Monday, 20 March 2017

BRIGHT SPARKS


Many years ago, British Gas, (a utility company with an appalling customer service rating), used to send people threatening letters claiming that they owed £.0.00 and threatening legal action if it wasn't paid. I wrote about them a couple of years ago in a brief piece, you can read it here

It seems that they are not the only company with a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to customer relations.

Up until march this year, I bought my electricity from a company called OVO. I moved to them from Atlantic Electric because they were a lot cheaper and, as far as I could tell, the electricity they supplied was of a similar quality. 

I had joined a 2 year fixed tariff contract and this ended at the end of February. They wrote to me to let me know my agreement was coming to an end and, as a good will gesture, agreed to continue supplying me with their electricity with only a 20% increase in price.

Looking around for another supplier, I found a small company called "The Energy Deal" who could supply me with their electricity for the same price OVO were originally charging me, so I signed up with them. 

Everything went smoothly, The Energy Deal said hello, OVO said goodbye and that was that; or so I supposed.

Imagine my surprise then when I received an email from OVO telling me how pleased they were that I was staying with them and telling me how much they were going to be charging me in future. According to their letter, "based on your tariff and energy use, we think your energy will cost you £0.00 for the next 12 months".

If they had told me that was what they were going to charge me originally, I never would have left them.


POKING AROUND


The Poke is a website which specialises in reporting some of the more unusual and interesting stories appearing on social media and the news. I often have a look at it and find most of the stories quite entertaining. 

The site is free to access and they get their funding by running lots of click-bait ads. These are the ones where "you won't believe how this woman lost 300lbs in just 10 days" and "this miracle treatment Doctors don't want you to know about" type stories which are meant to encourage you to click on them and so create internet traffic for advertising revenue.

The trouble is, because of the nature of the site itself, being full of incredible and absurd stories, it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the genuine stories and the click-bait ads. Perhaps that's the idea.

Anyway, I'd finished reading all the latest stories and thought, just for a bit of fun, I would try one or two of the click-bait ones.

"This Diabetes Breakthrough Will Bankrupt The Diabetes Industry" screamed the first one. I wasn't aware that there was a diabetes industry but I decided to take a look anyway.

It opened up into a screen that looked like this


A bit of research told me that 1st Browser is a nasty piece of work which, when downloaded, re-directs all your searches to sites trying to sell you things. It's difficult to get rid of, or so I'm told. Not a problem I will have because I wasn't stupid enough to click on the link. I don't see it doing much to cure my diabetes either.

Going back to The Poke, the ad was still there (they seem to cycle them so you don't always get the same ones) so I clicked on it again. This time another offer popped up


No, this isn't going to cure me either.

Not to be disheartened, I tried a different one. This told me that "New British Diet Pill Works Too Good".


As you can see, this one must work because there is a picture of a very fat lady next to a picture of a very slim lady. These two pictures are the same lady, or so we are told, so it must be true, with the legend "Lost 3.0 stone in 6 weeks!". Don't forget the exclamation mark, very important.

There are a number of important points to consider if you are thinking of trying this product. First, beware of the free trial promotions on offer. There are a number of reports of companies selling this product deducting the full payment from customers' credit cards even after they have cancelled within the contracted period.

Next, the product itself. Firstly, they claim that their product has been "clinically proven" to produce various results. They provide no evidence of any clinical trials to support any such thing. They won't even disclose the actual ingredients so no safe clinical testing could ever be carried out.

When you are looking for suspicious claims for health products, there is one word to look out for perhaps more than any other. Forget vibrations, quantum, wellness or anything like that. No, the word is "detox".

If you want to know what the word "detox" actually means then have a read of this Wikipedia entry. As most of you won't bother, here is the most relevant extract.

"Detoxification or detoxication (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver. Additionally, it can refer to the period of withdrawal during which an organism returns to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance. In medicine, detoxification can be achieved by decontamination of poison ingestion and the use of antidotes as well as techniques such as dialysis and (in a limited number of cases) chelation therapy".

"Certain approaches in alternative medicine claim to remove "toxins" from the body through herbal, electrical or electromagnetic treatments. These toxins are undefined and have no scientific basis,(Mayo Clinic) making the validity of such techniques questionable. There is little evidence for toxic accumulation in these cases, as the liver and kidneys automatically detoxify and excrete many toxic materials including metabolic wastes. Under this theory if toxins are too rapidly released without being safely eliminated (such as when metabolizing fat that stores toxins) they can damage the body and cause malaise

Read that last sentence again very carefully. What it's saying is that so-called alternative medicine treatments don't do anything. It's just as well because if they did, in an uncontrolled way, (and none of the peddlers of this stuff are actually medically qualified), you could do yourself real harm.

If you see the word "detox" in anything other than it's correct clinical context, you are about to be shaken down till your teeth rattle. They claim that the "Pure Colon Detox" has been clinically proven to "Help Eliminate Extremely Damaging Toxins That Have Built Up Over The Years".

Apart from the fact that you should always be suspicious of anyone using Nigerian 419 scam type emphasis on capital letters, you should also be aware that, while there is a clinical definition of the term "detox", this isn't it.

Quite how you are suppose to "clinically prove" something which has no clinical basis is something they don't care to explain. It's like trying to "clinically prove" that it's unlucky to walk under a ladder.




Sunday, 12 March 2017

Above, you will see a map of Bexleyheath town centre which I have stolen from Google (don't worry, they can afford it). Down the middle of the picture is Albion Road. This is currently being dug up, apparently with the intention of installing a cycle lane down the middle.

I'm all in favour of cycle lanes but I'm a bit worried about this one. At present, Albion Road is a dual carriageway and once the changes have been completed, it will become single lane only.

I wonder if the people who thought this idea up have really considered the consequences of what they have done. 

Just after the Townley Road/Albion Road roundabout there is the entrance to the shopping centre car park. It's not at all uncommon at busy times for the access ramp to become completely blocked with cars waiting to get into the car park which results in them queueing into the road. Not a problem as anyone wanting to get past can just move into the outside lane. 

Not any more. When this does happen next (and it will happen) it's going to result in traffic backing up all the way to the Albion Road/Broadway magic roundabout causing complete gridlock. I bet they never thought of that. 

If anyone does manage to get past, they will only get as far as the next major junction at Hyland Road where traffic waiting to turn left is backing up behind the traffic lights at the Broadway/Arnsberg Way junction where the same thing will happen. In fact, this is already happening at relatively quiet times during the day. Just wait till Christmas.


Talking of insane traffic management systems. Coming home from Woolwich on the bus the other day, once the bus managed it's curious dog-leg right turn out of Woolwich New Road and onto the High Street, we were stopped straight away by a large traffic jam.

I've noticed this before, it always seems to be a problem on this bit of the road and is caused by another one of  Greenwich Council's curious tendency to put bus lanes where they will be least effective. (See previous blogs ad-nauseam)

There is always a tailback of traffic from the Arsenal gate to the junction with Burrage Road; sometimes it tails back even further. It's caused by the fact that after the Burrage Road traffic lights, the dual carriageway is reduced to one lane in order to accommodate a bus lane. 

While this is intended to make life easier for the buses, it actually has the opposite effect because although the buses have a clear lane after the junction, it takes three times as long to reach it because of the traffic jam caused by the bus lane being there in the first place. If Greenwich Council were to remove it, it would speed up the traffic no end.


BREXIT QUESTION

There must be at least a few pro-Brexit loonies who read this blog, perhaps one of them can explain something to me.

During the referendum campaign, apart from the usual chanting of OUT OUT OUT and ranting on about immigrants, my understanding is that one of the main reason you wanted us to leave the EU was so that constitutional decisions affecting the British people would be made by the British Parliament and not the European one. "Take back control" I heard more than once.

Why then, was there such a fuss when the House of Lords forced the government to refer the terms of our leaving to Parliament, rather than just a few ministers and civil servants? I thought that was the whole point but it seems that most of the protests seem to be coming from exactly those people who wanted the British Parliament to decide such issues in the first place.

I can understand the hysterical ranting of the tabloid press. It publishes what it's bosses tell it and as it's all owned by foreign based tax dodging billionaires, I can understand why they are nervous about the idea of a democratic system getting the upper hand. But why the Brexit loonies, surely that's exactly what they wanted?

The latest is that Theresa May has said that "she will take the UK out of the EU even if Parliament votes against the deal" (BBC).

This means that you, the British public will have absolutely no say whatsoever about the terms of our exit from the EU. It will all be decided by the Prime Minister personally with no reference to anybody. Well done everyone.




I do go on about this from time to time but here is a BBC news article about it. There is a small app you can download onto your android smartphone and it will work in the background helping scientists researching diseases such as Cancer, Ebola, Zika, TB, AIDS, etc.

It costs nothing to run and you could be helping to cure some of the most deadly threats to mankind. 

If you have an Android phone, you have no excuse not to be running this. You can find it here.


And last but not least:-


Here are some more London stories according to the BBC





Monday, 27 February 2017

MISSING LONDON


Here's a subject I haven't covered for a while, The apparent case of the Wandering London, or, is it or isn't it.

On today's BBC London news you can see the following stories:-


In this story, we are told that NHS England is investigating "the case of the missing documents". fair enough; London is in England so it might affect us, if it does though, they aren't saying.


Keep Britain Tidy says that some councils aren't doing enough to encourage recycling. It doesn't say which councils so whether any of this applies to London, we will just have to guess.


Someone has been stabbed to death in Leicester. Now when my Wife signed up to the London Air Ambulance Lottery, the guy manning the stand in Morrisons, Thamesmead said that most of their call-outs were to attend incidents of black juveniles stabbing each other so this happens in London as well. A tragic story but why is it in the London news section.


As above, but this case is in Northampton.


Great Britain's Mo Farrah. Okay, London is in Great Britain but Mo isn't; he lives in America. As does his trainer who is being investigated for doping claims. 


While it's possible to mistake parts of London for the Punjab - really!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

FACEBOOK MORONS


It never ceases to amaze me just how stupid people are. How many times are we warned that all these "type amen" type posts are scams? It just doesn't seem to make any difference, people still fall for them. 

This one shown here on a BBC news item, featuring a stolen picture of a baby with chicken pox has attracted over 1.2 million "shares" along with 241 thousand "likes" and 143 thousand "comments".

The baby apparently has cancer and needs money for an operation. This particular scam is claiming that Facebook will donate 2 dollars for each like, 4 dollars for each comment and 8 dollars for each share.

This being the case, the cretinous half-wits who believed this and shared, commented and liked will now be expecting Facebook to put up the 10.75 million dollars promised. That's a lot of money to fix a dose of chicken pox.

Some of these scams are too stupid for words, as are the people who believe them. Recently there was this picture shown here of a dog with a slice of ham on its face. We were told that the poor dog had suffered a terrible injury as a result of a house fire.

It doesn't help, I suppose, that Facebook seem to have a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the whole thing. At any one time, there will be literally thousands of these scams running at the same time and complaints to Facebook are always met with their standard "this post doesn't contravene our community standards policy" response.

According to the BBC report, they are actually going to investigate this one but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to nothing.


Here is another typical example of the genre, also featuring a stolen photograph.

Quote from Hoax Slayer as follows:-

Picture is Genuine but Stolen From Elsewhere

The photograph depicts Dominic Pio, a baby born with a large facial cleft. Dominic, who was born in June 2012, later had surgery to correct the birth defect and is now reportedly doing well. The callous and morally bankrupt person who created this fake post stole Dominic's post surgery picture from another website and reused it without the permission of his parents.


In the mean time, be warned - if any posts featuring sick children, young women with various limbs photoshopped out, or anything else that anyone with even half a brain would recognise as a scam, we will be having words.


Monday, 20 February 2017

If you take yourself off to Hall Place, you will see this unusual visitor that has been hanging around along the river for a couple of weeks now. It's called a Barnacle Goose and while not a rare bird by any means, you wouldn't normally expect to see one in South-east London. 

They usually live in the Arctic, especially Greenland where they nest in large numbers. In the Winter, they head further South but usually only as far as the North-west corner of Scotland and the West of Ireland.

Similar in colour to the much more common Canada Goose, you might easily mistake it for one if you don't look carefully but it's a much smaller bird than the Canada Goose and has a distinctive black front.