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Saturday, December 12th, 2020, 1:37 pm

COVID May Have Caused (or Helped) the UK Home Office and Manchester Town Hall to Violate Basic Laws or Fundamental Human Rights

The Manchester experience, going ‘online’ for ‘apps’ (so-called ‘self-service’) because who need services anyway?

Manchester Town Hall
With “mom” at Manchester Town Hall

FIRST time? My bad. Second? Your fault. Unlike the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you…” (twice… me)

What’s all this commotion about? Is it about privacy? Accessibility? Adherence to law? Or all the above?

Right about now many rules and laws are flouted and violated. In the name of “emergency”… a public health crisis. Perfect justification?

Courts have apparently decided that the equivalent of a telephone call is “trial”; governments are waging an accelerated war on cash, as well. I often wonder if here in Britain we changed the coins (rendering old ones worthless and obsolete) to artificially reduce the money supply; it would be helpful to know how many “old coins” there are compared to “new ones”. The thinking is, maybe they try to impose financial surveillance by “going digital” with scarcity of physical money added to the mix… or removed from circulation.

What’s wrong with digital payments? Apparently a lot of people don’t know or never really thought about it, even in this age of so-called ‘surveillance capitalism’ and mass surveillance without warrant, let alone suspicion or probable cause.

Many who reject digital payments (or “smart” or “touchless” or whatever buzzwords they make up next year) are being framed/painted and sometimes ridiculed as Luddites. That’s kind of funny considering the fact that it’s usually the most technical people who reject technology in payments (so-called ‘novelty’ like “swiping cards” that are little but a piece of plastic with a primitive, cheap chip glued to them). All that insecure chipping and pinning is hardly novel; it’s decades-old ‘technology’ (same for so-called ‘smart’ meters and ‘self-service’ checkout; it could be done decades ago, including the touchscreens, in effect an erosion of customer services or outsourcing of the work to customers).

In reality, it’s the ‘non-techs’ who swallow it all, thinking they’ll seem “techy” for swiping and paying $2,000 for a so-called ‘phone’, compensating for their lack of understanding of where all that data goes and how it’s (mis)used.

The deterioration of our lives is now driven by technology; we were promised technology would make things easier (like doing our laundry, shortening the working days/hours etc.) but in practice people work harder and for longer hours than ever before. People are even being contacted by their bosses well outside working hours. Is this progress?

This brings me to the latest rant. On December 10th 2020 my wife and I went to Manchester Town Hall (temporarily housed partially in Heron House across the road, below GCHQ, as he main building undergoes renovation/overhaul). We went to their office, as explained in the official site, at the specified time with all the documents and a laptop (as required for communication and exchange of details), only to be told the service is not available due to COVID but can instead be done at the Post Office.

Alright then…

So we went to the Post Office, only to be told they don’t do any of that and at least two people had been similarly misdirected earlier in the same day!

What on Earth is going on? ‘Ping-pong’ with people?

So we went back to Town Hall, only to face a different person, who barely even apologised for the misdirection and used “COVID” as a catch-all excuse, instead suggesting contacting the Home Office or urging us to use some Android “app” (which is out of the question).

What if we were disabled or blind? What about options that are paper-based?

This is a terrible regression which actually predates (in part) the pandemic. An “app-only” government would be a travesty for many reasons; like rendering you a non-citizen for refusing to carry around a so-called ‘phone’ that tracks your movement more closely than RFID.

Is COVID a valid excuse here? Hardly. Because apparently, according to information we received from a representative at the Town Hall, this has gone on since March and there’s no projected date or resumption. According to our solicitor, the whole “app” thing was already pushed well before March. They literally want people to take selfies of themselves and then send that to the Home Office, then send sensitive documents over ‘phones’ with back doors.

This isn’t the future; this is not “innovation” but degradation of services spun as “smart” and convenient.

Nothing is as convenient as an informed person interacting with you, dealing with the papers for you, checking the authenticity and ensuring everything is done properly right there on the spot.

I am not a lawyer, I don’t know the pertinent laws and sections, but I know enough to say that the government cannot demand people do those sorts of things with “apps” or digital devices. There must be a fallback. Leaving people ‘hanging’ for almost a year citing “health and safety” cannot be excused because of the COVID-19 pandemic; for several months during summer people could go to pubs and restaurants, so surely Town Hall could facilitate face-to-face (with masks on) meetings.

I will carry on chasing Town Hall next year and will report again.

Friday, October 9th, 2020, 6:56 am

Donald Trump Has Flattened the Curve… Diagonally

Well done, “super-spreader”

us-deaths-covid19

Friday, October 2nd, 2020, 7:44 am

Getting Karma-19

210k deaths; Not my problem!

Saturday, June 27th, 2020, 10:28 pm

When the Desk is Too Narrow Go Portrait Mode, Not Landscape

Click to zoom

setup-portrait

Summary: The old workspace mode had one screen on top of another, which was sub-optimal (one screen was too distant to see properly). So I spent a few hours reshuffling the layout again, on a desk with limited width. My screens now stay in portrait mode permanency. It will not rotate into landscape mode on the right, as I have scripts that rely on that particular screen layout. This is so much better. I see a lot more without having to move the head, only the eyes.

Monday, June 15th, 2020, 1:12 pm

The ‘Second Phase’ in the UK is No Shopping Time (Unless You’re Really Desperate)

The Manchester experience, day 1

Main Line Railway Station 2

For the past two weeks if not longer we’ve sort of looked forward to some stores reopening. After about 80 days of lock-down some things in the house were broken and probably needed replacing. I expected the city to be packed with people and stores to have loads of discounts (sales). How wrong was I…

To be fair, we have no prior experience when it comes to this. The last pandemic that hit the UK (at a scale remotely like this) was over 100 years ago and a lot of things were different back then, so any shallow/superficial parallels don’t quite apply.

Today was my first time putting the mask on because usually, at least for food shopping, I chose small stores where isolation was super-easy and a mask barely needed (there’s already a plastic screen near check-out tills/clerks. Cash is OK as long as you don’t touch the face, even when it’s itchy.

The mask is really irritating. The heat in particular. Breathing isn’t too easy either; it’s kind of a nuisance. So you’re already uncomfortable just by ‘virtue’ of being there. Not for a few minutes but hours….

We left the home at 9AM and came back at around 1PM. I don’t think we’ll go back to these stores for at least a month. We just bought what we really needed. And looking back, maybe it wasn’t really worth the bother; we could wait a while longer…

The main observations worth making:

  1. There are very long queues, sometimes huge ones. It depends on the stores’ size and appeal. Hard to think of people so desperate to stand in line (waiting in those means being outside)…
  2. There were very few people in the mall and out in the streets. Like 10 times less whatever I was expecting. Even after almost 4 hours we still didn’t see many people. So it’s not about our early arrival time…
  3. Most or least at very many stores are still shut, they don’t bother even if they’re now formally allowed to reopen. Makes one wonder how many are technically bankrupt or may be too afraid to reopen for health reasons/or and expectation of dire sales. Maybe people aren’t receiving a salary, so they lack finances or financial security/confidence (uncertainty about the future).
  4. For each store that is open, bar few, the experience inside the store is like a guided tour; it’s so limited, losing much of the appeal of in-store shopping (permissible and impermissible walking routes)
  5. We got lots of hand sanitiser, as each shop advises if not forces you apply it. Again and again.
  6. Not only does store staff issue guidance; inside the malls (not stores), even while merely walking in the aisles, one has to follow some odd rules and instructions of mall workers must be obeyed

The bottom line is, unless it is really essential, like an item that must be purchased and carried in person (or paid for anonymously), I’d advise to not bother. The way things stand, the experience is painful, unsatisfying, and I think reduction in consumerism may be the best solution right now. We aren’t going back there any time soon; not because we don’t want to support local stores (we do!) but because there’s clearly a severe problem here. And if people are not willing to spend or lack the budget to spend (borrowings must be hard now), I dread thinking about what summer will look like for businesses, causing social unrest if not societal breakdown.

Sunday, May 31st, 2020, 5:10 am

COVID-19 Proves Brexit is Based on a Lie

“Brexit death toll” (or “cost of Tories”) might as well fit this chart

COVID-10 deaths in UK

THE myth of superiority — intellectual and practical (or economic) — has long been disproved by the current pandemic, which likely killed over 50,000 Brits already (source: FT). The British Empire romantics aside, it’s not easily provable nor demonstrable that Britain is better than the rest of Europe (on average). This was in fact the key premise if not promise of Brexit. And look where we are now… barely able to even reopen stores safely. We’re ranked second in the world for number of deaths after the US (just like the Olympic Games medal tally the same year as Brexit referendum). It’s a political blunder as well as a reminder that Brexit harmed the NHS by driving away many nurses, putting in charge the same demagogue who acted all arrogant about COVID-19 while privatising our healthcare, in turn causing a shortage of (not out-of-date) medical equipment.

With arrogance comes carelessness and in the long term self harm. Such is the nature of Brexit and the old generation that overwhelmingly voted for it pays the highest price. Us younger people will have to spend several more generations living with their short-sighted mistakes.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020, 8:58 am

6 Heads Under $1000

My desk in May

WITH a bunch of low-cost hardware, some of which as cheap as under $200 (for laptops!) from displays or ‘pre-owned’ (slightly used), I’ve managed to build my workspace over the years. The cost may seem hard to believe; there used to be 4 laptops, but one died a month ago after 11 years (when it was bought by my wife in 2009 it cost more than those 3 laptops combined) and the remaining items — both screens and laptops — cost less than $1000. 3 screens, 3 laptops. The cost of the most expensive laptop — my main workstation — was less than the cost of the chair (224 pounds) and software costs are zero (GNU/Linux is free and all the applications I ever use cost nothing).

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