07 December 2007

Isis - My first Christmas Card!

Isis - My first Christmas Card!, originally uploaded by jacqamoe.

28 May 2007

GRRRR: Sign on, for bullshit

Sign any petition on petitions.pm.gov.uk by all means, but don’t expect it to inform the governments thinking in any way. From the ‘road pricing’ one to the one pleading for help to stop the dreadful wage slashing in the name of equality that Staffordshire County Council are up to , the responses are a list of reasons why the government will not change its position.

They’re in thrawl to big business and certain pressure groups - ‘the public’ will not influence them one bit.

What is really needed in any case is an organised campaign - a coalition of driven individuals, focused and abale to respond in the media.

I’m off to create a petition to urge the PM to “take notice and act upon one of these petitions, instead of just emailing signatories with a link to a list of excuses.”

Is it a conspiracy theory to suggest that the internet petiton site is one of Tony Blair's great spin masterpieces? It’s so easy to set one up that no actual orgaisation or well thought-through campaign is needed - people don’t have to communicate, organise or form into groups that can pressure government.

Enter your email and we can tell you all, individually, why we’re not listening.

05 May 2007

GRRRR: Enviro-guilt

IMG_4060, originally uploaded by 2wichita.

Last week on Radio 4 there was a programme that tasked itself with "counting the environmental cost of football fans traveling away to support their team". What sanctimonious rubbish, symptomatic of the media's deal with the status quo - that is to promote "what you can do to stop global warming" and shy away from "what the government can do" or "what legislation could force industry to do".

Recycle, don't fly off on holiday, use energy efficient lightbulbs, etc, etc. To pick on the 'unnecessary' travel of a tiny proportion of the (mainly) working class such as travel to watch football, is the work of an idiot. How many pointless miles are notched up by business (or even media) travel, to meetings where a phone call, email, or IM would of done?

Just to think about it - there are 48 (around) league football matches a weekend, an average away following might be 500 tops (Prem might get 3,000, division four - er League Two - bight be 50 if they're lucky), so we're talking 20,000 people traveling a minimum of 10 miles (Birmingham away at Wolves) , max maybe 500 (Southampton at Wigan -next season). It's a insignificant number, one which could be cut at a stroke if rail travel was back to it's British Rail best (now did you ever think that you'd hear that?), most people don't yearn to sit in a car when going away, they'd much rather cheap, convenient rail travel. You could solve this with a stoke of a pen Gordon Brown, instead of pissing our future away with Public Private Finance initiatives.

It's with this attitude that the bombardment of how much better for the environment it'd be if we "stopped using supermarkets and bought every thing at our local shops" comes. What absurd middle class nonsense, the free reign of capitalism has left most people without local shops to go to - even if their 'flexible working' (for which read - you work when we tell you, no matter what time it is) gave them time. Supermarkets are cheaper, and unless you have disposable income to chose elsewhere - eco-friendly as a leisure activity - there's not a lot you can do.

We've all got to do our bit, but 'we' isn't just individuals - aren't our leaders meant to lead?

30 April 2007

AWWWW: Lolrus


Lolrus is a large aquatic mammal who one was the proud owner of a bucket - no longer.

the continuing saga.

02 April 2007

GRRRR: Just how can the working class show its displeasure, then?

England fans booed Steve McClaren and his team's performance against Andorra in Barcelona the other night, I know, I was one of them. Despite what the media reported, we didn't start about 10 minutes in - we started almost immediately. There may even have been boo-ing before kick off, but I was still struggling with the inefficient stewarding and trying to get in.

We booed, we sang "you don't know what you're doing", we - in self mocking irony - sang for David Beckham, I even tried to get the crowd to call for the return of Graham Taylor (although I had more success with Walter Winterbottom).

This was a fairly big story, but for every journalist taking notice there was one dismissing the crowd as "ugly, fat, beery" (The Guardian) and suggesting that they "weren't true England supporters". Snobbery at it's worst, as was Alex Ferguson suggesting that "Dancing on Ice's had created a culture of mockery" that was responsible for the stick the England manager was getting. What has the physical attractiveness, or the TV viewing habits of the fans (though I seriously doubt that audiences of MOTD and Dancing on Ice overlap much) got to do with the worth of their opinion - or to use the dreadfully modern phrase "their right" to voice it.

What the journalists, players and ex-players really mean is "how dare they comment". "How dare you force your opinions on us".

The real problem with the media is the false hope they give people of their opinions being listened to, email, text, phone 606, "we want to hear what you think". But the media don't , they want more sales, and the people that "run" football certainly don't. I've heard recently about the press officer of a league club that sent a letter threatening to sue an internet forum for deformation (sic) over mentions of his poor spelling and grammar.

When you do phone 606 or (glory be!) your "texs" is read out, your the opinion will be dismissed because "you've not played the game", or you'll be patronised because "it's more difficult than it looks out there". After the England v Israel debacle the previous Saturday the 606 host Mark Bright used phrases very similar to that while also defending Steve McClaren's record "he won that [the UEFA cup]" (er no he didn't the caller corrected - his team were outclassed and stuffed 4-0 in the final).

So, we shouldn't boo - or be overweight - what should the average supporter do? Conduct a letter writing campaign to The Times? Get elected to his local FA, climb the greasy pole and arrange for the manger's dismissal over a nice Chateau Neuf de Pap (don't be beery)? Or maybe texting The Sun's rant line will make a difference.

The people that truly have the most invested in the England team are the fans, they cry, they're incandescent with rage in front of TVs in bars and homes, but heaven forbid they show anything but deference in person.

Hope lies in the proles. Wrong again Winston.

21 March 2007

AWWWW: Robops - that's robot falcons

pigeon on hand, originally uploaded by flappingwings.

In a very bizarre twist, Liverpool City Council have bought a load of robot falcons to scare off pigeons.

More on bbc.co.uk

Even more odd - they're called 'Robops' not quite sure how that relates to their job, their appearance, or even what type of bird they're meant to be.

19 March 2007

GRRRR: Service games

Call Esther Rantzen!, originally uploaded by webby.

Esther Rantzen's TV programme That's Life! used to do the odd skit on 'consumer problems', Adrian and Gavin would read our the, increasingly exasperated, letters that the customer had sent and the company's replies with comic pauses and everything was sorted out in the end. One famous case involved British Gas (publicly owned as it was then) whose new computer system had sent out a bill for £0.00 and then threatening cut-off for non-payment. This was entertainingly bizarre, and unusual, and held interest all the way to Doc Cox's witty song, which was no doubt something to the tune of his "I'm a Wanker" song with different words, or "I'm the Gas Man" to the tune of The Beatles "Taxman".

The here point being that up to the early eighties it was rare enough to have protracted trouble with a large company to make it a TV item, they had complaints departments, you could write to them - or telephone if you wished - but more usually they would have a branch in your local high-street. You could pop-in, although not on Wednesday afternoons or Saturdays or Sundays, and if it came to it refuse to leave until they'd sorted it all out.

It was rare to have that much trouble anyway, you bought something, it either worked or it didn't and if it didn't someone would come round to repair it.

Not any more.

Now every purchase over and above the price of a pint comes with labyrinthine 'Terms and Conditions' documents, the ultimate get-out clause (or hundreds of closely-typed clauses). You'll probably find, upon employing a legal professional, that British Gas aren't actually obliged to pump the gas you've bought to you, that iPods aren't actually supposed to play music, or last for much over a couple of months.

When something does go wrong, the merry-go-round starts spinning. The shop you've bought it from is actually a franchise and doesn't deal with returns, or repairs, and you have to call a 'customer services' number. More often than not their first gambit is to pack you back off to the shop - after they've told you to turn it off and on again.

Almost all of the call-centre customer service experience seems to be wilfully designed to stop two things: admission of guilt or responsibility, and not having the company have to act in any way. First-line support is brilliant at this, whilst keeping up a nauseating level of obsequiousness. "Bear with me Mr Smith".

It starts at management level, by deliberately employing people with a limited grasp of English, both abroad and in the UK, who are not able to deviate from the scripts they're given. Intelligent people can use reasoning to solve problems, they can tell when a complaint is reasonable, but they wouldn't want to work in such poor conditions for such low wages. On top of this is the culture of fear, of targets for numbers of calls dealt with, a call passed on to people who can actually deal with the problem is a black mark. Recently I had trouble with a service offered my by mobile phone operator (for a fiver extra a month!), it is a fairly complex system and has it's own dedicated support team. Not that you'd find out by calling the main customer services helpline - it took me over 2 hours of arguing to get put through to the right people. I was continuingly given solutions to different problems with different software. Poor training, whether deliberate or not really does make for some of the worst-spent time of your short life.

The operators lie, and fob you off - the brilliant one for mobile phone companies is "switch it off an back on again". Knowing of course that you're calling on the phone and if it doesn't solve the problem you'll have to call back. Most of the time you'll give up, and they can tick a little tick box.

Despite, of course, your call being recorded "for training and monitoring purposes", quite often a repeat phone call will reveal no trace of the first one you've made. Promises to return calls won't be kept and that person with special responsibility who is 'on leave' will never return. Comet claimed not to have received any of our phone calls or letters when we had a problem with our dishwasher, despite sending an engineer out to fix the problem, although when a Small-Claims Court summons reached them they sent us a cheque. Odd, when they made it clear that they'd never been contacted about the problem, and it wasn't their fault or responsibility anyway.

When your life turns into That's Life! and you spend more time on your mobile to their customer services that your friends, there's something wrong with the culture of service. It's something that our 'respect' obsessed government could sort out, perhaps a start would be plain English service agreements so you could understand just how little service you'd signed up for. And they could start putting items about deformed vegetables on the telly again.