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Showing posts from July, 2013

Freedom of information? That's 39.3 hours of hard labour.

Local government gets a bad press. People have a tendency to think of councils as bureaucratic and full of jobsworths. While I'm sure the impression isn't entirely true, the response I received from a London Borough to a recent Freedom of Information request only served to perpetuate the perception. I won't go into all the details. Essentially though, the information I want does exist, but it's in 183 different files. No one has ever bothered to collate it. And there's the rub. If a government body in the UK claims that it would cost more than £450 to provide an answer to a query, then they're entitled to refuse the request. And that's what this particular authority has done. They base their decision on one council officer spending more than 18 hours in "determining whether the Council hold the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information..." That's 18 hours at £25 per hour. A pretty good rate for someone working

Lost and found

Emergency call from Mrs W this morning. In the process of rescuing a lost cat she'd seen advertised on local posters, she'd managed to get her beautiful white top covered in muddy paw prints. I had to race down to the local station with a spare t-shirt, designed to save her embarrassment at work. What had happened to the captured feline? Mrs W took it into the local newsagent near the station and was told that it had already been found. Which does beg the question: what's the difference between a cat who's lost and a cat who's been found? Lost cats roam the streets aimlessly looking for prey and getting into scraps. Their distraught owners don't know where they've got to and fear they've been catnapped or run over by a car. When the little moggy is found, the first thing the owners do is let them out to wander the streets aimlessly looking for prey and getting into scraps. Clearly we need posters announcing the successful recapture of any missi

Would you have them any other way?

I don't know about you, but whenever I order pear crisps, I always insist they're air dried. With prawn cocktail, it matters less. But with pear...

Security not to be sniffed at

Edward Snowden's statement that he might seek asylum in that bastion of democracy, Russia, is decidedly weird. But not as weird as the news reported recently that Putin's government has found a novel way of avoiding the kind of security breach epitomised by Snowden and his pal Julian Assange. According to Izvestya, the Putin government recently put in an order for 20 Triumph Adler typewriters. A source inside the Russian Federal Guard Service was quoted as saying that these low-tech machines each had their own unique signature and that paper reports were the order of the day from now on. This quirky - or should I say querty - approach to government communication in the digital age certainly has security advantages. But all those carbon copies may have a dramatic impact on Russia's CO2 emissions. There may also be other unforeseen consequences.  'Vasily, hurry up and finish the report on our top-secret operation in Damascus. And stop sniffing that f*****g Tippex!' 

Washed and ready to cheat

Now, I'm as OCD as the next man, but even by my standards, the NHS hand-washing instructions below seem a tad OTT. I'm like HOW many stages? We're told at the end that the whole process should last 15-30 seconds. That's quite a spectrum. They're saying you can wash your hands for half the length of time that someone else does and yet still fall into the 'clean' category. So why would anyone go for 30 seconds? You'd just cheat and do 15, wouldn't 't you?