A highly articulate outburst

I was having an e-mail conversation yesterday, and the subject of people driving everywhere rather than using public transport came up. As the only car driver present on the mailing list, I got asked for my opinion – specifically in relation to my having taken the Park & Ride into Oxford, rather than having tried to park in the city centre, & having started to write a short reply, I found several hundred words had passed.

Most of them, I decided, on re-reading what I’d written, relatively sensible ones.

At this point, I’ll point out I’ve made barely any revisions to this theory – bar my square-bracketed clarification of fare changes, and the re-setting of the line-breaks my gmail account put in this is just what I churned out last night, but I think there might be something there. Lord knows we’ve all got enough money to fritter it away trying to prop up a brassic banking industry, I don’t see why we didn’t ought to get some decent use out of it.

There’s probably a few hundredweight of flaws in the idea; you’re welcome to point them out in a friendly way, but at least it’s not as stupid as some of the ideas out there. (Seriously, I am curious as to where the bad ideas are, here; I admit I’ve kinda planned everything out in Sandbox Mode, with unlimited funds and no fixed deadlines, but still…)

I’m in favour of P&R. Although I’ve driven through Oxford (through a complicated coming-off-the-motorway-wrong scenario that had me trying to plot a route through the centre of the city based on
where I thought the tour buses went after Broad Street. Was dead chuffed when I managed it). However, I still drove to Oxford. From Wallingford. And the X39 is actually pretty damn good – I really like Thames Travel.

Even London – Edinburgh is the sort of thing I might drive, depending on circumstances! If it was at a busy time, I think I’d take the car, because I’d at least get a seat! Other times, maybe not – it’d depend what I was doing after Edinburgh, I guess.

But, yeah. The thing to do is spend a hundred fuckloads of money on the transport network: re-nationalise *everything*, buy back all the land sold under the Beeching Axe, put the tracks back, buy the station houses back and re-introduce full service to all of them (automatic ticket machines will save you a few salaries there, at least) and get into the habit of offering free rail passes to, er, everyone. (Or everyone paying less than the 50% income tax band, say).

Upgrade everything. Electrify the entire network while you’re at it to a) save time in the future and b) free yourself up to put any rolling stock down a line, increase the number of passing places, terminals
and sidings and give tax breaks to businesses that transport anything by rail, including produce (I reckon the distribution networks could cope with running services from local rail terminals instead of local warehouse depots, I don’t really see the difference). Accept that the national debt is going to look like swiss bloody cheese anyway, and bootstrap the domestic rail manufacturing industry to get some trains that’re less than 20 years old running through the provinces.

Bring back First, Second & Third class, [but do away with the multitude of saver fares; either it’s off peak or it’s a fixed rush hour surcharge of £3, say] and change the conditions of carriage to promise everyone a seat on their service, or they get a £5 voucher for the shop on the train for each 100 miles or part thereof for their journey as specified *on the ticket* – we could print that easy enough.

Then – gradually, over a few years – increase tax on petrol to fund the public transport network, and offer free bus routes to railway stations. No less than every 10 minutes per stop in towns, and aim for
every 30-40 minutes for rural areas. Since the Government run everything anyway, they can sync all the timetables up without (too much) difficulty.

Engineering works no longer mean such severe stoppages, as there’s now *network redundancy* and you can route around them with care. Long-term you get improved maintainance. Schedule for an x-day period, specifying exactly what needs to be done, and at the end of the works, have them surveyed by two independent teams from seperate bodies (one from RailSafe.gov and one from the Dept. of Engineering Works, say). If the works are approved by both bodies as being OK – and *signed
off* by *every member* of the inspection teams, good. If they’re signed off ahead of schedule, give the workers a bonus of £x/day over schedule.

The thing is I *want* trains to be good. But as long as people think they’re supposed to make money, they ain’t gonna. And even people like me will stay in our cars until we can get a fascist party set up, with me in charge…

As Statto said: a highly articulate outburst. So where’s it fall down? Money, obviously, and political intransigence. But where else?

The Moriarty of Bexleyheath

[Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, or anything, mind. I’m not even working shifts in the Law Library till after April. I speak colloquially, because I dunno what the legal definition of a tosspot is, though the colloquial one is totally this guy.]

Today on ElectricQuaker:

The Napoleon of Crime Vs. (Wellington) Boots.com in: The Wobbly-Headed Doll Caper!!

Yes, indeed, ladies & gentlemen! Today you can thrill! at the tale of a criminal!

A criminal whose dastardly plots know no restraint, whose cruel machinations know no mercy, whose fiendish mind knows no thought!

…Or, to put it another way, who’s a right pain in the arse, because I’ve had to lock down my credit card because of him. Git.

On my way home from work on Friday (I got sent home ill, which is always annoying) I checked my email & found “Paypal” had sent me an email telling me I’d added a new address. There was a second email telling me I’d authorised a payment.

‘Huh.’ I thought ‘that’s some convincing-looking phishing, there. I guess I’ll report it.’ So I did.

A bit later Paypal replied to say, basically ‘Yep, that was phishing. Good on yer for reporting it,’ and I crashed out for the rest of the day.

Being as I was ill, my sleep patterns were all to pot, so I was awake again at midnight, and took a bath (and a hot toddy made, disgracefully, with Bowmore single malt, for we had no blend in the house), and idly fired up the computer to see how the Internet had managed to cope without me for the past six hours.

Naturally, I checked my email accounts, and I was surprised to find another email from Paypal, this time saying ‘O, hai. Your payment, we haz it.’

…This one was even more convincing than the other two; no ‘Dear customer,’ here: there was my name, all correct & shipshape, and… the last four digits of my credit card number…?

So I forwarded that to Paypal as well, along with a message that said ‘This really is just some clever phishing device, right?’ and pointed a new browser window at Paypal and went and logged in.

(This is where our criminal mastermind comes in, this is)

Somehow, somebody broke into my Paypal account, added a new address (which is presumably serving as a drop; if it transpires it’s actually their home address I will actuallyLOL), and made off with a valuable consignment of, er, Boots aren’t allowed to tell me what it is because of the Data Protection Act.

Since Paypal automatically notifies me when somebody does, for example, randomly tell them that I live in London now in case it isn’t me doing it I’m not really sure why they thought this would work, but they evidently did, because otherwise I’d have an inbox slightly-less-full of emails claiming I was editing my own account. The only equivilant I can think of is trying to theive a wallet that somebody’s got chained to their own trousers; they’re likely to notice once it starts to pull, you know…

Gormless though the theft may be, I’ve still had to scramble all my passwords, boosting them up from mixed-case alphanumerics of 6-10 characters to mixed case 12 character-plus jobs, have got myself a GPG key with which I’m slowly starting to encrypt things and I’m having to do without cards because, of course, they all have to be changed now because some poxy git couldn’t be bothered to pay for his own sodding vaseline and spot cream.

And I really don’t know how they got in. Grumble. Although as far as I know, the Met., Boots, Paypal, Dyfed-Powys police & the Bank are all looking into it (which would give me more comfort if it didn’t sound just a bit like the plot synopsis for an Ealing Comedy…) Spoke to a chap from the police down in London the other day, actually, he was nice & friendly & seemed to think I was likely to get the money back, at least.

Still a pain in the arse, though.

Those of you with GPG keys, point me in the right direction & I’ll see if I can work the buggers.

and speaking of work: back to it, I suppose…