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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

Behind The Scenes: Cards

Posted by Simon Collis on 2018/01/24
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For this one, I asked my other half to give me a key word beginning with C, and she chose “crime”. So that was the title of this story up until the very last minute.

I basically started writing this one and came up with the idea of them exposing a cheat by using exactly the same methods, losing and then explaining why they’d lost. I’m not too sure that that came over entirely, or that the poker scenes worked particularly well (especially as I’ve never really played the game), but the idea was to focus on the interactions between the players. The rest of it was basically winging it by remembering The Sting. Read more

Comments are fixed now

Posted by Simon Collis on 2014/07/30
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Such is the life of the self-hosted WordPress blogger… *sigh*

I was recently having a discussion around the use of Facebook as a tool for recruiting staff. “What a good thing it is,” they said “our friend recently avoided hiring someone who was boasting about stealing cars.”

Er, no. They probably didn’t.

Ok, so half the UK population use Facebook. So given that it’s more prevalent in people of working age (under 13s aren’t even allowed to join, for a start), let’s presume that 75% of people that apply for a job at your company will have a Facebook account.

So… let’s assume this isn’t a fairly common name, then. Take my name, for example. According to howmanyofme.com there isn’t that many in the US. But in the UK? Well, start with Sir Simon – he’s the British Ambassador to Iraq at the moment. (I’m not – don’t send me email applying for diplomatic posts please, I don’t know his email address to forward them.) I also used to know another who was aiming to have every Simon Collis in the world as a Facebook friend (there’s a TV show in that idea, surely?) and he – confusingly – had over 28 friends all called… yeah, you guessed it.

So how can you be sure you’ve got the right one?

Well, you can ask them for their Facebook URL… can’t you?

Er, maybe not.

In fact, checking them out on Facebook might not be a good idea AT ALL. Even if you’ve got the right one, you could still be sued for discrimination.

You see, there’s a few questions you’re not allowed to ask before you hire someone, and those include:

  • What religion do you practice?
  • How old are you?
  • What’s your native language?
  • Do you have kids?

Go look at someone’s Facebook page and see how easy those are to find out. Oh wait – look, there they are – right on the front page.

So if ever you’re taken to court for potential discrimination, and you’ve looked at their Facebook page – you just lost.

If you’re a small business, that sort of case could be terminally damaging. You’re playing Russian Roulette with your livelihood every time you check someone’s Facebook page – providing you even find the right person. (Exercise for the reader: go find me on Facebook. Unless you’re already my Facebook friend, you’ll find the wrong person, I guarantee you.)

So what’s the lesson here?

It’s simple.

Don’t take the risk. While Facebook might seem a nice, easy way of background checking your employees, it’s a timebomb that threatens at least your career, if not your whole business. Don’t do it.


Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/06/14
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Debt can be a tremendously useful thing – I don’t know many people could have bought their own houses or started their own businesses without it – but it can also be a dangerous weapon. The fate of the Greek economy can attest to that.

I have my own personal credit crisis, and I suspect we all do. Basically, despite years of hard work, I’m still living pay cheque to pay cheque. It’s debilitating to realise you’re basically no more than one missed week from economic disaster, but it’s for a good reason – paying down debt. My debt burden has shrunk over the year, but again, not by as much as I would like.

Like all tools, credit needs to be carefully monitored, and spending, like most habits, needs to be watched lest it get out of control, as it so easily can.

The best advice I’ve seen in ages was on the blog Get Rich Slowly, and it counsels that what’s important isn’t so much how you pay off your debt, or what strategy you adopt, but having a system and sticking to it. It’s fine to talk of “consistency” and “finding what works for you”, but the truth is simple – be consistent in what you do and the results pay off.

Good advice for all of life.

Rocking chairs and rocking horses…

Posted by Simon Collis on 2013/03/26
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This is my watch:

My watch

I bought it just after I moved away from York most recently. Its 1970s styling attracted me – every time I looked at it, I felt like Robert Culp in an episode of Columbo, artfully timing things with millisecond precision on one half of a split screen while a jazz soundtrack played in the background. But I digress. It wasn’t an expensive watch, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was something I enjoyed having and wearing. Even when people questioned why I was wearing a watch – my standard answer being that it provides some protection from the random crims who ask the time to see what phone you’ve got in case they want to steal it – it never bothered me. It was always something I did because I liked it. No other reason.

I thought the battery had run out, so took it to a shop to replace it. Alas, it turned out there was nothing wrong with the battery – the mechanism itself had gone. I can replace it – but the price is nearly twice what I paid for the watch in the first place.

Then at work, my iPod random played this song:

I first heard this on the record “A Place In My Heart”. Never having heard any Nana Mouskouri, I saw this in a charity shop and seemed to remember she had been immensely popular and bought it for 50p. Of the songs, none of them were particularly interesting, except this one: “Attic Toys”.

My understanding of the song (and I can’t really make out the words that well – there’s a limit to what a 40 year old vinyl bought from a charity shop can reproduce when digitised and shoved into iTunes) is that it’s a moment in time when a woman goes into her attic, and finds the boxes of toys from her childhood.

All those smiling dolls, they had names once. Personalities. She invited them for tea parties, dressed them, cared for them. Nowadays they sit in rotting cardboard boxes, kept company only by the bugs and the spiders up here in the dust. Do they still have names? Who can remember?

Vanished hopes and disillusions
Peel away the memories like a knife

Like “Whiskey On A Sunday“, this song’s almost unbearable to me. It’ll make me cry nearly every time (I’m crying now and I’m only thinking about it).

I have a “watches graveyard”. Timepieces once worn and loved, batteries ran out, replaced by something “nicer” or “funkier” or “more up to date”.


Not this time.

No more Attic Toys.

Tomorrow, I get it repaired.

I have a nightmare

Posted by Simon Collis on 2012/09/15
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The great Dr Martin Luther King jr had a dream. A glorious, wonderful dream that everyone could share. A world where everybody was equal, where there were no “Jim Crow” laws, where the colour of your skin, the religion you followed, or the standards you believed in didn’t matter. So long as you weren’t doing anyone else down, you were free to live your life the way you wanted to – and to a fair degree, in liberal Central Europe, that dream was fairly well achieved up until the end of the 20th century, and to greater or lesser extents in most areas of the UK and America.

I have a nightmare. That dream is over. We’re heading for a Big Brother the likes of which George Orwell couldn’t even begin to comprehend, and that’s bad enough. But in my nightmare, there’s worse than that coming – so much worse. From hereon in, consider this post not safe for work, or for reading in anything other than the cold light of day. Read more