D4D

If brains were dynamite, you might just have enough to blow your nose.

Archive for the category “Cynicism”

One of Those

Customer-services-wise, it’s been one of those weekends again…

While driving home on Friday evening, the windscreen got hit right on the edge by a stone, and cracked. Obviously the impact speed must’ve been fairly high, and it caught at just the right point, so it’s a fairly significant crack, and one that would almost certainly fail the MOT test (which thankfully is no time soon)

So when I got home I called the car insurance’s glass repair/replace number, and organised getting the windscreen replaced. (A fix isn’t going to be feasible, it’s new windscreen time) That all went ok, until we got to their next available appointment.  Which was… May 9th.  Yep, three weeks time, to replace a windscreen.  Safe to say, not happy.  I went back to the insurance company direct, explained why I wasn’t happy with that – I don’t even want to think about what would happen if I were in an accident while the windscreen were damaged. I’m willing to bet that they’d deny the claim, even with having the appointment in place, and the insurance company informed.   They’re like that.

Anyway, they gave me a different number to call. Same company, different number, and as soon as I was speaking to them, suddenly a slot came free for a week’s time, rather than three. How amazing.

So it’s lined up to be sorted this coming weekend.  I’m still not entirely happy about it, but it’s better than waiting nearly a month (because of other things, the replacement would actually have been another week after the ‘first available’ slot…) for it to be done.

 

Then today, I looked at my business account online, and there’s a couple of transactions I don’t recognise, and know I haven’t made. I call the bank, get them recorded as fraudulent, get the money back and so on.  And that’s all OK.

But.  But.   The pattern of these transactions was precisely the pattern that’s used in fraudulent transactions.  Two small (or smallish) transactions, this time both at the very top of the contactless transaction limit, in very quick succession, with a company I haven’t dealt with before.  And then, within twenty-four hours, another large-value transaction, also with a company I haven’t dealt with in a while.  That’s the absolute fingerprint for a fraud transaction – the first two check the card’s validity etc., the second is to make sure it hasn’t triggered systems or been registered as stolen, and then they try to profit from it.

As it turns out, in my case the big transaction was a valid one, but that doesn’t change the issue.

So that pattern of three transactions should have triggered every automatic fraud detection system, and put a hold on my card that would’ve then been dealt with during the big transaction. That’s what’s happened before with the same bank, the same account – except they were valid transactions that just happened to be in that order.  And no-one can currently tell me why it’s not been triggered this time.

I’m not harmed in either case. I’ve got the money back, I’ll be getting a new card, and everything’s fine.  I’ve raised a complaint about it, and I’m pretty sure that absolutely nothing will happen with it.

But yeah, the two things over three days, it all just gets a bit wearing, I could do with not having to deal with it.

Ah well. Fun and games.

Sugar Tax

On Friday, the UK introduced a “Sugar Tax” on sweet drinks, purportedly to help reduce childhood obesity. Will it work? Personally, I doubt it.

There’s a few reasons – first and foremost, that a lot of manufacturers have already chosen to reduce the sugar levels in their drinks to put them into lower rates for the sugar tax.

Connected to that, diet and zero-calorie versions of most of those drinks have been available for years. If people haven’t chosen to swap by now, will paying 10p extra make them change? Probably not.  There’s not even a really visible price difference – at least two of the shop chains I use regularly have upped the price on all the drinks, not just the sugary ones, which also defeats the object.  If there were a visible difference ( “I can buy 500ml of the sugary one for £1.50, or the diet one for £1.35, so I’ll save money”) then it might work, but without that, I don’t see that there’s a real driver to force the change.

Alongside that, I *personally* have a problem with government telling me how to be healthy, and attempting to enforce that. I have the same issue when it comes to smoking, the way government encourages people to stop smoking, while also getting massive amounts of income from the tax and duty on cigarettes. (This also applies for alcohol, telling people to drink less while getting the income from the tax and duty, and so on and so on)

I also suspect that there’s a lot more damage done by the ‘invisibly’ sweet drinks – the bizarre creamy milky super-sweet concoctions from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa et al – which now seem to be far more prevalent than sweet fizzy drinks.   I suspect there’s a lot more of the obesity blame that can be laid on the coffee culture now than can be laid at the soft-drinks industry.  I’m not even sure that the coffee chains are being hit by the sugar tax – I haven’t seen any mention of it being on anything except the soft-drinks industry.

It’ll be interesting to see the results – although of course the government will always claim it to have been a massive success, even when it’s a clusterfuck of monumental proportions – but I really don’t expect to see it have any positive effects on reducing obesity, whether in children or adults.

A Different Value of New

Out of interest, how the hell do the BBC get to promote a show as “Brand New!” when it’s been exhumed from the 80s and 90s (and potentially the 2000s, too)

Yes, I’m referring to the “Brand New… Generation Game“.

What. The. Absolute. Fuck?

Utterly Unsurprised

At the moment the media is full of the story about Cambridge Analytica, and it’s use of Facebook profiles/data in order to (allegedly) provide personality profiles and feedback to campaigns such as the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Personally, I’m more surprised at how shocked and amazed most people are about this.

Facebook has never really been about being useful to people – it’s always been a marketer’s wet-dream, getting people to voluntarily enter information about themselves, as well as about their interests, social connections, preferences, brands, and so on.  The ‘social network’ thing was effectively a mechanism to make things work better for advertisers and marketers – it drew people in, it made them happy to give up their data, and their ‘reward’ was to connect with other people.

In the case of Cambridge Analytica, they appear to have taken the submitted data and linked profiles (as well as the ‘friends of friends’ profiles, which is pretty dodgy as they didn’t consent to it themselves, but again, I’m pretty sure that was part of Facebook’s allowances at the time) and then made use of that data for their own uses.  Which isn’t – or at least shouldn’t be – Facebook’s problem.  Supposedly the data from Facebook ‘wasn’t meant to be shared with others’, but that’s pretty tricky to word. If a vendor has sold me something (regardless of whether that product is data, goods, services, or whatever) and I’ve paid for it, then it’s mine to with as I will.  It’s no longer the vendor’s responsibility.  Otherwise we’re saying “I bought a car and drove it at people, it’s the vendor’s fault, they shouldn’t have sold it to me“, which is frankly fucking ridiculous.

There’ll be a lot more of these ‘stories’ to come out now, from any number of different data providers/handlers.  Now Facebook are in the media’s gunsights, they’re going to have a tough time getting out of it.  (And bearing in mind the ubiquity of Facebook logins on other sites for things like commenting, etc., it’s going to be quite the shitshow, I suspect)

All told, though, it’s just utterly unsurprising – except for the apparent shock of so many people who seemed to think that Facebook was some kind of benevolent ‘let the world stay in touch’ thing, with no cynical over-arching purpose, budget, plan, or activities.

Darwin Strikes Again

I can’t deny, there’s a certain part of me that is quite happy with Darwinism, and the way idiots seem to find new and exciting ways to take themselves out of the genepool.  (And before anyone asks, I’ve been reading the Darwin Awards for years!)

Today’s news carried the story of an American couple where one was killed “as a YouTube prank” because he believed that a thick book would stop a bullet. So he put said book over his chest, and got his partner to shoot him.  Yep, you read that right.  (It’s also worth noting that the book was only 1.5 inches thick. So, not very.)

Bear in mind, when people are testing firearms, one medium that’s used to fire into is a block of telephone directories. (You can see an example here on YouTube, and there are many others)  So a book that’s less than two inches thick? Yeah, no chance.

As it turns out – unsurprisingly – the guy died.  His girlfriend – the one he persuaded to make the shot – has now been jailed for six months, although as the story says, the sentence is actually pretty lenient, as it’s obvious that the entire plan was made by the now-deceased, and his partner was just an idiot who believed he knew what he was talking about.

Yes, it’s a sad story, but at the same time it’s also a story of pretty epic stupidity…

False Flags

Over the last week or so, there’s been an incredible amount of news coverage about the (alleged) ‘attempted assassination’ of an Russian ex-spy in Salisbury.

Today, the news has been full of stuff about how the nerve-agent used ‘points the finger at Moscow’, which just pings all the ‘yeah, but’ bells in my head.

Now, I’m not trying to say “Russia wasn’t involved”, because I simply don’t know.  But… this sort of “well it must’ve been them, they’re the ones who made it” ‘evidence’ and hype always makes me a bit twitchy.  If you extrapolate that, you might as well say that a car manufacturer must be responsible for every accident on the road, “because they’re the ones who made it”.

I don’t know enough on this one way or the other.  But if I were a player on a much larger political stage, and I wanted to (for example) divert public and media attention away from one ongoing political clusterfuck, and point it all somewhere else, I’d be looking at making a Big Bad Enemy that can be blamed for Why You Should Be Afraid. And I’d probably work to either get materials that can be attributed to that Big Bad Enemy, or… well, or just make up all that ‘evidence’. Because of course it’s all ‘top secret’ and ‘in the interests of national security’, so they’re never going to produce that evidence in public anyway.

And it’s impossible to imply that only Russia had access to this stuff.  If nothing else, American scientists (and there’s no way there weren’t security/agency personnel in that entourage!) visited and helped decontaminate the plant where the nerve agents in question were being produced.  If they were approved for Russian military use (and they were) then those nerve agents would’ve been distributed to army installations and so on. All too easy at that point for them to be ‘mislaid’ and/or sold or stolen to anyone else.

All told, this entire story stinks, and rings very much as “A big boy did it, and ran away!”  It’s all just a bit convenient.

Married At First Sight

Following on from Valentine’s Day, Channel 4 has a documentary series going about people who have allowed themselves to be paired up by scientists and specialists, signing up to meet on their wedding day. (It turns out that this is actually the third series of it in the UK – and the results on the previous two series haven’t been all that promising!)

They’ve done it with some run-up in order to do all the stuff like declarations of intent to marry, telling family and friends, and make all the preparations. So they get told that they’ve been paired up (and are now ‘engaged’) and then six weeks later they’ll meet for the first time and get married.

Thursday’s episode was the first one, and basically all the set-up and preparations. From there I assume it’ll be about the aftermath, and how they work out once the wedding is done.

Marriage is something that, to be honest, leaves me cold – it really hasn’t ever appealed to me at all, and it’s never been on the list of Things To Do. And so far, there’s never been anyone I’ve been with who’s changed that opinion, or made me think differently about it at all.

But I do still find it an interesting concept, and the whole arranged-marriage type thing, of seeing how people handle that and so on.  Whether I continue watching the programme or not is a different matter, but for now it’s at least vaguely interesting. We’ll see.

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