About Mark

Born in Liverpool, England. Now self-employed and living in Stockport.

Too many words!

You know that old demonstration of our everyday mistakes in perception? “Paris in the the spring.” When laid out on the page so that the line breaks after the first three words many readers do not notice the duplicate “the”.

Well I have begun to notice that people are doing a similar thing in speech. It isn’t “the” which gets repeated, but the word “is”. As in

The problem is, is the government has missed its target.


The trouble with that suggestion is, is it’s totally impractical.

Here is an example. In this two minute YouTube clip the speaker does it three times. It’s almost imperceptible, but she definitely slips in a duplicate “is” each time.

Is this new, or have people always done it?

Vehicle tax madness

I just received my vehicle tax reminder. The amount you have to pay depends on how much carbon dioxide (CO2) it emits per kilometre. As my car produces rather a lot, I have to pay a huge amount of vehicle tax.

You might think this is a good idea. Superficially it is. Penalise those who produce the most air pollution and save the planet! However,  Continue reading

RIP Mr Bernicoff

So, Leon Bernicoff has died. Sad news about the Gogglebox star whose guileless personality made him a viewers’ favourite.

I knew him only as Mr Bernicoff when he taught me history. So far as we were concerned, teachers had no first names, homes, or families of their own. As if they existed only during school hours and, like a holographic image from a sci-fi movie, disappeared into the ether at the flick of a switch every afternoon.

Except for a rare few like Mr Bernicoff. His wife June also taught at our school, which felt strange as it kind of broke through the fourth wall. But also you knew where you were with him. He had an openness of character and showed a passion for his vocation.

And though I very rarely need to recall the fact, it’s thanks to Mr Bernicoff I know that Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz introduced movable-type printing to Europe.

Thank you, sir.

Who knew?

I have had my Nokia Lumia 635 mobile phone for two and a half years. Today I discovered a feature quite by chance. If you rotate the calculator to landscape it transforms from a basic versionregular calculator

into a full scientific versionscientific calculatorAt first I was surprised and delighted at this ‘Easter egg’ feature. After a few moments I began to feel more critical of the designers who chose not to make it more obvious that this alternative was available.

Continue reading

Nuke the uke!

I was on my bank’s website today because I needed to query a transaction. In order to help me understand the bank’s process for dealing with disputed transactions I was presented with a choice of guides – either plain text, or a short video.

My mouse hovered over the video start button. In that moment my heart sank, and I realised that I would much prefer not to click, but to read the paragraphs of dull text instead. Because I never want to hear another jolly ukulele background loop in an online video. Ever. Again.

I went ahead and read the guide and sent the transaction query. Then I returned to the page containing the video. And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire.

Apocalypse now

I bought a desk diary today. “That’s a 2018 diary, luvvie!” the cashier warned.

Did she imagine I would get home and slap my forehead in horror as I realised my mistake? Did she picture me returning to Customer Services, receipt in hand to explain that I had of course meant to buy a 2017 diary? In October 2017?

No. After all, she works in a shop that has been pushing tinsel and fairy lights since the beginning of September.

I can only conclude that to her, it’s not too early – it’s just that there’s no point.

Close to the Enemy (2016)

I often find myself watching TV dramas in a state of confusion and puzzlement. “Is he the other guy’s brother?” “Who is she supposed to work for?” “Why did they do that?” “So was that a flashback or a dream?” “Is this set in Denmark or Sweden – or both?”

I usually give up trying to follow convoluted plots and end up just taking in the scenery. A bit like going on one of those hop-on hop-off city bus tours Continue reading

Text message receipts

This is one of those posts which is likely to be old news for most people. However, for the rest, I hope you find it useful. When you send a text message (aka SMS) you can ask for a delivery receipt. Did you know that already? OK then, nothing to see here.

A delivery report is an automatic timestamped message confirming that your text has reached the recipient’s phone. It does not tell you that the message has actually been read.

Depending on your network provider you can either turn this feature on in your phone’s Settings, or you may have to start the body of each message with the three character string *0# (that’s star zero hash). The recipient does not see this string in the message.

You can use delivery reports as an indirect way of learning that someone has arrived safely after a plane journey. Simply send them a message during their flight, and then when they turn on their phone at their destination, you will receive automatic notification.