Glastonbury Spreads Covid

Yes, I know that Glasto are trying to deal with touts/scalpers, but it is actually utterly irresponsible to encourage sick people to attend their event.

I’m about to go to a little festival (Endorse it in Dorset).
The Facebook group for the festival has quite a lot of messages from people saying they have Covid and so can’t go; they are trying to sell tickets, mostly at face value, even though it is long sold out.

It got me thinking about the Glastonbury situation, as quite a lot of my friends came back with Covid.
And yet my recent trip to the big Download festival seems to have had no such problems.

It seems to me that the difference is that you can transfer or resell tickets for most festivals, but not Glastonbury.

If you are waiting to go to an event, and test positive for Covid, you are meant to not go. That can be very disappointing, but hey, it’s just a gig or whatever, isn’t it, and you can go the next time the band is in town. Also you can give the ticket to a friend or sell it to someone to recoup the loss.

In the case of Glastonbury, however, this doesn’t work.
You are very unlikely to get a ticket next year, as you had waited several years to get this one.
Perhaps more significantly, the about £300 you paid for the ticket will simply be lost. Knowing that there is a ticket that could get you in, just sitting there, is a huge temptation to just rock up, Covid and all.
If you had been able to give it to a friend, for free even, the pain of not going would be much reduced, and the decision has been made.

It’s a bit like sick pay – if you don’t get decent sick pay, you are much more likely to go to work with Covid (or whatever), and infect your fellow workers.

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I have started to feel old

It isn’t the failing faculties and aching joints.
It’s the wankers who want to turn all the clocks back to when I was young.
Or stop them where they are, in some cases.

And I have realised that you need to be quite old to remember what it was like before we let the clocks run.
So I find myself reminiscing, like the old fart that I seem to be.


I don’t like abortion, and am glad I have never been faced with such a decision, and never want to be.
You have to be pretty old to have any sense of the days before David Steel’s Abortion Act 1967.
But the situation is so much better now than before.


You have to be even older to have experienced much travel before the UK joined the Common Market, in 1973.
Or to have bought or sold things between the UK and the mainland.
It wasn’t good, with visas and tariffs and all sorts of barriers; and we are starting to feel the pains again, and I sense it will get worse.


Wherever I went as a kid, there was routine denigration of homosexual people, in which I remember participating.
It must have been ghastly for the gay kids at my school.
I was 14 when the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised some aspects of gay sex, although it made little difference to the attitudes, I think.
Then there was the “gay plague” of the 1980s, with the deaths and more discrimination – that was also a good while ago, I now realise.

Sex Equality

There have been numerous laws addressing sex discrimination since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (which tells you just how unsuccessful each has been).
I remember women being refused signing contracts such as hire purchase or mortgage agreements, unless they could get their husband, father or even random male family member or friend to sign to guarantee them.
And outrageous behaviours and attitudes that would be shocking even now, being perfectly acceptable throughout society.


Perhaps all that needs saying is that all forms of racism were endemic – and legal.


It was just assumed you believed in (a CoE) god.


Failing your 11-plus and ending up in a Secondary Modern school was pretty much being placed in an underclass and a life sentence for no useful education, as far as I remember.
About 4% of kids got to go to university, which I think is too elitist.
But the poorer in that 4% did get a good chance of free university education.


Seeing a GP was possible, but could take quite a while.
Getting a hospital appointment could take months (like now).
You never waited less than several hours past your appointment time at the hospital to see the specialist (not like now)


I suspect public transport was better, but can’t compare with now.


There was far less variety available.
But it was hugely more expensive, as a proportion of household income.

That’s enough boring old fartism.

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Solar Together Debacle

(This is the text of an email I sent to my local councillor.)

A year or so ago, I was looking into getting solar panels installed on my roof.

Just then, the Borough of Eastleigh informed me of the Solar Together Hampshire initiative, which seemed to be a great scheme that would manage the price negotiations and contract management on my behalf.

Very much because this was recommended by Eastleigh, I decided to sign up.

After the auction, I thought I had an installation and price agreed, paid the deposit, and expected delivery and installation in a reasonable time, probably just after October, which was what was promised in the documentation.

In the end, as you may know, the supplier failed to deliver, and the agreement was terminated.

I was offered a new contract with a different company, but the price for the same installation is about 50% more, as best I recall (I can’t see the offer anymore).

My deposit has been returned.

Had Eastleigh not proposed the scheme, I would have had a solar installation almost a year ago, as did my neighbour, who did not follow the scheme, being sceptical of getting involved with Eastleigh’s proposal.

I understand that companies can fail to deliver, but I also consider that the Eastleigh side of it has been pretty bad, and failed to protect my interests, in a number of ways.

Solar Together Hampshire & Eastleigh Council didn’t keep me informed, or even seem to monitor things.

All I got was messages from the supplier saying how well things were going.

And then finally I got this.

As you may know, we have been working closely with solar installer EEC over the last six months to try and help them overcome challenges in the delivery of installations.
Since our last update to you in December they have made some progress despite Covid impacting their installation crews and limiting their installation capacity. However, progress has not been at the level we believe Solar Together registrants deserve.

We have therefore taken the decision to terminate this relationship with EEC due to their failure to deliver within the agreed time frame.

Well no, this came pretty much out of the blue.

Had I known, I could have made other arrangements in good time.

It seems like Solar Together were more interested in keeping the scheme together than making sure the clients were well-informed.

And if it is a capacity problem for EEC, why am I not given the option of waiting?

It seems like EEC simply want to get out of what is now possibly a less profitable contract, so they can sell the equipment they reserved for me at higher prices to new clients.

The Covid situation and expectations have changed little since the original auction, by the way.

I could go on, but the whole thing is very smelly to me.

I couldn’t get out of the contract without losing the deposit – although I would have done so if I had not kept being assured that the installation would indeed happen.

That’s what really pisses me off – Solar Together could have told me much earlier, and indeed terminated things 6 months earlier.

EEC seem to have paid no price or felt any penalties for their behaviour.

To begin with, why did they not have any penalties in the contract?

They are now happily trading, claiming high levels of customer satisfaction.

Have the Solar Together company or staff suffered in any way for this mess?

I suspect not.

The only people who have been caused any difficulty are the Eastleigh Borough residents.

The only mention I can find in Council documents of Solar Together is:


which says

they promoted ‘Solar Together’ a group buying scheme which will lead to 138 residents installing solar photovoltaic systems in the Borough.

As if all was well and good at that time, when it must have been known that the contract was in great danger of collapse.

You aren’t even publicising it in LibDem FOCUS or the Borough News sheets.

You really should – at least other residents would get some warning to stay away from EEC, and also consequently EEC might lose some custom, which seems fair.

And also to avoid the whole Solar Together activities – which now look extremely dodgy to me.

I am shocked at the way my Borough Council has treated me.

Disappointed at the financial disadvantage it has caused.

Disappointed that EEC seem to have walked away scot-free, to bid on in more auctions etc.

And disappointed at the reduction in green technology that has resulted.

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Reporting Things Wrong

Whenever I try and report something wrong, such as a problem with a website or bad service, I find that the reporting process is more broken than the thing I am reporting.

So I end up in a black hole of reporting the reporting process as being broken…

Eventually I have to stop digging.

Often, I am just trying to be helpful to the organisation, although I think that sometimes that really gets them – they just don’t have a process for helpful people.

Here’s an example of a recent complaint (so far), to Lexus Reading:

I tweet: Your service is appalling – at least reply to my email.
They tweet: DM me with your contact details.
Me: I can’t, you block messages.

There is so much wrong with this.

Their social media people have blocked messages, and then don’t even know they have done it! And just how much “engagement” is the social media, rather than pumping out propaganda.

There attitude: Ah, so there is a problem; I’ll get the customer to spend some time helping me sort it out.

Let’s send them a message, they think:- I am reminded of the episode of the IT Crowd, when Moss says he has sorted the fire problem by emailing the Fire Brigade.

What they could have done is pick up the phone and call the branch (I have discovered that the Twitter account seems to be centrally run by head office).

Then the branch could go, “Ah, we have this Hugh Glaser guy who is having a problem – let’s find out what the problem is, and see if we can get it sorted and then report the sorting to him”

Anyway, the manager has called and he seems OK – he actually picked this all up last night and tried to find my details (which were in Ori’s name – can’t make it too easy for them 😉 ). It looks like it will be sorted.

I reported his broken social media service to him 🙂

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Apple’s New Safari Tabs

Doesn’t Apple read its own HIG? (No – ed.)

I keep misreading which tab I am in. Every other app., including Apple’s Finder and Terminal, uses a brighter hue for the current tab, and darker hues for the background tabs. The same with Firefox and Chrome.

And the same convention applies to dialogue boxes, and anything else that has a foreground and background.

But not the newest version of Safari, oh no.

The front tab is grey, while the other tab (or tabs) is white. And I keep getting it wrong, even after a few days.

Basically, fuckwits.

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I think I need a new word, possibly characterised as:
“gourmet” is to “epicure”
“connoisseur” is to “???”

There are many things that people become connoisseurs of that I also enjoy: coffee, music, art, food, football, literature, wine, cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women.
But I have little or no desire to study them and inform myself of them and how they are created, or to discuss them with fellow travelers.
I used to say I was a “philistine”; but I bear no hostility to these things – on the contrary, I have a great liking for many of them, and you may even find I am surprisingly well-informed about some of them.

I think I simply enjoy the experience of the consumption, and the situation you are in that lets you:- and that is a great way to live your life. It may even mean you have more time to spend enjoying yourself benefiting humanity.

So I want a word I can use that is celebratory – not negative antonyms from the dictionary, such as “beginner, philistine, groundling, ignoramus, materialist.”

Then it could be a compliment we could use to children who are beginning to understand and develop their way of life. They don’t need to feel bad that they aren’t in the “set”, or whatever.

And there would also be a simpler way to confront bloody connoisseurs who are dismissive and critical of people who perfectly sensibly say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”, “I don’t really enjoy Shakespeare/Opera/Punk” and similar.
And it would make it easier to challenge people who are critical or even mocking, of people who don’t know what they know about obscure things; while also laughingly reporting that they don’t really get Maths and that they failed their GCSE. Now that‘s an ignoramus.

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Leave for 1 to 2 minutes

Well which is it, FFS?

Or is it 3?

This is a medicinal cutaneous product (apparently, but cream or gel to the rest of us). Presumably there is some time it should be left before going about your normal business, or whatever. But if they don’t know how long, I am damned if I do.

If I have a choice, then tell me how I should decide. I am bloody certain that at this stage the people who make it have more idea than I do of how to administer this medicine.

I even have have one that says “leave for a minimum of 3 to 6 minutes”. Right. So 3 minutes is OK then, but 6 minutes is the minimum, and it sounds like even longer is better.

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The Rise of Incompetence

Somehow, actual competence does not seem to be a requirement for appointment to senior office, at least in the UK.

And I think it seems quite obvious if you look around, or examine most organisations in which you might work or study. Yes, there is the UK Prime Minister as the quintessential incompetent example, but I actually don’t think of any of the front benches as having people I can identify as having shown any competence.

And it isn’t just politicians. A sadly long litany of bankers has shown themselves to be unequal to the demands of their tasks. And I think that University leaders show the same lack of ability to do the work for which they are employed. Is industry well-managed? Well clearly major infrastructure projects aren’t.

Of course, there will be some exceptions, and we don’t see them because they don’t do things wrong, but I don’t think it is rose-tinted looking at the past to suggest that the past was a better place for competent management.

Prime Ministers: Johnson, May, Cameron, Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher, Callaghan, Wilson. I think Blair (with Brown, perhaps) was possibly the transition, but going backwards from Major is just a different class of competence to our last three. And if I look back at VCs, it seems about the same to me. And all the people that supported them, in the cabinet or Deans etc.

Why? Whose “fault” is it?

Is it the Peter Principle at work? Perhaps a bit, but only partially (and if so. why not before?)

We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by a desire for a bunch of characteristics that mean that people are unlikely to also be competent.

We want leaders who will promise better things, of course, but how? The idea is always radical change. It is never that we could perhaps manage what we do more competently – if you suggest that, you lack “vision”. And that is the word that Really Pisses Me Off – “vision”. If anyone aspires to lead, and doesn’t have “vision”, they are completely discounted. And of course they need a 10-point plan too, which promises to change everything.

Did you notice there was no discussion about being competent to actually achieve the vision of the plan? Who cares? They have Vision.

Quite a lot of this comes out of the MBA world, I think. You can manage an organisation without knowing or understanding anything of its business. It isn’t just that, but it contributes.

The Civil Service used to be able to plug the gap in the leaders’ competence, but because recently the leaders have been so incompetent that they almost destroyed it, the Civil Service doesn’t have anything like the capability to work competently as it used to.

Oh, I should have mentioned targets. No discussion of whether the targets are sensible. How many Covid-19 tests did we need to perform by 1st April? Who cares? We had a target of 10,000, and so the question (to our leaders) is simply whether “they” achieved that. How many tests do we actually need by the end of the month? Who cares? We have a target of 100,000, so that’s all we need to know.

Quite often this is all referred to as “populism”. I don’t think that is right, and dangerously misunderstands, because it is a very deep change; and the intelligentsia (or Notting Hill Set or whatever) are probably more to blame than the rest of the population. They are the ones who promote this idea of vision and plan and organisational revolution and targets. As if that was all that is needed to run an organisation.

Perhaps ironically, it seems that the political system in China is delivering competent leaders in all walks of life, where the UK system has signally failed.

Gove put his thumb on it when he said UK people have had enough of experts; but that should have been taken to mean people feeling that we don’t actually need people who have expertise in running things effectively and competently.

But I think we are seeing that in fact we do, and now when we really need them, and we look around for them, we can’t find any.

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University Teaching

I retired from the University about 10 years ago; last night someone asked me why? I realised that many people have an idealised view of the freedom and even pleasure of lecturing.

Here’s some reality, of how it felt like 10 years ago (it may well be worse now – I’m sure it ain’t better).

Let’s say, a bit ago, you decided, perceptively, that Blockchain technologies were an important topic in Computer Science. So you decided to spend considerable effort informing yourself all about them, and are now a leading researcher in the field. You think the time has come to share this expertise and knowledge with the students at your institution.

So you write a module proposal for the course committee, proposing a module – this will be a fair size document, involving you in considerable work. The course committee looks at it, and decides it is not core Computer Science (there is a lot of competition for core modules), nor does the course need any further, optional, advanced modules.

Oh well. You need to teach something. The second year Databases core module is short of a lecturer: you really don’t know much about Databases, but no one else does either – there are no database researchers in the department. So it may well be that you will be asked or expected to learn another subject such as that, to a deep level, simply and solely to teach it.

However, in your studies of Blockchain, you found yourself needing to learn a lot about cryptography. There is a suggestion that an optional advanced course on Cryptography would be very useful. Not exactly your field, but at least you are up to date in certain aspects of it, and have some interest in it.


Now the real pain starts.

A full module proposal goes in. This will have prerequisites, co-requisites, aims, objectives, details of assessment, and details of what will be taught in each topic of the module. Essentially the whole syllabus. This is for a module in an advanced, fast-moving field that is unlikely to begin in less than 18 months. The proposal goes to the Department course committee for approval (few of whom will know much about Cryptography); then to the Faculty Committee (most of whom know little of Computer Science or Cryptography); then to the University Committee (even fewer of whom know anything of Computer Science or Cryptography). If you are lucky this will all go smoothly, and you may even get some useful suggestions on rare occasions, but if not, there is a whole bunch of work and then you restart the process.

Wahay! You have an agreed task in your work. You can now embark on it.

So what will be the next thing you need to do?

Write the exam paper. Yup. That is what will be demanded from you, long before the module starts. You know that interesting conference you were going to next month where you will be finding out there is an exciting new topic in cryptography? Sorry mate, you won’t have the pleasure of fitting much of that into the module – it isn’t on the exam paper and certainly isn’t in the syllabus. Maybe you can submit a revised syllabus for the following year, but the deadline will probably pass before you can, and it will be two years.

Oh, and any assessments too will be required too.

The exam paper and any assessments will of course have to conform very closely to what the appropriate committee has decided these things should be, probably along with “model answers”, for what should be open-ended questions in an advanced topic. They then go off to an external examiner for comment, who may or may not know anything about Cryptography. And you are well-advised to take action on any comments from them.

I should have mentioned that, before you can do the exam paper, you actually need to study the subject more! You aren’t an expert in cryptography. Although you know about certain aspects of it in great depth, for the subject as a whole, as required for teaching, you need to have a far greater breadth of knowledge than you had. So the request for the exam paper is likely to precipitate a frantic period of study and late nights, while you dig in to all those nooks and crannies that were not relevant to your Blockchain needs.

Finally, the need to actually have the module content ready to deliver becomes pressing, although you may by now have lost all enthusiasm for it, and in fact your research focus may well have moved on in the years since you first started the process. There is an expectation that you will provide notes on all your lectures for the students. You can probably get away with finalising these as you go along, but you will need to do them. Were you thinking you could just go into the lecture theatre and talk to the students excitedly about the material, while those who wished to could take notes? Think again. If you don’t provide detailed lecture notes for them, the students will moan – probably not too badly. But also, you will get pilloried by the multiple Quality Assurance (QA) processes that are coming at you like a speeding train down the line.

Finally(!), you get into the lecture hall, with a bunch of students. You aren’t really teaching what you wanted, nor is it the subject in which you feel the most expertise; but you are going to have the enjoyable contact with a bunch of smart people, who are keen to learn from you.

Of course, it doesn’t always work like that, but if you work at it there is a good chance that you can enjoy the interaction with the perhaps 200 people, many of whom are most concerned to ensure they know exactly what the syllabus is, so they can work out what is in the exam, so that they can get the marks. And you can forget any ideas you were taught in the training about discussing the choice of material with the students – that’s all fixed. But that’s OK. This is what it is all about – you got there.

However, now the rest of the pain starts.

A brief mention: assessment. You will possibly have some coursework to mark. You will certainly have exams to mark. Let’s look at the time on exams. Each student should answer three questions – most do, but maybe not all. So 200 students provide about 500 answers to mark, and remember these are in an advanced topic, which should need some thought, if the questions are any good, and you want to be conscientious. Were you to spend two minutes marking each (including all the mark processing, second marking, moderation, exam boards etc.), that’s 1000 minutes. Compare that with how much time you spent in the classroom! 20 lectures of 50 minutes each. Ah, that’s 1000 too. So just marking the exams can take you as much time as the entire time you spent in classroom contact. Really?

Oh, and timescales. 1000 minutes is over two days marking. The time between a final year exam and the marks being required from you can be a small number of days. However, this will not be the only module you are teaching! And there will be individual and group projects to mark in addition, with viva voces. And you are still doing the rest of your job, managing research projects, supervising postgraduate students, sitting on committees, giving lectures on other courses. And acting as an external examiner at another institution. Double shifts and missing weekends are all in order.

I mentioned QA. Sometimes it feels like university life is nothing but QA.

For teaching: there is QA from the University; QA from the professional bodies; QA from the Government.

In my case we had:

  • University QA – the University would periodically send a team in;
  • BCS (British Computer Society) accreditation – because the courses were accredited by this professional body, a panel would come and crawl all over everything;
  • IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) – another professional body that does the same;
  • TQA (Teaching Quality Assessment), now the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) – the government activity to do something similar to OFSTED, for universities.

Since these visits are on a 3-5 year cycle, barely a year goes by without one of these visits, potentially stressful for all concerned. I recall having three in one year.

Each involves something similar to an OFSTED inspection, I understand. Every module is examined, all the department processes on teaching are reviewed, staff are observed, and students are interviewed. Most of it is about processes, as I recall:- less than 10% of the QA assessment is concerned with actually what happens when lecturers are talking with students.

I think I may have given some sense of why I was happy to retire; while regretting deeply that I get no more contact with smart young people who were often eager to learn from me.

Remember: The whole of this edifice is just for a single module, which constitutes around 20 lectures of 50 mins each. It is likely that each minute of contact time involves more than that in preparation time – remember that this is an advanced module, which is not being taught in this form anywhere else in the world, and you are teaching it for the first time, essentially creating a book of lectures notes to go with it. As discussed, you will have to spend more than twice the lecturing time on non-content, non-contact activities. And that is not to count the time that you spend on those activities in support of others’ modules.

And also note: The teaching activity only represents perhaps a third of your employment duties. Despite all these requirements, and the constant and detailed QA, you will never find yourself deeply valued in the system for excellence in teaching.

The only thing you will be judged on, and will cause career progression, is your research. And that has its own administration, a different, separate QA, etc. etc..

And there is the other third of your duties – administration (and scholarship?), which also has its own, different, separate QA etc..

You may have formed an opinion about whether this system is sensible. Is it delivering the best experience for students? Is their learning time being exploited efficiently? Do they get good value? Is it the best way to spend some public funding? Are universities being nurtured and growing as centres of scholarship for the next millennium? I have only commented on how I see it from a staff point or view.

And I’m well out of it.

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