Friday, November 30, 2007

HD/SD what's it all about

Been talking about new tellys what with the HD/ digital buzz and Xmas, trouble is some people still don't understand a) what HD is and b) what size the screen is. I'll start with the second problem first.

Televisions are sold by size, that size being their diagonal length. This is great when comparing two otherwise identical televisions, not so great when comparing standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) because they use different screen ratios.

For an SD set the ratio is 4:3 that means for every 4 inches (or centimetres, or feet, or microns, or...) of horizontal length you get 3 inches (or...) vertically. For HD the ratio is normally 16:9 and no that's not the same as 4:3 remember you need to divide each side by the same number.

So let's take a 32" television and determine the screen height and width for both SD and HD. Using good old Pythagoras a2+b2=c2 this is easy (for a given value of easy).

For an SD set it turns out to be the square root of the diagonal squared divided by 25, that is then multiplied by either 4 or 3 depending on whether you want horizontal or vertical length. For HD it's the square root of the diagonal squared divided by 337, that is then multiplied by either 16 or 9

For Excel users that's =SQRT(POWER(diagonal,2)/number))*height or width. So to find the width of our 32" SD telly =SQRT(POWER(32,2)/25))*4 for HD =SQRT(POWER(32,2)/337))*16 for heights substitute 3 and 9 for 4 and 16.

So a 32" television screen will be 25.6" wide by 19.2" high or 27.9" wide by 15.7" high for SD and HD respectively. If you wanted an HD screen with the same height as your old 32" SD you'd need to buy a 40".

It's important to note that's the raw screen size it doesn't include the bevel around it.

Next problem - what is this HD anyway? High definition by itself refers to the number of display lines on the television, just to confuse matters each 'size' also comes in one of two different types.

Like the diagonal size of the television the display lines is sold using one value, that being the number of horizontal lines the screen can display. The minimum allowed to be called HD is 720, the maximum currently broadcast is 1080*. Again, like the diagonal, knowing this number allows to calculate how many vertical lines we should have. Using our 16:9 ratio we divide the number by 9 and multiply by 16 (Excel =(lines/9)*16).

So for a 720 HD set we should have 1280 vertical lines, in the technical bumpf this will show as 1280x720, for a 1080 HD set it's 1920. If the number is less then this then you won't get a pixel-to-pixel match and the television will essentially have to guess which pixel to show - this is normally bad. If you have more then you may reap the benefit of something called over-scanning - this is normally good.

After the number you'll see a letter either an "i" or a "p" they stand for interlaced and progressive. Interlaced means the television draws every other line in one 'beat' then goes back and fills in the others in another 'beat'. For progressive all lines are filled in at once and normally results in a smoother moving picture. In other words "p" is better then "i".

Anything you display will be scaled up or down according to the televisions abilities, a 1080p broadcast will display on a 720i television although obviously not as well as on a 1080p television. This is just like the current widescreen (16:9) broadcasts on an SD (4:3) television but without the black borders

[Update - It's been pointed out to me that this isn't necessarily true a pure 1080i/p signal may not be downscaled to a 720i/p screen it's up to whatever's broadcasting the signal to downscale it]

Finally we get to the connector. Due to various copyright and blah you'll only get HD signals through an HDMI connector. If you've got an HD broadcast unit (Blu-ray player HD-DVD player etc.) and you're hooked up to an HD television with a SCART lead you are not getting an HD picture and you should go and buy a cable immediately.

An HD-Ready television has to have a minimum of 720i (but watch those vertical lines) and an HDMI connector, there also appears to be a spec around called Full-HD which is the same but with a minimum of 1080i (again watch those verticals).

In next week's issue LCDs vs Plasmas (vs CRTs) :-P

*in techie-talk seven-twenty and ten-eighty

Reply to the comment on Reply to Tesco comment

Again another comment that requires greater space this time from Don (heh title going in circles)

If there is not a Pelican crossing no pedestrian will be able to get across Mitton Street at all.
They can cross at either of the two dedicated points at each end of Mitton Street, traffic permitting. From the Tesco point of view it's not their problem. They've provided a link from Pinta Drive and for people to get across Severn Road safely, that's all they have to do.
If there is no air quality assessment report for Mitton Street and the effect of the additional traffic on Gilgal and Mitton Street I would say that Tescos Environmental Report has not addressed a major issue and therefore the submission is still defective and should be rejected by the planning committee on those grounds alone.
The AQA for the previous application did deal with Mitton Street and I've just checked they're using the same report for the new proposal here

"The predicted concentrations indicate that the effect of the development on local air quality is negligible and therefore a low priority consideration."

The environmental report is here oh and their numbering system is wrong add 4 for absolute pages or 3 to their own page numbers.

The Noise section is on page 92 (really 96 or 95) no measurements were taken on Mitton Street at all so you may be on to something here after all there are houses on Mitton Street too though they have 'estimated' levels.

With regard to Discovery Way "In these circumstances the superstore delivery vehicles would constitute a new noise source and represent a significant change in the noise climate. However, delivery vehicles to the proposed superstore are expected to constitute a relatively small proportion of the total HGV traffic along this road." and regarding customer cars for the same location "As in the case of HGV movements only a small proportion of these additional vehicles will be visiting the development, most are the result of the presence of the link road."

In other words they're saying there will be a change in noise, but we're not expecting many of our HGV's to be using it, likewise we're not expecting a large amount of our cars to be using it. If other cars use the link for purposes other then visiting our "development" that's not our concern. In case that wasn't clear "The vast majority of additional traffic on both Severn Road and Discovery Way is not attributable to customers visiting the new superstore." Nothing to do with us guv' 'sup to the council to stop other people using it.

The overall assessment on traffic was that in the already noisy areas you wouldn't notice much difference, but in the currently quieter areas you probably would. Makes you wonder how much they paid for this report.

Just to make this clear all the data here is identical to the data presented in the previous application down to the car-park noise assessment carried out in Hampshire.

Oh and just for fun the AQA is repeated in this document too.

I'm still ploughing through it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jericho PS3 Demo review

I could get all tedious with the back-story, but as it's never brought up in the demo I'll take my cue from that.

So let's start with key mappings, your weapons are on the second tier R2 and L2 buttons while 'powers' are on the first tier R1/L1. Now seeing as the first tier buttons are the ones you instinctively go for suggests that you should be using powers more then weapons; this would be great if said powers didn't conk out and need time to recharge each time they're used. As it is I ended up seeing an enemy and using a completely pointless power rather then shoot them in the head.

The O button is melee and annoyingly I got a on-screen prompt to use it every time an enemy came into that range until I did or they step away (which they do). Sadly melee effects are great when they connect - most of the time they didn't seem to.

More troubling is the multi-mapped X button. In your first body (It'll make sense in a minute) pressing X heals anyone next to you that needs healing, except if they don't need healing. Then its function is to switch you to that person's body. So trying to use a skill could just mean switching players - not good in the heat of battle.

Anyway once you've tried to get used to the annoying key mappings you can try and enjoy the game. Graphically it's pretty (in a Clive Barker goreish sort of way), but the demo was very linear funnelling you through a cave/tunnel complex while throwing enemies at you. At one point facing a door you're prompted to switch to and use another character's climbing skill splitting the party. For the duration of the climb this also takes away in-game control away from you, something a game should never do

Later on with this same character you fall down a shaft with something unpleasant coming down after you, great a press the keys as they appear game. Okay like Sly Cooper at least the keys appear in their correct relative positions on the screen so you won't mistake a red square for a slightly-not-red circle, but the speed is scary and in the demo unannounced. In this instance you finish only to wonder what just happened, yep just like every other on-screen follow the buttons extravaganza you're too busy watching for the keys to be able to pay attention to what the result of them is.

[Additional - I forgot to mention the in-game chatting between the characters got annoying too and this was just with the short demo]

With the manual, with extra non-linear levels, with a better key map and without the follow-my-lead this game might be worth getting; on the basis of the demo though - no way

Verdict - Pretty, linear, annoying.

Reply to Tesco comment

An anonymous comment on my Look Mom we're on the telly entry requires a lengthier reply then I'd want to put in the comment section.

If this does go ahead no shopping will be done in the centre of town,because dispite the councillers saying ppl will go to the new tescos then walk to the town thats just bullshit tbh.They wont at all they will do one lot of shopping at tesco get in their car and go home.
Supposedly this is what the links are supposed to assist in. It'll provide a better pedestrian route into town for the two new housing developments to encourage them to shop in town. Pointing out the length of said walk and that they've a one-stop Tesco on their doorstep doesn't seem to make an impression on some people.
Gigal/Mitton Street/Severn road will all have pedestrian crossings on yes sur they will,but ppl wnt be using them.The biggest problem will be the traffic lights that will be put on Mitton Street and Severn Road,these will not help the flow of traffic,they will just continue to hinder the already overflowing horse and cart roads.Lichfield Street will be one way ONLY and that will mean that EVERY single peice of traffic will have to go Mitton Street.
Okay there's been mixed speculation about what is actually happening here, the plans show a split crossing at the mouth of Severn Road, and a single crossing at the other (Lichfield Street) side. The nature of these crossings is indeterminate, they may be similar to the current Gilgal/Mitton Street crossing points. (I'm ignoring speculation about a Pelican on Vale Road here)

The difficulty arises under two circumstances - Firstly the only crossing points on Mitton Street are at either end, whereas the Tesco main entrance is half-way along it. Try to walk on the 'correct' side of Mitton Street from Gilgal and the pavement vanishes as you get to Stour Lane. So either you're walking on the road with your back to the traffic or you're trying to cross the road there (or back at the crossing) with the intention of crossing back over a little later on (or walk up to the other crossing then all the way back down).

The second problem is the nature of the pavements themselves on Mitton Street, the best and widest pavement is the one opposite the Tesco site. It's been commented elsewhere about Tesco's naive idea to widen the pavement by narrowing Mitton Street which prompted much laughter.

This means the two main pedestrian routes (ignoring the long-winded river walk) are Lichfield Street and the Pinta Way Stour crossing, with only one of those actually leading into town.

So naff pedestrian routes into town mean everyone either stopping at the Tesco or driving to it and then turning around and going home.

Oh and yes there has been talk about turning Lichfield Street one-way (which let's face it, it is too damn narrow) except no-one seems to know which way to set it.
Oh and the clever asses at district council that turned down our idea to have a separate road for tescos lorries and petrol tankers to at least attempt to take some of the extra HGvs off our roads should be ashamed of themselves.
Hmm where would this road go? IIRC Tesco have already said they weren't going to use the extended Discovery Road for their lorries so that leaves Severn Road, which used to cope with the carpet factory deliveries before.
Once again they dont give a damn about residents are saying,they only care how much they can make for themselves in taxes and ahem other deals....
Well you might say that I couldn't possibly comment. I will point out that the residents' meeting did have at least one council member, though due to the rules he wouldn't have been able to comment directly either.

Another one tonight at 8pm Old Rose and Crown, Worcester Road; handy for the locals.
And the new Lichfield basin when we are here,what a joke,this is suppost to help tourism, exactly ? Can Stourport forward kindly explain how 140+ houses will bring ppl to Stourport ?
I don't think it's a tourism thing more a new home thing, the Midlands is supposed to provide X amount of new homes under the government's initiative and it's better then building on a green belt. Haven't seen any prices yet so locals may well find themselves priced out and the houses being bought as holiday homes.
Local and district council are showing themselves to be just as useless as Mr Brown and his muppets in goverment...
In some respects their hands are tied. As I've said they can only turn them down for official planning reasons "We (the people) don't want it here" isn't a reason they can use.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Look Mom we're on the telly

Stouport on the TV last night. Central Tonight had a feature as part of the destruction of the generic High Street. I actually got a heads-up on this from a source I won't name at this moment.

The direct link is here though it doesn't want to work in my copy of Firefox. You'll get an advert followed by the news, the report starts at 04:00-06:45 with a teaser at 00:45

There's a few interviews Cllr Jim Perry standing next to the Swan (05:00) and Cllr. Stephen Clee (05:54) outside Kiddy town hall.

As Cllr Clee states there is an overall plan, which is good especially compared to the mess that is Weavers Wharf; except it doesn't quite add up.

We get the Basin Link from Bridge Street across to the new development. Except it's really a link from the Houses behind York Street to Bridge Street, you've still got the basin in the way. So down to Engine Lane (or up to York Street which is just cutting off the corner) and along that, then down the already existing path along the river to Mart Lane or you carry on along the river to Severnside and on to the Severn Road you then walk back up that way to get to the proposed supermarket.
Green shows the existing stores, blue the new/proposed houses, yellow the proposed Tesco, and red a possible route from Bridge Street down. The top block in green is the Co-op, Lidl and existing Tesco, for anyone pointing out that the distance from this point to the proposed Tesco isn't that great I'll counter with "You've never walked down Mitton Street have you?"

It's a trek, moreover from the town it's a trek with only a single destination in mind; there are no shops along the river-side path or basin so you're only purpose in using it would be to get to Tesco. From the other side with the housing developments it does indeed provide a nice link into Bridge Street, but why bother when you've a Tesco on your doorstep?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yippee more roadworks

Oh joy Balfour Beatty presumably on behalf of Severn Trent have set up signs on the Dunley Road next to the Walshes Meadow warning of traffic lights.Warning signs also seem to have been put up down The Rough and Arley Lane suggesting extent (no signs coming into Stourport yet though).

Now we've had no warning notices about lights on the main road, and it doesn't feature on the weekly roadwork list, the lane closures list nor the road closures list. There is however one entry on the traffic light application sheet (which you'll note is under a completely different tree to the first list) here we have Arley Lane on the Dunley Road from today (27th) until tomorrow.

So it appears to just be Arley Lane... so why signs on The Rough?

Well I'll see this afternoon.

[Update - And then there was nothing. All the signs and vans have gone - which is nice]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tesco quickie

Jim's just pointed this to me. here at the Worcester News.

Stourport Christmas Lights switch on.

As per usual with my impeccable timing I got to the bridge just as the Police stopped the traffic, thus the walkers had just started off by the time I reached the other end. Again as per usual there was one car at rest sitting on the bridge, the police still have to learn that when one end is reported as shut-off this is not the cue to start the procession as there are still some cars coming over.

Looks like we had the Monday Night Group out, a kids procession, the illuminated train and Santa, oh yeah and the dignitaries. Up Bridge Street, Up High Street turn into Lion Hill where they stopped and waited for the held-up traffic to go through. Again look you've got people blocking the entrance to Lion Hill and the Lichfield street exit, just stop the traffic there. Sure it'll build up, but does letting the traffic build up there and in York Street really ease anything; especially with crowded pavements? Just clear the entire route prior to the procession instead of this piecemeal rubbish.

Okay enough bad-mouthing; the lights looked the same as last year, but I don't know somehow seemed nicer, all the kiddies were wearing silver stars and looked adorable. The younger ones were on the train, which is nice until you realise that their parents were walking alongside in standard bodyguard manner meaning no-one could see the train (and presumably the kids couldn't see out); doubly -annoying when you realise the Queen etc. were at the front of said train obscured by the crowd. Saying that though the Princess spotted me (or at least my camera) said something to the Queen who turned and gave me a grin and a wave.

York Street, New Street onto the Civic Centre where everyone fussed about a bit as all the important people went inside to get warm. The fair on Raven Street car-park was the same as last year although I think the grill-walled trampoline was new.

Everyone was exhorted to gather in the car-park, which looked about the same numbers as last year so pretty good. I, knowing better, headed for higher ground at the back passing behind what appeared to be an OB unit who had stole the best position. I managed to get between a low stone wall and the metal fencing, which gave me steady perch for the camera.

See this is the problem, I can get nearer, but you're peering up at the balcony getting up-nose shots. Step back and most of the flash concentrates on all the people standing and walking in-front of you. Go back and the flash doesn't reach and you need a zoom and steady position. so the only real option is to go even further back and gain height as well as stability. The wall turned out to be no use showing up in the shot, but the metal posts were ideal despite the odd protracted thumping as someone got bored. Amazingly I got some good blur-free shots (uploading as per).

[Update - Photos on Flickr in the Three Kings Set starting with this one and videos should be up here]

Our celebrity host Mike George of, what I've been told, radio fame was good if not spectacular and at least this year when the lights went on you could actually tell.

A shout-out to Tony who, after the crowds starting to fade, I spotted packing a camera with a gigant of a lens so I strolled over as I slung mine and asked if he'd got any good shots. He found, as I had done, the lights levels didn't help and we got chatting about this that and the other. Hopefully he'll be looking up Flickr and may be posting some of his shots there and letting me know here oh and for him if he's reading Suzie's site with the mushrooms is here.

Fireworks at half-eight and to be blunt I couldn't be bothered, besides it was really damn cold, so I headed back.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Curry's taking the WEEE

Yep Curry's are at it again with their adverts - for goods over some price they're offering delivery and they'll pick up your old appliance and packaging and recycle all for free. Wow how damn magnanimous of them.

As I've mentioned here this isn't the first time they've tried to pull this one. So once again I'd like to point out that I don't know of any major (heck even minor) electrical store that doesn't delivery large goods for free and once again that the recycling bit is something they have to finance by law.

Curry's - offering you what everyone else does and what they're obligated to do by law.

Sweet Dreams are made of this

Good old Simpsons always good, sometimes great. Last night's season 13 episode on Channel 4 still has me chuckling. Marge is having problems with Homer's snoring and via various routes this leads her to her original prom date Artie Ziff now a millionaire.

Anyway the bit that has me chuckling occurs at the end Homer is trying out Artie's new invention a snore translator, which resembles a gas mask. He starts to snore and Marge reaches over and flips the switch to on and music starts to play. The camera cuts to a shot of a Ziff logo emblazoned tube lying on Homer's stomach while Marge sleeps contentedly in the background to the electronic styles of Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics when Artie breaks in over the top -

"Dump him Marge he's a loser [starts singing] I've travelled the world and the seven seas, I am watching you through a camera"

At which point her eyes snap open. Sheer genius.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

High School level?

A slight bruise to the ego when I checked out The Blog Readability Level* and came out as High School; especially when Obsolete pegs at Genius. Ah well I'll just hang out with genius and hope some of it rubs off.

Fun to go through my list on the left though.

*Nod to What Ever It Is I'm Against It

Government dinosaurs of IT

Just to prove we haven't all contracted football-blindness we (the country) have had some more information regarding the misplacing of data by the HMRC.

First off the data was being sent to the National Audit Office, doing so physically rather then electronically suggests a) the systems are set up so that they won't talk to each other, or b) nobody knew how to do that. So either we have government departments who can't talk to each other or don't know how to; though I'm more along the lines of thinking both.

The NAO didn't want all the information that was sent, but it would have been "difficult" to extract only that information from the full database and therefore "expensive". So instead they gave them the lot. So we have a) a possible breach of the Data Protection Act and b) a database that can't export selective data or c) staff that don't know how to extract selective data. Again show of hands for a combination of all three.

Next we appear to have a junior minister (member, official; oh now I'm confused) with full access and full export capabilities. Now it may well have been said minister (member, official, work experience guy) merely instructed someone else to do it. Though that would just leave someone with full access control not questioning the need to export the full database, no way an IT professional; so that just pushes the question down a level. No-one needs full access to the database except under exceptional conditions.

We're now told that the decision to use the unregistered unmonitored post was made by a senior minister (member, official, visiting space alien). Do senior ministers (members, officials, immigrant cleaners) normally deal with these matters? Was it an off-cuff answer to "I've got the NAO data shall I stick it in the post?"

We still don't know what the data was exported to, as already mentioned by myself accounts data is normally internally encrypted except when you export it to another program; then you have to rely on that programs security. As septicisle states in a comment we also don't know at what level it was protected at.

All-in-all not good. We're supposed to be an information-savvy country leaving behind our industrial roots and heading into digital pastures and yet it appears we have a government that runs the same level of security as the average home user and doesn't even realise it - until something goes wrong.

Keeping things in perspective

A deflated England football on the front page of the Sun and how this marks the end of England as a world power. They're right all across the world people are turning to one another and saying "You know I used to think of England as a world power, but since they failed to qualify in the European League I don't know anymore". Reports are in that Iraqis are calling our troops losers and newspapers headlines read "How can you bring stability here when you can't even win a football match?" and the Falkland Islands are in talks with Argentina about switching nationality out of sheer embarrassment.

Talks about trying the manager for treason are afoot, with one person mentioning that he shouldn't get a trial just be put up against a wall and shot - the people have spoken. The Express wonders if we lost as the players were thinking about Madeleine too much, and the Mail produces a nice graph showing football losses plotted against house prices.*

In fact the only celebrations going on are in Number 10 where Brown and Darling are raising a glass to "New headlines".

You know a cynic might wonder if the news of HMRC misplacing the personal data of millions of people was timed to coincide with the qualifying match. After all if we'd won the papers would be full of praise for our boys, if (when) we lost they'd be full of bile. In either case data loss would not be on the front page not today, not tomorrow and I doubt over the weekend; by which time it might have all be forgotten.

It's football, in the greater scheme of things it doesn't even register. But no dump the scandal of a government department failing in basic security measures and plaster pictures of overpaid 'stars' on the front page (and inside pages) instead. Gods we get what we deserve don't we?

*For the humour impaired I'm joking (apart from the Sun), as was the 'put against a wall" person; sadly I'm sure there are those out there who wouldn't be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dig up the road and create your own pothole

Amazing they close the Stour bridge for one Saturday evening, dig out a square and already it's turned into a full-blown pothole. Yep all that nasty rain and bit of snow seems to have taken off the obviously insubstantial top coat and then scooped out the inside. Well I could ring up, but hey the Worcestershire Hub has an online pothole reporting service which I've already discussed here.

Sadly it hasn't changed, it's still telling me that only holes 200mm diameter by 40mm are 'worthy' of reporting. It still asks for a detailed description of the hole with an example showing sizes (in cm) while on the previous page warning me not to try and measure it and yes it still uses user fields for status updates. Ah well at least providing personal information isn't mandatory.

The downside is they'll need to shut down that side of the bridge to fix it, of course they wouldn't have to if these utility companies would actually do their jobs properly in the first place.

[Update 22/11 - I've just been told traffic lights have been set-up and they're fixing it now. Genuine applause for doing it after the morning rush]

[Update 22/11 - So what were they doing because fixing it was not one of those things. Inspection team?]

[Update 23/11 - It's been patched and I use the term in the pejorative, it's already slightly concave]

Yet another security lapse

And so Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (am I the only one who thinks that should have been the other way around?) has lost data on every person receiving child benefits, that's names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account details. Of course they haven't lost it per se, they've still got the data what they've lost is a copy that was burned to two CDs and sent in the unregistered unmonitored internal mail between two buildings.

My first thought was "So what?" even if someone did pick up the discs the data is encrypted, except every time it got mentioned it was in connection with 'password-protected' which may be worrying. I need to expound.

Both encryption and password protection can mean the same thing, the data (information) is jumbled up according to a formula; except when talking passwords the key to that formula is normally short and with 'encryption' the password is long. Secondly with passwords the key is confined to a subset of characters normally alphanumeric.

So if we say 26 letters upper or lower case plus 10 numbers we're looking at 62 possibilities per 'letter', for an 8 length password that's 628 or 218,340,105,584,896 combinations. If it's a word that follows rules (like u follows q) then that number drops. With computer encryption we're talking of a possible 128 length (or more) key made up of 0 or 1's so that's 2128 or 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possibilities. A bit of a difference.

It gets better, if the software is written correctly then it can use a 128-length key based on say the registration details of the software, which means that all computers using that software with that registration can read the data*, which when exported for some reason is encrypted again using a password encryption.

Cracking the password simply results in a string of data that looks the same as another string of data using the wrong password. In other words each time you test a password you need to then parse the data through the software running with the same registration key, which you also don't know. The phrase time-consuming comes to mind.

So to be blunt I don't mind too much if this information has ended up in the hands of criminals if it's been afforded the same levels of protection as any big business would take. Now if it's been exported to a certain popular spreadsheet program and then simply password-protected I expect it'd break in less than a day, but our government wouldn't buy a program that'd allow that; would they?

[Update - Something I failed to mention was the underlying need to both burn this data and that apparently a junior minister had access to the entire database. The first is simple when you consider each department as its own fiefdom with little cooperation between them, the second just points out poor security measures internally.]

*For those curious as to why you'd encrypt the data internally, well except to prevent on-site theft it also needs backing-up. Now do you want your IT department to have access to the payroll and accounts system data?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just traffic

Well the paucity of traffic yesterday morning was made up for last night when I joined the unmoving queue in Worcester Road. I ended up turning around and heading through the Holts; always a joy driving down the unlit narrow twisting roads especially when it's drizzling and the road is wet. I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the car behind me who took exception to my driving at 30mph (and sometimes a little slower) in a 30mph limit during such conditions and sat on my bumper for most of the trip.

So accident, roadworks, alien invasion; nope just SVOT - Sheer Volume Of Traffic. The as per usual confluence of two major roads at an island, combined with a merger system that only works when there's not much traffic using it, and a set of traffic lights that (almost) never allow a lane to clear. All good fun, which of course will get better this Friday night when we have the Three Kings parade through town at 6pm.

Always good to hold up the traffic when everyone's trying to get home from work, especially with the extra traffic generated from the Black Bridge roadworks. Sprinkle in the crowds using the roads as pavements long after the procession has passed and a good time is had by all - unless you're driving through it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A nice weekend

A pleasant surprise from Sainsbury's for my birthday, a voucher for a box of 12 Green & Black miniature bars worth £4.99, well £3.99 as they were on special offer. There followed another voucher as an apology for a distribution failure meaning I might not have been able to pick up what I wanted, so a pack of mince pies too.

Had the Bratii over yesterday. Seeing as I've yet to get a second controller for the 3 I hooked up my PS2 instead along with the light guns. I wanted to run a Gunslinger game, but it kept giving a Disc Read Error - yep a damn blue disc. I don't know why, but the blue discs seem to cop out quicker then the silver. Anyway a good dose of Time Crisis 2 and 3 was fun except I'd forgotten that on two player mode the screen is split in half (you share one in training mode) so you can barely see what's happening on a standard sized screen. Bratus Major had fun, Bratus Minor had fun although for the most part he wasn't even aiming at the TV and kept getting killed. Some sore fingers indicated the need for a rest.

Then in went a Sonic collection which I knew they'd played in its MegaDrive version, Major instantly went to the ones he hadn't seen especially um Dr Robotniks Mean Bean Machine (or some such) a puzzle bobble, tetris type game. Major skipped the instructions and set himself to Easy, I set Minor to Easiest (nice touch being able to do that) - Minor won and Major complained and reset the machine. Major on Easy, Minor on Easy - Minor kicked his arse 600-200. Major complained he didn't know what the controls were having skipped them twice, wasn't pleased when I pointed out that neither did Minor. Out came Sonic in went Gauntlet.

I wanted them to play the first one which was a direct port of the PS1 version, dead-simple, but the later one went in, which was a tad more complicated. Major chose the Elf as he had a cool glowing purple sword, I picked a Warrior for Minor and off they went. I gave some pointers and helped Minor on the bosses. Despite being in the lead in terms of gold and levels Major complained that he wanted to be a Warrior, of course Minor started that he wanted to be a Warrior too. Major logged out and in again as a Warrior played for a bit then reset the system. I called a break for food.

Minor decided he wanted to be a Wizard, Major ended up as a Valkyrie. I left them to it.

Their parents returned, I showed off my PS3 and we talked about the Wii with me mentioning Minor's current inability to aim at the screen. Not having a PS2 the new PS3 looked tempting, but the Wii had the edge if you can get one from anywhere. The Bratii managed to defeat the first boss, but Major had got himself killed and Minor was refusing to go to a check point to reincarnate him and was having too much fun bashing an infinite stream of enemies. Much sulking. Minor moves on and Major comes back in to finish the level at which point they can all leave.

They had fun, and polished their console skills all that eye-hand coordination. All-in-all a good day.

Accuracy matters

Chocking through some back issues of Computing I was amused to come across a story featuring Dr Phillip Tann who was booked by Sunderland police for doing 42mph in a 30mph, by sheer coincidence (and luck on his part) Dr Tann was testing a piece of equipment that measures exact locations and speed to a high degree of accuracy. When I say high the case was dropped when he revealed he was travelling at 29.177196 mph a reading accurate to within a tenth of a millimetre per hour. Bit of a difference from 42mph eh?

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Devil's Kitchen: Drinking, charities and state-funded corruption

I made a small comment over on Devil's Kitchen which upon re-reading needs expansion.

The BBC has reported that the Health Alcohol Alliance (which is really the Alcohol Health Alliance UK ) is muttering about alcohol blah blah. Okay no interest in that, what I am interested in is the graph used to show risks

Now this should be easy, you have one set of lines going upwards (A) and one set (B) holding steady. So only two* possible conclusions can be drawn here, either B has a cumulative effect on A (think pesticide-use against birth defects), or B has no affect on A. As we're measuring prices here and not dealing with cumulative events we plump for choice two. Except they're trying to show there is a relation, how?

Check the small print at the bottom

Cost of beer/wine has remained relatively constant since 1996, but in reality has become more affordable as income has increased.
Ah so line B is really declining; so why don't you show this? It's easy enough, you take the CPI (Consumer Price Index) for alcohol, start with a base and compare the two. Okay a teeny bit of maths now.

If I say the price of a 'lump' of alcohol in 2005 was £3 what should it have been in 1996 in real terms? Using CPI I get a figure of £2.20. So if the actual price was lower then alcohol has increased in price, if it's higher then the price has decreased. We can plot another imaginary line on the graph (C) real cost starting with £2.20 in 1996 and heading to £3 in 2005 with all the points in-between. With that we can draw one final imaginary line which is the difference between B and C. If the actual price is steady and the real-price is inclining then the difference is declining i.e. alcohol really is getting cheaper.

So here's the question - if you want to show a relationship between something increasing as something decreases which line would you use, the steady actual price or the declining difference in price?

So why do they use the steady actual price? Well only two possibilities spring to mind 1) the difference in price is so minor that it's better just to say the price declines without showing it or 2) they don't know about CPI or how to calculate it. In either case why should we be using this graph?

*okay three possibilities the third being you're comparing apples to oranges and shouldn't have these two items on the same graph at all

Just some stuff

A reminder of prior commitments meant my being unable to attend last night's meeting; also meant me forgetting to record the first episode of the new series of "Never Mind the Buzzcocks", ah well I'll catch the repeat on BBC2 later, oh BBC3 then...BBC4? Oh you're kidding me, I thought the BBC were planning on showing more repeats, bloody typical.

Oh well it's Children In Need tonight. On one hand Annie Lennox is performing, on the other so are the newsreaders doing their 'we're serious, but we too can act silly in a good cause'; on one hand we've the two Doctors, on the other the Spice Girls and John Barrowman singing; to top it all the co-host is Fearne Cotton - she's a wild child sexy photoshoot and interview where she said she liked sex and she's got a tattoo on her ankle and everything - woah slow down girl.

Speaking of singing the bloke who ended up as Joseph in the musical (and whose name I can't even be bothered to look up) has an album out just in time for Xmas. The advert starts off with a song that makes me think of furniture sales and Morrison's - it's that mediocre type; of course he shows his bad boy side with "Paint it Black" with him standing there all dark and moody. Trouble is he looks more like a dark and moody puppy, I can imagine a certain age of lady chucking him under the chin with a 'Is oo a naughty boy, is oo, is oo?' Three songs shown, I'm pretty certain they're all covers.

GMTV did its bit for the paranormal with the CCTV footage of the haunted filling station. One women saw it over by the "propane things" I wonder how silly she'll feel once it turns out to be an insect on the camera. One bloke mentioned that the area was supposed to be "an Indian burial ground"; What is this some sort of residual cultural guilt? Everytime something spooky seems to happen in America up pops someone mentioning Indian burial grounds; and hey it's Native American burial grounds thank-you very much. It's a bloody filling station, even if you did believe in this sort of thing I'm sure there have been enough shootings etc. around without graveyard even needing to be mentioned. No doubt a Shaman will be bussed in from a reservation to calm the spirit; if so and if I were him I'd take the money and then be urging the spirit to go on a rampage, wake up any others around, and 'get whitie'.

Hit me with a 419

Oh goodie a 419 by post how quaint, for those unaware of such fun please see here and here.

The envelope is addressed by name, but the letter itself is "Dear Managing Director" amusing as one of the pulls of the con is that I share a last name of the owner of the bank account. Oh and it's bare of any letterhead. Anyway enjoy:

Direct phone: 00-65-6248-6094
Direct fax: 00-65-6491-5566

Date: 11-11-2007

Dear Managing Director,

My name is Mr. Lui Bai Chang. I trained and work as an external auditor for the United Overseas Bank (UOB) of Singapore, working as part of a bigger team that covers the entire Asian region. I had taken pains to find your contact through personal endeavours. [Ed: covers the lack of a letterhead]

On routine audit check last month, I discovered some investment accounts that had been dormant for the least twelve years. All the accounts belong to a single holder with monies totalling a little above US$16,360,000.00 million United States Dollars plus interest [Ed: Wow 16 trillion dollars, oh wait]. Banking regulation/legislation in Singapore demand that I notify fiscal authorities after a statutory time period of twelve years when dormant accounts of this type are called in by the monetary regulatory bodies [Ed: so that's another 12 years?] . The above set of facts underscores my reason of writing and making the following proposing.

My investigation of the said account reveals that the investor died in 1995 - the exact time the account was last operated. I can confirm with certainty that the said investor died interstate [Ed: on a US road?] and no next-of-kin to his estate has been found or has come forward all these years. I am of the settled conviction that using my insider leverage, I, working with you can secure the funds in the account for us instead of allowing it to pass as unclaimed funds into the coffers of the Government of Singapore [Ed: so defraud the government - hey I'm in]. This is especially possible as you bear the same Last Name to the said investor [Ed: what Director?] who also leaved in United Kingdom [Ed: when did he leave?]. This exactly is why I crave your participation and co-operation. I have seized all relevant documents (legal and Banking) that will facilitate our putting you forward as the claiment/beneficiary of the funds and ultimately transfer the money to any account nominated by you. Of course you shall be handsomely rewarded for your part in this [Ed: fraud] transaction as the people I am working with are prepared to allocate a 30% slice of the total funds for your effort, less any expenses [Ed: hold on if I'm the claiment can't I just snaffle the lot?] . I shall however leave out the finer details of this [Ed: fraud] transaction till I receive an affirmation of your desire to participate.

Be assured that my colleasgues and I are on top of the situation all the time and there will be no risk whatsover if you agree to come on board [Ed: 'Fraud - hey it's a victimless crime']. Needless to say, UTMOST CONFIDENTIALITY is of vital importance if we are to successfully reap the immense benefits of this [Ed: fraud] transaction [Ed: dang and here I am blabbing it everywhere].

To maintain the level of security required to see this [Ed: fraud] transaction come to a successful conclusion, I have intentionally left out the finer details. To affirm your willingness and cooperation [Ed: hey the hyphen's gone] to my proposal please do so by email, telephone or fax, stating your full name, date of birth, telephone number, fax number and email address [Ed: we will then ask for some clearing costs and your bank acount details]. I do expect your prompt response. My colleague who is on business trip to the UK, will mail this letter [Ed: Ah hence the UK stamp].

Thank you,
Lui Bai Chang

Now normally I'd send something off to the UOB, via there Security section, except to do so requires me to fill out a form with my Passport info being mandatory information... um no don't think so.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Unofficial Tesco Meeting

A quick response check the date and the meeting is tonight at 8pm at the Old Rose and Crown.

I'm a little concerned over the quotes

"There is no need for another big food store in Stourport"
according to the local growth plan there is.
"The noise, the air pollution and the extra traffic will be terrible"
according to the supporting documentation (at least for the previous application) it's within limits.

Simply stating X or Y is pointless when documentation has already been provided to refute those statements. The documentation has to be shown to be wrong or inaccurate, either in its scope or through its assumptions.

I've already pointed out for the previous documents that the traffic levels seem to be calculated on an individual junction basis without consideration of one feeding into another; that the sound levels in Discovery Road seem to be based solely on anticipated traffic patterns heading to the supermarket and don't include either the new housing estate or people using it as a by-pass; and that the local plan clearly states that the site that Tesco wants to build an A1 size building on has been assigned for B and C size/type.

You can't fight with 'I think it's going to cause traffic problems' when they've already 'shown' it won't.

I've tagged some of my older posts that might be relevant with Tesco, just click on the right.

I hope to attend.

An interesting turn of phrase

From the BBC this morning that the PM is "attempting to get a consensus on the extension of limits on detention of terror suspects" now I thought we already had a consensus which was 'They're fine as they are'. Though that would have been a consensus on the limits rather the extension of such, the desired result has been wrapped into the question. So imagine organising the Christmas party.

Flunky: "The results are in and the party members have voted for a Chinese"
Gordon Brown (for it is him): "I want to go to an Indian"
F: "Um well the voters say Chinese"
GB: "Go back and say that an Indian offers more variety over a Chinese"
F: "Does it?"
GB: ...
F: "I'll go back"
F: "Still Chinese"
GB:"...Okay tell them that with the numbers going an Indian is more economically viable than a Chinese"
F: Is i... I'll go and tell them"
F: "Still Chinese"
GB: "Go and ask 'if all the Chinese restaurants were fully booked up would you consider an Indian instead?'"
F:"Are th... I'll go and tell them"
F: "Yes if all the Chinese restaurants are booked up then they'd choose an Indian"
GB: "Good, go and book an Indian restaurant. I'm glad we managed to get a consensus on this"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tesco - here we go again.

Yep another application with 52 accompanying documents featuring 14 drawings, 3 site plans, and 33 Supporting Documentation. Seems to be a case of if at first you don't succeed drown 'em in paperwork.

Looks like they've switched companies (presumably having shot the previous ones for failure) and now all the artists renditions and site plans are in full glorious colour. At first glance they don't actually look any different from the previous ones, actually at second glance they don't seem that different. The sop of a bridge over the Stour extending the by-pass by a fraction (which will only coincidentally benefit the store) is still there; as is the hilarious Severn Road splitter allowing pedestrian access into town via Mitton Street and to Lichfield Street.

Let's recap Mitton Street's pavement at it's widest point.
Lichfield Street the other pedestrian route the pavement is not shown here, but runs down the left.
The current state of Severn Road

So still no resolution as to how traffic will be getting out of Severn Road (not their problem), how people are expected to negotiate the narrow pavements from the town to store or vice versa (not their problem) or the fact that this store is physically separated from the main town stores rather then adjoined directly to it thus possibly leading to people simply stopping straight at the new store (entering from the store side) or driving past the town to get to it (from the town side); not their problem.

From the Shuttle we seem to get that this is "to prevent people driving out of Stourport", which is a fine sentiment except for the bit where they'll be driving into the new store instead past all of the established stores.

Now what I'd like to see is figures that show transfer rate for Kidderminster, how many people shopping at that Tesco's have just or are about to do some shopping in the town itself. The distances and hassles of driving and walking are on a par so itll be a good comparision. Does that store bring people into the town, if it does it's a good argument for Tesco. Hmm do I fancy scouring 33 PDF documents; no not right now, maybe later.

Transport for London iBus

iBus oh dear. Seriously people it's not big and it's not clever; just give it up putting an "i" in front of something doesn't make it cool or guarantee technological supremacy. Anyway a story in this weeks Computing which you can read here oh no wait that's the link they give which is for the previous story, here's the one you want.

[Drivers] are having to use their mobile phones to communicate their position to their station... [Drivers] are unable to use the system’s Code Red emergency button... “Bad wiring on some buses means that every time they are started they make an emergency call,”
and the quote from TfL?
“So far the response from drivers has been largely positive,”
The technology has been provided by Siemens whom you might recall did such a good job with our passport system


Yes some local stuff, I'm sure we're all aware of what's going on at the Black Bridge* it seems to be sending a bit of traffic down into Stourport of an evening from both directions. As someone said "This has to be the country's most resurfaced road"

As a bonus the Stour Bridge on Worcester Road leading from Gilgal and into Mitton Street is being closed Saturday; well to be precise the sign says it'll be closed on the 17th from 5.30pm until 12pm. So that's Saturday night and Sunday morning, or do they mean 12am? In either case the sign is wrong. Though lying flat one of the signs is next to the garage on the non-bridge side of Baldwin Road so are they closing the entrance there too? If so then anyone looking to get from Millfields/Mitton Park will have to go via Kiddy or the Holts - yummee!

[Update - Apparently this is the one job that doesn't have an exact start or end date just a TBC on the official notice and is listed as starting in Gilgal; however after discussion it's just the bridge Saturday night only 5.30pm - 12am]

Interesting that I can't see it listed on the official weekly roadworks summary which covers up to the 18th nor on either of the lists of road closures this month. Rush Job? Well it's Central Networks and one of their jobs "45701149 [...] Worcester Road from the filling station to the junction of Baldwin Road (E381494 and N271471), Baldwin Road and Mill Road [...] Cable Overlay, Gilgal cct, 650m HV cable, 2nd section" has been on the schedule of works since at least December last year.

Oh and of course the Parson's Chain site has been flattened and no I don't know what's being put there. It doesn't help when the building is simultaneously listed on both Worcester and Hartlebury Road and probably by its own designation; anyway the latest decision was 2005 change of use and a 2000 which I'm guessing was OGL (too early so no plans available online)

Oh and for the lucky people of Redstone Lane it appears you can enjoy some traffic lights from today until the 21/12/07 courtesy of Worcester Highways.

*from the records it's A449 to A442 Droitwich Road - A450 Worcester Road 12/11/07 until 21/12/07 and A449 to A442 Droitwich Road - Torton Lane 12/11/07 - 28/07/08, which may be why some people are mixing up the two time periods.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Armstrong and Miller Show

It's been back for a couple of weeks now and is well worth the watch.., well some of it is. Skip the opening sequence of them dancing around as it's pointless and repeated in the middle of the show anyway for the short attention spanned wondering when the commercials are on.

So far the best bits are some of the recurring characters, the important business guy walking down the hall with flunkies throwing random pieces of information at him, the Edwardian dancing; but by far the best are the two airman. Plummy English tones spouting teen-speak the discongruity between what is being spoken and how it is spoken just makes me laugh.

Sadly it (and that sketch in particular) could be made funnier simply by removing the laughter. At times it drowns out the characters so we're left with

"Witty remark"
"<audience laughter>...tort, witty remark"
"<audience laughter>...nter"

Shame really.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stoking the fires

Ah the good old Sunday Express if you can't get someone to make a headline worthy comment simply put words into their mouth. MUSLIM BRANDS BRITAIN ‘NAZI’ with for once quote marks appearing correctly as if you actually read the story you'll find he said

perceptions of Muslims were so negative there was a danger that people’s minds would be “poisoned as they were in the Thirties”.
and didn't use the N-word at all. Cue voxpops of people talking about fighting and defending this country against such things Good old Tory MP David Davies said
It is extraordinary that this man should be given a platform for his views
Damn straight, how dare he exercise any rights to free speech; we should set the police to monitoring him 24-hours a day, and then lock him up without charge for 28-days without charge. That'll teach him to compare our free thinking and democratic society to one that monitored its citizens and could just lock them up on the feeblest of excuses.

[Additional - I note it made it to an entire editorial in the Daily edition with pretty much the same headline and same comments]

Clowns to the left of me

At times you can kind of understand those people who just snap and climb tall towers with sniper rifles, it's the steady dripfeed of problems followed by one incident that just cracks everything. On occasion it's not a dripfeed just one day of hassle.

So I went shopping Saturday, got onto a nice 60mph stretch of road stuck in a queue with the head being someone doing 40mph. A pain when there are a couple of inclines which my ickle car has problems with unless I can get a run up to them, fortunately the cars between slow-coach and myself disappeared and I got a nice run until I got to the top and had to slow down when I reached him.

Through a town and behind a bus who's turning left at the junction ahead, oops no silly me they're pulling in to that stop that's just in front of the junction. Seriously what is it with putting bus stops next to indicator required junctions? Anyway next the exit I want is closed, the fore-warning being the big Road Closed and Diversion sign across it, thanks to that complete lack of heads-up I have to cut into the other lane for the other exit (thanks to the guy behind me for seeing my predicament and letting me in).

It's a damn good job I know my way around, up this exit and turn left rather then go straight, which the lack of a diversion sign would have suggested. For those not knowing they'd have no clue where they were going what with the top half of the signboard being missing. Onward I go into another section and hit roadworks. They've not actually dug anything up, they've not got any equipment on site, but they have coned one side of the entire street off. Onward until I hit my destination.

I'm early so it's not to busy, that's pleasant. I do some general shopping pick up a free birthday gift from Sainsbury's (which Kidderminster didn't have) dump everything back in the car and hen start comparing various prices. "Sin City"'s out in the Director's Cut version at HMV for a tenner, "Die Hard 4" sorry "Die Hard 4.0" is out in two varieties single disc for £17 double for £20 and Blu-Ray for £25. Hmm Virgin are doing the double disc for £17 congratulations Virgin you get my business no Sin City DC though so back to HMV.

Waterstones have a 3 for 2 on some books and as always I can find 2 easily, but never a third. I find one in the end and add another two unstickered. Mention this to the girls at the counter one of whom tells me that all these books are in the 3 for 2 stickered or not. I go back for a sixth. Yay, but annoying that I spent all this time browsing. No "QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" or "The Character of Physical Law", but I was kind of expecting that.

Next up was "Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction" for the PS3 ranging from £40-£50. Gamestation had it at £40 so I picked one up and joined the queue that stretched across the front of the counter. Four tills (that I could see) one stuck with someone buying an Xbox360, which seemed to involve some complex actions involving a tower of discs; one with a customer in front, but no clerk, one with both clerk and customer actually making a transaction; and one blank till.

The third till clears its customer and we all shuffle up, clears again - shuffle. The queue is now heading down one of the aisles, the store is hot and there's a bunch of people standing close to each other. The third clerk has vanished into the back room; Mr Xbox has finished so that till's clear. Up steps a young women who reaches into her back pack and takes out an unboxed PS2 which she's clearly looking to trade-in. during all this four members of staff are wandering back and forth from counter to store in the oh so important task of moving game boxes. So quite literally (or verbally) I said "Sod it" put the game down on one of the queue posts and walked out.

WH Smiths at the same price and kept behind the counter, no queue.

And I'm out of there. Remembering the roadworks and closed road I go back a slightly different route and get back onto the 60mph and someone doing 50mph no 60mph no 50mph; I spot the pattern - oncoming cars 50mph, otherwise 60mph, junctions 40mph. Into Kiddy and rather then run through the string of lights I head islandward. I can't get into the right-hand turn as someone has realised they're in the wrong lane and is trying to get back into the other one. Their lights go green and he gets let in and I get into place. Turn the corner and join the queue - bloody roadworks. Worse yet bloody roadworks in the process of being removed, which means trucks and workmen walking without attention back and forth across the road.

I let someone out from a side-road on my right when we start moving. One of the damn trucks is reversing into a road and slowing us down, then he starts driving illegally half-on half-off the pavement in the direction of traffic. i overtake him only to reach the lights at red, doesn't stop the car I let out, nor the car from another side turning who admittedly can't quite see the lights Wait....wait...wait... ah cars and the head of the queue wants to turn into that lane the last car came out of, but can't quite due to the two workmen standing there having a chat. They eventually move and she finds she's now at the wrong angle to turn, I start to scoot to my left to let the traffic behind her get through only to find that bloody truck has pulled up on my left and I've a workman standing in front of me staring at a cone.

The traffic clears, the lights go green and I head finally to the island. Screech to a halt as the car indicating to turn left into my exit is really indicating to turn left into the next one. Swear at the car behind who's lack of indication tells me he's taking the next exit takes mine. Through the islands, cursing each time the designer who thought that big lumps of stuff preventing you from using any foresight into what's coming, and onto the main drag. 40mph,fine it's the speed limit. Up to the first set of lights and we're slowing down in case they change (which they don't) oh and now we're in a 60mph.

Up to the next set of lights which are also on green and yep we slow down again (these lights do change when they detect no traffic so when they're on green you don't stop) can't overtake yet due to oncoming traffic and we haven't reached the second lane... and yes into the second lane and past this slowcoach and the lights have stayed green (as mentioned in these instances they have a nasty habit of switching just as I pull out to overtake). Down the drag at 70mph, kill my speed as I hit town and get stuck behind someone doing 20mph.

Next set of lights on green while the right turn is still red, which for this set means the lights will stay green. Nope got to slow down, then again as we hit Gilgal. Followed him into Mitton Road and blew past him at 30mph (yeah blew) ducked back into lane being some sporty number driven by some young chap...doing 25mph - Gah.

Ah well I got what I wanted just so damn frazzled.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Well I did a little piece on anarchy, so now for meritocracy. It's been mentioned recently in the Queen's Speech, the former PM banged on about it, and even the Church of Satan are in favour of it, so what is a meritocracy?

The -carcy bit's easy it means strength, power, rule; merit's a little trickier. It's easy to mistake for qualified especially when it gets used in conjunction with schooling and education, that would make a meritocracy one where we're ruled by those qualified to do so. Except it doesn't mean that - it means worth and makes the system one where we're ruled by the worthy. So who's worthy?

Well presumably if you have a degree in economics you're better qualified to run something economically based then someone without such a degree, but we're not talking about qualifications. The person with the degree owns a piece of paper saying they have the knowledge, but might be someone who couldn't organise their way out of a paper-bag. Assuming the non-qualified person also has the (or some) knowledge and doesn't have the character flaws who would you hire?

So would a system based on worth replace nepotism, favouritism, the Old Boys' Network? Take two people with the same abilities and make one of them an old school friend, who gets hired? Make the old school friend less able and if they still get hired then we don't have a meritocracy do we? If the knowledge that this person is trustworthy gained through long-term experience and is instilled with the same tenets as the boss via education makes them more worthy in his eyes; then that's still a meritocracy and that's the problem.

Worth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and a meritocracy would only stamp down on the excesses which are already frowned upon. 'Why did you place this person in that position over this (in my eyes) more worthy candidate?' 'Because this is a position of trust and I know I can trust this person'. Say that and it's possible to see a meritocracy as a step to aristocracy. A person isn't inheriting a position it's just that not only can we trust them because of their family, but due to that same family they've had a better education - they're worthier then anyone else.

Do that and hey look we're back to where we started from. So how do you iron things out? Ditch all private education, ditch the aged based system and have children taught in classes commensurate with their abilities in that subject. Want to go the whole hog then you need to remove the concept of family, children are raised by the state with no knowledge of their parents and are moved between schools each year to break any attachments that might be made. It's the only way to remove bias, but I don't think it'll be appearing as any party's policy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Accident on Stour Bridge

And the rain came galumping down, which may have caused, been a contributory to, or have nothing to do with the accident on the Stour Bridge - island side, close to the Severn Trent access point where earlier someone was parked with a wood chipper and a van to spray it into to.

Anyway it started as I came up Vale Road. The traffic was getting heavy, unusual, but then again it is raining; then down came the ambulance (always useful that the left hand side of Gilgal is almost always empty). I reached the top of Vale Road to see two PCSOs hurrying down on foot, then I got into Gilgal and was passed by a police car, then two more PCSOs on foot, then another police car.

So what appears to be some sort of accident involving someone on a scooter and we get one ambulance partially blocking the exit from the island with two police cars parked behind it and about six officers directing traffic.

Okay genuine applause for directing traffic, some small hassle for anyone coming out of Baldwin Road major hassle for those on Worcester Road as the direction was at the island exit and everyone coming off Hartlebury Road has right-of-way over them. Sarcastic applause to the City Link van who came off Hartlebury Road to join the highly visible queue on the island and thus narrowed down the turn to get into Worcester Road.

[Update - hasn't featured in the Shuttle that I can see, so I'm assuming a survivor]

The recording book of Guinness

The world's most expensive dessert a snip at $25,000 has been awarded a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, what a worthy entry to stand alongside such greats as the world's most expensive sandwich. I'm not sure if this is being entered as it's the most expensive dessert or simply under 'look what I can charge people for a bowl of ice-cream'. Still it is a blend of 28 rare cocoas, 23-carat gold sprinkles, and a truffle so... oh and it comes in a goblet with a diamond-encrusted spoon and a gold bracelet which you get to keep and I'm sure adds little to the overall expensive of the dessert itself.

Pfft what a load of rubbish, so what happens if these rare cocoas drop in price, or gold devalues can the second most expensive dessert rise again? How can you have a 'record' of something so variable and pointless?

So here's my latest creation - I buy a barrel of el-cheapo ice-cream and spoon a blob into a Fabergé Egg, which you get to keep, then sprinkle 23-carat gold dust blessed by both the Pope and the Dalai Lama over it and serve it balanced on the stomach of a virginal exotic dancer (whom you don't get to keep) with a platinum etched spoon carved from the bone of a panda (deceased from natural causes) and I'll charge $50,000 for it; that'll get me that damn certificate.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Can't quite make the connection

Sticking with the news now we hear that a 10 point increase in your Body Mass Index (all hail the great and wise BMI) is linked to an increase in some cancers, though they're not sure why. Another bit of top notch reporting there.

So 'Britain is getting fatter', 'Obesity increases risk of [insert nastiness here]', blah blah blah bombarding us from all sides and what do we get as a news teaser on the BBC this morning "So why are we eating fewer puddings?" Gee I've no idea, it's as mysterious as when every media channel told us we were eating too much salt and then came back to tell us that for some strange reason we were no longer eating enough.

Locate the sound of someone beating their head against a wall and play it and you'll know how I feel.

Call that a religious item, this is a religious item.

Another religious post. A girls' school bans a Sikh from wearing her kara prompting much complaints/discussion about religious items. See Sikhs can wear turbans so they should be able to wear karas and carry kirpans. As one commentator said 'A petition by Sikhs to carry the kirpan in places like Westminster Palace etc is ridiculous it's a dagger...' ' No it's not a dagger, it's a reminder of...' interrupted the Sikh commentator before he was talked over. Is this a dagger I see before me? What do you think?

'No no this isn't a gun it's a religious observance I'm a member of the Tupac faith and we carry this as a reminder of how our spiritual leader was killed. Well yeah of course it can still be used as a gun, but it's not... are you persecuting me because of my religion?'

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wyre Forest District Business Directory

Oo just had the new Wyre Forest District Business Directory - 2007/08 in also available online at, according to the accompanying letter "www.burrows/" the book itself lists the more plausible who are a local publications firm based in Surrey, and Cheshire. Let me just look up Publishers in this local directory shall I?

Anyway it's nice and shiny, with that head-swimming chemical smell. Also available in large print, audio cassette (is it still a cassette?), a CD-ROM; and possibly six other languages where's my babelfish... ah it's an 'If you need help with this document call...'

I do get a kick that Kiddy market is organised by LSD Promotions whose logo resembles a Christian fish.

Onto the Weavers Wharf page, oops sorry that'll be the Contents page, easy mistake to make.

So a "Welcome from John Campion, Leader of Wyre Forest District Council" which is topped by an artists rendition of somewhere I can't quite place I mean that monument in the middle is familiar, but what's that all around it?

Location is sponsored by OGL, fair enough. District Profile is topped by a photo of the canal and new houses in Stourport. Communications has one of those delightful maps that shows us within handy reach of multiple motorway exits, well I say us that's the royal us as in Kidderminster. Turning over they then get an entire page about themselves, while Stourport and Bewdley share a page alongside a photo of Kidderminster market hummph. Kiddy then gets the lion's shar of the Development and Regenerations Sites page, which as they've the most is to be expected.

Okay onto the directory, Classification Index at the front, Entrants' Index at the back with the contents in between, nice and easy. He he "Accou£ntants" snigger.

Last page is an 'ad' for saving energy "Switching off non-essential equipment in an office overnight saves enough energy to run a small car for 100 miles" tell me how to get that energy into my car and I'd be interested otherwise who cares?

Ah well it's a nice shiny smelly book and it's well laid out where it matters the most

Showing it up

5 Chinese Crackers demonstrates a good dissection of Chinese Whispers (can we still call that) on the media's coverage of that good game the 'banning of Christmas' special.

Fun how despite their disgust for this political correctness they still tip-toe around other religions; so just for fun I decided to make some mental substitutions, changing the religions for other 'faiths' that nobody seems to mind slagging off.

Ban Silly Walk Day

Reports have been made that many councils up and down the country are banning Silly Walk Day on the grounds of health and safety. Flibbert town council are refusing to provide police officers to escort Silly Walkers along routes that have been used for hundreds of years. "It's ridiculous" said one Pythonian "We've been doing this for years and now they say we can't as they won't provide any assistance". This decision by Flibbert town council has provoked outrageous amongst the predominately Pythonian community "They provided escorts for the Klingonians 'March of Honour'" said one resident "and they allowed the Potterites to put up all those lights on Albus Day, but they're ignoring us".

Many are complaining that the council are simply pandering to minority faiths and ignoring the dominant Pythonian religion of this country. "I don't mind people in cloaks telling me that 'These aren't the droids I'm looking for' so long as they don't object to our monologues on Spam"
(with nods to Not the Nine O'Clock News)

For anyone else wanting to play I use Pythonians for Christians, Klingonians for Muslims, Potterites for Hindus, Xenacites for Seikhs, and Jedi for Jews, but you know feel free to improvise.

Mitton Park/Millfields Newsletter

The first newsletter for the newly formed Mitton Park Residents' Association has been sent out.

Reproduced below in plain(ish) text


Formation of Residents' Association
The Mitton Park Residents' Association was formed on Friday 12th October 2007 at a meeting of residents held at Wilden Village Hall. During the meeting a Committee was elected by the residents present at the meeting. The committee is made up of:

Chairman: Fred Roberts
8 Evergreen Way

Secretary: Julie Price-Pass
50 Evergreen Way

Treasurer: Steve Parkes
53 Evergreen Way

Others: Ron Gibson
3 Leapgate Avenue

Dermot O'Connor
4 The Dell

Aims of the Association
The aims and objectives of the Residents' Association are:
  • To represent the views and best interests of residents by lobbying the Developers (Persimmon, Morris and Wimpey Homes) to complete the highways and other communal areas within the defined area to an adoptable standard and to lobby the Council to enforce the conditions of the Planning Approval and other Legal Agreements.
  • To work with Authorities and Organisations for the benefit of all residents.
  • If lobbying alone is unsuccessful consider taking legal action to force the issue with the Developers to ensure compliance with their legal obligations.
  • To ensure that all residents are consulted and informed regularly and that all residents entitled to membership are encouraged to join.
  • To encourage a sense of community.
Actions to Date
Letters have now been sent to all three of the Developers (Persimmon, Morris and Wimpey) addressed to the Group Company Secretary at their Registered Offices with a copy to the Managing Director of the local Division.

The letter highlights the Developers failure to comply with their legal obligations as set out in the property deeds and also their failure to comply with the conditions of the Planning Approval for the development. This includes the satisfactory completion and adoption of roads, footpaths, sewers, drains, play area, conservation area and public open space.

Each Developer has been asked to provide their firm proposals to demonstrate how they will comply with their contractual obligations together with a time bound plan to achieve this within 28 days of the date of the letter.

A letter has also been sent to the Head of Development Control at Wyre Forest District Council (WFDC) regarding the Council's failure to enforce the conditions attached to the Planning Approval for the development and asking them to look at taking such action in accordance with their published policies.

Details of WFDC policies with regard to planning enforcement can be accessed at Go to the A-Z of services on the home page, select 'p' and then select `planning enforcement'.

Following up on an email from the Cultural Services Manger at Wyre Forest District Council to Councillor David Millis the Association has sought clarification from the Council regarding the proposals for a play area, the provision of which is a condition of the Planning Approval for the development.

A design has been agreed between Wimpey, Wyre Forest District Council and Wickspeed, the contractor who will construct the play area. The project is currently on hold pending the resolution of a mean of access for maintenance and drainage of the site.

A copy of the layout drawing has been promised and a request has been made that residents are consulted on the proposal.

A membership subscription of £10 per household for the first year was approved by the residents present at the inaugural meeting of the Association held on 12th October. This will be used to meet the cost of stationery, postage printing room hire and independent auditing of accounts etc.

A bank account has now been set up with Lloyds TSB in the name of the Association and all subscriptions received to date have been paid into this account.

Eligibility to Join the Association
All residents (owners and tenants) of properties within the Mitton Park development including the original properties on Mill Road, from the bridge over the River Stour to the mini roundabout on Millfields Drive, are eligible to join the Association. All eligible residents are encouraged to join as collectively we are much more likely to be heard and to achieve our aims. If you live in a rented property please pass a copy of this newsletter to your landlord as they also have an interest and are eligible to join.

The subscription of £10 for the first year is per household so if more than one person in the same household registers for membership the subscription will only apply once. However, all residents living in a property aged 16 years or over are encouraged to register their names on the application form as the more members we have the stronger we can claim that our representation is.

How to Join the Association
The Residents' Association has been set up to represent your interests and take action on behalf of all residents so please support the Association by becoming a member. The Association will be unable to pursue its aims and objectives without funding through membership subscriptions.

If you would like to join the Association please complete the accompanying application form and return it along with your subscription of £10 to the Treasurer, Steve Parkes, at 53 Evergreen Way, Stourport . A receipt will be issued by the Treasurer for all subscriptions received.

Highway Adoption Process
There are contractual obligations set out in the property deeds for each individual property and conditions in the Planning Approval which require the Developers to construct the highways (roads, footpaths, drains, sewers, lighting etc) to an adoptable standard to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority and to ensure that formal adoption takes place. There is also a requirement for the Developers to maintain the highways in a satisfactory condition until such time as formal adoption by the Highway Authority takes place.

The current situation is that the Highway Authority, Worcestershire County Council, is waiting for construction drawings from each Developer for the highways and has been for some considerable time. No construction activity can take place to complete the outstanding work until such time as these drawings have been received and approved by the Council.
Once the highways have been completed to the satisfaction of the Highway Authority there will be a 12 month defects period where the Developers will be responsible for maintenance and the rectification of any defects that occur. Only on the satisfactory completion of this 12 month defects period will the Highway Authority formally adopt the highways and assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance at public expense.

Patch Repairs
All three Developers have carried out patch repairs in recent weeks and months. Whilst this is welcome it does not go far enough and the Association is pressing for nothing less that full compliance with the contractual requirements set out in the property deeds and the conditions of the Planning Approval.

Further Actions
Further actions will be considered at future meetings of the Association which will depend on the responses received from Developers and the response from WFDC in relation to enforcement of the Planning Approval conditions.

The Association will be contacting local MP, Dr Richard Taylor, Health Concern, with a request that he takes up the issues with the Developers and Wyre Forest District Council.

If lobbying alone does not bring about the desired result the Association may need to resort to legal action to force the Developers to comply with their contractual obligations.

The possibility of funding such action through the legal protection section of residents' home insurance policies was discussed at the inaugural meeting of the Association. The Chairman confirmed that he had checked his policy and contacted his insurance company, who had advised that it appeared this type of action was covered by his insurance policy.

All residents are urged to check their own insurance policies now and speak to their insurance companies to determine whether or not their policy would provide this type of cover. If we need to resort to legal action at some time in the future it is hoped that several insurers would combine to take joint action on behalf of as many residents as possible.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Talking to walls

Regarding a new laundry room

"I hung the washing up in it and now the rooms drenched"
"Well yeah, did you open the windows?"
"No, but you can't really do that in winter"
"Umm okay sounds like you need a... hold on haven't you got a dehumidifier?"
"Oh yeah I forgot about that"


"Oh I don't know what to do we've dried out this room, but every morning it's still damp especially on the ceiling"
"Did you use that dehumidifier?"
"Oh! No"


"I think it's the the thin ceiling, the other rooms don't do it"
"Have you tried that dehumidifier?"


"We keep drying it out and leaving the windows open, but it's still damp. He's put the fire in there to help"
"The fire? Have you tried the dehumidifier?"
"No, I'm a little worried about putting anything electrical in there when it's damp"
"[cos you wouldn't want to use something designed to absorb water in a damp room] Unlike the fire, which is just turning the condensation back into water vapour ready to be deposited the next morning"
"Well I had wondered about that, but you know what it's like talking to some people"
"Yes, yes I do"

The fight for germs

Ah another advert "You wouldn't let your child eat off the street, but your kitchen surface may be home to up to [lots] of germs" Well yeah, but your kitchen surface isn't normally party to chewing gum scrapings marinated in various species urine and topped off with a dusting of the finest fag ash; or if it is I doubt this advert is aimed at you.

So anyway this product kills off the germs making it safe for your kid to eat his whatever he's eating off it. Now call me strange, but you've just doused this table in germ-killer and now you're letting your kid eat some of it, out of curiosity what's that doing to them? You wouldn't let them drink a bottle of the stuff, but a regular small dose is fine?

Next how about those germs, out all of the germs on your surface there stands some small chance that one of them is immune/resistant to this stuff. So you've just wiped (no pun intended) out the competition, be fruitful and multiply little resistant germ.

I'm not saying we shouldn't be clean, it just seems to me there's a touch of obsession behind it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Playstation 2 games on Playstation 3

So there's the official European list here, the unofficial European version here, and the US version here.

Or there's my games. I've got to work my way through my collection slowly and I can't test everything. If I can load the game see any cutscenes and play the first section that's as far as I'll go before pronouncing it working. If in playing it fully I spot some problems I'll note them down.

So here's my backwards compatibility list.

Destroy All Humans - no problems
Silent Hill 3 - no problems
Sly Raccoon - no problems
Sly Raccoon 2 - no problems. Some minor ground texture corruption when raining, but nothing game wrecking.
Soul Reaver 2 - no problems
The Suffering - major problems; graphical corruption of lighting, and character shadows overlay everything in the middle of the screen when in third person mode.
The Suffering 2 Ties that Bind - major problems; graphical corruption of lighting, and character shadows overlay everything in the middle of the screen when in third person mode.

Damn I like "The Suffering" and it's unplayable except in first person mode (cutscenes are in-game so suffer too), as it's listed as fine on the US 60Gb model I have to put that down to the loss of the Graphics hardware. So weirdly to check on your games in the UK the US site is now more useful then the UK one when you pick the 80Gb model; nice to see where the priorities are.

[Additional - Just to emphasise that last point. Not only can you search directly for a game on the US site, rather then wade through every title beginning with "S", but it also tells you what faults you might receive instead of giving it a simplistic 1-3 star rating]

Lost luggage

It's difficult to lose a passenger, to stick them on the wrong flight, they have a nasty tendency to ask questions. Sadly luggage doesn't have that ability which is why estimates show that 15 per 1000 pieces of luggage get 'lost' in the system. So to my mind only three options present themselves:

  1. The airports and airlines buck up their ideas.
  2. Luggage responsibility is removed from airports and airlines and given to third-parties.
  3. Sentient Luggage™
How would option one be implemented? RFID perhaps, if every piece of luggage is scanned as it's booked in it can be and a tag placed and linked to that flight and passenger. This should automate the procedure as luggage is sorted out to it's correct tractor and as tags can be read at a distance you can simply pass the tractor-load through a scanner as it heads out and any wrongly placed bags or missing bags will cause the system to scream.

So picture the scene - the load goes through and a bag is placed where it shouldn't. The load is dismantled and hand-scanned to find the offending article; that means some delay, but is similar to the 'luggage without passenger' problem. The reverse is the load being stopped because it's missing some luggage - so where is it? Oh dear either you hunt it down thus causing a delay or you carry on without it. The system marks it as missing and assigns it to the next flight out; if it finds it.

So option one helps keep track of everything provided it remains in system and none of the luggage looses its tags, which is pretty much the system already in place.

Option two get some couriers to deliver the luggage separately. This could make sense, your luggage is picked up by the couriers a couple of days before and is loaded on a dedicated cargo plane. Any rush against time is countered by the earlier pick-up, giving extra chance for mistakes to be rectified, and the cargo plane can carry luggage from multiple airlines and airports. The couriers don't care which plane you're on (or even which airport you're travelling to or from) they just need to know where to pick it up from and where to deliver it to.

Okay we've all had fun with couriers, but this is a nice bulk operation (which should keep the excess price down), it means the passenger planes are lighter (use less fuel) or can be made with reduced cargo space to carry more passengers (less fuel per person). That's offset by the increase in cargo planes and delivery vans, but as a solution it could work well.

Option three, yeah well would you want luggage that could talk back to you "You are not putting that shirt in here, I refuse to carry anything that hideous."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Synchronising mobiles and computers

So let's say you've two computers Desktop and Laptop, and a Mobile. You want to ensure that contacts and calendar information matches between the three. Without a server, or you simply don't want to dial-in every-time you're out of the office then you're looking at the synchronisation software that comes with your phone.

So let's start with Microsoft's own Active Sync. For those who have a downer with the big MS it may come as a surprise that this works, and works well. Add a new contact to Desktop, sync with Windows Mobile, sync with Laptop and there it is on the Laptop. In fact change anything on any of the three devices and it'll sync correctly or display a conflict resolution if you've added it to two devices simultaneously.

Now for Nokia's PC Suite. Desktop with Nokia Mobile works and Laptop with Mobile works too; well at least at first. Add a date on Mobile and sync to Laptop and it'll appear, sync to Desktop and it might. If it doesn't and you add it manually it'll duplicate on the Mobile, and thus to the Laptop unless you delete it first. A similar situation can be had with contacts.

Onto Sony Ericsson's software also helpfully called PC Suite and you get the same thing as with Nokia's - information gets duplicated.

Simply put they appear not to be created with multiple computers in mind except Microsoft's.

On a second note, Microsoft syncs on change - if the mobile is connected to either Laptop or Desktop and you change something on either of the devices it'll change on the other almost instantly. Both Nokia and Sony have "Sync on connect", "Sync every...", or "Manual sync only" and boy can that be slow while you wait for your one entry to be updated. Oh and boy can it take a while for the computer just to see the mobile.

Third note - to all of the above manufacturers. Sometimes I want to check the Synchronisation settings before I connect the phone, especially if it auto-syncs and I think something's wrong. Not allowing access to these settings unless the phone is connected does not help.

Forth and final note again to all above. Error messages should be helpful, telling me that the contact that sync'ed up fine from Desktop to Mobile has failed from Mobile to Laptop because it's a bad object tells me nothing. Why has it failed, unmatching fields, too much information in one or something; some assistance would be nice here.

So as it connected at least 95% of the time and worked 100%, and seeing as Nokia's has on occasion failed to connect, disconnect and duplicates entries as does the Sony Ericsson; Microsoft comes out the winner followed by Sony then Nokia.