Archive for March, 2008

Cleaning up

March 17, 2008

Is it just me, or has anyone else found that they are presented with a wide selection of household cleaning equipment when they log on to Amazon? In the past I have been very impressed with Amazon’s customer relationship management system and their customer propensity modelling. I usually find one or two items of interest amongst the selection of “things you might be interested in”.

Until now I had assumed that this was based on some clever analysis of what you bought and what other customers had bought. Then they identify the common features and offer suggestions based on these.I can not see how even the most sophisticated algorithms have been able to link my recent Amazon purchases to a wide choice of vacuum cleaners and chrome waste bins for “bathroom, kitchen and office”.

Is it possible that the Amazon computers know more about me than I do myself? Will I suddenly get the urge to start some energetic Spring cleaning when I get back from my travels next weekend?… Of course now that thought has lodged in my brain, there is a higher probability that I will… Perhaps Amazon are pioneering new sophistication in suggestion marketing.

Now I come to think of it, my keyboard needs a good dusting.


Lucky stars

March 11, 2008

From the banks of the Tay to the banks of the Seine last Sunday night, in a strange shaped hotel room with a pillar next to my elbow as I scratch my stubble.

This hotel room has got some glossy magazines for my reading pleasure; I pick up Marie Claire (the magazine in the room, not someone in the bar) and scan her features.

My horoscope (Capricorn) says “unless you are lucky enough to be on a career sabbatical, demands at work might end up causing friction and force you to make a choice”Hmm. I think about my days at work and decide that every day contains friction and I’m forced to make many choices….What actions to take in response to emails, who to talk to, who to annoy, whether to have decaf or hot chocolate etc. Friction is just energy being used. It can generate heat and light. I don’t mind.

I check Madam “N’s” horoscope (Gemini) in case it gives any correlating guidance; “you’ll be able to push ahead on the career front, but if you want to take the fast track, you’ll need to be open to suggestions. Even if you’re not sure just say ‘Of course I can!’ anyway” Hmm. It sounds like I might be able to take that career sabbatical.(Just in case everything works out)

I scan the other star signs. Librans should be careful about settling down and buying hats. Taureans should use stalling tactics with people who want to do business. Leos should clear of physical and emotional clutter, but won’t feel the benefits straight away. Sexed-up virgins (do I know any?) in happy coupledom might do better in the long-term lust stakes if they dare to reveal all.

Nonsense really.

But hang on, I had an email from L the other day with a press release from the RAC which shows a correlation between your star sign and the likelihood of your car breaking down.

Guess what ? Pisceans are the luckiest and their cars break down the least; (Not if they drive a Land Rover they’re not).

Libra, Capricorn and Aquarius break down most frequently…. Not surprised about the Capricorns….all that long term lust being played out.

Gemini, Cancer and Taurus join Pisces at the bottom of the table. So if you are choosing who should drive you home after going out tonight, bear this in mind.

Of course there is a possibility that the probability of your car breaking down has more to do with the age and condition of the vehicle (unless it’s a Land Rover) than when you were born. But I’m just a sceptical old fish.

You have mail

March 4, 2008

I felt sorry for Gary Sinnott, the computer enthusiast from Suffolk who set up a website to promote his local town of Mildenhall. Unfortunately his domain name of was similar to that of the US Air Force base just down the road –; not that similar really, but Gary found himself the unwitting recipient of an increasing number of emails meant for personnel at the base.

As webmaster for, he received all the emails addressed to that domain. It wasn’t just junk and spam… his inbox was cluttered by some classified information, including the flight plans for George W. Bush on a visit to the region.

When the incoming emails reached 30,000 a day (according to the newspapers) Gary had to admit defeat in the face of US firepower. He closed down his website; Apparently the US authorities were unable to persuade their employees and correspondents to check the email addresses on their correspondence before clicking send. Personally I was quite surprised that the person sending the President’s flight plan didn’t pay a bit of attention to the address field.The thing is, familiarity breeds contempt and it’s all too easy to let your fingers do the thinking as they fly across the keys…

The suffix .com flows so smoothly from your fingertips compared to (try it!).I felt sorry for Gary because I sometimes get the wrong emails. Many of you would have already experienced the problems of having a name that is shared by at least two other people in the organisation. It is very easy to type half the address and to let the automated address book fill in the rest… I sometimes get emails about claims that need settling and I’m sure that poor  Sud in claims gets fed up with IT related matters.

For the last couple of months I have been in the trainee actuaries mailing list for some reason as well. I don’t know if I share a name or part of a name with one of our actuarial team. I’ve been quite interested to read about the varied topics, meetings and presentations that our actuaries attend… Although I would have been more interested in military secrets.