Let’s all take a risk

Pubs have been allowed to open for two days now, and today I see on the news how big a crowd there is outside the pubs/clubs.
Inside, it’s safe.  Well, safer , anyway.  There are screens, barriers, floor markings, etc, reminding people to socially distance, and be careful.
Outside… let’s act like a mob, and see how many people we can cram into a small area.

The attitude of most seems to be ‘it’s not me that’s the problem, it’s everybody else.’

Read more…

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HP Printer Manager

Been doing a lot of printing over the last few months, and keep having problems with my Epson printer.  I want to print in black, on white paper – and now I can only do that if I replace the red ink.  I’ve already had to replace the blue and yellow inks so I can use the black ink.  Not sure why that is, unless… just maybe… could it be that they want me to buy more ink than I need?  Nah, couldn’t be that…

Anyway, I just treated myself to a HP laser printer.  Big advantage is that it only uses black.  It also will do all the printing I need for the next couple of years without me having to buy any more supplies.  It will sit on my desk, doing nothing, until I need it; and then it will do what I need quickly.

I love it.

But…

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Words, Language, and Requests

The English language is a wonderful thing. If you use words, properly, you can convey any thought you have.  If, however, you use words incorrectly, you will be condemning yourself to a lifetime of misery – and never know why.

Every day, people will ask questions that don’t actually mean what they think:

‘Do you have the right time?’

This is a question that should only be answered with ‘yes’, or ‘no’.

The question people think they are asking is ‘can you tell me the right time?’  The answer to this, of course, is exactly the same.

The question people should ask is ‘what is the right time, please?’

This misunderstanding is exacerbated when you want something tangible. Here are a few examples of the same ‘question’ – with appropriate responses:

‘Question’                                           Response

‘I’d love a cup of tea…’                          ‘Oooh, me too…’

‘Any chance of a cup of tea?’                ‘Probably – the kettle is right there, and cafes do exist…’

‘Would you make me a cup of tea?’       ‘Maybe, if you asked.’

‘Can you make a cup of tea?’                ‘It is one of my abilities, yes.’

The common theme here is that none of these is actually asking anybody to make a cup of tea.  The first is simply a statement of opinion; the second is a question about probability; the third is attempting to find out what the answer is before you ask it, and the fourth is simply asking if the responder can make a cup of tea.

‘Will you make me a cup of tea, please’ is, actually, the most direct and grammatically correct way of asking the question – any other phrasing (or variation of the examples above) relies on the person being asked guessing what question you meant to ask, or reading your mind.

Now, you can live with others guessing what you want – assuming they get it right, every time (and just imagine what could go wrong if your doctor guesses whether you want your leg amputated) – or you can say what you want.

Guess which one will succeed more often!

So, how do you do it?

Step 1.

Work out what it is that you actually want.

Step 2.

Ask for it.

That’s it. Simple.

 

Oh… You want more.

Step 1 (revisited).

Work out what you want. If you want somebody to make you a cup of tea, then you should be asking them to make you a cup of tea.  If you want to know if they can make a cup of tea, then that is what to ask them…

If you want your partner to take you to a nearby town, so you can visit a shop, then what you should be asking, obviously, is if they would be willing to take you to a nearby town.  Asking if they were planning to do something that you wanted to do, in the forlorn hope that they had correctly interpreted some random comment made hours earlier and had immediately arranged the universe around your wishes without your needing to actually ask for it, so you can accept the offer without needing to feel grateful…. (Wow, long sentence…)

Stating that you want to go to M&S, in the hope that the listener will think ‘oh, I must immediately make plans to take them there’ ignores a very basic alternative which could easily be the listeners guess – i.e. You could mean that you were planning to go alone, on the bus, and meet a friend.

Until the point at which you ask ‘were you planning to take me?’ both options were equally valid – as were, potentially, dozens more, to a greater or lesser degree.

 

Use the fewest words possible to encapsulate what you want, in the form of a request. But ensure you actually state exactly what it is you want.

Step 2 (revisited).

Ask for it.

That is, ask for what it is you actually want.

Say, ‘will you make me a cup of tea?’ if a cup of tea is what you want.   Note, there is no ‘please’ in there.  A ‘please’ would be nice, but it’s not essential.

Or. If you want to be taken somewhere, as in Step 1, ask for that:

‘Will you take me to the M&S store in [insert town here] tomorrow, please.’  THAT IS ALL YOU NEED.

Work out what you want, and ask for it. Don’t expect others to guess what you want; don’t ask if they were planning to fit in with your plans without even the pretence of a request; don’t try to come up with some clever way of planting a seed in somebody’s head in the hope that it takes root, grows, and bears the fruit you want it to bear.

All of those leave far too much room for error. All of those require the person you ask to do some ‘working out’ – and if you rely on others to work things out, they’ll get it wrong.

If you ask for what you want, the possible answers are ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘can we discuss this.’

(‘Can we discuss this’ covers ‘would another town/day/store be okay?’, ‘do you really need to go?’, and ‘How much?!’)

Dropping a hint, waiting a while, and then asking, will damage your case, of course. What you are actually saying, then, is ‘You were obviously too stupid to guess correctly what I wanted, so I’m going to give you another hint.’

Telling somebody you would like to go somewhere, then asking if they were planning to take you? In what reality would anybody answer ‘yes’ to that?

I’d like to go on a cruise of the Norwegian Fjords, are you planning to take me?

I’d like to travel across America on a motorbike, are you planning to take me?

I’d like to walk along the river tomorrow, are you planning to go with me?

The answer to all of those has to be the same: “Until you asked, the thought never entered my head!  Now, I need time to actually think about it, while feeling ambushed by the unexpected demand.”

Ask for what you want. I guarantee you will notice an increase in the number of ‘yes’ answers you get – if only because the person you ask will know what you are asking for, so they don’t guess wrong.

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You’re doing a great job

I’d just like to say a huge ‘well done’ to all those people who are stockpiling, ready for the end of civilisation.

Seriously.

I’ve just been to do my normal weekly shop, and found the shelves bare.  Not just of the items we’ve been hearing about: sanitising gel, toilet roll, and pasta – no, the stores are now out of meat, milk, cereals, potatoes, bread, eggs, flour…

People are stocking up now, and planning to keep topped up by getting regular deliveries.

It is now at the point that every delivery slot is pre-booked for two weeks.  Planning ahead, you see.

So, again, I say well done.

Congratulations on making sure that you are safe.  No need to worry about anybody else, as long as YOU are okay.

Only….

I’m the one that is supposed to be making those deliveries.  And I haven’t got anything to eat.

Oh dear, I guess I’ll have to take the Government advice, and stay at home.  Which means, of course, that you can only eat if you go out and re-stock – but there won’t BE any stock, because the delivery drivers are staying home and being as selfish as you.

Whoops.

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Thoughts about getting older

I’m getting old(er).

I recently celebrated a big birthday (you know, one of those with a zero on the end), and we moved our annual holiday back a bit so we could celebrate my birthday in the sun.  Corfu, actually.

It’s been a rough year: I had a nasty virus which kept me off work for 6 weeks, and when I went back I was on a ‘phased return’ – which meant I only just managed to get back to my full contract hours the week before the holiday; there was also a bereavement which I won’t talk about here. (Most of you know about this already, anyway.)
Consequently, I was really feeling my age before we travelled, and was in great need of some rest.

Read more…

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Cookie woes, yet again

More and more often, on my phone and on my computer, while looking something up on the internet, I get told that I have to ‘make a choice about cookies’.

For those who don’t know, don’t care, or just can’t remember – a cookie is a teeny tiny text file that is stored on your device by somebody else, so they can watch where you go and build a detailed profile of you and your activities.
This profile is then used for many, many purposes, ranging from targeted advertising to political electioneering.  (Yes, the data collected is used to personally target election promises at you!)

I’ve complained about cookies before, many times, and things have changed a little – there are now laws about them.  It is no longer legal for websites to just put them on your system, they have to have your permission to do so.

Yay!

Yeah… This post is complaining about the way they do that.

A common method is the pop-over.  You arrive at the webpage you want to look at, and just as you start to read, the entire window is darkened, and a new window comes on top of it, asking you to click on ‘accept’ before you continue.

If you simply click, you give them permission to store dozens of cookies on your system – and not just them, you also just agreed that anybody can store a cookie on your system.  Yep, you just agreed that the Nazi party can store the location of the missing gold bullion on your computer, making you an accessory to war crimes… But not to worry, at least you can read about the Cardassians now.

The interesting thing is if when you actually refuse to ‘accept’ the cookies.  You are always given a way to refuse them – although refusing the cookies usually means you are refused entry to the site – so take a look at it sometime.
A common outcome is that you are allowed to choose which cookies to allow.  You have the option of refusing targeted ad cookies, sometimes you can refuse what are known as ‘analytics’ cookies, but always, always, you are told that you cannot refuse ‘required’ cookies.

The last time I looked at what was ‘required’, I was amused to note that the major ad targeting and analytics firms had their cookies listed in the ‘required’ category.  So you think you are refusing to allow them, but you are really giving them permission to do what they want.

And here is the really annoying bit.  There is no way, at all, ever, of not getting any cookies on your system.  If you fill in their pop-up, and tell them that you refuse cookies…

They put a cookie on your system to record the fact that you refuse to give them permission to put a cookie on your system!

If, like me, you have your system set up to reject all third party cookies, then you will be asked every time you visit website ‘x’ you will be asked if they can store cookies on your system.  NO MATTER what answer you give, they will try to store a cookie, find out that they can’t, and complain about how their website will not work as intended.

To which I say ‘good!’  Because the way their website is ‘intended’ to work includes getting as much data about me as it can, and selling it.  Analytics cookies are supposedly there so they can improve the site – by which they mean find out which pages are most popular so they can charge more for the adverts on them.

It’s third party cookies that are the problem, almost universally.  You visit, for instance, your banks website.  If you log in to check your balance, then the website will make use of a cookie to record the fact that you are an ‘authorised’ visitor.  This is good.  But they will also try to put a cookie on your system from Google.  Google is not the owners of the website you are visiting, but are a ‘third party’ to the transaction, with you and your bank being the first two parties.

Once Google have the cookie on your system, then every time you visit any website that utilises Google services this cookie is used to record the visit, in detail.

Once Google have their cookie on your system, everything you do on the internet is recorded!

(Although Google are pretty much the largest, there are many other companies out there doing the same thing – I’m not picking on Google, I’m just using them as they are the most well-known.)

All I want to know is: why is it so hard for us to have the privacy we deserve?
Every time a law is passed to give us this privacy, businessmen find a way around it, and never once stop to think that that is the reason the law was made in the first place!

Rant over.

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Something has gone wrong, somewhere…

As my (possibly now long gone) regular readers know, I have tried very hard to moan about everything.  I have gone out of my way to be unpleasant, and I have never cared about popularity.

I took pride in it!

Three and three-quarter years ago, my world changed completely.  My partner of three decades passed away.  (And I still tear up a little when I write that…)
I’m proud of the way I recovered from that blow.  I can honestly say the months that followed it were the darkest I’ve ever known – and the fact that I’m still here can be attributed entirely to my little dog: he made me eat, he made me go to bed, and he made me get out of the house every day.

Hmmm… this is going in entirely the wrong direction…

OK.  When I started to live again, I got a job.  At a supermarket.  (Yep, goes against most of what I’ve said on here in the past.)
The job was making deliveries in a van, and I loved it for two and a half years.  But I was too good at it, and they took me off the road.  (True, in fact I was SO good, I did a five hour shift in three hours.  Pity they were tracking my speed, really…)

For the last year (roughly) I’ve worked IN the store – stacking the shelves, officially.  During this time, I’ve volunteered to learn, and become qualified as, a picker, checkout operator, and petrol station attendant.
Very useful, that – it means I can get overtime in any one of four departments!

Our company has an awards scheme – the service superstars.  If you creep enough with a customer, and the customer makes it official by writing or emailing their praise, you can get a ‘wow’ comment on your record.  A ‘wow’ will probably mean you get the bronze service superstar award, which is supposed to be a badge, but I’ve never seen anybody with one.

Once you have a bronze, you can be considered for Silver.  To get silver, you have to be the best in the month.  You either get more ‘wows’ than anybody else, or get special notice for some reason.
For Silver, you get a certificate and a badge.

Twice a year, all those who got Silver (since the last Gold award) are eligible for the Gold Service Superstar award.  Now this is the biggie.  To get the Gold, you do not have to be nice to customers, you do not have to creep around management… No, all you have to do is be liked.  Period.
Every member of staff in the store gets a vote, and the one with the most votes wins.
When you win, you get a special badge.  Yay!  Oh, and you get presented with the badge at a Social event along with every other Gold winner in the region.  As I understand it (I could be a little wrong) the last awards were given in a box at a football match, at Manchester United’s ground, after dinner.

Oh, and once you have the Gold, you cannot ever be considered for Silver or Gold again – you have reached the highest pinnacle in customer service.

All sounds grand, right.

Well I hope so.  Because I just got Gold.

Yep.

To my recall, I never got a ‘Wow’ comment from a customer.  I do not recall ever getting the Bronze – I certainly never got a badge.

I got the Silver because a Manager nominated me for it.  Apparently, the fact that I always said ‘OK’ when they gave me a job to do was exceptional.  Seems that many of my colleagues prefer to argue, or find reasons why they cannot do the job.  But… I’m paid to be there, I’m paid to work, so I work.  And I smile while I do it.
(I had around twenty years where I wanted to go to work, and was unable to – so I’m really happy to be working!)

The last few weeks, my colleagues have been voting, and I found out yesterday that they had voted for me.  I won by a comfortable margin – in fact, the person I really wanted to beat got half as many votes, in total, as the difference between me and the nearest competitor!  (e.g. If they got ten votes, then I got twenty votes more than the second placed colleague.  Those are not the real numbers, but give you an idea.)

I’m now waiting to find out when and where the award will be made.  But in the meantime, I’m making the most of my position:
The store manager complained to me yesterday that he now had to find something nice to say about me, but he relaxed when I gave him permission to lie.
Two other managers yesterday gave me a job, and I said ‘no.’  When they got annoyed, I reminded them that I was now at the top, and didn’t have to try any more!  They agreed, and went off to annoy somebody else.

The thing is…  How on earth did I become popular?  I’ve tried so very, very hard to be annoying!

Something, somewhere, is very, very wrong!

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Adventure001 vouchers are not worth the paper they’re printed on

For Christmas, my partner gave me what should have been a dream gift: a pleasure flight in a helicopter.

Sadly, it is anything but a dream…

You see, what they actually bought was a voucher, that entitled me to register on a website, enter the voucher code, and then exchange it for the flight.
Only it doesn’t work.

We’ll start with the simple fact that the telephone number they give is not included in any free minutes you may have – you have to pay for the call.  So I didn’t call.  I went onto the website.  Where they insisted I register – giving them all my data which they can then sell.
Not just that, but part of registering is entering the code on your gift voucher – and you have to enter a valid gift code to get in.  Note that, please: the code has to be valid.

OK.  I registered, got into the website, and couldn’t find where I was supposed to enter my code to get the flight.  So I emailed them.  Their reply?  Register on the site, and follow the instructions.
But… that’s exactly what I did do!  And I said that, in my email…

I dig around, and finally spot a bit of small print that says it can take up to a week for a code to verified.  So I wait, checking every day.  Then I go away for a few days, to a wedding, so I don’t check for 4-5 days – and when I do check, I see that there is a new button on the website, something like ‘book your date’, and I think ‘yes!’

Only, when I click on it, I’m told I need to enter a valid code.  And my code is not valid.  But you need a valid code to get in to the website….?

I email them again, and they tell me to phone them.  So I get my partner to phone them…  £3 and ten minutes later, we’re still waiting for an answer!  (We did learn something interesting, though – every few seconds, we got a recorded message saying that all their team members were busy dealing with other customers.  As I commented to my partner, it shows how bad they are, if all their staff are tied up with complaints for ten whole minutes…)

I email them one more time, telling them that I refuse to pay for a phone call, and ask why they are incapable of dealing with problems via email.

I’m still waiting for a reply.  I hear that they are terrible at emailing, which is not a surprise – they can’t charge you for emails, after all.
No, they want you to phone them, and spend hours waiting for an answer

The conclusion I am forced into is a simple one.  Flights for all at  https://www.adventure001.com has been set up for the sole purpose of selling vouchers – which have no value.  The business plan is that you, the customer, finally realise that it is cheaper to buy a helicopter flight with somebody else than it is to spend hours on the phone trying to get the flight you were given.

If you think about it, it IS the perfect scam.  The person trying to book the flight is not the customer – and has NO rights.  The person who has the rights lost them the second they gave the voucher to somebody else.
In the eyes of the law, the contract is between the supplier and the purchaser – you actually have no right to a refund of money you never paid, and those businesses who refund or exchange gifts only do so as a sign of good faith – they are under no legal obligation to do so.

My partner arranged the gift over the phone, and the flight is from a local small airfield – the same one I flew a plane from three years ago.  And I know that I can drive out there any day, and book a pleasure flight in a helicopter, or even book lessons.  No advance payment, just turn up on the day, pay, and wa-hey!
I seem to remember that it was cheaper than the voucher, too.

So please, if you want to give somebody a dream present, make sure you go direct.  It’s cheaper, and you get to see them enjoy it – because you have to go with them to pay for it.

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Militant Vegans – why?

Every week, we have friends to dinner.  And every week, we go to them for dinner.  So what? I hear you say.  Well, the friends in question are vegetarians.

It’s not easy, but every week I manage to come up with a meal that we can all eat.  Usually, this means doing two separate main items – one meat, one not.
Conversely, my friends will cook meat for us when we go there.

We work around each other, as any decent people would.

Which is why I’m so annoyed at the militant vegans.
They choose not to consume animal products.  Fine.   That’s their choice, and I will support it. (By consume, I mean eat, use, or wear.)
But they also insist that nobody else should consume them either.

Why?

You have made a choice – but why do you think you have the right to force that choice on others?

Read more…

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What a load of *****!

In the news today is a story about Tesco being sued for pay disparity – or sexual discrimination.
Apparently, men working at the distribution warehouse are paid £11 an hour, while women on the shop floor (Supermarket shop floor, not factory) are only paid £8 an hour.  Shock, horror!

Only…

They are paid £8 an hour in the store, whether they work on the tills, in the petrol station, stack shelves, pick for home deliveries, or move cages in the ‘warehouse’ at the back of the store. Read more…

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