Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You Can't Spell 'Neutered' Without The EU

With current events in mind, I present A Play. What I Wrote.

'Apocalypse Next Tuesday (if Wet, in Village Hall): Redux

Act 1, Scene 1

A tense EU Emergency Summit at midnight.

26 Foreign Ministers sit in The Chamber, nervous and worried at events. A quiet, yet urgent, ripple of conversation spreads among the delegates as they await the next speaker. The doors to the conference room opens, and an anticipatory silence falls across the room.

Enter Prime Minister Gibbon Broon from stage left, fly unzipped, tie loose in his collar. As usual.

BROON: Thank you for -uh - coming. Fellow EU members, I believe that the actions of Russia are a dangerous violation of International Law and we must get on with the job..uh...oops, sorry, wrong speech...uh...we must show Russia this in the strongest terms.

There is a pause as BROON wrings his hands, grins nervously and, after a root around in his left nostril, has a quick nibble on a cuticle.

BROON: So my fellow Members. I say that we have to act as one, and impose immediate economic sanctions upon Russia!

The Chamber of delegates applauds. Shouts of 'hear, hear' can be heard over the clapping.

The CHAIRMAN'S telephone rings. There is a muttered conversation between the CHAIRMAN and the caller. The CHAIRMAN puts the caller on speakerphone.

A jovial, yet cold, voice booms out across the Chamber.

PRESIDENT STALINPUTIN: Good evening, Comrades. I couldn't help but overhear - it sounded like you were talking about putting sanctions in place against the Motherland.

FX: heavy machinery, the sound of oil pipelines across the Causasus shutting down.....

PRESIDENT STALINPUTIN: Would you mind repeating yourself please - only I couldn't hear properly over the noise of your bloated, energy-dependent economies grinding to a destructive halt.

BROON: Er. Yes. But no. Er. Hi, Vladimir. No, nonononono. Er.....

A pause, pregnant with tension, as BROON excavates his right nostril.

BROON: What we meant to say...uh....was. Erm. Yes, no. Gerringonwiththejob. Ah. Er.... IRAN! Yes, Iran! We were just saying that Iran's being naughty and we should apply sanctions to them. Not you. No, definitely not. Honest.

The Chamber erupts in muttered support for BROON's comments. Calls of 'No, not Russia, definitely not', and 'We meant Iran, honest!' can be heard from the assembled Foreign Ministers.

Act 1, Scene 2

A second phone rings aside stage right, and is brought on by a scurrying AIDE.

Again, there is a muted conversation, and again, the CHAIRMAN puts the incoming caller on speakerphone to address the Chamber.

PRESIDENT CANIDOAJIHADYET: Greetings, Western Infidels.

There are muffled and insincere greetings from the Chamber.

BROON: Oh. Ahmed. Er. Hello, how's over there in Iran?

CANIDOAJIHADYET: Oh, you know, infidel - sunny and bright, as ever. But enough of such pleasantries. I wish you Lesser Satans to listen to something.

FX: heavy machinery - the sound of gas pipes being shut off.

CANIDOAJIHADYET: So, infidel - please continue, I believe you were saying something about sanctions?

BROON: Er. Well...uh...I was just, Mister Ahmed. Er. I think you must have misheard. Sanctions? Turns to the assembled Chamber. Sanctions? Anybody here?

Muffled conversations, tinged with a hint of panic....

BROON: No. Er, we were talking about Sandwiches! Yes, sandwiches! For the buffet. Er. You know, next G8 and all that, got to get the catering right, you know....

CANIDOAJIHADYET and STALINPUTIN: Aha. So, we'll just carry on doing what we were doing then?

BROON: Yes, yes, of course. That's fine. Don't mind us.

CANIDOAJIHADYET and STALINPUTIN hang up, each laughing at the impotence of the EU.

BROON: Curses. Suppose I'll just have to stick with fucking up my own country then.

Exeunt Omnes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

In Pursuit of Efficiency

I realise that I'm merely an IT techie, unskilled in the ways of corporate and Government efficiency.

However, it doesn't require the intellect of Stephen Hawking to work out that what I discovered today makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I had the misfortune to need to speak with Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs Service, as it appeared that for the 4th time they've lost my tax return (for the '04-'05 tax year, which is Yet Another Rant).

I'll skip the retelling of a saga that is reaching Wagnerian proportions, and skip to the upshot - I need to send in another one.

Now. My Tax Office is in Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire. I'm in Oxford - a distance of just 27 miles. However, I can't send my Tax Return to Aylesbury.

Mail for the Aylesbury Office needs to be sent to - Edinburgh.

Where it's processed and sent internally to Aylesbury. Via the call-centre in East Kilbride.

View Larger Map

Now call me Mister Fussypants, but I cannot for the LIFE of me fathom any way in which a journey for my Tax Return of 782 miles can be more efficient or practical than 27.

Is there anyone out there who can explain it to me?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spelling. See Me.

I have, on occcasion, been known to lambast various websites for poor spellchecking.

This has included sites you wouldn't expect to suffer the affliction.

However, spelling errors on webpages are at their most egregious when the site in question is involved in journalism, and it's even worse when it's our national broadcaster.

Not good enough, BBC News.

100 lines of "I will spell 'barricade' correctly or suffer the wrath of Dungeekin", please.

Grade: D Minus.
See Me.

Technology Upgrade - Phase ∞-1

Well, the new Dell D420 is working wonders and I'm delighted with it.

However, the server upstairs is struggling a little with cooling (the second floor of a well-insulated house tends to be quite a warm place), and to be honest once the fans start up it sounds like a helicopter's trying to land in my office.

So - Phase ∞-1 of the Tech Upgrade plan is being introduced.

I've binned the plan of a media server under the TV - to be honest, it just wouldn't get used enough to justify it - and the Asus Pundit is getting Yet Another Upgrade so it can sit upstairs as a workstation/server.

Another gig of RAM is arriving shortly to take it to 2GB, and by the end of the week a 750GB SATA drive will also go into it. I've currently got about 400GB of data stored on the existing system, so with that drive and my external one I will have just over a terabyte, which should be plenty (for now, at least).

The only downside to this is that I won't have the high-end graphics card any more - however, with the Wii now installed downstairs I don't find myself playing games on the PC that often.

The Pundit is much quieter than the existing box as well, so hopefully The Darling G will no longer have her beauty sleep interrupted by the whirr of cooling fans!

In other news, I'm due to collect an Apple eMac shortly - it's already been upgraded and is running OS X. That will also go onto the network, with a view to using it solely for iTunes.

Photos to follow once the project begins.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Tragedy Is - We Can't Speak

Today in Beijing, thousands of people danced, acted and performed traditional martial arts in front of a rapt audience of 90,000 in the Bird's Nest Stadium, and billions more around the globe.

Not that many miles away, over 1400 civilians died in a single area. Unknown and, until later this afternoon, largely unmarked.

Victims of yet another Russian invasion of sovereign soil.

Once again, we saw footage of Soviet Russian tanks crossing international borders to crush dissent. This, of course, was not as important to Pravda the BBC as coverage of the Tainted Flame and the opening ceremonies hosted by another morally-bereft, murdering regime.

Of course, we're all used to the sight of Russian tanks rolling into yet another nation. After all, they've got form - Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1978 and more recently Chechnya.

But this time, there is a three-fold tragedy to the news of this invasion.

First Tragedy - Nobody Noticed.
We're all supposed to be seduced by the Glorious Opening Ceremony, and Putin's presence there, that we weren't supposed to notice the airstrikes, the tanks and the fierce fighting with a country who just wish to be free of their former Warsaw Pact masters and gain membership of the free world.

Second Tragedy - We Can't Do Anything.
We're already subject to record oil prices and - in case anyone's failed to notice - deeply embroiled in an argument with Iran, who can hold the world to ransom with their control of the second-largest natural gas supply in the world.

The Russians have the some of the largest reserves in the world.

So how can we force a country to show restraint? What sanction do we have against a morally-bankrupt nation that will invade its neighbours - when that nation holds in its hands the power to turn off every radiator and electric light in Europe and, probably, the West as a whole?

What the Soviet Union's massed armies failed to achieve, the gas fields can do without a shot being fired.

Third Tragedy - We Can't Say Anything.
This is, perhaps, the greatest tragedy of all. Our nation, along with the United States, once stood as bastions of freedom and democracy, defending both of these in war and in peace.

Today, we stand as guilty as the former Soviet Union of invasion of sovereign territory; of the fabrication and use of lies as evidence for the justification of our actions; of the diminution of the civil liberties of our own citizens. They murdered their dissidents - the case is as yet unsolved as to whether we did the same.

No doubt the politicians of both our nations will rail ineffectively against Russia's actions. But who are we to talk? How can we, any longer, take the moral high ground against a regime that once boasted the Gulags, and now is quietly controlled by the Mafia and KGB/FSV?

Maybe that's the fourth Tragedy of today's news.

What have we become?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Geek Night - Phase One

So last night was, unashamedly, Geek Night.

For the first time in a long while, the dining-room table was covered with bits and parts as I worked to build the machine that's been languishing for almost six months.

After the usual couple of hours tweaking, downloading, installing and rebooting, I now have a working box with a 2.4GHz Athlon, 1GB RAM and an 80GB SATA HDD. It doesn't need bigger as it connects to my storage box upstairs using EoP.

Geek Night also gave me a chance to do some more tweakage on the new laptop, installing the software I need for all the stuff I expect it to do.

Damn, it was fun.

Geek Night Phase Two commences tonight, when I finally finish work - bringing the new PC onto the network upstairs and work on some personal documentation.

Happy Geek Days.....

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I've Spoiled my Track Record...

I've realised that I haven't actually posted to this Blog for over six weeks.

This is not, to be honest, A Good Thing.

Part - in fact most - of the reason for this is that I found myself taking what can only be described as a 'Geek Detox' after I sold off my laptops. I stopped spending my evenings on the PC, and did other things instead.

But now I'm BACK.

Geeky as ever, refreshed and ready for the fray.

Tonight I'm planning a 'Geek Night', as I have a PC that's been sitting, unbuilt and awaiting my attentions for ages, that I am absolutely determined to sort out tonight.

I've got some cool new kit, I've returned to (and finished) the Tech Upgrade Plan, so I think it's time for some geekage, some photos and a return to regular posts.

More tonight . . . I promise!