Richard Bloomfield's Blog

Technology, Cycling and Singing in Dublin

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Email Response Times

I was just emailing the Revenue this afternoon, and got one of those automated delivery receipt emails back from them.

After thanking me for my email and telling me that it will be processed as quickly as possible, their message then has the following line:

In line with our Customer Service Standards we endeavour to respond to 100% of emails within 30 working days.

What really? 30 days? Is that your target? Surely for a customer service team, they should have an SLA target response time measured in hours rather than days!

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VAT on eBooks

As a fan of the author, I’ve been waiting for the latest Stuart MacBride book Close to the Bone to be published, and it eventually came out a couple of weeks ago.

So I rushed on to Amazon to buy it for my Kindle, because I’m just about to finish another book, and need something to read.

However, when I go on the site, I see that the Kindle edition costs £9.99, where as the hardback edition is only £7.00. So the electronic version, which you might reasonably think would cost less to produce, is £3 or 42% more expensive!

The justification for the price discrepancy is that eBooks are subject to VAT, whereas paper books are zero-rated. This, of course, is madness, because they’re essentially the same thing but in a different format – and the EU should sort out that mess sooner rather than later.

So, as it stands, I’m not going to buy the book, as I feel I’m getting ripped off.  Although hopefully over time Amazon might decide to discount the Kindle book to a reasonable price, in which case I’ll think again.

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Red Light Jumping

I try not to let it bother me, but it does irritate me when fellow cyclists RLJ (Red Light Jump) at junctions.

In Dublin RLJing seems to be the norm, particularly on my new commuter route to work. I pretty-much always stop and wait at red lights, but often find that I’m in the minority of one. All the other cyclists seem to sail straight through the lights, into busy junctions.

Quite apart from the act being disrespectful to other road uses and illegal, it seems really dangerous. You’re heading straight into a junction where other traffic assumes they have right of way, and won’t be checking for people appearing from the side.

And the craziest part is that loads of the people RLJing are kitted out with PPE (personal protective equipment) like helmets and high-vis jackets, because they’re worried about their safety on the roads – and then deliberately act in dangerous ways!

Anyone with a even a basic understanding of Health and Safety principles knows that PPE should be used as a last resort. For the best management of risk, there is a clearly defined hierarchy of steps to take to avoid hazards:

  1. Eliminate – get rid of the risk altogether, which would mean clearing the roads of all cyclists or of all motorised traffic, neither of which seems likely.
  2. Substitute – swap the hazardous activity for a less hazardous one. On a per-kilometre basis, walking is actually more dangerous than cycling, so avoid that. Flying is the safest form of travel, but doesn’t seem practical for most commutes – and so maybe use the second safest, which is travelling by bus.
  3. Isolate – restricting access to the risk by isolating it somewhere else. Off-road cycle paths along canals and through parks would be lovely, but in a built-up city there’s not a lot of space for them.
  4. Engineering Controls – redesign the environment to place a barrier between the person and the hazard.  In cycling terms that would be separate cycle lanes (not just a painted line at the side of a road).
  5. Administrative Controls – adopting procedures of safe practice – such as following the rules of the road – and not jumping red lights!
  6. Personal Protective Equipment – the last line of defence when all other measures have been exhausted – particularly as PPE can only offer a very limited protection against the hazard.

In the case of cycling, it seems unlikely that we can Eliminate or Substitute the risks – and I don’t think we’d want to.  The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the small additional risk – and have been shown to add years to your life expectancy.

The Irish government doesn’t seem keen to invest in Isolation or Engineering Controls and give us decent physically separated cycle lanes.  In Copenhagen, the place held up as the shining example of cycle usage with 40% of journeys by bike, they have wonderful separated cycle lanes – and in winter they get cleared of snow ahead of the roads!

And so we’re left with only Administrative Controls and PPE.  That’s all we have!  Following the rules of the road, and a bit of safety clothing.  And yet so many people ignore the rules, and end up placing themselves at risk.

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Adobe Price Con

I feel that I’ve been ripped off by Adobe.

I recently went on to the Adobe web site to upgrade my version of Photoshop Elements. I was attracted by a discount listed in the Adobe web store that would give me about 20% off the price. And so I went ahead and ordered the upgrade. However I didn’t notice at the time that I was being charged full price.

I contacted Adobe support to say that I had been overcharged, and the support rep I talked to even confirmed that the web store was showing a discount. But he said he would have to refer the issue up to his manager, and that they would be in contact.

I heard nothing for a couple of days, and then today got an email saying that my support call has been closed. They say that no discount exists, and that I’ve been charged the correct price. And wouldn’t you know it, if I check the store now, there’s no mention of the discount – and I didn’t keep any evidence of the discounted price.
And so I’ve been conned by a big corporation, and I can’t do anything about it.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas

It’s not even the end of the Christmas season, and already people are sick of it. They will gladly put up with a 3-month build up to Christmas Day, but before the turkey’s even cold on the plate they want to rip down the decorations and forget about the whole thing.

I can’t help but think that, if we didn’t start Christmas in september, then we might all be able to enjoy the full 12 days of Christmas, instead of just the first.

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