Wescot Credit Services — spammers (01482 590502)

Wescot Credit Services — spammers (01482 590502)

I was motivated to write this review because I’m fed up of being spammed by Wescot Credit Services Ltd. I don’t owe them or anyone they represent a penny. In fact I’ve never heard of the person they claim to be after, yet they continue to spam call me.

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iPad shutdown screenshots

Why did Apple make the iPad shutdown button combination the same as the screenshot button combination? Both use the volume up + power buttons, it's just a slightly longer press to shut an iPad down rather than take a screenshot. I've just deleted more than a dozen unwanted screenshots of my home screen, taken whilst attempting to shut it down over the past few weeks.

BT's inflexible flexible TV packages

BT has announced a so-called 'flexible' product for their TV services. You can basically plug together different packages on a month-by-month basis. However, it's only 'flexible' in certain respects because you have to sign up for a very inflexible 24 months to get it in the first place, and of course you're going to have to pay a fixed monthly fee for the base service regardless.

BT said:

Being flexible is more in tune with how customers want to consume content in a streaming world.

Yes, but locking people in for 24 months is definitely not in tune with how customers want to consume content.

The packages start at £10/month for the 'Entertainment' package and go up to £60/month for the 'VIP' package, which is extortionate. By comparison, Netflix is £5.99 to £11.99 a month and you can cancel at any time rather than in 24 months.

I don't think BT have quite grasped the definition of flexibility that customers really want.

On a related note, sport packages are just ludicrously expensive. When I'm the supreme despotic leader of this country (The Worshipful One), that'll all change.

The bridge in the Irish Sea

So, Boris is looking at the feasibility of a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Don’t bother, Boris, I can tell you now it’s infeasible. Oh it’s possible from an purely engineering perspective, but so is a bridge across the Atlantic. However it will be too complicated and too expensive.

When someone first mentioned the idea, it was £3.5 billion. Then when they next mentioned it, it was up to £15-20 billion. By the time they’ve completed their feasibility study it’ll be double that. Then, after a few hundred public consultations, it’ll be pushing £100 billion.

Then of course there’s the matter of the 3.5 km wide, 300 metre deep dyke in the middle of the sea to consider. As if spanning that wouldn’t be tricky enough, we dumped all our unused munitions from WWII in there and, since then, a bunch of waste from our nuclear reactors. That’ll keep the engineers on their toes, assuming said toes don’t fall off due to radiation poisoning.

And don’t forget the workman with the government trowel will be busy with HS2 until about 2310 AD. So if it were to be built at all we’d have to wait a couple of hundred years for it. It’s probably better — and certainly cheaper — just to wait until continental drift moves Ireland close to the mainland and then we can simply jump across.

We must remember we’re not in China, where of course it would be built within a week and would cost about £4.50.

Why does the universe have a cold spot?

The universe is cold at 2.73 kelvin, which is -270.42 C (-454.76 F), but the small temperature it does have is very useful indeed. This radiation is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and it was emitted only a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. In a universe that’s 13.8 billion years old, that’s extremely early. Over the eons the wavelength of this radiation has been stretched to the microwave end of the spectrum by the expansion of space.

CMB map picturing the cold spot.
Cold spot, circled bottom right.

The CMB tells us many things about the universe and we’ve used lots of high-tech instruments to analyse it. The radiation is homogeneous, meaning it’s largely the same in every direction we look, with only tiny fluctuations amounting to no more than about 20 microkelvins either way (and a microkelvin is 1 millionth of a degree).

That is, except for one particular cold spot, which is on average 70 microkelvins colder than the rest of the CMB and up to 150 microkelvins colder in some parts. This makes cosmologists rub their chins, mutter things like “hmm” and then they start penning theories as to why this might be.

Did we collide with a parallel universe at some point? Is it just a void of nothingness? Or did someone leave the window open when the early universe was forming?

The enduring enigma of the cosmic cold spot by Syed Faisal ur Rahman on Physics World.

Universal Credit's problems

The BBC website has published a number of articles about Universal Credit lately and a lot of them profile people who got into trouble after taking an advance on their payments. People take these advances because it’s not until five weeks after applying that a payment is made to the claimant.

The good news is that I’ve solved this problem for the government. It’s a two-step process.

Step 1. Apparently it takes seven days for a bank to transfer the government’s money to the claimant. This is ludicrous. I can transfer money between two accounts in less than two hours and I’m sure the government has more oomph with banks than me. Is the additional six days and 22 hours it takes the government to transfer their money because they route it through the remnants of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel in Mexico in order to ‘clean’ it? The government should simply demand a modern bank account.

Step 2. Universal Credit is paid monthly, which is fine for the long-term I suppose. However, it’s clear it’s the initial wait for the first payment that’s causing a lot of people problems, so how about making the first two payments on a fortnightly schedule?

And there we are — problem solved. I’ve slashed the wait from five weeks to two by applying nothing more than common sense and I’ve assured myself a knighthood in the process.

BBC licence fee and banging MPs

BBC licence fee decriminalisation

So, the BBC are having a consultation to decide whether not paying a TV licence fee should be decriminalised. For the love of God, of course it should. It’s a television, not an Uzi 9mm. Not paying something like that should be a civil offence, similar to not paying council tax, not a criminal offence.

The whole issue of whether we should pay a TV licence at all is another matter. As it stands it’s simply a tax because you have to pay it whether or not you watch the BBC. I think it should get with the times and become subscription-based. You shouldn’t have to have a licence just because you own a telly. They may as well start licensing underpants.

I’d probably still subscribe. The BBC has gone downhill in recent decades, as its Saturday evening dross demonstrates. It just seems to be emulating the commercial channels with many of its programmes and chasing ratings, and a lot of it is complete pap. That said, it does produce the best factual programmes (about things like science and nature) and many of its dramas (The Bodyguard, Killing Eve etc.) are top quality.

So, yes, throw in Radio 2 and the BBC website and I’d subscribe. And I’d give them an extra tenner if they finally do away with the formulaic dancing and singing shows, which always have three normal judges, one nasty judge, a public vote and an unerring ability to depress me. The sheer amount of televisual time Strictly commands is staggering.

Tracy Brabin MP

Great reply from an MP to some trolls. I, for one, am glad MPs aren’t routinely banged over a wheelie bin before parliamentary sessions.

Tracy Brabin Twitter reply.

Subscription sites and light switches

Google search and subscription sites

I really don't think Google should display search results for articles where, when you click through via search, you then have to have a subscription or account to see them. It's essentially advertising an article with a promise to satisfy your search criteria but then you can't view said article. Such sites are often subscription newspapers, social media pages or the woeful Medium silo.

At the very least, Google could give you an option to filter out subscription sites.

Light switches

Light switches should always be down for on and up for off. This is a problem when you have two switches that operate the same light. Therefore it should be the law that dual light switches are fitted with servos of some sort that switch the other switch(es) to match when you engage one of them.

Have I just invented that? If so, it's Copyright Gordon Ansell, 2020. I'll apply for a patent whilst I'm doing so for my electric underpants puller-upper (the deluxe model will have a stack system for your briefs on the base).

iA Writer review and changing my workflow

iA Writer review and changing my workflow

I’ve tried quite a few Markdown editors but, until now, hadn’t properly investigated iA Writer. However, it now fits nicely into my workflow and in this article I explain how it does so and I present my review of iA Writer.

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Age-verification companies want £3m in 'damages'

I don't want to get into the debate about whether we should or shouldn't have a porn block, but I do want to say something about the age-verification software companies who want £3m in 'damages' because the government didn't go ahead with it.

Remember, it's the tax-payer who'll ultimately pay those damages.

As far as I'm aware, the government never commissioned these companies to come up with age-verification software, so I can't see how they've got any right to claim anything. If it turns out they were asked or commissioned to do this then of course they deserve payment, but nothing I've read indicates that.

It's the government's job to create new laws and repeal old ones and they can do that at will. If a bunch of companies jump the gun and spend money and resources developing something that's no longer needed then that's their own look-out as far as I'm concerned.

Apparently these companies have applied for a judicial review and I hope their application gets turned down.

Make quantum decisions with the Universe Splitter app

The Universe Splitter app allows you to make quantum decisions, spawning new universes in the process. Some quantum background to this and a brief review of the app can be found herein.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood review — hard to rate

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood review — hard to rate

I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood last night and this is my review of it. I enjoyed it but still have some reservations I can't quite put my finger on. That's probably me just being overly fussy though.

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Young, middle-aged and old

I was 55 last year and I don’t much like it. I have a body that’s a bit broken and I can easily pick up a back strain simply by getting out of bed. Sometimes I don’t even need to get out of bed. Sometimes I wake up with a back strain I somehow picked up overnight. Sleeping should be categorised as a dangerous sport.

Anyway, I was wondering when one stops being middle-aged and starts being old, so I did some research. I do of course have a vested interest here.

Wikipedia quotes a couple of dictionaries on the matter. The Oxford English Dictionary says that middle-age runs from 45-65. Merriam-Webster is a little more pessimistic and says it runs from 45-64. The entry in the Collins English Dictionary was clearly written by a pimply youth because it casts middle-age as 40-60. That was probably penned through a fog of marijuana smoke, though, so I’m simply going to ignore Collins’ take on the matter.

Back in 2018 YouGov had a poll about what people perceive as young, middle-aged and old. I’m not generally a fan of asking the people what they think but I quite like the outcome of this particular poll. The general consensus is that you are young up to the age of 29, middle-age starts at 48 and you’re not old until you’re 70.

The mathematicians amongst you will notice there’s a gap covering the ages of 30-47 when you’re in a sort of fermenting no man’s land. This implies the public see a fourth era of one’s life between youth and middle-age for which they have no name. Yiddle-aged, perhaps.

Graph of YouGov study polling what folk call young, middle-aged and old. The bit I like, though, is that old-age doesn’t start until 70. The people are very wise indeed on this matter and I wouldn’t dream of ignoring them, so this is the definition I’m going with. Well, for another 10 years or so, that is. No doubt I’ll then be scrabbling around to find some obscure research stating that old-age doesn’t really start until you’re 80.

Ageing is a battle between mind and body. My head says I’m somewhere in my early 20s but my body says otherwise and it’s rather insistent on the matter.

Royalty and Flybe


I just don’t understand the furore about our Royal Family’s “emergency discussions about the Sussexes’ future”. I simply don’t care. They can do what they like. I’m not anti-royalist but I just don’t give a shit what they do and I’m staggered so many people in the country are that interested such that it’s the main news story on the BBC.

For what it’s worth, I’m in emergency discussions with my cat about the protocol she’s established for a second breakfast shortly after the first. It should be pointed out that I still remain second in line to throne of this house even if I decide to go and live in Canada. Bet that doesn’t make the front page of the BBC.

Flybe tight-lipped over collapse threat

The BBC is running an article suggesting Flybe is in trouble. If this is true and collapse is imminent (and it seems very likely) then Flybe are showing a shocking lack of morals by continuing to take bookings, whereupon they’ll leave people stranded in foreign parts and we, the taxpayers, will ultimately have to pay to repatriate them. If that happens then the CEO should do jail time. Surely it’s fraud if they know they’re going under and still take payments for flights they can’t honour.

Of course I’m only speculating on a speculative story.

Cookie consents breach GDPR law

An article on TechCrunch takes a long look at how cookie consents are breaching EU privacy laws and how the cookie confirmation pop-ups are merely a hindrance to people.

I’ve talked about this here, here, here (the ‘Cooke Monsters’ bit) and even here to a certain extent.

All cookies except essential session cookies should be off by default. There should be no cookie confirmation pop-ups, just a website “settings” option where you can go in and switch cookies on if you choose to.

If a site doesn’t want you there if you won’t accept their tracking and advertising cookies then they should send you to a page telling you that. That page should just have the “settings” option and you can switch some cookies on if you choose to. Alternatively, you can simply choose not to visit that site.

That’s how it should be. End of.

Killer robots come in the shape of a ball

Samsung have recently been demonstrating something called Ballie, which is basically a ball that follows you around and controls your entire home.

Any ball that follows me around will be tripped over in short order, whereupon I’ll probably break my neck. Hence it’s a killer robot. It’s quite clever actually because we all expect killer robots to look like a T-800 and speak with an Austrian accent. Nobody expects an invasion of killer balls.

I dread to think what my cat would think of such a thing.

Anyway, watch the video and be either suitably impressed or extremely scared as you choose.

Update: You can't watch the video, sorry. Some buffoon has removed it from YouTube. It was very good, though.