Samuri fluff

I’ve thought up a new safety measure that drivers can take to stop them killing people all the time. Inspired by the elegantly named ‘Dutch reacharound’ which recommends drivers reach for their door handle with their right hand (The Dutch like much of the world, drive on the wrong side of the road), to force them to twist round in their seat when opening a door. The idea being they’re far more likely to look for cyclists and other drivers passing their vehicle and are therefore less likely to door them, the Samuri fluff is designed to stop drivers ruining everyone else’s life by actually build a bit of care in what they get up to on a daily basis. The Samuri fluff has also been inspired by an idiot in a jeep who almost killed me this morning.

The Samuri fluff is quite simple in it’s approach, I will explain thus. The Samuri fluff can be adopted for people who drive on the correct side of the road and for people who drive on the wrong side of the road merely by switching left for right and vica versa. But enough of that, lets get down to it.

Fluffing

In the UK, when someone is driving up to a T-junction and they are turning right as we see the driver of the red car here doing, in an attempt to save 0.47 seconds, they will spend a lot of their time looking to the left. For reasons I can’t really be arsed working out this seems to be a quite a common theme. Lot of time looking left for a gap in the traffic heading the way they will be heading, followed by a relatively quick glance to the right.

tjunction1

What this ultimately results in is them not really paying very much attention to what’s coming from the right. Like a cyclist or something. Plus, I’d guess without any real effort, that while they’re looking to the left, assuming there is a gap or no traffic at all, they’re already 75%, maybe 80% committed to not actually stopping at all and are pretty much already accelerating. The final check right is a mere tickbox exercise and technically isn’t required at all because traffic heading their way, is all clear ahead. Job done, junction cleared, all that time saved.

Oh, apart from him. Yeah, forgot about him.

tbone

NOTE TO CAR DRIVERS! AS WELL AS HURTING OR KILLING A CYCLIST, THIS COULD DELAY YOUR PRECIOUS DAY BY QUITE A BIT. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO WAIT AROUND AFTER YOU’VE KILLED OR HURT SOMEONE WHICH ISN’T FAIR I KNOW BUT THAT’S HOW IT WORKS SOMETIMES. ALSO, PAINTWORK.

Yes, killing a cyclist could delay your very important journey a bit. Which is the genius of the Samuri fluff. As well as not destroying lives, this simple rule could actually save you time which is far more important.

 

Enter the Samuri Fluff

Step 1: As you approach a T junction and are turning right, pretend you are turning left. I know pretending is a childish thing but you generally seem to manage pretending you’re the most important thing on the road so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Step 2: Look right, first. If something is coming, and that includes a whiney cyclist, you are going to have to stop. Now there’s no point in looking left.

Step 3: Stop

Step 4: Wait for traffic to be clear in both directions.

Step 5: Off you go.

I wrote a poem to help you remember.

When you’re driving in your car you usually really don’t go that far,
So wasting time matters not a chuff,
Look right first it’s the Samuri fluff.

 

HAPPY DRIVING

 

 

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Don’t mention the helmets

For a number of years now, a small group of keen cyclists (myself included) at my workplace have formed a cycling group. The original intention was to offer a place for all cyclists in the company to come together, do cycling things. It’s morphed, slowly, into a group that spends more time encouraging people to cycle to work, attempting to encourage the company to invest in cycling facilities and also working with the council to try and encourage better facilities. We talk to people to try and help them get past the barriers they erect for themselves to stop them riding to work, we provide an on site repair service which is very popular and we provide route guidance, facility support, purchase guidance…lots of things. I’d like to think we have made a difference but it’s hard to tell.

Surveys at work during events we hold have taught us that the absolute, main cause of ‘people not cycling into work’, is safety, especially amongst the women we talk to. They’re scared of the roads, it’s that simple and it’s not difficult to understand why. The UK’s roads are incredibly toxic environments which is very much a cultural issue. Not only are the roads populated by a proportion of aggressive, selfish drivers who actively resent cyclists being there, there is also a sub-culture of people who may not have a problem with cyclists but believe cycling is far more dangerous than it really is. These people are vocal. 

At work we have an intranet as most large workplaces do (we employ over 2500 at our main site), with open forums. One such group has been set up specifically to discuss roadworks in the area around the main site. This is currently a very active forum as there are lots of changes taking place in the area. It’s not uncommon for people to complain about delays here including this quality post recently from one lady.

It took me 50 minutes to drive 2.5 miles the other day”

Now any cyclist, or indeed, any person whose legs work fine could tell you a much quicker way to travel than that but this is a corporate environment, you can’t just blurt out the ridiculousness of the statement so after some thought I typed up a new post in that forum.

It sounds like the continued roadworks around the site are causing lots of problems for people travelling short distances. Allow me to help .;-)

***********  is extremely well served by a network of segregated, safe, well maintained cycle paths. It is possible to travel from one side of Warrington to the other without ever riding on the road more than a few meters. Cycling has the benefit of no queues, no delays. You can consistently guarantee how long your journey will take no matter how many roads are being dug up, no matter how many cars are around.

If you’re frustrated by all the cars holding you up, there are alternatives. All you need is a bike, you don’t need a helmet or special cycling gear, if you pedal gently you can still do 8-10mph quite easily without raising a sweat. If you want to pedal harder, there are a good selection of changing, shower and locker areas on site. You’ll save money quickly and will get fit without even realising it.

The ********* cycling group are based at ******* and can provide guidance on the best routes in, where to store your bike, where to get changed. We can even fix a puncture, adjust your brakes or mend a broken chain if you get here and have an issue. if you’ve not got a bike we can help with suggestions on which bikes would be most appropriate. The weather is getting better, now’s the time to make a change.

Doesn’t read like it’s too controversial, does it? Of course, those of you who are used to discussing cycling advocacy will already of seen my naive and silly mistake.

I mentioned helmets. In fact, I did worse than that, I mentioned, no helmets!

So, as expected, I got some comments back. One from the lady whose journey which as one Twitter user stated ‘I could forward roll faster’, whose friends son crashed a bike and had to have some bowel removed. Another lady, equally concerned about my recklessness, highlighted how her husband got knocked off his bike and broke his arm. They both advocated helmets.

87% of Twitter users who responded to my poll, guessed the correct answer.

DaQfXlqWkAApnsV

How many people, reading those responses, who were previously thinking about cycling into work, are going to now? Not many, that’s how many.

It’s terribly sad and while I’d be happy to argue the case and shoot their anecdotes down on this forum, it’s harder to do on corporate forums. The damage is already done too, no matter how much data I provide, now matter how many coherent arguments I put forward, any potential cyclists will only have visions of someone impaled on a bicycle handlebar and losing a portion of intestine. 

It’s almost a one way street, these people, even though their intent is good (I think), have permanently impacted any opportunity the delays may have had to move people away from their cars and onto their bikes. They are unpaid shills for the motoring industry, something I was called paranoid for suggesting last week. The very cause and solution to their complaints, is right in front of them and yet the instant an opportunity to seize that solution presents itself, they shoot it down. Even if they don’t get on their bikes and solve their own issues, less people in cars would help them too but they’re not interested in that.

I felt so demoralised after reading these two comments, I really felt for a short period, what’s the point, they’ll always win, they’ll always have their un-contextual stories to bring up the instant someone says ‘helmet’ or ‘cycling’, their minds are set and they are keen to ensure others feel the same way.

I don’t feel quite so disappointed now after a weekend of cycling, I’ll still continue running the cycling group and I’ll still keep trying to encourage people to ride in. I know there’s people I’ll never convince but have learned a little here, certain subjects are guaranteed to bring out the nay-sayers and should be avoided at all costs.

Enjoy your 50 minute queues. 

 

Migraine, it’s no headache

I’ve had the ‘I’ve got a migraine’ from someone having a headache today (again), so lets publish my old breakdown of an actual migraine, to help people understand the difference. I’m not saying all migraines are like this but most of mine are. I’m not saying all headaches are minor.  Luckily I only get one every couple of months now but I used to get them at least once a fortnight. And I’m lucky because I’m a bloke, women suffer from migraines far more than men do. I’m not looking for sympathy either, this is how it is, it’s rubbish but at least it comes and goes, could be a lot worse.

My trigger is usually light. Flashes of bright, white, natural light. Looking outside from inside a building at sunlight reflecting off a car windscreen will do it nicely but there are lots of reasons. Lack of sleep, lights, changes of brightness, it’s almost random.

Anyway, here we go. I’ve been triggered.

My migraine normally starts with a blocking in the eyes. It’s hard to explain but imagine black dots in your vision making it hard to look at things in detail. Don’t try reading or looking at a computer screen in this state. This then moves to flickering at the edges of my vision which slowly moves, over say an hour, to my central vision. The flickering is my trigger to speak to my boss, let him know I’m out of action for 24 hours, to get home.

I cycle to work mostly, so flickering in my eyes means I will struggle to get home in the 60 minutes I have left. I have left it too late in the past. That was a bad idea.

So, flickering starts, I tell my boss I’m out of action, he’s good, lets me go. And out of the corporate premise world I go. I ride home, the flickering gets worse, it’s enough to make me feel sick. I get on my bike and set off. On this occasion I’ve left it too late. I start throwing up riding home. Not proper sick, just bile, dry retching. I can’t see a damn thing. I’m looking at the road but all I can see is a line, it’s the pavement edge, I stick to that.

I’m home. My wife is home too. I grunt at her, she looks at me, sees my posture, gets what’s going on. she understands too. She knows she has to take on my responsibilities for the next day or so, that’s all sorted…time to get jiggy,

I get myself sorted. Empty bucket by the bed, jug of water, curtains closed, bring it.

The flickering of my vision will generally have faded by this point to be replaced by a dark shadow covering my entire vision, this will grow darker and darker until I can barely see at all. I lost the ability to recognise any fine detail an hour or so ago, at this stage I could barely recognise a double decker bus. The pain is coming, it’s been a dull ache for 30 minutes or so but now an explosion hits right at the centre of my head, the tendrils of which tunnel out to each nerve in my skull, to my eyes but most of all to my back. The pain spreads quickly and efficiently down my spine and settles in halfway down my back. The epicentre moves gradually to the base of my skull and I am rigid. 

This is how I will spend the next few hours, head arched back, muscles locked against each other, each movement feeling like glass between my vertebra. Sometimes I retch, each spasm pulling my stomach ever closer to ejecting itself. 

The first couple of times this happened in my early teens, I was terrified, I didn’t know what was happening or why, I thought I was dying. As I became more familiar with them I understood how to handle them, they grew less scary but not less pleasant. I know longer fear I am dying, I merely fear that I will not.

If I am lucky, after an hour or so, unconsciousness will take me with it’s deep, dark forgiving caress and temporarily release me. Sometimes I will awake, still gripped by pain, a dark cloud over my eyes and a steel bar for a spine. More often though I will awake, reborn, still in pain but able to see and move. The migraine will leave me aching, sore and beaten. I will spend a few days with a stiff back and a sore head, eyes that feel hard and loose in my head. The world is dulled, muffled and grey.

So it’s over again, for now. Definitely not a headache.

 

 

A nice horrible choice

For a cyclist, a beautiful time is new bike time. or it should be, but this time round, it’s not. Allow me to elaborate.

First off, lets get the tricky stuff out of the way. I DON’T NEED A NEW BIKE. I’ve got lots already. I’m very lucky to have enough money and storage space to have a good collection of bikes. If you’re going to have a dig at me for complaining about being in this fortunate position, bite me.

bikeshed

I WANT a new bike, and probably for the first time, I’m struggling to decide what to buy.

At first, it was easy. I saw this.

Capture1

I wanted this bike so much. Then I realised it had BB5 brakes which are a load of shit, they last about ten minutes doing good miles in British conditions unless you’re willing to take them apart on a very regular basis and give them a full service. I wanted it because it’s a full carbon CX bike, will be as light as a feather, will climb like stink and won’t be too bad for day rides. It’ll also double up as a commuter, in desperate times.

But those brakes…..

So starting on that premise, and realising I really did need to make room for a new bike, I elected to move my CAADX on. That’s incredibly light too and climbs like stink but it’s got a BB30 bottom bracket which is also shit. Mine’s been languishing in the shed for a while and looking at my Twitter feed, I was talking about selling this 3 years ago!

caadx

I could just fix the bottom bracket… (I did this over the weekend). I now have an ultra-light, climbing machine that is OK for all day rides and doubles up as a commuter, in desperate times.

What bike am I going to buy now then?

If I was being sensible, I’d have a look at which bike I ride the most, get a new one of those. Well that’s easy because 99% of my riding is on my brilliant, trusty, Ridgeback Tour. I commute on this regularly and it’s fantastic for big day rides. It’s a bit rubbish for climbing on account of weighing the same as the moon but given it’s been up virtually all of the 100 climbs, it must be doing something right in the respect.ridgeback.jpg

I’d be reluctant to move this bike on as it’s been just about perfect. Why would I sell that?

Lets play with the concept though. So I’m looking for a *better* touring bike than the ridgeback tour………

There’s not many, to be honest. I thought this space would be jam packed with modern, feature-rich tourers. Specialized’s AWOL looks the best that will fit in around the Cycle to Work limit of a grand.

specialized-awol-2017-touring-bike-green-ev279832-6000-1

 

I think from my meanderings, I’ve realised I want a bike but don’t know what I want. I should just not bother. But I probably will.

So, lightweight, fun, versatile CX bike (preferably made of carbon)

or sturdy, reliable, commuter/tourer. Made of metal.

 

The extreme commuting challenge

It’s Bike week soon so to mark this great event which will try to encourage more people to cycle to work, I’m going to create the extreme commuting challenge, mad, extreme, commuting challenge competition. Now obviously I could just say ‘ride into Manchester without dying’ which is pretty extreme. And a challenge. But that would be too easy. So I’m going to target some actual, dedicated, segregated cycle infrastructure.*

*(It’s actually a shared path but this is Britain so it actually counts as dedicated infrastructure because we truly are the worst at this in the entire world)

So I’m going to call it ‘The Extreme commuting challenge’, or alternatively, ‘Can you imagine the outrage and carnage that would happen if you put drivers through this?’. I’ve created the course in conjunction with Warrington’s finest contractors who have spent weeks building the most difficult and obstructive obstacle course they could possibly think of. So put your body armour on, get yourself a full face helmet and an 8 inch travel mountain bike because you are in for the commute of your life!!!!

The focus of our course is Skyline drive. A short road linking the M62 to Great Sankey in Warrington. This is a brand new build on brown belt land so they could create absolutely anything they wanted. They could have built the most perfect section of cycle infrastructure IN THE WORLD here. Of course they didn’t. What would be the point in that?

skyline

When Skyline was first built, the cycle lane was ok…ish. Nice smooth tarmac, vulnerable road users only had to lose priority to great big massive lorries two or three times and some of the drops to the crossing points were only 6 inches. As far as British infrastructure goes, it was top notch. Recognising their mistake, the local contractors quickly set about changing that.

Lets begin the course as it stands today.

To be fair, this is the other side road coming out of Gemini retail park, but it’s a nice start. Quite a steep climb by Warrington standards and made all the more trickier by the random width available to the riders. It is a good warm up before the true challenges that face our competitors.

Our combatants (sic) then have to cross a busy road leading to and from the motorway. Oh, you think they should be able to see the traffic lights to know if it’s safe to cross or not? We don’t. But lets not worry about that because here comes our first skill challenge, ‘The ridge of DOOM’. Unnecessarily narrow, riders are squeezed through a gap which if fluffed up, could see them on the road under a lorry, or into a fence and if they’re really lucky, down an embankment. Try that with a full pannier. Clearly it’s empty in these photos but we’ll try and organise the event when the contractors are actually there. Abusive workmen stood around taking the piss is certainly going to improve the situation.

Our racers then smoothly flow round an off camber corner covered in gravel before entering the first Domino pizza confrontation. At some point in the future this will be come a mere crossing point where huge lorries, as mighty vehicles, have priority over soft and squidgy human beings (as it should be), but today, this is the most difficult part of the commuter challenge. Two, count them, two, 6 inch high kerbs with approaches channeled through high and narrow fence gaps with the rough ground in between scattered with workmen dandruff (bottles and that). Concerned that this was too easy, the contractors added two huge piles of loose gravel. I’m reliably informed that these were *supposed* to be ramps but any idiot can see that these only make things worse….much worse. I mean better.

Phew! Still, things aren’t over yet for our riders. Now they must take on Domino pizza challenge number two. Two 90 degree turns, over loose gravel, into a protected (HA!) channel on the road. Remember to turn both ways *immediately* otherwise you’ll be going under a lorry that passes six inches away from the cones.

At the other end we have a special little challenge that will test the quality of riders, ooh, I dunno, at Danny Macaskill’s level. What we’ve done here is put a plastic ramp in place. “Well that sounds a bit easy!”, you may retort. You have of course forgotten the nature of this challenge. You see, we’ve not fixed it to the ground at all. Or actually made it go up the kerb. Or even provided any functionality at all. In fact, anyone trying to ride up this clever feature is on their way to teeth out city.

Nice.

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Back onto the cycle lane we go but don’t relax just yet. The tactile paving can only mean one thing, DANGER! 

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That’s right, you’ve just lost priority to lorries (here) and cars (just up ahead) because you’re a scummy cyclists and cars and lorries are much more important. Buy a car if you don’t like it. And use it!

30 ton vehicles on a schedule behind you and the next dangerous hazard  skills test is before you, The ASDA chasm of uncertainty, so called because so far I’ve seen gas, electric and water men looking into to it. What’s in there? Nobody knows!

20170526_062443

Now our riders can relax for a little bit, until you know, they get to the off-camber left hander with the wrong tactile paving in the wrong place.

Bit of a sprint and it’s time to tackle the channel of death. Here the path narrows to less than a normal bike width. Lean over to the right! Don’t worry, it’s only a road filled with cars and lorries.

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This is exhausting but don’t worry, the challenge is nearly over. Only one more entrance where you lose priority followed by the relatively simple, roundabout of massacre where our riders are spat out onto the road just before a completely blind roundabout which is heavily frequented by Royal Mail lorry drivers and Amazon delivery drivers, the most diligent and least under pressure drivers that exist.

And that’s it! Our riders have successfully completed the extreme commuter challenge. Some of them are probably dead or in hospital wondering where all their skin is but it’s certainly a challenge worthy of today’s cycle-commuter who really does need to toughen up a bit and stop complaining about being treated like dirt.

The elephant in the room (humans)

“Come on everyone, we’re off the to the beach!”

“Yay! Going to the beach is brilliant! Let me get me get my…..woooahh, hang on. Going to the beach can be dangerous. Because there are”…..[insert risk here]

What did you say? Was it ‘sharks’? Course it was. The beach is dangerous because of sharks.

Bollocks.

There ain’t no sharks at the beach. If you live in the UK, there has never, ever, ever been a person eaten by a shark. Ever. Apparently back in 1937 a boat was capsized and three people died, but really, you’re more likely to get killed by picking your nose.

So why do we think about sharks when we consider beach risk? Well mostly, because humans are utterly useless at assessing risk. For the most part we have absolutely no idea how to look at risk and determine how bad it is and what the best way of mitigating it is. (We’re very big fans of risk transference but more on that later)  Because we’re all a bit thick, to be quite frank.

Well, that’s a little unfair. There’s some externals. Mostly made up of other humans. But generally, we’re thick.

Humans are also useless at assessing risk  in the other direction. Here’s a risk I see a lot (I work in Information Security).

halifax-phish

Phishing emails. Insanely common, mainly because we’re terrible at assessing risks. They work so well because humans just love clicking on those links. They don’t stop to think, they don’t consider the long education programs they’ve been subjected to. They don’t recall the phishing tests they see regularly from their *brilliant* information security team. Nope, they just click. I can absolutely guarantee I will get at least a 5% success rate with any phishing campaign I fire at an organisation. Absolutely guarantee it. And I only need one click for the campaign to be a success.

It works because links look so common, so anti-climatic, so inert that some people will never believe they are dangerous when the reality is they can be incredibly, devastatingly dangerous. (Phishing emails now the most common initial attack vector for all successful breaches, by far). That’s a whole different discussion but these attacks can and do cost companies hundreds of millions of pounds and it all begins with a single, thoughtless click.

Where else are humans rubbish at assessing risk? Out on the roads? Yes, I expect we are.

Ask your average person in the street about road safety and they’ll almost certainly mention cyclists, either as victims or perps of road violence. As I said, thick. Cyclists are hugely benign as a source of road violence, comparatively but they’re a different group for most people so othering takes over. As for victims of road violence, cyclists certainly take a bit of a beating (sic) compared to say, car occupants, but it’s still an incredibly safe form of transport and no more dangerous than walking about the place.

What’s massively more dangerous than cycling, is *not* cycling. You won’t find any car company telling you that.

inactivity

There are a whole stream of epidemics hitting this country. Pollution, obesity, heart disease, all killers, but you can guarantee these average people in the street won’t consider these risks when carrying out their own assessments because they’re not obvious.

The dangers of cycling aren’t obvious either, are they?

safety1safety2safety3safety4

Oh…. You see, people *think* cycling is dangerous because they’re told it’s dangerous by a whole assortment of poorly informed, poorly intentioned organisations some of whom have plenty of skin in the game of making it look so (car companies are top of the list). The media quite happily buy into this by running near constant campaigns lambasting cyclists whilst ignoring their ‘most read’ sub-headings covering yet another killer driver.

Because nothing generates hits like ‘Cyclist’ on their front page. It’s like shouting ‘Shark’ at the beach.

There are no sharks at the beach.

Risk assessment demands a good level of common sense, don’t let the nonsense people feed you take yours away.

 

Serenading the wife

Serenading the wife

OK, here’s the deal. I’ve had an idea. It might be a bad idea, it might be insanely good. I don’t know. But I’m going to give it a go. We’ve been married ooooh, quite a long time, been together about 25 years now. Married about 18 years or something. No one could accuse me of being romantic. Not because I think the right stuff, I’m just shit at implementing it. I always manage to cock it up.

So the plan is thus: It’s December 2016. By the time I get to February 14th 2017, I will implement my plan. I intend to get good enough at singing and piano playing within 2 months, to be able to serenade my wife with John Legend’s ‘All of me’.

*** I should point out, this is a secret from my wife. I practise with headphones on, I hide the score when I’m not around ***

Here it is if you’re not familiar with it, which I wasn’t.

 All of me

Nice enough but not really my thing. ACDC and The Stones is where my musical tastes tend to reside. 

I can play the piano…a bit. I’ve been playing it for 10 months. And because I’m old, progress is quite slow. I can’t sing. I’ve never tried, I’ve never had training, my voice is terrible.

So that’s where we are. This page is mostly for my own benefit to track progress, but it’s a good laugh for anyone who wants to have a look.

Here’s the score I’m using. For those not familiar with accompaniment music the top stave is guitar, the bottom two staves are piano. So I’ll be playing the bottom two staves, bottom-most is left hand, upper one is right hand. (One nice thing about modern music is it tends to have a lot less crazy shit on the score. Look up the madness that is ornamentals for an example of classical music confusion)

All of me – piano score 

I’m not sure if this is the original score or not, I suspect it isn’t but it sounds close enough for my purposes. 

18/12/16 – Piano practise has begun. I’m leaving singing until I have the piano sorted. The score extends to 6 pages. Piano practise is usually approached in sections. Choose a section of music, play that repeatedly, until it’s nailed, move to next section, then put them all together.

27/12/16 – Illness completely stopped play for quite some time, but it did make me realise the accompaniment music would be awful if my singing was (which it will be), so I got hold of a different score arranged by a lady called Joyce Leong. I’m not uploading the score because she sells her arrangements but here she is playing it, this is what I need to sound like.

Joyce Leong – All of me

OK,  so I’ve been learning for an hour or so but then my wife came home and started making lots of noise in the same room (plus she almost twigged when she stood behind me and listened near my headphones) so I saved my last recording and this it is. Pretty bad so far, you can tell where I start to struggle.

First attempt

VFM

 

Just going to put this here.

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Lets ignore the fact it’s almost certainly a complete lie for the time being, Bloom posted this and then spent quite a lot of time defending himself with argument after argument mainly because it is such an utterly preposterous statement. Looking at his subsequent tweets it looks like he was trying to suggest that people in the UK don’t get value for money from their tax.

I’m not even that interested in it being Bloom who made the statement. Bloom is a spectacularly vile character and not worthy of much further comment. You can do quick google if you’re not already familiar with him, but you won’t like what you find. Bloom suggests that because he has never relied on the state for anything then he simply doesn’t get value for money from his tax. It is this perspective that is so horrendously blinkered that I just couldn’t let it pass.

Initially the premise that an individual could have no direct reliance on the state is completely unfounded and wildly untrue. Private schooling and private healthcare is certainly available to all those who are fabulously wealthy but I doubt even the most extravagant billionaire is prepared to fork out for their own police force and fire service.

Lets play with the theory though. Our theoretical Bond villain billionaire has elected to create his HQ in middle England. He has a hired army of security personnel, a private fire engine and crew on hold, a fully equipped hospital and ambulance service who follow him around the country (remember, no private health care can operate without provision of services from the state), private dentist, private bin men, paid for education from toddler to adult…the list goes on and on. Yes, he can accurately state he does not rely upon the state for anything…..directly.

I’m presuming he never uses the roads or trains or buses to get anywhere though. Or the air. He doesn’t get anything delivered, he is entirely self-sufficient, just like Bloom, (although the pedant in me wants to point out that the drains and indeed the water are provided by a  private company).

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Our theoretical billionaire has decided to place himself in Britain for reasons that are not entirely clear to me because it’s clearly not a stable, safe, well governed, structured place to be….because of some kind of state funded democracy….oh.

And, of course, all those security guards and firemen all got educated and cared for on the state. They can’t afford all those niceties. Because they’re normal people, just like virtually all the other tax payers in the country. They haven’t each paid £1.5 million in tax in their lifetimes.

I’ll tell you what though, they each pay a small amount of tax, and there’s millions of them and what they contribute eclipses Bloom’s paltry lifetime payment. They all contribute to the state, they have no choice. And the state pays them back. It provides infrastructure and hospitals and schools and police and fire services and a whole plethora of quality services that support everyone, equally.

And it is fucking beautiful. Because that’s how the state works. The state isn’t there to support the Bloom’s of our world who have their own smallholding and are quite happy eating turnips all year round. The state exists to support all of it’s citizens, especially those who can’t even contribute. That’s precisely why we have a state and a government and a democracy who we task with making sure the tax we pay goes to the right people at the right time. 

I pay tax, Godfrey. I don’t get it all back and would never expect to. I’m not paying into the system to buy a tv or a car, it’s not for me. We all pay a respective amount because that’s a fair system. I’m paying for services I’ll never use. I’m paying for infrastructure I’ll never see. I’m paying for things I don’t even know exist. I’m paying into a system that provides support to people who haven’t been as fortunate as I have and I get excellent value for money, thanks. Without all the facilities that the state tax system provides, nothing else works.

And we know it works because even nasty, awful people like Bloom have done very well for themselves. The wonderful irony that he is complaining about the tax system that is almost entirely funded by the less well off people in society that has provided an environment where he can succeed will always be lost on him. And even if it wasn’t, I doubt he’d care.

 

Spamtastic

You all know what spam is, right? of course you do. You’re on internet and it’s ubiquitous.

Spam arrives in all out inboxes all day, every day and unfortunately it’s a constant pain to deal with. Luckily, most of our ISP’s are deploying excellent capture tools which cut out a lot of the noise, for our personal email accounts at least. Certainly my Hotmail and Virgin email accounts get very little in the way of proper spam.

Where spam is a little more annoying is when it encroaches into our professional lives.  However, there are lots of enterprise levels tools for organisations to cut out most of the unwanted stuff. We have some very good tools deployed at my organisation (for reasons we’ll go into shortly) so the regular spam (Viagra, hair recovery, money management), tends to get caught. We don’t even offer users the option to receive that shit, if it’s talking about willies, wigs or wonga, it’s dumped out of hand. Likewise, if it’s get a virus onboard, a  malicious URL or any kind of dodgy looking attachment, that sucker is history.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of traffic that is very hard for automated tools to identify. Lets talk about that.

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Jon. I’m in charge of information security at a large organisation. One of my jobs is stopping unwanted unwanted emails coming into the business. Sadly this is a very fast moving and dynamic field so a lot of traffic is difficult to identify and block (for a computer). I’ve got access to the logs and can see that inbound marketing bumpf is a major problem. 95% of the million or so emails my company gets every week, are spam. Useless. Unwanted.

950,000 emails, every week, that no-one wants. This is happening to every company, world-wide.

 

What does all that noise look like to a professional? Well lets see. I tuned all my manually introduced filters so I was getting raw spam that only related to my role. I then removed any emails that could be explained because I’ve done business with the companies in the past. I removed any emails that could be explained by the few places that I’ve voluntarily given my email address to. After that, how many emails do you think I received last week?

303.

Three hundred and three emails that have been sent to me in an attempt to win my business at some level or other. Every week. Do one.

I’ve got no budget. I haven’t got the time or the inclination to go to VIP events. I know what the Internet of Things means, thanks. I haven’t got to my position by not understanding threats and risks, by the way. And no, I don’t want to buy any trend-leading shelfware.  All in all, none of these 303 emails are remotely interesting to me. I’ll even add that this stuff is turning me off to the companies who send it to me.

Big organisations working in the security field, the people you employ to target me are making me not want to use you. Stop sending me this shit. Stop sending it to all of us.

 

capture