Category Archives: Cynicism

48

Usually at this time of the year I write about what’s happened over the last year, and what I’m planning for the coming twelve months.

That’ll probably still happen – it just won’t be perfectly in line with my birthday this year. How do I know that? Because today’s my birthday, and I’ve done sod-all about preparing those posts and thoughts.  Which might be a bit of a hint.

So anyway, today I’m 48. I don’t feel it at all, but there we go, that’s how things work out sometimes.

Anyway, blah, resolutions stuff later.

Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I’m really not surprised that there are now some calls to do a safety review of the “Smart Motorways” concept.  It’s a particular source of interest as I travel on the M1 on a regular basis, and that’s one of the roads that will be looked at.

The concept of Smart Motorways ( flexible speed limits, the ability to make the hard shoulder into a running lane at peak times ) is a decent one, but it also missed out a couple of key factors.

The first – and most important – of those is that a huge number of drivers are fucking idiots, and have no idea how to handle the flexibility of the hard shoulder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I can see the hard shoulder being in use – with signs saying so every quarter-mile or so – and no-one using it. (Admittedly, I tend to then use it and make progress past idiots, but I’d rather see the lane being used correctly)   And of course there’s also a significant number of drivers who won’t even use the inside lane, preferring to stay in the middle one, overtaking fuck-all for mile after mile, which also screws things up.

The second factor is that they didn’t seem to think about what happens when someone does have a breakdown or an accident, it necessitates at least a full lane closure (because there’s no hard shoulder to get in to) which screws the traffic up worse than it used to.  Yes, there are refuge areas off the main running lanes, but there was a stat (which I can’t find in a story right now) that only something like 30-35% of breakdowns manage to get to the refuge areas rather than stopping in the live lane.

So yes, I’m not surprised that they’ll probably be getting reviewed – I do think they’re a good idea in general, but at the same time I don’t think they’re all that suitable for UK drivers, primarily because of some of their apparently unique behavioural traits.

Environmental

On my post about mileage and so on, BW commented “No environmental conscience chez toi, then, eh? 😉”   And I can’t deny, that annoyed me a fair bit.

So…

    • That weekend, I hired a car that was supposed to have a better Eco-profile than my current car. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case – it got a lot less MpG than mine, and generally wasn’t very good.  But the intentions were there, at least.  Even though I should’ve stuck to my usual car.
    • Where possible – in this case, the run to and from Oxford – I carried friends, rather than everyone driving individually
    • Taking public transport was simply not a realistic option, for a range of reasons, including
      • I’d still have to drive to my nearest station, and (as I understand it) shorter journeys like that are the worst environmentally, as most of the nastys happen on start-up/warm-up, rather than on longer runs
      • The runs to Oxford and Chichester would both have been over three hours each way, and cost more than the fuel for the entire weekend
      • The journey to Kent wouldn’t have been possible at all
    • Also, knowing the mileage etc., I make use of a carbon offset programme – it’s not perfect, but (I hope) it helps
    • The Big Cat Experience in Kent use most of the money from the experience days and so on to go towards ecological and animal protection/preservation projects overseas.

Outside of those things, there’s also the following other little bits

  • I’m still using a car that’s now ten years old (and passes the MoT emissions test with flying colours) rather than using up a load of resources with a new vehicle
  • My domestic waste/rubbish is absolutely minimal – indeed, if I didn’t have cats, I’d be easily able to get away with one domestic waste collection per month – and I recycle far more than most people.
  • I rarely fly anywhere – the last time was two years ago
  • Most of my electric/electronic devices are recharged via a battery bank that charges off a solar panel, rather than via the mains.

There’s probably other stuff as well, but anyway, it’s a pretty good start.

I fully accept that my environmental profile isn’t perfect – my main downsides are electricity and driving. And I balance as much of that as possible. However, I’m also pretty sure that it’s a lot better than that of most people.

Even more importantly, no matter what I do to improve my profile, it’s utterly irrelevant in comparison to other environmental things. For example, if the new phase of advertising on video screens (particularly the stand-alone street-furniture versions) were deactivated/turned off overnight it would save more in a week than I could contribute in a lifetime.

So – do I have an environmental conscience?  I’ll let you decide – although I think the answer is generally yes.

Reinsuring

The world of Car Insurance is very, very strange.  I truly don’t understand how it all works.

My car insurance is due for renewal in October, so I recently received the renewal gubbins from my current insurer.  They’ve put my insurance up by £60 for the year.  Bear in mind, I’ve not even spoken to them all year, let alone made a claim, and I’ve now got another year’s no claims discount as well.  And yet it’s gone up.

So I shopped around, doing the usual comparison website thing (Meerkats rather than opera singers) and got one that’s actually £120 cheaper than what I was being offered by the current insurer – and with slightly better cover.

Brilliant, I’ll sign up and do that.  Job done. And this is where it all gets weird(er)

My new insurer is actually one I used a couple of years ago. So when I log in to their ‘self-service portal’ to see my new policy, all I can see is the details of the old one. Fuck sake.  (It looks like the policy is actually tied to a combination of my username and password – so I can change password, and now view the new details instead – but I didn’t know that at the time)

So first things first, I call my current insurer to tell them I won’t be renewing with them. It’s the usual automatic phone gubbins, and gives the name of the insurance provider – let’s call them ABC Insurers, for the sake of argument.   I give the correct information, go through, tell them I won’t be renewing, explain why, and it’s as easy as that.

Then I call the new insurers. Who are also using ABC Insurers.  So I go through the correct information for the new insurance, get things sorted, get the documents emailed to me, and it’s as easy as that.

But it’s weird – I’ve used two different companies (well, two different front-ends) and given them the same information (obviously) but one faction is offering me a significantly better deal than both the one I’m on, and the renewal quote from the one I’m on.  But they’re both the same company underneath!

How the fuck does that make sense? Offering the same person two completely different prices (and slightly different packages/benefits)  Why not allow my current insurer to offer the same price as my new one?  It’s all just a bit bizarre.

Anniversal

Having gone through the six years of the bankruptcy process (as I’ve written about many times in that period) today marks a year since that process completed. Time flies, and all that rot.

It’s the final real anniversary of any significance though – even though it came off my record a year ago, most of the banks work on a “Six years plus one” basis (fuck only knows why, but that’s their choice) when it comes to ‘full’ current accounts and the like.

So that’s where we are now – the full “six years plus one” is complete.

It shouldn’t affect things much – it would be nice to have a ‘full’ account with overdraft facility and so on , but only because that’s another thing that is good to have.  I’ve done fine over the last seven years with no overdraft and never needing one, and I don’t see any reason why that would change now.

However, it does mean I’ll almost certainly move away from my current bank’s offering, purely because they were lying dicks about it all the way through the process. Once I’d gone through the first year where I was officially bankrupt, I was fine to have a basic current account. When I got it, I was totally honest with the bank, and they said I could try to apply for an upgrade to a ‘full’ current account on a regular basis (every six months or so) and see how I did.

It was only after three years that anyone mentioned that they wouldn’t give me an account until the “six years plus one” – ‘but it’s not that we have a policy, sir, it’s just that’s how it works, we won’t do it before then‘ – and so had basically lied and wasted my time for all those reviews.  That did cost them money in the end – a complaint went all the way to the Financial Ombudsman, who found in my favour.  (The rule in this case is keep a record of all paperwork and appointments, so you can show a history of wasted time, and stuff that you wouldn’t have done if they’d been honest and said to not bother for seven years!)

So yes, I’ll probably change banks for the current account – I’m not yet sure who to, but we’ll see what happens.

But the most important thing really is that now, seven years on, there’s nothing else keeping me back.

Disconnecting

As part of the whole bankruptcy process (now well and truly complete, of course) I’ve been using a couple of free services to keep track of my credit score.  It’s been useful to know what’s going on, and where things stand.

I primarily use ClearScore (who use data from Equifax) and CreditKarma – who used to be Noddle – and use data from Transunion (which used to be Legatio)

Part of the reports from both of those (and from Experian, whose ‘free’ service is an absolute dumpster fire, and absolutely refuses to allow me to view my own data) involves past addresses, and people with whom one has had a credit connection – things like a shared mortgage, or whatever.

Looking through the CreditKarma stuff in particular, I noticed that they still have a record of my old addresses going right back to Bracknell – bearing in mind, I moved there back in early 2005…   It also still had me linked to Herself for the mortgage we had back on the Norfolk place (which must’ve been 2007/8, if not earlier)

So, I asked them about why this stuff was still on there – bearing in mind, credit stuff is supposed to stay on one’s record for six years and then go – and got a response back that was… less than encouraging.  (Note, I’m going to edit some of this so it’s comprehensible without being comprehensive)

There are several reasons why TransUnion UK hold historic address information [including] something called asset reunification, which is when TransUnion UK helps clients trace the holders of lost or forgotten financial accounts, such as pensions or bank accounts.  So, if you have an account associated with an old address that you don’t know about, financial institutions will be able to find you.

Another reason [we hold] old historic address information is to help organisations trace individuals who have moved without telling their creditors where their new home is (this is known as debt tracing).

For now, let me confirm that TransUnion UK holds address information indefinitely. However, they are reviewing their policy to see if a fixed upper limit can be set on how long they will keep address data for.

The “Indefinite holding” of that data is definitely a no-no. So far as I know, it’s still the case that if a company doesn’t get in touch with a debtor at all for six years, that debt is no longer viable, and is effectively written off.  So historic data could be stored for (I’ll be charitable) seven years, and then get erased. I’d be OK (ish) with that, at least.

But this is information going back more than twice that time.  I’ve now filed requests to lose all of that data – I’ve now been at this one address for longer than the six years usually required – and also to take away the connection to Herself. (I can’t imagine she’d be overly happy to still have that connection either)  We’ll see what happens on those things.

I’m also going to refer this to the Information Commissioner, because I’m pretty sure they’ll be interested in anyone who claims to be storing personal data indefinitely…

Chaotic and Packed

The last couple of weeks have been quiet on D4D™ because life got in the way – and life was just stupidly busy.

Over the last two weeks, I have

  • Attended the 2019 Lead Developer conference at the Barbican in London (involving driving to London late on Monday, two days of conference and hotel, coming home mid-evening on Wednesday)
  • Late-night ferrying of friends after their wedding anniversary meal (and padded out that time by going to the cinema)
  • Done a day on a sponsored walk thing with friends at a fitness group I attend – my own contribution was 32 laps of the 600m track set out for the event, adding up to 19.2km (just under 12 miles) which pleased me
  • Seeing the parents
  • Attending the “Chefs Reunited” one-off meal at Monica Galetti’s “Mere” restaurant – all courses cooked/created by either Monica Galetti or Rachel Humphrey, who worked together at La Gavroche
  • Attending “Conversations with Nick Cave” at the Barbican
  • Been on-site on two separate days in Chesham
  • Done all the usual work schedule stuff as well
    and
  • Before the end of this week, I’ll have also attended two food events this weekend.

I must be utterly, utterly barmy.