The mighty Wigan

Wigan continue to defy the odds with their astonishing performance in the Premiership. Today, they scraped a win over Fulham, their sixth win in the last seven games. Now they sit in second place, only nine points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand over both Chelsea and Spurs and Bolton, lying in third and fourth respectively.

Newcastle have drawn them in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. In other circumstances, this would be a good draw, although at the moment, I’m not so sure.

I enjoy my ‘blog. Maybe it’s not prophetic, but it’s a place where I can jot random stuff, about life, things that I see/do etc. I rarely get into personal stuff on it, particularly about family, emotion etc. Suffice to say, things aren’t too great right now. Hopefully things will pick up over the coming months.

Alpe d’Huez

Great stuff! The course for the 2006 Tour de France has been revealed, with Alpe d’Huez returning the day before my birthday. Should be fun!

I quite enjoy the team trial though, which has been removed from next year’s calendar.

Aaron Neville and Rosa Parks

It was sad to read about the death of Rosa Parks yesterday, although she’d had a good innings at 92.

Before Aaron Neville’s tortuous rendition of God Bless America that split the seventh inning of the third game of the World Series, the crowd was asked to pause for a moment’s silence to remember Rosa. I didn’t have a stopwatch, but I would estimate four seconds elapsed before the announcer resumed normality. Not sure if this is the norm in America (as opposed to our minute), but it certainly came across as disrespectful.

The Chicago White Sox are currently leading the Houston Astros two games to 0 (in a series of seven), and are up 5-4 midway through the seventh. Looks like it could be over before the weekend.

Get safe online

Oh good! Another UK government website to add to the 3,500+ already in existence (not an exaggeration): Get Safe Online. Just what the doctor/citizen ordered. For the moment, it’s merely a single inaccessible webpage, but I’m sure that over time, it will become a complete inaccessible site.

How on earth can the government think that adding to the maze that’s already out there is a good idea? Surely it should be consolidating its already diluted government brands, à la Canada. Please, use sub-domains, maximise the power of the brands that are already out there, and stop the madness.

The idea’s not a bad one, but isn’t there some overlap with IT Safe, which I posted about only eight months ago? It’s important that people are informed by a reputable, independent source (government?) about how to operate in the online world, and what to be looking out for. At the moment though, the various parties that are trying to do this are doing so very badly.

Loyalty case study: the coffee cart

Back in the late 1990s, certainly in the UK, there was an obsession among retail outlets over loyalty cards and associated schemes. Working for a Direct Marketing agency at the time, I was involved quite heavily in various such schemes, helping in the launch of the Boots Advantage card.

In essence, instead of promoting loyalty, they merely reward it, the reward usually just about outweighing the effort required to carry the associated card around with you and swipe it whenever necessary. There were news stories at the time about people who carried around a ‘loyalty’ card for every shop under the sun, often carrying competing cards due to their own fickleness.

True loyalty can only be earned, through consistently performing above and beyond the competition on one or more fronts: service, product, environment, convenience and price, arguably with a decreasing ability to engender loyalty as you run through the list.

Whenever I’m working in the Wall Street office, I walk to work. On my route in, I must see about ten coffee carts on Broadway alone. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, this is an example. I stop off at one (the first on the west side of Broadway as you walk south from Cedar Street), for a large coffee, milk no sugar, with the possibility of an accompanying bran muffin, occasionally adorned with raisins.

Every such morning, there is some lighthearted banter between the owner and myself, usually questioning my abstinence from sugar, which seems somewhat bizarre to him. This occupies the estimated 20 seconds between my semi-predictable order (which is already being prepared) and our respective valedictions.

Despite their almost identical menus, some carts (including the one I frequent) have relatively long queues while others are bereft of customers. Although the net benefits are probably wholly intangible, I wouldn’t consider going to another cart of a morning, and I even panicked slightly a few weeks back when his cart had been moved due to longterm construction work – fortunately, he was only a block away.

Loyalty runs much deeper than a card, and is worth so much more than the associated rewards.

Sabbath elevators, Discmans and memory revision

It seems that my most recent additions have been unworthy of comment by the audience, either due to lack of visitors, lack of interest or leaving people with nothing to say: the last comment was a facetious one made by a certain "Al K." on 3 October at 17:27.

A few items of note (at least to me) of late, all of which can neatly be compartmentalised into the "Random thoughts" category.

First of all, I encountered something for the first time yesterday: a Sabbath Elevator. I wasn’t aware of their work, but here’s the deal. They automatically stop on every floor between 4pm Friday and 10pm Saturday to save Jewish occupants from ‘working’ the elevator by pushing the buttons.

On reading the above link, it’s also fascinating to note that the regenerative brake is also deactivated. The regenerative brake basically stores up some of the lost kinetic energy as the lift decelerates. It is disabled as otherwise, the occupants of the lift would be doing ‘useful work’, which contravenes the rules of the Sabbath. I find this sort of stuff fascinating, although some of the workarounds for not doing useful work seem at odds with the essence of the religion (e.g. putting lights on timer-switches).

Last night on the subway, I saw a guy revising from a textbook. His subject of choice: memory. Good luck!

Finally, with the plethora of iPods of various styles adorning every other subway rider at the moment, I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of people with Discmans, which seem oddly retro. I even spotted a girl with a Walkman the other day, too cool for the latest trends.

To PDF or not to PDF

PDF-ing (for that is a verb) a document makes it beautiful. Not only is there something more professional about sending a PDF than the native document, the recipient also gets more than they might otherwise expect, both tangibly and intangibly.

I’m not sure whether printing results in a difference, but the fonts that appear on-screen in a PDF document are much better defined than those of a Word document: it just looks better. Also, file sizes are usually much smaller.

Also, there’s something strangely satisfying about PDF-ing a document (despite the cumbersome way in which you have to ‘print to PDF’), and as a recipient, there’s something heartwarming about knowing that someone made the effort.

Although there are tangible benefits, it’s the intangible stuff that appeals to me more.

For those without Adobe Writer, the freeware CutePDF is allegedly equally as good.

Excel oddities

A nice sub-site dedicated to Excel, which you can’t beat. Particularly quirky is a set of Excel oddities, which are quite interesting. For instance, although 29 February 1900 never existed (1900 not being a leap year), it does in Excel. The claim is that this is a hang-up from a Lotus 1-2-3 oversight, but due to Excel’s compatibility with Lotus (the single biggest reason for Excel’s success in this market), fixing it would have caused more issues than it solved.

So, if you want to find the number of days elapsed between two days, one of which is before March 1900, then make sure you take one off the result, and the WEEKDAY() formula will be a day out for such dates too.

Also, there’s an interesting explanation of the inclusion of the rather odd BAHTTEXT() function that comes standard in Excel. (This converts numbers (e.g. 11) to the word equivalents (e.g. eleven) but the feature is only available in Thai.)

I stumbled upon the site by looking up references to the BAHTTEXT() function midway through reading Spolsky’s latest article, which I’m sure many can relate to.

Minnie Driver

Spotted Minnie Driver earlier today, popping into Han’s, a deli on the west side of Broadway just north of Bleecker. She’s lovely, and very freckly.

Amusing error-handling

On, if you don’t type anything into the text box, and hit ‘Search’, you’re presented with the bog-standard dialogue box reading "Please enter a word to look up".

The URL that results when you successfully search for a word is followed by the word that you’re looking for. This can be handy to know, as the time taken for the homepage to load and the focus to be set to the text box seems inordinate. If you just type in the above URL without a word, then it returns the dictionary definition for ‘nothing’. Probably not in the BRD, but amusing nonetheless.

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