Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, February 03, 2013

David Cameron's favourite manoeuvre seems to be making promises for the
next Parliamentary term 2015 - 2020. The chances of him being Prime
Monster then though look small. So do his commitments have any value?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, September 28, 2012

I am working this evening and wanted some undemanding music in the background. A few weeks ago picked up a Julie Andrews double CD so I put that on. I have always loved her voice but this reminded me of quite how good a singer she is. I know some soprano divas are lauded for their operatic voices, but for me Julie Andrews in her prime had a voice in the same class, and towards the top of that class.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, May 21, 2012

Another rant about crap customer service.  This time HSBC.  I need a card delivered.  They have ignored standing instructions for pick up in branch and are insisting on a delivery by a crappy delivery company.  Tesco for groceries can manage a set appointment time.  Even EDF can manage a two hour appointment slot.  HSBC?  Well sometime during the day so you have to wait in all day.  Just rotten.  They could use the Royal Mail special delivery.  That I just wander in and sign for when it suits me.  It seems HSBC don't care enough about their customers to use a modern delivery service which can manage set times.

Needless to say HSBC will not be getting our business account business if this is the standard of their customer service. 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, April 10, 2012

So I know now from the tracking that the router wasn’t picked up from O2 in Leeds until 11:23 this morning.  There is no chance of it getting here by 1:30, especially since it is now after that.


I was told by the Supervisor, Alan, that he would call me back yesterday if there was any delay.  I called O2 customer service this morning and was told that the router had been picked up and would be with me by 1:30 today and that I should wait in to sign for it. 


It’s a beautiful sunny day and I have been stuck in based on what O2 were telling me which was clearly wrong. 


And overnight my speed has dropped from a sunny 13Mbps to a very miserable 3.5Mps

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, April 09, 2012

I moved to O2 broadband and am very happy with the speed.

O Customer Service - now that is a very different matter and much less impressive.  I picked up the router in store last week- Broadband Takeaway.  Very sensible.  And for a week it worked well.  Then last night O2 pushed a firmware update out and it took the router down.  Bricked it.  All there was this morning was two flashing lights.

I called customer service and was told that they had had issues with the firmware update over the past few weeks and it was taking some routers out.  Mine was one of those affected.  So why are they still sending out a firmware update which is known to brick routers?  And why sell routers with an out of date firmware - they should be reconfigured before sale if this was likely to be a problem. Selling something with a known issue isn't good customer service at all.

Replacement router?  No problem. Only not in store.  That is only available to new customers.  Us poor saps who have had our routers taken out by a buggy O2 firmware update we didn't want, need to, or ask for, have to wait to have one posted.  It needs to be signed for so we have to be in all day.

Crap O2 customer service that.  Really abysmal.

After a lot of complaint my router is due tomorrow morning.  We will see.

In the meantime I went out and bought a Netgear N300 router to get me online while I wait for O2 to pull their finger out.  The Netgear is noticably faster than the O2 router.

If you want broadband then the speed from O2 is good (for me at least).  Just a shame about their customer service.

My thanks to my friendd Sarah for setting up the Netgear.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 03, 2012

I didn't know Anne had passed until I saw the news this morning.  So many of my favourite writers have now passed, perhaps that is a sign if getting old.  Frank Herbert, Asimov, Robert Jordan, Heinlein, and the great David Eddings. I miss them. There are too few writers of their calibre today - Janny Wurts is one, Trudi Canavan comes close. Surely there are still great fantasy writers, but these days getting published is harder than ever.

But none of those could tell a story quite so well as Anne McCaffrey. She may be known for Pern but her best books may be set on other worlds. The Crystal Singer trioligy is one. The Freedom set is great, or at least the first three are. Nimisha's ship is simply fabulous and I always felt there should have been a sequel. And the Tower and the Hive set.

All wonderful.

She was quite simply one of the outstanding authors of the 20th century. The one piece of good news is that I saw at the same time that Dragonflight is to be made into a movie. At last for Pern - although I think Nimisha's Ship would be the better movie, but the studios like sequels so Pern it is. And genuinely good news. It is also pleasing that it was signed before Anne's death so she had the pleasure of knowing a new generation will be introduced to her magnificent creation.

I do wonder though. Had the movies been made sooner would Anne McCaffrey be more famous than Jo Rowling? I think she would.

Anne's books have brought me immense pleasure over the years. I have cried into them when sad. Been inspired by heroines and the occasional hero. Dreamt of impressing a dragon ... Well a girl can dream. And that's what Anne gave us: pleasant dreams.

Rest in peace.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, January 05, 2012

There are suggestions that the remake of the Buffy movie is in trouble.  I can't say I am too unhappy.  I love the Buffyverse but Buffy without Joss Whedon is just unthinkable to me.  Maybe we can hope they will approach him with the idea of doing something - or even better he might buy the franchise rights.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The M&S advert is interesting and shows that Kitty and Craig from X Factor have great voices. The show really is in crisis though.  Bringing someone in to the Risk was bad enough, but they are talking about bring back an act which was voted out to replace Frankie.

It's chaos. Simon must come back.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Obvioulsy greatest hits packages don't count.  For a long time I thought it was Parallel Lines.  That is the first album I ever bought so it will always be special but it is wall to wall great tracks.  But I am begging to wonder if Autoamerica isn't even better.  Again great tracks but such variety.  The timing on tracks like Here's Looking at You is just fantastic. 

Hmm some more listening I think

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, April 24, 2011

Don't get me wrong. Open source software like WordPress is wonderful with access to a wide array of plugins which make development so much easier.

The trouble is that many of them offer great functionality but are poorly implemented and my sites suffers from huge bloat of scripts and stylesheets. Most I will probably abandon or write my own. So far caching plugins, irregular tasks like sitemaps are the only ones which have probably secured a long term place on the site.

I hope my own efforts will be appreciated. I look at them and know there are things I should do like adding set up screens but at least they are designed to be low impact.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 19, 2011

Because of my interest in ancient Egypt, I have followed the news of the revolution in quite a lot of detail.  How can I properly write about reports of attacks on antiquities unless I have at least a passing familiarity of the political environment within which the sources are operating?  I'm now following the situation in Libya with one eye as well.

One of the key questions is how can there be peace afterwards when there has been such division during the revolution?  This article Thug Life from Almasry Alroum offers a comforting, if gritty, tale of how some people who thought for Mubarak in Egypt have changed sides.  For one of the interviewed men, it was an apparent moral conversion; in the other it was freedom from former coercion.  In other cases, it is likely to be unglamorous expediency.  People do get caught on the wrong side.  One of the lessons from South Africa is that peace can be secured if any overwhelming majority can be united in a new view of the future whatever their past.  It's a bit grubby; but it is reality.


Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, March 12, 2011

What nobody seems to be asking is whether the automatic shutdown of the Fukishima was the correct policy.  The unfolding problems have arisen because diesel generators failed.  While reactors are operating, they provide the electricity they need to operate thier cooling systems.  It is only when shutdown, that they need to rely upon diesel generators.

Would a safer policy to have been to  manually shutdown, albeit quickly, the four reactors most at risk, leaving one reactor running?  The remaining reactor could then have been shut down a few hours later, if necessary, once the other reactors cooled substantially.  Until then it would have provided a secure source of power to itself and to the other reactors.

Of course we don't know. I think emergency procedures ought however to consider whether an automatic shutdown really is the safest policy.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, February 01, 2011

That has never happened to me before.  I was watching a live Twitter feed and it advertised that Mubarak was speaking so I switched over to the BBC News Channel to watch it.  And wow, it look like it is a resignation speech, saying that he will not stand in October!  That is the power of Twitter.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, January 28, 2011

Many of my readers will know of my interest in Egypt.  I registered another domain just yesterday for Egyptopaedia our new Encyclopaedia of ancient Egypt (more work for the next few weeks!).  So today I have been following the breaking news from Egypt.  I was particularly concerned for the antiquities museum on Cairo (the Egyptian Museum) with the building next door on fire and the one next to that burnt out entirely.  The latest reports are that the protesters and army are united in their intend to safeguard it.  I would also like news out of Luxor, but there isn't any.

The Internet has been shut down.  Mobile phone networks have been turned off.  Even landlines seem to have been shut.  Technically though, how was it done?  Could it be done in the US for instance.  ZDnet thinks not, in a very good article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols  who analyses who the Egyptian Government have turned the Internet off.  Essentially it seems they used two techniques, clearly planned in advance.  Firstly they killed the DNS nameservers - that's the bit which translates a domain name like into an IP address which tells computers where the hosting server is located.  By itself that wouldn't be terribly effective.  For instance my Vodafone mobile broadband has become unreliable and one probably seems to be the Vodafone DNS servers, so I now tend to use nameservers in the US instead.  Anybody in Egypt could do the same thing - or they could just type the relevant numbers into their browser.  So the Egyptian Government also shut down the main network backbone and its international connections so there is no web traffic between Egypt and the rest of the world.

The communications out of Egypt at the moment seem to be either high tech (via satellite) or rather low tech (amateur radio). 

It has had the effect of cutting off communications within Egypt as well.  That was in the intended effect.  Want to know if your daughter who is working in Cairo is safe?  You cannot contact here.  I agree with Vaughan-Nichols.  Cutting off communications so that people cannot find out whether their loved ones are safe is a certain way to antagonise the population.  Even the British Government has made that mistake, cutting mobile networks after terrorist incidents.  I think governments around the world are going to end up reassessing policies like that.  Now we all live with our mobiles and instant access with family and friends wherever they are, any Government which cuts that off just when we most want it is likely to face widespread popular wrath, whatever their reasons for doing so.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yesterday is showing a biography of Fred Dibnah, who is sadly missed.  They have just shown the first time he was on TV felling a mill chimney in Rochdale (I think).  It is a clip I have always found said - I hate seeing the chimneys come down.  They are sadly missed.  I wonder whether future generations will one day realise how much was lost?

What is remarkable though is quite how commonplace his demonolitions are.  If you watch American demolition shows it is massive teams with plastic explosives and split second fuses.  Fred?  Ah now Fred uses a sledgehammer and lights a fire in the brickwork to crack them.  As it starts to tumble, he lifts a horn to his mouth and blows a few warning notes.  It is just so ... British.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, November 17, 2010

As I have said before, I started News from the Valley of the Kings for myself, as somewhere to record the information I collected.  That other people like it too is just wonderful.   I'm very happy.

But there is a downside.  When I search now for any titbits about KV64 or look for photos of excavations in the Western Valley of the Kings, so many of my own pages come up in the searches.  When other people search that is great; it's somewhat inconvenient for me though when I am looking to see if there is anything new!  I shouldn't complain of course, and I really am very happy, but it's one of the downsides that people don't mention when one starts a blog!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, September 17, 2010

I keep featuring some great videos, then a few weeks later the link dies. It makes the site much less valuable. It also suggests copyright violations are only addressed when someone complains. That's totally wrong, YouTube should check copyright on upload.

Of course they can't. Sooner or later though some lawyer is going to pin on them an obligation to do so. At that point the business model falls apart. It's typical Google. One might say it's typical California with complete freedom of information and Google publishing everything and anything on its sites. That's where it breaks down though. I don't see Google publishing their search algorithm. Apparently some intellectual property is still protected in the brave new world.

In truth we are living in a never-never la-la land of inconsistencies, one might say hypocrisies. A fudged compromise which doesn't work. We either need to move towards publishing platforms carrying the same responsibilty as newspapers for their content or two a world without copyright. Both have their pros and cons. Both are self-consistent. The present system of getting-away-with-it-until-challenged doesn't work and leads to wrong behavior. If I feature a photo I try to ascertain copyright. When YouTube has so much more resource than me, why should it behave any differently?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, August 20, 2010

I'd not come across thix mix of flute playing and beatboxing before. I'm sure it's going to become one of the sounds of the decade. If you'd like to know more about this amazing flute beatboxing craze, then visit my Squidoo lens at that link for even more videos and material!

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm amused by the White House response to the latest Wikileaks material on Afghanistan. They are simultaneously claiming the leak is minor and reveals nothing new while also claiming it's a terribly reprehensible breach of security.

Wherever one stands on the issue of whether the material should have been leaked and published, the hypocrisy of the White House response just makes them look stupid. It's also obvious there's mistruth in one limb of their claim or the other. If the White House wishes to have credibility abroad it needs to come off the fence and either admit a major and embarrassing security breach or accept these documents belong in the public domain.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, July 17, 2010

I've been writing quite a bit about the 1920s and 1920s style.  It started by accident.  Tutankhamun's tomb (KV62) in Egypt's Valley of the Kings was discovered in 1922 and I have memories of watching old silent movies when I was a girl - Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  After all as a tiny tot I wasn't interested in the romances but slapstick is something I enjoyed.  (These days I really don't like slapstick anymore, but that's a different topic.)

The more I learn though, I realise just how special the 1920s were.  It was the start of the modern age.  Or put another way, I am starting to think that the Great Depression and World War II put back culture by two generations.  

There are clear parallels between the Bright Young Things, subject of the Stephen Fry movie, and the New Romantics of the 1970s and 1980s.    (I must read the Evelyn Waugh book.) 

The Charleston was the dance of the 1920s.  Dancers were accustomed to static upper bodies: the Charleston changed all of that.  In fact it was the arm movements which some thought to be like a bird flapping its wings that led to women being referred to as "flappers".   Fashion kept pace with this freedom of movement.  Women abandoned corsets, bustles and confining long skirts and dresses and wore short, simple dresses that wouldn't look too out of place today, although beads and feathers were more fashionable in the 1920s than they are today.  It still wasn't acceptable for a woman to show off much of a figure so a flat bodice was fashionable.  Nonethless, the 20s was the decade when women finally gained many of the freedoms modern women take for granted.  Suffrage saw women gain the vote.

As picture houses became more common, movie stars became the first celebrities.  Today we might think of Posh and Becks or Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.  Back in the 1920s it was Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.  Invitations to their Pickfair mansion were the hottest invites in America, perhaps even hotter than the White House.  The papers followed Douglas and Pickford intensely.

We all also know that the Great Crash has parallels with the banking crash of the late Noughties with roots in permissive banking regulation and consumer debt.  The Great Crash and the slump which followed was the end of the laughter and gaiety of the 20s.  As the political situation in Europe grew ever tenser, there was little reason for optimism.  The Camelot age had come to an end and it took the world 50 - 60 years to recapture the magic.

What is frightening is the risk of a repeat.  Could the Credit Crunch still become a sovereign debt crisis?  Is the political situation in the Middle East and Pakistan much better than Europe in the 1930s? 

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, July 09, 2010

It's always flattering when someone decides to follow one on Twitter isn't it? Maybe not. I tweeted about the Psychic Octopus and mentioned Ronaldo. Ten minutes later @ronaldofootball starts following me. Hmmmm. I suspect that it's just word watching rather than an interest in what I have to say don't you?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, July 01, 2010

There's news that China will be launching an English language TV channel worldwide. Great. I was stuck in Bangkok 18 months ago when the airport was occupied. BBC World, CNN and Fox News were useless. Their coverage of Asia is grossly superficial. We turned to Al Jazeera. It's the first - and so far only - time I've watched it but they cover Asia in detail. BBC World always seems to spend more time 'explaining' China or Thailand or even India, than covering the news. It's TV IMHO for someone with a Euro-centric view. CNN is Amero-centric [or is that Ameri-centric]. An international channel with a Chino-centric view.

Will it be biased? Of course. But equally nobody in their right minds should rely on the BBC or Fox. In fact I'm increasingly disappointed by the dumbed down coverage of international stories on the main BBC broadcasts - in fact many top stories bearly get a mention.

Personally I believe these days more than ever that we need to aggregate our news from multiple sources most of which will have a State or commercial bias.

Commercial bias is just as bad. If you read News International you'll read a lot about British libel laws inhibiting the British press. Excuse me! Why should reliable, unbiased and accurate press fear libel laws. What we really need is much stronger privacy laws to protect us from an intrusive press - but you won't read that in next week's Sunday times.

So an International Chinese channel is great even though it will probably be deeply flawed.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, May 06, 2010

A number of candidates chose not to show their home address on the poliing card. Fair enough one might say.

Not when their party workers are stood outside demanding my polling card and getting very sniffy when I wouldn't hand it over. Apparently withholding the candidate's address is fine, but they expect to have mine.

It seems the one-rule-for-them-and-another-for-the-rest-of-us has started even before the polls close.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, April 19, 2010

At present they are second in the polls. The psephologists say that doesn't translate into seats. That's presently unclear I think because voting patterns are strange and many people on both the left and right are changing how they vote.

Perhaps more importantly the Conservatives and Labour have started Liberal bashing. That's surely misguided as it means a massive publicity campaign for the Liberals' policies This is also the election in which few are keen on any party. A great many voters' intentions seem to be not-the-Conservatives or not-Labour. In that environment criticism by those parties could increase the Liberal vote

It's the most interesting election in ages.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, April 12, 2010

I've just been writing about Turing Machines (for an article on parsing hieroglyphs) and came across this video about a Lego Turing Machine.  It's way fun,  There's a blog and a video ...

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Saturday, April 10, 2010

Immemorable is such an obvious word nobody is likely to misunderstand it’s meaning yet my trusty Chambers denies its existence.  Fortunately my copy of the two volume Shorter Oxford has recently surfaced and confirms that immemorable exists and has the obvious meaning.  I think it proves that our natural understanding of words can sometimes be superior to dictionaries.



Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, April 06, 2010

So are proper nouns allowed in proper Scrabble?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, January 08, 2010

It's a day or Internet oddities.  I've just found a software manual which claims to impart it's knowledge in an hour.  It's 176 A4 pages long!  Fortuately I am a fast reader but I wonder for how many people the hour claim is hyperbole?

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, January 08, 2010

I've been browsing ISO 3166, the international standard of country codes.  It ought to have been dull reading, but Scotland, despite being a separate Kingdom, doesn't merit it's own country code. 

There is no separate ISO 3166-1 code for Scotland. It is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its codes GB, GBR and 826 apply to Scotland, too.
Of even greater sensitivity is the status of Taiwan which is classified as the Taiwan Province of China:
Since Taiwan is not a UN member it does not figure in the UN bulletin on country names. The printed edition of the publication Country and region codes for statistical use gives the name we use in ISO 3166-1. By adhering to UN sources the ISO 3166/MA stays politically neutral.
There's a sort of logic to those two.  I'm not sure I agree with them, but one can see that there is some justification.  For me, though, it all breaks down when we consider Ceuta and Melilla, the two tiny Spanish  outposts on the Moroccan coast, respectively 19 and 12.3 square kilometers which are recognised with a country code:
Ceuta and Melilla are jointly identified by the reserved code element EA

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Sunday, December 06, 2009

I'm sat watchingt the uncut version of Pier Morgan's interview with Dannii Minogue.  It must surely have helped Dannii's popularity.  She comes across really well and very caring.

She was known as the botox queen a couple of years ago.  I wonder if it was that she didn't want her face to show the emotions she was feeling?  I think she is now self-confident enough to allow people to see how she is feeling.  It's a lesson many of us have to learn the hard way - but ultimatley we are better, happier people when we learn it.

Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My mobile showed battery at 40%. I turned it off for a meeting. Now it's back to 90%. Very odd.