Archive for September 2006

Emotional baggage

September 21, 2006

Baggage handlers are cunts. And it’s next to impossible to report a crime in Britain. This is a true story.

Summary for the lazy: British Airways lost my case, things got nicked from it, crime pays, and the police service are nigh on incomprehensible

I’ve just got back from a quick work trip to Seattle. Seattle is lovely: it’s is full of nice people who give you bags of plastic cockroaches in exchange for heckling (improv night at comedy club, we win prizes for shouting out ludicrous selections), turn you upside down at a moments notice (simulator at the Museum of Flight), and try to kill you with food (dear god family dining is not meant for small men).  

Then, things started happening. I lost at an RTS. Repeatedly. I managed to lose the exit card from my passport. I tried to eat my own weight in fresh fruit and eggs benedict. And British Airways sent my case to Portugal.

Arriving back at Heathrow, we said our goodbyes at the carousel. My bag was taking a little longer than everyone else’s, so I waved them off. When it still didn’t appear, I was left to poke the nice man at the lost luggage desk.

“Where’s my case?”

“Fill out this form. It should placate you while we ring round the airport.”

“Pardon.”

“Haha. Your case is in transit to Portugal. Sorry about that. We’ll get it back to you tonight.”

Honestly, I was faintly pleased about all this. The worst part about traveling is the final journey home; carrying baggage on a train while trying desperately not to fall asleep. I hate that bit. If BA wanted to send my case direct to my door, so be it.

Two days later, it arrives. In a plastic bag. The case has been cracked open, and the contents are spilling out. Someone has opened it up, and had a rifle through my pants. Fuck.

Worse – when I finally open the bag and take a look, I discover that my minidisc player, which I use for recording interviews has been nicked. So has the mic, and so has my camera. They’ve also nicked a second passport I have to carry around for its visa. And they’ve lost my place in the book I was reading.

It takes an hour and a half of waiting* to speak to BA’s customer service.

“That’s a bummer. But hey! Thank goodness BA are exempt from providing compensation in the conditions of travel! Isn’t that lucky!”

“So you mean, actually, that even though someone has stolen my things under your care, you’re waiving any responsibility.”

“If you want to make an accusation like that, then you’ll have to make it to the police.”

“Well I just might do that.”

I tried reporting it to my local station. Or the call center you’re routed to when you call your local station.

“Nah, mate. You don’t wanna report it to ahhsssss. Talk to Thames Valley, mate. Their jurisdiction, innit!”

“I don’t fink so,” says Thames Valley. “Don’t have governance over Heefrow. Try there.”

“Can’t prove nothin’. Impossible to investigate. Why y’bovverin’, mate? Crime number for the insurance? Just talk to your local station.”

I’m finally routed back to Bath, and a local crime manager. He is a beautiful oasis of sanity in an increasingly mad world of call centers and hold tunes. He takes my details. He curses BA. He asks why I was in Seattle, and soothes my nerves. He even offers victim support. And then he brings up the horrifying reality of identity theft.

“You see. Now they’ve got a passport, they could go into the records and ask for a copy of your birth certificate. And maybe, after that, they could open a bank account, or apply for a credit card.”

Oh shit. What should I do.

“Inform the Passport Agency that your passport has been nicked. And you should probably contact the American Embassy.”

More call centers, more insanity. The Passport Agency ask me to fill out three forms, each of which requires my passport number. The number on the passport that’s been stolen. The American Embassy charge me £1.20/minute to be put on hold while they laugh at my misfortune. And during the second call to the Passport Agency, they try and convince me to drive to Newport to convince them in person.

I think I might cry.

But I got promoted this week. And the cockroaches made it home JUST FINE. So on balance, I think I’ve had a great week.

*This is literally no exaggeration. The first number I called, the central baggage processing unit wouldn’t take calls – they left a message saying “we’re currently closed (while we rifle through your stuff). Please call back between the hours of 6am and 10 pm.” It was 3,30 pm.

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Revenge of the brick!

September 20, 2006

Mini-fig review: Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy? Two sore thumbs up! (I’m playing on the PSP).

It led me to this. Win.

Wii don’t know

September 14, 2006

Last night, Nintendo held a press conference in Japan to announce pricing and launch details for their new console. This is a big deal for both gamers, and the industry. So it’s only natural that the press cover this in detail.

Bloggers, of course, fall over themselves to be the first with the announcements – you should see them at the big events: barging up to the front to take blurred digi-cam photos of the chairs speakers will be using, or hammering their keyboards so loudly you can’t actually hear what’s being said. You’ll probably get a better view if you watch one of the live teleweb-streams

Last night, however, one site, which I’m not going to name, because it’s just cruel, totally outdid themselves.

Their commentary started with the usual pre-amble. We’re here, we’re queueing, we’re so PUMPED. It’s going to be SO AWESOME. What will Iwata (Nintendo’s top Nintendog) announce? What will the launch games be? Then, lights dim, and off we go.

But something’s up. Regular Iwata fanciers, those watching the web-feed, note that he’s wearing the same suit from his last conference. And hang-on, aren’t these sales figures for the DS compared to PSP a little out of date. Hmm. Maybe it’s all okay: after all [siteinquestion] is there, and they’re reporting LIVE!

No. Actually. This is definitely last years conference. WTF?

OMGLOLROFL. [Siteinquestion] pulls their coverage, announcing that they’ve been linked to the wrong feed. No apologies, or back-tracking to announce that actually, they weren’t at the conference. Just a red-faced CTRL-C, CTRL-V monkey, and those foolish, and laughing and pointing from those insomniacs willing to stay up late.

For those who want the details, Reuters has a good precis.

Alyx, my dear

September 8, 2006

In a fit of interview pique, I once asked Gabe Newell if it was permitted to fancy Alyx, the computer generated star of Half-Life 2. His answer was simple: “get in line buddy. We all love her.”

But that doesn’t excuse this.

  I guess this was kind of inevitable.

But this is all kinds of wrong.

Footnote: searching for Alyx on Flickr throws up hundreds of young girls, maybe 3/4 years old. Geek dads win.

Message in a bottle: DO NOT OPEN

September 7, 2006

Here’s the problem: we’re dumping a few thousand square tonnes of highly toxic waste in the centre of the desert. How do we keep curious humans out, in 2000 years time?

“We looked at what messages had come from deep in time to the present, like the pyramids,” explains David B. Givens, an anthropologist specializing in non-verbal communication who helped conceive the warning system. “It boils down to stones,” he says — the only medium so far to have established a track record of retaining messages for as long as 5,000 years.

Wired on storing waste.

It is astonishing that we’re still working on disposing of this waste, while we continue to pump it out.

Interplanetary holiday

September 6, 2006

The Mars Society is looking for a few good men – and women – to spend four months holed up in an artificial igloo or tromping around the Canadian Arctic in bulky faux spacesuits.

This won’t be an extended vacation, or a reality-TV plotline. For rocket scientist Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, next year’s exercise on Devon Island will be an experiment in the exploration process – a test that could help smooth the path to Mars.

James C points to a possible winter retreat.

Overlord

September 4, 2006

Overlord

Overlord. It’s a kind of third person RTS where you pick up goblin helpers along the way, and they terrorise everything. Hence the sheep. Too funny to ignore.