Friday, August 31, 2012

Exams and the English mess

From the start I'll declare a personal involvement in the current mess-up over English marks. Bratus Major needed 4 A-C marks to take his courses at college and got 6; however he needed 2 of them to be in Maths and English. He got a D in English. Fortunately after consultation the college accepted him provided that the exam was remarked and if he still failed he'd take a remedial make-up exam at the college.

The big joke in this is exactly why the English pass was required given that he's pursuing a science course. I can understand the basic need to be able to spell and express oneself correctly, but the English exam doesn't just cover that.

Killzone 3 review

I've finished the campaign mode of Killzone 3 last night which was a little surprising as I'd only started it on Tuesday. So that's maybe 6 hours of gameplay.

I've been with the franchise since the beginning and slowly despaired at the turns they were taking. In the very first game you got to choose your player type at the start of each mission which in turn determined your style of play. In the second they dropped all that and just plonked you in the body of whomever they wanted and handed you the weapons they thought you'd need. In this the third (and I hope) last of the series they've done exactly the same thing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleep paralysis - things falling on you in dreams

Yes I know other people's dreams are boring; if you find that to be the case don't continue I'm not forcing you to read this. Normally I don't recall my dreams. All the ones I remember are narratives and the ones I glimpse before they fade seem to be the same; however there are two recurring ones that I can always remember the cause to the effect they have on me and both are very similar. The preamble often differs, but the conclusion is roughly the same. I'll illustrate with the one from last night.

Dream of Skyrim, Bond, and Silent Hill

I woke up in the middle of the night out of this strange dream and decided to write it down with my mobile instantly. It's so easy to either forget or start editing afterwards ann I wanted the raw weirdness. So here it is.

All the fun of the fair

On Tuesday The Artist and his family popped up to spend the day; wow did we manage to catch the weather or what? Monday - Rain; Wednesday - Rain; Tuesday - Sun. So we went down to the riverside for a picnic. Myself and my parents, them with Devil Child and Chewie.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yet more proof that Bethesda didn't really test Skyrim

Oh dear this is one that really should have been picked up. Within Skyrim are seven special stealable items called "larceny targets". Pick them up and sell them to a thief called Delvin for money and to decorate the Guild Master's desk.
Trouble is once you acquire the seventh the quest marks itself as complete and the option to sell to Delvin is removed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The GCSE and A-Level marking conundrum

Watching the BBC Breakfast news this morning and the discussion on marking; Charlie Stayt, one of the presenters, asked  something along the lines of "Why can't we just set a mark and say if you score over this then you get an A or an A*?" and it never really got answered. So I'm going to give it a go.

Stourport's Loyalty Scheme?

Back in May I pointed to Tenbury's marketing and asked "Where's our 'Apple' scheme?". Well solid information suggests that we may well be getting some such loyalty programme, which may roll out by the end of next month. I don't know how far it will extend, whether it'll just be for the town or be district-wide or even how it'll operate; but yay!

This is just the sort of thing we need and well done to those who are trying to push it forwards.

[Update - It's broken cover and gone public]

New Kidderminster underpass art

I'd seen they'd white-washed the walls of the underpass connecting Kidderminster town to Crossley Park, but I hadn't realised they were going to do this.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Banning Buckyball toys?

I've toyed with the notion of buying a set of rare-earth magnetic spheres, but have been unable to justify it to myself. If I were a US citizen however that decision has been taken out of my hands - I can't buy them.

Yep it seems a government agency in that country has banned them from sale. Wow. Okay yes they can be harmful to kids if swallowed, but here's the catch - they're not being marketed to kids. There are no early-morning commercials exhorting children to pester their parents into buying these things - they're designed for adults and carry blatant warning labels regarding their non-suitability for children.

Okay once they're out of the box there are no warnings, but guess what - that's the same for a lot of other things. Take a look at all those sharp knives in your kitchen - if some random child managed to cut themselves with one of them should we ban them?

If an adult buys something that would be unsuitable or dangerous for a child it is up to them to keep it away from children; that's what all the warning labels are for. If some kid swallows a piece of your magnetic sculpture than amazingly enough that may well be your fault.

But hey if they're that dangerous; perhaps they're right there must be a whole lot of children being put in peril by these products? Or perhaps not. Out of 2,000,000 there have been 60 cases of ingestion in two year that's 3 per 100,000 and the number of fatalities... zero. So banning dogs is next on the lines as that's got a 129 per 100,000 rate. Better add skateboards to the list too with a 472 per 100,000 rate for 12-17 year olds.

The joke is this comes from second amendment toting, from my cold-dead hands America. Okay I doubt many adults leave handguns lying around for children to stumble across because they know they're dangerous, but again - warning labels. If you can't be bothered to read them and keep unsafe products away from children that's your fault not the product's, not the manufacturer's; yours!

If you ban all products that  may potentially be harmful to children when mis-used there's not going to be much left.

Those Prince Harry photos

Sigh, so let's all ignore the 'reputation of the family' rubbish or even 'reputation of the country' the chances of Harry becoming monarch are rather slim. Instead what this has once again put the spotlight on is "Who paid for this?".

If Harry was over in Las Vegas on some sort of trade mission paid for by the government then his actions were inappropriate. If he paid for it himself... well he does earn around £38k a year as a Captain in the British Army Air Corps so he could have paid for the allegedly £4,750 a night suite himself, but I doubt it. Much more likely is that it was paid for out of the £300k a year he's getting in interest alone from the Trust from his late mother.

So it's quite possible he could have paid for it himself and not out of 'our' money in which case he can do what he bloody well likes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Resurfacing making things worse?

Torrential rain on the way home last night and once again the old Chain Wyre/new OGL island formed its own moat. Yet I don't recall this happening in the past. In fact there's a couple of places that seem to be getting 'puddled up' more than they used to and drawing a connection it seems to be where the road itself or a road nearby has been resurfaced.

Are these actions altering the flow of water and directing it to areas that never used to get it? It may seem a stupid question but are those who do the work taking into account where the drainage is and directing the cambers in that direction?

Anyone else noticing more water forming in areas that never used to? Has that road been resurfaced lately?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to spot a fake email

Every so often I get a call or an email saying "I've just had this email can I click on the link" and each time I end up repeating the same bits of advice. So how to spot the fakes.

First Rule:

If you are unsure at all don't click on any links! Better safe than sorry.

Second Rule:

Were you expecting an email from this organisation or person? From friends and family that's a difficult one to answer particularly if they're the type who forward you every 'funny' thing they see. If it's unexpected treat it as suspicious.

Third Rule:

Look at where the link is trying to send you. In Outlook hover over it with the mouse and a popup will appear; in web browsers it'll often appear at the bottom of the page. A failed delivery notice from UPS for instance is unlikely to try to send you to

Third Rule - codicil:

Just because the address contains the name of the organisation doesn't mean it's genuine. Look at the bit directly in front of the, .com, .net suffix - that's  where you're going. There's nothing to stop me setting up a site called and then directing you to or You're not going to their sites you're going to my site.

Fourth Rule:

If you are unsure at all don't click on any links! Yes I know that's the first rule but it's really important. If you get an email purporting to be from your bank saying click here to access your account and you find it suspicious, don't do it. Open your browser and access your bank the way you normally do it. In fact even if you don't find it suspicious just get into the habit of accessing your bank or other sites using the browser directly.

There we go. Follow those rules and you shouldn't have any problems.

Oh and course that's not to say legitimate businesses don't cock it up too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

From Kidderminster to Stouport video

A surprisingly quiet trip. On any other day when I wasn't filming it's chock.

And then my camera fell off its mounting just as I'm about to get stuck in town due to the parking. Managed to grab it off the dash and drop it onto the passenger seat. Couldn't turn off the recording though until I was parked up. I found a neat little editor for Android called VidTrim; not as intuitive as it could be (am I clipping out the bit I've highlighted or keeping it?) but it's simple enough and free.

Liberate Solitude - a scary Skyrim bug

Yes it's yet another Skyrim bug. If you take up the side of the Stormcloaks the last place to liberate is the city of Solitude, but first you must remove Fort Hraggstad from the equation.

Check with Galmer who tells you to take the fort; meet up with the men, take the fort, and return to Galmer; who has obviously taken one too many blows to the head.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Assange stupidity

If you've been watching the news or reading the papers you are probably aware of the furore concerning Julian Assange and the, now extended, Ecuadorian political asylum. If you've been watching RT you definitely know about it because that's pretty much all they've been covering (I'm sure it has nothing to do with the show he hosted/s for them).

I covered my thoughts regarding 'international' law and the consequences in this instance almost two years ago and nothing's* changed since then. Well almost nothing; we now get a clumsy 'reminder' of diplomatic law from the UK that, if it wasn't already, I'm sure made up the mind of the Ecuadorian government.

However let's get back to the crux of the matter - the request to respond to allegations from Sweden. Why wouldn't Assange want to answer these?

Those fighting with him treat it as a huge conspiracy to get him into the USA to face charges; however look at the current UK-US extradition treaties and how biased they are towards handing over 'criminals' to the US. There's a larger chance of him being extradited from the UK than there would be from Sweden. Logically if this were the factor he'd be on a plane as soon as this hit to anywhere but the UK.

So I have to turn to option 2 - he has something to hide. If that's the case he's using the current underlying anti-US military trend to evade justice. He's playing off countries against the US (and in part the UK) to not visit Sweden under what appears to be a simple request for questioning regarding sexual actions on his part.

*never noticed that Firefox's UK dictionary doesn't have "nothing's" in it as a contraction of "nothing has" or "nothing is". In typing this also "Firefox's" as in the possessive of Firefox is also not present... wait "Firefox" isn't in Firefox's dictionary either. Heh!

The Wacky World of Skyrim - Need Rest

As I stepped out of my bed-containing house a passing guard said this to me. My response was pretty much as the comic. It seems if you go without sleep for a while guards will mention how tired you are and pimp out the services of the local inn regardless of the fact that they've apparently been informed that a) you're a Thane of this town and that b) you own a house.

Shame then that I have little incentive to sleep. Unlike Oblivion you can level up without it and so all you get is the "Well Rested" bonus that means you gain experience quicker... except I'm currently a werewolf and thus don't get that bonus.

Blogger Avatar loss

I was cleaning up some of my Picasa web albums and noted I had a a few duplicates of my "footprint in sand" avatar photo; so I deleted them. Just to ensure everything was okay I then logged into my profile settings and checked that my avatar was set to the remaining image.

To my surprise all my older comments now show an image not found symbol. It seems rather than pull the current avatar image from the profile Blogger hard-codes the image into the script; delete it and poof it no longer displays.

How silly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

UK Sport - only fund the winners?

With out medal haul at the Olympics we are showing the world that the UK still excels at sporting events; well at least our privately educated populace at least. I'm sure this disparity where 33% of our medals came from a privileged 7% of our population will change for the next Olympics. After all it's not as if there are any funding cuts being made to the bodies that provide for the majority is there? Oh.

Well at least they're not picking on the sports that didn't do as well in the Olympics as we'd hoped for. Ah.

There's a couple of small problems with this approach. Consider the our medal tally in the Beijing Olympics. Using that logic funding would be pulled from Diving, Hockey, Judo, Shooting, Tennis, and the Triathlon; none of whom received medals at that event. Yet they did in the London Olympics.

See sport is like stocks and shares - past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance. The team that competed just isn't necessarily going to be the same as the team that will compete; particularly given the 4 year time frame and the high age-burnout nature of a lot of the events.

If we're not careful we run into self-fulfilling prophecies. If we only fund those sports that have proven themselves then oddly enough they stand a better chance of winning; thus proving we were right in funding them and that we should continue to do so to the detriment of the 'losers'.

Okay we can't fund everything and decisions have to be made, but we just have to be wary that we don't fall into the 'only back known winners' approach or we end up undermining the entire spirit of the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Battlefield Bad Company 2 - PS3 age restriction take 2

It's been a month since I contacted EA regarding the disparity between selling Battlefield Bad Company 2 as a 15 certificate game while internally restricting it as an 18 (level 9) and with no response to my email I gave them another call.

They've changed the support options Star Wars is option 1, FIFA option 2 and problems with the online password is option 3... and? Nope that's it. Neat.

Anyway I got through to Richard who read the case details and then asked for the PSN id.
"You don't need that. It's simple you're selling a game for 16 year olds but internally restricting it to 18 year olds. Now has my cousin managed to buy an illegal game of Amazon or have you messed up?"
"I just want to check the age the PSN account is set under"
"That has nothing to so with this. It's an internal restriction for the PS3 he's playing the single player game and it's stopping him from doing so as soon as he tries to start. The level is set to 7 and the game is set to 9"
"Can I put you on hold for a moment?"
He came straight back
"This is going to take a little longer"
"Okay can you call me back"
"Okay here's my number"

A short while later

"We think it might be a printing error. Our copies show 18 on the box. Are you sure it's a region 2 game"
"Well I sent you photos of the box and disc as well as the BLES number that should tell you"
"Ah yes I can see those now. I see the disc says 18 on it"
"Yes but that's in Blue it's the German rating, and we're not in Germany"
"Ah yes"

So it may be a printing error, which given the age of this game - no-one has spotted before now!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chepstow Castle pictures

The rain eased up so I managed to at least get around Chepstow Castle. £4 admission even with nothing going on, but it is quite large.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A bit of a holiday

Staying in Chepstow for a long weekend. Went round the town on Friday, visited Taurus Crafts yesterday and planned on a quick wander around the castle today - hasn't stopped raining since last night.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Women's Olympic handball

Watching the handball. The Norwegians with the red flag are playing in white, the South Koreans with their white flag are playing in red.

Very confusing  :-)

The Wacky World of Skyrim - Hail Companion

It can be quite strange wandering through built-up areas in Skyrim, one minute the guards are all praising your valour the next they're informing you they're keeping an eye on you so you'd better not cause any trouble.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Skyrim - Riften House/Thane/Thieves

I mentioned the Skooma Quest bug in Skyrim and how that was preventing me from buying property which was also preventing me being a Thane and (I believe) preventing me becoming the head of the Thieves Guild. Well while starting the Dark Brotherhood Quests I was taken near to the Cavern causing the problem and popped in to check if the one person had respawned. He had and I took him out.

Imagine my surprise when it told me I'd finished the Skooma Quest and should talk to the Jarl of Riften. Yay! Over to there and due to the time she was heading off to her, locked, chambers for rest. I managed to get a word and was told that I couldn't be a Thane until I owned property. No problem. I found the steward and bought some property. In the meantime the Jarl had retired. So with nothing to do until the morning and while I was there I upgraded my property with the steward and paid it a visit. Not bad.

I returned to the Jarl and hung around for a bit. When she finally reappeared I conversed with her. Nope didn't know who I was and I most certainly got no Thane options. What the hell?

Checked online and oh yeah another known bug - upgrade your property before talking to the Jarl and she won't acknowledge it.

Oh yeah I need to reload a previous save - oh hell that's not going to be good. See I saved as I left the Dark Brotherhood sanctuary on the first contract. As I could fast travel it was a case of travel, kill; travel, kill; travel, kill; return, turn in; do internal quest, get another quest. Travel, kill, travel, kill, return. Get Quest, travel, get stuff, return, get sent to Riften. Hence me passing by the cavern. All in all about two hour's worth of play. Luckily there's the autosaves all four of them.... yeah:

Enter Jarl's palace. Autosave in palace.
Buy propery upgrade (bad thing)
Leave Jarl's palace. Autosave
Enter my new property Autosave
Leave my new property Autosave.
Enter palace overwrite the first autosave before I did the bad thing.... oh crap.

So yeah the only save I had was from the start of my session that night. Once again it seems no-one considered that while talking to the steward that can sell you property, players might decide to upgrade that property while they're still in conversation with the very same steward who handles that.

Now this is why I normally keep two different well spaced saves. Awesome.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Skyrim's Darklight Tower - the Repentance bug

I've just mentioned this but I thought it might be interesting just to show exactly what I did to screw this up and how Bethesda have handled the quests so poorly.

How Bethesda could have resolved so many Skyrim glitches

Skyrim's a big game so sure there are going to be a few things that remain untested - it's difficult to predict that a player may find a way of unbolting a door from the wrong side or approach an area from over the 'impassable' mountains and thus negate and balls-up a huge chunk of quest storyline. I'm not going to talk about that it's the stuff Bethesda should have been able to test and more importantly could have got right before the game even shipped by changing how they handled quests.

There are a few notable quests that glitch but I'll deal with two biggies, see if you can spot the connection and suggest the solution before I give it.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Mark Garnier petrol prices

As mentioned last year I've found myself signed up to our MP's email newsletter. Beyond the hypocritical front page where our Conservative MP vows to fight our Conservative County Council on the matter of downgrading Kidderminster Hospital despite his complete lack of say in the matter; I found my eye drawn to the petrol price 'scandal'. Essentially from time-to-time our news fixates on the fact that a chain-store in Wyre Forest is selling petrol at a higher price than outside the district.

Despite explaining things twice, I'll add some hard figures to things. As the Tesco was mentioned I'll deal with them. The Tesco in Kidderminster store and station have a rateable value of £2,080,000. The Tesco in Cradley Heath a rateable value of £2,000,000. At this year's multiplier of 45.8p/£ the Kidderminster branch has to pay an extra £36,640 per year.

As I've said before nation-wide stores are allowed to charge different prices in different places if their running costs are higher.

Okay they're charging 4p/litre more and I agree that's excessive, but there's a lot of implying that something dodgy is going on. The problem isn't with the businesses - they're in competition within the local area; the problem is in the rules that govern how they compete.

The current EU Competition Article 82 is pointless and next to useless it's more concerned with businesses selling goods at different prices between States and only if they're "dominant". Petrol stations in one UK district does not count as a different State from another UK district; if there's more than one such station owned by different companies it's not dominant either.

We need a UK law similiar to the US Robinson-Patman Act to geographic price discrimination an offence. Who can create such a thing - why our government of course of whom our current MP is a member.

Hunt hoarse

Watching the BBC this morning they questioned Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt regarding the uptake of sports in schools and he started by apologising for the hoarseness of his voice as he'd been cheering on (UK gold-winner) Andy Murray.

Ting went the connections in my head. Didn't he say something very similar last week on GMTV that he was hoarse due to shouting on (UK gold-winner)  Sir Chris Hoy (or at least some cyclist)?

Is this a new tactic? When being interviewed in a negative situation start with a name-drop of a recent UK gold winner? Can anyone provide further examples?

Saturday downpour

I now have a dash mount for my phone that will allow me to take videos of my journey. Did I fix it on Saturday as I was driving back form Kidderminster? No of course I didn't.

Driving down the dual-carriageway as I approached the tip I could spy what appeared to be a white haze on the horizon. As I drew level with the slip-road it started to rain. I turned my wipers on, I slowed down. I turned my wipers on to their maximum setting, slowed down some more and flicked on my side-lights for the rear reds.

I couldn't see the lines on the road. I came out the dual and flicked my lights on to normal so people coming the other way knew I was there. All the drains instantly couldn't cope and we were all sloshing through massive puddles. Then after I'd gone through the town it just stopped.

It was if a cloud just emptied itself on us.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Apple error 3259

Okay I'm getting sick of this. DaBoss' phone is on the blink and I'm trying to do a restore. However to do so requires a download of the latest OS 700+Mb worth. It manages 500 odd and then fails with a 3259 error. Checking with Apple and I reach this page. Checking online and everyone either repeats or points to this page.

It's crap.

For those not au fait with computers here's why.

Imagine you're buying 700m of cable, but it needs to be wound up on a drum on the back of your truck. You back up to the store they hand you the first bit and you start reeling it in. 500m later you reach the end.

The retailers advice.

1) Did you go to the right window for cable?
2) Is your drum working?
3) Does your drum accept this type of cable?

See none of those things can be at fault because I've already got 500m/Mb of my cable/download. If any of those weren't working I wouldn't have even been able to start receiving anything. I see uploaded photos of people downloading music with one single 3259 error in the middle of it and people still point them to this 'solution' because it contains the magic number 3259 and well duh don't you know how to Google it's the first result.

The fact that they're receiving means there's nothing wrong with the settings they use to receive which is what this solution is telling them to check.

I mean sure if you can't get anything then it's worth checking these out, but that's not the case with me and not the case with the forums posters I looked at who were having the same problem.

Possible Solution - I restarted iTunes. Yeah that dumb.

Oh and everytime it failed it deleted the file and had to start from scratch. Seriously my Acorn Electron had better error-correction than that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A dead alarm clock

I buy clocks electric or wind-up and they only seem to last a couple of years before something goes wrong with them; not so my Citizen CrystalTalk clock. A transparent cube with two gold pyramids set point to point in the middle that light up. A large button on the top that could be pressed to tell the time and snooze the alarm. A simple LCD displayed clock set in the base with time, date, alarm and stopwatch; takes 2 AA batteries.

I've had it over 20 years and last night it finally died. Well the clock still works, but the sound is kerput so no alarm.

Try searching for one on Google and you'll just get some news pieces from 1986. Nothing on Amazon, nothing on eBay. It seems they've stopped making them and no-one has a working one they wish to sell. So now I've got to try and find a similar replacement.

20 years; a birthday present from my parents - it's like losing a friend.

[Update - had to settle for the T-10 from Cobalt; a UFO shaped one looked nice but was too large]

[Update - just a additional response due to Orphi's "take it apart and fix it" upon closer examination there are two screws on the battery holder and that's it. I'll unscrew them and see if the base lifts off. Otherwise it's a sealed unit]