Labor Day

A red banner outside the Mac Cafe, MoscowIt’s Labor Day in the US of A today. Dated safely away from May 1st, the traditional Labour Day in the rest of the world, surely to avoid any accidental ideas of communist influences.

Given the general apparent communist paranoia in the US, you’d think it would more fitting for the US to celebrate Commerce Day, Imperialism Day or Freedom Monday (Freedom, My Arse). In the end, you wouldn’t notice a difference. Some will organize firework displays, many will have a barbecue or a picnic, and most of those who actually have the day off work end up drinking too much.

All in praise of the workers’ unions, hurrah!

Black Spyder

I don’t get the excitement about the Prince of Wales’ black spyder letters and opinions.

Apparently it is OK for the chemical industry or the weapon manufacturers, for the general public or Amnesty International, for you and me, for Rupert Murdoch, the Archbishop of Canterbury or Bill Gates to express their opinion and try to sway politicians and other people of influence, but not for a member of the Royal Family?

Apparently it is OK for our politicians and other decision-making to be spine-less weasels, so easily swayed in their opinion?

I wished we lived in a country where everyone enjoys the freedom of speech, and where our leaders can be trusted to listen to that speech but then form their own independent and informed opinion, reach their decision intelligently.

Ha! Now you wonder which planet I live on. Planet Dreamland it is.

Customer Services

DSC_0363Another “great customer service” experience at Natwest West Ealing yesterday morning. Branch opens at 9:00, is still shut by 9:30. No notice at the door, no apology, just a number of customers wishing to surrender their money using the automated service (there’s no human cashier even when they are open).

But they happily take my money, play with it, pay negligible interest and charge substantial fees.

Makes me wish there was a really customer friendly alternative nearby.

My experience at HSBC Ealing on the same day wasn’t much better, but at least they were open when they said they would be, and a human being greeted me, ready to point out the appropriate machine for the service I require.

A Word Of Advice

DSC_0097Here’s a word of advice: make sure to keep a record of all your travels across your home country’s borders. All of them. For ever. Record the date of departure and date of return, destination countries, possibly add additional comments regarding the purpose of the trip.

The trouble is that, one day, you might want to apply for something where the application form requests that you list all such travels over the past five years – for example, an application for British citizenship. Or how about ten years (Russian business visa)?

Madness, and probably almost never entirely correctly filled out. I wonder what’s the point of this, but I certainly wish someone gave us that advise ten or more years ago, especially when you consider a busy international travel schedule like the good wife’s.

Important To Us, Important To Us

DSC_0337How is it possible that I send an email comment or inquiry to a company or government department and receive an almost instant acknowledgement of receipt with the reassurance that my message is very important and that they promise, hands down, to come up with an answer within 21 working days.

Some challenge themselves and aim at ten days, but very few manage within 24 hours.

How, I ask you, how is this possible?

Maybe the person who normally deals with those things is taken ill or retired a few days ago. Given the regularity of this effect, I can’t quite believe it.

Maybe Mondays, or the start of a month, provoke a much higher influx of inquiries than the rest of the week (or month), so that this is the peak of an oscillating pattern of inquiry demands? Also not very likely in my opinion.

Maybe they deliberately slow down their response because they’d prefer that I subscribe to their paid premium service with guaranteed four hour response time. I suppose that is possible, but not the case for several recent cases that I encountered.

Maybe my inquiry is of such a complicated nature that it takes five days (ten, 21, etc) to graft a response? No, certainly not.

This leaves only one explanation: they continuously have a backlog of five (ten, 21) days. You’d think the temporary reassignment of workforce and a little push of an effort would clear the backlog, thus remove the delays, making the overall service much more responsive and useful. Somehow, this never seems to happen.

What other explanation am I missing?

The Castle and I

DSC_0150Interpol, the NSA and most other intelligence agenciesseem to exchange data about us, our Facebook status, Twitter habit or bowel movement frequently and liberally. However, when we travel, we must submit a letter of invitation, a letter of confirmation, two photos of a specific size, a signed application form, gas bills of the last three years (optionally water bills), substantial payment, and a passport.

I look forward to a trip to the Gujarat, India, but the overhead of those arrangements is just ludicrous, fit to keeping an enormous bureaucratic apparatus comfortably alive. I don’t see which other purpose this serves.

Franz Kafka was right all along with his novel The Castle. All along.


Boris’ Waterworks

DSC_0075Boris and his friends are snapping up an opportunity to purchase three second-hand water canons from the German police, beating their chest and priding themselves of £2.3 million saved in comparison to the purchase of new equipment. (

According to the BBC, a Home Office spokesman said: “We are keen to ensure that the police have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets.”

This is exactly the problem, can’t they see? Why not, for a change, work on the reasons which make people protest, on the causes of unrest? Fighting back never works, oppression always backfires.

I do not endorse any form of violence, least of all violence by the state. I somehow hope this backfires, though. At least it shows what government thinks of the people it governs: riff-raff, needs to be disciplined, beaten down, locked away.


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Dear Mr. Waite and Rose

DSC_0016Increasingly, I find supermarkets push towards self-service checkouts by way of providing less and less normally operated tills. I assume my own surrender is not far away, even though I hate the idea.

I quite like 90 seconds of human interaction at the checkout. I quite like not having to master a machine when I do my shopping. First and foremost, however, I think they should make an effort to take my money.

Waitrose in particular generally prides itself of its human approach, so I find the rise of the machine in their stores particularly disturbing.

The consequence can only be to buy even less at the supermarkets. Here in London’s suburbia, little actually requires a visit to a self-service equipped supermarket, and little can be found there (least of all at Waitrose) at a price lower than the local independent and small chain stores.

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Conspiracy Theory

Docklands March 2010 103I am not normally a great friend or spinner of conspiracy theories. However, the fact that right now and out of the blue so-called intelligence emerges, informing of immediate and severe terrorist threads, based on intelligence gathered from intercepted communications, I find that highly suspicious.

Right now, the US and most other countries need to justify their insane Big Brother attitude, and we are going to loose out big time, no matter how it ends. We of course means us, people who believe in the freedom of speech and that an mass-gathering of data and blanket observation without well-defined and published rules of who against whom, when and how and all that… You and me, Ed Snowden, and quite a few but not enough others.

Assume nothing happens in the Yemen or somewhere else in the middle-east, Africa or elsewhere, one of these days. I guess they’ll say that they have successfully warned and defused the threat. I suppose a whole month or so without any anti-US thread or protest is unlikely in the extreme, so they’ll use that to argue that they need to intensify their spying. Whichever way, they will use it to demonstrate that more surveillance is needed and Ed Snowden needs punishing.

Who would have thought we’d find ourselves so quickly in a steadily widening totalitarian regime? I never did, but I fear that we might.


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Yes, You Please Me

DSC_0690Back in February, on its 50th anniversary, the BBC recorded the Beatles’ Please, Please, Me in 12 hours with various artists and, of course, in the old Abbey Road Studios. The one hour TV summary comes up in repeats every once in a while, so if you have a chance to watch it, I recommend it. (article, iplayer)

Not every track is to my liking, but some are immensely well done.

Mick Hucknall of Simply Red performs Anna brilliantly, I Am Kloot gives us beautiful Chains, Ian Broudie does a fine job with Do You Want To Know A Secret. Others are doing well too, but these stand out for me. Plus, of course, the finale: Beverly Knight gives it all for Twist And Shout, very nearly blowing the roof off.

So, why do I mention this? Well, it’s because finally took the time to watch the TV recording again, and then finally took the time to explore the Manchester-based trio I Am Kloot. I am always surprised when I discover contemporary musicians which I like, but those boys certainly are to be liked. A. Lot. Check it out!

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Dumb Schmucks ‘R’ Us

DSC_0567When did we all grow so stupid that a typical BBC documentary feels the need to explain everything. I don’t want to give up and go home, Hilary Lister (a quadriplegic who sailed solo around England) says, and the commentator’s voice from the off adds She resents the idea of giving up and going home. (I am paraphrasing, quoting from memory.)

It’s like the people who take a photograph of something funny and can’t resist the urge to circle and highlight the amusing detail.

It’s like the world assumes that everyone’s I.Q. is below the freezing point. Don’t assume I am Mr. Superbrains, but don’t assume I am a total dumb schmuck either.

Great Expectations

DSC_0274Yoel replied and explained that there was “an unprecedented level of correspondence […] [expressing] concerns over this particular location.” He goes on explaining that we “face a serious issue with street drinking and the inevitable anti social behaviour that it causes in and around the [..] area …”

What’s the f* point, I wonder?

If nobody expects persons treated at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation site to be ex-drug users or ex-alcoholics, what’s the point?

I am also forever curious about the great expectations some people apparently have, and would have loved to find out if a group of former alcohol and drug abusers can live up to these. Are those people expected to roll around in the street, stark-naked? Shout obscenities? Lure the local primary school children into a life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?

I think I might have wanted to join in, at least in the rolling-around naked whilst shouting obscenities part.

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