Monday, October 15, 2018

The Icy Hand of Fate

There's nothing like being reminded of one's mortality, particularly on a wet Monday morning, as Mrs C and I surveyed our garden after torrential rain the night before. It is often thought preferable to adopt a more optimistic, life-affirming approach to the start of a new week. This is not the philosophy of the admen (or perhaps adwomen, let's call them adpeople and move on) who advise a well known price comparison website. (You know the one, Examine the Muskrat or something). Instead, they have clearly made a serious effort to get the "Non-Sequitur of the Year" award by sending me an email with the strapline "Get ready for a winter of fun" and following this with the remarkable statement
Make sure your life insurance is in place today so you can enjoy all the fun that winter will bring.
 I don't really need to be reminded to get ready for fun. Fun is the very essence of the Ramblings household's existence. It's non-stop fun from morning until late at night and we don't stop just because the first snowflakes are falling. Far from it. The moment the roads ice up, flights are cancelled and the A & E departments fill up with flu sufferers, we are out there, driving over black ice, chasing dogs across frozen lakes,  going out without a vest on and all the other madcap fun things one does in winter.

So it was timely, nay, helpful, to be reminded that one could enjoy all this fun even more with a bit of life insurance. Then it really wouldn't matter if we died screaming as the car skidded across the carriageway into an oncoming gas tanker, or we lay coughing up our lungs in an overcrowded ward where the medicine had run out because it was waiting to be cleared through customs (thanks, Brexit). We could die happy because someone else would inherit even more cash than they would have done anyway (assuming the life assurance company paid out - presumably they would have get-out clauses that exempted them from any payment if the death was our fault, and doing anything fun-like in winter probably counts).

I suppose what the adpeople wanted me to think was "'Ere, hold on a mo, I was going to attempt the North Face of the Eiger in winter (again)  but I won't really enjoy it, scrambling up the Hinterstoisser Traverse in a blizzard and rocks raining down, not unless I've put some life insurance in place. I'll just be worrying myself sick instead. I'll take out a policy. There, now I can break my neck and everything will be alright, nobody cares if I live or die provided I leave them something to spend".

It would have been far more helpful had the email said something like "Don't take any stupid risks this winter. Avoid dangerous winter sports, Wrap up warm. Drive carefully (if you have to drive at all) and let's all be here for the spring". But then I wouldn't have panicked and bought life insurance, would I?

Anyway, let assure my correspondents that I am absolutely ready for a winter of fun, just as ready as I would have been without their reminder, in fact. And I look forward to a spring of jollity, a summer of festivity and an autumn of unrivalled entertainment. So that's that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I'll just make a note of that

I have had my share of digs at Microsoft over the years. I keep trying to kick the habit - really, it's all down to will-power - but can you blame me for having another go when the following pops up on my Facebook feed?

If you don't know, the "Surface" referred to it is a laptop computer but, as they say in one of my favourite films Airplane, that's not important right now. Let your mind boggle gently on the assertion that "Employees lose 76 hours a year looking for lost notes". It is so breathtakingly stupid that it deserves some serious analysis and could only have come from the same creative geniuses that gave us "The New Busy".

  • The source of this information? Not given. 
  • Who are these mysterious employees who spend so much time rummaging through filing cabinets, emptying waste-paper baskets and interrogating their innocent colleagues about who walked off with their precious scraps of paper? We don't know.
  • Who do these people work for? What do they do? Does this "research" apply to farmers, bus-drivers, soldiers, shop assistants, factory workers, miners, coastguards, traffic wardens and TV comedians who present travel programmes? Or just to a few people who happen to work for Microsoft and who are unbelievably disorganised and poorly managed. (Sarcastic voice off: That would be the people responsible for Windows 10 updates, would it?)

This sort of stupid generalisation is neither true nor helpful. If it is meant to be some sort of average, then, given that "employees" has not been defined, it must apply to all employees worldwide. Which, given that the vast majority probably do not do much in the way of making notes (see some of the examples of occupations listed above) suggests that a small number spend an amazing amount of time scratching their heads and pondering why the Post-It they carefully stuck on their computer monitor is no longer there - hundreds if not thousands of hours a year. How on earth do they hold down their jobs? How did they get them in the first place? - Surely they would never have made it to the interview because they would have lost the note telling them where to go.

Perhaps the next advertisement could include the following Every statement is verified by the Ramblings Research Institute and absolutely not made up, honest.

  • Employees spend 93 hours a year watching their computers boot up, display little blue circular things to indicate that the processor is too busy doing something else than to accept any commands from you and reading security updates that merely redirect them to webpages containing pages of endless gobbledegook about "security issues being addressed".
  • Employees spend a further 35 hours a year reinstalling drivers that the latest Windows update has uninstalled, calling IT Support to find out why their network connectivity has gone down and throwing coffee mugs at the screens at yet another message asking them if they wish to trust a printer.
  • Some employees waste an astonishing 114 hours and 18 minutes a year reading, gawping at and finally reacting with contumely to moronic advertisements by certain large firms who, unable to explain why we should buy their products clearly and simply, resort to invention and misinformation.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hold Everything, This One Is Hot!

I'm still a little a-tremble with excitement. One of the emails sent to me today was from Skoda UK, with whom I recently transacted a little business. It tells me - are you sitting down and have you carefully put down any hot cups of tea or coffee that you might have been holding? These little precautions are important, you know - it tells me that  - do you know, even now, some moments later, it makes me catch my breath just a little - it tells me that - No, I cannot contain myself any longer ...

We've updated our Privacy Statement

Of course I rushed to open the brand new, updated, Privacy Statement and printed it out for comparison, line by line,  with the previous one (and what a thundering good privacy statement it was, one of the best I have read in many a long year) . I underlined in red ink all the changes, made appropriate markings for the spelling mistakes and errors in grammar and finally translated the whole lot into Latin so that it can be transcribed upon a granite monolith to be erected at the edge of my estate for all to admire.  I do hope this is the reaction that the PR people at Skoda were expecting.

[Some of the above is not strictly true. For further information about the slight exaggerations in the piece, and for a complete word by word exegesis of our Privacy Statement do contact us at the usual address. Terms and Conditions undoubtedly apply and these are available in our Terms and Conditions Statement which has not been updated for a while and that is why we have not bothered to send you an email informing you of such changes but rest assured, we will; provided that, by so doing, we are not in breach of our Privacy Statement in which case we will update it first and send you a lovely long chatty email telling you all about it: Ed]

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Winds of Change

It has been a splendid summer (if you like lots of sunshine) and a rather difficult one (if you are a keen gardener) but certainly a great contrast to most of the last few years when dullness, chill and rain (especially over Bank holidays) seemed the norm. All over now. The first big storm of the season - Ali - is battering the north of these isles and even here in beautiful Ruislip 40mph gusts are giving us a lively morning.

There is no longer a goldfish population for me to worry about; instead Mrs C and I have installed a large pot as a central feature of the garden. We've put a load of old bricks in the base to keep it steady and now it faces its first test amidst the rising winds.

And, speaking of change, we are limping up to the finish line in the botched job that is Britain's exit from membership of the EU. Will there be a last minute deal that satisfies all parties? Or will the die-hards sabotage whatever emerges from the late-night negotiations on the grounds that any deal approved by the EU must, de facto, be detrimental to the UK? I have a horrible feeling that this may the case.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Heads we win, tails we win.

My mother-in-law is not in the best of health and is living in a care home. On her behalf, Mrs. C and I opened a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions concerning her entitlement to Attendance Allowance. One of the sections is about changes to personal circumstances that they need to know and included in the list is the following (and remember this is addressed directly to my M-I-L, not to us):

If you become incapable of managing your own affairs
This has to be a classic example of Joseph Heller's Catch-22*. For if one is not capable of managing one's affairs then one is hardly likely to be able to digest a long Government letter let alone send a reply. And if one does make a reply to say that one is not capable, this surely would be deemed proof of capability.

We aim to sidestep this conundrum by explaining that she is not capable of managing her affairs, but that we are.

* For those unfamiliar with the origin of this now well-known phrase, it was the trap that ensnared Heller's protagonist - an air force pilot in the second world war desperate to avoid going on another, extremely dangerous, mission. The only outlet was to plead insanity but since only a sane man would make such a plea, it was automatically rejected.