Finding the Tracks, Lyrically Speaking

Headphones

Headphones (Photo credit: 96dpi)

“Out of a doorway the tentacles stretch of a song that I know and the world moves in slo-mo straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day.”  Elbow, Bones of You.

Earlier, out of nowhere, I remembered a song that I always associate with reading Rendezvous with Rama in the 90s because the music seemed strangely appropriate to the setting of the book.  It was in the charts at the time and was on the radio regularly but back then I didn’t buy music as I didn’t even have a CD player.  I’ve always thought it was a great song but had lost track of who it was by.

Time to find out, I thought, in these days of MP3 downloads I should have this in my collection.  Searching for “State of Mind” on Amazon wasn’t specific enough and brought up too many recent songs, then I thought that somewhere amongst all the lyrics sites one must have the words to this song.  Off to Google I went: “lyrics “I realise the state of mind that you have found me”” (the first line) returned one solitary result – and the details “Goldie – State of Mind”.  Aha.

Thirty seconds later and the MP3 single was downloading having cost me 59p.  A minute later I’m enjoying 7 minutes of blissful music.

I know the music industry took a while to accept music downloads but being able to rediscover old favourites and enjoy them again via either a snippet of lyrics or a sample of audio is one more amazing thing that the great database of the internet gives us.

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What Do You Mean By Real Criminals?

Day 175 - West Midlands Police - Traffic Officer

Day 175 – West Midlands Police – Traffic Officer (Photo credit: West Midlands Police)

What do the drivers of any of hundreds of cars that pass me on the motorway every year and a man parked on single-yellow lines outside our shop yesterday muttering and throwing his parcel into his car have in common.  They all compalin that motorists are being victimized and targeted (as easy prey) when they’re caught by the fuzz.

For my non-British readership who may not be aware, single-yellow lines on the road are restricted parking, though many people think that parking across the yellow line, half on the road, half on the pavement counteracts these restrictions.  As does putting your hazard lights on.

So many people given speeding fines and parking fines will come out with the old classic saying “I ain’t doing nuffing wrong, officer, why aren’t you out catching real criminals” to the traffic officer whose specific job is catching traffic offenders, many of whom turn out to be real criminals as well, strangely – people who regularly break the law breaking the law, who’d have thought it.  The non-criminal types will usually accuse the police authority of using speeding, parking and crap driving in general as ways of generating easy revenue, without realising that that isn’t quite how police funding works.  Of course they forget that it’s the same traffic officers they’d turn to if they have an accident and need someone to pick up the pieces.

The thing is, if you believe that it’s all about the money then there’s a simple answer: don’t speed, don’t park on yellow lines, drive properly (you can still enjoy yourself) and look after your car.  Simple, no?

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Who Did The Work, Exactly?

Woman with phone screaming.How do you make someone feel like nothing more than an automaton, like some kind of puppet operated by an all-knowing master, how do you make someone feel like they’re pretty worthless?

I’ll tell you.  It’s happened to me, it’s happened to many people I know, it happened to my mum and her colleagues when she was a care assistant at an elderly people’s home.

As the staff member you spend much time finding out information, you carefully manufacture something, you arrange for some work to be done, you do all you can to make an elderly relative’s final months as comfortable as possible – add your own job role here.  At the end of the process the person who you’ve done all this for – i.e. the customer, the client, (in my experience usually well off, a business owner) doesn’t say thankyou to you but instead says, to your face, “oh, pass my thanks on to [insert boss/manager's name here] and tell them I’ll owe them a bottle of wine for all he/she’s done.”

Well, you’re welcome, you think.  You may not be doing the job for the thanks or praise but a little of your soul gets worn down.

 

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Return of the Red Tape…

Red Tape

Red Tape (Photo credit: Free Press Pics)

…And this time it’s digital.

It’s been a difficult few years for most of us, economically speaking, and as such it’s great to see how government departments do everything they can to make it quick and simple for employers to employ new staff, to help provide growth in the economy and give someone a purpose.

Oh, wait, no, sorry.  When I said quick and simple I meant difficult.

Once upon a time when we wanted to advertise a job we’d ring the local job centre and give them the details, they’d be typed on to a little card and slotted onto a holder on the wall.  More recently we’d ring a centralised call centre and they’d take the details and put them on the computerised version of the little cards and virtual wall.

But the last time I rang I was told that we couldn’t do that any more, all job adverts have to be placed using the online system, the woman I spoke to put the ad on but I was aware that really she was breaking the rules to do so.  I was sent information on how to do it in future and this week the reality of this futuristic way of doing things hit me.

This is meant to improve the service, and meant to be more secure – after all, we’ve all heard stories of rogue individuals pretending to be HR staff from small glass companies and posting fake job adverts.  Okay, so first step, log in to your Government Gateway account.  That’s all well and good but when it was set up the one used for the company is in the director’s name and when I try to add the Universal Jobmatch tool then I get asked to answer security questions, for verification.  Right, how would I know our director’s first girlfriend’s name, his first teddybear’s name, which school he went to?  I’m not kidding, these are the personal questions you need to provide answers to in case you ever ring them and need to prove it’s you.  He’s not here to ask and to be honest I wouldn’t ask him anyway.

No problem, as this government gateway thing turns out to be more specific to a person rather than a company I’ll set one up in my name, at this company, and I can tell them what my favourite childhood toy was.  All good so far except I can’t add Universal Jobmatch to my profile because it’s already on the director’s even though it’s not fully set up.  Ok, so I log back into the other account, remove it from there and add it to mine instead.  Now it’s true that I could only do all this because the Universal Jobmatch had been already set up and had a private ID number allocated by the woman I spoke to last time so it’s good in terms of security but it’s still an hour’s faffing about rather than a ten minute phone call.  You bored yet?  I was.

But it’s not over yet, once I was able to enter the job details all was good, in so many ways it’s easier to manage your own adverts, I’m sure the government can be happy it’s saving money by having employers do it themselves too, but what made me laugh was at the end of the process when the system told me I hadn’t entered enough characters in the job description – minimum of 200.

Ha, I thought, I go to advertise a job and they want War and Peace instead, do they think I’ve got all day?

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Parcel Impatience

English: "Royal Mail" sign, Belfast ...

English: “Royal Mail” sign, Belfast The “Royal Mail” sign on the top of Tomb Street sorting office 322800. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I work in a place opposite a Royal Mail sorting office where people who have been left the little “We tried to deliver an item to you but you were otherwise occupied…” or whatever it says card come to collect their boxes and envelopes.  At break times you can see dozens of people wandering up the drive with their packages to their cars (often parked without permission on our car park, but that’s another story) while doing something curious.

Like kids on Christmas morning they’re tearing into the paper and cardboard, risking spilling the contents onto the road (and often doing so) just because they can’t wait until they get home to see what they’ve been sent.

More often than not it’s likely to be something they’ve ordered so it’s not as if they’re thinking “what on Earth can it possibly be, I’d better open it now in case it’s something I’d rather not take home.”  If it is something they’d rather not take home I’d rather they didn’t open it outside my shop.  They can’t be checking if it’s the right thing, after all it’s not like they can stride back to the sorting office and say “please send this back to Amazon for me, it’s not the right colour.”

The other day I even saw a man with a motorbike, clad in the full leather jacket and so on, unwrap a new soft-shell jacket and inspect it while standing next to his bike, risking oil and grime stains, before then stuffing it back in the envelope and lodging it in his jacket.

The best ones are the rare people who both park in our car park, without permission, collect a parcel and then sit in their car and inspect it for ten minutes before leaving.  I’m thinking of offering to sell them a coffee and biscuits to complete the experience.

 

 

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On Magical Connections

wireless router

wireless router (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’ve been having communication difficulties.  As I connected and disconnected phone extensions I found an old cable-reel extension lead and remembered how, ten years ago, this was my connection to the internet.

Back then, as now, the computer was ten metres from the phone socket so in the dim, distant dial-up days dis this was extended along the length of the apartment and plugged into my clear red plastic modem and the noisy connection process could begin.  Once finished it would be wound up again and slotted back down the side of the sofa.  In those days the dangers of the internet as espoused by the tabloids missed out my own addition – a trip hazard.

Now, of course we connect laptops, PCs, phones and tablets even speakers wirelessly and speedily, it’s wonderful to be able to play music from the tablet in my hand to the speaker in front of the TV, to control my car stereo from the touchscreen phone by the steering wheel, share pictures between cameras and phones with a touch and to be able to read books, articles and whole encyclopedia’s on a portable handheld slab of plastic and glass.  We truly are at the beginning of a fantastic age, no matter what the naysayers, er say.  Ok, the technology isn’t yet in the hands of everyone but it is becoming cheaper and easier to use so that more people can have the greatest collection of humankind’s knowledge literally at their fingertips, along with cat videos of course.

As Arthur C Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and although we don’t really think of our free and open mine of information as mystical it is a wonder, especially in the current climate of big media wanting us to subscribe to everything.  Thirty years ago I watched The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and wondered whether we could have such an electronic book as that.  Right now, we have so much more.  So next time your wireless connection stutters be thankful that you don’t have to unravel that extension lead.

 

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The Personal Touch

so happy smiling cat

so happy smiling cat (Photo credit: [puamelia])

I’m currently enjoying my week off but on Monday I did have to go to the bank to pay the only bill I don’t pay by Direct Debit and also pay some money in to my account.

As I’ve written about before I’m no fan of the new automated paying-in and bill paying machines with which I have a difficult history, so as the bank was quiet I went to a teller without being dragged back to the machine this time.  I said good morning and so on and told the lady what I wanted to do, she then told me that I could do the same using the machines, I told her in a round-about way that the machine and I are not on amicable terms at the moment.

She glanced at her screen after I’d put my card in the reader and smiled, saying “one thing the machine can’t do is wish you a Happy Birthday.”

Which gave me a smile and a warm feeling inside which technology just can’t match.

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Proxies for reality: Fact-based films and their mythmaking potential

Originally posted on Media Myth Alert:

The Sunday “Outlook” section of the Washington Post usually is such a ZeroDarkThirty_poster jumble of thumbsucker essays and middling book reviews that it deserves just passing attention.

What made yesterday’s “Outlook” an exception was an engaging critique of Zero Dark Thirty, the controversial new movie about the CIA’s years-long hunt for terror leader Osama bin-Laden.

The critique, written by former CIA official Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., suggests anew the mythmaking capacity of fact-based films. “Inevitably,” Rodriguez writes of Zero Dark Thirty, “films like this come to be seen by the public as a sort of proxy for reality.”

And that’s especially troubling because, as Rodriguez also points out:

“One of the advantages of inhabiting the world of Hollywood is that you can have things both ways.” Publicity for Zero Dark Thirty emphasizes that it rests upon careful research, Rodriguez notes; at the same time, the film’s screenwriter, Mark…

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Where is The Kindness Anymore? I Can’t Seem To Find It

Originally posted on talinorfali:

A Week ago my great friends and I were planning what to do this weekend and make it a girls night out that we hadn’t done in a while, and so we decided to go see a movie called “Identity Thief” with Melissa McCarthy and it was such a funny movie, and then we decided to go to a restaurant and just have some fun, relax, talk and catch up with each other. It was such a beautiful night, where I just relaxed, enjoyed, had a great laugh, basically what I needed tonight to be with my beautiful people.

Now, as we sat down, we ordered off the menu, got our meals,  had our meals, and just talked This elderly man was getting out of the restrooms very slowly and was frail and we were situated in a way where we couldn’t go and assist him, and so basically these…

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Cutting Corners is Not A Way To Succeed

Originally posted on talinorfali:

In this life there are so many businesses and companies that have been lacking in some things and one of them are cutting corners meaning that they mostly care about making money and increasing their bank accounts rather than thinking about the client, buyer, customer, passenger. It is a terrible thing to cut corners, to make cuts here and there, the quality of material’s have significantly gone down, as well as other important things that keep a business afloat and they should think about quality before quantity. I know as life goes on products, materials and the way companies work is disintegrating and its hard to find reliability anymore and good honest workers.

There are great honest workers out there, but there are some who slack off, who do not want to do the work, who cut corners, and don’t take extra care in the work they do and it…

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