Monthly Archives: October 2005

And what have we learned ?

Our net access and phone line are back thanks to the friendly, sympathetic engineer who turned up today (while I was out using internet access elsewhere). Whether he was the same engineer who was AWOL yesterday I don’t know and didn’t ask, but what I did ask was, what went wrong ?

You’ll never guess! It was a BT engineer fucking up! Basically tripping over our phone line (see previous blog entry) and pulling it out. It took less than an hour to fix. So why did it take 4 days to get it fixed ? I’m hoping the chairman of BT will be able to provide an answer when I write to him (and it will be a ‘him’).
Worse still was the fact that despite the assurance from engineering that he wouldn’t need to get into the house, he needed to get into the house.
“Because you need to put an oscillator on the line right ?” I asked.
“Oh, you really have had a lot of problems in the past haven’t you” he replied.

I knew they’d need to get in. I knew it was an engineer fuck up. I knew we wouldn’t get it fixed on friday. Am I psychic ? No – but I do understand the internal workings of BT better than most people…sadly that includes the senior BT managers.

BT engineers – when you’re migrating lines from one cab to another please ensure you reconnect them properly. Alternatively, let people know you’re going to move them so when you fuck up we can report it properly and get it fixed quickly.

Ahh – Internet access, red wine, curry, crap TV and a parrot on my head. Michele and I are very happy.

Killing Buzby

For the fourth time since we moved into this flat we have no telephone and no Internet access. For the fourth time, our “service” has been totally suspended with out warning, with no explanation and we are utterly and abjectly pissed off. For the fourth time it has taken 4 days of pain, automated menu systems, arguments, being lied to and apologies from computerised voices to get this far: still no service and the likelihood of nothing until Monday.

So I’m writing this in a text editor for later upload. In fact, I decided to call this text file “blog”, and was amused to discover a previous blog I had written during a previous BT outage.

You may argue that our total dependence on Internet access is a trifle sad and that we should get out more. You’re probably right, but that’s not actually what’s making me ill with anger. It’s BT. A recent report (that I can’t look up until we get Internet access back) blamed the reason for the UK being so behind the rest of Europe in Internet provision solely on BT,
and they’re right. Do a search through my blogs for BT and you’ll see that in the past few years they have given us a service so shit that it looks like it must be deliberate. In fact, I’m now beginning to think it really is deliberate. There’s no way to make your service this shit without actually trying.

No-one likes automated telephone menus systems. But BT’s are so, so bad that they must be taking the piss. Before you can get through to the message telling that you’re about to be put into a queue and maybe you shouldn’t bother because they’re experiencing a very heavy call load, you have to go through 4 levels of menu, type your phone number, have it read back to you and listen to seemingly superfluous ringing tones. An example of one of the clearly obvious wind-ups is as follows:

“Please choose from the following four options. For BT products and services press 1. For….”
“Thank you. Please choose from the following options. If you are interested in BT products or services press 1. Otherwise press 2”

What ? What’s that for ? I pressed 1 which clearly demonstrates I have an interest in BT products and services. So why are you asking me again ?

The whole system is geared towards making you give up and fuck off. What in the social service they call ‘tertiary rationing’: making the bureaucracy so tortuous that people don’t bother to claim their benefits.

But, until yesterday, I was always singlemindedly stubborn and determined to get through to a human and usually did – even if I had to wait half an hour in a queue. But yesterday I broke. In total I was in queues for over hour. In total I was in queues for over an hour, when I should have been working. After 10 or so rings the voice of BT comes on, apologises for the delay, and suggests you go online to sort it out. Don’t take the piss woman! If I could get on-line I would! Eventually I realised I had lost the will to live, threw the phone down and collapsed. Just then the phone rang. It was George from Milton Keynes calling me back to tell me that he hadn’t managed to get through to the engineer who was supposed to be working on my line and so it probably wasn’t going to get fixed. Despite this bad news, I was so overjoyed to hear a human being and so delighted that he had stayed late to call me back, as promised, that the flame in my soul re-lit. Thank you George!

Look BT, London Electricity have kept our lights working consistently for over a year. Thames water have been keeping water flowing in and our turds flowing out for the same time. So why, why, can’t you keep my phone service working for a few months at a time ? Just leave it the fuck alone! Don’t touch it and it will carry on working! What goes on ? Does the tea-boy keep tripping over our line and pulling out in the exchange ? Get him a job at London Electricity, then at least if he does it again he’ll get a serious burn – maybe he’ll be more careful after that.
Everywhere you look nowadays in the UK you see privatised companies destroying their services and coining in more cash for the top level of idle layabouts in their “management team” and we become less and less empowered to stop them. Michele summed it up yesterday [you need to hear her American accent as you read it]: “You know, I can totally see why this country lost the Empire”

I nearly hurt myself laughing…

The new black

There’s a TV ad that’s bubbled from the heady heights of ITV down to the cess-pits of “Men and Motors” for the new e-bank: “first direct”. “new” because it’s been around for years and years. “e” because they realised the business advantage of ditching all of the expensive high-street staff in favour of a load of desperate call-centre monkeys long before the Internet was widespread enough to be a serious option. OK, that sounds harsh but there are some caveats:

  • The people who work in the call-centres are not necessarily stupid, in fact I would think that nowadays they are way up above the average IQ andprobably the cream of the market. The problem is their location and situation: you live in Newcastle, Plymouth or Belfast these days then you don’t have many choices. Consequently, you are competing against an increasingly educated workforce for the few shitty jobs that global companies are still forced to provide (computers still can’t cope with voice recognition – you’ll know when they can because the caring capitalists will cause a wave of mass global unemployment). Pity that there are areas of the world more poor than you because otherwise you may have some job security. Kiss goodbye to your jobs because India is currently where it’s at. At the moment anyway. Those uppity Indians will soon be as unreasonable as all of us and demand business-unfriendly, “inflexible” wages! Never mind, we haven’t even started on China properly yet. And you wait until North Korea starts to take the bait!
  • Being sandwiched between ads for wank-lines, low-quality ring-tones and tits doesn’t mean first-direct are desperate! It’s just good business!
  • Yeah – I was watching! But in my defence it’s because Jack Reagan and George Carter are my heroes….ok..I lose that one…
  • If you work in a call centre you are having a hard enough time with the day-to-day stuff so you really don’t need wankers like me calling you monkeys! So get angry! But not with me and all the other millions of people, including you probably, who hate talking to call centres, get angry with the fact that there’s enough money in the world for everyone to live in comfort. Not just survive, but live in comfort! So why do people starve ? Tricky one that…

Anyway, back to the ad: this gormless couple of McDonalds-dependent turds explain how they feel like being an fd customer is like being in a select club. Well, yes, very select I would say. Shot in black-and-white (we probably wouldn’t want to see them in colour) their words are displayed on the screen as they are spoken, probably to make the average Men and Motors viewer feel that he can read. But then you start to look at their surroundings. OK, a minimalistic room with bare floorboards: very cool. On the other hand there’s fuck all else there! Nothing but a radiator! They are sitting in a big empty room! Has it been repossessed by their “select club” ? Damn! The bastards even took the carpet!

Apologies for not writing to you. I don’t deserve any friends I know…but I’ve been in a bit of a fug of worky scaredness recently. Love!


Michele recently found herself in a linguistic black spot. So, being the insightful, cultured, bat that she is, she wrote to Professor Bernard Fuck. If you buy the most recent issue of Viz you will see her letter and his response.

Nazism and Kleftiko

Have you ever watched ITV’s Sunday lunchtime politics effort ? Of course you would probably never admit it if you had, but surely it’s no worse that the newly dumbed-down BBC version (The Politics A-Go-Go Show! And here’s your host…Jerrremy Viiiiine!) but at least the ITV one doesn’t dance on the grave of its predecessor. “On the Record” was clearly axed to make way for the new “progressive polictics”.

In case you don’t know what “progressive politics” means, the ITV show was good enough to employ the skills of Irwin Seltzer, an ultra-right-wing would-be Neo-Conservative. “Would-be” because, according to many of the rabid ultra-right neo-nazis on the Internet, he is actually a raging Socialist!

Irwin explained to Jonathan “Dimbo” Dimbleby that, of course, Tony Blair was a Neo-Con. In fact, according to Irwin, Blair referred to the NC’s as, simply, progressive politicians. He also claimed that Blair outlined Bush’s entire foreign policy before Bush was elected.

I tend to agree with Irwin. Don’t have a go at me for that. I also agree that the Neo-Cons are the most evil and corruptive force on the planet, but they seem to be unbothered by this judging by their shockingly frank website. Irwin just went on record to say that Blair is complicit in this vile conspiracy.

Don’t panic – I’m going to stop before the red wine gets the better of me.

It was my mum’s birthday this week. To celebrate Michele and I bought her a digital radio (BBC7 is far too difficult to hear otherwise) and took us all out to dinner at an old favourite restaurant: The Village Taverna. We were slightly worried that it may have got broken since the last time we went there but it has only got better! Superb food, superb wine and reasonable prices in the most cosy atmosphere. OK, some would call it tacky, but only the joyless idiots. Top night.

There are load of other things, but they can wait for other days. Love to you all (espcially those that hate me – I know how much love fucks you off).


Skip this unless you’re a C programmer with a strong stomach…
I’m sure that the seasoned hackers and computer scientists amongst you will probably already have encountered Duff’s Device, but it was only after rambling along some overgrown link-paths from a slashdot article that I discovered it. In a nutshell, this is it:

send(to, from, count)
	register short *to, *from;
	register count;
		register n=(count+7)/8;
		case 0:	do{	*to = *from++;
		case 7:		*to = *from++;
		case 6:		*to = *from++;
		case 5:		*to = *from++;
		case 4:		*to = *from++;
		case 3:		*to = *from++;
		case 2:		*to = *from++;
		case 1:		*to = *from++;
			} while(--n>0);

As the man himself said, “Disgusting, no ?”. It’s just so, so, sick and weird, and yet so beautiful. It’s like one of those sculptures or pictures that your brain just can’t cope with; one that forces you to either run screaming or just stand there tilting your head and squinting.
It wasn’t until I’d compiled it and filled it with printf’s that it started to make sense but I’m still feeling slightly dirty…


Charles McKeown, one of the three writers of the Brazil screenplay (together with Terry Gilliam and Tom Stoppard), also has a role in the film. His first line is as follows (spoken in a loud and frantic tone):
“No you can’t borrow any more chairs! I’ve only got one left and I need that to sit on!”
Now that I too work for the MOI, I get it…

Where hearts were entertaining June

After 3 months of waiting, the gloriously beautiful Criterion Collection DVD box-set release of Brazil is now mine! I bought it from eBay and of course it never arrived; it was sent by post and, as every English person knows, the Post Office is now total shit and staffed by crooks on contract. However, when I complained, the vendor shipped me a new copy and I paid courier charges. Thanks – i got it and it’s perfect. In case you didn’t know, Brazil is my all time favourite film and so I wanted to own a good copy. This is a 3 DVD set containing all of the nerdy history behind the film’s release together with the version produced by Hollywood (Universal in fact) who decided that rather than being a beautiful political horror story it was, in fact, a lame love story. If you’ve ever wanted to see an example of how editing can break a piece of media/art etc then watch this.
Terry Gilliam has been elevated, in my mind at least, from mentor to hero since watching this beautifully put together collection. Criterion rule!

Gilliam took his battle with Sid Sheinberg at Universal into the public arena. An act that the latter described as “guerilla tactics”. Gilliam simply said that he wasn’t prepared to fight on their terms and with their weapons. It would be a massive understatement to say that I like that comment.

It’s all getting a tad sad at my (previous) workplace. Jif is fucking off forever and Lisa is going to disappear for a month. All very sad. As is going back to the union. For the first time in years I feel out of place there. Another new intake of students and staff help to destory any continuity and create a slightly sad atmosphere…IMO anyway.
We really need to move abroad. It will be very sad to leave my family, especially after the superb roast lamb we had tonight. It was a great night all round in fact.

Yet another apology to those, and you know who you are, whom I have neglected. I promise to write soon.

Night yall,

Alex – you were so right abount Basement Jaxx.