Back in January this year I wrote a post complaining about the unjust, underhand and surreptitious methods employed by the London Mayor and Transport for London to extract money in advance from all public transport users with a view to creating a cashless transport system through their Oyster Card.
The spin then was that cash paying passengers cost TfL £28m per year, and this money could be better spent on the transport system. It was a con then, and a con now. I stated that there must be a great deal of unused fares in the coffers of TfL earning interest. Little did I know the magnitude of that statement. One month today on Sunday 6th July, all buses in London will become cashless, yet it is now known that TfL are sitting on £60million of Oyster balances, paid for by occasional travellers and tourists.
It's very simple: I cannot catch a bus from then and pay a cash fare. I must buy an Oyster Card in advance. This involves paying a £5 deposit and loading it with enough money to clear at least a return journey. Most people will load it with another £5. A single fare on a London bus by Oyster is £1.40, as opposed to a cash fare costing a quid more. Many who are not commuters will not use their card again for months - even years, but hardly anyone writes to TfL to reclaim their balance, and even fewer attempt to reclaim their deposit. This is especially the case for the millions of tourists visiting London who either don't know how - or care about getting their money back.
Indeed, the visitor to London is presented with a very complicated series of hoops and roundabouts to manoeuvre, with a myriad of different fares, ranging from one day travelcards, to weekly and monthly peak and off-peak passes. How many will be bothered to go through even more complications just to recover their surplus unused funds? I live in London, and even I can't be bothered to get mine back - besides, I may need it again in the future. That's TfL's trump selling point - once purchased never expired.
However it's the buyer who will expire before the card - especially if he or she is a one-off visitor to London, and never likely to return. London may be a tourist magnate, but many of the millions who visit and pay for their Oyster Cards may never return. Just because I've seen the Valley of the Kings and the Tomb of Tutankhamen doesn't mean I want to see them again! Even if I do, it could be years hence - and the same applies to visitors to London. So all that unused Oyster fare will sit in the coffers of TfL, earning interest, year on year.
Lets suppose that our imaginary tourist to London returns home to Oklahoma or Okinawa, and realises that he has a £5 deposit outstanding on his Oyster Card (and maybe more of unused advanced fares) - is he likely to contact TfL for a refund? Not likely! How many thousands, tens of thousands - nay - hundreds of thousands over several years will not bother? How many millions of pounds will be in the coffers of TfL? the figure of £60m mentioned earlier was just for one year alone - 2013.
Yet, here we have a Mayor of London, and a profiteering business masquerading as a local government body called Transport for London, which uses spin and technology to remove basic freedoms from the individual. The freedom to just hop on a bus, pay cash, and get to the next stop. That's not too much freedom to ask for is it? But it gets worse. The alternative to the Oyster is a contacless payment - an embedded chip in a debit or credit card, a key fob, or in a smart phone - one flash and you're there - designed for small one off payments upto £10 or £15 - direct from you're bank account. Again, all designed to eliminate the need for cash. It's the future - a future under constant attack from hackers.
Is it really too much to expect that a bus driver cannot carry a small float, just to give the facility of a cash fare? Should we really enforce tourists to this amazing city to pay in advance for a system they barely understand? Cannot they use the pound in their pocket to just go somewhere? Is this not the nation above all others which embraces simplicity, freedom and choice? A nation which abhors bureaucracy and which is the flagship of individualism. A nation which fought for such freedoms, and which draws people to it like a magnet?
Bit by bit, the invasive nature of technology is slowly but surely controlling us. It may be just a simple bus journey today, but tomorrow it may be the journey of life itself.
These two dramas have captured the imagination of press and public, and I'm not sure what I'm watching anymore. Having said that, I like the Walking Dead purely because of it's US 2nd Amendment agenda, which encourages and gives right to the American citizen to bear arms.
In the event of a zombie apocalypse, those with guns will survive. It's a grand shoot 'em up, and the beauty of it is that they can happily fire away, comforted in the knowledge that their targets are already dead. A gorefest of violence, justified as survival. In between we find a disparate and dysfunctional motley array of individuals who find it impossible to leave Kansas...or is that Georgia? Does it matter?
By contrast the Game of Thrones is pure fantasy - a cross between Shakespeare's Titus Andronicas and the legends associated with the Sub Roman-British Dark Ages. Hence why British thespians are keen to play a part - however small, however short.
Being pure fantasy anything is possible. Sex, violence, tribal war, torture and political intrigue all play a part, and in essence the author George R R Martin sourced much of his research with the War of the Roses. Yes, the infamous Red Wedding scene described as too extreme for audiences to handle was based on historical records. Fact is stranger than fiction.
I've only just finished the latest series of the Walking Dead. This drama encourages young people - children no less - to carry guns and use them - a veritable plethora of hand and semi-automatic weapons.I seriously worry about that portrayal.
Sure, they use them to defend themselves against the rampant zombies - but I find it extremely disturbing that this is acceptable drama, and it can only encourage sections of the US public to ingratiate their children with the gun.
My point being that a drama designed for entertainment, surreptitiously aids the gun lobby, the NRA, and as children will be watching, enthuses them to emulate the scenario. I regard this as the height of irresponsibility. Some kids may emulate Superman and think they can fly - most are sensible enough to know that Superheroes are fiction - but in the Walking Dead, the message is a child can legitimately carry and use a gun. This is dangerous territory.
By contrast, guns are not present in the Game of Thrones (for all the violence), and most people know that dragons don't exist. It is pure entertaining fantasy, in a fantasy world, populated by fantastic people. That's the difference.
The Walking Dead is a survivalists dream. A nightmare in the modern world, where the survival of the fittest is key. There is no room for the weak in this world. They are surplus to requirements. After this length of time, isn't it time that it projected a positive agenda? Or expressed some intelligent dialogue of predicament? No, it carries on, shooting, blasting, worshipping the power of the gun - in the name of entertainment.
Perhaps we expect too much from it, and should watch it purely for what it is - science fiction and popcorn fodder. But here's a thought. After four series not one protagonist has discussed the way of the world, nor addressed the question of circumstance, nor attempted to analyse the predicament, investigated, or sought solution. Not one theory has been expounded.
It's time to bury the dead.
Did you miss me? Of course you did!
My eminent host Typepad became the victim of an attack which disabled the platform for over five days. Yes, the thousands of people fixated with my musings were unable to access this humble blog because some naughty people were behaving rather mischievously.
Who are they and why did they do it? Typepad was struck by what is called in technical terms a DDoS (distributed denial of service). The twitterverse was alive with frustrated bloggers, businesses, artisans and services. Oh woe, they proclaimed, drowning in their self-pity - this is diabolical!
Whilst many Typepad subscribers held fast and were loyal, some were so shocked that they threatened to leave and migrate to Wordpress.
"Three days now - not good enough" or "four days now - my patience is thin" or "five days and I'm losing business - I'm moving!"
It was entertaining to watch, and in their own way, through Twitter, they managed to promote themselves. I never knew there were so many entertaining and diverse blogs on Typepad - I discovered a whole new community many of whom displayed erudite wit. Frankly I enjoyed reading them all. Indeed I may have even inadvertently added to my Twitter followers - and I'm not a tweeter - gentleman don't tweet in my opinion!
Throughout it all, Typepad maintained a healthy dignity, constantly informing us with Churchillian endeavour that they were dealing with the wolves whilst we slept. "We're constantly fighting against this invasion. Don't worry, all your work is protected. We shall fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the streets. We shall defend our platform, whatever the cost." (Well, I made that last bit up - but you get the gist).
So what is DDoS? Well, for those of us who run a car without knowing how the mechanics work, it is the equivalent of fuelling diesel to a petrol engine. It will grind the machinery to a halt.
Persons unknown saturate a target machine with external communications requests, so much so that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered essentially unavailable. (I hope you understood that - I quoted the Wiki definition). Targets in this case are high profile web servers such as banks and other financial institutions. But everyone is fair game. It's about ransom and extortion.
Ransom? For sure. These perpetrators attempt to extort money from their victims in order to restore services. It's the 21st century equivalent of a 20th century Mafia protection racket. Except that it has global significance. Of course, you don't have to have a big family like Vito Corleone's, to do this - a couple of clever geeks with a bot (botnet - robot network) can be equally malicious and threatening.
So serious is this that the US consider DDoS attacks as a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and in the UK, the Police and Justice Act 2006 outlawed it with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
It's a very serious threat, which big companies have yet to defend themselves properly, because the methods are constantly changing.
Which brings me back to those disenchanted Typepad subscribers who threatened to move their website to Wordpress. It would be a bad move. Wordpress is no better placed to deal with it than anyone else, and the difference is that they do not have the support and communication with their bloggers that Typepad has.
Wordpress may be the flavour of the month these days, but after this experience, I'll stick with Typepad - they at least have fought the enemy - and came out victorious; bruised and battered, and as painful as it was for many – they won!
The fact that you are reading this is proof of their success.
Bar de Ness writes brilliant and entertaining articles. Traveller, writer, watercolourist, philosopher, coconut farmer, and hammock swinger. An expert in the humanities, he is universally acknowledged as being right about everything and praised world-wide for his modesty, charm and exceptional good looks.