21 June, 2004: Various

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Right, long time no update, so a couple of inconsequential things to forestall any complaints from my half-dozen readers. Firstly, following on from the launch of They Work For You, here's a silly web application that lets you graph how often certain words or phrases are used by our elected representatives.

It's not clear that this is at all useful but it offers some vaguely interesting insights. For instance, a search for `in the fullness of time' suggests that, per unit MP, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs are slightly more prone to cliché than are Labour MPs (this surprised me quite a lot, actually). Less surprisingly, it turns out that war (red) is more popular than peace (blue):

War and peace

Similarly, MPs find guns (red) much more interesting than butter (blue):

Guns and butter

despite ongoing controversy over the Common Agricultural Policy.

And, if you're in any doubt as to who the real villain is, this plot may answer the question:

Saddam and Osama

And the second thing? Further adventures in the world of British Customer Service. I am trying to get a telephone line installed by BT. Naturally, in this wired internet age, this simple procedure is scheduled to take two weeks. The CIA World Factbook seems no longer to quote the average waiting time for getting a phone line set up in different countries, instead telling me useful factlets such as that Angola has a grand total of seven internet-connected computers, but in any case I'm sure waiting two weeks for a line to be installed puts Britain firmly in the ranks of the TPLACs. Anyway, while trying to get some sense out of BT, I discovered a useful (if trivial) trick, which I pass on for the benefit of anyone else in the unhappy position of trying to get a phone line from them.

I called their `customer service' line, and was asked by the answering machine to type in the telephone number about which I was calling. So I did that (they assign a phone number before the line is connected), and the soothing voice on the other end explained to me that no orders were scheduled for this account, and invited me to press `1' to report a fault. Presumably it meant a fault with the phone line, rather than with BT's ordering system, but in any case dialling `1' just got the response that their `customer service' office was closed. Going back through the procedure, I tried entering my `account number' instead of my phone number but this just caused the thing to tell me that I'd made a mistake. But typing in the phone number of the customer service line immediately got me the response,

Sorry, a technical problem has occurred and you need to speak to a customer advisor.

and put me through to a Real Human Being immediately.

Funny -- I thought I'd need to speak to a customer advisor even in the absence of a technical fault. Oh well....

Copyright (c) 2004 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.