Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The lights are going out

Yes I know I've not been keeping my blog up to date. I haven't abandoned it just not had anything much to say that couldn't fit into a pithy 140 characters on Twitter which is my ranting outpost of choice these days.

Mind you it's not just me; I've noticed a lot of blogs have fallen by the wayside of late. Old Holborn gets paid to blog on blottr (sensible man), Steve over on Natural Yoghurt has hung up his blogging boots and I'm wondering if we might be coming to the end of an era when it comes to blogging. Some might say its because in the spate of a few well-publicised cases we've all become more aware that a careless, throwaway remark will have The Dibble kicking your door in at 3 in the morning and hauling you off for "hate speech" or some other trumped up charge under a law some NuLabour twat farted out of her arse a few years back. Certainly there's little in the way of those whistleblower / what really happens at work blogs left as employers have got wise to that and subtle and sometimes not so subtle pressures get applied; I can understand that having pulled my work blog some time ago

Maybe for some people keeping blogging day after day is hard going for no reward, and it's impressive some blogs have lasted this long.

I'm not closing the blog as I'm sure something will either tickle me to amusement or get me into an incandescent rage that I can't express in a little box on Twitter so keep an eye on the Grumpy Dragon from time to time as I'm sure I'll be back.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I bought a new printer the other day; nice little wifi HP job that has a scanner built into it and a cute colour touch screen on the front.

I needed a new printer because my old one (which I blogged about getting) has started putting random splodges of colour on every printed page, even after running the cleaning routine. Now back in the old days printers were quite pricey pieces of kit that if it broke would probably be worth repairing. Not so now; if I were to even try and get the old printer fixed it would cost me almost as much as a new one just in postage to send it off and 58 quid gets me a brand new faster, shinier printer delivered so it's a no-brainer.

But I looked at the old printer this morning, sat in the "must take this crap to the tip sometime" along with the coffee machine that started leaking scalding arabica over the kitchen work surfaces, and wondered how much longer this consume - dispose - consume can continue. I'm no eco-weenie but it's galling to see that this lump of plastic and glass is going to end up in a landfill somewhere (it's probably not even cost effective to recover any metal from it) when it's probably just a tiny cheap part that needs replacing.

I am consuming less and I certainly don't go in for this "must have the latest shiny iToy" nonsense but even if I wanted to Hewlett Packard have made sure I'll not be fixing my own printer as it appears to have been glued together. The same goes for Apple's impenetrable products where you can't even replace the sodding battery.

The message is clear. Buy a new one. "Make do and mend" is dead.

Friday, June 29, 2012

There but for the grace of the angels go I.

So if you have a RBS, NatWest or Ulster Bank account you probably don't need telling that something went very, very badly titsup last week. Stories of people being stuck in jail as their bail could not be paid, people temporarily homeless as solicitors couldn't hand over keys on house transactions and so on and so forth.

It appears the cause was a screw up in operating the software which schedules the processing of the various software programs that makes up the bank's "books" as it were. When I first started in IT I was a junior programmer writing those kinds of programs on a Burroughs mainframe for what was then The Midland Bank. The overnight suite must have been over 150 discrete programs all of which had dependencies on others and the RBS suite is almost certainly no different and probably much more complex and relies on a lump of code called "CA7" to ensure everything runs when it should. Now it seems some change was made within CA7 that didn't work and needed to be "backed out"; this sort of thing happens all the time in software releases and before releasing any change to a production environment you always, without fail, have a backout plan. Regrettably for RBS a junior numpty, hired on the cheap and operating out of Hyderabad  (RBS having saved money by sacking all the UK based very experienced staff) rather than removing the change removed everything, completely wiping the schedule database.


This fiasco will probably end up costing RBS, in other words me and you the taxpayers, upwards of 500 million quid when everything is taken into account. How's that cost saving working out for you RBS?

I do feel sorry for the junior numpty though; that must have been the longest stomach-churning "Oh fuck. What have I just done" moment in history. And I defy anyone in IT to say they've never had one.

Mine was back in those junior coder days, wrangling COBOL on the overnight batch systems. Late on friday there was some urgent patch needed to a part of code that handled automated cheque book issuing (back when people used cheques our code worked out when you were running low and ordered a new book to be printed and sent). I made the change but didn't really have time to test it but it was a two line change and I told my supervisor this.

"Are you sure it's OK? You sure you put that full stop in the right place?" she said whilst putting her coat on. Clearly she didn't intend to check it.

"Yes, definitely" said a supremely confident dragon and uploaded the code and clocked off.

I woke on Saturday morning with the gnawing feeling something was wrong. I could see the code in my head. I could see that full stop. It was in the WRONG FUCKING PLACE!

I'd terminated an "If... Then... Else" structure too early.

I have ordered every single Midland Bank current account customer a new sodding cheque book at a cost to the bank of tens of thousands of pounds.

After regaining control of my stomach I started to contemplate what my new career would be because it certainly wasn't going to be computer programming. Maybe herding yak in Tibet would be more my line.

Monday came and I went in to face the music. All the team looked at me as I walked in. I waited for the hammer to fall.

It never did. In inadvertently screwing up that if/else structure I'd caused some other part of the subroutine to fail and so no books got ordered at all. The code could be patched (and I did the patch) so the missing sends would get picked up on the next run. I'd dodged a bullet and, 25 years later, I'm still wrangling code and not yak.

Don't think that chap in Hyderabad is going to get that chance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to win at business (or not)

From: Dracunculus Draco
To: Landscape Gardener X

Hello Landscape Gardener X

Thank you for your visit this morning.

On reflection and with discussion with my partner we are writing to ask  you not to quote on the garden work we require. It did seem to us that you did not really understand what we wanted from our garden, in fact you rather seemed to wish to impose a solution that would be the simplest for you to implement (or were competent enought  to implement), rather than what we actually wanted; in particular despite telling you that we did not want a patio you could park a 747 on numerous times this was the "solution" you repeatedly returned to.

I understand you will be disappointed at not securing this contract but as a businessman may I possibly offer you some advice when dealing with prospective clients, based on our interactions this morning:

1) Arriving 45 minutes late for an agreed appointment without any apology or explanation does not a good impression make.

2) Generally speaking demanding a coffee from your prospective client's wife with the words "I guess you're in charge of the kettle" does not endear you to said clients wife. Normal procedure is to at least introduce yourself and ask the name of your client's wife (not 30 minutes later when asking me sotto voce "What's her name?")

3) Sparking up a cigarette without asking first on a prospective's client's property is really quite unprofessional. Both Mrs Dragon and myself have breathing problems and therefore issues with cigarette smoke; causing a severe asthmatic reaction in your clients is rarely the basis of a long and successful business partnership.

I trust you will find this email helpful


And yes, an email very similar to this one was sent to the individual in question.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Bloody Olympics

I don't suppose it's too late to give the Bloody Olympics to France is it? I mean they did seem to want it at the time.

I mean it's all very nice for the athletes and I'm sure they are all fine and dedicated people (although probably a tad obsessive) but I am failing to see why I should stump up a huge amount of money via my taxes just so you have a place to run around very quickly. I mean when you add everything up the total bill is probably going to come to the best part of twenty billion dollars and you can do a lot with that kind of cash, one blogger worked out that for the price of four Olympic games we could put a human on Mars; and that's a damned sight more of an achievement than watching a lycra clad berk run about and chuck a spear.

And this is before all the other shite that seems to come as part of this wonderful sportfest that's bebeen vomited into our laps. I'll leave aside the idiocy of putting missiles on people's roofs in East London, the utterly over the top security that stops people taking a picture of a fish tank at one of the venues because of "terrorism concerns", the fact that we might as well have painted a huge target over London for every hacked off member of the "Religion of Peace"TM to have a go at and the creepy, deformed mascots that look like they were designed by the kid on the short bus whist going through Ritalin withdrawal.

What really tweaks my tail is the corporate bollocks and the way us poor schmucks who paid for the bastard thing are treated. My station are handing out "walking maps" and have a 'get ahead of the games" website which is basically saying "the transport will be fucked, the buses are being forced into the rest of the clogged traffic to make sure the Zil lanes for the corrupt parasites in the IOC can whizz up and down unimpeded so you bastards can walk everywhere" And if you're going to any of the actual events (which I am definitely not) which we made you pay for the tickets (even though you funded everything) then you WILL pay by Visa card and no other method, you WILL NOT take in any soft drink of your choosing, you WILL only eat Mc Fucking Donalds as no other "food" will be on sale and you will be prevented from bringing your own 1 and most likely you'd better be bringing a Samsung compact camera because god forbid you're carrying a Ricoh the "Brand Police" will probably stamp on it before laying into you with the rubber hoses.

Quite frankly the bloody Olympics can go and screw itself. I'd scrap it tomorrow in a heartbeat if I could. However having built all those stadia it would be a shame to not to use them so I propose we hold the show trails and executions of all the pompous, self aggrandizing politicians and IOC members who spent our money on this vanity project.

1 and yes the irony of the world's largest purveyor of junk food sponsoring an elite athletics event is not lost on me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

O tempora! O mores!

There's been a lot of 1977 retrospectives on the tellybox recently, what with it being the jubilee. Also a lot in the news has been lots of talk about marriage equality, "Gay Marriage" if you prefer, especially since St. Obama has played his hand in favor.

It got me thinking as to how much things have changed in 25 years. I was 12 years old back in '77 and I can still vividly recall that the very, very worst insult in the playground was to call someone gay, puff, bummer or any other word indicating that the target of the insult was a fan of musical theatre. Even though I'm pretty sure that 90% of the time we really had no idea what the words really meant it was certainly a cause for an immediate punch up. Certainly actually being gay was I am sure at the time social death and certainly not something spoken of in a positive light where I grew up. I recall my dad, commenting on an article in the paper about a police raid on a gay-friendly pub in the town, saying something along the lines of "they should all be strung up" which was a bit of a shock as he was normally a pretty tolerant guy. I think the mindset back then was very much gay = child molester or at the very least that being gay was some deep, dark perversion and only vagely acceptable if you were a "comedy" gay like Danny LaRue or John Inman's character in "Are You Being Served"

It's really quite strange how quickly things have changed and how far. Now it seems that if you're opposed to marriage equality you're the one that's the deviant. Looking across the pond to North Carolina it's quite surprising the opprobrium that's been directed towards the people of the state who voted in favour of denying gay couples even a civil union with many calling them "hicks" and "backward" at best. On a political note it's a shrewd move by Obama to come out in favour of gay marriage; a lot of the shine has gone off his presidency and he failed to deliver all that "hopey, changey" stuff in the storm of a recession and he's aligned himself with the "progressive", younger vote ahead of the presidential elections later this year.
Over this side of the shining big-sea-water we can see that it's mainly the religidiots who are hanging onto the "it's one man one woman" like a drowning man grasping at a straw, swimming against the tide of history and sinking their antediluvian beliefs further and further into irrelevance. Politically again Camoron really has no choice but to push this forwards, despite the grumblings from the blue-rinse wing of the party; he's in deep political crap as it is and scrapping his proposed gay marriage bill will just pin the "nasty party" label back on the Tories and right now that's the last thing they need.

Still, maybe in another 25 years we'll be twittering (using our neural interfaces whilst on a day trip to the moon) about "do you remember when gay people couldn't get married?" in the same way as we'd talk about mixed-race marriages now.* One can only wonder what'll be perfectly socially acceptable then.

* To be fair as far as I know the UK never had a race bar on marriage but they certainly did in the USA

Friday, April 27, 2012

Do you want porn with that sir?

So kind of as predicted earlier on this blog there's a growing head of steam around this "Opt in for porn" thing with your ISP. The Daily Fail has got its panties in a bunch and started a campaign and Labour, always quick to spot a rolling bandwagon particularly when it comes to nanny stateism, have jumped on board

"Block online porn!" screams the banner, which without a trace of irony is placed right next to a photo link about someone called Kim Kardashian "Vehemently denying nude photos whilst stepping out in very tight trousers" because that right, isn't porn yeah and doesn't objectify women, right?

You would have a better chance of blocking the tide coming in Canute style. The majority of internet innovations were driven by or became mainstream because of porn. Grumble, I read somewhere, accounts for the majority of the web's traffic. Hell back in the day the video recorder war was won by the technologically inferior VHS system mainly because all the "adult titles" were released on that format.

And you are up against one of the most powerful forces in the universe, the raging hormones of a 14 year old boy. It cannot be bargained with, it cannot be reasoned with and it absolutely will not stop until it's found a way into wobblybigjugs.com and had one off the wrist. I know, I was one once; of course back then it was the magazines passed furtively around your mates and on one memorable occasion we managed to hire Ai No Korida from the video shop and it wasn't out of any desire to explore and critique Japanese cinema I can tell you. And have you met kids lately? They grew up with computers and probably have forgotten more about configuring anonymous proxies than I've ever known and will probably end up helping their dad's bypass the filters.

Its all utterly pointless gesture politics of the "something must be done" type as per usual. It's surely up to parents to bring their kids up, police their internet use and yes, accept that their teenage sons and daughters are a seething cauldron of hormones and talk to them about it, explain what porn is and about the difference between what's depicted in  porn and what real relationships are about.

What's that Mr Government? Ordinary people taking responsibility for their lives and children? That'll never do will it, after all, we're not qualified.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Free speech isn't so free any more

If limits are placed on what can be said can we still say that we have "Free Speech"? I've been thinking about this over the weekend in the wake of "The Twitter Cunt Trail". You won't have heard about it in any of the mainstream media probably for the very reason that it involves "The C word" but in essence what happened is that someone who goes by the name of Olly Cromwell was convicted, in effect, of calling someone a cunt on Twitter. You can read the background to this here and some more on Max Farquar's blog here.

I'll leave to one side for a moment the fact that this does appear to be a vindictive, politically motivated prosecution intended to shut up a individual who certain people in power find to be "troublesome" for actually holding them to account and just look at are there "limits" that can be placed on free speech.

I do not believe that there are, any restriction on what can and can't be said or written means speech is not free. That's not to say that there are repercussions from that freedom. The famous example is shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre; you have the right to but you would have to suffer the consequences of that action. Also if I were to start making untrue allegations in the intent to slander a person, say by starting a blog that makes post after post insisting without any evidence that Councellor Whatsisface enjoys the intimate sexual company of farmyard animals, then it is only proper that Councellor Whatsisface would be able to seek some form of redress.

However that's a very long way from someone having an opinion on Councellor Whatsisface; in this case a crudely worded opinion that he's a cunt but that's as valid an opinion as any other. Sure if someone called me a cunt I'd be somewhat upset but I'd just call then a goat sperm gargling cockwomble back. What they said was probably just a heat  of the moment throwaway remark and I certainly would not go running to the law because I was "offended". Likewise if I was to say something on Twitter like "White people are smarter than black people so we should have no black politicians" the correct response to me would be to say back "Bollocks, you're wrong and stupid and this is why...", not go off screaming for the tumbrils to haul me to the guillotine for "racially aggravated hate speech"  On that latter point it's worth bearing in mind that for many years that was the prevailing orthodoxy and it took brave people to stand up and using speech and the written word to challenge that false assumption and I am sure those in power at the time found the idea that all men are of equal talents regardless of the colour of their skin "offensive"

And it's this "offence" that's the problem here. The law in question (2003 Telecommunications Act I think) makes in illegal to cause offence. Now I'm sure that this piece of NuLabour control freakery was conceived with the nobler motive of being able to go after the worst kind of cyber-stalking but with "I was affronted" seemingly now meaning "I was offended" and people being dragged to court for saying "cunt" and "Dead black footballer. LOL" by what appear to be the "professionally offended"

And this is a problem, a big one. These laws and judgements put the dead hand of fear onto free speech so speakers and writers are constantly checking themselves, not entirely sure if what they are going to say will see them thrown into jail and their lives destroyed because someone found their idea "offensive".  At the very least this idea that seems to have seeped into society and is now enshrined in statute that any person has the absolute right not to be affronted needs to go lest we all fall slowly into the perpetual silence of fear.

Monday, April 02, 2012


So our dear government, not 18 months after stopping the last lot of authoritarian fuckwits bringing in the same law, are going to track all our emails, texts, web site visits and, if they could get away with it, trips to the lavatory.  We've just seen a week when a young man was locked up for two months for tweeting a racist remark as apparently it would seem that putting "LOL" after saying a black footballer was dead now "incites hate"* and now all our words pushed out into the ether will be checked by the ever-loving state, all for our own protection of course. I'm fully expecting our four internet horsemen: terrorism, pedophiles, extremists and whoever they have decided the bete noir is today to be trotted out by Dishface today.

It's utterly pointless of course as I will now demonstrate.  I live in a NUCLEAR family and I'm sure we're all going to have a BLAST at this year's London OLYMPICS. Whoops did I just set off your alarm bells Mr Government Person?  And as for tracking the websites I visit well I'm sure its fascinating that you're keeping up on my reading of the winemaking forum and that scambaiting site I visit but do you really think when I visit throbbingdonkeybondage.com  ** I am going to do so without using a couple of proxies?  And you can be sure that Mohammed Al Suicidebomber is going to be doing the same as well when he visits his jihadist bomb making and hate preaching sites. For anyone who is a bit tech-savvy this is really simple now; proxies are point and click, you can download the TORBundle and be browsing completely anonymously (but rather slowly) in seconds, if you're getting really paranoid you can downloads Tails to a USB stick and leave no trace of activity on your computer at all.

Of course the government know this and know this is bugger all to do with security. At the least its security theatre from the "something must be done" school but at worse is pure state terrorism; watch what you say little people, watch where you go because this is the new Panopticon and we are watching you. Always.

* I think we can agree it's tasteless, crass and stupid but if we locked people up for those things there would be nobody who wasn't in jail.

** I'm thinking of getting that domain but I'll bet its already gone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Water, water everywhere...

... but if you dare run any down a hosepipe that's 1000 quid fine,matey.

Within the next couple of weeks the people who supply my water will be making it an offence to use a hosepipe. Now in my innocence I thought that this simply meant "don't use a hosepipe irresponsibly" such as leaving your lawn sprinkler on but no, it's anything. Got a bit of a bad back (like me) and you'd like to fill your watering can up from a hose so you don't knacker yourself carting the can back and forward to the tap, sod you dragon, you're not doing that!

Oh you can have a dispensation if you're disabled but, get this, the qualification for "disabled" is you have one of those disabled parking badges! Well what fecking use is that! You have to be virtually immobile before you can get one of those these days and if you're that screwed up physically I would posit that your hobbies are unlikely to include vegetable gardening.

And as regular readers of this blog know, I have horses; how exactly am I going to get water to their paddocks and stables without a hosepipe given your average hoss will neck down up to 30 litres of water on a hot day?

The best bit though came when I saw the water companies are encouraging people to rat on any of their neighbours who dare get the hose out to fill the kid's paddling pool. I can only assume that it is only a matter of time before we have self-appointed wasser blockleiters who will be prowling the district looking for any evidence of "hose crimes". Maybe for every three people they report they get to run a bath?

Look we all know its been dry and there's not so much of the H2O to go around but how about for once treating us like intelligent, responsible adults rather than naughty children and just telling us "Look, it's been dry, be sensible with water please. Here are some things you can do to help." You could use some of that740 million quid in profits you made last year to run a few TV ads.

Oh and speaking of Anglian Water's 740 million profits; .given we lose 25% or more through leaks and unrepaired busts maybe you could attend to that first rather than encouraging people to frogmarch their friends to the police station for daring to water the parsnips.