The Kids are Alright

The Science Dog

childhuggingdog   Baby sitting on dog   baby with pit bull

child and dog 3  dogkid5  childwithdog


Disclaimer: If you are not horrified by these photographs (even worse….if you think they are cute), you are probably not going to like what follows.

A few statistics: According to the CDC, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of these reported bites, a large victim demographic is children under the age of 10. Children are most likely to be bitten severely enough to require medical care or hospitalization. They are also most frequently bitten by their own dog or by a dog who they know, such as the dog belonging to a neighbor or relative. Bites to the face and neck are common in children, most likely because of their size and the types of behavior that they engage in with dogs.

Why is this surprising? Really now. If I can find…

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Stayed with Vodafone, should’ve gone with GiffGaff

Heather and I both have two plus year old Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile ‘phones. The two year deal was the ‘phone plus more minutes, text and data than we could use for about £25 per month each from Vodafone. Our ‘phones were fine – neither of us really needed or wanted a new one.

Looking around, the least expensive SIM only alternative was GiffGaff, at £10 per month – way more minutes, text and data than we could use. Vodafone’s slightly stingier alternative was £13 per month. In a year £72 could buy the two of us meal and a night at the theatre. The downside was the hassle in moving and, supposedly, the lower level of support from GiffGaff – only online, no number to call. I’d been a Vodafone client for two decades in business and persona life but, hey ho, time for a change.

So, I prepared to move us. I decided I’d go first to smooth the way.

First I needed a GIffGaff SIM card. I went on-line, ordered one and it appeared in the post a day later, free.

Next, I had to unlock my phone. I filled in the Vodafone form and…nothing…for a week. I looked on-line and the instructions were complicated – basically put a new OS on. Ugh. I called Vodafone a few times. I escalated the lack of response to a senior technician. He told me the phone was already unlocked. All their Samsung ‘phones are. It took a week to find out I had nothing to do – that’s kind of a win.

Then I went on-line to transfer the number, to get the PAC code. Again, that was boring – no response. I ended up calling and got it. Just a couple of wasted days. And, having got it, I submitted it – Saturday the 18th of January. The mobile number I’d had for 20 years was on its way from Vodafone to GiffGaff.

Having submitted my request on Saturday, for activation on Tuesday, I was quite laid back.

On the Sunday, the 19th of January, Vodafone Outbound Retention called. They’d like to keep me. Instead of the £13 list, they’d offer me 20% off – £10.40 per month, 40 p more than GiffGaff. And give me a £10 credit too. And do the same for Heather. And, yes, they’d cancel my transfer. And, no, there’d be no charges. Yes, they would cancel the PAC transfer. I also contacted GiffGaff to say I cancelled – who acknowledged the cancellation, wished me the best of luck and said I could come back any time, without a contract.

Boo, Vodafone. I only get the best deal if I leave. And you still lock me in for a year.

Stay with Vodafone I thought. It’ll be easier I thought. It’s only £5 a year extra. So what if it’s an annual contract, life will be simpler.

Heather’s ‘phone worked fine. Her new tariff worked fine. Hurrah.

Come the Tuesday the 21st of January. my ‘phone suddenly showed “Emergency Calls only”. Yup, it had been transferred after all. Why? The Sunday before Vodafone had updated their back end systems. It hadn’t gone well. It turns out their staff had had no system to access, so my number transfer had gone through and had not been cancelled. Vodafone couldn’t retrieve it from GiffGaff, only I could.

I contacted GiffGaff, online. They responded in four hours, with a “sorry to hear you’re not staying, but come back any time, here’s your PAC code”.

I told Vodafone I was ready to transfer my number back. Well, you remember that back end upgrade that hadn’t gone well over the weekend. It was still down, four days later. I couldn’t transfer back. Indeed, I couldn’t transfer back for almost two weeks. And, even then, I spent nearly two hours with Vodafone’s Indian outsourced technical support team. Because the number had gone to GiffGaff, despite Vodafone’s reassurance, I no longer had an account. I no longer had a contract. Their second level team told me that I was just going to have to have a new number.

Well, at this point, it was pretty plain that Vodafone was a waste of time. If I needed a new number I’d go with GiffGaff. They’d proven themselves far more competent.

But I wanted to keep my old number. I know it. It’s on my email signature. It’s associated with all my records, online and offline. It’s part of a handful of two factor authentication logins. What a pain.

Those who’ve worked in overly aggressive IT organisations will know this as well as I do. Many revenue first shops cripple Support but leave the power with Sales. I called Vodafone Sales to say I wanted to keep my old number. 15 minutes later, I had it.

Boo, Vodafone. Your Support is not empowered. Your Sales is. That’s a stupid management decision.

Great my ‘phone works. I’ll login to my account and check out the details. Yes, you guessed it, my login failed with “Some Business Exception has occured while processing registration/subscription“. (The misspelling was just a bonus.) I reported it and checked back on the status a couple of days later – there was no record of my reporting it. I reported it via email – and was then asked for my bank details to confirm my account. It looks like my transfer, their back end failure and my return screwed up their records. It was two weeks and multiple screen shots later before I could login.

Boo, Vodafone. Your back end systems suck and their support is slow.

This morning, some six weeks after I started a “seamless” transfer I had my first bill from Vodafone. I’m on a £10.40 tariff with a £10 credit. I expected a bill in pence. The £135.36 was more than I expected. I called 191 from my mobile. “That’s because you have a new contract, sir – I can have someone from Accounts call you within the next hour”. 90 minutes later I was called and told it was my fault for cancelling. If I wanted to escalate the matter still further they would ask a manager to call me within the next 48 hours.

Right, I thought. I’m just going to cancel the Direct Debit and go to GiffGaff with a new number. Life is too short.  And then I remembered the power is with Sales.  I called Sales to say I’d never really left Vodafone – 15 minutes later I received a text to say the cancellation charge had been cancelled.

Boo, Vodafone. Your Support is not empowered. Your Sales is. That’s a stupid management decision.

At every step in the process, including some I’ve not mentioned, Vodafone’s normal process came up short. Had I known I’d lose my ‘phone access for a fortnight, my online account access for a month, get a bill for over £100 and spend nearly two working days on my not transferring I’d have gone with GiffGaff.

Come next year, when my annual contract is up, I may just do that anyway. Despite having been customer for a score of years I now have little confidence in my supplier dealing with anything untoward. And I know their preferred internal processes are broken.

I’d been worried about leaving Vodafone’s manned support for GiggGaff’s electronic support. GG have been terrific. V has been an omnishambles.

Stayed with Vodafone, should’ve gone with GiffGaff. Maybe next year.

Update Tuesday 25 February

I have a text from Vodafone Customer Services, at 1:54pm.

Dear Customer, This to confirm that we will be removing the cancelation fees of your bill thank you for calling vodafone

Update Thursday 27 February

The cancellation charge still appeared on my bill on Wednesday – apparently it takes 48 hours for it to disappear. So I checked on Thursday – and their online accounting system was crashing with BEA webmethod errors. They’re upgrading in prime time without redirecting or notifying customers. Cracking. A manager promised me a call before 8pm on Thursday. It’s now 9pm.

I’ve been a personal subscriber since 1999 – and a business subscriber for the decade before that. My once efficient supplier seems to now be in death throes.

Update Friday 28 February

I have another text from Vodafone Customer Services, at 5:12pm.

Dear Customer, please note that we are still waiting for an update on your account and will update you with a text shortly

Update Tuesday 4 March

I chatted again, today. For the third time I was asked to wait 48 hour to see if (if?) the money would be transferred. Again, I was told my case had been escalated. Again, I was told a manager would call me.

I’ve now written an email of complaint using their official channel. Given how inefficient their other processes have been I’m not sure I hold out much hope. But I’m trying to be reasonable.

This farrago has cost me many days of time. It must have cost them many days and pounds. If Vodafone’s results are not all they wished I think I have a glimmering as to why.

Update Friday 7 March

My complaint of early the 4th of March, #6267945, was met with “Your query will be dealt with within 48 hours.” We’re now entering the weekend. I still haven’t received my promised refund. The 48 hours has been and gone.

I’ve now contacted Vodafone UK Help via a Direct Message on Twitter. I’d been tempted to just tweet this blog entry with the hashtag #vodafail, but resisted the impulse. They’ve responded – good. But they need yet more – sigh.

What do I really, really want from this? In order:

  • I want my money back.
  • I’d like some financial recognition of the week plus of no mobile service.
  • I’d like some financial recognition of the days, literally, I’ve spent trying to get Vodafone’s attention.
  • It’s obvious they don’t want my business. I get the message. Give me the PAC to transfer my number and cancel my contract, without any penalties.

Update Sunday 9 March

It just gets better. I missed a call. The caller left a voice mail. I dialled 121 to retrieve my voice mail. I got a message saying I needed to set a voice mail PIN to retrieve my messages from overseas or another phone – and that I should do so by calling 121. The first trouble is the message came from 121 – and gave no options to change my security code. The next is that I wasn’t dialling from a different ‘phone or from overseas. I was dialling from my mobile from my office. Sigh.

I dialled 191. After the ritual wait and security clearance I had my voice mail code reset – it was texted to me.

I dialled 121. I was challenged for my security code. I entered the new security code – absolutely accurately. And I heard the response along the lines of “that was wrong, and your voicemail is now locked”. There was no second or third chance – but it would have made no difference, I’d entered my new code correctly first time.

So, I contacted support again – this time via a chat window instead of a call, so that I have a record.  He did the same thing, with the same result.

I was then connected with a specialist. He did the same thing, with the same result. He then had me deregister my phone from vodafone, turn the device off and remove the SIM. The he said he was transferring me to second level – and I listened to Muzak for a few minutes.

The second level chap came back and said the error was on the network side, not on the device side. He was transferring the call to them. But they don’t work on Sundays so someone will start to look at it on Monday. And they usually fix things within 48 hours of starting.

So, that’s at least another day or two without voice mail. And I wonder if we will lose the voice mail? I hope it wasn’t urgent. 😦

Update Monday 10 March

Someone whose name I did not catch (between his strong accent and my weak ear) has called and told me he is crediting my account for the cancellation fee – and that it should be with me in three to five working days – and that he’d send me an email confirming this.

Interestingly the call was not as a result of my open trouble ticket, nor was it a result of the formal complaint procedure – it was from the social media team.

I decided not to pursue any other points until after I’ve seen the money. I’ve not asked about any recompense for my time or loss of service. I’ve not asked for my contract to end. I didn’t ask when my voice mail would be repaired. Not yet.

I am preparing to call Which Legal one week from now if the money does not appear.

Update Wednesday 12 March

I had a text to say my voicemail problem had been fixed. Of course the final PIN didn’t work so I had to call 191 to have it reset – and then call 121 to set it to something I would remember. But at least it worked – and the whole process only took 15 minutes – cracking for Vodafone.

And do you know what voicemail was stuck? Why the one from Customer Services to do with my refund. They’d called my mobile on Sunday and left the message. Thank goodness I’d given them my landline.

The refund has not appeared as yet.

Update Friday 14 March 

The refund arrived. Huzzah.

Come February 2015 it will be time to move away from them.

Over the last nearly two months:

  • I lost access to my mobile number for two weeks.
  • I lost access to my online account for nearly a month.
  • I lost access to my voicemail.
  • I’ve been billed for leaving when I never left.
  • I have spent approaching 40 hours dealing with Vodafone’s problems.


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Republican Meteorologist & Entrepreneur: Debating Cause of Climate Change is Moral and Scientific Equivalent of Debating Gravity

Global Warming: Man or Myth?

A few weeks ago, a journalist contacted the Climate Science Rapid Response Team to get various opinions about whether climate scientists should take a public position or in some sense a political position on the issue and get involved in the debate/discussion over climate change in public venues and through media coverage. After sending the request to several climate experts, I also asked Paul Douglas, a meteorologist, registered Republican, and entrepreneur, for his thoughts. With permission, I have posted his response below:

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Best dog investment ever, bar none

Our Elmo is a 40 kilogram wuss. He’s half Boxer, half Cane Corso. He’s quicker than a Labrador, nearly as quick as a Vizsla. He can clear my head from a standing jump. His bark at the front door is very Hound of the Baskervilles. His breeder gave him to Battersea Dogs Home as the only people who wanted him were dog fighters.

The popular view of the type of people who would own him would have me wearing a string vest, sporting tattoos and drinking Wife Beater from early morning. Leaving the accuracy of that stereotype to one side, we didn’t want Elmo ostracised. We don’t want people crossing the street to avoid him. We wanted to reassure people. Indeed we wanted people to approach him and us.

He sports a fluorescent green collar with emblazoned with “FRIENDLY”. Having now had him nearly 18 months, not a day goes by without someone commenting “isn’t that a good idea!”

Elmo sits proudly when being adored. His collar and lead have undoubtedly contributed to his sense of pride and well being. And mine.

The manufacturer makes a variety of collars, suitable for different temperaments and roles. Without it we’d be shunned. With it he’s popular. It’s a shame I can’t find one to suit me.

Follow them on Facebook. See their website. I bought Elmo’s on Amazon

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Great Moments in Stupidity

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

The internet’s total stupidity and arrogance index dipped a notch the other day with James Delingpole’s final blog column for the Telegraph.

Scurrilous and unkind rumors have it that Delingpole was becoming a liability and embarassment to the owners, and so got the boot.
Readers of this blog will remember Jame’s indelible performance in the video above, totally flummoxed by a simple question from Sir Paul Nurse, about trusting, or not trusting, the scientific method.

Although known for some of the nastiest, most hateful, and not surprisingly, most ill informed climate denial screeds in Trollville, Delingpole took an opportunity to remind his readers, in this last post, that he’s actually, well, as the clip above underlines, grossly ignorant.

“..Thanks for your technical expertise and advice (it prevented anyone ever noticing that I’m an English graduate and know NOTHING about science..”

…making him of course, imminently qualified in his field.

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A quick science lesson for Lord Lawson

...and Then There's Physics

Since my post about the BBC and its balance seems to be attracting comments about Lord Lawson’s and Brian Hoskins’ appearance on Radio 4 today, I thought it might be best to add a new post that was more explicitly about that topic.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation actually seems to be promoting the transcript of the interview. Honest of them, I guess, but a little strange given that it would appear to suggest that Lord Lawson – their Chairman – is rather lacking in an understanding of basic science. I thought maybe I (and those who comment) could give him some basic tips. It seems unlikely (sadly maybe) that the BBC will suddenly realise his lack of scientific expertise, so I would certainly like to help him do better in future.

For example, during the interview, the following exchange takes place

Lord Lawson: Everything. First of all, even…

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Why we shouldn’t tell people that reading is good for them

More thoughts from Kate.

Blogging the Long List

Like many (most?) people of my generation I was never formally taught grammar. To this day, I admit, I can’t tell my noun from my verb or my adverb. This may horrify many of you. But, I think, it hasn’t stopped me instinctively understanding the rules of grammar and applying them to my writing. And I have books to thank for a lot of that.

I read endlessly as a child. And from that, I learned many things. Like aeroplane safety (thanks Topsy and Tim), how to make Playdough and that I didn’t want to be a ballerina because it made your toes bleed. But learning was always the subtext of what I was doing. Only maybe 10% of the books I read were explicitly learning – for school – and despite being an avid reader, I often resented reading those. Just like I resented (ok, just didn’t) eating my…

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Cowtan & Way

There is no pause in surface warming.

Open Mind

You probably recall that not too long ago, Kevin Cowtan and Robert Way re-processed the data used in forming the HadCRUT4 global temperature data set. Their goal was to interpolate across unobserved areas in the best way available, by Kriging. They also used satellite data to supplement the interpolation.

As I’ve said before, since the Berkeley team released their “methods” paper I’ve believed that Kriging is the best way to approach the interpolation issue. It was one of those “Doh! — Why didn’t I think of that!” moments. Therefore, despite its relative newness, I think we should consider treating this data set as one of the “main” global temperature data sets. Only time will tell whether that comes to pass.

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Potential Landmark panel

Around Easter the photo society has an exhibition at the Landmark, in Teddington. Members of the society get quite a few square feet of space to fill. The norm is half-a-dozen photos on 40 cm by 50 cm mounts. Club members can read about the exhibition on the forum.

I’d had a local subject in mind for some time – and had their agreement too. But, having just been to Malaysia. I thought maybe I should use those instead. So, here’s my proposed panel, laid out as two rows of three.

Landmark panel v1 18-01-2014

If anyone has any constructive criticism, feel free to post. I moderate all posts anyway, so way what you like, if you don’t mind your words disappearing into that great bit bucket in the sky.

I’ve had two comments so far, neither reflected, as yet, in the panel. The first is that the bottom left image, of the boat, isn’t as bold an image as the others so unbalances the panel. The second is that the bottom right image, of the barbecue, should be reversed so that it appears to be facing into the panel.

As an aside, the concept of “a panel” was completely foreign to me until I joined the club. It isn’t enough just to hang some prints. My original take was “Eh? That’s a bit poncy.” Viewing last year’s Landmark exhibition I changed my mind – there was a handful of panels where the layout undoubtedly raised the collected photographs’ impact. I’m now at the “I accept it, but it still feels artificial” stage. Should I decide the journey is worth it I have a long way to go.

My instinct is to print in colour – and I like big, bold colour – and print big – A3 to fit within the standard mount. But I’ll go to A2 if the powers that be will allow. But, last year, the norm was probably A4 – with a lot of monochrome. I have a few weeks to dither. If you have an opinion please feel free to express it. Be kind.

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Classic Crock Repost: “What We Knew in 82”

Seemingly intelligent people still tell me of conspiracy theories, that global warming is a political hoax. If there’s a conspiracy, the data is in on it too. Film from 1958 and 1982 is featured herein…

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Mike MacCracken was the first “real” climate scientist that I got to know, who started answering my questions, pointing things out to me, and introducing me to other folks.
Dr. MacCracken is a global treasure, in that he knows the course of climate science over the last half century as few others do, and sees the big picture in a way that few will.  For this interview, I crashed a conference at the University of Michigan in January 2012.

Next time you hear that climate science is something Al Gore invented in 2006, or that climate science predictions have been wrong,  pull out this video. A little history is in order.

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