Category Archives: Ramble

Amex ruining ApplePay in the UK

Amex and ApplePay

A few days ago, the good folk at American Express kindly sent word of an offer: Spend £3 in Starbucks and get £1 back – up to a maximum of £5. Not the most Earth shattering offer, perhaps, but given how much I spend in SBs each month, it represents free money (well, ignoring the occasional extra muffin to take my purchase over £3, of course). Thank you very much.

If only it was so simple.

I invariably use my Starbucks card on my phone – quick & easy (usually), and I get one in 16 drinks free. This offer therefore forces me to break my habit a little by using Amex. However, that shouldn’t be a problem as their’s was the first card I added to ApplePay the day it launched in the UK. As I tend to double-tap my phone’s home button to launch Wallet rather than the Starbucks app, it is actually one less swipe to use ApplePay. All good.

Except that my experience is that Amex rarely works contactless in the UK. Card or ApplePay. Turns out, it certainly doesn’t in Starbucks.

A quick search of Google and Twitter suggest I am far from alone on this – though to be fair, a lot of the results I saw were from 2015. Even accepting that things may be getting better; American Express’s flawed roll-out of contactless in the UK must have damaged confidence in using what should be a simple way of carrying out a transaction. It is bad enough that the £30 limit virtually cripples ApplePay. Yes, I know that “real” ApplePay merchants aren’t subject to that restriction. However, given that anyone can – and do – display Apple Pay logos, regardless of whether they are formally part of the system, that distinction is moot.

In the case of my recent experience in Starbucks (a “real” ApplePay partner?), the barista apologised and said Amex contactless has never worked for them, so I reverted to my Starbucks card. Yes, I could have used my Amex card in chip & pin mode… but for a £3ish transaction, that seems to be overkill, as well as being a huge metaphorical step backwards.

I honestly look forward to the day when contactless terminals are ubiquitous: Imagine getting served in a pub where they are plentiful and easily accessible at the bar… no messing with change or getting soggy banknotes back from the server whose hands are still wet from the overspill! Beep and they are on the next customer.

Contactless payment using devices rather than cards is obviously still in its infancy and while I have no wish to see Apple dominate the market to the exclusion of all else, I do genuinely hope we reach a stage where we, as consumers, don’t need to worry whether “our” particular system will work at any given venue. At the very least, is it too hard to ask that we be given some sort of clue up front? The official Amex page is woefully unhelpful. Who in the UK knows that the £30 contactless limit doesn’t (shouldn’t) apply to “real” ApplePay merchants?

Thanks to Amex, we are still a long way short of that. Their card hasn’t been the default on my phone for a long time and the way things are going, I may as well remove it all together. While I’m at it, why don’t I go to another card provider … one that works all the time?


With a hat tip to Duncan Stevenson and his Contactless Life blog, who has tried to get a grip of this situation, but has clearly been busy in his real life recently.

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er, I Wonder What This Does

There isn’t really any point to this post. I’m making it simply because I realise I haven’t said much here for a long time. I’d hate Random Discourtesies to fall into the category of ‘disused’ that we are told the majority of Blogs quickly become.

So, stand by for a waffle of as yet undetermined length…

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BBC News – Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia

Far be it from me to be a doom monger, but just for the sake of discussion…

Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link between the event in the Urals and 2012 DA14, an asteroid expected to race past the Earth on Friday at a distance of just 27,700km 17,200 miles – the closest ever predicted for an object of that size.Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queens University Belfast, said there was “almost definitely” no connection.”One reason is that 2012 DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, and this object hit in the northern hemisphere,” he told BBC News.”This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one.”

via BBC News – Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia.

Which is fine (though I’d be a tad happier without that “almost”!). The thought occurs to me however, what would the global official policy on managing public panic were the scientists’ calculation just a little awry? Er, do nothing and hope for the best??

Just sayin’.

The World’s Largest Micro Brewery?

It has always amused me to see Newcastle Brown Ale in the USA. Mainly because it is almost always billed as a Micro Brew. Not bad for a product produced as 100,000 Hectolitres annually. In some ways I think it typifies the US attitude to beer in that there seem to be two types: Domestic and Premium. Anything which isn’t brewed by Bud, Coors, Miller etc. is, almost by definition, exotic and small (and expensive).

So it was with equal amusement that I spotted these for the first time. Apparently they are exclusive to Tenko in the UK and thus far I’ve only seen them in their Alfreton ‘Extra’ store.

Newky Micro!

Nestling among the imported US brews (none of which could remotely be described as ‘micro’ either, but there you go), were this quartet of Newcastle “Limited Editions”. Of course I felt obliged to try one of each. Regrettably, I can’t say I was impressed. I generally love US beers (the ‘domestic’ brands excluded) and I also like that any given brewer usually manages to have a signature ‘taste’ permeate all its recipes. Indeed, Heineken USA (for it is they) have managed to to this here. Which is all-well-and-good except I happen not to like Newcastle Brown Ale. I know there are legions of fans of this beer who would call me a heathen (or something more steeped in Geordie vernacular) and I’m not saying they’re wrong – I just happen to disagree! For me, bottled brown ale represents all that went awry with British brewing in the twentieth century.

Huge credit to Heineken USA for their attempt to wring every dollar out of the brand, but keep trying. Also, credit to Tesco for stocking them. The range of US beers on sale in the UK has dwindled noticeably since the halcyon days of Safeway (i.e. before they all became Morrisons). It is good to note the beginnings of a resurgence. Even Goose Island is showing up on supermarket shelves again after several years of conspicuous absence.

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Twenty Thirteen

Happy New Year to my faithful subscribers (all three of you!) and anyone who happens to read this.

Of course this wouldn’t be a blog, especially not one of mine, if I didn’t use the opportunity to have a bit of a rant. Not only that, but it is one which has been at least thirteen years in gestation…

We started the Twenty First Century with the quite manageable “Two Thousand” (although we insisted in prefixing it with “The Year…”). The Noughties were a bit more wordy with “Two Thousand and Blink”, as indeed were the first two years of whatever silly name the media coin for this decade (The Depression?). Yet here were are in “Two Thousand and Thirteen” with a grand total of six syllables for the first time. Even if we drop the ‘and’, the remaining five syllables hardly trip off the tongue.

At what point will vocal brevity, linguistic efficiency, or simple human laziness drive us to our senses and return to the simple Twentieth Century convention (and each century before, for that matter) and universally use “Twenty Thirteen”?

Good old Seb Coe did his best, as it was obviously a branding diktat that the Olympics were to be Twenty-Twelve… inspiring the title of the hilarious television spoof in the process. I’d hoped that was the catalyst society needed to come to its senses.

Yet it is already plainly evident that Two Thousand and Thirteen will continue to permeate through our airwaves and face-to-face conversation. In a world dominated by the written word – social media rather than dead tree publishing these days – it is unlikely a consensus on how to express the year’s digits will prevail without influence from an organisation such as the BBC. Yet that august body fails to impose a consistent approach on the subject with presenters seemingly free to use their personal choice (if if they can no longer broadcast their personal Twitter names – but that’s a subject for another rant!).

After writing the above I conducted a straw poll with the next two people I saw: When asked “what year is it?”, after giving a strange look which only Marty McFly would recognise, one replied “Two Thousand And Thirteen” whereas the other was a “Twenty Thirteen” advocate. When asked why; “well, it’s shorter…”.


Once again, best wishes for Twenty Thirteen to everyone….



On the Rise of “Bonkers”

If there was a word which defined “London 2012 TM”, in its over-use as much as its literal application, this is it. Everything, so it would seem, has been bonkers for seventeen days. Clearly not a new word, but I really don’t recall its use being as prevalent as of late. Perhaps the attraction of the word is that whilst mildly critical, ultimately it has a positive connotation. In that context, it is certainly a very apt descriptor of last night’s Closing Ceremony.

Before moving on to compose my ramble in response to what I watched last night, I have to declare outside influence. At Kay’s inspired suggestion, I watched the running commentary of the unfolding event on Twitter – #closingceremony (though it turned out that a small minority of cool cats such as Stephen Fry were using the more official #2012closingceremony – having scanned that this morning, I don’t feel that I missed out). The sheer volume of comments was overwhelming, to the point of having to skip many in order to keep up, but I take my hat off to the quick wittedness of many of the observers. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@crepello012) will have seen I retweeted several of what I thought to be the most keenly observed. It is inevitable that having been subjected to so many opinions, that my own may be shaped somewhat, though I hope not.

It was billed as a Symphony of British Music, and I guess with that fairly low set bar (Olympic cliché!) it would be hard to disappoint. Yet it did, but at least not across the board. There were obviously formal set-peices which the show had to be woven around which led to one of the snarkier Tweets to the effect that the Ugandan National Anthem was a musical high point – the only surprise being that the ubiquitous Emeli Sandé wasn’t called upon to perform it.

The creatives behind the musical elements of the show obviously had a vision, a story to tell. Had we, the audience been let in on that secret, or had the BBC commentators seen fit to share, the whole thing would probably have been coherent. As it was; gridlocked traffic wrapped in newsprint…? I thought the use of lorries to bring (some) of the acts to the whole of the stadium audience rather than just a small corner was as inspired as the use of a pirate ship for Annie Lennox was cringeworthy. One Direction certainly aren’t to my taste but it was inevitable they played well to the NBC audience later (a subject to which I shall return!).

The low points were relentless; George Michael. Merv Hughes’ lost twin, as a Tweeter remarked in typically acerbic form, pleasured by an air line, as another remarked. For me, what an arrogant knob to use that platform to “perform” his latest single. Another fish-in-a-barrel target, of course, was Jesse J. singing “it’s not about the money or the bling-da-bling” from the back of a brand new top-of-the-range convertible Rolls Royce. Deliberately ironic? And what the bloody hell was the spontaneously combusting high-wire act all about? No wonder many Tweeters alluded to drug testing – and that was before the Supermodels turned up.

Of course those misses were balanced by hits – some of them unintended and beyond the planners’ wildest dreams…. the two second cut-away to Boris doing his Dad Dancing to the Spice Girls will surely add to his legend, perhaps as much as the zip wire incident. David Cameron will surely thank his lucky stars no-one noticed him alongside. Then, for me at least, the true highlight: Eric Idle and Spamalot. When he was allowed to sing the line “life’s a piece of shit…” Twitter exploded! Incidentally, and inevitably, NBC censored it for the US broadcast. In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, Eric Idle entered as a mis-firing human cannonball. After his set, a real human cannonball flew what appeared to be the full length of the arena – surely worthy of one of the super-high-def-slow-mo-action-replays we saw so many of during the games themselves.

Oh, I forgot, I have another low-point to go back to, which the mention of replays has reminded me of: Here the blame probably lies with the BBC rather than the closing ceremony directors, but what is the obsession with athletes crying? Early on in the proceedings there was a drawn-out montage of tears. Yeah, they’re trying to underline the raw emotion of competition, and I get that. Many of the tears were of joy. Most, however, showed an athlete who had failed – in their perception – to live up to the extraordinarily high goal they had set themselves. In short they were shown at possibly their lowest point, and even in the case of those in tears of joy, that is  really not how they would want to be remembered by the millions watching. All in the name of entertainment.

Jesse J standing in for Fredie Mercury. <shudder>.

Above all, I was left with a feeling of missed opportunities. The list of British musical artists who were overlooked would, no matter what, be legion – there will have been enough bleary eyes this morning with a 00:15 finish. Even accepting that, and accepting that some of the likely candidates may have turned them down, they could surely have done better. My bring-the-house-down suggestion would have been David Bowie performing Heroes live in place of the brief medley leading into the fashion segment few people understood.

As an aside, thank you to the Daily Telegraph for this helpful gem (my emphasis):

Olympics closing ceremony: playlist

Here is the playlist for tonight’s London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony:


One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

Beatles – A Day in the Life (not live)

Ray Davies – Waterloo Sunset

So what of NBC’s coverage of the ceremony in the US? The Twitterverse almost universally hashtagged  their comments with #NBCFail. After heavily editing the opening ceremony (substituting the 7/7 tribute segment with NBC’s poster boy Ryan Seacrest conducting a taped interview with Michael Phelps’ parents!), they did no better last night. Ray Davis and Muse hit the cutting room floor and American viewers had to wait an hour for The Who & the fireworks climax while NBC aired a sitcom pilot about a performing monkey. The mind boggles. More evidence that Jesse J is completely wrong – it is about the money.

London 2012, by any measure, will go down as a resounding success, although the debate about the cost-versus-value will rumble on for a good while yet. H.M.Gov and the Met will doubtless be relieved nothing went BANG and I am sure there will be some detail revealed in due course about exactly how close a deal that was. The people of London will be relieved to get their Games Lanes back and I will be relieved not to hear the Chariots of Fire theme again any time soon. Channel 4 will bang on about the Paralympics while the BBC will almost entirely ignore it – as, I suspect, will most of the nation, truth-be-told.

Bonkers indeed.

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The Big Bed Company

The above company operates just one of the seemingly endless procession of delivery vans passing my house…

… But none of them are UKMail (actually, if I saw a UKMail van passing my house I think that would be the final straw.

I am close to hallucinating. The distant sound of any diesel engine, or any vehicle at all entering the close has me twitching at the curtain. Who needs Neighbourhood Watch. I nearly had a laundry moment while gazing out the upstairs window when a Tesco van hove into view. The white, blue & red livery quickly formed into the wrong combination and my heart sank.

The excitement and anticipation of my new toy arriving is now completely lost in the feeling I have completely lost a day and a half (so far). Had I known this would have been the situation I would have driven to High Cross or Meadowhell. This is unbelievably frustrating.

If there’s still no sign by 13:00 I have to go out as I have a life. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up from their depot in Derby tomorrow – though being a Saturday that’s not guaranteed. Otherwise it’ll be returned to sender and the last 48 hours will really count for nothing.

The Next Day

Well, it all worked out in the end. 13:45 rolled around, the news was over, and I really, really had to go. All the way out of the village I was scanning oncoming vehicles in case one was a UKMail van. Not sure how it would have worked out if I’d spotted one, but the situation never arose.

Turned out it was 14:50 when the inevitable card was pushed through my letter box as I discovered later when I returned home later. I hotfooted it to UKMail’s depot at Kingsway. To be fair to them, something was happening on the A38 Northbound through Derby resulting in tailbacks to Toyota (I’d picked a circuitous route via back lanes to avoid it). So it was no surprise when the helpful and understanding receptionist at the depot saids the van was still out – suggesting I come back later.

This indeed what I did, noting they were open until 20:30, so I had a fair bit of time to play with. On my return, having formed an orderly queue with three kindred souls, eventually (EVENTUALLY!) me and my new toy were united. The rest, as they say, is history….


Parking Charge Notice

I received an unpleasant surprise in the post on Friday – a Parking Charge Notice. I won’t identify the car park or the company concerned, as I’m pretty sure that by the time I’ve finished typing this I will have defamed them. Suffice to say, a Google search for the company resulted in a large number of hits, very few with anything good to say about them.

What has struck me most about this experience, however, is how morally conflicted I have been about it in the last few days. First the facts: My vehicle was – correctly – identified as having overstayed in a private car park in Chesterfield. Six hours had been paid for but it left 6hrs 39 mins after it arrived. The Parking Charge Notice required immediate payment of £90, with a reduction to £60 if paid within three days. Ominously, a warning stated that if payment wasn’t made within 20 days “the first of many additional charges will be made” and mentioned £120.

Those are the facts of the case. I will now leave it to the Devil on one shoulder and the Angel on the other to make their cases….

The Devil

Coming from a private company operating in a private car park, the “Parking Charge Notice” has only a tenuous basis in law. Notices at the entrance to the car park imply a contract is being entered into by the driver with the land owner. An overstay will effectively be a breach of that contract and the land owner (or their agent – the parking company) can seek damages for that breach, along with reasonable administration fees or costs. They emphatically cannot impose a penalty, and to be fair, the wording of the Parking Charge Notice is very carefully phrased.

The appropriate level of damages – according to the barrack room lawyers on the the internet – effectively amount to the hourly parking rate. With “reasonable” fees/costs this would be in the order of £20 at the most. No matter what anyone says, £90 is a penalty.

Message boards such as Money Saving Expert etc. are bulging with advice on this very subject. That advice is emphatic: Never, Never, Never, pay a private Parking Charge Notice. Their reasoning is certainly plausible. Firstly, the contract is between the driver and the land owner. The Parking Charge Notice will have been sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle, as supplied by DVLA. There is no legal power for the parking company to even ask the registered keeper to identify the driver. Without proof that the registered keeper was the driver, any implicit threats contained in the notice (and any subsequent correspondence from the debt collection agency – actually still the parking company, but it sounds worse), are entirely hollow and without basis. In unlikely the event the company could prove the identity of the driver, they would have to take them to the Small Claims Court and obtain a judgement in their favour before they could take any substantive action to recover any money.

Given that they are clearly imposing a penalty, which they cannot do, the argument goes that no judge would find in favour of the parking company. In any event, until relatively recently, the web forum wisdom was that these companies never ever go to that extent, relying instead on the proportion of recipients who simply pay up to sustain their business.

However, that all changed when this particular company decided to take one case to court, presumably to try and send a message to Money Saving Expert and their ilk. This happened to come to court only last week, as it turns out. The parking company lost… on the basis of the logic expounded above. The hapless guinea pig had to pay £120 in court costs on some sort of technicality, but the parking company’s costs declared to the court were £4,500!

Whilst one case in the small claims court doesn’t set a binding precedent, the likelihood of them doing it again any time soon has completely vanished.

The aforementioned message boards are awash with contributors who say they always park in these private car parks and never pay, knowing they can safely ignore the inevitable letters they get – and thus presumably save themselves a lot of money in car park fees in the process.

So the word from the Devil is don’t pay and don’t worry about the (hollow) threats you’ll receive, as after three or four letters they will give up and it’ll all go away. Most importantly, you’ll be £60 less worse off.

Meanwhile, in the other ear…

The Angel

The first thing the Angel will say is: I’m Guilty. The meeting I was at had gone on longer than I anticipated. I knew the car park ticket had expired but I took the view the chances of an attendant noticing and ticketing me were near enough zilch. As it turned out the odds of getting caught were 100% as the crafty sods use ANPR! D’oh!

Whilst £60 isn’t a trivial amount of money and I could certainly do better things with it, paying up isn’t going to bankrupt me. Most of all, I don’t really want to associate myself with those who make up the bulk of the “don’t pay” crowd. Everyone of them has an excuse and it’s never their fault.

The company concerned are certainly not popular, but looking at it from the land owner’s perspective: They have a right to try and manage their car park, to deal with abuse and ensure it is available for their customers. As it happened, on the day in question, I was one of their customers and there was absolutely no competition for spaces (for all of the above reasons, the locals probably know better than to use it?). Whilst I dispute that my 39 minute overstay adversely affected the car park owner one bit, I understand that in these matters, it is totally impossible to exercise any objectivity – with the result that rules are applied rigidly. Sad but true.

The final word on the matter from the Angel is simply “do you want the hassle?” Forgetting for one second the obligation I am under to discharge lawful debts etc. (and the debate that raises – is it indeed a “lawful debt”?), I simply don’t want threats from a collections agency – no matter how empty they may be.

After all that, I doubt it will shock you to learn that I have taken the soft option and paid up. That was by no means always the case and over the last couple of days I have alternated wildly between the polar opposite views.

One thing is for sure, it is a very salutary lesson and one I won’t need to be taught again – look for ANPR cameras before pulling a fast one in a car park!


Some thoughts about the Steve Jobs biography


I finally finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and thought I’d share some of the impressions I was left with. Most striking is that Isaacson didn’t pull any punches. I’d read somewhere that he has been criticised for getting too close to his subject, and the fact he effectively watched Jobs die made him unable to be objective. I have to say I didn’t find that to be the case.

Whilst it seems Steve Jobs was almost universally loved toward the end of his life, the picture Isaacson paints of a young Steve Jobs is not an edifying one. Indeed, reading of the self-obsessed hippy who had questionable personal hygiene and a tendency to emotionally hurt everyone close to him, makes him out as a distinctly un-likeable character.

Jobs touched upon his parent’s Herculean effort to raise enough money to send him to college in his now famous speech at Stanford in 2005. At the time he seemed to wilfully waste that investment, but whilst he dropped out of Reed College, the time there undoubtedly shaped him: As well as embracing the substance use endemic of the time and the similarly typical (stereotypical?) eastern mysticism, it was here that his life-long obsession with wierd and wonderful vegan & fruit diets began.

Even his first foray into the world of electronics as a business was highly questionable ethically – the marketing of Steve Wozniack’s “blue box” which allowed the payphone network to be “phreaked”. In other words, during his early adult life, Steve Jobs stood for pretty much everything I would find abhorrent.

In detailing Jobs’ life, it is inevitible that Isaacson chronicals the rise of Apple – and a fascinating story it is too. It is perhaps the one fact about Steve Jobs that most people who had heard of him knew; that he had been famously sacked from the company he founded, only to return later and save it from oblivion. Again as noted in the Stanford speech, Isaacson details why the parting from Apple turned out to be a good thing for him. The narrative suggests that this was the turning point when Jobs changed from petulant and abrasive asshole, to skilled manager of people, subject to mood swings but with exceptional focus.

Jobs’ first undoubted success was in building and driving the team that created the Macintosh. Note that I didn’t say he invented the Mac, as history will erroneously record if based on current reporting. Like most of the creations he is credited or associated with, he saw the potential in disparate concepts invented by others. He put together a group of exceptionally hard working people who could just about tolerate his management style and who then brought the project to fruition, satisfying his exacting requirements. That first Mac was a computer which was indeed revolutionary.

Isaacson’s book, perhaps unintentionally, serves as a manifesto for Apple. It details the vision Jobs has infused the company with: That by putting products first and making something people will buy, and buy again once the next version comes out, the company will make money. Money and Jobs seem to have had an uneasy relationship – I suspect he never really understood it. His parents were not rich, but it seems he never wanted for anything and certainly never went hungry. When he did experience hunger as a student, it was pretty much of his choice in his search for whatever it was he was searching for in his Budhism. Apple was an almost overnight success, thanks to Woz’s brilliance as an engineer in the early days – his Apple II design sustaining the company well into the Macintosh days.

Even as a family man, we are told Jobs eschewed ostentatious displays of wealth – his house was modest, there were no security details or entourages around him. He famously worked for $1 a year on his return to the company, but then stuffed them in several ways by demanding a huge stock option. Another famous trait was to change his Mercedes every six months, taking advantage of a quirk of Califormia law that gives drivers that long to register new cars… allowing him to never display a licence plate. He refused to have a dedicated parking space at Infinite Loop – but promptly parked in the disabled bay wherever he went?!

The tale Isaacson’s tells which struck me deepest about Steve Jobs related to Apple’s MobileMe service. It is something I subscribed to and always found it perfectly functional. Not sexy, but certainly effective at what it did. However, it had teething troubles and attracted some negative publicity for the company. Walt Mosberg, a tecology columnist who is famously pro-Apple wrote a piece dismissing MobileMe as broken. That resulted in the entire MobileMe team being assembled in the auditorium at Infinite Loop and being berated by Jobs for an hour and a half. He told them they had brought shame on the company and should be embarrassed, that they were B players (Jobs’ ultimate insult!). It culimated with the manager of the team being sacked and humiliated in front of his team. I read this story and squirmed. Other than a bullet to the head this was the tactics of Joe Stalin. Perhaps in Apple’s world this is how you get the best out of your staff, but once again, it was behaviour which I found totally alien.

I was left wondering, had I met Steve Jobs, what would I make of him and what would he have made of me? The second part of that question is quite easy; there is nothing in my character that would tick any of his boxes, perhaps quite the opposite. Would I like him? It seems if I didn’t I would be completely out of step with everyone else who knew him. Isaacson’s book is crammed with accounts from people who were on the receiving end of Jobs’ worst behaviour, and yet no-one derides him or speaks of hatred. Perhaps, as I suspect, everyone who was that close to him knew he was dying by the time they were interviewed – something which has to colour people’s opinions of someone. Maybe though, despite all his mood swings and prickliness, people could see what he has achieved and thought it an acceptable trait in pursuit of the genius of Steve Jobs?

An excellent account of a unique man’s life. Given who that man was and what he meant to a generation, that the book is selling by the million – in both physical and electronic format, of course – is no surprise and entirely justified.

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Autumnal Feelings

Every year without fail, some time toward the end of June, I will receive a text from Chappers to the effect of “Aren’t the nights drawing in!” He sends this because he knows it irks me. It irks me because this phenomenon occurs every year of our existence on earth and yet it apparently takes so many of us by surprise. The very British trait of talking about the weather is a completely different thing, however, as that is at least variable and unpredictable. The shortening of the daylight hours is predictable and really shouldn’t be a shock to an adult.

So in that context I was immediately ashamed of my waking thought this morning! Not only was I struck by the fact it was very dark – something that shouldn’t have been a shock at 0500 in late August, but I also by how bloody chilly it was. The transition from bed to being enveloped by a warm dressing-gown was fleeting but seemed an age.

Definitely an autumn nip in the air – but principle demands the central heating won’t get used. Yet.