Sunday, 11 June 2006

Force-fed with Ones and Zeroes

Daytime parcels for night time delivery

Earlier in the week, I picked up a parcel notice from my mailbox. I am still surprised that courier and delivery firms have not cottoned on the fact that the working population in the Netherlands would probably not be at home between 9 to 5, at least the morning shift of 9 to 5 rather than the evening shift of 9 to 5.

I am still of the opinion that evening deliveries is a niche business proposition for any business that decides to get into that business. Basically, everyone with a landline which would be linked to an address can register with a simple code indicating they prefer late deliveries for the period between 20:00 to 22:30.

The information is then accessed by the courier/delivery company when a parcel arrives and for every evening delivery request there is aa annual subscription for the search and a charge for the delivery. The money people can sort out the best pricing model.

So, if anything as big as a thimble is addressed to me, I need to find time to go down to the main post/parcel point with my passport and the parcel notice, it cannot fit in my postbox.

Persons Unknown in silly databases

In the Netherlands, you can put two notices on your postbox latch, No to flyers and unsolicited mail and No to trash – a good deal of what I pick up invites my wife for a beauty treatment amongst other things. I have taken the stuff upstairs but I am yet to find my wife – they must know something I don’t – in my conscious life, I have never been married.

So, the day I got a cold call asking to speak to Mrs Yours Truly, I simply told the caller to stop trying to have an affair with my wife and never ever to call this number again. That serves 2 purposes, a salutary warning that would reverberate and the conscious effort to expunge my name from their databases at best or an annotation – crazy man, don’t call him.

Before my visit, I can check on the Internet to see if the parcel is on location or still in some delivery truck doing an Amsterdam tour from a postman’s perspective.

Big Parcel Big Surprise

So, after showing the post counter my parcel notice and passport the postman produced a rather huge box from UPC – my jaw scraped the ground – I stuttered in bewilderment – I never ordered that.

So, the postman said, UPC (the cable company that delivers my cable TV and Internet services) has been delivering digital media boxes to all addresses with the 6-month free offer which switches to an extra EUR 2 thereafter.

However, if I do not want the service they would return the box at no cost to me. Decision time – I agree to take the box, next problem how to ride back home with a box under one of my midget arms.

My television which is just under 10 years old, was purchased in the UK and it does not work in the Netherlands because the PAL system is really an array of subsystems that do not work together – the UK uses PAL I and the Netherlands uses PAL B/G.

I have always needed an intermediate Dutch VCR to convert the signal to one my television could show with picture and sound in sync. There was a time in the 80s when televisions had the ability to decode 7 systems, but we have gone backwards on that advancement.

The UPC MediaBox

Do the first thing I did, not knowing if the UPC MediaBox would do the signal decoding was to remove the cheap Dutch VCR which could not even do Long Play – I could not believe after I got the VCR back home that any VCR could leave a factory in the 21st Century without Long Play – well, you learn.

So, I plug in the Media Box, connect the SCART cables and the RF Input from my cable socket and switch on TV and MediaBox.

All instructions appear in Dutch, I can read more than I have ever been able to speak, so I configured the system which threw up 106 or so channels and a good few radio stations (I eventually found the setting to switch to Engels [English in Dutch]). Within 15 minutes the pictures arrive and now I have to note the new locations of my favourite channels as well as find out about the new ones.

News Overload

As I have often been called a news junkie, I was on the hunt for the additional new channels – now I have BBC World (Balance), CNN (Propaganda), Sky News (General), Fox News (Yankee Tripe), Bloomberg (Staple for Creative Accountants), CNBC (Money talk in strange English) and Al Jazeera (The missing Middle East perspective) – These are my personal views which might not find true with my audience.

Then the Discovery Channel comes in four guises and my TV has been stuck on Discovery Channel – Civilisation feeding my fascination with the Second World War.

It appears you do not have a plasma, high-definition television with ambi-light to go digital – my trusty 28” Sony Television has just had another lease of life as Ones and Zeros get forced down our necks to move us all to Digital Television in the Netherlands.

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