Email this morning from Amazon. "Are you looking for something in our Fiction category? If so, you might be interested in these items." On the basis of my previous purchases, Amazon recommends Scott Lynch's "The Bastards and the Knives", as well as his "The Republic of Thieves". Which would be quite exciting, if it weren't for that fact that neither book is for sale yet. The first one seems to exist only on Amazon, and bears no mention on Scott Lynch's own site; the second I can find no hint of having been written yet, let alone published. Does Amazon need some humans in this loop? Anyone with a passing interest in the fantasy genre could tell them not to spam fans with ads for books that don't exist yet. At least I haven't had an ad for A Dance with Dragons yet, though Amazon UK does claim it'll be published in September this year which is presumably news to the author who hasn't finished writing it...
I don't usually let myself spuriously anthropomorphise gadgets, because then I get too drawn into the faux humanity I invent for them. I had to abandon my claim that when my mobile beeps to signify that it is out of battery it is "crying because it is hungry" when it became too sad to contemplate; when MS Office Assistant once asked me "hey, you seem to have minimised me a few times, would you like me to go away permanently?" I just couldn't do it to the forlorn little paperclip guy.
Unforturnately yesterday Scott Adams mentioned in passing that when his computer pops up a bunch of update alerts of a morning it is "begging for updates", so this morning I found myself unable to resist imy computer's pleas and clicked "yes" every time.
And this led to an important discovery. Every morning for the past month, maybe two, Flash and Firefox and a bunch of other applications have begged me for updates (I already know I'll never be able to turn one of these updates down again, damn it) and I've ignored them, assuming it would waste perhaps minutes or even hours. Clicking "no" every morning has wasted perhaps five seconds. Which, it turns out, is about as long as it took for all those updates to complete. These things should really come with a note that they will be done in a matter of seconds, so I can can make a sensible cost/benefit analysis rather than just assuming guessing they'll be a nuisance.
If you read my blog you probably already know all about the Digital Economy Bill and why it's a bad idea. (If you don't, here's why.)
The government is trying to rush the bill into law before April 6th, which is the last date it'll be able to pass new legislation before the General Election. This means the bill won't be subjected to proper scrutiny, and the special interests in the copyright protection racket sorry "entertainment industry" are very keen to see this happen so they can have their law without MPs getting chance to debate the many ways they plan to abuse it.
If you agree that the bill should be debated I urge you to write to your MP today to stop it passing into law without debate. You can do so in a couple of minutes via the 38 degrees blog; there's a good template letter, and all you really have to do is enter your postcode, some personal details and press send. Thanks.
Getavote.org is a fascinating experiment in digital democracy that's going on in Hackney. With a General Election a few weeks away one candidate is standing as an independent for Hackney South and Shoreditch on a "direct digital democracy" platform - promising, if elected, to vote on each issue however the electorate in that constituency tell him to.
Candidate Denny de la Haye explains. "How will it work? For each vote coming up in Parliament, I will put a poll on this
website. Every voter living in Hackney South will have a login for this
website, and will be able to vote in the polls using their computer or
their mobile phone.
Whatever the majority vote is, I will vote that way."
I hope he wins. I really do. If we're going to keep pretending to have a democracy let's at least try to do it properly and put each issue to a vote.
From the FSA which allegedly stops finance professionals swindling us out of our investments to the Gambling Commission which tries to stop people throwing every last cent to the bookies; from the Advertising Standards Authority that tries to curb professional marketers from the wilder excesses of blatantly NLPing us or putting subliminals on the TV to the Office of Fair Trading which has an occasional stab at stopping retailers from swindling us there is one consistent message - left to our own devices, we will make stupid decisions. We will be hoodwinked, tricked and conned at every turn. We will eat things and smoke things and drink things that kill us, we will invest our life savings in magic beans, we will be traduced by slogans and propaganda into believing any nonsense the ad men want us to, and without the intervention of the benevolent state and its vast apparatus of consumer protection agencies we will be destitute in a week.
Some people think it's rude in lots of social situations to check emails on a Blackberry, text someone who isn't at the table or take a phone call. Over dinner with friends, for example. In the middle of a face to face conversation. Lots of situations.
I've never really got that. People think it's rude, yes I get that bit, but I've never really got a sensible answer as to why. If I was having dinner with a friend and a third friend turned up unexpectedly it would be normal to greet them and even invite them to join us. Indeed, it would be weird to blank them. Really weird.
So yesterday I had a thought (it happens, really) - perhaps people think that mere physical presence confers some sort of priority. That just showing up someplace immediately catapults you into first place for the allocation of attention of other people who happen to be in that place.
Is that it? Cos if that is it, it's weird. What's so special about presence? If we're having a pint and a third friend turns up we say hello, we ask him to join us. So if we're having a pint and a third friend calls one of us on the telephone...well, we say hello. Because presence really isn't anything special.
Times must be getting desperate at Boots Opticians if the bait and switch nonsense I just had to endure is anything to go by.
I had an appointment at the Holborn branch at lunchtime and duly got my eyes tested, found they'd got a bit worse as they do with mildly worrying regularity, and was advised to invest in some new glasses with a stronger prescription. So far so fair enough. Every year or so I need, and therefore buy, stronger glasses.
I picked some frames and was told that since I was buying a full-priced pair of glasses I could have any second pair for just £50 (a local variation, I imagine, to this offer on the website). Since I need some new prescription sunglasses too, I duly chose some frames and took them to pay, to be told that oh dear my prescription was quite complicated (yes, it is - being opticians who've just tested my eyes it is perhaps a little obvious to pretend at this stage that the complexity of my prescription comes as much of a surprise) and the only lenses that would fit the frames I'd chosen would cost me an extra £70 on top of the £50 I'd been offered. A rather dull argument about contract law with a manager who knew little or nothing of the subject later I left empty-handed, defrauded of an hour of my time spent choosing glasses I'd been offered under false pretences but, more importantly, not £70 lighter having declined the bait and switch.
Now, I understand that lots of businesses make a margin only by abusing their more timid and clueless customers into parting with more money than is remotely necessary (if you've ever had a proper haggle with your mobile phone company you'll appreciate this policy). But this seems feeble, and on reflection I'd rather buy my glasses online since the first people I came across on Google - SelectSpecs - did the glasses I'd have paid Boots £300 for at £180. No wonder times are desperate at high street opticians...
Take Back Your Brain is a website that advises visitors to pull a simple but effective psychological trick on themselves. Create an advertisement for something you positively want to do - take more exercise, drink less coffee, be nice to your mum, whatever it may be - and then print it on a mug or a poster or whatever you're going to see every day to advertise that positive association to yourself.
It probably works, in the sense that - like most affirmations techniques - if you can be bothered to go to the effort of writing down the outcome you want to achieve, matching it with a photo, printing it on a mug and spending a few dollars to mail that mug to yourself you must already want that outcome quite a lot and at least subconsciously fancy your chances of getting it.
So where's my personalised AdBlock? I want to not to eliminate all those pointless banners I "see" everywhere for...you know, I can't actually remember a single product or brand I've seen in a banner ad this year, that's interesting. But really, combine AdBlock with TBYB please...all (I think) it takes is a customised ad builder like Localstars combined with AdBlock, and every time someone wants to spam me with a 468*60 I'll be seeing a photo of me skiing a black run without falling over. Like the man says, can somebody invent that now please?