published words, I underestimated the time and pain it would take to do so.

Feel free to check out My Other Writing (the link will always appear to the top left as other Blog entries displace this one) - apparently the web stats will tell me whether I have wasted hours of my time populating it.

All I need do now is work out how to access those web stats and try and understand what they all mean...

   

 

Climate Change
Tuesday 3 August, 2021

My local newspaper under the name, Louise Penfold, as:

Climate change must be the reason for my wine enjoyment

I checked and checked, but it rather looks as if whoever wrote the title in the paper missed out a word or two with the result that it is almost exactly wrong.

- o - O - o -

We hear a lot about climate change these days. Many experts in various fields are keen to point out the effects of unexpected weather patterns. However, it is hard for me to absorb the finer details of what they are saying when so much of it seems irrelevant to me.

I’m not claiming to disbelieve it. Far from it – in fact I find myself experiencing adverse outcomes due to the changes. It is just that none of it seems to relate directly to what various scientists, crackpots and world leaders are telling me.

For instance, there have been times when I have taken a glass of wine out into the garden with me and a sudden and unforecast deluge has forced me inside in order to shelter against being soaked. When I venture outside after the unpredicted downpour has abruptly stopped, I return to my wine to find that the glass has filled and the contents have been watered down and reduced to a spritzer without the bubbles.

It is particularly upsetting when the wine is something like a Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and it has been ruined by rainwater. While wine from a £5 bottle may well be improved, the same cannot be said if the bottle costs nearly £50. So I am particularly aggrieved by changes in the weather that have the ability to inflict such carnage.

Mind you, it isn’t just rain that is a problem. More frequently I am discovering that the levels of humidity, along with increased sunshine and high temperatures, are causing much by way of upset in terms of curtailment of wine enjoyment. Recently I have poured myself glassfuls of delightful wines and found that they have evaporated while I relax in my garden to read a book. Again, when drinking a wine that costs less than £5 a bottle, it is nothing more than an inconvenience, but when you find that you are getting through two or three bottles of a £60 Château de Beaucastel, in an afternoon, then it becomes a rather unsustainable financial drain.

It is clearly a climate change issue. There is no way that I am drinking every last drop. The only explanation is that the wine evaporates and is lost to the air. It is either that or squirrels are stealing it. I definitely have a drink problem, but I fear it is driven by the weather.

   
  The Great Hoax
Sunday 1 August, 2021

A local magazine under the name, Phil O'Hara, as:

The Great Hoax

The publication always uses my titles for whatever I write. As this was a rehash of the piece I wrote for my local newspaper (see Tuesday 20 July, 2021 The Great Flying Hoax as Jago Phillips), and I didn't want the title to give the theme away, I dropped the word Flying.

It isn't unknown for writers to recycle the words they have written, as long as the markets don't overlap. It is also worth noting that publication rights allow it unless a contract specifies otherwise, syndication etc.

- o - O - o -

Things are returning to normal. That means the great lie perpetrated upon humanity by the air industry can continue once more.

It is incredible how many holiday makers and business travellers really believe that dirty great lumps of metal can fly. From the Wright Brothers Hoax of 1903 to the present day, the flying deception has thrived.

Would-be airline passengers are herded onto dummy airliners and once settled, they are subjected to knockout gases which then allow carriers to move them while unconscious to buses and coaches in which to be transported to their expected destinations. At the other end they are taken onto replicas of the aeroplane they boarded at the start and an antidote is pumped through the air conditioning and a planeload of revived aeroplane passengers have arrived!

Long haul ‘flights’ tend to require travellers to be out for longer as shipping internationally takes a good bit more time. The result is colloquially known as ‘jet lag’ – disorientation and weariness ascribed to time differences between far removed locations. The truth is that it is really the effects of being unconscious for longer periods after chemical incapacitation.

Whole industries have been built upon this deceit. Manufacturers have been set up to build things which no rational human being could believe can really float or pass through the sky far above. Likewise, airline operators have grown into behemoths of obscene proportions which exist only to fool as much of the population as possible. Pilot training is all about kidding otherwise normally adjusted members of society into perpetuating the lie. They learn and practise with crude simulators. More advanced models are used when furthering the process of tricking them into believing they really are piloting a metal tube containing a cargo of real people through the skies.

When looking overhead, do we really believe we see aeroplanes passing back and forth along designated ‘air corridors’ amongst the clouds? I’m sorry to have to break the bad news to you – what is seen are optical illusions. The human mind likes to play tricks. If one is told often enough that manmade monstrosities can fly, then eventually it is believed.

Does anyone believe that humankind has developed something weighing over two hundred tons, fully laden, that can fly? Does someone really expect the population to swallow the story that today’s society has the technology to do so such a thing, as well as reach for the stars? Manufacturers using today’s technology can’t even build a car which allows an owner to change a headlamp bulb without having to strip the front end; or a computer that just works without being required to have a degree in computing.

Oh sure, science means being able to launch hundreds of tons of metal into the sky so it flies, but science knowledge can’t combat the common cold which has been around for much longer than the 1903 Wright brothers hoax...

Hoodwinked and sold the world’s greatest porky. Or the prospect of freedom has overwhelmed me!