Important Status Update

All major headlines require you to make an official response on social media. It’s a new law.

Previously, important people were expected to issue a statement to the press when something big happened, like the death of an important person, an earthquake, flood, tsunami, volcanic eruption or act of terror.

Today, however, EVERYONE is compelled to do this.

This is because, in the past, it took a great effort to put pen to paper, lick a stamp, walk to the post box and then wait for possible publication in the letters page of the organ of choice, but today it’s a social media status update, done in a few seconds with a thumb.

You are, at the very least, expected to respond to the news post by clicking on an emoticon for crying, or that depicts shock or anger. If you really are bothered enough, you may make an actual comment.

Sometimes there is a call for further action – to “share”, to sign a petition, to send thoughts and prayers, or even to change your avatar profile picture to something with a flag on it.

Doing nothing is not an option.

And what do you do when there has not been a major event and you have the usual burning desire to comment to your followers and friends? You have to find a meme or fake news,  or anything that allows you to issue a public statement and share your dearly held views.  There are plenty of meme generators click baiters for that very reason.

We’re all important broadcasters and commentators now. Infatuation with information has met with egocentricity and narcissism.

Infatuation with information merges with egocentricity and narcissism.

And when that happens, nothing could be less social than social media.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the way the baddies might win. I often wonder why we register or acknowledge such events and then move on to the next thing. Perhaps if we didn’t feed them, the monsters would quit and leave us to have a social time on social media.

 

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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.

Ups & Downs of The Market

Right after Brexit’s result, the markets dived. Right after Trump’s win, the markets collapsed.

And everyone points to the drop in the markets as though these indices were in some way a reflection of how well a country is doing. But that is simply untrue.

The big fuss about the Dow Jones Industrial Average number is ridiculous – an arbitrary selection of 30 companies, not even the biggest or most well-known, record their share values and this rather silly and unrepresentative value is then divided by a weird number that someone came up with in the 1800s (which we over-egg by calling it an “algorithm” in today’s parlance).

The Foostie, the S&P 500, the Hang Seng and the rest are indices of the stock market. That is all they are.

This is about the rich people.

When an index rises, this simply means the rich people are getting richer.

When an index falls, then rich people are losing money – and if the drop is significant enough and for a long enough time, then there is a chance that it might actually affect real, everyday people like you and me because companies may shed employees, or close down altogether.

This means that in a recession, everyone loses.

But at all other times, it is mainly about rich people and their value on paper.

Trump wins the election in the USA and the markets drop in value. OK, Boo hoo – rich people have less dough for a few hours because Trump then makes his acceptance speech and the markets rise to previous levels and above. So the rich people don’t lose a penny after all.

I just don’t get why the news media keep reporting the ups and downs of the markets when it is mainly only of interest to the rich – to people who own shares, to stockholders – do you know any?

It seems to be used as evidence of the foolishness of the masses to vote the way they did. The flavour is: Look what you did! See what has happened?

The markets are not a true reflection of the state of economic or political heath of a nation – these indices do not account for the common man – there is no consideration of inflation, currency exchanges, GDP, interest rates or anything other than the gambling value of company shares being traded by computers at break-neck speed over fibre optic cables.

Whenever I hear a news bulletin report the Footsie 100 or the Dow Jones, I grind my teeth and wish I were rich enough to give a damn.

 

Painful Admissions

“It’s Health and Safety gone mad”.

I hear that phrase a lot on telly and radio. But I really do get a lot of Health and Safety stuff at work. Most companies are pretty good these days – there are CSCS cards and other site safety measures, including risk assessments and toolbox talks. It’s all common sense and routine for the large part.

I admit that it mostly doesn’t apply to us suit-wearers in a remote office situation, but we still have to try to follow the same rules. We have monthly meetings in the big boardroom on Health and Safety that are, frankly, quite bizarre.

At one of these, the only female raised a major safety issue with an Incident Report because she went into the small office kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and slipped on what-she-described-in-the-documentation-as a “Branston Pickle” that some other kitchen user had dropped on the floor and failed to clean up in the course of making a sandwich at lunchtime.

I was telling this one to a chap just last week. This chap was returning to work for the company after a three-year spell of self-employment that didn’t work out. He laughed, but then recalled other tales of years gone by.

Apparently one of our co-workers had raised his hand at one of these Health and Safety meetings to draw attention to the fact that company car boot lids could be dangerous; he reported that he had accidentally shut the lid on his own head earlier that morning.  In fact he had completed the incident form and wanted to send it in as an incident.

Yes; he was grassing himself up for being dangerous to… himself!

OK. I laughed. But wait, I was told, there is more to this – at the following month’s Health and Safety meeting, the co-worker raised his hand and wanted to draw attention to the dangers of hitting one’s head on the company car boot lid.

Everyone remembered this from before, and as they muttered dismissively, the foreman showed us his bandaged head. That’s right; he had done it again.

And once again he had completed the forms reporting the incident officially.

One more strike, and he would be in danger of losing his job.

 

Gryll and Bear it

The Island with Bear Grylls” is on the telly just now.

However, if you are a Bear Grylls fan, forget it; he’s not in the show.

The show is about dumping people on a deserted island to film themselves trying to figure out how best to survive. Which is all fine, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with Bear Grylls.

I have a problem with the title.

I feel it’s cheating.

It’s a damn lie.

I seem to the the only one who has noticed, and that worries me too; is this what we have become? Even websites about the telly program state “STARRING Bear Grylls”. Seriously.

Some things on UK TV just now are frankly puzzling – there is a surreal advert for a company called 118 118. I just do not understand it.

I do not know what it does, what is being sold. And that’s not good for starters.

The scene is a white room with two thin adult men shown from the waist up, side-by-side, facing the camera. They are presented like twins, same Zapata moustaches, hairstyles, and a white shirt with a black 118 on the front.

They are playing Happy Families, and seem to have red cabled earphones in on some kind of conference call. They refer to each other as “one one eight”.The person not in the room, but on the line, is from an old movie clip, and the problem is that he doesn’t have enough to wager 29 pence…

…and they are BOBBING UP AND DOWN!

It is beyond me. It really is.

Strange and meaningless.

118 118

I rarely watch telly these days, but when I do, I cannot explain it.

Perhaps I have the beginnings of dementia, it certainly feels like it with all the plus ones, and omnibus editions.

Some days I snap on the telly in my kitchen and what’s on is something I saw the last time I snapped on the telly in the kitchen, which was what was on the previous time I snapped on the telly in the kitchen…

The worst case, I think, was when I chanced upon the same episode of “Come Dine With Me” six times – that’s six consecutive switching on of the telly at random times over several random days. At times I feared from my survival – but like the Island, I couldn’t count on Bear Grylls showing up to help.