At the office, our main internet connection for many years has been a satellite broadband link, from Dutch company Aramiska. When the directors first wanted broadband, it was the cheapest solution. It’s slower than ADSL, and a lot more expensive,* but it’s still more reliable. Well, it was, until this rather surprising email arrived this morning:
We regret to inform you that Aramiska and its services are shutting down and the company will be unable
to provide you with internet access after today, 27th of January 2006
Yes, that is the entire email.** It’s repeated on their website as a Customer Care Announcement, but otherwise their website is up as normal. They’re not answering the phone. Noone seems to be able to find out what has happened. Their executives have promised a statement next week, but for now they’re not admitting anything.
Luckily, we have – I mean had – two broadband links at head office now. So, after a bit of reconfiguration,*** I think we’re safe now. I feel sorry for the people in my position who didn’t have a fallback, though.
* Several thousand pounds a year – but it’s still the cheapest option in some rural areas.
** And it turns out that not everyone received the email, even.
*** Geek footnote: our main problem was that all our MX records pointed to Aramiska’s SMTP relay. In fact, they still are, even though we got on to our registrars about it this morning. They’d better sort the bloody thing out.
Work is wearing me down again. We have several projects on our menu, for different divisions of the company, and of course everybody thinks their own project is urgent. Our manager’s opinion of the most urgent depends on who he had last talked to.
When people ask me: “have you done X? When will Y be ready?” over and over again, I get annoyed and irritated. Unfortunately, most of the other managers in the company seem to think that this is the best way to go about motivating people. Of course, some go further, and lie directly: “I know Z is supposed to be ready by the end of the month. I’m sure someone told me that. I’m not sure who, but I’m sure someone did.”
Bill Gates clearly knows what he’s talking about. Two years and one day ago, he said that by now, email spam would no longer be a problem.
To be honest, in one way he’s right. Junk email isn’t actually a problem for me, personally. Not because it’s disappeared, though, but because I changed my address. I still have the old address – for a lot of people it’s the only contact info they have for me – but I rarely use it. I skim through it about once a week, or so, to see if there’s anything important in it.
The reason I stopped using it: even with filtering, it gets too much spam to be usable. Altogether, it gets around 100 to 150 junk mails per day. Whether that counts as “no longer a problem” in Bill Gates’ terms, I’m not really sure. Somehow, though, I think he’d probably admit that his prediction was slightly off.*
* and, to be fair, in the past few years, Microsoft has been putting a lot of time, money and effort into suing professional email spammers out of business.
Two small things today, because I’m too sleepy to write more.
Firstly, some lovely photos of the dying Glasgow Subway in the 1970s.*
Secondly, reading the paper at lunchtime, I turned to the obituaries to find that one of my favourite writers, Jan Mark, died recently. Although she was known as a children’s writer, her “adult novel” Zeno Was Here is a lovely novel, and one of my favourite books. I’ll write more about it soon.
* Link via qwghlm.co.uk
Being a normal, well-adjusted, modern person, I sometimes forget how bigoted and backwards other people tend to be around here.
Today, I was over at one of our branch offices in Another Part Of The Forest for a few hours. Whilst I was there, one of the staff popped across the road to the local chip shop to get us all dinner. She came back, and we tucked in.
“These are good fishcakes,” said the branch manager. He’s in his mid-30s, he knows how to cook well and dress well, and I assume he’s fairly intelligent.* “You wouldn’t think they were made by a couple of gayboys.” I choked on my coffee, but managed not to say anything. We get on badly enough already.
* Well, his writing is barely functional – I’ve received memos from him, and they’re very badly written, bad enough to be very hard to understand sometimes. But, if you manage to become a branch manager, you can’t be too stupid.
Incidentally, those of you who read Friday’s post about Nostradamus interpreter Mario Reading will likely assume that I am a complete non-believer when it comes to prediction, clairvoyance and seeing the future. Well, that isn’t quite true.
I don’t believe that you can ever use the works of Nostradamus to predict the future. I have no idea whether the famous Michel had any sort of clairvoyant skills, but his writing is far too opaque. Noone has ever been right by telling us what Nostradamus has to say about things that haven’t yet happened, although plenty of people have made money out of claiming to do so over the years. I don’t think that Mario Reading is going to be an exception to this
On the other hand, I do very much believe that it’s possible to see into the future. I have had enough experiences, at first hand, to convince myself of this. Some people do see scenes from the future. The problem, the intractable problem, is knowing which ones are real.
* although people have made plenty of money off it.
Like a lot of people, I’ve spent a while today playing with the Surname Profiler website,* looking at how distant relatives are spread around the country, now, and 125 years ago. As I was expecting, in the 19th century my mother’s family was very heavily concentrated in one area:
…because we know from her genealogy research that her father’s ancestors have lived in this village and the neighbouring one for as far back as anyone can trace.
I was also expecting to find that today, we would be spread all over the country, what with modern transport making migration much easier.** However, our own family just demonstrates what the research project proved: in the words of the project leader, “migration is traumatic.” We don’t seem to have moved about much at all:
Of course, that’s for a name that isn’t common anywhere – that site suggests that the majority of people with our name live within our local phonebook area, and that phonebook lists about 30 numbers under it. If you have a more common name, individual family movements won’t show up. Another branch of my mother’s family – still with a fairly obscure name – is from Cornwall. In 1881, almost all of them lived west of Bristol:
Our branch of that family, at the time, lived in Brixton. Not the one in Devon, though, the one at the end of the Victoria line, in a completely blank part of their family map.
* Update, August 22nd 2020: It since seems to have disappeared from the Internet.
** “Nor should we forget the benefit in rural human genetics brought by the railway: with less intermarrying the ‘village idiot’ has disappeared” – David St. John Thomas, The Country Railway, 1976.
Today, author Mario Reading is in the news. Lucky for Mario Reading, because it gives him a chance to
plug advertise his new book, a new translation and interpretation of Nostradamus. It’s the book, in fact, that’s newsworthy. It claims that in a couple of years’ time, someone will try to assassinate George Bush, and if they are successful he will be succeeded by his brother, who will take revenge with terrible results. Reading’s American distributors are rather upset about the prophecy – you’d think he would have seen the fuss coming.*
Reading himself seems very concerned that people should realise that you can’t blame him for what Nostradamus wrote. Interviewed on More4 News about the death of George Bush, he said:
This is Nostradamus predicting this, not me, I hasten to add.
See, I can spot a possible flaw here right away. I haven’t read his book,** but there’s a long, proud history of reinterpreting Nostradamus. Most could be summarised as:
This is me predicting this, based on a wild reinterpretation of a rather vague stanza of verse.
Given that many people have gone before him and failed, I’m rather doubtful as to what Reading’s prediction hit rate will be. However, given the timescale here, we don’t have to wait too long. In three years’ time, hopefully I’ll remember writing this. And if nobody’s tried to kill George Bush by then, I’ll try to remember to post an update. A rather sardonic one.
* Sorry, that joke is compulsary in any piece of writing that mentions Nostradamus. If I hadn’t made it, I would have been tied down and spanked.
** Well, obviously: it hasn’t been published yet
Update, three years later: hah, when I wrote this, I almost certainly didn’t realise that the next presidential inauguration ceremony would be three years later to the day.
The current craze at the office – among the handful of single people, at least – seems to be online dating. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got an online personal advert, which decided that my perfect partner in the whole country was someone who is already a good friend. Now, other people are apparently doing the same thing.
Well, a couple of people at least. One of the co-workers thought she’d celebrate her divorce by meeting some new people, so she signed up on a dating website. However, she soon came across the same problem as me. The site she used easily found her a nearby match. Unfortunately, rather too nearby – a manager down the corridor, known to almost all in the building as Annoying Tosser. News of his personal ad rapidly spread round the building.* However, I’m not completely sure if it’s spread as far as his girlfriend yet. That should be interesting.
*** Although, of course, none of us have actually seen it, because the woman who found it doesn’t want to risk us finding hers too, so won’t tell us where she found it.
Tastes change as people grow up. Things you are a huge fan of will slowly fade away, and other things will come along to replace them. Your tastes will change, as you change.
Some of you might have heard of Alexis Petridis, rock and pop critic at The Guardian. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but I tend to pay attention. Because, back in about ’97 or ’98, Petridis was a semi-frequent contributor to Sinister, the mailing list for fans of Belle and Sebastian. I was only a lurker, but I remember his posts, on topics such as: do Belle and Sebastian sound better when you’re on drugs? And if so which ones?*
Since then, when Petridis has mentioned them in the Grauniad, you get the feeling that he doesn’t so much like what they’ve become. He doesn’t think much of devoted fans, but he still loves their early work. And I have to sympathise with that. I, too, used to be a devoted fan.
I’m still a bit of a fan. I’m still the sort of person who will go and buy a new single on its first day of release, for example, like I did yesterday. And then, I get it home, and find that I’m not really very interested in it any more. Compared to their old songs, it’s lost something. It’s brassy and polished, shiny and bland, the sort of track that has never been at all interesting or inspiring for me. Their sleeve designs get better and better,** as the music gets ever-more over-produced. The B-sides are better, but even so it’s not something that I would have bought if it were by any other band.
* No, really, this was something he wrote. The list archive doesn’t work nowadays, so I can’t link you to it; but I strongly remember reading it. I have no idea now if he was being serious or not.
** although I was disappointed to see that they are still crediting Patrick Doyle with helping with the sleeve photography. He’s someone else who was on Sinister, a few years later, one of those people who hero-worshipped Stuart Murdoch and would desperately and deliberately try to appear as twee, fey and indie as possible because he thought that was how a B&S fan should look.