Monday, 14 November 2011

I hate . . . Used Car Ads

I've been looking at car ads recently, and some of the ads I see from private car sellers are really irritating. I can best demonstrate with some examples:

Volkswagen Polo 1.2 Ltr BLACK (2005) VERY NICE CAR,VERY LOW MILEAGE ONLY DONE 69000,Service History, Dark Grey cloth trim NICE CAR FIRST SEE U WILL BUY cheap ins Central locking, Drivers,Airbag,Passenger airbag electric mirrors It has been regularly maintained Excellent Condition in and out,New tyer drive like a new,very good engine, Alarm,Adjustable seats, Adjustable steering LONG M.O.T AND TAX ,Very Clean Inside AND Outside,excellent condition First to see you will buy cheap insurance

Ignoring the spelling on this one, it's the 'First to see will buy' - repeated for emphasis. No. No I won't. I will buy it if I think its the right car for the price and my needs. NOT because YOU think it's great. If it is so great why are you selling it then? I'll make up my own mind, thanks.

rover 25 1.6 mot and tax clean in and out 2000 reg £750 just had 2 new tyres brand new back box fitted today brand new power stearing blet 10months mot 2 months tax e/windows e sun roft c/locking alam and mobilizer built in drives smooth. £750 no offers.

More dodgy spelling, but this one says 'No offers' ('Firm' if you are in the US). You are telling me your opinion, as the seller, is worth more than mine - the guy with the cash. Fine, put 'No offers' if you like. You are not going to get one - in fact, I won't even phone.


This guys caps lock has got stuck, but what got me was the advert title that was visible in the list view. It said 'BMW'. That was it. No model, year, engine size, mileage....

No Picture Make: Honda
Model: Civic Se
Body type: 5 Door Hatchback
Fuel type: Petrol
Year: 2002
Mileage: 105 miles

Ok, basic and to the point (not exactly selling it here) but look at the mileage. 105 miles. In 11 years. Ah Ha! - you meant 105,000.  When most car search uses the miles as a main search field, at least enter them correctly.

*DIESEL*Seat Toledo Se 110 BHP Tdi - (not bmw,golf,leon,vauxhall,306) **£1,299**

I can see the car is not a BMW, Golf, Leon, Vauxhall or 306 from the description and photo. If I searched for any of those terms I DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOUR ADVERT. This sort of stupid search spam should get the advert deleted instantly.

These are just a few of the things I've found in a quick search. Other included:
  • Not enough information: ads sometimes exclude critical information like mileage or the exact model. If you don't include it I have to assume you are hiding something, or don't know as you don't have the documents.
  • 'One lady owner': So what? I know plenty of women who abuse cars as much as men - so why does putting the gender of the owner influence me?
  • Overpriced modifications: when you see a car with lowered suspension, an aftermarket body kit, glued on spoiler, half finished sound system installation or extra wide alloys you would expect to pay less, much less. But so many sellers don't get that, and expect to get back the thousands they have spent. Face it guys - if you modify a car, it's for your own use - a completely standard car is almost always going to be worth more.
  • Hiding Traders: traders who pretend to be private sellers to avoid advert costs and offering a warranty. This is illegal in the UK!
  • Private sales asking for more than trade: if you buy a car from a trade, you have certain statutory rights that it is fit for purpose, and most have a guarantee (even if short), even on older vehicles. It will normally have been competently cleaned, and the ownership checked and guaranteed. Private sellers, on the other hand, offer none of these. So if you are a private seller, do not expect to get more than a trader will - you are looking at 10% to 30% less. Advertising your car for more than trade prices because YOU think it is worth it is unlikely to get much interest.
OK, car sellers. Know your car, check the prices, write a decent description, use a spellchecker AND TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK.

    Saturday, 12 November 2011

    I hate . . . (*)gate Scandals

    Watergate from the air. From wikipedia
    Every time there is some scandal (or something the media wants us to this is a scandal) it immediately gets the term 'gate' added to it. Just a quick search gives me the following:
    • Yellow-Gate - Users complaining of a yellow tint to their iPhone screens. I thought Apple was infallible, like the Pope.
    • Ball-Gate - Rugby player ball switching scandal. No, not those ones, you pervert
    • Toilet-Gate - Chess player has a weak bladder. It's front page news!
    • Lie-Gate - Man accused of lying. It's unheard of!
    • Strawberry-Gate - Forced to pay for pick-your-own strawberries that were picked. Call in the army!
    • Nipple-Gate - TV watchers forced to see Janet Jacksons boob. Nation outraged: 50% of watchers have them, 100% have seen one
    For those who don't know, Watergate was the name of hotel involved in a serious scandal involving USA President Nixon - lots more on wikipedia. Since then the -gate suffix has been applied to scandals from the great to the totally insignificant. Most have nothing to do with hotels, Presidents or even politics.

    The original scandal happened in 1972. That is a really long time ago - before a substantial number of the people reading the current -gate stories were born, and certainly before they were interested in reading about political scandals.

    In fact, without any evidence whatsoever, I'd bet that a significant proportion of the English speaking world know very little to nothing about the original Watergate scandal.

    So why do journalists insist on using -gate for anything and everything? While some of the stories with the added -gate are serious, adding the suffix is laziness in my opinion. It's a shorthand to say 'don't you think this is terrible and shouldn't they do something about it', which is odd, as they usually do not define 'they' or 'something'.

    It's time to some up with a new word - or even better, just treat every news item on it's own merits without resorting to clichĂ©.

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    I hate . . . 'Please Recycle' on Junk Mail

    I got some junk mail the other day, the typical credit card application stuff.

    Rather presumptuously it contained a full terms and conditions booklet, as well as a 4 page application form, a glossy flyer on the benefits and return envelope. Printed on the back of the envelope it all came in was a great big 'Please Recycle' logo.

    If you want me to recycle it, why are you sending it to me? Could you not just recycle it yourselves and save me the bother? Why are you sending me applications for an American Express Credit Card when a simple check would show I already have one?

    While I briefly considered sending the whole lot back to them, I decided to do my bit for the environment. I recycled the junk mail into a means to light a fire.

    Saturday, 10 September 2011

    I hate . . . Legal Lies

    After a recent conversation with a public sector organisation, I've noticed that public and private companies will often tell you things that are not entirely truthful. If they want to avoid doing something, or prevent you doing something, they regularly say that the law stops it - even when it doesn't.

    Shockingly, this even happens in the police - so here are a few things you should know about the law. This is for the UK, but similar legislation exists across Europe and in North America.

    The Data Protection Act

    One of the favourite excuses is that a company cannot give you information because of the data protection act. I'd say, about half the time this is used it's nonsense.

    The data protection act concerns personal information about a named, living individual.

    • A company is NOT an individual. Requests for information on phone numbers, addresses, and similar do not fall under the DPA.
    • The DPA specifically allows you access to information about yourself.
    • It does not cover information that does not identify the individual, such as information on a building, or group of people

    Check the Data Protection Act and it's rights and obligations for yourself - and be armed for the next bureaucrat.

    Health & Safety

    Wide ranging Health and Safety legislation covers all sorts of things - but a lot of them are to do with industrial equipment, fire exists and similar. Most of what you hear quoted as Health and Safety legislation is in fact either guidance, or just company policy.

    I recently asked to use the toilet in a shop, and was refused on the grounds of Health and Safety Law. A shop is a private building, so they have no obligation, but refusing on the ground of H & S is stupid - I'm not going to be causing danger to anyone.

    One of the core rules of the Health and Safety legislation is that risks should be reduced to as low as reasonably possible. Unfortunately many organisations seem to take this as 'reduced to zero' - and in doing so just prevent many things with relatively low risks. See Health and Safety Law, and the next time someone quotes 'Heath & Safety', ask them to show you the section in the regulations.

    One friend was told recently he could not hire a car on his licence as he had it less than two years, and 'Health & Safely' prevented them letting him have it. That's NOT H & S, that's insurance requirements. They can still refuse, but switching the reasons is not helpful, as it reduces you chance to expplore options, like paying for additional insurance.

    Paranoid and stupid, home made rules are also the causes of one major blight in most places - pointless safety signs. A sign sign 'Danger: Steep Slope' at the top of a steep slope. Signs on hot water taps saying 'Water may be hot'. Even 'Slippery When Wet' on wooden steps, and even signs on the backs of trucks warning people not to pass on the inside.

    How about this for a suggestion: let's go back to everyone being responsible for their own safety.

    Arbitrary 'Legal Reasons'

    After being told recently that an organisation could not email a form for 'legal reasons', I questioned why, and the customer 'services' handler could not tell me under which laws. After escalating to a supervisor, who initially said the same thing, he eventually admitted it was because their systems only allowed printed forms to be posted.

    Any time someone says 'legal reasons' or 'the law stops us doing that', ask them which law, which Act, which section. 95% of the time they cannot tell you, and neither can their supervisor, or the boss. Rules are instituted by companies, and then they have to justify them - and an unnamed 'law' is the perfect excuse.

    The next time you are told 'You cannot do that because of...' check they have got their facts right - the answer may surprise you.

    Thursday, 8 September 2011

    I hate . . . Corporate Marketing

    Flushing your money down the toiletIn the UK, water and drainage is provided by private companies with a total monopoly in their area. Unless you are happy to drill a well and build a cess pit, you have to use them, and pay whatever they decide to charge.

    Let me tell you a little story or what happens when a company gets a monopoly.

    Out local water firm decided to switch everyone to water meters. This, in itself, is not a problem. Water is a resource like any other, and measuring it ensures it's fair for everyone. There was no choice, and minimal disruption - the meters are generally installed on the stop tap, outside the property. What really bugs me is the way they went about telling everyone affected.

    First, a letter, saying what they were planning, and when they were planning it. So far so good. But then we get another letter. An another, this time with a handy leaflet. It advertises a freephone number if you have questions. I'm fine. thanks. I under stand the difference between a fixed price and a meter.

    Getting closer now - just a couple of weeks away from the upgrade. Surely everyone knows by now.

    No. Another letter, this time with a stupid little pop-up cardboard cube with the same information again. It was well made. It was well designed. It looked expensive. And signs on every lamppost - probably 30 in a street with only five times that in properties.

    Next we have door to door visits, a couple of very helpful people, calling at every house. They have lovely hi-vis vests. There are some big ads - half page - in the local paper too, just in case we missed the visits.

    Now, the day of the big change. There's a little portable office appeared on a patch of grass. It's going to be staffed 12 hours a day for the next week, just in case we had questions not answered by the letters, leaflets, pop-up cubes, visits.

    They actual upgrade comes a goes almost without anyone noticing. They did the whole street in a day - pretty impressively efficient. Unlike everything else.

    What is really infuriating me is the cost of all this. I have no access to the costs, but I would not be surprised if the marketing campaign cost more than the upgrades. An I HAD TO PAY FOR IT. It's not as if we have a choice, or can switch to a budget supplier - monopolies can and will do what they think is best, especially if that means their communications director getting a healthy increase in budget.

    So if you work for a big company with customers that cannot move think on this - I would far rather have 5% off my bills than pay for your latest pointless marketing campaign.

    Saturday, 27 August 2011

    I hate . . . Drivers Wearing Hats

    Why would anyone hate drivers wearing hats? It's because in my experience, they are pretty much all one of two types:

    Chav Corsa with rear wing (it's front wheel drive!)
    From (Ads NSFW).

    1. The Extremely Old
    They have been driving since before there was a requirement to take a test, and their Rover or Honda has covered 3,000 miles from new in 15 years. Despite all this experience, the Extremely Old will still tend to set out during rush hour.

    Old car in immaculate condition. Average speed around half the speed limit. Tweed caps (men), sensible bonnets (women). Usually in front of you.

    Driving Style
    • Extremely slow in all conditions
    • Likely to be in middle lane of 3 lane motorways.  As they are doing 35mph, cannot pull back in due to the steady stream of trucks going past on the inside.
    • Random signals including leaving indicators on for 8 miles, or not at all.

    The Dangers
    While not a significant danger themselves (too slow for that) their driving style causes other road users to take actions they would normally avoid:
    • Overtaking on the wrong side, on bends, at junctions. Anywhere to get past and make some progress
    • Speeding, after having managed to get past, to make up lost time
    • Deliberate ramming (in extreme cases)

    2. The Yoof (AKA Chav or Douche Bag)
    Driving since last week (legally) or for 4 years (illegally), the Yoof is generally found in small packs. Unlike the Extremly Old, the Yoof can be found in all locations, at any time of the day or night.

    Also tends to drive an older car, but usually a cheap Vauxhall Nova or similar. The car will generally have been modified: badges removed in a vain attempt to disguise it, large exhaust end, glued on spoiler or rear wing from a completely different vehicle. Driver will usually be wearing a cap just slightly too large for them, normally backwards or sideways. Synthetic materials are obligatory.
    Can often be head coming before seen due to the holes punched in the exhaust to make it sound sportier.

    Driving Style
    • Will attempt to drive fast, but is often limited by the 1.1 litre engine. 
    • Creeps forward over the line at red lights, but still pulls away slowly
    • Will drive within 6 inches of the car in front
    • If encountered with another Yoof, frequent overtaking is mandatory.

    The Dangers
    Much more dangerous to themselves and other road users:
    • Will refuse to let anyone pass them, especially other Yoofs, so expect blocking manoeuvres
    • Will do 50 in most 30 zones (but not so dangerous on motorways as cannot go over 80 mph)
    • Has no concept of a blind corner, or being able to brake (on bald tyres) in the distance they can see

    Dealing with hat wearing drivers
    Tactics for the two are similar: avoid at all costs. For the Extremely Old, overtake when safe, but be aware everyone else wants to do the same thing. For the Yoof, avoid altogether - best wait until they go the other way. Tends to drive in random circles, so often easily avoided.

    Saturday, 20 August 2011

    I hate . . . Airports

    I hate airports - and the addition of lacklustre Christmas decoration does nothing to increase their charm
    I enjoy travelling - seeing new places, trying new foods, experiencing different cultures. I even enjoy the travelling part - driving through new scenery and the surge of power as an aeroplane takes off.

    But what I really cannot stand is airports. I had the misfortune to be stuck at one for about 6 hours the other day - a combination of a delayed flight and getting an early lift. It's a miserable waste of time that sucks so much of the pleasure out of travelling.

    First of all is the queues. Queues for everything. To check in, for baggage, for security, for boarding. Then there is the irritating and illogical security procedures. I'm pretty used to the things you can't take on board, but so many of them make no sense. Nail scissors? Dangerous weapons! Half drunk coffee from one of the terminal shops? Probably an explosive! (even if you are still sipping it).

    What made me laugh was that you can get metal cutlery in any of the shops in the secure area. They are blunt, but 10 minutes and a bit effort would get you an edge or point. Of course, it would not do you any good, as the new on-board security prevent access to the flight deck anyway.

    Then there is airport design. They are big buildings - I suppose they have to be accommodate the gates - but I'm sure they make them bigger than required purely to drag you past all these shops. You are a captive audience, and they really want you to buy overpriced rubbish. I especially hate the duty free shop in most airports, designed so you have to walk through it, with banners screaming special offers that are not so special if you could compare them to the supermarket down the road.

    Lastly there are the waiting area. Waiting is what you do in airports, so you would expect the most attention paid to it. Instead you get limited, uncomfortable seating, food service that seems to only supply reheated, poor quality food that is massively overpriced, and hundreds or thousands of surly customers and staff.

    Yes, I hate airports. Next time, I think I'll walk - or swim.

    UPDATE: See Joe the Peacock Yay Rules of air travel for a really useful list of things to do in the airport to make other passengers lives easier.

    Wednesday, 27 July 2011

    I hate . . . Cooking With Chilli

    I like chilli - nice bit of spicy food. However, I don't like this bit....

    Chopping up some yummy fresh chilli

    Mmmm. Nom nom nom.

    2 Hours later...

    Hmm - itchy Eye

    ARRGGH - The Pain!!

    How is it that chilli can survive multiple hand washes and still have enough power left to cause excruciating pain?

    And how come we can still eat the stuff without dying, our insides a useless molten mess of screaming nerve endings and smouldering flesh?

    Friday, 1 July 2011

    I hate . . . Public Sector Strikers

    Striking 'workers' in Westminster.
    Pic: Ema Globyte
    For for those who have not noticed, around 750,000 public sector workers (or 100,000, depending who you believe) went on strike today. This included civilians who work for the police, teachers and passport control staff. They complain of plans to increase what they have to pay for their pensions, and an increase in retirement age to 66.

    They have caused massive inconvenience and cost for millions - forced to arrange childcare or book time off work to care for children or to delay travel. Worse, they may have threatened lives by reducing response times to critical 999 calls.

    While public sector workers do have a right to negotiate for better rights, moving to the nuclear option may leave them with nowhere left to go - hated by both their direct employers -the government - and their indirect employers - the tax payer.

    And what really irritates is that they are making demands so far out of touch with the common reality. I (along with a lot of people I know) have and equivalent education level as a teacher, and probably better than many of the other public sector employees.
    • Pay (from what I can see from job ads) is roughly equivalent for a similar level role. Few people I know have had a pay rise in the last two years, except by promotion or a new job. At least you get something from your union negotiated deals.  Call it a draw.
    • They get more holiday - not just the statutory minimum most others get. Plus most have generous sickness payment that encourages some to treat this as extra holiday. One up for the public workers.
    • They are practically impossible to fire, no matter how poor the performance. They can be made redundant, but often with massive notice, assistance in locating a new job and a generous redundancy payout. Another one for them.
    • Retirement at 60, compared to 65 (moving to 66) for most workers - and that's assuming you can afford it, and don't have to continue to make your pension bigger.
    • Generous pension with high employer contributions. This is the big one, what they are whining about. I've hear figures quoted of an equivalent of £400 extra a month, by the time you take the tax effect into account. compared to most private sector my age of...nothing. Yup - if we want a pension, we have to pay for it. Work for a bigger firm, and they may put in a bit, but nowhere near this amount for someone of average levels of pay. Another win for them.
    So to the public sector workers: yes, we understand seeing a reduction in benefits is not good. But your expectations are now so far out from the rest of us - you know, those who actually those taxes - you begin to look like you may be moaning ingrates with too much power due to the unions. People are both living longer and expecting more, so you cannot expect the same as you got 30 years ago. You are going to have to pay more for your pensions, retire later, and maybe get less.

    Get over it.

    Sunday, 12 June 2011

    I hate . . . Bait and Switch Marketing

    Bait and switch marketing is where an advert promises one thing, but delivers something else. I really hate this form of advertising; it's dishonest and (at least for me) totally ineffective. I am far more likely to never use that brand, or leave the site as soon as I notice.

    The (Not) Free Offer

    Probably one of the oldest, the big offering is 'FREE!!!!!' (exclamation marks common). When you actually try to get the good or service, you find that the free offer is so heavily limited as to be useless, or even worse, is nowhere to be found.

    Now you see you don't

    I'm seeing this more and more on comparison shopping sites. A goods is for sale at a certain retailer at 20% to 70% less than the next cheapest, but when you click through it is out of stock. While they are obviously hoping their other offers will tempt you its a big fail - I'm going to hit 'back' and carry on looking for the thing I searched for. You may occasionally get lucky and get hold of the one item they actually had in stock at that price - but I wouldn't bet on it.

    The Optional Extras

    A favourite of budget holiday and flight companies (as well as some online sellers), this is where the big headline price does not include a lot of the extras. This is fine where the extras are truly optionally, but is really annoying when they are not.

    The attached image is just a bit of Ryanirs extra charges. Like £6 per passenger per flight for making payment by card - when the processing costs are more like 2%, not the hideous 33% Ryanair charge on it's cheapest flights. Add to that baggage, food, and boarding fees, it all gets to be as much as a 'premium' airline.

    Other great scams in this category are huge postage and packing fees, heavily recommended 'options' like product insurance and overpriced consumables and parts.

    Amazing Job Offers

    Another favourite is the fake job offer - the 'Earn £2000 per month part time on your PC' ads. They almost always based on some very shaky numbers, and almost always require upfront payments (from a few pounds to serious money) for equipment and training. If anyone has EVER made the money promised on one of these, please comment!

    All these are barely one step up from the classic Advanced Fee Fraud scam - promising the world before screwing the customer for everything they can get. Marketers: unless you want lumped in with a buch of dodgy Nigerians, just don't do it!

    Tuesday, 31 May 2011

    I hate . . . Password Strength Requirements

    I use a lot of site for work and fund. Blogs, facebook, twitter, forums, webmail systems, hosted applications - it's a whole lot.

    I also work from different computers, using different browsers for different purposes, so have no one single browser to save passwords.

    To simplify things, I try to use one password for unimportant things - blogs and forums, one for medium secure things, like Facebook, and one more complex one for high security systems, like online banking.

    So when a 'low security' blog or forum does this, it's really annoying:

    Just stop it! If I want to use 'password' then I will. If I want to make my password '1' I understand it's not that secure, but I don't care. It's not like I am really bothered if someone manages to hack into an account on a forum I may never visit again.

    Finally, for all those who get annoyed with bad web design, have a look at this from the excellent Oatmeal: How to make your Shopping Cart suck less.

    Friday, 27 May 2011

    I hate . . . The House of Commons

    For our overseas readers, The House of Commons is where UK's Parliament meets. There are 650 Members that govern the UK, forming one of the oldest democracies in the world.

    I've spoken to a couple of MPs. They are generally well educated, well spoken and intelligent, and with a handful of exceptions seem to genuinely be trying to govern sensibly. So why do they sound like a roomful of drunks watching a football match?

    If you have not had the pleasure, have a listen to this:

    Don't worry about the questions - listen to the boos, the jeers, the slurred 'Yeaahhhhhhhh!', the unintelligible noises, the pointless shouting. You would think a room full of people supposed to be the best and brightest in the country would realise that they are making both themselves and the system of Parliament sound like morons.

    I wonder if they have to do a special induction course to learn the right noises to make?

    Wednesday, 11 May 2011

    I hate . . . Traffic Lights

    Like a lot of you, quite a lot of my driving is through towns and cities. Driving back across recently, the traffic was really light - 5:30 PM on on a Sunday, so not that surprising.

    troll traffic lights
    Troll Traffic Lights
    However, it took 25 minutes to cover 3½ miles. That's an average speed of 8.4 miles per hour. I was not driving like a granny, stopping at every McDonalds, or even courteously letting everyone out every junction.

    The primary cause for my extreme slowness is the proliferation of traffic light. There's lights for pedestrian crossings, lights for junctions, lights for roundabouts, lights to slow you down for more lights. And every single one turned to red as I approached.

    Who designs these light systems? We are capable of huge feats of engineering, but the ability to set up some simple lights so they change in a reasonable sequence is beyond the abilities of the civil engineers who plan traffic. Instead of setting the lights so that cars on the main roads can drive smoothly through, they seem deliberately to force you to stop for each one.

    Now, There may be an argument for using lights to reduce traffic speeds - but what is the first thing you do when pulling away from a light that's held you up for no reason at all? That's right, accelerate harder, which is why they often put speed cameras a few hundred yards past a traffic light. They also hugely increase pollution, as the amount of fuel needed to accelerate is far more than that to maintain a steady speed, and the vehicle generates a lot more noise as well, which must annoy local residents.
    So I've a little suggestion, based on a recent experience. Just turn them off.

    A while ago, a set of lights on a very buy roundabout failed during rush hour. It's one of the main routes out of the city and on to the motorway, and the lights controlled all but one of the entrances, as well as points on the roundabout as well, so you would expect there to be chaos. On the contrary - traffic was flowing well, with cars entering and exiting smoothly on all access roads. In the few minutes I was waiting, traffic seemed to be flowing much faster for everyone - my journey to work was 5 minutes faster than usual. I suspect for quite a few sets of lights, disabling them permanently would improve traffic flow.

    At night, it's especially annoying to be sat at a set of lights, waiting for non-existent cars on the other road, so we can turn them off too.

    Pedestrian crossing may be one exception, but home many times have you been sat at a pedestrian crossing with no-one on it - because the person who pressed the button used a gap in the traffic and has long gone, while the motorists are sat waiting.

    Have a look at traffic lights for this country. How about the 'flashing amber' used in the States, where you can proceed but have to give way to vehicles or pedestrians? Or making many more lights time dependant? Or even just adding some smarter sensors and controls that maximise traffic flow by only cycling lights for the minimum period?

    I'm sure there are better options; save petrol, save time, and save me from shouting at inanimate road furniture...

    Thursday, 21 April 2011

    I hate . . . Goldfish

    According to Wikipedia, goldfish are "Goldfish are popular pond fish, since they are small, inexpensive, colorful, and very hardy".

    No they are not. It a myth.

    I have to hand them the popular bit. I can see why - with PR like that, a lot of parents will see them as a great pet. Billed as cheap and easy to care for, even the busiest family can cope with having one.

    Unfortunately it's not actually true. Take cheap for a start. The fish are cheap, but you can't just plonk them in a glass bowl of tap water. No, you need:

    • a proper fish tank
    • a pump to circulate the water
    • stuff for treating the water
    • rocks or something to hide in - except you can't just use a rock from the garden, you have to use an artificial resin rock
    • plants - either real ones that get eaten, or fake ones that look, well, fake
    • chemicals for treating the tap water

    Ok, not cheap then - how about easy?

    They fail on that part too. They certainly seem to need more care than I remember, changing the water weekly, cleaning filters, measuring additives. At least they only need fed once a day.

    Dead goldfish make poor petsHowever, the biggest drawback of all is the 'hardy' part. Despite carefully following all the instructions about letting the tank settle in for a few days before adding fish, carefully measuring additives to remove chlorine, and letting the water from the pet show slowly mix with the tank water, you still come in the next day to find them floating upside down in the tank, and have to explain where they went.

    On the upside, at least they are all pretty much identical, and have no personality to speak off, so sneaking in Salt II and Pepper II when they return from their 'holiday' should not be too hard

    At least until the next morning. Which reminds me - must pick up a net.

    Friday, 15 April 2011

    I hate . . . Anti-piracy warnings on DVDs

    I like watching DVDs. I like the sound and picture clarity, the ability to jump to bookmarks, the add-on interactive bits and extras. I've not upgraded yet, but I'm sure Blu-ray would be good as well, just with better resolution.

    However, I am beginning to increasingly loathe the anti-piracy warnings. You know the ones by FACT or the FBI.

    Don't misunderstand me - I actually support enforcement of copyright, because without it there would be no new films, games, books or programs. People would and could just copy things, not paying the creators, who would have to go off and do something that actually paid money. What really, really bugs me is these.

    FACT anti piracy warning video

    They put this or similar ominous warnings at the front of my DVDs. You can't skip it. You can't fast forward. You HAVE TO WATCH IT EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU PUT THE DVD IN.

    There are a couple of huge flaws in this. Firstly, I bought this DVD. I would like to watch it, and delaying that pleasure is just going to annoy me. That annoyance is going to be transferred to the source - FACT in this instance.

    Secondly, if I did want to make an illegal copy of the DVD or Blu-ray disk, I would edit the source so the copyright warnings were removed. Only legitimate, paid for versions have the irritating ads, but not the very copies they are trying to prevent.

    So, a little bit of unrequested advice. Make it possible to fast forward or skip the copyright ads and splash screens. It has just as much effect (about none) and is not going to create loads of negative feelings towards you and the whole issue of copyright in general.

    Monday, 11 April 2011

    I hate . . . The Supermarket Time Warp

    I've noticed an odd effect recently when going into the local supermarket to get just a few things. It's primarily found when going to a large supermarket to buy a few items. I'm sure further studies will show if the effects are proportional to the size of the supermarket or the number of items.

    Supermarkets distort space and time!

    A graph may make this clearer:

    As you can clearly see, despite careful timing 72% of the time spent inside a supermarket cannot be accounted for.

    I think this is a worrying effect, and we must legislate to reduce these effects:

    • Prevent development of any supermarkets larger than current ones, as they may be able to create an effect significant enough to destroy the fabric of the universe
    • Fit large clocks to the exterior of the buildings to allow visitors to check the real time
    • Check to see if there is also an effect on local gravity fields, which may explain how customers of that size are still able to move

    Sunday, 3 April 2011

    I hate . . . Gardening

    Gardening. Pretty much since we moved away from subsistence farming, people have been gardening for fun. There's been a bit of a resurgence in growing food, but the vast majority of what we grow is nor particularly edible.

    So why do we do it? I'm struggling to come up with any answers. It seems rather an exercise in futility

    Having just spent the afternoon hacking into trees and bushes, I think that I don't like the garden, and it does not like me. The plants are doing their best to injure with a wide selection of pointy bits, thorns and spikes. The nice looking plants always die (especially if you have actually paid for them), while the ones you don't want are un-killable.

    The best part, though, is that it's never-ending. Despite all the chopping, snipping, digging, trimming and mowing, in a month time it'll need doing all over again.

    So here's the biggest demand for genetic engineering: I want grass that gowns to 3 cm and stops. Shrubs that never outgrow their space. Hedges that form neat, square edges. Trees that don't try to take over the whole area, and slugs that only eat weeds. Is that too much to ask?

    Failing that, there's always plan B

    Pave the Planet! (from

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    I hate . . . Blocking Junctions

    Like so many others, I have to drive to work. Despite all the rhetoric, public transport is not really an option, taking 4 times longer and costing as least as much as the petrol.My drive is mostly through built up areas, and passes involves several places where I have to turn through the traffic. It's generally pretty busy, with cars queueing at most junctions, whether or not they have traffic lights.

    So why do drivers insist on blocking junctions while waiting? It's not as if they can go anywhere. At most one more car may nip out that junction, delaying then for around 4 or 5 seconds. They decide, instead, to block the junction, preventing any cars turning down it, who then block the road behind them, who block junction further down the road, leading to the queue that caused the the initial blockage.

    I think a picture is in order:

    Thanks to

    No-one can get it right all the time, but to all the drivers that make a habit of doing this - think about the consequences next time!