Friday, 26 September 2014

SEOs and Job Hunting v2.0

Just as an immediate follow up. I bothered to put labels against the previous post. Labels and the use of labels is how Google and others grab freely given information and then re-post it in Search Engine Optimisation or Optimised Search Engines.

I put the labels in because when people search those terms for whatever reason this blog will now be in the results, maybe in the millionth position but there all the same. If we were making money or running ads from this site, then labels and Adsense would go hand in hand.

Call it baiting, BT and Barclays and the Jobsites who are so frivulous with your information. A one finger salute, that says, for all your high ideals, your individual parts are human and greedy. And we know you turn a blind eye.

While I'm still be bitter about the abuse the system is open to I do fully understand the diversification that the internet allows, and that should we ever run ads from this site based on the equipment we've used or the places we've been, then we would happily use labels all the time for commercial gain.

Job Hunting

There is a new kind of scam about these days, more of an annoyance than a real problem but still a bit of a bar to finding work.

Imagine, you’re looking for a job back in IT, though it could be any industry. You’ve gone through the official process signed on via (and various agencies) even though you’re not entitled to any money because you have savings and your partner is earning above the threshold the Dole money/job seekers allowance is paid out, to the most discriminated against majority in the UK, those that get the full on slap in the face for all their hard work and contributions for the previous twenty eight years ... the working age white male.

Search Optimised Engines SEOs are clever pieces of software that crawl through the internet picking up morsels of information from cookies and other data that’s been deemed available by you, and from you when you are stupid enough not to read through a websites T&C’s and tick the box that says the website can’t sell your details to all and sundry if you tell them not to. 

So that’s the technology. Effectively a software robot that has many tendrils covered in ears and hands that can wander freely and grab any information specified by the programmer, and the rules as specified by the Data Protection Act and others etc in the world of the legitimate.

None of this of course takes account of the criminal who will steal your information if you leave a window or door open (just like at home), or the unscrupulous and immoral (the accidently on purpose abusers of your details). The chances of you finding which turd leaked your details is difficult if not impossible by dint of the expense of running down the perpetrator. However BT salespersons definitely fall into the category of accidently on purpose, didn’t tick the box when you asked them to, when you ordered your new phone line. Then having righted it once, then accidently forgot to tick the box again `when you asked them to’ when you subsequently upgraded your service. Thus you found that your inbox is filling with junk mail, likewise your letter box, your SMS inbox and the odd random call asking you if you want double glazing, a loan, or to upgrade your BT service to include TV and god knows what else ... Barclays Bank were another bunch who used this tactic, they are no longer my bank. 

You know it was BT because when you go back through the sales people (not the offshored helpline because they will do nothing but annoy you), the sales person will invariably say `Oh it looks like the spare me from the bullshit box wasn’t ticked. I’ve sorted it out. Is there anything else I can do for you today’? `Er no ... fuck off, I’ve wasted enough time on your company already’.

Where the internet is concerned it is even more difficult to protect yourself from this kind of scamming and apart from following links to UNSUBSCRIBE from mail out services you are pretty much buggered and should use a service like identity safe from Norton you keep yourself armoured out in the electrical eather (I may have said this before in another post). 

The sophisticated methods used are beyond the mere mortals ability to comprehend. But imagine if you will, this Search Optimised Engine WebBot; it is a software robot hence Bot it reports back to a server somewhere and you would be hard pressed to find that server. It lives on a server or on multiple servers, distributed so it can rebuild itself if it’s attacked (this is real not a science fiction plot). A server that is one of millions of potential homes in places where data protection laws don’t exist, or maybe more sinisterly exist to allow state sponsored control and spying on their own citizens and others, China for instance. Russia is another, but the issue in Russia is far more towards the criminal activity that old cliché `Cyber Crime’. This said there are plenty of unscrupulous people hosting these evil Webbot/SEO software devices in the United States, Canada and South America and probably in the UK as well.

How does this affect the job seeker? 

When do you post the most detail about yourself online? 

Is it on Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin or any of the other social media platforms? When you sign up for you BT extras, your Mobile Phone add-ons, or when you get your first email account?

No. None of these. They’re all fairly well protected and legislated for in Data Protection (accidently on purpose arseholes aside). And if you’re negligent in maintaining your privacy, or in allowing these companies to share your details with their `preferred partners’, in the main you have only yourself to blame (but of course you can resolve the issue by altering your privacy settings). Even this blog I have set in a moderated mode, anyone can read anywhere, anyone can comment, but as for us the authors, if you contact us, you go through Google ... not direct. When I look at the traffic that scans these pages most of it comes from places where Cyber Crime comes from. Bots out scanning for holes in security, to either rip off the site, or rip off visitors to the site or to spam it with advertising.

The place you place the most information about yourself now is on job sites. You put your CV online, your contact details etc etc etc. You have no choice if you’re applying for a role. 

Again if you look at the top end of recruitment the Hayes, the Ranstads and the Reeds you get a fairly robust security response. When you get to the Fish4Jobs, Monster, Jobserve, things get a little bit loose and you find that even though you’ve said `No I don’t want to receive alerts and emails about specifically tailored products and services from our preferred partners based on the information you have given us’ (I’ve read that stuff a lot lately it’s indelibly etched into my forebrain), that you must have missed something in the process because lo and behold your inbox starts filling up as if a biblical data flood has just tsunami’d over your firewall. And your only choice is to divert the flow to your junk email because you won’t actually be able to track down where your settings on these jobsites contradict your wish `not to be contacted’. You may have been botted read on.

Let’s do some illustrative numbers, the kind of numbers people give up on once they exceed the number of zeros in a Lottery jackpot.

There is a lot of data out there and this is a fairly unscientific approximation. Number of Zetabytes divided by human population. This is 4 Zytabytes, remember a million is only one plus six zeros (the bit in bold italics).
                  5.714.285.714.285: This is 5 trillion 714 billion 285 million 714 thousand 2 hundred and 85 bytes. In a Zetabyte you still have six more zeros to go.

As above very unscientific given that not everyone has a digital life by any means (that actually pushes the numbers per capita up). There is approximately 5.714.285.714.285 bytes of data for every person on the planet. I cribbed this from here: (and it’s quite old relatively speaking).
To put the data explosion in context, consider this. Every minute of every day we create:
- More than 204 million email messages
- Over 2 million Google search queries
-  48 hours of new YouTube videos (Tardis Numbers in 1 minute 48 hours of video is uploaded to Youtube).
- 684,000 bits of content shared on Facebook
- More than 100,000 tweets
- $272,000 spent on e-commerce

Some of this data is rogue, malicious and very cleverly put together. Data has a price, your details have a price and it may be a fraction of a penny, but if you’re selling billions of fractions of pennies, you’re going to make millions of pounds.

So back to our SEO Webbot. You’ve applied for a job through a legitimate portal; Universal Job Match .GOV.UK, or any of the others mentioned above. You’ve spent three maybe four hours filling in a application form, attaching your CV with your home address, Date of birth, email address, the companies you’ve worked for, how long you’ve been at work, your likes and interests, maybe hobbies (I don’t have mine on my CV for this reason). You’re marketing yourself. You’re sending out marketing information about you, and what you want. 

The fact that you’ve just sent an application to a company that only exists on a server somewhere, populated by SEO’s and Webbots, who then match your details with specific products and or services and then sell your details to all and sundry is just hard luck. The fact that some unscrupulous persons have reamed your posted CV and publicly visible details, then written a job description that is almost too good to be true and then posted that job ad with a legitimate looking company logo and details on a legitimate portal, is again hard luck. The fact that you the job seeker have in good faith applied for the role because you’re a dead ringer for it is just tough luck. The fact that literally as soon as you’ve clicked the submit button your email inbox and junk mail box start filling up is also tough luck. 

And here’s the real rub. You have to be so very careful about clicking that UNSUBSCRIBE button. Because likely as not, when you click on the UNSUBSCRIBE button, from your email, you are actually just confirming that there is someone at that mail address. Exactly the same as answering the phone to those marketing phone numbers that are just checking someone is in during the day, so that details can be sold/passed to companies that make marketing calls during the day to premises that are occupied.

It’s a bit daunting. Since I last needed to look for job in 2006, the world has changed. In 2006 Facebook was barely two years old, Youtube was only a year old. Many people still didn’t have technology at home. Tablet type devices were fairly pointless and clunky and required a stylus to do anything. Now that’s all changed technology has proliferated in ways that just twenty years ago no one except the science fiction community could have imagined. In 2006 looking for work on the internet was a painless process. In the six years since then the mess and melee that is the web has exploded, and hidden in plain sight of almost every legitimate service is an SEO or Webbbot listening like spider feeling its web for the vibration of a fly, and rushing and grabbing it ... but instead of killing it or paralysing its prey, it copies it, then lets the original move on freely. The copy though is encapsulated and recopied and devoured by multiple mouths in multiple locations.

So looking for work, no longer just a demoralising drudge post recession when you’re just one of millions looking to get back on the ladder. You’re now prey for internet scammers as well.

I’ll see if I get a response from the UK.GOV universal Jobmatch people, because of all the sites that suffer from this kind of `Spoofing’ they are the worst protected almost unsurprisingly.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Crook Peak Video Walk and Pictures

No words really. We shot some video and stuck it together and now we want to see how it looks on here. This was a recent walk up Crook Peak. Not overly long but quite steep, and perfect for a Saturday afternoon, when all the chores are done at home.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Burnham on Sea the 2nd highest tide

I wrote the previous piece because we took some pictures last night around sunset, and the highest tide of the year, but the piece took on a little life of it's own and I found myself scanning our old pictures, and the words were no longer relevant to the pictures below.
The Marina

It was an odd evening. Now the holiday makers are gone, there is a new evening scene on the prom. There was a fishing competition taking place, an RNLI exercise in Search and Rescue, but mostly there were locals, jogging, dog walking, and bearing witness to the high tide. It as an odd thing to come out for ... though who am I to speak? When I am one of those that would make such a journey just because.

There is a quality, a something indefinable about this tiny town in Somerset, enjoy the pictures.
Clay Pits and saltings
The River Brue sunk under ten metres of salt water


There is something about a midday blue sky that is heartening and mood lifting even if it’s cold and accompanied by a wind like a hammer of ice. There is something magnificent about a mountainous cloudscape marching and churning across your vision, rounded peaks of cloud as tall and taller than mount Everest. Clouds given perspective by the land below that shapes them as much as the wind that eases them through the atmosphere. Giant flat anvils set high above foothills of grey and white fluff, arched over themselves by a cloudscape their own in cirrus.

There is an ethereal beauty in sunrise through the veil of condensate lingering in limbo between the day and the night, waiting for the suns warmth to send it aloft to meet the cloud mountains, and march with them wherever they go. Pale gold and orange light, deepening the blue for a few brief minutes, as the light from the sun rampages, bouncing off any and every surface it strikes in straight lines that regardless of their nature in physics, manage with unerring ease to refract and reflect off any and all surfaces, until the sky above gentles blues and the light shines into all but the deepest north facing crevices.

Our sky wears many faces.

However, there is no sky like a sunset sky. A sunset sky guides the imagination, to nebulas in the deeps of space, to alien worlds lit by dying red giant suns, alien landscapes visualised for us by the sky, showing us fleeting visions of deserts or mountains, seas and hills, cast in every hue of pink, orange, red and gold. Behemoth gas giant aliens, dragons and giant fish with scales of pink silver briefly present their flanks to your eye before morphing and fading with ever changing luminosity from proud leviathans to darkening curtains before the night.

Sunsets that cast the mundane you see every day in rainbows of black through bruise purple, sky blue pink, vermillion and rolled gold, casting water in the role of mirror, confounding and convincing your senses with the thought that there is a mirror world in and of your world right there, right there in front of you, and you can touch it, right up the moment your do and the image recoils in ripples.

Sunset may be may be the most exciting part of any day.

There's a mix here, the first is Burnham on Sea night before last, the second BoS about a fortnight ago, from there we go Coimbra earlier this year, Southwold (2012), Tarragona Christmas 2013, Poblo nu Del Delta New Year 2014, Southend on Sea late summer 2013, Genoa, The Camargue and finally Lisbon and the banks of the Tagus earlier this year.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Somerset Levels

I thought I’d belt out a few words on the subject of the Somerset Levels from a newbie perspective.
They’re awesome.
Dead Grass Snake (first reptile road kill I've ever seen).

That’s it enjoy the pictures.
Hay Collecting (not baling).
 But seriously, they are amazing. I bought the Ordnance survey maps of our immediate vicinity (Explorer series maps 140, 153 and OL9) this includes Weston-Super-Mare, the Quantocks and Exmoor. 

Top Right of tree, that's a Buzzard, they were following the Hay collectors
Two more Buzzards taking off.
Mendips, Crook Peak

The first thing you notice about the levels on a map, is the blue of the Rhynes (ditches and canals). These form (literally) a spiders web pattern across the entire district known as Sedgmoor. They are also the reason the levels are still here. The second thing you notice is the overall absence of contour lines except at the edges and around the once islands of:
  • ·        Brent Knoll

  • ·        Glastonbury Tor

There are a few others but none so immediately recognisable.

At the very edges to the north are the Mendips and to the south the Quantocks, with a slim but substantial ridgway formed by the Polden Hills inland but extending west of Glastonbury sitting between the two major ranges. That sounds like quite a lot of hilly bits. However on paper these lumpen pieces of land sit in seas of white broken only by the blue webwork of Rhynes. The unitary boundaries and works of man in the form of towns, roads and railway (though not much of the last) make up the rest of the usual infill detail. As maps go it’s actually been one of the most difficult to navigate, just because the white is so extensive and the blue of the Rhyne systems so ubiquitous. But once you have your eye in, other features start to resolves themselves. However you can’t be prepared for the scale of the Rhynes and their impact on the landscape. The map gives you the perspective, it lets you see the sheer scale of the endeavour to reclaim the moors and marshes from the 1200’s onwards.
Brickhouse Sluice 
Brickhouse Sluice bottom
New Rhyne at Brickhouse Sluice
The outfall two stage drop
The working parts
Some Rhynes  are little more than ditches ... albeit big ditches. Others like King’s Sedgmoor drain are wider than the rivers Huntspill and Brue someway inland (also worth noting  that the Huntspill is not in anyway following its natural courses for a significant distance, the Brue appears on paper and on the ground to be a little more natural, but extensively managed). The rivers are more akin to navigations like canals, but without locks, just dotted here and there with sluices to control the levels and major sluices at the point where they merge with the River Parret and eventually discharge into the Bristol Channel. You cannot fail to be impressed by the engineering effort, and confounded by the task of maintaining them (see floods a paragraph or so lower).
Crook Peak (we were up top of that on the Saturday)

The Rhynes provide both irrigation and drainage for the land, the entire Levels landscape is more or less manufactured. After 2013 winter rains, clearly there had been failings (that said historically the flooded areas have always flooded right back to the 1200’s and the monasteries, so no surprises that if your home was built in a major flood risk area at some point it’s going to get flooded) Exert from here appended:

Early attempts to control the water levels were possibly made by the Romans, but were not widespread.[13] The Domesday Book recorded that drainage of the higher grounds was under way, although the moors at Wedmoor were said to be useless.[14] In the Middle Ages, the monasteries of Glastonbury, Athelney, andMuchelney were responsible for much of the drainage. In 1129, the Abbot of Glastonbury was recorded as inspecting enclosed land at Lympsham. Efforts to control flooding on the Parrett were recorded around the same date. In 1234, 722 acres (292.2 ha) were reclaimed near Westonzoyland and, from the accounts in the abbey's rent books, this had increased to 972 acres (393 ha) by 1240.[15]
River Bridge (that's its name) over the the River Brue
Facing West.
Facing East

Inland a mile or so, off the beaten track, the land is flat and great for cycling if you’re past your best years of fitness, traffic is minimal as are the actual roads, and you’re never more than a couple of metres from a Rhyne unless you’re standing in the middle of a field, in which case your likely as not surrounded on all sides by a Rhyne.
Indistinct but there is a buzzard in the top of that Hawthorn 
Centre Frame a dear, there were two

River Huntspill
One of many Swallows
Rhyne Maintenance
Glastonbury Tor 
This may be Cripps River
We think Guineafowl oh and Rabbits
So that’s Rhynes and levels first impressions dealt with. I’m not going to say much more except notes under pictures. But to give a flavour of what’s out there, all these pictures were taken on Sunday 7th September 2014 from 11am until around 5pm and we weren’t even trying. We weren’t so far from the beaten track that we couldn’t take two major through roads back home via the Watchfield Inn, in a little under an hour (rough estimate 14 miles over six hours including half an hour in a pub). Now scroll back up the pictures and fit those times and distances to what’s just running around on the levels on any given day twenty minutes down some country lanes.I've not yet mentioned the dragonflies (in squadrons not just the odd one or two here and there), foxes, kestrels and Sedge Warbler, and stuff we just didn't get to ID before it made cover, or the fish in the Rhynes in their hundreds if not thousands and some that were truly impressive in size right on the surface totally un-bothered by our presence. Not a word of Roman salt works, King Arthur, listed monuments or the specific reserves.

We've barely scratched the surface of our doorstep. This blog has sat doing not much for a few weeks, that is about to change.
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