Sunday, 24 February 2013

Happy birthday, Steve

Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Inc., was born on 24 February 1955. Today would have been his 58th birthday, had he not died on 5 October 2011 of complications related to a pancreas neuroendocrine tumour.

Jobs was a highly charismatic individual. He could be obnoxious, appear aloof, seem impolite… but he was also somehow able to inspire others into producing great examples of both hardware and software, though not always using original ideas (the Macintosh was not originally his idea, for example). He seemed to possess a boyish enthusiasm for all things technological and he used that enthusiasm to present excellent, amusing, and entertaining presentations of Apple products.

Apple has perhaps struggled somewhat since Jobs's passing, but that is hardly surprising, given the enormity of his influence. It should be remembered, of course, that not all of Jobs's ideas were successful; it's just that the magnitude of those that were successes far overshadows the failures.

To celebrate Steve Jobs's 58th birthday, a YouTube Channel has been created, containing about 150 videos featuring the man himself.


Saturday, 23 February 2013

Through a Pee(p)-hole

Up early last Monday to get to the hospital by eight o'clock in order to have a cystoscopy, as part of the check-ups being carried out three months after the operation to remove my left kidney because of an in situ carcinoma.

I had already taken in three urine samples for analysis the week before and now it was time for an internal check.

I was, of course, well sedated during the procedure, so knew nothing about it after I had been taken into the operating theatre until I was awoken by someone cleaning up my nether regions.

After spending some time in the recovery ward, the surgeon came to see me and assured me that no cancerous cells had been found in the urine and that the inside of the bladder looked fine, with the hole where the ureter had entered the bladder nicely closed.

All good news.

The bad news comes when the sedation has worn off and you go to the toilet. Burn, burn, burn. Incredible. I only had two days of it this time, thank goodness, but even with fairly large amounts of pain-killers, it was still unpleasant.

And another cystoscopy is planned in three months time.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Six Nations and Rugby in general

Isn't football a dreadfully boring game? SWMBO quite likes a game of football. Well, she likes watching a game of football, put it like that, so I occasionally make the effort to watch a game with her, but I either fall asleep or give up out of sheer boredom and frustration at he lack of any real activity or excitement. And the players seem to be a bunch of pansies with poor acting abilities, too, rolling around in less than Oscar-winning performances at even a mere touch: it's as if the very grass hurts them, poor dabs. And as for their attitude to the game officials, it was quite, quite disgusting: almost every decision disputed, numerous players talking or shouting at the referee… I'd send the whole lot off.

On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Six Nations Championship, which has just seen its second week of games in this year's edition. Last year, of course, Wales won the Grand Slam, but I mention this merely in passing.

I played rugby during my time at Woolverstone Hall School in the 1960s and I even played one game after having left the school. At Woolverstone we were fortunate to have an excellent sports master, who, rumour had it, had once had a trial for Wales. Glynn "Taffy" Evans was not a big man, but he inspired fear and confidence, standing for no nonsense, but eminently fair and ready with a word of encouragement when needed and one of congratulation when deserved. Passing, backing up, lining up, grubber-kicking, dummying, tackling… we had to get the basics of rugby down pat, or we had Mr Evans to answer to, with extra training his supremely apt solution, irrespective of climatic conditions. Up and down the pitch, repeating the imperfectly executed procedure until it was perfect and little more than second nature.

Watching the professional players in the Six Nations, I often wonder what Mr Evans would have done with them. If he were still around today (sadly, he died some years ago), he would have these giants quaking before his diminutive yet elegant stature, as he mocked their inability to pass, to line up in the three quarters, to tackle correctly, to… well, you get the picture, for professional players who are presumed to spend hours practising, they make far too many basic errors.

Anyway, the rant has nothing to do with this post, which, instead, takes a look at some ways to improve the game in general, rather than the skills of the players.

So here are some suggestions as to how rugby can be made an even better game than it is now (and it is already the very best game in the world, of course).

  1. Calling mark. In the old days, to call a valid mark, the ball-catcher had to be standing still with both feet on the ground. Let's return to that way of doing it and stop the nonsense of marks being called by running, jumping players. Either that, or scrap the mark altogether.
  2. Delaying. The scrum-half can be punished for delaying the put-in at a scrum; the thrower can be punished for delaying the throw-in at a line-out. Let's add to this a punishment for delaying the ball from re-entering full play at rucks and other break-downs.
  3. Off is off. Forget the sin-bin; players are deemed to know the rules. If a player infringes a rule so that he is currently sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes, instead let him be sent off for the duration of the game and let his infringement be judged for possible further banning.
  4. Exuberant celebration. When a score is made, the game must recommence as soon as possible from the mid line. We do not want soccer-like celebratory exuberance and certainly no hugging: the scorer has done no more than his job and it is now time to get on with the game. Any delay caused by such celebration should be punished: how about wiping out the score that led to the celebration?
  5. Binding. There is a correct way to bind in the scrum. All other ways are incorrect and should be treated as an infringement. Scrums should not be allowed to collapse repeatedly as a result of poor binding and because the referee does nothing about it.
  6. Padding. Rugby is not American football, where players dress up in carnival outfits, full of hard padding and even wear, wait for it, crash helmets! Only basic padding (such as a double layer of cloth on shoulders) and a simple scrum cap to protect the ears should be allowed. All the rest is for the nancy-boys of American football.
  7. Crouch, touch, pause, set: load of nonsense. If a pack doesn't scrum down correctly, penalise it, but don't let's go through these synchronised dance movements. The referee is there to make sure that the rules are followed; he is not Victor Silvester directing some strange new dance ("Crouch, touch, pause-pause, set").
  8. Man in front: at kick-offs and drop-out restarts, no player should be in front of the kicker, yet this occurs time and time again. There's a ref and two touch judges (okay, assistant refs); surely someone should be able to see this?
  9. Tattoos. Any player displaying tattoos should not be allowed to play, unless those tattoos are part of his culture (such as Maori players, Western Samoa players, etc.). Leave the tattoos to the soccer players.
  10. There must be a ten, but I can't think of it now.

It's a funny old game, though. During the first week-end of play, Italy showed that it had improved considerably during the years it has been part of the tournament, and beat France fairly and squarely in the process. Their second match was against Scotland and great things were expected of them, but they seemed to lose all of the shine of the week before and failed miserably, with the Scots giving them a fair trouncing.

By the way, did I mention that Wales won the Six Nations Championship last year, performing the Grand Slam in the process? I might have done so earlier on. Sadly, things got off to a bad start last week, when Wales lost to the Irish. At least they pulled their rugby socks up this week-end and beat France in Paris.

Sadly, Ireland then went to lose to the common enemy.

I ask you.

Still, as long as Wales beat England (and that probably won't happen this year, I have to admit), we'll be happy enough.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Little England (Computer says, “No")

I recently decided I wanted to buy an accessory for my digital camera. After some searching on the Web, I decided to get it from Amazon UK. In order to use the accessory, I also needed a far cheaper adaptor, which was also available at Amazon UK.

Into the "shopping basket" went the two items, but at the "checkout" I noticed a warning message that the far cheaper item could not be delivered to my selected delivery address, my address in Spain in other words.

Strange, as the object did not fall under any EU trade restrictions and so could normally be moved freely from one EU member state to another.

I therefore stopped the purchasing procedure and sent off a message to the company that provided the item:

I have tried to purchase a Replacement 40.5mm-52mm Camera Metal Filter Step Up Ring Adapter, sold by your company through, but at the checkout I am told that the item cannot be delivered to the country in which I live, namely Spain (part of the EU).
Is this correct?
Thank you in advance.
David Neale

The following day, I received the following reply:

Thanks for your inquiry. Sorry that our delivery service cannot reach (Spain ) [SIC] yet. Sincerely sorry for any trouble caused. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Have a great day!Best regards,Emily

We shall ignore the Americanese of the "Have a great day!" salutation (have you ever been to Disneyworld/land/thingy?) and instead consider the problems that the company must face.

Presumably, they have already sent out expeditionary forces, that must have been held back by the great natural might that is the Pyrenees; or perhaps their very own G-G-G-Granville found difficulties, trying to cross the Channel on his delivery bike… Whatever the reason, how pathetic is it, that a company advertising its wares on the World Wide Web, a company based in the European Union, is unable to deliver a small packet to a customer in another state of that same European Union? After all, we are living in the twenty-first century, we have set foot on both the North Pole and the South Pole, we have sent men to the moon, we have sent machines to roam the red plains of Mars, we have sent probes to the farthest edges of the Universe…

But our delivery service cannot reach (Spain) yet. And, oh, the mystery of the bracketed country name, as if dear Emily is not really sure of its existence.

Okay, let's accept that the company might usually make use of its own delivery service. Even so, when a customer asks for an item that can easily fit into a small padded envelope, all that company need do to satisfy the customer is to say:

Thank you for your enquiry. Normally, our delivery service does not extend to Spain, but we can, of course, send the item you require through normal postal channels.

But, no, that was clearly too much of an effort and reeked of customer service, so instead, the company lost the sale and, as a result, Amazon UK also lost the sale of the much more expensive item that I was going to buy.

I found both items at an online store in Germany and that store can deliver to Spain.