Thursday, May 12, 2022

Dr. Commuter advises ... Aspiring NATO Members

 Dr. Commuter writes:  Everyone likes to feel wanted and part of a group. This is as just as true for entire nations as for individuals. These days NATO is very popular and more countries are thinking about joining all the time.  The BBC have even been forced to consider how one goes about this.

BBC Website 12 May 2022

Well, it turns out that it is really quite straightforward. You just need to fill out the application form, mail it off with your first year's subscription ($1 billion for larger countries, $400 million if population is under 30 million) and, if you pass the scrutiny of the Membership Committee, you should be in the club in no time.



Name of country................................................................................
Previous names if former colony or has recently declared independence
Size of army.................... (in divisions)
Size of navy ................... (in ships; do not include rowing boats, pedalos or any vessel called Something McSomethingFace)
Size of air force.................(in planes)

Are you happy to have cruise missiles on your territory -     underline your answer from one of the following:
    Yes, if we have to / Of course, the more the merrier  / Already got some but don't mind a few more

Do your armed forces have a really fashionable and cool uniform and, if so, is it all right if other members borrow the style?

Are you currently invading anyone? - If yes, please give details in covering letter

Are you ruled by a mad dictator / revolutionary committee of people's justice / divinely-appointed monarch / infallible Prophet? If any of these apply, we will send you a few further questions later.

How do you feel about the borders of your country and those nearby? Tick one answer

  • They are okay
  • Some minor revisions would be helpful, you know, just to tidy up some scruffy bits, but no major changes are envisaged
  • Historical anomalies must be corrected and those who have subverted the sacred soil of the Motherland be consigned to the lower circles of hell
  • The glorious cause of our people knows no boundaries and all countries must, one day, be included within the bounds of our ever-growing empire

Do you accept the Terms and Conditions of NATO membership (see 658 page appendix)?    

Please remember to include a working email address and a telephone number where we may contact you. 


Dr. Commuter is also available to advise any country that would like to join the EU, Eurovision, UEFA or Interpol.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Swans Fly Off

 I wrote a few weeks back about the peculiar problems surrounding Staines Town FC, who play their football in tier 4 of the non-league pyramid. Denied access to their ground by the owner, they were desperate to complete the season, even though they face relegation, rather than suffer the ignominy of having all their results expunged. Through friendly contacts, they managed to secure their final league match at Wealdstone's (my home team, let me remind you) ground, and so it was that yesterday, with the Stones playing miles away at Altrincham, I toddled along in the warm sunshine to watch them take on another local side, Northwood.

Alas, the Swans were hopelessly outclassed and lost 8-1, their rather ponderous (and distinctly short) defence having little answer to the Woods' relentless attacking and excellent corner-kicking.

This will almost certainly be the last match played by this club - they may or may not return via a "phoenix" club set up by supporters under a similar name but in a much lower league; a sad demise for a club formed at exactly the same time as the Stones and who we have encountered many times over recent years.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Dr. Commuter assists ... Manchester United



Dr. Commuter writes:  I gather that English Premier League football Manchester United are currently doing less well than they or their fans would wish, and that they are seeking aid from kindly souls such as Mr Ferdinand (pictured above).

I can save a whole point from the list, whatever it may contain, and thereby allow United more time to pack in extra football action. Here is my exclusive five-point plan for Mr ten Hag or anyone else to exploit as they wish.

  1. Get a decent goalie. Goalies can help prevent the opposition from scoring goals
  2. Get a decent defence. Defenders not only prevent goals from being scored against but can link up with the midfield (see below)
  3. Get a decent midfield. Midfielders can link up with the defence (see above) and the forwards (see below) to help control the game and enable their side to score more goals than the others do
  4. Get some decent forwards. Forwards can score goals and force the opposition to commit resources to defending, thereby relieving the pressure on the midfield (see above) and defence (see further above). 
  5. Er, that's it. Just do all the above and you can save a further valuable point.

We seem to have ended up with a four-point plan and it may be possible to reduce it still further by judiciously inserting the word "player". Thus we may restate the entire plan in one succinct statement.

  1. Get some decent players.

I think that will do for now.



If you are a sporting manager in need of advice, do please contact Dr. Commuter at the usual address. Offers of free season tickets and attendance at prestige sporting events will not be rejected.

To Update Or Not To Update, That Is Not Actually The Question

 Ebay, with whom I have occasionally done a little business, sent me a plaintive email this morning and as it is utterly pointless, I hereby share it with you.

Yes, it has indeed been a year since I updated my personal info. Many years, in fact. And why is that, you may well ask? Because it has not changed in that time. It is not possibly for me to update any of it because, assuming that by "update" we mean "change", there is nothing to change. 

If Ebay had been intelligent enough to suggest that I login to confirm that all was well, that would be fair enough, though irritating. Cleverer still would be to have a reply link in the email with the one word "Yes", in much the same way that one replies to emails that are sent to one confirming that one's email address is valid.

Like that folksy "Sounds like a good idea?". No, it is not a good idea. It is an utter waste of my time. I know that my personal info is correct because, as I have already told the court, Your Honour, it has not changed for ages and during that time I have done things on Ebay which could not have happened had my personal info been incorrect.

And that final phrase - "If you have updated your personal info recently..." Don't they know? Do the clerks who check all the personal info updates and place a tick in green ink at the side of the ledger not talk to the people ( I always assume it is unpaid interns) who draft the customer-facing emails?  How hard is it to have a "last updated" date field in the personal info database and for the email program to read that before sending out the emails? I'll answer that one myself. Not in the least bit. A doddle. Not only could I do it, I bleedin' well have done it or similar in various database applications I have built.

Anyway, I shall certainly take full cognisance of the final bit of their email. I will ignore the reminder.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Rats in cyberspace

 Many years ago I posed the question "Where have all the scammers gone?" At that time most scams were worked through email or phone calls but the frequency of both seemed to be diminishing. I now realise that the attention of these parasites has been shifting to text messages sent to mobile phones and to the manipulation of social media. My first-hand experience of scammers on both media is almost zero.

Today's scammer sends a text (sometimes an email) to a victim (that is to say, many texts to random numbers, hoping one or two will take the bait). Here are some of the variations:

  • It promises huge returns if they will only send some money to an untraceable account, usually a cryptocurrency. This may be linked to a stolen social media account as outlined below.

  • It breathlessly begs for help, an emergency code is needed, please receive it on behalf of the sender. The catch being that this will be the reset code for the recipient's own account with Instagram or some other site, and the scammer is using the reset password technique to take control of it. Often the scammer has already got control of another Instagram site and is using that site's contacts. A victim who receives a message apparently from someone they follow is more likely to fall for the scam. The scammer will then seek to monetise their corrupted accounts by inviting their contacts to send them money through some subterfuge such as "I am making huge profits on crypto, you can too, just send me your startup investment".

  • The scammer pretends they were trying to contact a friend or business contact, apologises for making a mistake and then tries to start a conversation anyway. The endgame here is to lure the victim into "investing" in cryptocurrency though a website that the scammer has set up. Or perhaps to start a longer term "friendship" which will sooner or later result in a plea for financial help. Charmingly, this is known as the "pig-butchering" scam, an expression of Chinese origin.

  •  It just has a weblink, often in an obscured form which makes it hard to see where it is really going. This may lead directly to an attempt to download malware to the victim's phone or to do identify theft by asking for a login and other personal details. And yes, there are people who click on links even though they haven't the faintest idea of what they are.

  • It pretends to be from a bank, or Amazon or similar and says a payment has been blocked and the account must be verified by clicking on a link, which will then harvest as much personal detail as the victim is stupid enough to supply. The giveaway in all these cases is that the text will not address the victim by name and account number and will come from a phone number or email address that is obviously not from the institution that it claims to be.

What is frightening is the huge number of people who fall for them. I regularly read the r/scams forum on Reddit where these exploits are publicised and discussed. Although the public opinion on scam victims is that they are usually the out-of-touch elderly, it is clear that naive young people are as likely to be taken in. Some will respond at once to any message, even if sent in the middle of the night when they are groggy with sleep. Some just click first on any link then worry about it afterwards. Some will look at an obvious scam (such as "This is the president of the World Bank, I have $50million hidden away and need your help to get it") and then make a plaintive posting asking "Is this a scam?". 

Then there are the willing victims, driven by either greed or lust. The greedy fall for adverts promising stupidly high financial returns on "investments"; almost always these are for cryptocurrencies. The websites that lure them in may look convincing and may even provide regular updates, once they have made an "investment" showing increases in value. But requests for withdrawals will be met either with the blocking of the account or a claim that taxes or other fees have to be paid first so please send some more cash (needless to say nothing will ever be repaid).

A separate group of willing victims are those who go to internet dating sites, contact a "girl" and swap nude pictures. The victim supplies photos showing their faces and giving real personal details. The "girl" supplies pictures stolen from the net and has an entirely fake profile. Then the "girl" blackmails the victim saying they will send the nudes to their family and friends unless a payment is made. Or they contact the victim, using a different profile and claiming to be the husband or father of the"girl", and threatening exposure and violence. Of course, the scammers do not know who the family and friends of the victim are and are unlikely to do anything at all, other than make empty threats. But that does not stop large numbers of frightened young men making payments to buy them off and then receiving more demands for cash.

Living quietly as I do in retirement, it now becomes plain why so many of these scams have passed me by.