20 February 2010

I know where you live…

So the debate continues, privacy on the Internet. Relaxing at home this weekend I have some extra time to do a bit of reading, browsing and some research about the Internet. Spying wouldn’t be incorrect, however research makes it all sound nice and polite. As any regular blogger would know register yourself with a service offering you blog stats and you can find all kinds of details, most importantly the IP address of people who read your blog. Add to it the techniques of someone like my nephew who graduated from GWU with a master in computer engineering, a simple IP address then opens the doors to a different ball game. Even with my limited knowledge I can now find the building and street your PC is located. Enlist the help of a techy and it can border on every breath you take…

I can tabulate the time you spend reading my blog, identify trends in any special days or times you visit, and what type of post subject attracts you or you spend most time reading. If you stumble upon it by googling it, then I am able to identify if you specifically googled the name of my blog or if it was just a key word you used in your search. All this of course can be pretty much harmless or be more than a bit messy if the person who finds out above you lives in the African continent.

I have got hooked to online banking strictly for its convenience. From where ever I am in the world I am able to make payments, transfer money, apply for a credit card, an overdraft, a loan, get a mortgage etc, etc. This offers me freedom, however it also offers a good hacker access to my humble financial dealings. The banks goal in reducing the number of tellers and branches gets closer with more people like me opting in. I hardly carry any paper money around with me anymore. 

We have a Tesco club card and do most of our grocery shopping online or in store with the club card as it enables us to accumulate points. Somewhere down the line my spouse or I have approved for Tesco to tabulate our shopping habits. When we now go online to do our shopping, we are offered a list of the regulars we buy all the time from Tesco, either on or off line. This ranges from OTC medicines, prescription drugs to what type of dog food brand we prefer for our dog. This is quite cool, convenient, but there is a ‘but’. Suddenly I am not sure if I am completely comfortable with my grocer knowing my personal lifestyle.

I am glad that the UKGov chipped identity card scheme was not accepted by the general public. But I also know that my TFL Oyster card will be able to track me anytime I use the tube. My mobile operator at any given time will be able to say where I am anywhere I choose to go in this world. If there is even no mobile coverage, some operators still can find you if you use a Blackberry or iphone.

The real problem is however the Internet. Most websites can already track you using their computer history. Your ISP basically knows about everything you do online. With me, it’s slowly becoming everything. My shopping for anything, my banking, my work, well basically anything and everything. The more time I spend logged in to either my phone which is 24/7, to my laptop, work computers and home computer, they would be able to tabulate what time of the day I take my breaks, average time I take for lunch and an average of what time I sleep. Having a sky digital box means that every programme, movies I watch, sitcoms I enjoy all our recorded in some mainframe or a cloud somewhere in the world. What I access, anyone can.

So most of you will say, yo DD, what’s this got to do with the price of eggs?

Well for one, some anonymous blogger where ever they maybe in the world, may blog happily thinking their anonymity is protected. But if someone like me with limited knowledge can find you, anyone may. For instance your blog will be flagged every time you use the word ‘freedom’ by many western government spy agencies.

Yahoo and Google already offer targeted advertising online. Yahoo has gone a step further where with your consent they can now identify both your online and offline consumer behaviour. Knowing where you live and knowing where you shop – will it become a civil liberties nightmare?

In the west you are protected to a certain extent through government and non-government regulatory bodies that protect your privacy. If you opt into one of these consumer behaviour tracking programmes or digital advertising campaigns, you are always given the chance to opt out of it. If you choose to have your online DNA deleted and go back to the good old days of pen and paper, yes you can, even if it means pursuing it legally. 

But the danger remains where for key issues such as privacy and transparency, especially when users are unaware that personal information is being collected. Consumer data can be created to identify individual profiles or segments.  Prices can be skewed for different users, based on their Internet usage.

People in the west best believe in the Office of Fair Trading to protect their rights. Rightly or wrongly. Being an ad person coming to live in the west five years ago, I embraced the whole e-commerce, digital concept of convenience. The more I live here, the less I believe that I am doing the right thing. But as I work to live in my profession, I am but silent. Well yes I have written this post.

The danger of misuse, fraud however looms forever, especially in countries less regulated or adopt socialist and communist agendas, and dictatorships. As the popularity of the Internet ever increases in these parts of the world, so does the chance of widespread abuse. We must not forget or believe that this will not affect those of us who live in democracies, remember the Internet interconnects the world.

So if you have blog, visit a blog for a read or is thinking of starting a blog, remember I know where you live. And lots of not very nice people, companies, governments and countries do too. So who owns your ISP? Are search engines governed by ethics or commerce?

Sometimes the most obvious is the least. Or is that vice a versa?

(Pix - Chuks - Ski Trip - Austria)

13 February 2010

Marriage, Children, Pets, Family – They soften the world for you

Saturday late morning. Awake, filled with Mung-Kiribath. Waiting for sms from kid to say they reached safely. Walked the dog, met many of his friends, so he’s happy. Dropped the car off for service. Still slightly sleepy so shall shower after this.

I love dogs, to the extent that I let them roll all over me and even lick my face and lips. I don’t mind them and they don’t mind me. Met a new puppy today, a Strad-bull terrier. I am rolling, playing with them in the field and took some quick shots on the mobile. 

This got me thinking. How kids, pets, your spouse, family, as you grow older how they soften the world around for you. I used to be one of the biggest SOB’s in this world. But as the kid grew, I found myself changing. Priorities, goals, challenges, everything changes. I am a grand uncle. I am not a corporate a-hole chasing incessant success. Honestly I am surprisingly chilled out now, so much I surprise myself.

Like today, I just took immense pleasure in rolling around with those dogs. I was sitting on the ground on a muddy field with dogs all over me. Forgot my hangover and just felt happy. It’s minus outside, and crisp. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If this is what all about growing old is, I like it. Will I lose the love of clubbing, rough housing and behaving in a manner similar to a drunken Viking Warrior? Definitely not. Just a little less of that and much more of this. More time for family, less time agonising about the size of my dick, what they think of me doesn’t really matter, its what you think of me.

Finding peace within, that peace which is found only when your loved ones, for you, soften the world around you. Even your dogs, especially your dogs.

Prizes and surprises again

Prizes – You have won one week with the Playboy Playmate of the Month – January 2010.

Surprises – It was hoodwink all along. The raffle ticket you got online was a racket run by some Nigerians, operating out of London with fake tourist visas. On closer scrutiny the ticket says January 20010.

I finally understand, how important it is to be happy, inside.

12 February 2010

Alexander McQueen switching himself off, binge drinking and the weekend

So it’s been a weird week.

Yesterday evening I am watching the evening news and the lead story on all channels was that Alexander McQueen at 40 years had decided to off himself. 40 years old, four times British designer of the year and decorated by the queen, he hangs himself. It’s attributed to the fact that he lost a best friend 3 years ago and then last week lost his mother.

Watched a private ambulance pick his body up from his plush apartment in London. Indescript maroon body bag on a collapsible stretcher. Cop car escorts the ambulance. A black 7 series brand new bimmer convertible with the plate 4AD pulls in to form a convoy. They assume that it’s his partner, McQueen was gay.

The newscasters go on and on like he was some hero. Please don’t get me wrong, at 40, McQueen was a highly successful designer attributed to first designing the famous hipster jeans where ladies give us an eyeful of butt cheeks and lace thongs. We men in return give them at our butts encased preferably in Tommy or CK1 underwear. I find this incredibly weird and have had to many times restrain from pulling these said jeans down from the wearer, but detested. Anyway back to this man, to me he was a hero when he was alive. But not dead, especially when its suicide.

I harked back to RD saying money can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you stuff that makes you happy. Now wouldn’t it have been quite easy for Alexander to seek some help for depression with all the money he had earned from his fashion empire instead of deciding to off himself?

So I suddenly found my answer to the ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ debates. Actually I agree with RD. It just helps to get you thing that make you happy. Money however:


Other than that the kids off on a school ski trip for one week to Austria. The dogs groomed, shampooed and nails clipped. It’s Friday evening and I am off to the local to buy some stuff that makes me happy. As it’s the local, it’ll be mild happiness. Couple of games pool with the Borehamwood hardies, stiff vodka and red bulls to ensure that the occasional outing for a smoke in the cold does not bother, and huge helpings of greasy mayonnaise smeared fish and chips. Might finish up at another local with the hardies to watch the weekly karaoke guy who lip syncs to songs. This is purely bearable as he has a good sound system and all the crowd pleaser songs to select from. I talking Pink Floyd, Queen, REM… occasionally interspersed with The Clash!

Then home to suffer the rest of the weekend from cheap vodka hangover. Sound a rather crude way to release the stress. But honestly I enjoy it when men can be men, get drunk on cheap booze, piss behind the local onto a wall or someone’s car, generally sing loudly while moving from one pub to a pub, goose some fake blonde bimbo’s ass (not me, them), compare tats, look for a potential piss up and contribute to the British economy by binging heavily.

The hardies tolerate me, only because I can drink as much as them without passing out. And I cheer for Watford, I am a MU fan, but they don’t know that…

Enjoy the weekend everybody and I wish you one NOT as colourless as mine!

Good night

4 February 2010

Independence, the celebration of freedom and the smelly Sri Lankan.

 I learnt a lesson in freedom today. Went to Boots at lunchtime to get the kid some waterproof plaster. As usual collected knick-knacks I wouldn’t have got otherwise thanks to all the clever marcomms people out there. Then went to the OTC counter to pay, as I also wanted some Piriton for an early onset of allergies.
Then I saw this Sri Lankan looking chap in his early twenties approaching the prescription counter to the right of me rather hesitatingly. With a typical heavy Sri Lankan accent but in perfect grammar he explained to the pharmacist that he had a really bad throat and backache. He was wearing an old coat, winter hat and wrapped up in a thick scarf. I smelt him before I saw him. A mix of musty clothes, Ayurvedic oil and overall old sweat.
The pharmacist directed him to the OTC counter I was at. Or rather stuck at as the cashier attending to me made a mistake and had to ring all my stuff back up. We made eye contact and I smiled, though his body odour was quite overpowering. My cashier called another person to the till next to us as the smelly guy was in a hurry to get somewhere else. So the pharmacist came to the next till and got him some throat lozenges. He then asked what about my back pain? The pharmacist asked him to continue the painkillers he was already taking. He then asked how much the throat lozenges were? £2.99, then the guy said then I wont get that I’ll just get this and purchased some halls for 49 pence. Which he paid from a bank debit card, didn’t see which bank.
I was devastated. I had my bank card in my hand and my reflex was to just enter it into the card reader in his till and buy him some proper throat medicine, some Voltran for the back pain, and a decent flu medicine. I FROZE…
I just don’t know why. Maybe it was best to mind my own business?
England is pretty much cool with some things. If you are in this country with a legal visa and have a proper mailing address it is within your right to register at the nearest doctors surgery. If you have insufficient funds you can appeal for and if you are under 16 even the prescription is free.
So what was up with this smelly guy? I found it rather sad that this young man couldn’t afford £2.99 for some throat lozenges, hadn’t obviously taken a wash for at least a couple of weeks, was unshaven and looked quite ill. He honestly looked a wee bit mental and maybe that’s why I didn’t offer to pay.
Is the price of pursuing the dream in the west, the freedom of white picket fences with no gates that important? How much will someone forgo for his or her perception of freedom?
I knew this beggar in Colombo. He used to wash in the sea and then dry himself under the sun on the beach. His mangy dog and him both.
So at what price freedom? Am I in the wrong for judging him?