D4D

When the revolution comes, my friends...

Archive for the category “People”

Phoneless

Via an article on Raptitude ( The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”) I came across a company called Yondr whose idea/offering seems simple and pretty brilliant.

Basically, they create “phoneless areas” for concerts (as well as other events, but mainly concerts) by locking them away.  The smart bit is that they’re not stockpiled somewhere (which would be way too tempting for thieves etc.) Instead, they’re put in a pouch that locks, and the phone stays with the owner.

If the phone is really needed, there are unlock-stations outside the concert area, so the bag can be unlocked and the phone used.

But – as per the article, and as per my own experience – people in general are fucking lazy, and even that extra effort of moving twenty yards to unlock the phone to use it is more than most can be bothered to do. And so those people stay in place, watch the concert (or whatever) and aren’t distracted by their phones.

I’ve griped (on several occasions) about concerts now where more people seem to be filming the gig through their phones than actually watching it and how distracting that is for those who actually want to see the performance (although Yondr won’t fix the other issues mentioned there of people constantly chatting to their mates while the show is on, or keep going to the bar etc.)  and this seems like a really good way of reducing that desire.

Yondr don’t say how much their service costs to install – I assume it’s not going to be cheap – but I really do hope it’s something that both venues and artists support and promote.  I know I’d be more likely to go to a gig/venue that was ‘phones-free’…

Average 50

At the moment, my daily drive is on the M1, which has roadworks on it through ’til mid-2022. (Yes, it’s a joy)  Throughout those roadworks there’s a speed limit of 50mph, which is monitored by average-speed cameras.   And as I’ve been going through them, I come more and more to the conclusion that the average speed stuff isn’t actually all that safe.

More accurately, I don’t think they’re that safe when it comes to British drivers, and the habits that a lot of them have – which don’t appear to be the same as those of drivers in other countries.

The main problem with averaged 50mph limits is that it means everyone is driving at the same speed – cars, vans, HGVs, all at 50mph (or close to it)   That means that the British-normal of last-minute lane changes for junctions are nigh-on impossible (although that doesn’t actually stop people from trying it) Instead, you need to be aware of the other lanes, and plan to be ready for the junction far further in advance.

Additionally, British drivers being what they are, turn off their brains completely when in average-speed areas, and will just stick to a particular lane with no regard or understanding of anyone around them, or of moving over into empty space to allow others past. On any given day, it’s terrifying to see just how many drivers are there, zoned out, sat in the outside lane and overtaking two lanes of fuck-all.

All told, it adds up to a whole bundle of unsafe situations at any given time of day. I can see (and have seen) people doing this shit at 6am, at 4pm, at 10pm, and at 2am. It just seems to be the way things are in these situations.

Fun and games, fun and games.

 

Laziness and Safety

I regularly drive through Woburn, and at least a couple of times a week I’m amazed at how lazy people are, even when it comes to their own safety.

In the case of Woburn, there are two zebra crossings within a very short stretch of road. There are good reasons for this – the road is usually busy, and fairly fast. But people still cross away from the crossings, where it’s apparently “more convenient” rather than walking a tiny way to the crossing where cars *have* to stop for pedestrians…

The first one looks like this…

image (C) Google Streetmap

This is where most people cross – and you can see the markings for the zebra crossing at the top of the photo (the zig-zags, for non-UK readers) Note also that this is just after a busy crossroads, so has any number of vehicles coming round corners and paying far more attention to other vehicles than to pedestrians. I measured it on Google Maps – it’s 30 metres from here to the crossing. Not even a minute’s walk.  (I’ll also note that all the people avoiding the crossing are able-bodied, so it’s not like they can’t walk that distance.)

The second one (slightly further up the road from here, after a tight choke-point and just round the corner so out of view from this one) looks like this

image (C) Google Streetmap

This one is a bit harder to see – it’s a bit further, at 45m from where people actually cross – but it’s still there, with markings visible across the road.  Here, people cross from the pub to the hotel and back – and again, with parked cars on the right, an extremely tight road with drivers focusing on squeezing through rather than on pedestrians, people trying to park (or turn into the various lanes and archways along this bit) rather than walking that 45m to be able to do so safely.

I know people in general are lazy bastards and so on, but really, it utterly amazes me just how many (and even more so at school times, as there’s a school just back from where this shot is taken) are prepared to ‘save’ time waiting for a space in traffic and then risk their all to cross the road, rather than walking that tiny distance to do so safely (and actually usually more quickly than waiting for that gap!)

I don’t know if they don’t see the crossing, that they’re blinkered to just going straight across the road instead, or if they’re all just fuckwit examples of Darwinism waiting to happen.  Either way, it is (to me) a gobsmacking way to live.

Ignored

This morning, when I rocked up to my office, there was a guy apparently passed out across three of the parking spaces outside.  I couldn’t tell much about him – he was asleep/comatose rather than visibly wounded or bleeding – but it still wasn’t a great situation. In particular I was aware of the upcoming rush hour, and of the speed (and stupidity, and lack of observational powers) of various drivers peeling into apparently empty parking spaces.

I didn’t know whether he’d chosen to sleep there, or had fallen over the railings separating the parking spaces from the pavement and bus stops.

So I ended up calling 101 (the non-emergency number for police services) to report the issue, and let the professionals handle it.  As it turned out, I should’ve called 111 instead (the non-emergency number for NHS) but I’d forgotten that one, but remembered 101.

Anyway, the details were taken – but what surprised (and depressed) me was that my call was the first they’d heard of this particular man. It’s particularly depressing because where he was, he’d been completely visible to any number of people waiting at the bus-stop on the other side of the railings.  (The bus-stop and pavement are slightly raised from the car-park level, so he was definitely visible)

I do understand that a lot of people don’t want to get involved, or all assume that someone else will be doing something. But still, I know that if it were me laying there, I’d at least hope that someone would call the emergency services about me as well.

I don’t know, maybe I’m still feeling all optimistic and stuff, but it just pisses me off when people simply ignore those in need.  And yes, I probably could’ve done more as well – although my first-aid knowledge is rudimentary, and old – but I did what seemed right at the time.

(Oh, and to close this particular tale, he was OK, but intoxicated, and got taken to hospital as a precaution – I saw the ambulance people as they were about to leave, and asked how he was)

Labelling

This week, I’ve found myself actually shocked by the news stories about Pret a Manger and their labelling – and more relevantly, the whole story about the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered an allergic reaction to unlabelled sesame in a Pret sandwich.

The inquest into Natasha’s death was this week – she died two years ago – which is why it’s been in the news this week.

It turns out that the UK’s Food Regulations 2014 have an exception that allows freshly handmade, non pre-packaged food to not be individually labelled – which is the loophole that allowed Pret to get away with not labelling each sandwich individually. To me, that’s disgraceful. The loophole was (understandably) intended for small sandwich bars etc. to not be constrained by huge amounts of red tape. It’s not intended for large commercial efforts. (Although of course they’ve taken advantage of it)

Even worse, Natasha isn’t even the first person to have died as a result of this mis-labelling or lack of information.

All told though, two things in the whole sorry story left me utterly gobsmacked and despairing of people and corporations.

The first was how badly the staff on the flight handled Natasha’s allergic reaction. The doctor who attended to her wasn’t made aware of all the equipment on the plane, and also that “because Natasha went into cardiac arrest as the plane was landing, it would have been unsafe to retrieve the defibrillator from the back of the plane, where it was stored, while Natasha was being tended to at the front” (that quote is from the Guardian story)  I mean really, for fuck’s sake, how robotic and uncaring do you have to be, to go “Nope, I’m not going to get that, we’ve got to be prepared for landing the plane”?

The second thing – and to me, the worst – is the timescales involved. Pret a Manger knew about this issue when Natasha died. Two years ago.  Yet it’s only now, once the coroner has finished the inquest, that they say “We’ll look at changing our labels“. That’s two years where they’ve known about the problem, and have done nothing. I wonder what the reaction would/will be if someone else turns out to have died for the same reason within that time.

I assume there’s been some corporate legal bullshit going on that says that if they changed the labels before the inquest, they’d be acknowledging they were liable, or some such.  Thing is, they were – and are – liable. If the labels had been in place, she wouldn’t have taken that sandwich, and wouldn’t have died. How on earth can that be anything other than being responsible for her death?

Debtor’s Tales

This week I read the story on the BBC of a woman whose father committed suicide because of his debts. It’s an interesting piece – but, having been through that process, there’s something just Not Quite Right about it too.

I know lots of people – particularly middle-aged men – hide their heads in the sand when it comes to debts and so on, in the seeming hope that it’ll all just go away. (Spoiler Alert – It never does)

In this case, the man ended up being declared bankrupt by the local council, as he couldn’t keep up payments having missed one. (And the council behaved shockingly badly, even for local authorities – I know that if I’ve ever had a problem, I’ve got in touch and it’s all been easily sorted. But of course, you have to get in touch)

According to the story, once he missed a payment, the council billed him for the whole year at once. (Again, I’ve received that letter, but then got in touch and got it sorted down to a new monthly amount that accounted for the missed payment to be spread over the remaining payments)  He couldn’t afford the full year, so just didn’t pay anything – and kept on not paying anything.  (There is also a quite stunning degree of stupidity going on here, but I do semi-understand the mindset)

Where I get really twitchy about the story, though, is after he’s declared bankrupt.  Supposedly, the court-appointed trustees for the debt – and this is where he and I differ, in that he was declared bankrupt by someone else, where I declared myself – super-loaded the entire thing with extra charges, which is something that simply didn’t happen with my own Payments Agreement.  From the article…

Straight away he was charged £3,800 in something called “statutory interest”, which took his debt to about £15,500. But that was just the start. Over the next three years my dad actually paid £15,000 to the trustees appointed to collect the debt – the accounting and consultancy firm, BDO – but over the same period the bill from the trustees grew to £72,000.

(c) BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-45581526

Whatever was happening, that was iniquitous – but I don’t know what it was about.  When I got my agreement, it was the amount remaining from my income after all the bills and expenses had gone.  I paid that amount for three years, and that was it. No further charges, no ‘statutory interest’, nothing. The only other thing I had had to pay was the court fees, which came to £700-odd, from memory. That was it. 

Yes, I paid any extra income for three years – but that figure was set at the start of the process, and only changed if my situation did. The entire process was clean, fair, and the best thing I ever did.  Obviously I’d have preferred to not be in the situation where I needed to go through that process, but there we go – hindsight is a wonderful thing on that score.

So yes, it’s a terrible story of what happened to this man. But there’s also a lot that’s not being said, or that (in my humble opinion) needs further exploration.

But as always, the biggest thing to say about it all is that the help is there – so long as you make the effort to find it, to keep in touch, to talk to the right people.  If you just hide away then it’ll all keep on coming back, bigger, nastier and more brutal than before.  There’s no escaping this sort of shit, it just gets worse if you hide from it.

Current Scams

At the moment, there are a couple of interesting (and fairly well-crafted) scams going around.  I’ve seen/received all of these in the last week or so.

Firstthe ‘we know what you’ve been up to‘ scam email.

It says something along the lines of “I know what you’ve been up to – when you were on that porn site (it’s noticeably non-specific on details) I loaded a screen-grabber to your machine, so we could record your ‘activities’“.  Some of them also have something like “We know your password for the site was [whatever]” – the password is usually an old one that they’ve taken from a record including your email address, and gambles on people using the same password across multiple sites. (In fairness, most people do exactly this)  And then it asks for a ransom “or your shame will be available for all to see” It’s pretty basic, but is apparently enough to scare a certain sub-set of people (AKA gullible idiots) who so far have forked out around $250,000 to the scammers.

Second – and there are two types of this currently bonging around – are the HMRC scams.

These basically draw on the whole paranoia about HMRC losing payments, or trying to take the business owner to court.

I’ve had umpteen emails about “Your payment hasn’t gone through” along with attached links or forms to fill in – always a pretty damn good clue that it’s a scam.  And again, they’re all ridiculously non-specific, don’t mention a company name/details, or what the payment is supposedly for – another warning sign

The second type, which is a bit nastier, is the phone message – I’ve had a couple now, with a message saying “We’re issuing a warrant in order to discuss this matter with you“, and sounding a lot more official.  Still no details though, or anything about what they’re wanting to discuss. (I know, in theory GDPR would also stop them from discussing, but that’s a side point for now)   However, they show the phone number – in my experience, calls from HMRC and the like come through a switchboard, and usually show as “Unknown Number” – and a quick search on that number provides more than enough evidence that it’s a scam.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other scam emails out there – it’s just that these are the ones I’ve noticed specifically this week, and particularly after having received a couple of the “HMRC” calls yesterday and today, so I thought I’d write a bit about them.

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