Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cancel the TV licence

At work we've have a TV aerial and in the past it's been used to watch live broadcasts so of course we had a licence. Except we don't do that now so time to cancel it. Four menu options through the phone queue and I'm asked for either the reference number or the licence number.

The reference number is only 4 characters long so it's not that.
"Is there a ten digit number?" I'm asked by the operator
"Yes the licence number which is difficult to read due to the perforation running through it"

Yep the change of details tear off slip at the bottom of the form runs right through the licence number on the other side. Anyway we run through the totally pointless security questions as the answers are printed at the top of the form and cancel the licence. However first I have to listen to what we can't do.

We can't watch or receive any live broadcasts on a television, mobile, computer, console or any device...
"Yes we can't watch any live broadcasts" I interject before she names every possible thing that could receive them.
An enforcement officer might call to check on this and if they discover that we are watching television we could be fined up to £1000
"No we can be fined if we watch live broadcasts; we can use a television to watch something than live broadcasts; that's rather badly phrased" I reply

Hey I'm just saying there's nothing stopping me from watching a bought disc or catch-up on a television. The act of watching a television is and of itself not denied me; likewise "television" and "live broadcast" are not synonymous.

Crappy software assumptions

Gods I hate hardware companies that make crappy software. DaBoss has bought some bit of kit that can plug into his computer. He installs the software that allows him to record data and it keeps CLR failing which I assume is down to the NET framework.

I check the installation; I check the requirements I check the version of NET that's running using IE [javascript:alert(navigator.userAgent)] and everything should work.

I locate the executable and pull up the properties; check comparability and set it to "Run as administrator" lo and behold the software now works. Yep the software assumes you're running it with full administrator privileges something that isn't mentioned anywhere in the documentation.

It's a crappy Visual Studio templated thing anyway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Birmingham Road Kidderminster Road Plans

Just a quicky as per this article in the Shuttle regarding the roadworks currently ongoing at the Birmingham Road the plans are not available online. To that end here they are :-)

So it seems these "traffic islands" are in fact concrete pads. Oh and love the "For reference purposes only. No further copies may be made" despite the fact this is supposedly a public document by our council.

For dating purposes the original document in PDF form was created on the 1st of October.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nasty Norton

Installed a Wi-Fi printer for someone on Saturday because they were essentially scared of botching it up (it was an HP Photosmart 6510; dead easy to install on a Mac, but very grindy noise-wise in terms of operation) and then on Sunday I took a look at someone else's computer. It had failed due to decreasing disk space, someone else had taken a look at it and essentially done the equivalent of a factory reset whilst maintaining user data. I'd already taken a look after this because although the data was retained it wasn't moved over to the new user that had been created.

Anyhow yet more problems with disappearing disk space, yet when I took a look at it before it seemed fine. I took at look at it this time and it had about 1.2Gb free; decidedly less than I recall. I deleted 2.5Gb worth of junk and that left me with 0.5Gb free. Er what?

I pulled up the Task Manager and watched Symantec's LiveUpdate for the virus checker eating away at everything. So I deleted all ~0.6Gb worth. Amount of free space remaining now - 9.5Gb of a 43Gb HD.

Gotta love these things.

Two child limit policy

The government has proposed a two-child limit on child payments for the UK. This may surprise some but I'm in favour of this; some aren't so I'm going to look at arguments I'm seen against.

1. This is just like China's one-child limit. We don't want to be like China do we? Beyond the (well-deserved) attack on China's governance this doesn't equate. Does our government propose fining parents that have more than two children? No. Does out government propose sending them to prison or sterilising parents who have more than two children? No. Our government isn't going to punish parents who have more than two children they're simply not going to reward them.

2. How dare the government get involved in this; setting arbitrary limits on natural processes. Except as soon as a decision was made to provide parents with funds when they have children the government did get involved. Complaining about them setting limits is like complaining about them setting the pensionable age or the voting age.

3. But what if someone has triplets? Seriously I've seen this as an argument and while it is indeed something that needs to be dealt with it's hardly a deal-breaker. Triplets and more don't occur that often and should it happen to someone (except by artificially induced methods) parents should receive funds for all three (or more) children. They just won't receive any more should they have any more children.

So what are the arguments in favour?

1. Population reduction. Our population are living longer and this is putting a strain on various services. A slow, managed reduction will result in a better quality of life for most.

2. The welfare managers. Okay it's very Dale Mailey; but people who constantly have children and aren't working (because they have children) are being supported solely by the government and morally I personally think this is wrong.

3. This doesn't stop people having more than two children it just places the burden of responsibility back on to them and not onto the government. In this instance I think this is morally right.

Your thoughts, arguments?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Police and Crime Commissioner - The race is on

It's the 26th of October and that means the official list of candidates running for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner have been released along with a brief blurb about why we should vote for them.

Voting for the West Mercia we have a fine choice between three candidates Adrian Blackshaw (Conservative), Bill Longmore (Independent) and Simon Murphy (Labour). If we were voting for the West Midlands election (which ironically we're a part of geographically speaking) we'd have a choice of seven candidates including three Independents. But hey double the population double the choice I suppose.

So it's all up to us to chose someone to represent a population of 1.19 million spread over 2,868 square miles so as you can imagine your vote counts [snort]. Ah democracy in action has never been left so bare in this country. One person representing that many people; over that large an area, of that level of urban/rural diversity - oh yes representative and accountable to the people indeed.

Total rubbish - if we wanted someone who was going to listen to us in this locality we should have elections at the division level; this is just a joke.

Wyre Forest Car-parking profits

Heated exchanges at the Shuttle over the revelation that the council is making a profit of £429,875 on its car-parks and the excuse given as to why it needs to make a profit:

The surplus made from car parking is used to help deliver services. To not make a surplus, would mean services elsewhere would have to be cut.
Normally I wouldn't have a problem with that as this is pretty much how government works, however given the slow growth and recession we've had price-increases and an entire car-park that was formerly free being made pay-and-display. As a result this smacks to me of raising prices on one service simply to fund other services. That's where I have a problem.

On another note let's add up the figures:

£   72,613 Parking fines
£   94,726 Enforcement fines
£   72,420 Staff passes
£    9,067 Senior concession
£  120,853 Season passes
£      600 Rents
£  117,605 Management fees
£  947,591 Parking meters

£1,435,475 Total

Remove the profit and that's an operating cost of  £1,005,600.

Now where this gets interesting is that I have to guess that the Staff passes, Management fees, Rents, and Senior concessions are being paid for by Wyre Forest District Council to... Wyre Forest District Council. So that's simply taking money out of the bucket and putting it back in the bucket.

Strip out the dosey-do'ing and they're really pulling in £1,235,783; remove the operating cost and the profit gained from car-park patrons is really £230,183 a year.

So if this were removed, exactly which other services would need to be cut?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Licence to walk

And we thought our council was bad. Just read yesterday in the "i" about the council that's trying to charge some residents £122 a year to access the rear oft their houses with a vehicle; £16 for pedestrian access and advised them to take out £2m public liability insurance.

It's appears to be a neat scam - Canterbury Council compulsory purchases land behind some residences in 1995 and then 17 years later inform the owners they need to pay to use their land as an access route. Given that it's probably been used for at least 3 years prior to this then it could class as a public right of way and they'd be unable to charge anyway.

It was, however, the response that particularly resonated with me.

"We are sorry residents in Cromwell Road are unhappy. Our intention was to regularise existing access to the rear of their properties by granting access licences across the residents’ car park. However, concerns have been expressed about the proposal so we are going to pause and take time to discuss the situation with them to allow us to find a way forward that meets the needs of all parties. We will be contacting the affected residents in the near future."

Because discussing these proposals with the affected residents before trying to put them into practice is just stupid. Gosh that sounds familiar.

Consistency error in the Horus Heresy books

Okay this isn't anything of a big deal; only of interest to the nerds who like the Warhammer 40k universe and the Horus Heresy books in particular, so if that doesn't include you you might as well stop reading now.

GDP when growth isn't growth

The latest GDP figures are expected to be announced soon and it's expected to show growth. Whoo hoo we're out of recession - happy times are hear again. Let's spend lots of money (to paraphrase the Pet Shop Boys). Except what all the experts are whittering on about are percentage changes month on month (or quarter on quarter) and that makes a large difference in two connected ways.

Firstly let's say a person makes £100 a day and their salary is cut by 10%. 10% of 100 is 10 so it drops to £90. Now let's raise their salary by 10%. 10% of 90 is 9 so it increases to £99; they're still a pound worse off.

Secondly consider that £100. On Monday it's £10 less; on Tuesday it's only £5; on Wednesday it's £2.50 less; on Thursday nothing is removed and on Friday that person gains £2.50 and the boss tells them "Hey now you can afford to splurge". Um no I'm still £15 down on the week

It's still good that we have growth, but don't release the cheerleaders quite yet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Stourport Tesco bypass

Writing about the never-ending works that seem to be bodging up our town in the name of Tesco the totally complete and utterly finished link that by-passes the OGL/Chain Wyre island still isn't open. Nor the lights at the mouth of Severn Road that's supposed to control it.

Of course if the lights were currently operational it would be a wonderful display of just how truly $#!%^*%-up everything could get if someone were to, say, shut-down part of the road network by blocking an exit.

As an aside due to everything being in place the current Stop marker at the exit of Severn Road is supposedly acting as a Give Way; however due to its placement the only way traffic can see if they don't have to Give Way is to not Give Way drive over it and stop at the point where the original Give Way markings used to be.

Yet more Tesco roadworks

Yes I knew about the prohibition on turning right from Mitton Street into Vale Road, it just completely slipped my mind until I got caught up in all the damn traffic. Big surprise diverting a big chunk of traffic directly through the town causes problems.

I could point out that this is the first time they've done so since they've unofficially confirmed York Street into a single lane by creating a parking bay opposite all the other parking bays, but given everyone ignored the restrictions anyway that's made no difference.

I could get annoyed that despite closing down the right-hand lane into which the traffic from Gilgal flows traffic from Worcester Road is still stopping to let them cross the lanes; particularly as I've noted that more and more traffic aren't stopping any more; although they are obviously slowing down due to the the speeding traffic and the truly stupid tight turn imposed on them.

I could scratch my head over the "yet another set of Tesco roadworks" given that this set of lights have been operational for several months now and I have no idea why they'd need to dig up the road again.

But I won't do that ;-) However yesterday we did have a clear "Seriously?" moment.

As mentioned they've shut down the right-hand lane of Mitton Street to stop the idiots charging up round the corner and slamming to a halt. So all traffic proceeds along the left-hand lane... except yesterday. Yesterday everyone was channelled into the left-hand lane as expected until they rounded the corner at which point they were all channelled into the right-hand lane and then back into the left. Why? Because they'd parked a construction vehicle on the left.

Now this wasn't a case of parking it there so they could access the traffic lights on that side of the road further from where they were working because the cones didn't extend far enough to allow it to drive against the flow. At some point someone would have to stop the traffic to let it out. So why not park it on the right and still stop the traffic to let it across? I'm guessing because it was working on the left and that's SOP.

But still seriously?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Merlin - The Death Song of Uther Pendragon

As a series Merlin has to me always been a little switch-brain-off and enjoy, but there's always been enough depth to hold my interest. With the latest run I wondered if it had jumped the shark?

A two-parter to start a new season is fine and can act as a hook to get someone to watch the second part and then onwards; in this instance I really didn't care what happened.

As a story the core elements needed to be told, we needed Mordred re-introduced, but the way this was told was execrable. By the middle of the two-parter we were jumping between five locations in a frenetic "meanwhile" which sacrificed the character depth that has been a mark of this series. There was also the over-reliance on computer imagery.

It's always been a little cheap, but it's gotten away with it by cuts. So for example we get to see Merlin call the Dragon and we get a long-shot of the landing, we get the odd close-up of the Dragon's face for expressions and switch between Merlin's and the Dragon's point of view same continuous scene but never long enough to note how bad the imagery is.

In this episode (spoilers) we get a little too much of the baby dragon, but far too much of the "Key". That was just dire work. Bad animation, terrible lip-syncing and the big joke being that this manifestation was necessary. Hell have the Key be a Druidic prophecy carved into a wall and buried in an earthquake; have Merlin accidentally deflect the fire breath of the dragon onto the wall and melt it away before he had a chance to read it. But no we got a blue glowing elf.

But wait the title of this entry is "The Death Song of Uther Pendragon" and that's because this one episode undid all the harm the previous two had caused me. Character-driven storyline, tightly focused directing; simple effects - this is how it should be done. My one minor niggle is this would have been best suited for next week closer to Halloween. I simply couldn't fault this episode.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Racing Post app Advert

Just flicking through channels and caught the stupid snake charming advert for the Racing Post app that "makes choosing a horse and being on it a doddle". So what? Well something nagged at me so I rewound it and paid closer attention. It's missing the site or logo.

But wait aren't "All licensed gambling operators are required by the industry’s code of practice to carry the Gamble Aware website address in advertising."? So does this mean the Racing Post aren't a gambling operator? It does seem they're just facilitating gambling without actually being the operators so they wouldn't need to display the logo, but it does seem rather against the spirit of the regulations.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Police Commissioner more politicking

I dealt with the puff-piece from the Conservatives regarding their candidate for the post of Police Commissioner for the West Midlands last week; they did a second piece which astonishingly was almost manifesto-like in that a promise was made that

a priority will be to make it easier and less intimidating for victims – especially women – to report [domestic violence and abuse] incidents to the Police
presumably by signing up to Victim Support's "Five Promises to/for Victims and Witnesses". Of course that doesn't mean anything will get done, but if it doesn't we have the ability to call him out on it.

Local Labour (who allegedly were trying to keep Party politics out of the race) seem to have decided that they're going to have to counter their opponents publicity, but sadly echo the Conservatives "lite" styling of 'I too think bad things are bad and will try to do good'.

The big joke about all this is that officially we the electorate have yet to discover who the candidates standing actually are and won't until next Friday when the list will be published here. (Kudos to Labour for publishing the link)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hartlebury Waste Incinerator

The controversial incinerator that has been planned to be built at the Hartlebury Trading Estate is kicking up letters in the Shuttle. This PFI initiative has been in the planning stages since 2008 and ended up having to be approved by Eric Pickles MP. Let's not forget though that the original plan was for a waste disposal site at the old Sugar Beet site in Kidderminster until it was quite rightly pointed out (by the public) that there were insufficient road linkages and the hypocrisy of claiming that this was a central location for waste when the hospital was added to Worcester's outskirts due to Worcester's "central location". So this has been a pet project for Worcestershire council for quite some time and just because the public aren't in favour of it is no reason to stop now.

The latest letter from Louise Brooks of HWAG (not to be confused with WAIL) contends that the price would increase possibly to £1bn. How ridiculous! There's no evidence that the cost of this £35m incinerator will ever increase. Indeed this £120m incinerator is set to be brought in at exactly the cost as originally outlined and the council will never have to subsidise the cost of waste processed as their 28-year forecast will be shown to be as highly accurate as all their other forecasts.

Seriously even Communist Russia never tried to go beyond a 5-year plan. 28 years of 'prediction' is a joke.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

District Consultations

I did notice the Local Mineral Plan consultation but as I've said in a comment on the Shuttle site I missed the one on the Council Tax Benefit scheme which finished two days ago. How come?

Well let's see what consultations are currently up and running for my district.

First off a visit to the home page not to be confused with the planning portal home page where the domain loses the "dc" suffix. So "News and Alerts"? Nope scroll down to "Get Involved" and then click on "Consultation".

The first link takes us to all the "consultations across Worcestershire" helpfully listed as "Sexual Health Services" and "Stourport-on-Severn Library" with a topic description that seems to just describe the title and not what they're consulting about (unless that is all they're consulting about; hmm a library - what is it, what does it do?).

Going back a page we can now look at the rest, but hey why do we need to we've just visited the page that should show all the consultations going on right? Wrong! We can now look at the "Draft Tenancy Strategy Consultation", the just ended "Consultation on Council Tax Benefit  Scheme" and the "Consultation on Review of Polling places" which takes us back to the first page because it too has ended - at the end of August. Oh and of course the current consultation on the Local Mineral Plan that started last week... darn silly me that's not listed.

Ah wait this is a county consultation I should be looking at our very our Worcestershire Hub page. I spy with my little eye something beginning with... oh no wait it's not there. Must be under Council... nope... wait yes it appears under Popular Services. Huzzah and the current consultations are... "Sexual Health Services" and "Stourport-on-Severn Library".


Local Mineral Policy

Yesterday a story appeared in my Shuttle newsfeed "Wyre Forest residents urged to have say on minerals policy". This snagged my attention for a couple of reasons.

Firstly this is a county policy not a district one; so as per usual one can expect county needs to overrule district ones.

Secondly this was launched last Wednesday, but we're finding out about it from our paper a week later.

Thirdly - why do we need this? Gosh it can't be anything to do with the changes in Planning legislation that mean the need for minerals can trump standard planning issues such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, can it? Not that anyone would want to dig up such areas... except as reported in a recent Private Eye article regarding open-cast mining at part of an AoNB (IIRC issue sadly donated to other members of the family).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Notice of Delivery email from BT Business Direct

Important Update - As per the comments this email comes with an attachment that should NOT be opened; mine got automatically quarantined hence me missing it apparently it is a Trojan i.e. something nasty.

Just had an interesting email from BT Business Direct telling me they've accepted and dispatched my order that I made yesterday. Which would be great if I'd made an order.

A quick look at their website and a phone number (which isn't on their email) 0870 4293010 a press of "2" twice and a "high volume of calls" later and I'm talking to someone.

They're currently running around "like headless chickens" the computers have sent out a bunch of emails of this nature to email addresses they don't even have registered with them detailing orders that aren't on their system.

So there's no delivery and I'm not going to be suddenly charged for something. Oh and incidentally these are generated from their system [or perhaps not despite what they themselves said] and the links etc. are genuine so it's not even a phishing attempt. Has someone been hacked?

[Updates as per the comments below (thank-you) - the sent path is; the return path is Coming from server however I also have a which is Slovenia.

It appears someone's mimicking a BT order form complete with correct links and attaching a crudely hidden Trojan to it.

As per usual I've never known a larger business send a PDF in a zip file so always treat such as very suspicious]

Monday, October 15, 2012

Close-mouthed Conservatives

It was the local Labour Party who broke the story with the Shuttle trailing behind, but it seems they've caught up and asking (im)pertinent questions.

One could argue that this in an internal Party matter and that should Cllr. Clee have been expelled, appealed and been successful in such that this information plays no part in matters outside the Party. Except this isn't a Golf Club this is an elected official allegedly being kicked out of his own Party.

So why the silence? Tit for tat? Quid pro quo? I won't say anything if you don't say anything? Hell if it was something like that I would have expected a "irreconcilable differences" statement by now. Is the silence simply down to the standard operating procedures of the Conservative Party to keep everything in-house until a decision has been made and presented to the public in a complete form?

Given their attitudes on the various councils that would certainly fit the bill. But the longer the silence the more people will wonder and concoct their own reasonings most of which aren't likely to be favourable to Cllr. Clee... except maybe that in itself is the entire point of the silence?

Secrecy breeds lies.

The Bratii and music

Post game session I chatted to the Bratii and the topic of the new BBC series of Merlin came up. Major was catching up with the previous so he hadn't seen the latest, but he'd seen the adverts.

"Oh in that case do you recognise this?" I asked and plugged my phone into an external speaker and checked my Deezer playlist for "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.
"I know this" he said "but I don't know why or who it is?"
"How can you know you know it but not know it?" asked Minor
"He recognises it, but his brain isn't making the full connection as to what it is who who it's by" I replied
I took pity on him and told him it was Muse
"I knew that" he said

I flicked through to "Uprising" also by Muse.
"'Uprising' by Muse" he said within the first 5 seconds.
"Yeah I heard it during the Olympic opening ceremony and it caught my fancy" I said
"I thought it would make a good song for the Olympics"
"So Muse, how about 'Supermassive Black Hole'?"
"I've not heard of that one just those other two"
So I played him that and then worked my way through other music; which is where I started to feel my age.

Neither had heard of Jefferson Airplane, they'd not heard Alex Winston's "Velvet Elvis" as made famous by the Google Chrome advert. Minor knew "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" by Lemon Demon and happily started singing with The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" which Major didn't identify though at least he recognised it as The Beatles.

Minor enjoys "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath, but Major finds it repetitive. Neither had heard of Gorillaz or any of the songs I had by them. Major had heard of Blur, but couldn't name any specific songs he knew as being by them. Major knew, and Minor enjoyed, "Firestarter" by The Prodigy. Kudos though as Major instantly identified "Paradise City" by Guns 'n' Roses.

Spotting a theme with Major he's not that big on repetition, "Iron Man" Utah Saints, "Jump in the Line" by Harry Belafontane. He also needs an instant grab; anything that starts of with simple melody he'd have turned off before it builds. Minor seems more willing to listen to see if he likes it rather than make a snap decision. Between a 16-year old and a 10-year old I'd have thought it to have been the other way around.

The Bratii and a new game

I've been designing my own board game and yesterday the Bratii came over so I got to playtest it with them. I knew testing was important, having worked in QA in the past, but I've never been in the position of designer before and I can now look back and appreciate their reactions more. My urge to simply dismiss criticisms of the "How will the user/player know to do this" type were barely suppressed, but I just shut-up and made mental notes.

I won't deal with specifics, but an entire mechanism simply did not get used (except once by myself) and a loophole was quickly discovered and exploited by Major to boost his holdings. In terms of the way it was played it ended up with little competition between the players and more between the individual and the game. So that's how I'm going to redesign it. Remove the loophole and the unused mechanic, make it co-operative and tighten up a few of the other rules.

Gosh this is fun!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unforeseen consequences of the new Minimum Wage

I mentioned how the new minimum wage was devised by people who obviously didn't understand how it would be used, but what other effects does it have?

The previous wage per hour was set at £6.08. Assume a person is on a salaried income working 9-5 with a half hour lunch break. That's 37.5 hours per week and exactly £228 per week in wages. Assuming a standard 810L tax code that breaks down as follows:

£228 Gross Salary
£9.84 NI
£14.40 PAYE.

Except the employer also has to pay NI and that comes to £11.60. The government gets £35.84, the employee gets £203.76 and the employer has to pay out £239.60 total.

With the increase to £6.19 an hour at 37.5 hours the employee gets £232.125 (because it's stupid). To keep it simple let's round that to £233 (can't round down or it's below the limit).

£233 Gross Salary
£10.44 NI
£15.40 PAYE.

Again the employer pays NI this time it's £12.29. The government gets £38.13, the employee gets £207.16 and the employer has to pay out £245.29 total.

So the government gains £2.29 a week or £119.08 a year, the employee gains £3.40 a week or £176.80 a year and the employer loses £5.69 a week or £295.88 a year.

Given that in 2007 the number of workers on minimum wage was 1.7m and assuming they all work a 37.5 week that's an extra £202,436,000 a year going straight to the government and an extra £502,996,000 a year out of businesses.

I'm not saying the minimum wage shouldn't increase only that it should be done in line with tax threshold changes too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Local Police politicking

Oh dear with the run up to the elections for a Police and Crime Commissioner and the shunting of Party members into the candidacy this type of puff-piece was inevitable

Strip it down and it states:

Conservative candidate for Commissioner says burglaries are a bad thing and that the police trying to reduce the number of burglaries is a good thing.

Awesome, thanks for that. Next up - Conservative candidate states that, if elected, he will try to do good things and not bad things.

Political news shuffle

On Monday BBC's Breakfast interviewed the Chancellor George Osbourne live from Birmingham, when they switched to the weather I switched channels and after a moment watched ITV's Daybreak interviewing the Chancellor George Osbourne live from Birmingham.

On Tuesday BBC's Breakfast interviewed the Prime Minister David Cameron live from Birmingham, when they switched to the weather I switched channels and after a moment watched ITV's Daybreak interviewing the Prime Minister David Cameron live from Birmingham.

This morning BBC's Breakfast interviewed the  Foreign Secretary William Hague live from Birmingham, when they switched to the weather I switched channels and after a moment watched ITV's Daybreak interviewing Charlotte Church live from Birmingham.

Poor William.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Mansion tax kiboshed?

A snippet from David Cameron on BBC Breakfast this morning:

"I think the Mansion tax is a bad idea because people who work hard, who save, who put money into their home, they shouldn't have the government coming after them every year in respect of that."
So what about that yearly mandatory government collection based on the price of your home known as council tax? What about the money the government takes out of saving accounts in respect of tax?

Well those don't count of course, because a) MPs can claim back their council tax and b) how many of Cameron's mates keep their savings abroad and out of the government's reach?

Monday, October 08, 2012

B4025 Cat's Eyes

I don't know what's going on with the B4025 Worcester Road running out of Stourport but as you approach the Sandy Lane Industrial Estate turn off all the cat's eyes embedded in the road surface seem to have raised up. They're not newly fitted ones as the metal surrounds are rusted, but they're all sitting proud of the road by about an inch with right-angled metal brackets.

Turn off and it's like driving over cobbles.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Pink ribbon for April?

In  my newsfeed the following appeared: "Missing April: Pink Ribbon Campaign Launched". Okay first of all - why? Ribbon wearing is for a cause, either for a remembrance or to raise awareness (or both) and to raise money for that cause. Given that this sad story has dominated the news for the past week remembering or awareness isn't a problem. I also can't see the need to raise money - what for? A search that is already being undertaken by police and a large numbers of volunteers?

Secondly a pink ribbon is already 'assigned' to breast cancer. So do the parents want to use the very sad abduction of their daughter to raise awareness of breast cancer?

I'm just not getting it? It's a terrible thing to happen, but I just don't get the ribbons.

First group's bus drivers in Stouport

Via their contact form:

To Whom it may concern.

Could you please remind those drivers who pass through Stourport that both Gilgal and Mitton Street are filter and merge systems and as such the multiple entrances to either have no Give Way signs.

To that end your vehicles travelling from Minster Road into Gilgal only have right of way in the left-hand lane; and from Gilgal to Mitton Street in the right-hand lane. Should other traffic from Vale Road or Worcester Road respectively be attempting to use the other lane they have right-of way within that lane.

If your vehicles cannot enter without encroaching on the other side it is they who should be stopping not the other vehicle.
I'm just getting fed-up of the buses charging down from either Minster Road or Gilgal ans sweeping straight into the other lane as if they had right-of way. Hell I'm fed-up of all the traffic sweeping down as if they had right of way, but bus-drivers should have had better training.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Why the minimum wage increase is wrong

As of the 1st October the minimum wage per hour increased, I have no problem with that what I do have a problem with is what they've raised it to.

From October last year the minimum hourly wages were £6.08, £4.98, £3.68,  and £2.60 for the various different age-groups etc. They've increased to £6.19, £4.98, £3.68, and £2.65 i.e. only two have really altered, the £6.19 and £2.65. So what do I find a problem?

Those are hourly rates, but at the minimum wage level 'hours' can be determined by the half or even quarter hour. Divide £6.19 and £2.65 by two or four. They don't divide into whole pennies. So someone who works shifts and work a week resulting in 10.25 hours should receive a minimum of £63.44 and ¾ of a penny so that should be rounded up to £63.45. Seems easy, but both of these figures are exactly one penny away from a number that divides evenly by both two and four. £6.20 becomes £3.10 or £1.55; £2.64 becomes £1.32 or £0.66.

This doesn't even make sense if they're increasing by a fixed percentage of 2% as £6.08 *1.02 = £6.2016. So someone seems to have specifically chosen these figures. It seems, big surprise, that the department calculating them have absolutely no idea how they're applied.

Romney - "why don't horse come with ladders?"

At a recent party US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney apparently asked "Why don't horse come with ladders?" prompting a large internet response.  The full transcript is apparently as follows:

"So I was out for a quick chukka and at the end of play all my staff rushed out to kneel down so my team and I could all dismount. As I wondered how I could fire them all I thought 'horses should have ladders!'. Why don't horses come with ladders?"

Aides to Mr Romney were quick to point out that this was a joke and that Mr Romney did indeed understand why horses didn't come with ladders. "It's because Adam and Eve were much taller than we are today, so God didn't have to add them to horses to help them mount"

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Gamer film review

A film based on making a real-life first-person shooter how could I resist? Well given the poor reviews quite easily, but hey what do the critics know so many seem to be snobby about 'video-game' films and sometimes they can still be entertaining even if they're not 'good'.

Either way I held off watching this, but Channel 5 gave it a network première on Sunday so I thought to record it and give it a go.

The premise is simple - technology has developed that allows remote control of other people; these people essentially get paid to rent their bodies out to strangers. This develops into pitting death-row convicts against each other in a real-life first person shooter video game. The story follows one of these convicts who is approaching the 30-game threshold that would mean they would be set free.

It should be an easy switch-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-it film. It's not. Disjointed direction and a plot that staggers from one action sequence to another with plot points appearing and disappearing as soon as they've been actioned. An attempt at character development has been crudely shoe-horned in along with a moral message about giving up power and control to others. Acting is phoned in and the script isn't even bad enough to be interesting and not cheesy enough to be placed in the "so bad it's good" category. Even the action sequences aren't that good; explosions and fast-paced shooting, but the poor direction and editing leaves it a sodden mess.

There is however one good point about this film... it's only 95 minutes long. So if for some reason you do decide to watch it you've only wasted an hour and a half of your life. Just a really bad movie.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Worcestershire County Council Democracy Fail - Art Gallery

It seems that our democratically elected members at the county council are taking lessons from the democratically elected members of our district council:

Step 1: Determine a course of action
Step 2: Consult the people about said action
Step 3: Ignore the people and proceed with the original action.

Residents may recall the original destruction of the old Kidderminster Library; one silver lining was the purpose-built Gallery included in the new build. Well it seems that the price of county-wide cuts is to turn it into offices for internal council use. The process is laid out by this Green Party missive.

Allegedly the reason for this change is to allow all the offices to share a single floor; however this excuse seems to fall at the wayside when an option (option C) was presented to them that allowed for that very same condition while not removing the gallery and was rejected.

It seems they've decided what they want to do and who the hell do 'the people' think they are to suggest otherwise.

Addendum - this is of course the same course of action we can expect with regard to the hospitals. A decision has already been made; we're just currently dealing with the illusion of public discussion until they implement it as a 'fully-consulted plan'.

Misleading percentages again this time for Income

Following the LibDem conference and the call for "fairer taxes" the Conservatives and the wealthy have tried to fight back the quote I'm seeing bandied about is how 'the higher earners have 10% [or 13% depending on the source] of the income, but pay 28% of the tax' and how this isn't fair. On the face of it this seems right how could anyone argue that they're paying more than others already?

To put this in perspective though requires a different prefix to the sentence. Instead of "higher earners" I'll return it to the original "1% of tax-payers". While we still have the latter part the former would now read "1% of tax-payers earn 10% of the income". Why the change? Well the quoters want to highlight how unfair it is that 10% of income attracts 28% of tax; and that's a little difficult to do if you start by pointing out that said income goes only to 1% of the earners.

It gets even better if anyone decided to check out the report from the excellent FactCheck regarding total tax as a percentage of total income. Add in NI and VAT etc. and it seems everyone is paying around the 30% mark just mixed up in different ways.

So wouldn't that make this a call to keep things as they are? If everyone is paying the same amount of tax total that seems to be fair. No need to raise the tax levels for the rich or lower them for the poor. Well that's why in the case the quoters love percentages, start talking in absolute terms and suddenly the disparity shows up.

Take someone earning £200 a week (minimum wage) who pays a total of 30% tax in different ways; that leaves them with £140 a week. Switch to a high earner of £1,000 (£50k a year) and they'd be left with £700. Think about that in terms of purchasing power - someone earning £200 losing £60 might mean not being able to purchase clothes, food etc. Someone earning £1,000 losing £300 means foregoing the gold-plated taps in their new kitchen.