NOW WE KNOW….OR DO WE?

A couple of  ‘newsy’ things this week caught my attention:

We now know why bubbly tastes better in a glass.  Research at both The University of Texas and University College London UK, explains why plastic and polystyrene cups just will not do for your Prosecco, Asti-spumante, or, Champagne. I can feel the regal Marques des Champagne curling their toes and gritting their pearly teeth at the thought of …plastic….polystyrene!!  According to a study, the bubbles behave differently in plastic and polystyrene cups than they would in glass,  The bubbles stick quite strongly to the plastic and polystyrene for longer and as a result grow bigger before they lift off, which, in turn, alters the taste of the drinks. They [the bubbles]   are on their best behaviour drunk from a glass.  Presumably, the small free flowing bubbles maintain the desired taste of the ‘bubbly’

While we are discussing drinking alcohol;  an offence with interesting variations.  An electrical engineer was caught over the drinks-driving limit, on his way to a police station to service their…….breath test machine!  The driver had been seen by police driving erratically on a very bendy stretch of road.  In court he was found guilty, fined and banned from driving for a year. At the trial, the police said the case presented them with a dilemma, because of the unusual circumstances.   It was felt there could be a ‘conflict of interest’,  given that the man serviced most of the intoximeters  in the country.  The prosecutor shared their view.  A urine sample was therefore taken for testing.

In defending his client, the defence lawyer claimed the police had not followed correct procedures in taking the urine sample.

The Sheriff when pronouncing sentence said, that the matter had been handled correctly and by the book.

 

 

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THE POWER OF OUR OWN FREE WILL

I have, at last, finished reading a book which has opened a Pandora’s Box of uncomfortable feelings. It is no overstatement to say the story is, in a perverse way, an engrossing and powerful read.  I took a break from the book just over half way through it to restore my inner self to its familiar, more comfortable state. Though the writer is giving us the power of our own free will to be involved, he is also rendering the reader  to be actively powerless.  Being disempowered is an extremely uncomfortable place to be. And this is the position in which, swathes of the world’s population reside.  Selection Day by Aravind Adiga,  published this year, is not a read for the faint-hearted. It is a very clever writer who can connect a reader to almost participate in the linking destructive events that lead to the final denouement.

SELECTION DAY

I have  read one other book by the same writer, it was the Man Booker Prizewinner 2008. The White Tiger.  Adiga later admitted that he had had to watch his back after exposing in this book a variety of  cultural norms within a society he knows well.  The White Tiger is a very good, high quality and exciting read with superb pacing.  I found myself being curious about the the effects of the breadths and the depths of the social and economic corruption he unwrapped in his story, and its global reach.

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Coming back to nearer home, I have just started reading Ian Rankin’s very first Rebus book, Knots and Crosses.  I thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself to an Edinburgh writer, a writer who has grown in stature.  I am hoping that introducing myself to his literary characters will create another interesting link with Edinburgh…….we’ll see

 

 

 

 

JOURNEYS…

To avoid forgetting anything, I wrote up a list, each item in itself proving to be a journey. These journeys all connected with technology.  I needed a structure, something I could see, refer to, add to, (things kept slipping my mind…so much going on) and as each item was actioned, I wanted to see it marked up as ‘started’, or, scored through as ‘done’.

I deal with security updates as soon as I am alerted.  I also scan my system to see if I’m all up-to-date. I can mark that one as…….  Continuing task – done for now.

A friend seems to have disappeared off my radar.  An email I sent about a month ago has not been returned, I think this might be good; but, her home phone number no longer connects.  She was treated for a serious illness a few years ago.  An internet search brings up old information.  Inside, I am on an emotional roller coaster. I mark this search as ‘started’, (journey to be continued).

Ransom malware has caused major, major, seizures of computer data, disrupting  UK  Health Services and many business systems.  It’s a concerted worldwide attack.  Technology and security experts talk about maintaining the security and integrity of computer operating systems.  An important security patch was available from March.  What the circumstances may tell us is, that this is too complex an event to be resolved by a concrete answer. This is marked ‘Stay Aware’

Try as hard as I might, sending a money gift securely to a new baby,  living abroad,  has proved exasperating. There’s no obvious reason given to me from a list of possibilities suggested by the company.   Mum sends  new information.  But, the website continues to stop the transaction.  However, because the latest information is correct, the company can tell me that there is a security issue with the account to which I am trying to send the gift.  Keeping the link closed is protecting accounts from potentially being compromised, including mine.  Wow! Am I glad of that!  What a journey this one is.   Task marked ‘Started’     (… problematic).

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PILLAGE!

It defied any logic I could think of.  An email informed me that my monthly fuel bill was increasing by nearly 101%  in a few days’ time.  Ouch! The day before I had an email apologizing for not advising me in advance that an increased debit had been taken from my bank account to pay for it.   I phoned the company. What superhuman patience and effort was required to wait to speak to someone, someone, who was not very helpful.  She was probably fed-up taking the flak from an army of very irate customers  who, likely, had the same experience.

The huge deduction was being taken ….wait for it………………..in preparation for when my current billing arrangements expired in three months’ time and I would automatically be transferred to a [bog] standard higher variable tariff.  Wha-a-a-t!!

In business, not good business practice, I have heard of “Do it then apologize after”.  This was a blatant example of it, an absolute abuse of trust.

Whatever happened to the regulation that requires advance notice, (about fifteen days I believe) of end of contract and best renewal offers.

Today’s letter, the one I should have got sometime before my account was pillaged,  described in general outline how the increased deductions had been calculated for everyone.  So, back on the phone today trying every trick in the book to get an answer to one of my calls.  It was too late to stop my bank account losing an extra large debit, but I have stopped the following two from happening. In the interim, I will formally request a refund of the engorged credit I have on my fuel account.

I have emailed my concerns and made a formal complaint about these spurious and dubious management business practices.

POWERFUL WORDS

Some of you from BCUK may remember Guinevere Glasford-Brown. Since those blog days, she has become a published author and got a Best Book review from The Times Literary Reviews as well.  Last week I heard she was in Brussels.  Also, last week, I heard she was safe.  I breathed again.  Atrocities are painful to hear about, and heaven only knows, we have heard about so many; too many. When you know of someone who may be caught up in an atrocity you are seized by an indescribable, awful sensation, which, muscles you did not know you had, hold down.  Guin was fortunate in her travels, others were not.  Since arriving home, she has written about some of her post trauma feelings on her Facebook Page, to get her feelings out.  Her words talk of her irritation with  family, they indicate her anger and emotional pain at what has been done to people….to people by people. Her words are powerful.

What Guin says applies to all the atrocities we hear of, be they of large groups or individuals, such as the Moslem shop-keeper in Glasgow who was murdered because he wished his customers and Christian friends a happy festival.

It is so sad, so sad.

 

MOOC OVER

Mooc over….the final  statistics were amazing. 21,000 people throughout the globe participated.  The total number of full time students at Dundee University, Scotland, this academic year  is 17,500.  For six weeks, ( the length of the course)  the mooc more than doubled the university’s student population.  What a triumph for Dundee University.  Mooc questions and comments were totalled up, the final numbers being enviously fantastic.  The ‘Educators’ who are members of the departmental academic staff, including the professors, were very active in encouraging us in our tasks and answering queries. The live interaction was terrific.  Every week, at the end of the unit, there were mooc video seminars when our forensic queries were answered in more detail.  The facial reconstruction feature was brilliant; we students  got to do it.

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The departmental staff have extraordinary busy and demanding working lives and they gave up a huge chunk of it from May this year, to develop the course and then to interact with their short term course intake. Rumour has it that the course, the forensic sciences in Identifying The Dead, will run again in 2016.

 

 

What is a mooc? It is a free of charge massive open online course. Participants can, if they choose, buy a certificate of attendance, at nominal cost, but not till they have completed a certain percentage of a course. If you want to, and you live where it might be possible, you can book for, and pay to take an examination.  While these courses do not count towards a higher qualification, they are accepted for continuous personal development, if what you learn is relevant to your profession. One of our local pharmacists is currently doing a relevant mooc, which, just happens to be with Dundee University too.  He is very impressed with the quality of his course.

I am dabbling with another mooc, which in contrast to the first one, is nowhere near as dynamic. But then, can criminology be as lively as the forensic study of identifying the dead?  I have not yet seen much Educator activity, though with week two starting,  you never know what might happen. The numbers of participants are not anywhere near comparable as the Dundee University mooc.  They are substantially lower.  As I have a few distractions coming up, I may have to bow out of this course about half way and maybe pick  up where I leave off, another time.   One helpful feature is, the courses are always there to continue on with, in silence, or, you can wait till a course is interactively offered again.

 

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FORENSIC SCIENCE AND HUMAN IDENTIFICATION

I am doing a massive open online course, (mooc) with Dundee University in Scotland. It lasts for six weeks. When I first heard about it, ten thousand people had already signed up. Massive in name and massive in number.  I like to think I might have been number ten thousand and one.

 An event I went to at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August this year informed me about moocs and in particular, this one.  The course is called ‘Identifying The Dead: Forensic Science and Human Identification’.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, (if you drink tea).  I  was a week late starting and have now caught up.   We are now beginning week three and I intend to stay with the time line; you won’t hear much from me while I am keeping up with it. This course has fired up the brain cells, (much needed) with new and interesting learning; a great combination!  The science of real forensic investigations is not like what we see on television programmes such as CSI, Lewis, or, Waking The Dead. It is educating me, and ten thousand others, about what the forensic science specialists actually do and how they collect and collate the provision of evidence.

At least decade ago, a director  of a forensic laboratory in Scotland, said, that if he were seeking trainee forensic scientists he would look for candidates who had studied a science subject, such as physics, or chemistry, in depth, because they would have the desired academic rigor.  The candidates can, he said, be trained in forensic investigation to accreditation standards once in situ. There were then, and are now,  many students taking forensic sciences courses, which the professor described as ‘scientifically superficial’ and which,  are unlikely to take the students into the realms of the specialised scientific forensic work that the experts are expected to perform.  From what I have learned so far with the mooc, I can understand why that may be so. 


WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

A replacement credit card automatically arrived for one which had not expired and was not due to expire. It had features I  never had, that I did not want, and an alien name style.  This definitely merited a phone call.

Once I had bypassed the system menus, it was, said the voice, a  busy time, (late Sunday evening must be popular) and there was at least a ten minutes wait. About two minutes of the wait was taken up with a lesson on avoiding telephone fraudsters and tricksters.  Music and apologies followed on, sequentially.

Various bits of security were dealt with; there was no problem re-issuing a card without the pesky features – yes I could opt out of those.  OPT OUT…… Great trick…they impose and the customer has to dispose.

“As my present card is in date, is it necessary to issue another one?” I asked.

It was necessary to issue another one, as the unsolicited replacement will have cancelled out the card I already had.

To have another card issued in the name style I wanted, (and always had) I would need to write in with proof of identity…..!

“excuse me – I did not change my name style, you did.  I want you to restore it”. 

Agreement was reached.

BE AWARE -PHISHING EXPEDITION

Phone rings.

Faint voice, which was crossing continents “Hello  Ma’am”

….”We have heard you had a motor accident two years ago. That is right isn’t it?”

Note… No specific type of motoring accident is given and the question is phrased for me to be tricked into their lair.

I respond with a question of my own…. who gave you that information?

“Your insurance company Ma’am.

and what information were you given?

“We have heard you had a motor accident two years ago. “That is right isn’t it?”

I’m not answering your question

Him –  insistently stating…..It is right isn’t it Ma’am?

I am not answering your question

Him- hurriedly, “Thank you for your time; goodbye”

AND SO ENDED A PHISHING EXPEDITION.

NOT ENOUGH SECURITY

We are exhorted in endless ways to be security conscious, are we not? …YES WE ARE.

Don’t do this, don’t answer that, we won’t  phone you, we shall never ask you anything personal etc. etc.

I received a phone call. The guy asked for me by my surname, introduced himself with a first name and told me he was phoning about an issue I had raised about [nameless] bank. So that we could discuss the matter he would first need to go through security with me; so saying, he launched into the first (and last) personal question .

Giving me a first name was not sufficient for me, though he evidently thought it was.

No, he couldn’t tell me anything more without going through security with me. And, if I was refusing to clear security with him then he could not give me any information.

One sided security here, ringing all the alarm bells. If  the call was being recorded, I wanted it to be recorded that this call was unsatisfactory. Like a good girl, I was keeping to the security rules and keeping mine safe. Surely, for his part to confirm his status to me, information could be given about when the issue was raised at least and perhaps who may have dealt with any call relating to it. (Those were my questions).

The answer: you’ve probably guessed it – not without me going through the [ bank’s] security, with which, given the nature of the call, I was not going to oblige. Obviously tetchy, he said, in that case he would have to write to me.

I offered to phone him. Yes, I could have a number to call him on but, (there’s always a but isn’t there) ” I am between two floors and you might not get me.”
  
I await a letter.