## Friday, August 29, 2008

### Stourport Bridge jumping

Just heading over the bridge when a girl/women runs up the pavement towards the centre of the bridge arms splayed and belly flab wobbling in a two-piece swimsuit; she reaches the middle point and hops up onto the parapet, one leg over, then the other. I've driven past by now, but she'd vanished from my rear-view mirror and people are peering over the edge.

Now I've been told that you don't want to do that as the current bridge is essentially built on the debris from the previous bridges and it ain't as deep as it looks. I can estimate the bridge height at around 5-6m from the water, but I can't find any details of the water depth at this point.

### Exams are getting easier right?

I made a comment on the Shuttle site on this blog entry and in it posted some of the easier questions from the GCSE paper done by the Radio 1 DJs. No-one yet seems keen to have a go so I'll post the questions exactly as presented by the exam here. No calculators allowed (not that you should need them)

• 10 (b) (i). Factorise x2 – 13x + 30 (2 marks)
• 10 (b) (ii). Hence, solve the equation x2 – 13x + 30 = 0 (1 mark)
• 15. Evaluate 5–2 × 1000.5
• 18. Leonardo is revising for his Higher tier GCSE Mathematics exam.
He comes across this question …
Two events A and B are independent.
The probability of B is double the probability of A.
The probability of both A and B occurring is 9/32
Find the probability that event A occurs.
Complete Leonardo’s solution.
Let the probability of event A occurring = p
therefore, the probability of event B occurring = 2p (3 marks)
I know there's (I should say at least) two mathmos here so their opinions on the difficulty of the questions would be interesting. Oh just for reference purposes this is the AQA Mathematics (specification A) Higher Tier for November 07. Got to love Question 18 just for the self-reference ;-)

[Update - for the entire paper in PDF format here it is]

### My new car

I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from my dealer "Your car has arrived it'll be ready for pick-up from the 1st September" with a shiny new licence plate "When can you collect it? I can slot you in for 9am"

Um 9am on a Monday morning heading into Worcester just as the kids are coming back; I think not. I picked 10am instead.

"We need to tax it so we need the insurance documents"

Okay I'll contact my insurance company change the details and get them to fax/email a copy to you

"No we can't accept a copy. Oh and we'll need it by tomorrow afternoon"

WT... HT...

"We do have a deal with Norwich Union for a 7 day drive away period, we can accept their insurance over email"

Uh-huh. Anyway I give them a call

"For 7 day drive away or an annual policy press 1"
1
"To amend a policy press 2"
Uh
"For 7 day drive away or an annual policy press 1"
1
"To amend a policy press 2"
Ah...
"For 7 day drive away or an annual policy press 1. To amend a policy press 2"
1
"For 7 day drive away or an annual policy press 1. To amend a policy press 2"
1!
"Sorry for the delay..."
tum-te-tum
I get through to someone from Bangladesh and explain I need the 7 day policy
"Okay I'll quote you for an annual policy"
"No I don't want an annual policy I just need the 7 day one"
"Um I'll just put you on hold for 2 minutes"
Music for 2 minutes followed by a click as the phone is put down.

"For 7 day drive away or an annual policy press 1. To amend a policy press 2"
1
"Sorry for the delay..."
tum-te-tum
Through to someone else in Bangladesh who speaks better English; I explain the situation.
"Ah yes in order to give you the 7 day drive away I have to quote you for an annual policy"

Yep the 7 day drive away thing is FREE, they just get the opportunity to quote you for an annual policy and get your details. Anyway sorted I phone the dealer back, oh surprise, surprise he's not in his office; so I leave a message.

I'm just going to retry them now and make sure it's sorted.

## Thursday, August 28, 2008

### Boggles the mind

Someone I know has just mentioned a letter they received this morning through sheerest luck and asked me to tap out a response for them as they moved house 4 years ago and this letter was addressed to the old house. Now without going into too many details the gist of the letter was - 'We sent you a letter in July and you haven't responded. It's important that you do so, please read that letter and call us by the 2nd September'.

Okay point 1 letter sent 26th August and received 28th August and they want a response by when? Point 2 why do you think someone wouldn't have responded to the letter in July? Either they've forgotten about it or it may well be they never got it. If they've forgotten about it what do you think the chances of them finding it are, and if they never received it in the first place...

In other words it might be a good idea to send a copy of the original letter with the latest one especially when you want someone to respond to its contents within such a short span of time.

Gah - anyway a carefully phrased letter advising them of the change of address is winging its way back to them.

### Onward with the Obesity War

"Obesity is spreading" declared Kate on GMTV. "What", I thought. "We're going to get people with really fat feet?". She meant, of course, that the number of people in this country defined as obese is cropping up all over the country and not just places that Londoners think of as 'fast-food heaven' you know it's occurring in places that they might actually visit for heavens sake.

Anyway Obsolete on septicisle has knocked out a piece fisking the Conservative war on fat; essentially that the guy is talking out of his rear and calling for things that has already been done (though perhaps unknown to him as such things don't appear on the unpackaged organically grown kumquats he buys).

But again I find myself pointing out that the measurement system used for putting people in the underweight/overweight categories was not designed for the purpose it's being used for hell it's definitely not designed for use with children. When I first wrote that I was just under the overweight category and I still am. Yep that's me below, woah got to be careful with my weight as you can tell.

Sure some people just stuff food into themselves and their kids, sure it's costing the NHS money; but if you're going to start sending kids off to fat clubs or creating a fat tax perhaps we should get a system in place that is designed to measure fat rather then just the simplistic weight divided by the square of height that treats us as if we're just fat sausages. Okay it's a rough measure, but it then needs to be backed up by further testing and to be blunt I don't see schools etc. going to the trouble and expense when the original system just needs a scale and a tape.

To put this into a more modern context the Team GB Olympic Hockey player Richard Alexander is declared overweight by the NHS Direct BMI calculator just plug in Metric, Male, 168, 80 and hit calculate. Note however the General Advice below

However, this is general advice for adults only. It does not apply to children, [...] Also, your BMI may not be accurate if you: are a weight-trainer or an athlete
So no children, no athletes; also no-one over the age of 60, or who has a long-term health problem, or pregnant women, or women who are breast feeding. Or you know anyone it wasn't designed to measure, which covers the majority of the population.

## Wednesday, August 27, 2008

### Welcome to the 21st Century

Yes I've finally had broadband for two weeks at home now. As I've been an Orange subscriber since it was owned by PCW Group and called Freeserve I copped out and stuck with them. I then saw the latest Which report listing them as an 'avoid at all costs' - nice.

Anyway my Livebox turned up the middle of week and all I had to do was wait for the email telling me it was active and ready to roll... and wait... and wait. Ah who am I joking I took it out and plugged it straight in. So I bypassed the dumb installation routine and jumped straight to the box settings after cracking the dumb as molasses username and password (changed that), set up the wireless, set up the encryption, got my PS3 to find it, changed the channel frequency to something that the PS3 would detect at greater then 50% strength (there's one wall and about four foot of distance between them), surprise surprise no connection I'd better wait for the email.

Pfft yeah right I left it for a day and then tried it in the morning - nope; evening - nope. Next day morning - nope; evening - yep a whopping 8Gbit download speed. So I've been happy checking out the PSN Store (and listing its faults, to be published) and all is well.

I find a letter waiting for me this afternoon from British Telecom informing me that they've had a request to switch my rental from them to Orange (quite correct) and that this would take place on 3rd September... so I'm using the BT line with the Orange Broadband? Well that's kind of neat isn't it I wonder when Orange will start charging me :-)

### Use of mobiles

Joining the queue on Worcester Road at the Sandy Lane turn-off I found myself behind a car whose driver had mobile phone in hand clamped to the right-hand side of his head. This continued for the ten minutes it took for us to get to the Common car-park before Cook's when the hand came down.

Then back up until we got to Discovery Road when down it went again.

After the two minutes it took to cross the mouth of Discovery Road back up came the mobile until we got to Worcester Road Motors at which point it vanished and the driver decided to crane over the passenger to look at the cars.

Now sure we were in a straightish line queue travelling at less then 5mph for the most part, but it was both the amount of time he spent on the phone while driving (about fifteen minutes) and the fact that he was gesticulating with his left hand at the same time as he was on the phone

So Green Vauxhall Corsa T369 PTG I'm talking about you.

## Tuesday, August 26, 2008

If you haven't seen it yet a Kwik-fit repairman walks into the waiting room and rattles off a list of all the wonderful things they can do for the women sitting there. Meanwhile her son is sat next to her and is intent on bashing off the cup dispenser on the side of a water cooler that's next to him.

The repairman finishes his list and the women exclaims "Is there anything else you can do?"

At which point the repairman waves his hand in front of the boy's eyes, clicks his fingers and sends him to sleep.

Is it me or would a much better ending be the guy writing out an invoice for the repair of the water cooler? I mean seriously perhaps she could take her son out to the repair bays where he could relieve his boredom by bashing off all the cars' side mirrors?

## Friday, August 22, 2008

### Bridge Street work not up to standard

As per the letter in the Shuttle. From my comment there regarding the bridge colours this is what gold looks like.

## Thursday, August 21, 2008

### Naming and shaming

A new label for this post "Name and Shame" I'd just popped some petrol in my car at the Shell garage in Vale Road and was lucky enough to hit a quiet point in the three lanes of traffic with one car turning into lane one with something behind it.

I pulled out crossed both lanes to lane 3 (yes I was indicating) and accelerated up to 25mph as I approached Gilgal. When I spotted a white van at my rear travelling at speed.

Obviously my pathetic 25mph in the 30mph limit wasn't good enough for him so he swung around me and barged back in.

I caught up with him at the island and we both turned right, myself with a slight delay from a car turning right out of Worcester Road. He in the meantime had blasted off down the 30mph limit until coming to a slowdown behind a car doing the speed limit. He then proceeded to tailgate this vehicle all along Worcester Road until I turned off and he was still doing so as I made the turn.

Oh did I put out that it had just belted down with rain and thus the roads were sodden with surface water? Seriously sodden - a car travelling towards me splashed up enough water to spray the pavement next to me.

Anyway White Van licence KU54 HYK I'm talking about you.

### Knock-on effect

The kids are still on holiday so traffic has been much quieter in a morning an evening for the last month or so; except this week when I find myself trailing a queue in Worcester Road (Stourport). I finally twigged on Tuesday evening - they've essentially shut down Worcester Road (Kidderminster) to repair the bridge. Now one might expect that traffic that normally uses this route would simply turn right to the next island then left up into the parallel road that is Chester Road turn left at the signals, left at the island before reaching where they would normally have got to; a tiny diversion.

Except, of course, they're doing roadworks up on Chester Road too. So everyone is either getting off early, or heading down Wilden Lane, and joining up with Hartlebury Road to get into Kidderminster from that direction. This would be the same road that has right-of-way over Worcester Road at the OGL island which in turn feeds into the bottleneck that is Mitton Street.

It's just like normal, so I hate to think what it will be like if this is still going on when the holidays are over.

### Why use a bin?

Stuck in a queue again I watched as a car two ahead of me indicated and pulled up over the pavement to park outside Worcester Road Motors. "Hmm", I thought. "A bit late to do some car shopping"

The car in front of me passed her and stopped in the queue. I held back rather than pull alongside the parked to allow the occupant more room to get out, which she took advantage of. Out she came with a white bag in her hand wrapped around something. "Delivering something?" I thought.

Except she waited next to her car trying to cross the road (ignoring my existence I might add). This is odd as there's nothing really opposite there. Anyway she crossed and I could now move forward and past her car, but still I was curious and thus watched in the mirrors as she walked across the scrub and up to the railings before shaking out whatever was in the bag and walking back to her car, getting in, and indicating to pull out back into the queue.

Never a copper around when you want one.

## Wednesday, August 20, 2008

### That new Number 10 website

In the spirit of all things new and funky the personal website of our beloved leader has been updated and the outpouring of bile regarding it has been most prolific. So what's the problem?

Oh my where to begin. We have at a minimum three different fonts being used on the site - Georgia, Times New Roman and Arial, not counting the one used for the logo itself. We have a BETA tag next to the title. No. No, no, no; no, no; no, no, no. This is supposedly a professional website, the only time you should see the word beta is alongside the phrase "We're going to be changing the look of our site click here to see it and let us know what you think".

If the differing fonts weren't bad enough we have a lack of consistency in colouring. The logo background is officially black (#ffffff), but the background picture fades to this from grey (#404347) and makes my eyes water slightly when reading the white text. The top story background is off-black (#1a1a1a). The menu bar and newsletter background are both off-blue (#5a798b), but the backgrounds for the rest of the side panels are a darker shade (#49545b) except for the history tour which is brown (#976431).

Fortunately all the links are all standard text black,or white, or an odd purple/pink (#ca5188), except for the final one which is a green/blue (#1d7a7a); oh and the menu bar which all hover in different colours.

Okay the text is all black. Except for the white text on dark backgrounds, which I'll accept, and the headings are um okay we have a purple/pink which is different to the links purple/pink (#ca3168) and make me wonder why the difference when they managed to get the green/blue heading the same as the link and the side bar headings the same colour as the backgrounds.

However one consistent part is that all the background images only have rounded top corners, except for the menu items which lack the corner on the left and the background for the top story which is rounded on every corner. Oh and the fixed photos which have four badly anti-aliased corners.

At least they're using headings correctly the title is H1, the sub-titles H2, and the entry titles H3.

Onto the next joy in that they're using WordPress as the engine with the NetWorker1.0 theme, that would be the Creative Commons 3.0 licensed theme created by Anthony of Antbag which they removed the credit from then stamped Crown Copyright on it. Ah but that's okay see as they've heavily modified it. Uh-huh check that licence page again you're allowing to adapt the work (which they admit to doing) provided that you acknowledge the source and licence it under the same or a compatible licence agreement. Crown copyright can hardly be called compatible.

Content-wise every main entry is indicated by a page+number system, trial and error reveals the first entry is number 8 and the latest being 16614. Using the news browsing view that shows 8 entries at a time you can currently get to page 242 in which the first chronological entry is numbered 2183, which suggests that the entries weren't transferred over in a logical manner. The tent> that appears would also indicate this.

So a site that's still in beta, crashes on the launch date, looks terrible, uses copyrighted work without payment or acknowledgement and simply hasn't been transferred correctly - a snip at £100,000 of our money.

### Indicators

Okay folks those pretty yellow knobs on the side of your vehicle aren't just there for decoration; they have a function. I'm getting fed-up of indicating to change lanes, doing so, and finding the car in front is mimicking my line with no forewarning. I'm getting fed-up of waiting at island exits only to find the car I'm giving way to is turning left before it gets to me.

On a related note I'm fed-up of approaching a junction exit and having to brake because a vehicle turning into it requires my lane as part of its turning circle. Likewise having to change lanes in High Street because someone's parked next to the Parkes Passage cash-point when there are a mass of empty bays opposite.

Highly subjective I know, but does anyone else think these sort of actions are becoming more prevalent?

## Tuesday, August 19, 2008

### Waters Edge signs

There have been a few directional signs for the lichfield development Water's Edge within Stourport, however I'm intrigued by two thoughts - firstly who's responsible for their erection and maintenance and secondly why are they where they are?

A Google around gives me no help with the first question, except a brief suggestion that they're private signs so I'll continue with the second.

The purpose of directional signs is an obvious one that is to direct people to the place they want to be, however that doesn't mean putting one every 100 yards or at every junction. If at a junction the default action is to travel in the direction that the sign would be pointing to then you don't need a sign indicating this. So signs on islands, signs on T-junctions no problem.

So why is there a sign on Dunley Road as you head onto the bridge into town pointing directly ahead? Why is this sign on the wrong side of the road? Better yet why does this sign obscure each of the lamps of the left-hand pedestrian crossing signal in turn as you approach it from the bridge?

Has anyone tried to try to turn down Harold Davies Drive to get to Water's Edge and thus required a nudge in the right direction? Is some driver going to be teleported onto this cul-de-sac and require directions once they hit the main road (in which case the sign should be opposite the road)? Why is the sign there? If you're following the main road then you continue to follow the main road what's so difficult about that?

Caught an advert for an Olay product this morning. Apparently it's a wonderful substance for "women who are not ready for cosmetic injections". Wow just check out the assumption there - 'Oh my I have wrinkles. I must have them removed using cosmetic surgery, yet I don't feel quite ready for that right now so what can I use in the meantime? Thank you Olay for your wonderful product now I can put off having surgery for a little longer'. Cos' every women is going to go under the knife to 'enhance' their appearance at some point - it's inevitable.

## Monday, August 18, 2008

### PlayStation 3 Europe's 80Gb version

During the bedraggled E3 show Sony confirmed that Europe will be getting the 80Gb version of the PlayStation 3 that was pumped out to the states; well not quite the same. This version is simply the 40Gb one without any form of backwards compatibility, but with a new hard-drive; well whoop-de-flippin-do. Even better it'll be exactly the same price as the current 40Gb version, leading to the question of whether it'll be cheaper to buy a 40Gb version and then fit an 80Gb hard drive yourself no don't worry it won't void anything the instructions to do so come with the user manual. They're just standard 2.5" SATA drives.

Checking on the home of populist High Street computer purchases PC World, such a drive will cost you about £50. No I tell a lie that's a 160Gb drive; twice as much as Sony are fitting. Okay, okay transfer speeds seek time etc. for the layman that means the drive might not be as good quality, but I doubt anyone would really notice.

So if the suddenly discarded 40Gb versions drop by more than £50, buy one of those instead of the 80Gb versions and DIY.

Wait silly me, there will be no price cut for the 40Gb PlayStations because there won't be any for sale. Hardware stocks are apparently so low that by the time the new ones arrive the old ones will be gone. Except I overheard a conversation in Game at the weekend between a clerk and a customer who was looking to buy a PS3 now who was told "Wait a week, the new version will be out by then". So if some stores are advising customers not to buy versions they obviously have in stock, how can stocks vanish with the new versions around the corner?

Hmm cynical old me thinks that a certain company may well recall said units to ensure that there are none around.

On an amusing note we are now up to v2.42 of the OS and they've finally updated the old European backwards compatibility page found here that had been showing the latest version as 1.8.

Yes indeed as you can see they've updated it by removing the list of games that will and won't work and replacing it with a generalised "majority of PlayStation 2 format software can be played with this model" gee thanks. Ah well those in the know can still use the American version which still has the searchable database, although take its advice with a pinch of salt.

Ah 'shaft', through the workings of Sony, Europe meets you once again.

### The Art of Timing

The Mystic Marks are still present on the Dunley Road, no doubt conjurations will begin once the kids are back at school and the traffic levels increase.

Line Painting is being carried out along lane 3 of Vale Road presumably where they filled in that hole, but as a result the free car-park is blocked off... uh during the period when everyone wants to use it?

The papers are going ecstatic over the medals for the Olympics the headline catching my eye being "Britannia rules the games". Yep we're currently third with 26 medals, less then half the amount won by the USA (65) or China (61); oh yes we're winning. The big joy is that we're simply not used to doing this well, so what has this got to do with the topic of timing?

Well think of the age of the British team they've grown up with a Labour government in control funding and encouraging amateur sports, whereas our previous teams were training under a Conservative government that sold off the sports grounds to developers and couldn't see the point of amateur sports as there was no profit in it. If I were the Labour PR department I'd be proclaiming this link from the high hills.

## Thursday, August 14, 2008

### A-level results

Yes its that time again when the media raises its collective head and starts whining about how these exams are obviously easy then they used to be given the number of high marks.

Yep more students have passed with more getting an A-grade, so why is this? Well we have two real options:

1. Students are more intelligent, or
2. Exams are getting easier.
Option 1 would be a nice conceit, after all we know that those who measure IQ have to renormalise the results every so often and the trend is upwards. Except this seems to contradict stories coming from universities that their intake don't know the basics, can't spell etc. (Not an indication of lack of intelligence though)

Onto option 2 which can be broken down as follows:
1. Exams are getting easier
1. The questions are easier, or
2. The marking is more lenient, or
3. The students are picking 'easier' subjects, or
4. The teaching is tailored only towards passing the exam.
Option 2.1 can be discounted if you consider that previous exam papers are used as practice and reference items for the current exam. As such it would be noticeable if the questions were being 'dumbed down' as their value would be diminished.

Option 2.2 is supported by various stories floating around such as students being awarded marks simply for providing an answer regardless of its relevance to the question. However this may only be one-off situations.

Option 2.3 requires a definition of 'easier' subjects, consensus seems to be those that require subjective analysis for an art exam 'Is this painting good?', for dance or media 'Do they perform well?'. Although such subjects will also have an objective component it appears the subjective section holds a fair proportion of the mark when compared to 'harder' subjects that rely on objective results 'Calculate this!" in a mathematics exam for instance can have only one correct answer (although marks are given for logical calculation even if an error is made). Using that definition the reports suggest that the 'harder' subjects are being dropped in favour of 'easier' ones.

Option 2.4 becomes an obvious result when it is considered that funding and performance are all rated on the basis of exam results. As with any competitive situation those that concentrate solely and repetitively on improving that which is being measured are likely to do better in such tests than those who opt for a more rounded method.

My opinion is that it may well be that this generation of exam takers are smarter then previous ones, but this will remain unknown due to lenient marking, an increase in subjects with subjective examination, and teaching to the test.

Time to suggest ways to counter this. First off examiners are made to mark previously assessed exams, if the new assessment is a certain percentage out from the previous assessment the examiner is dismissed or re-trained.

Subjective examination can't be removed for obvious reasons, it is also difficult to suggest that students be forced to take at least one 'hard' subject thus sapping their time and energy in doing something they may have no aptitude for.

For teaching to the test the simplistic option would be to remove using these exams as performance targets, however we still require some method of evaluating the worth of both school and/or teacher. Perhaps a once-removed approach whereby schools are assessed by the results of their pupils at university. This would necessitate the reinstatement of government paid tuition fees to remove wealth bias, but would highlight those schools sending their students off with only rote knowledge.

Ah well those are my thoughts, feel free to suggest others or pick mine apart.

## Wednesday, August 13, 2008

### Chinese athletes not attractive enough

Hot on the heels of the scandals surrounding the Olympics comes a fresh allegation. Not content with faking the fireworks display, planting cheering members in the audience, and replacing singers the Chinese authorities have taken to replacing the appearance of its competing team.

Using advanced computer trickery a scan of a pre-designated 'attractive' Chinese person is superimposed over that of the athlete in question prior to broadcast. When confronted with this allegation at a press conference an official issued the following statement:

"China is the best country in the world", he stated. "As such it produces the best sports people in the world. This fact must be made clear to the decadent Western nations who favour only superficial visual appearance over talent."

When asked if this 'enhancement' affected only those who won their events, the official seemed bemused.

"As befitting the best country in the world with the best political system in the world China has won every single event in which it has competed", he then added "At least that is what I have seen on the TV".

This satirical bit of fun brought to you by me ;-)

## Tuesday, August 12, 2008

### South Ossetia and Georgia

All over the news, apart from all the channels showing Olympic coverage, and obviously being discussed on the 'net particularly on The Devil's Kitchen. So here are the facts:

1801:
Both the areas known now as Georgia and Ossetia were absorbed into the Russian Empire

1917:
After the Revolution Ossetia found itself split in two with North Ossetia remaining Russian and South Ossetia becoming part of the Transcaucasian Republic.
The S. Ossetians rebelled and refused to pay taxes to the TR, declaring themselves part of Russia.
The TR broke down into ethnic factions which included Georgia.
Georgia sent troops into S. Ossetia to claim taxes and re-establish control.

1921:
S. Ossetia is placed under the control of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, but acts semi-autonomously.

1980's
Break-down of the USSR.
S. Ossetia is placed under Georgian control, but maintains its own laws.

1990:
Georgia declares Georgian to be the official language and abolishes regional political parties.
S. Ossetia declares itself an independent SSR; this goes unrecognised by the international community.
Georgia revokes S. Ossetia's autonomous status.
A state of emergency is declared in Georgia and troops are sent into S. Ossetia

1992:
A cease-fire is arranged.
Peacekeepers from Georgia, S. Ossetia and Russia patrol the borders.
S. Ossetia becomes a de facto independent state.

2003 onwards:
Relations between Georgia and Russia start to break-down.
Arrests are made of Russian 'spies'.

2006:
Georgia and NATO enter talks.
A gas pipeline in Georgia explodes and is blamed on Russia.
Street protests erupt in the capital the instigation of which is blamed on the Russians.
S. Ossetia hold a referendum for independence.
In violation of the peacekeeping agreement there are reports of Russian jets in Georgian territory
Reports of bombs being dropped by Russian jets in Georgian territory

2008:
Russians blame Georgians for bombing in Abhkazia (another break-away area)
Russia sends aid to Abhkazia

1st August:
Fighting breaks out between Georgian and S. Ossetian troops, each accuse the other of starting the engagement.

3rd August:
Beginning of evacuation of S. Ossetia's civilians to Russia.
Georgia shells S. Ossetian troop positions.

7th August:
Georgia declares a cease-fire.
S. Ossetian troops attack ethnic-Georgian settlements within S. Ossetia.
Georgia moves troops in for an attack on S. Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali.

8th August:
Tskhinvali surrounded, cover bombing initiated.
Russian troops move to the offensive.

9th August:
Fighting continues.

10th August:
Georgia begins withdrawal from Tskhinvali and S. Ossetia.

11th August:
Russian troops begin to move into Georgia.
---

Now as I said in one of the comments on DK, let's recognise South Ossetia as a state and instate Georgia as part of NATO. Result - Georgia can't attack S. Ossetia and expect back-up, Russia can't attack Georgia without pulling in NATO. I mean let's face it S. Ossetia is more Russian then Georgian and has tried to gain that state for the last hundred years . So what the hell is all the fighting about?

### Percentages

I get called this morning to solve a problem, my mother does the puzzles in the Daily Express (yes they're still buying it, but I think they don't bother reading the 'news' anymore) and she was having trouble with one of their 30 second maths problem.

242 - double it
484 - divide by 3
161.3 um the answer has to be an integer.

So she tried to work backwards and got a bit lost, and thus enlisted my help.

44 - times by 3
132 - halve it
66 - decrease by 37.5%
48... hold on a second that previous 66 is awfully familiar; indeed 66 is 37.5% of 176. Yep the equation should have been 'take 37.5%'.

This isn't the first time one of these puzzles has been incorrect, what is interesting is that as far as I can tell every time they have been wrong it's been due to the percentage part of the problem. This seems to suggest that either whoever is writing these things doesn't have a firm grasp of how percentages work, or whoever is responsible for laying it out is changing the wording.

Now as this is a newspaper that often prints stories along the lines of 'Crime up by 10%' it shakes the faith (more so) that they even know what they're talking about.

## Monday, August 11, 2008

### Littering

One of the news reports they did cover on the BBC was with regard to littering, although less of a news report and more a promo for tonight's Panarama programme. The snippet showed someone being given a fixed penalty notice for dropping a cigarette butt. Bill Bryson who is hosting the programme was on the coach talking about it all, bins need to be emptied if they get full, more need to placed in areas, and most importantly enforcement needs to be standardised.

Driving into work this morning and the female driver of the silver VW Beetle registration FON flicks a cigarette out the window. Here's the deal - if your car has an ashtray use it, if it doesn't don't smoke. 'Oh but I don't want my car to smell of stale ash and I must have a fag' bloody whiners fine the lot of them.

### Signed for the Hard of Hearing

Good job there's no actual news that needs reporting, you know something like an invasion, that would really interfere with the Olympic coverage on the BBC. For those of us with digital or satellite we could get the real BBC news via their 24-hour news channel; well kind of.

The screen had been shrunk to allow a signer to fit into the bottom right corner. At first he wasn't too distracting, but then he started to drift leftwards. He started off with his head straddling the border between the screen and the white space then his head was fully into the screen, then the border ran down the side of his body. As he was two-thirds up and one-third across this meant two-ninths of the screen was removed; not covering anything up just distracting.

What can I say I'm all for signing on programmes, but there's got to be a way of disabling it for those of us who don't need it. It's like taking two-thirds of a stair away to build a ramp leaving everyone with a foot wide strip to use - penalise the majority to accommodate the minority.

## Friday, August 08, 2008

### Good old President Bush

"We continue to be candid about our belief that all people should have the freedom to say what they think and worship as they choose,"
and after being all solemn for the delivery it's straight back on with the smirk. I've just twigged - he's the popular jock being asked to do the speech at the High School graduation; he delivers these profound missives in the correct tone and with the correct facial expressions until that's done with at which point he reverts back to normal type.

### Does Amazon truly know me?

From the latest mailshot from Amazon:

Dear Xbox 360 Fan, [...] Discover more for your Xbox 360 at Amazon.co.uk
Um I don't have an Xbox let alone an Xbox360, I've never bought an Xbox game from Amazon nor have I browsed through my recommendations for the Xbox picking out those I'm uninterested in.

So why the hell does it think I own one?

## Thursday, August 07, 2008

### The Toll House wall

A phone call from the planning department about the wall outside the Toll House that I was worried about. Highways have taken a look at it and said that the height's fine and was to provide better visibility.

Except that wasn't what I was concerned about in the slightest because I knew the height was fine. So I'm trying to explain once again the potential problem and once again explaining that no I'm not talking about walking along the left-hand side of the bridge (with your back to the town) on the highway I'm talking about walking up the side of the bridge from the riverside.

It gets better as the site has been sold and the planning permission that was granted isn't required and thus null and void, so the new owner is applying for retrospective planning permission to cover what's been built. So now I've got to keep an eye out for that to just in case the planning department don't pass on my concerns or get them jumbled once again.

The women at the planning department seemed a little put out by my "Oh goodie retrospective planning" and repeated various times that it's perfectly legal blah blah blah. Yeah the point of retrospective planning was to either a) provide people who hadn't realised they'd need planning to get it or b) to cope with those oddities that came up during the building process and weren't covered by the original permission. It's not for people to build walls when they don't have permission and then ask "Oo can we have permission please?"

Worcestershire Highways were out yesterday afternoon on the Dunley Road next to Harold Davies Drive having a measure. Nothing apparent later, but two of their quasi-mystical signs have appeared in the road close to The Rough |-> pointing towards HDD; hmm what could they mean ;-)

[Update - the first one is actually just around the corner from The Rough, I've located the closing <-| where the resurfacing of the bridge ends, that's a reasonable stretch of road as you might expect no signs yet as to when any of this might be occurring]

On another note signs were up on the Stour Bridge warning of signalling and a closed lane where the hole is, workers were poised at Baldwin Road ready to pounce the moment the clock struck twelve. Don't know if it's yet more lampposts or actually fixing the hole I'll find out later.

[Update - as per my comment to Don below it was indeed a repair, square cut and levelled; but we'll see how long it lasts]

### The Olympics

The American cycling team turn up in China wearing antipollution masks and are made to apologise. ITN run the story and talk to one of the IOC guys pointing out the scummy white cloud hanging over everything and is told it's just mist caused by the humidity. Said ITN reporter tests the air quality. Safe air is designated at 50 or under, London is 53, Beijing varied between 200 and 400 (video on the ITV site, but it uses Silverlight). It's just mist, really gritty mist.

Okay slightly unfair, other reports show readings of 44-60 and only as high as 100 so it seems it depends a lot on weather, but apparently even the IOC are talking about rescheduling some events if it gets too high.

Olympic president Jacques Rogge said: "I am assured the pollution levels will only affect those engaged in vigorous physical activity."
]

On the Olympic note President Bush criticises China authorities
"The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings."
Annoyingly even when he says something that I agree with I still want to give him a slap, in this instance it was due to the semi-smirk he pulled after uttering this sentence. It's just so frat-boy 'Huh huh I'm just off to this big party and I'm dissing the hosts and there's nothing they can do about it'

## Wednesday, August 06, 2008

### Wonderful Amazon

As mentioned in another entry Amazon are doing under a fiver films etc. so I've been having a browse through adding some in to replace the old VHS tapes now I've consigned my VCR to attic.

Checked my basket Tuesday and at the top of the page - "[Movie A] has increased in price from £4.98 to £5.98 since you placed it in your shopping basket" Hmm well I'm still adding stuff so I can take it out at purchase time.

Checked this morning "[Movie A] has decreased in price from £5.98 to £4.98 since you placed it in your shopping basket" Hahahahahaha.

The other bit of nice news was that season 4 of Blakes 7 has for the first time in six months dropped in price from £38.98 to £36.98.

Now that HD-DVD has been scrapped it seems re-releases on Blu-Ray is picking up; of course the question is how these films are being transferred. Are they rescanning the original film, do they have a high-resolution digital copy or are they just upscaling it? I think the movie studios learnt their lesson when they just transferred VHS quality over to DVD, but heck it's worth checking.

### All is quiet

Nothing much has been going on - it's silly season in national news and locally nothing much has been going on. We had a travelling road-block in Worcester Road with them doing something with the lampposts, but they didn't take advantage to fill in the hole on the Stour bridge, likewise the tearing on the other side is becoming the more pronounced gouges and the gouges in York Street are becoming holes.

The work at Buftons seems to have stopped for the moment leaving us with nice solid looking wooden window frames with the plaster board behind them and acting as the door.

All the rain still hasn't cleaned the icing sugar pavements and they're just as dull as they were about a week after they went down. It also highlights that they just went over the top of the existing tarmac with puddles forming in exactly the same places; the paving though seems to be a good job so far.

The lane markings in Bridge Street still mean all those heading from the bridge are overtaking close to a junction and we still haven't any lane markings at all in York Street though as I've mentioned before that may be as doing the work would highlight the problem with the additional parking bays at the entrance.

Despite the traffic wardens we're still getting the constant parking down the right side of York Street and delivery vans pulled up on the pavements both there, High Street, and Bridge Street (although that may or may not be illegal see 244). In the same fashion could someone at least move on the vehicles parking opposite the bus stop in York Street? Though again this is a DO NOT rather then the illegal MUST NOT (243) it does impede traffic flow when buses use the stop and besides it is a) on a "At any time" single yellow line (why aren't they double then?) and b) next to a pelican crossing as well. If they're loading/unloading they're taking their sweet time about it.

On a personal note I'm getting annoyed with the Shell garage who seem to have their deliveries scheduled for about 8:30 in the morning thus closing down the station during the morning rush hour one day a week - braindead decision.

On unrelated notes I've been enjoying Overlord on the PS3 though I agree with the majority of reviews that the control system needs some work, and I've been confused by the advert that starts of Childline/NSPCC and winds up shilling Persil what the hell is that all about?

## Friday, August 01, 2008

### Not just the fogies

Stuck in traffic heading through town yesterday afternoon (what a surprise) I observed a group of young girls clustered around that post in Bridge Street. I couldn't hear what the one was saying, but her miming was enough. Hands held out to the post and sweeping up and down vertically - why isn't this a simple narrow post? Step forward before comic bonging of head on invisible post - and what a stupid place to put it.

See it's both young and old who can see through the 'its measurements conform to guidelines' bilge that's trotted out by our glorious leaders in place of using common sense.