Blog : Posts from March 2006 : Page 2

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Security

In which we debate incompatibility


As part of all the building work that’s been going on at the office, we’ve been getting the security systems upgraded. A new alarm system, new motorised front gates,* and new electronic locks on most of the internal doors. All to be worked by RFID tags, kept on our keyrings and carried round all the time.

Now, being logical and sensible, we assumed that the company had specified either a single system, or compatible systems, so that we could use one single tag to unlock everything. And, as the contractor** started to install the hardware, we spotted that all the sensors we could see came from the same manufacturer. Very sensible.

We each get a tag the other week, and start using it to open and shut the front gates. Three days ago, the contractor pops his head round the door to say he’ll be issuing us with the rest of the tags, the ones for the indoor locks, soon.

“The rest of the tags? We’ve already got one.”

Apparently, we need separate ones for the outdoor locks, the indoor locks, and the alarm system itself. Because “the systems are from different manufacturers.”

“But they’re not from the same manufacturers! We’ve seen them, and they’re identical! If you hold an outdoor tag up to an indoor sensor, it recognises it!”

“No it doesn’t.”

I held my “outdoor tag” up to the newly-installed sensor by the office door. It bleeped, and flashed a little green light at me.

“Well, I can try to set it up so that that tag unlocks this door,” the contractor said. “But it won’t work.”

(to be continued, otherwise this post would get a bit long)

* Which is a Good Thing, because guess who’s job it is to unlock and open the old front gates every morning.

** Our usual security contractor, a friendly chap, who is very anal about making sure his cabling is put in and terminated neatly, but isn’t very good at setting up the security systems themselves properly.

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Just Say No, Kids

In which people complain about something they volunteered themselves for


There’s been an awful lot in the news lately about the drug trial whose guinea-pigs are dangerously ill.* My own abnormal reaction is: they volunteered for this. They may well have come out of trials before with no problems, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be as lucky on the next trial they take. The chance of something like this happening is miniscule, but it’s still there.

Am I being too callous? It is, of course, still a horrible thing to happen to someone, and to their relatives. One of their relatives, a BBC producer called Myfanwy Marshall, has been on the news constantly since it happened, telling us all how horrible it is that her boyfriend is dangerously ill, and has lost his good looks. On an interview last night, she said how shocked she was that he suddenly looks middle-aged – “forty-five”, she said. I know people don’t always say what they mean when they’re under stress, but it certainly seemed to show a lot about her priorities in life.

* Well, three-quarters of them – the others were on the placebo.

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Filler post

In which we don’t know where to step


I’m in a strange mood tonight. I feel as if the world might be full of opportunity, so much so that I have no idea what to do. The problem is, I don’t know what is opportunity and what is just self-delusion.

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Skin deep

In which FP ponders a change


It’s time once again for the return of Polling Questions I’m Going To Regret. Today’s Questions I’m Going To Regret are:

Should I dye my hair?

And, just as important:

If I do dye my hair, what colour should it be?

Clearly, I’ll be giving priority to answers from people who have actually met me. Otherwise it would just get silly.

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Old romantic

In which we feel a community spirit


I was a little doubtful when I saw, on the front page of Friday’s Guardian, the tagline “Steam trains – the great aphrodisiac”. I like trains, but I wouldn’t say that about them.

It turned out to be subeditor’s hyperbolae. The article turned out to be about the radical romanticism of the steam engine, and eroticism was only briefly mentioned. I’m rather glad. Train-into-tunnel might be a classic visual metaphor, but I don’t think very many people would say that the train itself is what gets them going. There are people out there who haven’t just had sex on the train, but can remember the numbers of the trains they’ve had sex on – but I somehow don’t think it was the train itself that was turning them on.*

What I do like about trains is what that article calls “the rigmarole of trains”. The ritual surrounding the railway. The little bits of peculiar terminology that you don’t get anywhere else.** The natural romanticism of rail travel, and the community feeling that can spring up around the line.

* but if it was – on balance, I think I’d rather not know!

** phrases like “not to be used outside possessions”, or “not to be loose or hump shunted”.

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Bitter

In which we go for a walk


Went for a walk on the beach today, to try out a new camera lens.* I’m told that brisk exertion can be good when you’re feeling down; and struggling through the biting wind across the dunes always seems to leave me more cheerful than I was before. When I was too tired for the sand, I moved down and walked along the firm mud at the edge of the saltmarsh instead.

Even at half a mile, the roar of the breaking waves was a loud, constant growl. I stood and watched ships lining up and waiting to be piloted upriver, and tried to take photos of the changing weather.

(as they are on film, you’ll have to wait)

* Nikkor AF 35-70mm 1:3.3-4.5, if you care – an early 90s model, I think. I can never understand Nikon lens ranges. I don’t normally go for zoom lenses either, but it was only £35.

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Fashionable

In which FP spots someone (again)


Talking of People I Know getting their pictures about the place: top indiepop band Shimura Curves can be spotted in the current issue of i-D magazine.* If you want to try to spot them yourself and don’t want to spend £3.80 on your own copy: they’re among the people on page 43, two on the front row and two near the back.

* the fashion magazine who were also one of the inventors of the emoticon.

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People you bump into in the post office

In which FP recognises someone


In case you were wondering: last week, I was away in Wales. I was staying in the small, snowy town of Aros Heddlu,* Merioneth, doing some volunteer work.** Of course, I came back from my holiday needing another one to recover from it.

I managed to come across as a bit of a mad English tourist, whilst I was there, whilst I was in the local post office. The post office’s Lottery machine, you see, had a cardboard advertising hoarding on top of it. “Do you have a spare one?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” said the shopkeeper. She started to hunt around. “I’m sure we have one somewhere.”

“I don’t mean to be any trouble,” I said, “but if you had one handy – I’ve been looking for one of those.”

“I’m sure we did have another,” she said, wondering what the hell this mad English tourist wanted with a cardboard Lottery advert. “I’ll have a look for it and put it to one side for you.”

“Oh no no I don’t want to be a nuisance,” I said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I just wanted one because that” – I pointed at the picture on the advert – “is my friend W, and it would be nice to have one. Well, um, thank you anyway. I really don’t want to put you to any bother.” And I left the shop, leaving me feeling embarrassed for causing a fuss, and her baffled at these strange tourists with friends off the adverts.

* Not its real name, as people with Roadsign Welsh vocab will probably realise.

** “…with the mentally ill,” as one of the other people there said. I think it was The Goon, who may well be reading.

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Disgusting

In which we do not like an empty justification


Today’s Guardian front-page story: an advisor to parliament called Robert Gifford is using July 7th as an excuse for advocating automatically prosecuting anybody driving without a seatbelt or whilst using the phone – and, by extension, tracking all cars in the country. The logic behind this: the evil murderers used a car shortly before the attack.

Similar car-tracking plans have been around for a while; as existing car-tracking systems are expanded, the police push and push for them to be extended to the entire major road network. I don’t like the idea. What really sickens me, though, is people like Robert Gifford who try to sell the proposals by bringing up July 7th. Yes, Mr Gifford, like most people in the country, the July 7th murderers travelled by car. That does not mean that they would have been stopped if the police knew where their car was.*

There may be legitimate reasons for car-tracking – stopping banned and uninsured drivers, for example. Stopping terrorism is definitely not one of them; and Robert Gifford is a horrible and reprehensible person for trying to make you think it is.

* Unless, of course, the police are going to stop every car from Northern England that suddenly appears in the Home Counties.

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Return (again)

In which FP is back


I’m back. And, as soon as I get home almost, I’m back at the office.

If any of you want to see the rest of the wedding photos, you can – but you probably won’t find them very interesting unless you know the people involved.

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