Jack Walker goes down for one of Scotland’s largest ever frauds

A few years ago I briefly worked at Tribune Risk and Insurance Services just outside Dalkeith. It was only “briefly” because five weeks after I joined, the company was shut down by the Financial Services Authority. Over a hundred people lost their jobs, and more than 40,000 homeowners were left without insurance cover–two weeks before Christmas 2003.

John (Jack) Walker being escorted from the High Court after sentencing.  Image taken from BBC News at  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/6099842.stmWell, it has taken some time to get to this point, but this afternoon the man behind it all, John Kirke (“Jack”) Walker was finally sentenced to 4 years and 10 months in jail for fraud. He pled guilty to the charges in May of this year at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, but Sheriff Kenneth MacIver sent the case to the High Court for sentencing because he felt the five year maximum sentence he had the power to impose was insufficient to punish Walker for the magnitude of his crime.

Jack’s wife Evelyn, who founded the company, stood accused of the same crime along with one of his sons, but the court accepted their not guilty pleas. (How???)

In hindsight, Tribune’s collapse didn’t turn out too badly for me. It gave me the push to start contracting, a move I probably wouldn’t have committed to otherwise, and it’s where I met Alan Ramsay, who has become my arch-nemesis a good friend. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel bitter about it. Convicted criminal Jack Walker (how good it feel to say that–and with no danger of libel, either!) shat all over the people who worked at Tribune, and the tens of thousands of people he duped out of their insurance premiums. It is immensely gratifying to see the Scottish justice system taking a massive dump on him.

Mmmmm, schadenfreude pie.

A slice of schadenfreude pie.  Recipe and photo by John Scalzi.  Image shamelessly lifted from http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004492.html

Gigs on a stick

USB stick (image by Fons Reijsbergen: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/468405)For some time now, it has been technically possible to offer concert-goers the option to buy a CD of a gig almost immediately after it has ended. I wrote about this back in 2003. The technology isn’t particularly widespread, at least partly due to patents and licensing issues surrounding it, but services like Instant Live (part of Live Nation, a spin-off of Clear Channel, who pioneered the technology) and DiscLive show that it’s definitely happening.

It looks like the next leap step for the technology is to sell the concert recording not on CDs, but on a USB stick. From the Barenaked Ladies blog:

These days people need their music fast. Rather than waiting a whole day to download the show from our website, you can now take part in our latest high-tech experiment (no, this doesn’t include lysergic acid or agent orange), by purchasing that evening’s show AT THE SHOW. Just go to the merch booth and ask to buy the USB version of tonight’s show, they’ll sell you a wristband, and at the end of the evening, you can come back to the table and pick up a fresh baked USB stick with that evening’s performance magically embedded in it. And we have t-shirts, too.

Very cool. It’s not quite a download straight onto your iPod, but it’s certainly moving in that direction.

Barenaked denied

Barenaked Ladies Are Me I saw the Barenaked Ladies in concert in Edinburgh back in 2001 on their Maroon tour, just a week before Alex was born. They rocked.

Since then, they’ve been back in the UK twice, in April and November of 2004. I missed the April gigs because their management failed to send out any kind of email notification to their mailing list subscribers that they were playing. I missed them in November because their tour coincided with our trip to California that year.

So, their latest newsletter (dated 19th October, but sent out on the 21st; to be fair, the newsletters are not managed by the band themselves, so they get a bye on this one) drops into my mailbox, and what does it say?

First of all, that tickets for their UK tour went on sale last Monday. To which I say: thanks for the early warning, guys. The newsletters have been pimping their North American tour for months, with special advance booking codes for fan club members, in plenty of time before the tickets actually went up for sale. Not so for the UK. If the BNL were an immediate sell-out band there’d be holes in the ceiling just from where I exploded out of my chair. As it is, I’m just moderately pissed off.

Secondly, the UK tour dates run from Wednesday 28th March 2007 to Tuesday 10th April. With a gig at the Carling Academy in Glasgow on the 8th. Yay!


When were we planning our trip to California next year? (Checks calendar)

No. It can’t be. It just can’t be that I’ll miss the entire UK leg of their first UK tour in three years, can it?


Absorbing the “Second Best” blog

At the end of last year, I created a new blog called “The Second Best Swordsman In Caribastos”. The title is a reference to a quote from the book Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. I had intended to post techie content to that blog, and to keep my main blog here for more personal and irrelevant stuff. Anyone who was interested in the techie stuff could subscribe to the feed over there, and ignore everything else I post here.

The problem is that that’s a false distinction for me. I am fundamentally a techie geek, and my personal life is intricately interwoven with technology, coding, and the web. Having to figure out which of the two blogs a potential entry should go in has on several occasions frozen me into such complete indecision that I ended up not writing anything at all. That’s just not good.

So from now on, the other blog is dead, and its content (what little of it there was) has been absorbed here. There are redirects in place, so any links to the old pages won’t break. At some point in the future I might set up tag-specific feeds here to allow a more filtered view of my brain, but for the moment the you’re just going to have to live with whatever randomness I decide to spout. (Hey, at least I’m not posting cat pictures.)