Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Confluence of events

Well that was a fun trip in, queues as far as the eye could see. Sitting there I was passed by my neighbour coming the other way - apparently an accident had occurred in Gilgal. For those who don't know Gilgal is used by a fair percentage of traffic coming from Kidderminster and Bewdley as well as Stourport, they have de facto right-of-way and as such block up one of the lanes in Stourport which feeds back into the town itself and over the bridge. Depending where it gets closed and if they shut down both lanes then anyone entering the system is stuck - it's one-way with potentially no exits. This would account for the traffic, especially given the track record of the police around here for not warning people in time.

I flicked the radio in an attempt to find out more, caught the end of the report on Wyvern, quickly flipped to Heart and caught their report - nothing about Stourport, but instead they reported an accident outside the Safari Park with the road closed. Ah now this is a route from Kidderminster to Bewdley and vice versa, which does attach to Stourport. Now if that road's closed where's the traffic going to go? Three guesses.

It was getting fun, the traffic started to pick up and I finally made it to the bridge only to be stopped on it, between the traffic control lights; joy! We were getting to the point where the traffic from the town couldn't move because of the traffic from the bridge, which couldn't move because of the traffic from the town, which couldn't move because... well you get the point.

Fortunately there were a couple of free escape routes further up which a couple of cars took advantage of thus shifting the traffic enough to move. Fortunate in that one can be blocked by delivery vans and the other can be a tight fit due to the oncoming traffic overtaking all the parked vehicles. We were also lucky that the town traffic wasn't extensive enough to have backed up around the one-way system and fed back - Bridge Street to York Street to Lion Hill to High Street to Bridge Street.

I've said elsewhere that given the natural flow of traffic on a busy day I could grid-lock the town with nine cars, three of which would be parked legally, today I could probably have done it with three illegal ones alone.

After finally getting to Gilgal the road was clear with no sign of anything having happened.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

and now for something completely different

from Invisible, the official mascot who had a bit of a bad day. Posted 'cos I like it and in no way because he complimented me. Puts me in a frame of mind to write something too, I'll see if it's worthy of posting.

The sun is relentless. Hour after hour its cruel rays beat down mercilessly upon the dessicated earth below. Temperatures skyrocket. Horizons melt. Here and there, cruel mirages bewitch the weary traveler with their empty promises of water. Punishing winds race across the flat ground, sandblasting your legs. Sweat pours off your unprotected body, evaporating with unbelievable speed. Soon your roasted skin is coated in gritty, corrosive salt crystals. And still the temperature rises. Thirty five degrees. Forty degrees. Forty five degrees. Fifty degrees. The ground scalds your feet. The very air you breathe burns your nose and lungs. You begin to shiver in spite of the heat. The air is as dry as blotting paper. Indefatigably it extracts every last molecule of moisture from your feeble body. Helplessly you struggle on, hoping to find help, hoping to find water, hoping to find shade. Anything! But there is no hope to be found here. Nobody will save you. No river will be your salvation. There is no living thing for over eight thousand miles in every single direction. No people, no cattle, no snakes, no mice, no trees, no shrubs, no cacti, no grasses, not even lichens. There is no living thing to be found anywhere in this hellish inferno. And there is not a molecule of water anywhere. Not even as vapor. You will not even find shelter from the malevolent sun, for there is not even a rock to hide behind. There is nothing but endless, uniform, unbroken sand, blown to a mathematically flat plane, for thousands of miles all around. Death cannot be far now. The air you breathe has reached an insane fifty seven degrees centigrade. Your muscles scream in anguish as your electrolyte levels become hopelessly unbalanced. You are shaking all over. Very soon now, you will be utterly unable to move at all. And then you will helplessly collapse into the sand and die a slow excruciating death of dust and dryness...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Run that by me one more time, and Tesco rumours

Another early segment on GMTV, dealing with pirate DVDs. Penny Smith interviewed Eddy Leviten of FACT . After dealing with the general quality of the goods and how people can tell they're fake, Penny mentioned what she hears from when she out and about regarding people.

"If the companies, the film companies actually reduce the price of these films on DVDs down to a reasonable amount; wouldn't want to go to these, buy these pirate DVDs."
The reply from Eddy
"I can't comment on the individual film companies, but there's a huge investment in new product; both in the UK and worldwide. If you're buying a pirate DVD you're not only contributing to the criminal economy [he's already mentioned 'the criminal economy' several times previously], but you're depreciating the investment in new product and new films, you know like 'The Queen' for example, which is winning lots of awards; won't get made again. Those jobs in the UK economy won't happen; the taxpayer won't get any money, it won't go to fund new hospitals, new roads and everything else."
Uh-huh so the prices we're being charged are justified by the fact that it's all being ploughed back into making more high-quality films - yep I'm sure we all believe that. Just in case though mention the "criminal economy" again, tie that back to the investment, then confuse the matter by talking about funding hospitals. In other words at no point discuss the actual cost of the DVDs - masterful.

So let's start at the beginning - a new film comes out (normally in the States) and gets flogged to death over here where um we can't see it. Someone offers you a copy for £2 on DVD, gee what's going to happen next.

Failing that the film arrives over here (and they have been getting better time-wise) and you first have to locate a cinema showing it, which despite the resurgence in cinemas can still be problematic; you then plonk down some money to sit in a darkened room watching a film that, last time I went, is slightly out of focus and has the bass turned up to high trying to catch the mumbled dialogue of the actors over the crunching of popcorn and whispered comments of "What did he say"; or someone offers you a copy of the film on DVD for £2 which is probably a copy of the one already released in the States; no brainer.

Finally the DVD is properly released over here for rent without any of the extras, or the same thing for £2 pirated.

Next up it goes for sale again generally sans all the extras on the Stateside Region 1 release we're not supposed to have; cost anywhere from £16-£20 upwards. Or again the pirate version probably without extras for £2. Now knowing that anywhere from 3 months up to a year's time the price will probably drop down to £6, how can you justify spending this much on it right now? And if you can't do that how can the film companies justify the cost of them?

Tesco rumours just in. As mentioned in my last entry, taken from the Kidderminster Shuttle, letters were sent out to local residents regarding a meeting to be held on Tuesday (ie tomorrow), however a reliable source has just informed me that he's been told by one of said locals that the/a meeting is being held today - invitation only, no press. Now either the local has got the day wrong, which from details I know is unlikely; they're holding two meetings; or they've accidentally informed the newspaper of the wrong day. In either case the detailing that it's supposed to be invitation-only with no press is unlikely to be wrong. So why wouldn't Tesco want an open forum and discussion? After all, in reality, this does affect the entire town?

Update - as per Tav's comment and post the meeting is being held on Tuesday (today) so my informant once removed got the day wrong, but it's still invitation only, no media.

Rumours are also flying that the Co-op have threatened to pull out of the town if the new store is built.

So what have we got so far:
  • House prices set to decrease due to proximity of store.
  • Car park feeding off the major access road, thereby potentially leading to more tailbacks through the town.
  • Introducing a pedestrian crossing on said major road next to a blind corner.
  • Potential dumping of trolleys in the Stour.
  • Loss of trade in the town centre, contrary to recommendations by commissioned reports to increase said trade.
  • Threats by one of the other major supermarkets to leave town if the new store is built.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Blogs, adverts, prisons, Tesco, and Worcester Street

Well I've made the jump over to the new version of Blogger, and it does have better management facilities. Dan's noted that everyone commenting is stripped of their capital letters, which is down to a change in the stylesheets. Don't know why they've done that, but I have asked. The other thing I see is that it's re-fed the articles beginning with "Behind the script" so my apologies to anyone getting this through the feeds for getting 27 articles again. Hopefully this is a one-off.

TV adverts! Now I know they exist for one purpose, but a few recent ones are simply laughable. Now I know not a moment passes that I don't ask

"What if we could live in a world of total-hydration"
well actually I don't and I doubt it's something that takes up much time in any philosophical class. I pick on this as I'm sure someone's been watching Zoolander and thought "That's a great advert" I can only expect the woman featured to turn to the camera and say
"Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty"
well done Johnson & Johnson for that.

Now as I said I know what adverts are for, but one of my quirks is that I demand internal consistency within the world they create, the Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes ad is good at this, we all know about bus lanes so an extension of the world into Crunchy Nut lanes is fine, however we do get some that breach these rules.

I'll start with the Kenco ads, the new man stops the line as he spots that the same beans for Kenco's Fine Roasted are being packed into Kenco's Instant sacks. The exceptional Don Warrington explains that Kenco use the same beans for both types... so why are they being packed into separate sacks? Why go to the expense of having two different sets of bags printed when they contain the same beans? Even if they're going to different places it's not exactly logical.

I could go on and on, but I'll end with the new Ready-Brek commercial where Food Police (robots) are disposing of all foods that are high in E-numbers, fat, sugar, etc. But they're confused by good old Ready Brek that doesn't have any of these things and so break-down. Why? Unless they're programmed to assume all foods are bad, in which case why bother checking the contents. If they're not programmed this way then they should simply ignore the stuff. Sorry this one really grates.

John Reid is in trouble again after a judge let's a sex offender go with a suspended sentence stating that he's following Home Office guidelines to cope with overcrowding in prisons. Now this is getting to be ridiculous, let's lock-up people who fail to pay their council tax or are caught with minor amounts of drugs and let sex offenders out.

Of course we could build more prisons, I mean we've got a huge site here where the old British Sugar used to be; let's build a prison there. Gods I can hear the protests already. And this is where the problem lies, we all want new prisons to be built just um not near us. Stick them out in the wilds and you'll hear complaints that we're destroying the countryside and that you're denying the inmates their <sigh> human rights by making it more difficult for visitors to get there. Put them in urban areas and everyone will complain about their house prices safety. Not do anything and you'll either get overcrowding (human-rights again) or more lenient sentencing. It's a no-win situation for anybody and so as per normal for almost all governments it appears to be a case of do nothing until they're forced to.

Tav at the WFA has already commented on this story asking what "link-up shopping" could be created, it's not as if this is the Kidderminster site where in theory people could pop over to Weavers Wharf or vice-versa. No-one is going to head into the town centre after visiting Tesco and nobody is going to park in the town-centre in order to visit them later. They're still worried about traffic, but at least
letters have been sent out to residents in Mitton Street, Severn Road and Lichfield Street inviting them to a meeting on Tuesday to discuss their fears about the potential problem of increased traffic.
Yep because changing the major route through the town is only going to affect these people isn't it. Hmm Tuesday I bet it'll be held at 2pm or such like, I'll wait and see. Oo kill two birds with one stone, compulsory purchase the land and build a prison there <snigger>

Another major story was this. Great after all the hassle over one cinema, you now what to add another - are you nuts? Seriously screws must be loose here, bowling alley - no problem, restaurants - no problem, hotel - hmm okay maybe, housing - what? Yeah I've always wanted to live next-door to a bowling alley. Sorry, but a cinema just smacks of petty pay-back against the Warehouse Cinema; especially when neither Bewdley or Stourport have even one. I'm all for developing this area and drawing people back to the top of the town, but some of the speculation as to what's going there needs to be nipped in the bud right now.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not phishing just normal company practice.

Apparently we had a phone-call this morning purporting to be from our bank, asked for a director by name who holds a personal account with the same bank. The phone call went something like this:

"Is this Mr[Name]?"
"Ah this is [Name] from [Bank]. Just to confirm I'm speaking with the right person can I take your date of birth?"
"Uh, I can't talk to you without confirming who you are"
"Well how do I know that you're who you say you are, can you confirm that? Where are you calling from?"
"Uh, Malawi"
So lectures on phishing and social engineering are worthwhile. The logs indicated the source of the call was an 0800 number, so unlikely to be bogus. None the less I contacted the complaints division of the bank.
"One of our staff received a call supposedly from you, they asked for his date of birth and he quite rightly refused to give it. Can we check that the source was you?"
"Well on out-bound calls we do ask for the date of birth so we can confirm who we're speaking to."
"But all your security pages tell us not to give out personal information like that."
"Yes it is a bit contradictory isn't it."
Delightful. Easily solved by the bank, of course, they simply state that they need to speak to X and X calls an 0800 number they know belongs to the bank. Thus X knows that they're speaking to the bank and therefore have no qualms about using information to identify themselves.

All it requires is that all parts of the bank are in communication so either you don't have to speak to one specific person, or the person you are speaking to can easily look up and transfer you to that person... <must keep straight face> I'm sure they can use flying pigs to courier messages around.

Won't someone please think of the children?

A blip passed by on the 7am news on GMTV this morning a 13 year old girl went missing; obviously a terrible event. What caught my attention though was the sign-off "Police believe she had recently been using internet chat"...Oh my gods not internet chat? Not the devil's own creation, which we all know is so filled to the brim with sexual predators, paedophiles, and perverts of every persuasion it's surprising that the normal people can get a word in edgeways. Why don't the police monitor every chat-room? Why doesn't the government ban it? Not internet chat noooooo! Okay how many teenage girls with an internet connection doesn't use chat? I'm not belittling this, the family must be frantic, but my thoughts turned to the declaration that the Columbine boys played computer games, <shock horror>. In and of its own it's a pointless statement.

Child obesity is back on the political menu (if you'll pardon the pun) with the call for a 'fat czar' to take over and ensure our children don't eat bad foods (for a given value of bad) my first thought was that good old John Prescott isn't doing much at the moment. Not only will we get a fat fat czar, but the newspapers can dust off all those "Fat controller" headlines. As a bonus he'll act as an inspiration and role-model to children everywhere -

"If you don't stop eating junk food you'll end up looking like this!"
Yeah just what we need yet more interference from the Government. Here's a teeny tiny thought - how about parents stop caving-in to the demands of their offspring for such food, and <gasp> try educating them? Nah it's all the fault of advertisements, let someone else handle it; I've not got the time.

Finally American airport security showed up for the sham it was. Confiscate bottles of water, force everyone to remove their shoes, then let a 9-year with no identification con his way into a boarding pass and board a plane Apparently the previous day he'd led police in a high-speed pursuit when he stole his neighbour's car. Only surprising it didn't end up in the same situation the professor did after committing the heinous offence of jaywalking
Anyway after this if they weren't already I can bet that terrorists will definitely be thinking about the children.

For those who think that all the airport security is great, after all there's been no more problems since it was enforced, I've got a rock here for sale that keeps tigers away - well hey do you see any tigers around?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Catching up on links.

Wandering through a few of my bookmarked sites following links. Sue provides a link to yet another personality test based on What book are you. She's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" apparently I'm "The Mists of Avalon" -

"You're obsessed with Camelot in all its forms, from Arthurian legend to the Kennedy administration. Your favorite movie from childhood was 'The Sword in the Stone'. But more than tales of wizardry and Cuban missiles, you've focused on women. You know that they truly hold all the power. You always wished you could meet Jackie Kennedy"
Hmm yeah sort of I suppose, especially the bit about women; bit US-centric though.

Naked Female Ape posts some more pictures include one I really like here

Tav at the WFA points out some interesting passages in the agenda regarding the forthcoming financial strategy meeting for the district. The meeting is being held tomorrow in Kidderminster at 6pm; given the time I leave work and the amount of traffic that'll be around I might be able to get there by 6:30pm though I doubt they'll be providing food and would frown if I turned up with a bag of chips.

The agenda is here and even provides a map to the meeting point now although I know the area and I still had difficulty reading it; most maps nowadays have the major roads coloured for a reason.

He also provides a link to The West Midlands Conservatives blog. The one post that caught my eye was the "Local Conservatives Spend Saturday Morning Tending Flower Beds and Collecting Litter". Now I've no problem with the message of not dropping litter and about caring for your environment, but um we pay for people to litter pick. So either they're not doing the job (and I know they are) or we're not hiring enough people to do it. I'm just saying that when you have/need both a professional and voluntary service to adequately perform a task then the fundamentals of what you're doing need to be examined.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying we shouldn't pick up a bit of litter (if it's safe to do so) and put it in a bin just because someone else is being paid to do it, it's just that if you get to the point where you're organising litter picking trips then something needs to be looked at. If I were being cynical (who moi?) I'd think of it simply as a publicity stunt of the 'Hey look at me I'm doing community work' type. Depends really on if it was a one-off or if they're repeating the exercise next week etc.

Oh and as Tav points out it's not really a blog more an up-to-date newsletter as commenting has been turned off. Oh and just to prove the point they have a delightful article asking if you've seen Deirdre Alden's new blog without providing a link to it, but I suppose you could email her asking for it.

The President of the USA gave his State of the Union address (sadly yet to be spoofed by and called for a 20% reduction in petrol use by 2017. Is this to do with emission reduction, about reserving supplies of a irreplaceable source that is simply being burnt, curbing the insatiable need of Americans for cheap fuel? Nope
"when we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East."
it's about not being dependant on anybody else. To be honest it's difficult to criticise negatively, he was elected (at least once) to deal with the problems of the citizens of his own country; that's his job. Sometimes I wish our own government took a similar line rather then enforcing whatever spews forth from the EU. Sure it's in our own best interests to get along with our immediate neighbours and the rest of the world and occasionally that might mean sacrificing short-term gains for long-term achievements, but at the heart of it our country must always be put first.

I was going to pop over to Comedy Central and catch the latest Daily Show and Colbert Report, but sadly Flash appears to be throwing a tantrum every so often and locking everything up, <sigh>never had a problem when it was Macromedia.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New word? And other stuff.

I've been hearing a new word recently, I caught it again on TV this morning - mumf (or possibly mumph) at first I thought it might be some sort of new coffee drink "I'm goin' for a mumf"; or possibly an amount "About a mumf", but with combining the snippets and from additional context it appears to be referring to a time-period. I'm unsure, but I would hazard a guess that it's longer then a fortnight, perhaps about the same length of time as a month.

Orange sun peeping over the horizon, biting wind, frozen puddles; I went back to get my gloves - hello Winter.

Well I'm sure we're all aware of the beached ship in Devon, what I find interesting is the time-line of events.

  • Thursday 18th January - MSC Napoli takes in water as she travels through the Channel, despite storm force winds the crew are successfully airlifted off. The European Maritime and Safety Agency state that the vessel is listed as carrying "dangerous cargo". Plans are made to tow it to a port.
  • Friday 19th January - Vessel is under tow, decisions as to a destination not yet made.
  • Saturday 20th January - Ship waits in Lyme Bay for winds to settle. With the original damage increasing the decision is taken to beach her near Branscombe. Plans to salvage the oil and remove the most dangerous containers are made. Approximately 50 containers go overboard.
  • Sunday 21st January - The Maritime and Coastguard Agency state that after consultation with the Devon police they're asking members of the public to stay away from the containers and to contact the coastguards if one is found. One of the containers is reported to contain hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of BMW motorcycles.
  • Monday 22nd January - Beach-combers flock to the beach, salvaging motorcycles, casks of wine, perfume, and car-parts. Provided that all items recovered are reported within 28 days this is perfectly legal. Police draft in extra officers to patrol the area and hand out report forms. They ensure that unopened containers remain intact and have closed all roads leading to the nearby village.
  • Tuesday 23rd January - Police close the beach to allow contractors to tidy-up. Talking about the beach-combers a spokesman for the MCA stated that "had warnings not to touch the containers been followed, they would have been removed and the beach returned to normality quite soon... People are lighting fires beside the containers, getting on top of them ripping stuff out, and not heeding our warnings. The MCA is deeply upset and angry because all the stuff which has been ripped out of the containers will be swept out to sea and have an environmental impact"
So the media reports that goods worth thousands of pounds have just washed up on a beach and people have descended upon it; who'd have thunk it? Now I agree that the priority was to get the oil and dangerous containers out of the ship safely, but did no-one stop to think that perhaps closing the beach off just for a while might be a good idea? Are we talking cross-jurisdiction here - the MCA liaising with Devon police to shut down a National Trust owned beach proving problematic? Now if there are legal complications, then one wonders what authority was invoked to shut the village roads down?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kidderminster, traffic, potholes, and TV.

Had to go into Kidderminster on Saturday, 11:30 and reasonably busy. I note that the Discount Megastore (where M&S used to be) has finally closed down, but I also note that the Cafe Pacifica in the Roland Hill has also "Closed until further notice"so there's another blank spot in the centre to go along with the rear entrance of the Megastore and where the Fagin's bookstore used to be.

On a plus note a new store has opened up in the Swan Centre where the sports shop used to be. Appears to be called something along the lines of the Fridge Shop (The Shuttle has it as a Costcutter), anyway enough confusion for me to overhear someone in WH Smith asking a member of staff if they happened to know if it was a food store or a white-goods shop; for the record it's a food store - looks like a cheap version of Iceland, the frozen food equivalent of the Pound Shop. Bold and brash signage and from a glimpse through the window it seemed busy enough.

As per the recommendations of the study I'm pleased to report that the Market Square at Weavers Wharf is now being utilised, at least I saw two kids happily kicking a football up and down it. Otherwise it remains, as always, a void.

Ah the pedestrian crossing in Bridge Street what a joy. I turned the corner of York Street into Bridge Street facing the bridge and joined the queue, the crossing lights changed to red and the van in front took advantage to drop someone off in front of the Pennywise shop, she then walked down to the Factory Shop. The crossing lights changed to green and we moved forward so that the van was now at the crossing. Traffic continued up from the bridge.

The lights changed, we remained stationery. The lights changed back and traffic flowed up from the bridge, we sat still.

The lights changed again, we stayed put. Changed back and yet more traffic came from the bridge. At last we moved forward, then stopped, and I now had the crossing directly behind me. The van took advantage again to pick up the person they'd previously dropped off.

We all started moving, the van decided it was turning off the bridge towards the Amusements, and so a large gap formed between it and the car in front. I raced past to hit the sensors before they assumed there was no traffic waiting and hit the bridge lights as they changed. The car behind me of course didn't make it, possibly because they were still in town stuck at the crossing lights that had changed again.

Now I know there was mutterings about removing the crossing lights while the work was being done, and I understand and agree as to why this is not feasible. What isn't mentioned however is that the settings were changed a few years back to make them more pedestrian friendly, a factor which is causing problems at this time. So why not switch them back to the way they were?

Potholes again, the one on the bridge is getting deeper, the one they only filled in recently in York Street is getting depressed (someone go along and tell it a funny story), the collection at the end of Areley Common are slowly wearing through, and both the ones just before and after the bridge are showing solidarity with the York Street one. Meh what's the point in doing a decent job they'll be resurfacing the lot in a few months time; well not York Street or Areley Common of course, but still.

Nope no comments on CBB other then to echo the remarks of one reporter

"Why are we rewarding ignorance?"
just once again lamenting the dearth of good programmes; ITV has a "CSI Effect: Tonight" regarding how the simplification of forensic science my be affecting real-life cases, Channel 4 has a worthy "Dispatches: Labour's Gambling Addiction" as you might expect both of which are on at the same time at 8:00pm (Dispatches is repeated later at 3:05am - prime-time!). Tomorrow's a treat; I note that Channel 4 again are showing "Kind Hearts and Coronets", which must be classed as one of the best of all the Ealing comedies, in order to maximise viewage it's been shown at 1:35pm... damn what a waste of good material. Ah who cares, I've been working my way through all eight series of "Red Dwarf" on DVD, now there's something worth watching.

Did catch the Anne Widdecombe "Tonight" special. Taking her fearless leader's "Hug a hoodie" statement to heart she stayed at some rough estates, talked to the residents and attempted to talk to the 'hoodies' in question; and got a firework thrown at her for her trouble. Discussing the problems with one of America's zero-tolerance police officers, they'd be clamping down on everything; according to our police if they arrested everyone for petty misdemeanours they'd be no police around on the streets... well there aren't any anyway.

Postscript: seems I'm not the only one looking hard at the amendments to the Companies Act pushed in just before Christmas. IT Week's Madeline Bennett mentions how ironic it is that a law designed to ensure companies share information when communicating with customers is causing confusion due to a lack of information-sharing on the government's part.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Yet another barmy story of England can be found in the Times here Firefighters aren't allowed to climb stepladders to fit smoke-alarms. Now you might expect this to be another HSE directive, but the Times rightly points out that the concern was voiced by the Fire Brigades Union. This does make a change from the banning of games of conkers and fitting of signs to pear trees warning passers-by that, amazing, pears can fall off them; in that it 's not the work of a local council attempting to put the blame on the HSE. Because when traced it appears that that's where the buck tends to stop. So why all the fuss and more importantly why is it all happening so suddenly?

If I were a member of the Opposition I could easily blame the current government for introducing a nanny state; if I were a member of the Government I could blame the Opposition for allowing things to get to this state when they were in power. Fortunately I'm not a politician and can therefore ascribe multiple causes to the problem.

Let's take a management structure, we'll have 48 'producers', people who actual create output, for the company. On their own they might do well, but frictions can arise so we need somebody to manage them (let's say 1 per 6). Ah, but now you have a new level of people who can argue amongst themselves, so we need another set of managers (1 per 4). Oops now we need another (just 1) so we have a structure like so:

That's 48 producers and 11 managers, add a secretary to each manager and you've got a 22:48 ratio or ~ 1:5. Also it's worthy to note that of the 11 managers only just over half are actually dealing with people who output for the company the others are managing the managers (,who are managing the managers, who ...)

Now the interaction between producers and tier 1 should be easy as they generally deal within their own sphere of knowledge, the producers may know nothing about the budget and the managers may no nothing about what's being produced. Therefore discussing matters outside their spheres they should defer to the other. (I know I'm taking an idealised view here), but what about interactions between tier's 1 and 2? They're both dealing with the same things, why should tier1 managers defer to tier 2 managers, other the arbitrary hierarchical structure imposed why should they bother?

It's at this point we have to turn to tribal status indicators, tier 1 defers to tier 2 because tier 2 earns more, gets the better office, is more likely to be talking to tier 3 and therefore have more influence. Once this becomes the norm something happens, people on one tier what to rise to the next; not because they can do the job, but because they want the extras that come with the position, just as importantly they don't want to slip down a tier and therefore lose those extras.

At this point I'll introduce a a small diversion, Scott Adams, he of Dilbert fame, produced a strip featuring an H&S officer apparently moving things around in order to create accidents, in the last panel the character and states something along the lines of "My pay is related to the decrease in accidents since my visit". For a different approach we can turn to Terry Pratchett and the city of Ankh-Morpork's fire-brigade who were paid "by the number of fires they put out. The penny really dropped shortly after Charcoal Tuesday."

So what's this got to do with conkers and stepladders and status and tiers. Well consider what would happen if all the tier 1 managers got along, what would the tier 2 managers be doing? It might not take too long before the tier 3, or highers, discover this. The entire tier might be downgraded or worse removed. As this would entail the loss of all status markers it's important that each tier do work regardless of whether there is any to do or not this is what is commonly referred to as 'make-work'.

But surely this has been the case for ages, why the sudden build-up recently. Well in my opinion this is linked to the increase in the private industry, the joke in the old nationalised services was that once you were in you had a job for life and therefore not only didn't have to produce make-work to justify your existence, but would actively discourage such to make your life easier.

Also the more litigious nature of our society, the "somebody else is to blame" attitude pushed by the ambulance-chasers and our colonial cousins, means companies have a need to absolve themselves of any wrong-doing. They are more and more inclined to find imaginary faults before the public do and put measures in place to prevent accidents that may never have or will occur, or that may only happen rarely due to an unfortunate set of circumstances (Such as a pear falling on someone)

Better yet so many rules and regulations require paperwork (in the original case, firefighters would probably have to present a H&S assessment for every house they worked in) and those need to be processed, perhaps requiring more staff, which would come under the manager's purview and surreptitiously push them up a tier.

So to summarise - The privatisation and the scrutiny imposed on councils and such, actually could increase make-work amongst managers; and who could dispute the need to prevent accidents and litigation against them. While at the same time creating more work that might require more staff thus increasing the stature of the original manager.

To put it bluntly anyone going around worrying about firefighters on step-ladders has way to much time on their hands and should be removed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just stuff

Well I've got to start with the weather haven't I - 90mph gusts, snow in Scotland, major flooding! We haven't seen this type of weather since oo last year? Even closer then that. Oh and of course the railways are going to be running at reduced capacity, yep a good dependable public transport system; reminds me of something I heard yesterday regarding banks and loans

"Banks are like the sort of people who lend you an umbrella when it's sunny and demand it back as soon as it starts raining"
As soon as the weather gets bad and you really need it the buses, trains, and planes stop running. Heard that the ferries were still going though. So feel free to head to Ireland or France.
(Update: The voice has just told me that the ferries have stopped running too, damn the weather must be bad)

To be honest it's not been to bad around here, as I may have mentioned we're kind of sheltered a lot of weather simply scoots over us, unfortunately when it does settle it's got nowhere to go. The rivers are still up I noticed the Stour was quite high, no pictures yet but watch this space.

As mentioned traffic's been awful lately, the lights on the bridge had a fun turn this morning, traffic coming from town streaming through and our side turned green, by the time we could get through only two cars made it before they went back to red. Now I thought that was what the sensor cameras on the lights were meant to prevent?

The work crews seem to have started re-laying the road, so no doubt they'll be switching lanes later. Don't know what they've been doing though, they removed the entire top layer to expose the framework as seen here and then appeared to have looked at it for several weeks before starting to cover it back up. Now they might have been relocating services that are under the footways so that they're under the bridge itself. Not sure why they'd want to do that. Oh and yes and as I predicted a pothole has formed in the only open lane on the bridge - yay!

Now remember they've also got to resurface the road from the Old Beams junction up to the High Street junction, shown in yellow (which can only be done one lane at a time); repair and replace castings; install cast-iron kerbing; and paint essentially the entire bridge. So far they're still working on the bit in red (where they started). They've still got the other lane, the resurfacing, the castings, the kerbs, and the painting left. It's taken nearly three months to do the bit in red. Now there should be less work in the other lane (no need to move services) so I'll be generous and say they can do that in a month, another month for resurfacing and kerbing and a month for painting. Might be done by April, any longer and we're really hitting tourist season. Oops almost forget, as mentioned elsewhere the plan was they were going to start in August, this got pushed to September and then October so technically we're three months behind to start with.

Up to date information can still be found here <snigger>. If you've got a time machine then you've still got a chance to have your say on the new colour scheme. The review date is scheduled for April so they're obviously running to the same timetable I've mapped out.

As I've been a bit under-the-weather as a purely unselfish gesture I've been keeping my germs to myself. Combined with a lowering of IQ that means TV. Damn there's not been much on this week. "Ugly Betty"'s vaguely amusing, but oh so predictable. The Crystal Maze still amuses, but day after day it can get tiring. Fortunately I still got stuff from the holiday period on my PVR and a few of the good things from More4 and BBC4 "Enron: Smartest guys in the room" was good, but too short (I'd prefer something along the lines of "The Corporation"); a nice little show on Californian politics, which was interesting and informative; and "A Nightmare before Christmas", which was a lot shorter then I recall. "Mortgaged to the Yanks" confirms so much about our 'special relationship' (summed up in Spooks as "We tell you to do something and then you do it") and I followed that with "The Lost Gospels" and the "Gospel of Judas", which were a little information-lite and reminded me a little of the modern take on "Horizon", but not quite as bad.

Postscript: A voice has just come through the door telling me they've lifted the hose-pipe ban down South, so everyone can go out and water the garden now... that is if it's not flooded or blown away.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Thefts, the Royal Mail, and asking questions.

Just heard of a theft that occurred nearby, some metal ingots were stolen last night. No doubt the thieves believed that the metal was aluminium; they'd be wrong it was magnesium. We're all waiting to see the pillar of fire when someone tries to melt it down, followed by a small explosion when they try to dowse the flames by throwing water on it. Also completely unsellable.

I mentioned a little while back ordering some goods on Amazon and finding my credit card had expired on the site, I've just tried to order some stamps from the Royal Mail site and as you might expect it's expired there too. Now with Amazon it was a painless experience, the Royal Mail on the other hand is a right pain in the ass. It's quite possible to update your details, but only through your account profile, there is no option to do so through the checkout procedure; you have to enter an entirely new card.

One thing that always annoys is the question

Type of Card.
The only reason to ask this is because you might not accept that type of card, but the first six digits of the card tell you what exactly what type it is anyway* and the processing bank doesn't care provided it's valid. I've got the card processing procedure manual for a major bank sitting on my lap and at no point does it state that you ask what type of card it is for CNP transactions. I suppose it's a customer satisfaction thing "Why didn't you tell me you didn't accept this card before I typed it in?" a little like the old IT trick of asking which socket the computer/whatever is plugged into rather then just asking if it's plugged in, people don't bother to look or check.

For those interested in the make-up of credit card numbers check here.

* For most it's a question of does the number start with a 4, 5, or 6

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Petition the PM

Some may have missed the story of the petition on the number 10 site that caused the server to fall over, entitled

"Scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy"
and as I type it has 426,298 signatures and ranks number 1 in the list of the most popular. The second is
"repeal the Hunting Act 2004"
which can only manage 19,943.

The reason I'm mentioning this is simply due to the fact that the link came in via a friend and as a result I've been slowly wandering through the lists. Most entertaining are the petitions that have been rejected. Rejected you say, how can you reject a petition how undemocratic "
stop school for people who dnt want o go"
uh-huh nun of us kneed skoolin, the Pastafarians out there might be miffed that
"Make 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' a National Holiday and give away free peg legs to those in need on this day"
was rejected. Some have been rejected for odd reasons try
"Fibre cable to every home in England"
which was rejected as "It contained party political material"? Anybody?

The ones that make it can be fun too,
"Make Eggs A Compulsory Component In Our Diets"
with 2 signatures, the ambiguous
"Make a determined effort to stop cyclists endangering everyone else by cycling on pavements"
so you want them to ride on pavements to stop them endangering everyone...? Only 7 signatures so who cares? From the high-minded
"create the procedure of ostracism as practised under the ancient Greek Athenian democracy."
to the commonsensical
"Stop moving dangerous killers into open prisons."
which manages to garner 4 signatures.

It's all good fun and if the numbers are high enough might (but only might) make a difference.

Oh and in the half-hour it took to write this the Vehicle Tracking has gone up by 973 to 427,271 and the Hunting Act has gone up by 8 to 19,951; sounds like they need email circular too.

What's On? - Who knows?

Last year I used the Wyre Forest District Council site to find out about forthcoming events and still managed to miss one and recently in a response to a WFA article I attempted to locate a list of council meetings (with some, but not total success). This search attempt jogged my memory as to the events list.

So here we go - start at the front page here and the obvious place to start is "Whats On" this leads you to a choice of three options "General Events", "What's on - [Month]" and "Wyre Forest Civic Halls". The first appears to cover the whole year, the second just a month and the third only what's happening in the civic halls.

So what's happening on say today the 16th January - according to "General Events" there's a Royal Air Force Presentation and a slide show – "A Journey from the Broadwaters Inn to the Peacock by Goff Jones." According to the "What's on - January" there's nothing happening today. The civic halls leaflet shows the RAF Presentation, but has it start at 6.45pm and not 7pm. But there's more - head back to the home page and select "Community Information Database" and you'll find there's a talk by Christine Patterson at the Trinity Methodist Church Centre.

So one information search type spread over four different areas - neat. Now before anyone accuses me of being cruel I fully acknowledge that many of these events are not being held by the WFDC and thus they are reliant on information provided by third-parties, but still what's the back-end running this system that doesn't allow this information to be categorised into one place?

Can you imagine if a business company set it's wares out in a similar fashion "These are the shoes we're releasing this year, these are the ones for this month and these are the special designer ones." and then you found that one shoe shown as being released this month in the main list didn't feature in the monthly listings; but did show up in the designer lists, but with a slightly different sole pattern. Oh and by the way there's a whole different set of shoes you haven't seen yet because they're listed in a completely different section of the site. Would you buy anything off them?

Now if it was just events that were a bit screwy I'd be lenient, but it's not. So here's a task for all readers - go to the homepage and view the planning applications for everything to do with the "Lichfield Basin" site (and just that site). Shortest route I've found requires 5 clicks. Remember you can only use links available from the site, but I will obviously allow typing where necessary; good hunting.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Companies Act (1985)

For those who don't know, and I wouldn't be that surprised if you didn't (see below), an amendment came into force on 1st January whereby the registration number, VAT number, and "geographic address" must be appended to a company's website and all email. This amendment goes under the obvious name of Statutory Instrument 2006 No. 3429 - The Companies (Registrar, Languages and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2006 linked here for those interested.

By the way note the dates "Made: 20th December 2006, Laid before Parliament: 21st December, Coming into force 1st January 2007" congrats you've got less then two weeks to comply with the new rules when everyone's off for the holiday.

As per most SI's of its kind it's very easy to follow and see exactly what is being altered, here's an example:

1. —(1) Section 349[19] of the 1985 Act (company's name to appear in its correspondence etc) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)—

    (a) in paragraph (a), after "business letters" insert "and order forms";

    (b) after paragraph (b) insert—

      " (ba) on all its websites,".

Well you might be able to guess what that's on about, but to truly know you'd need to look at the Companies Act (1985) - good luck, it's not on-line. Oh the 2006 one is, but not 1985; OPSI only goes back as far as 1988. However if you've got £44 to spare you could buy it.

Now out-law give their own interpretation of this, which is very handy, but still leaves some questions. The kicker is that the SI seems to indicate that the company must have its name on its business letters and order forms and its websites, but the only reference to registration number appears in Schedule 1.3 and 2.3 which appears to deal only with the use of an old number. The only explicit mention is in the explanatory note which states
Regulations 6 and 7 and Schedules 1 and 2 amend the 1985 Act , the 1986 Order, the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 so as to include websites and documents in electronic form in provisions requiring the company's name, registered number, registered office and other particulars, and the fact that the company is being wound up (where that is so), to appear on correspondence, publications and other documents.
Whereas the language in Schedule 1.2 suggests that this is only the case for order forms it's the catch-all "other documents" in the note that rankles. As I'm sure that most companies don't have a copy of the Act in question just lying about I'm sure they'll just read this and will quote name, rank, and serial number on every piece of documentation regardless of purpose just to be on the safe side.

It's also quite hilarious as to why this has been brought into the electronic age, prior to the internet I would require the VAT number and possibly the registration number of a company and the only easily available method would be from the company's own stationery. Nowadays I just head on over to the companies house web site here and use their WebCHeck(sic) facility for the registration number; and by law a VAT number has to be present on any invoice or request for payment by a VAT registered company, and that can also be verified online at the Europa site here (when it works) so either the interpretation of the SI is wrong or the Act has been re-worded incorrectly. Me I'd have said something along the lines of "All external business documentation must contain name, address, and registration number, all requests for payment must also contain a VAT number (if applicable)" Tada, covers letters and publications in whatever form you use and is easy to understand (ie your internal mail doesn't need this)

So why all the miffiness? Well new legislation is brought in just before the holiday period to be put in place just after said holiday period which refers to an Act you can't easily obtain. Ah democracy in action.

Amazon, gambling, and my quirks.

I decided to pop on to Amazon and see what was new and funky, or at least what was old and cheap. I added some bits and bobs to the shopping basket, pruned out some items with a long delivery time, and chose the el-cheapo postage option. It really must have been a while because my credit card had expired, a simple fix and I checked out.

Now I know with the free postage it takes a little longer to delivery so I wasn't expecting it for a while, anyway I logged on to check the estimate - 28/02 - 03/03 Wha? Who? Wha? Obviously something was holding it up, but what? Now Amazon have altered their site slightly and I have a list of about eight items, but now none of them are showing me an individual delivery estimate - I've got to click on each one to find out. Thank you Opera and your easy "Open in new tab" option. Turned out to be the first two items were 3-4 and 4-5 weeks (I swear they were in stock when I put them in the basket). I'm glad I had so few items to check, could have been really annoying, of course I could have chosen the more expensive delivery option and sent them out as and when they became available, but I've made some mistakes in ordering in the past and return of non-faulty items doesn't get you your postage back. Cheapness on my part and I can't blame Amazon for this, it shows up on my email confirmation with this date; I just think it wold be nice to see what items are slowing things down.

An addressed letter came through this morning giving me an exclusive invitation to 100 free spins for an on-line gambling site. No pass-codes to identify me just a link to a section of their website (that admittedly doesn't appear to be linked from their main site), a CD with software, and a UK toll-free number. So far so good, where are they - Belize. To quote the CIA World book

Current concerns include high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increasing urban crime.
Sounds nice. Their location is quite easy to find on the letter and it's printed on the CD, oddly it doesn't seem to be listed on their website. Now I know we're all in a big global market here, but I also have to wonder why a company whose headquarters is in the Caribbean is registered with a Canadian gambling commission and accredited by a company based in London. Now it looks to be a big company and with the USA's recent cull on overseas gambling I can understand why they're touting for business, but ye Gods you've got to wonder whose jurisdiction it falls under if something goes wrong.

I have a problem with names. Unless it's through prolonged exposure, or just beaten into me I can't remember names -that's for both people and places (such as pubs etc.) Now those who've read more than just this article will know about the Stourport by-pass, or as I should perhaps call it the Stourport Relief Road (all capitalised). One of the roads that is on the planned development I pass at least four times a day and every time I note its name, "Discovery Road", and yet for some obscure reason I think of it as Discovery Way. I think I've found out why; and as it seems for most things the answer came from Google. On Google maps it's listed as "Resolution Way" and yet on Google Earth it's listed as "Discovery Way" so hurrah it's not all down to my dodgy memory for names.

Friday, January 12, 2007

As you might expect, and condescending bar stewards.

I got out of the house this morning drove around the corner and went "Oh the bridge at Bewdley must be closed". Was this some sixth sense, alien messages, or subconscious pickings from the radio? Nope it was the stationary queue of traffic in front of me. Stupidest quote I've heard today

"Why would the bridge being closed affect you?"
Gee you've lived here how long and you don't know the answer to that? Bewdley has two bridges, as they've got a by-pass, see -
The bridges are highlighted in red, the northerly being the old bridge, the southernmost being the by-pass. For residents the only connection is at Long Bank, the furthest junction to the west (left). Oh ignore the two roads that apparently join up to the A456 they don't, one goes under the over goes over. So one bridge down, the other really starts to take the brunt of traffic. Time to look elsewhere, but where oh where can people cross?

Easy, the next two closest major bridges are at Stourport and Bridgnorth, which would you pick?Not exactly the most difficult of choices to make is it?

Right this irritates me so much, it crops up every time we have a spot of bad weather and you can guarantee one of the smug little sods reading the news will say it or something damn similar
"Might want a bit of a lie-in"
No sorry I can't. I have to do this thing called work; you might have heard of it. Yes yes I know you're up at the crack of dawn, you poor old thing - chauffeured into work to sit down for up to three hours and read lines written by someone else, paid a whopping sum of money and buggering off on holiday for months at a time. Boo frickin' hoo. Don't try to sympathise, don't try to empathise, just try not to mangle your lines.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Make it so, speed cameras, and stupid conversations

So only yesterday I mentioned that they'd missed a pothole on Bridge Street, I go over it this morning and it's been filled in, damn spooky. In sort of the same spirit a friend's been done by the new speed camera in Minster Road, the notice states it's the Stourport to Kidderminster, Mitton Town one. I presume that's the one next to the traffic lights as I'd expect the other one to be referred to as the New Town one.

Now I have a problem with this camera, not in its existence, but with how it's been set up. You're starting from a dual-carriageway (technically a triple-carriageway) running through a set of lights into another dual-carriageway that narrows with little warning into a single carriageway. The speed camera is set up on that second section of dual-carriageway.

I'll start with the obvious - it's a dual-carriageway, I know the assumption is that in a built-up area (street lights being present) the limit is 30mph, but it's a dual-carriageway and people don't think! So in the interests of keeping the speed down you'd think that the first investment would be in some repeater signs, just as a reminder - nope none present (well one, but I'll get to that in a moment).

The second problem is the placement of the speed camera warning signs, they're at the start of the second stretch of dual-carriageway; fine if you're coming straight up the first stretch, not so fine if you're turning left into it from Worcester Street.

Thirdly is the actual position of the camera, on its own pole about four feet past a bus-stop, which means it's invisible whenever a bus uses that stop-off point, it also obscures the only speed warning sign which is attached to the bus-stop pole.

Finally we come to the sensors in the road, raised strips of reflective white markers a set in each lane. The far lane, no problem; the nearside lane, the strips don't follow the contours of the road (did I mention it's slightly curved?). I'm not sure what that means for the calculations, but if I drive following the road I drive directly over the markers instead of having them pass under me.

Now I'll just deal with the road layout itself, the initial dual-carriageway serves three functions, it allows drivers to overtake those who are filtering off to the left, it allows drivers to turn right, and it allows drivers to overtake stationery queues of traffic. It's the third function that causes difficulties, cars accelerate to overtake slow-moving queues then suddenly find that the lane they're in is about to disappear. Although in theory they should slow down and attempt to merge, this often proves difficult with both the amount of traffic and recalcitrant drivers. The only other option is to accelerate to get to the head of the queue, guess which option people opt for? Put a turning on the left-hand side into a housing estate just before this happens plus a right-hand filter from the other side of the road, a newsagents on the other side of the road, and have oncoming cars broaching the middle 'no-drive' section to overtake legally parked cars; and you've got an accident waiting to happen.

All in all it's a crap job, the official site at SpeedAware indicates that the cameras were positioned due to excess accidents

16 collisions involving personal injury - 3 in killed or serious injury category.
between 2002-2005. Not good, but consider that Minster Road actually extends from the traffic lights up to Kidderminster a distance of approximately 1.5miles. Did all these accidents occur only within the small stretch that the cameras were set up in? Who knows.

Now as I said I have no problems with this camera per se, so long as it's designed to perform its intended function - reduce accidents; it's not. Repeater arrows on the first stretch of dual-carriageway, turning the second lane at the traffic lights into a right-hand turn only, and posting signs warning drivers about the end of the second dual-carriageway; those'll help reduce accidents, but of course they cost money and don't bring any back in.

Just an addendum - stupid conversations. I've just had a phone call from a director of a company regarding electricity bills:
"I've talked to someone down the pub [sigh] and they've just saved a bundle on switching electricity suppliers"
"Well do they have both gas and electricity?"
"Nope just electricity, he says there's a program you can type in"
", yeah I tried it for you the savings are negligible"
"Oh well can you try it again, he says we should be saving about £400 a year"
"Okay no problem"
"Oh and can you try it for [Director] too?"
"Well no, I don't know who they're with or their fuel consumption"
"Well you don't know ours either"
"Yes I do"
"No I meant ours not the company's"
"Oh. Well no I'll need to see a bill"
"Oh right okay"

I've no idea how he expected me to compare his personal fuel bills when I don't know who he's with, what his rates are, or how much he spends per month/quarter/year? I get similar conversations with this guy every so often all along the same lines - Can you do X (when neither I nor he knows the exact value of X)? I swear that when it comes to computers, particularly things to do with the internet, some people expect it to just know everything.

Tripping other neurons:

"I don't like these user names and passwords on these [telephone/electricity/gas] sites, why can't I just put in my address and have it give me the information?"
"Well what would stop anyone else from just typing in your address and getting your personal information?"
"Oh! Can't it just know when it's me typing?"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Revamp Stourport?

In response to a post on the WFA site I was going to discuss RFID tags, but discussions on revamping the area have tickled the old brain cells so that'll have to wait.

First off a quick update, the nasty hole in Bridge Street was filled in on Thursday afternoon as was the one at Areley Common, sadly they've missed this one which is getting much worse. The single carriageway across the bridge got narrowed down a couple of weeks ago with the result that traffic, especially the wider vehicles, are travelling much more slowly with traffic occasionally grinding to a halt between the signals. The effects of essentially double the traffic is also having an affect on the road surface and I can already detect pothole precursors as I drive along. The question of anyone will be bothered to look at these given that work will be done on both sides of the road at some point interests me; it's not as if we'll be able to drive around them when they form.

On to Stourport, Tavis points to the report here regarding plans towards the area, they do seem to be an odd mish-mash of broad strokes and minor detailing with little in between.

The basic finding is that more needs to be done to attract visitors into the town centres of the area, basically the big three - Kidderminster, Bewdley, and Stourport. I'll deal quickly with Kidderminster and Bewdley. Kidderminster has had its centre pulled out, Weavers Wharf (I still want to put an apostrophe there somewhere) has moved the focus from the top of the town to the bottom, while not catastrophic the added pull of Crossley Retail Park near to it makes the top half of the town strangely empty. It appears that little is being done to this area and it's slowly running down, both the old Waitrose, Marks and Spencer's, and Littlewoods buildings are vacant and while the Swan Centre has done much to revamp its central courtyard and entrance fa├žades it only highlights how dark (and perhaps dingy) the actual entranceways are.

Bewdley, sigh, Bewdley's great except that it wasn't really designed for large amounts of people, at times I feel very thought was put into the town at all.

So on to Stourport, which will be the focus of my thoughts (completely selfish of me, but so what). The attraction to Stouport has always traditionally been thought to be the river and its amusements, which is highly accurate; unfortunately attracting people from this area into the town centre will require a little more then easily vandalised hanging baskets placed outside the stores.

First off - access. There are five main access points from the riverside into the centre of town. Starting from the river and working inwards these are:

  • Spiral Stairs
  • Standard Stairs
  • Shipley's car-park
  • Coopers Lane
  • Raven Street
  • New Street

The spiral stairs are quaint i.e. narrow; the standard set of stairs are a twin for those on the other side, slippery when wet and shout death-trap to me whenever I see them; the car-park is a no-brainer, people shouldn't be forced to walk through a car-park just to get to your town, especially when the exit is a right PITA and you end up on the wrong side of the road anyway. That leaves us with the only three streets- Coopers Lane despite providing the best access point is barely distinguished, it appears to be a dead-end when viewed from the town side and doesn't even appear on the official map of the area; Raven Street is a narrow, one-way, with oncoming traffic for people using it, it has no signposts (that I recall) that indicate it as a route into town and is dark and uninviting; New Street on the other hand is one of the main cross streets in the town, wide and brightly-lit, and sitting at the top of a steep bank.

Tavis has already dealt with the "investment in the basins" it requires reiteration, there has been no investment towards the basins, they're private housing developments hardly tourist attractions, and they'd still be pulling people away from the town centre even if they were handled in a more meaningful manner.

I'll move onto the town itself - "change the mindset of businesses in the town to encourage them to improve the town’s appearance as many premises are letting the town down" presumably they mean shops such as the boarded up market which is currently in a state of limbo, or the boarded up Job Centre that was moved over to the library on the outskirts of the town centre. Seeing that I believe several buildings are listed or at least restricted towards maintaining the character of the town it comes as little surprise that the Group suggests putting up "hanging baskets".

Perhaps instead of chastising the shop owners thoughts could be turned towards the state of High Street, state being the operative word; the road surface is wearing away and repair work done by the water board has left patches of mismatched brickwork on the pavements.

Finally that old bugbear the by-pass, or more precisely the bridge that would be required for one, now here's a off-beat thought - build a new bridge and pedestrianise Bridge Street, rework the Bridge or extend an opening to allow easy access from the town to the riverside, couple that with the planned extension into the basin alongside Engine Lane and you'll open up that entire section of the town to people. <sigh> never going to happen.

For more thoughts browse through the reports at Longhouse I particularity enjoyed Sabina's, Claire's and Ruth's suggestions.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Crystal Maze, and to switch or not to switch?

Flicking through the TV channels about 6pm last night and ended up on Ftn - "The Crystal Maze" which prompted a big grin, damn it's such a good show (and no doubt provided inspiration for the lacklustre Codex), but I was thinking what would happen if someone tried to get it made now.

"So Rich what's your idea?"
"Well I thought we'd make contestants perform challenges over four different zones in order to win crystals that they can use the final fifth area to collect coupons in a sort of wind tunnel"
"Five zones? So five sets!"
"Yep and the main four will need at least 12 rooms each plus cameras in each room"
"Err okay we'll come back to that, what happens with the challenges? We get the audience to phone in and pick who plays?"
"Well I was thinking that they could pick the person and a type of game and get a fixed time to complete it, if they don't leave the room within that time they get locked in..."
"Great that's when the audience can phone in at the end of each zone to release them or perhaps lock someone else up."
"I was thinking more along the lines that they'll stay locked up unless the contestants spend a crystal to get them out."
"Hmm I don't know, we may have to change that. Anyway about these zones?"
"Yeah we'll have different themes like Aztec and Industrial..."
"I like it. Challenges can be matched up we can make them eat bugs in the Aztec zone or something"
"Well I was thinking about something a little more intellectual; anyway I was thinking that the contestants will get between the zones by climbing up walls or down pipes..."
"Woah there think of health and safety! We can just let people scramble about. Sorry Rich it sounds like a good initial concept, but I don t think it'll work the way you've got it. See if you can rework it to one set, hey maybe we can use an existing place somewhere; it also needs more audience interaction; and you've got to spice up the challenges, you know have the contestants try to find the crystal at the bottom of a hot-tub or something. Come back and see me when you've thought it over."

Blogger has left Beta so the question is do I switch over or not? Hmm Sue had so much trouble with it she ended up over at Wordpress, so I'm in two minds. It's got some nice points, but nothing that seems to make me go wow. Hmm I'll mull it over for now.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year

to everyone particularly Suzie and Tavis. Well, back in the saddle I'd purposely avoided using the computer over the holiday period, at least I tried to. My aunt got a new digital camera for Christmas and I got roped in to install the software on Boxing Day - what a nightmare, they had a HP laptop with all the pre-installed gubbins and the Samsung software was conflicting with HP's own transfer software. I transfered photos using both and compared features, HP won hands-down so bye-bye Samsung. Still it makes me appreciate how good the Canon software is so I might end up installing that instead. They also appeared to have a dead pixel on the view screen. It disappeared after warm-up, and doesn't shop up on the photos; so I've just told them to keep an eye on it.

Plenty of snaps of the family over the week, damn the flash is harsh on the A620, I ended up switching it off. Of course that decreases the shutter speed and hello Mr Blur. So I had a play with the settings and switched it over to Portrait mode instead of Auto; this gives me access to the drive settings and a couple of quick button presses switched me to continuous drive mode - press the shutter and it'll keep taking shots until you release it. So for roughly every five shots I'd normally get at least one that's not fuzzy and I can delete the rest there and then. 300+ shots later fills the card, according to the numbers I'd manage to take 500+ in one day - I love digital cameras. I'll go through them and upload some representative samples at some point.

I avoiding shopping wherever possible though I ventured into Kidderminster on Boxing Day morning - what a waste of time. I counted 15 cars in the Bromsgrove Street car-park and 3 were in employee bays. The Swan Centre was shuttered off, so no Argos or Game, as was the Roland Hill Centre. Moseyed on down to Weavers Wharf - that was fairly busy, but again some shops were shut notably the Sony Centre. Got back in the car (count had risen to 30) and popped over to Crossley Retail Park; I think I saw more people over there then I did in the town centre. Sainsbury's was shut, quite spooky to see an entirely empty car-park, but it looked like everyone else was open. Repeated the experience yesterday, more shops open still quiet though.

Just as I avoided shopping and computers I also avoided the television, not that there was much worth watching. I recorded the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures which have moved over to Channel 5; kudos to them for putting it on at 7:15pm instead of Channel 4's 12:15pm, and for showing it during the Christmas week instead of the New Year week meaning that for the first time in ages I could have watched it all 'live'. It's aimed at kids, but still interesting to watch for adults. This year was about "Numbers", mostly primes; I was a bit miffed over the "Is 1 a prime?" question. His answer of "No" with a following explanation was very glossed over. Basically he said that primes were the building blocks of other numbers so take a number like 105 and it breaks down into 3*5*7; 1 doesn't contribute to this so it's not a prime. Uh-huh so what combination of prime numbers multiply to equal 1? Oops. Other than the odd slip or gloss it was fairly well done. Amusingly the teaser for the show that Channel 5 kept putting out asked "Why does a sunflower have X petals?" never actually got answered. One of the things I've never understood with this series is that it's a one-off; I mean I know they only make one a year, but to my knowledge it's never repeated at any point for the rest of the year - strange?

I've also got Doctor Who lined-up to watch some time, although critics have shrugged at it; the last two Torchwood's, which has been a very disappointing series; oh and the Vicar of Dibley; that's about it. As you might expect though there are two programs on tonight I want to record "Mortgaged to the Yanks" on BBC4 and "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" on More4, both starting at 9pm, thank the gods I've got a twin-tuner PVR so I can record both.

Oh yes and good old Celebrity Big Brother is about to go out, so expect the front pages of the tabloids to be dominated by the inane antics of a bunch of Z-list 'celebrities' as opposed to um well the inane antics of A to C-list celebrities - oh joy.

Slowly catching up with the news too, which looks like it's been as bland as the TV listings; the only think to pique my ire was the Sunday Express' ponderables

Shooting stars aren't really stars they're meteors
Sorry that's a ponderable? Oo-oo how about "Shepherd's Pie neither belongs to or contains shepherds" speaking of which I must admit I'm surprised that both that and cottage pie haven't been stamped on by the FCA Nazi's, perhaps if that Welsh butcher had named them Welsh Dragon's sausages instead of Welsh Dragon sausages he'd have been alright instead of being taken to task because he's misleading the public into believing they contain real dragon; if they crack down on that sort of thing I know it'll certainly make me look twice at fairy cakes.