The Internet is Rubbish Now

You may be able to tell that I am upset. The Internet did this to me. I gave it many chances. I forgave and forgot. But no more.

We are all now in a weird place, don’t you think? Real retail shopping mall shops are failing us but so now is the Internet. And, after some reflection and consideration, the Internet is actually worse.

Over several weeks I shopped for clothes and shoes in massive malls. It was not a good experience; I am not a great one for shopping. After work, I would drive, park, and trudge through a mall, scour racks and shelves, try on items and struggle to refrain from despair.

Jeez. It’s not that I am a fashionista, thrifty, picky, unusually proportioned, or have anything terribly untoward going on. Really. It should never be this difficult.

I just wanted a pair of casual trousers or jeans that (a) had a zip fly, and (b) fitted me. The cost is not an issue. But it turns out that the button fly is massively dominant, and I have extraordinarily short legs (73 cm or about 29 American Imperial Inches).

This is a surprise to me because my legs have not changed in all my adult life, and I used to be able to swing into a shop back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s and find a wide selection in my leg-length. So something has changed.

Maybe this is why I see so many hipsters folding up their trouser legs.

Additionally, I discovered to my horror that some manufacturers don’t bother with the traditional tried and tested measurements, and go for small, medium, large and XL. Yes, in menswear. For men. Crivvens, what is the world coming to?

Worse still – some labels are just wrong. It’s fake news all over again; I’d find a pair of trousers at 73/29 leg and it would cover my foot with the material – clearly longer than the label suggested! It is insane! Same with shoes. I’m a 44 (9.5 UK) – but some 44s I couldn’t get on if my foot had been lubed in goose fat first.

The shop assistants are hopeless too; it used to be a thing of annoyance in the past when assistants would ask if you needed help. My recent experience is that NO-ONE ever approaches you in any shop whatsoever. You could spend more time shopping for an assistant than shopping. And when or if you do find someone and ask for help, they say unhelpful things like:

“Yes, some manufacturers make a big small and some made a small small, so you have to ignore the label and just try everything on.”

I thought all that was bad enough, but the Internet was far worse.

For goodness sake, what is the point of a search engine that doesn’t provide results based on what was input?

It seems to me that – irrespective of what you type in – and regardless of syntax, the results (for pages and pages) are just plain wrong.

It seemed too odd, so I looked into it as much as the search engine would let me. It seems to be more about search engine optimisation (SEO), Google rules and algorithms, and less about the original concept of returning matches. Web pages now are Active Server Pages (asp and aspx) – or unsearchable for other reasons, so it’s not entirely the fault of the search engine.

Not only that, but the cookie and data exchange will inform the visiting site to change to suit an advertising and marketing brief.  The resulting web page (and prices) are based on what device you are using, how expensive and new it is, where you are on the planet, your history in terms of searching, shopping, and surfing. And who knows what else? Dynamic targeted marketing.

This does not take into account important things like (a) you could be shopping for a gift or searching on behalf of someone else, (b) you could be using your firm’s computer, routed through their London office, or (c) using a borrowed device.

The end result is a grand waste of time.

Ergo, the Internet is useless.

Trousers apart, I tried a lot of shoes and had to admit defeat. Clarks’s range is now tiny, Brantano has vanished. Deichmann never has my size, and I resorted to the likes of JD Sports and even Debenhams. No chance – and I am far from being fussy or “into shoes”.

As I liked the shoes I already have, I decided that I would try to get the exact same ones to replace them. My thinking was that I would not have to try them on – so perfect for Internet shoe shopping.

I tried all sorts of hacks and subversions – TOR browsers, cookie cleaners, search syntaxing, different search engines, reverse image searches and more besides. I eventually found a shoe that would exactly replace my old ones from a UK shop at a reasonable price of about £35.

When I went to the checkout, the web page had “Super fast delivery” ticked – and it wouldn’t let me untick the box! I had no option other than to accept £7.75 super fast delivery. That upped the cost considerably – I thought about all the weeks of time and effort already spent and decided to go ahead this one time.

Instead of £42.75, my credit card was charged over £48 because of a currency transaction! – Yep, they were coming from abroad – despite all my effort to search only UK shops and websites. Argh! All for a simple pair of size 9 lace-up grey/ blue casual canvasy shoes.

An unwanted increase of 39% on the price. And it turns out “Super Fast Delivery” is 7 to 10 days.

Eventually I received a pair of size 8 Beige Converse All Stars. In case you are not keeping up – this is a completely different shoe in every possible way.

Okay – if you have read this far, you are probably thinking I’ve ranted and got off my chest a gripe over trousers and a pair of cheap shoes, and that the problem is really just me as a person or my inability to deal with tech or shops or whatever. But is that true? I don’t think so.

I have just had venetian blinds made wrong and delivered late – twice. It’s not convenience, it’s not cheap, and it’s not a simple click. It’s just getting in the way. The Internet is like a bad translator or a deaf friend.

I think my experiences are typical; I hear others, younger and older with similar tales. We have ordered a bed online recently – and that is a saga too.

So what are we going to do about it?

We do what everyone does: we can accept it. We take the holidays we are given by the cookie monster fed Internet. We can accept delivery of clothes that don’t fit and either send them back or sell them on. Or we can return to real reality. That’s what I plan on doing.

I have finally realised that I need to cut out the Internet and take my chances in REAL LIFE.

And one more thing –  only shop when it is absolutely necessary.

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Home Alone

I always thought it was illegal for parents to leave their children alone, but it turns out to be a myth; you can.

Parents can legally leave their children in cars, or at home, alone.

Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.

That’s all there is to it. It’s up to the parents throughout the UK to make that call.

I suppose then, that if a parent judges the children to be mature enough, and if they are in a safe environment for a short while, then – in the unusual event of something bad happening (such as an intruder), it would be irrational to blame the parents.

Being a “helicopter parent” is something I try to fight against; children need space to develop and grow – they need to go out with their friends, to cross the street by themselves, and to be able to be trusted to survive being left alone for a short time.

I would hate to think that – should an accident happen – I would be blamed and possibly ruined.

Would it be better to mollycoddle and raise dependent, incapable adults?

Good Can Win Over Evil if…

In RL Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, it is clear that everyone has good and evil within. To remove the evil in order to be 100% pure good, means that the 100% bad part is freed into the wild with dangerous consequences.

Although the total good or evil remains the same, the effect is a strange case indeed. Perhaps it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it? Perhaps we ought to have the internal good v evil battle to “win” and be virtuous or worthy of the afterlife in heaven… or something.

It is a fascinating novella, and a great subject for discussion and thought. However, the most interesting notion to be teased from this work is, for me, the external manifestation of good and of evil.

Let me go further, does the good erase or in some way make up for any bad that someone does. I don’t mean atonement or penance, not exactly (although that is also very interesting), rather, I am taken with the idea of someone inventing or discovering something, but being a thoroughly disagreeable person – perhaps even considered evil.

I know that this is a poor introduction to what I am on about. Sorry about that. It’s just that it seems to come up again and again in recent times.

Take Wagner – a brilliant, innovative and unique composer – but a Nazi sympathiser and Jew-hater. Even today, his music is taboo in Israel. Can it be possible or reasonable to separate the man from his work – to allow yourself to enjoy his music and disagree with his politics?

In recent times in the UK, it has become clear that in some celebrities at least, the evil side of the personality triumphed from time to time. Jimmy Savile became a prominent BBC radio and television personality, gained fans and followers, brought entertainment and enjoyment to millions, and raised over £40 million for charities. However, it seems he might have had a dark side as a sexual predator. All of which has come out after he died.

Do the allegations and accusations overthrow or trump the good works?

Should they?

Rolf Harris was a role model – someone to look up to, a national treasure, but he’s in jail for sexual offenses. How should I feel about that?

Wagner was open and unapologetic, but no-one knew any bad things about Savile until after he died. Harris’s dark side was hidden – but he was found out while alive, and brought to justice.

Some people say that we ought not to speak ill of the dead, and I am inclined that way myself particularly if nothing can be gained by raking up evil.

Take Savile – he did good works and died. His bad side was then discovered. The big question I had at the time this came out in the media was – why did no-one speak up while he was alive to defend, respond or be brought to justice. If he was prolific as is suggested, surely some of the blame has to be borne by those who, by keeping schtum, allowed further abuse to take place. But all-in-all, what overall good would come of posting allegations over the front pages? I do think that the end result of this particular case is to negate the good. So the whole thing is just pure Mr. Hyde.

Wagner is different. He did not hide his antisemitic views. I wonder that – if he had held them as a dark secret – would people stop liking his music upon discovering “the truth”? Another thought – would his personal beliefs make people listen to his music? And so what? Does anything matter? If his beliefs were not known, what difference would it make to his music, and how it is received as music?

Pop Stars align themselves with political movements – should they? Should it matter to us? Should I stop liking or listening to their songs?

Rolf Harris is different again; he was disgraced and will pay his debt to society. By going to jail, by apologising and atoning, he is cleansed. In theory anyway. Harris faced justice, and gets a clean slate – so all his works, his TV, his books, his paintings – even his pop songs, all should be OK to like – shouldn’t they?

My thought is that we should always be inclined to good, to an exemplary life – even if fake. Why? Because fake is normal. We each have good and evil. We do good and bad, we have to try to let good win. Good must outweigh bad in the scales.

That way lies hope.

Savile did good for more people than he did bad. That’s tough to type in this climate; it goes against everything just now. Same with Harris. Unlike Savile, Harris was found guilty – and is paying. Wagner didn’t even DO anything; he merely held a view that is unpopular. Why can’t we just focus on the good stuff as a default rule? Doing so doesn’t condone crime or evil or unpopular extremist views. Really it doesn’t.

Michael Jackson was a long list of accusations of child abuse, and yet it is widely considered acceptable to enjoy his musical legacy without a care about all that – why? Why is Jackson different from Savile? Jackson didn’t do as much for charity as Savile – Jackson was keeping his money for himself. Is this a double standard?

I remember when Rock Hudson died and it came out that he was actually homosexual. He clearly did not want this to be known while he was alive. He did not want to represent homosexuality. that’s just who he was and what he wanted to do. To out him after his death is not really fair to my mind.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting that homosexuality is evil or that Hudson’s dark side contained his gay secret. I am suggesting that he was careful about his public image and probably would have wanted to maintain that as his legacy. What good did outing him bring? People today look at him playing the very heterosexual male roles in pictures, and know what he really was – and that was likely to be exactly what Rock Hudson did not want to happen. People may even boycott his films because of that. I have heard of Christian fundamentalists taking that view.

There seems to be a popular trend for seeing the bad in people, in revealing things that ought to be hidden, and I don’t go along with that.

If someone was struggling with a personal issue, a dark side, a kink, an addiction – whatever, what business is it of mine? What good does it do society at large to display the flaws sufficient to overshadow any goodness?

I would suggest that the sooner we as a society drop this trend in favour of role models of positivity and good, then we can return to aspiration, looking forward, making good, advancement, and betterment.

How to Get an Instant Divorce

I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.

This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.

I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.

It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.

John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.

He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.

“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”

“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”

“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”

“But where would I go?”

“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”

“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”

“Is he bad to you?”

“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”

“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”

“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”

“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”

“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”

“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”

“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”

“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”

We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.

“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”

“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”

I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”

“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.

“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”

“What violence?”

“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”

“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”

“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”

And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?

Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering.  If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.

That is what is supposed to happen.

But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.

When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet,  she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.

.oOo.

It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.

“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.

“Eh? What? You did it?”

“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”

“Charlie?”

“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”

“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”

“I am – and I did!” She beamed.

“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”

“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”

“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”

“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”

“Did it all go to plan then?”

“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”

“You’re joking!”

“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”

And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.

And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.

Julie’s was only one side of the story.

Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.

 

How To Be Happy By Being Undecided

My present main client is one of the most annoying ever.

He’s belligerent and rude to his staff. Luckily, he’s not quite that bad with me, but he is “trying” nontheless.

The biggest annoyance for me is that he thinks everything he asks can be answered by what he calls “a simple yes or no”.

This almost drives me mad because, in my long life and wide experience, hardly anything can best be answered that way – in fact it takes considerable skill in framing a question well enough for a yes / no answer to be appropriate.

Unfortunately, he does not have that skill.

One of the things I do for my client is to publish documents to a “common data environment” or CDE. This makes the document an official issue, revision or release. To do this, all I have to do is visit a website and log in, fill in a few fields and upload. That’s it.

He recently asked me if it was possible to take back or undo this procedure – to remove a published file.

Now the answer is both yes and no. No – because there is no method whereby I can visit the site and remove the issued file. Yes – because I can e-mail or telephone the site administrator and request that the file be removed. I tried to explain this, but was abruptly stopped.

He held up his hand like a barrister at law, “It’s a simple yes or no – can it be done?”

“Yes, but…”

“No buts, if it can be done, do it.”

“OK, I’ll ask them to remove it right away…”

“No, no – don’t alert them to this, just do it!”

“But I can’t do it…”

“You said you could do it!”

“Well, actually you asked if it could be done.”

“Same thing. So let me ask you again, in front of all these people, so take your time – a simple yes or no – can you do it?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No; I can’t do it, but it can be done.”

“Is the answer yes or no? I’ll ask you for the last time.”

“No.”

And he moved on. This is the worst kind of idiot – an idiot that doesn’t know he’s an idiot, an idiot that actually thinks he’s smart.

When I meet such people, which is all-too-often, I’m afraid, I am reminded of those wonderful paradoxes we used to enjoy at university. Simple enough stuff, but important enough, in my opinion, that they ought to be taught to schoolchildren in an attempt to be rid of people who demand yes / no answers to bad questions.

I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s Barber Paradox – it still makes me smile.

The scene is a town where the law demands that all men be clean-shaven, and the town barber shaves only those who do not, or cannot, shave themselves. The problem is “Who shaves the barber?”

The answer is officially “undecided”. Really; there is NO ANSWER to this. None.

What I find is that, in life, in general, “undecided” is undesirable. To be undecided is considered as wishy-washy – it is taken as worse than being flat-out wrong. Undecided voters are fought over in political elections – they must be persuaded to NOT be undecided, even if they are wrong!

A simple Yes or No.

In Scotland recently, there was an independence referendum where the badly framed question required a simple yes / no answer. This was preposterous, yet no-one noticed!

What happened? Well, those who voted YES for change lost the election but got change. Those who voted NO for things to stay the same, got change. No-one got the status quo, and no-one got independence either. The issue was not resolved satisfactorily by the yes voters, the no-voters or the non-voters affected by it all. Everyone got all het up, and tempers flared. Things got ugly and have stayed ugly. It did more harm than good.

Clearly, the answer could never have been a simple yes or no.

duh.

In many things in life, I am proudly “undecided”. I can live with that, and that is one of the reasons why I am happy.undecided