Friday, March 30, 2007

A little bit of fun

A link from Invisible Top 10 Ways to Destroy the Earth quite funny, but what stalled me was

The Earth was built to last.
Now you know me I don't like unqualified statements like that so I tracked down one of the contractors, here's what he had to say.

"Oh sure that was the original intention if you look at the initial plans, no you can't see them, I mean it was all intended to be this eternal paradise according to the big boss. So what goes and happens - budget cuts. I don't know some big thing amongst the big-wigs, no I don't know - executives floating by with their noses in the air don't even see us working guys let alone tell us what's happening. Anyway all the funding gets re-allocated to save their own asses; what happened? What do I care, you want to hear this or not? Okay then.

Ah it was a beautiful plan and then we had to cut-back on a few things. Well layers for starters, we'd start with the core then wrap different types of material around it, like a gobstopper, make it resilient in case anything happens everything will just bounce off and it'll spread the resources evenly around. Well that went by the board A couple of layers with liquid pumped between them, yeah like cavity wall insulation pathetic right.

Anyway it all depends on the core, you've got to start there and I've no idea where the jokers upstairs got the subbies who supplied it, I think their boss went to school with our boss, doesn't matter it was us who'd got to make this heap of crap work. Two magnetic poles the plans called for one on each axis. Would the bloody thing rotate properly, course not 'Wrap a couple of layers around it that'll work' they said, yeah right. You know those weebles you've got 'weebles wobble, but they don't fall down' yeah? I stuck something like that in and a good kick later it started to rotate without falling over. Don't look at me like that you've got to work with what's to had. Sure we guessed that every few millennia it would just topple over, but hey we'd be on a whole other job by then.

So we'd already slapped a couple of protective layers around the core and were preparing the big outer one. I swear it'd have been cheaper to stick with the multi-layers then to pay for all the scaffolding. I found out later some berk at head office was hiring it by the day, said his plans showed completion in seven so it was more economical then hiring it by the week. You got to wonder.

Anyway so finally the outer shell is complete and on time too. Yeah okay it was a bit thinner then we would have wanted, but H&S gave it the nod so all was fine. Up comes the tanker to fill the inside and would you credit it the dozy sods in the other hemisphere had thought we'd be building the valve when we knew they were supposed to be doing it. So now we've got to punch a hole, fill it up, and refill it with left-over material; and the stuff still oozes through.

Okay major bit done time for the icing, yeah the bit you live on. Nice and smooth with, you know, the odd concavity and slope nothing major. Damn I'm glad I wasn't on that work-crew, the mess they made of that not enough material and splodges all over the place with one great big one in the middle "Not our fault the outer shell's leaking" bloody whiners. Well the water crew took one look and said in a sarcy voice 'What do you think's going to happen to all this water?' I know what's going to happen it'll collect in those depressions and all that'll be left is the great big splodge sticking out. Well they had a whine, but there were only three options, take it off and start again - yeah right; get some more material in to smooth it down- no way; or pile in more water. Water's cheap so door number three it is.

I left it after that for the detail crew, apparently they'd just started when the whole land mass started to break-up, I knew that mix was dodgy, anyway with everything just floating around the detail crew got split up and started doing their own thing on each section; buncha weirdos the lot of them I tell you. Shame that some of the big projects like the chocolate fountains and gardens of sexual ecstasy got scrapped, but hey what you've never had you're not going to miss am I right?

Ah well after we'd finished the plans were all retrospectively altered to show that's what was planned in the first place and accounting fiddled with the time frame to show it had been done to schedule, should have seen the day-rate we were on ha! Ha ha oh yeah won some awards too for 'innovative use of style' or some such nonsense they're displayed in the lobby, makes me laugh when I see them. I mean it wasn't too bad, but I wouldn't want to live there or anything."

Kidnap, companies, and accident hotspot

Iran is still obviously in the news over the kidnap of British soldiers, barging into foreign territory and kidnapping foreign nationals who do they think they are America? Oh that's unfair at least Iran tried to offer the excuse that they were in their waters, took them back to their own country and notified the soldiers' country of what they'd done.

Ah companies can't live with them, can't dump their owners in deep water with concrete shoes. Water companies, in agreement with Ofwat, are increasing our water bills by 7% in order to fix leaks; this with a reported profit of over £2.5bn is making some people a touch annoyed. These naïve people obviously don't get it; if they pay for fixing the leaks of out of the profit they'd have less profit! If they announce less profit their share price will plummet, just look at poor Jessops after their profit warnings. The only way for this not to happen is to increase the price of water. Place your bets now on how much water companies profits will go up by for next year.

Anyway not to fear the BBC's business correspondent presented some ways of saving water, I could only laugh when he turned to someone with him and the first thing out of her mouth was "Well those measures only help people with water meters" well done m'lady.

It's funny when you consider there's a recent advert that states that "We're the wettest country in Europe" and yet all we hear from water companies is hose-pipe bans and low reservoir levels and now they want to increase the bills for what seems to be a more ineffective service.

Companies again and the Paddington Rail crash from 1999 blipped up on the radar. 31 people dead and the people responsible get fined, so that's how you get away with murder. I wonder if you could start a hitman company "You can't put me in jail for murder, it was a company action".

Yesterday evening I had a fun event driving home. I got to the end of York Street and indicated to turn left into Bridge Street at the mini-roundabout. I couldn't move forward though as the queue had backed-up to this point. It finally moved, but there were cars opposite me in New Street indicating right and nothing coming up Bridge Street; they had right-of-way. Car one indicating right, I wait for them; car two indicating right, I wait for them; car three no indication, so I pull out just as he tries to turn right. He cuts me up and I have to stop sharply, my hand found the horn; he stopped and got out of his car! "It's an island!" he shouts, I wind down my window "So where's your yellow light then?" His mouth closes with an almost audible snap and he scuttles back into his car. Of course I meant indicator, but you get the gist and I'd just had a nasty shock. Relating this to someone they said about him getting out of the car "You have to watch out there are some aggressive people on the road" there then followed a pause then I replied "Well yes I'm one of them" pause, "Yeah fair enough" he said.

It's a stupid mini-roundabout really it is, the right hand lane of York Street by-passes it to feed straight into High Street. The left-hand lane is really a left/ahead lane, but everyone treats it as a left only so don't bother to indicate so no-one coming up Bridge Street bothers to stop. New Street is left/right only so when people don't indicate you've no idea where they're going (assumption is right turn rather then going over the island). Bridge Street is a left/ahead, but due to the angle it's almost impossible to see if people are indicating to turn left. So people in New Street turning right can see that the High Street car is turning left so they've got right-of-way over the left-turn traffic in York Street, but the traffic in York Street can't see that so they see a car coming up Bridge Street and assume they've got right-of-way over New Street - crash.

Oh and the mini-roundabout is so badly positioned and sized that you tend to go over it rather then around it.

Oo just a mention they've narrowed down Gilgal rather then close it off, the result is cars driving like arthritic snails up the left-hand lane of Vale Road wondering at which of the gaps they're supposed to turn into to get to the right. Oh and it looks like the bus-stop that block that entire left-hand lane is still in operation - bravo!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gilgal shenanigans, and skate-park design.

Yellow jackets at standing at the Vale Road exit into Gilgal this morning. Red marks on the pavement suggest they're continuing their footpath march around this corner. If they continue as they've done before then this road may be closed off. At first this might not seem so bad, after all there's another entrance into Gilgal from Minster Road. That's fine it's getting to it that's the problem. As mentioned before Stourport has a figure-eight road system, what hasn't been mentioned is that, unless you're intimate with the road network, once you're off that figure-eight you can't get back on it again.

I'll take the worst-case scenario that they don't inform drivers that the road is closed until they're on Vale Road (arrow). Where do they go? Onto the traffic lights you can turn right to the church, but then it's a U-turn in the road - I think not. Going straight on and following your nose the next island is in Kidderminster (red); turning left and doing the same and you're just outside Bewdley (blue) before you reach an island.

If they're intelligent they'll warn people as they come to the end of High Street, turn them down Lickhill Road, right at the lights down Bewdley Road and then right into Gilgal. Locals will of course turn down Vernon Road or Park Avenue and cut off that entire long corner, not good for the residents though.

I'm sure it's all been thought out and planned for in advance and that all the gesticulation being done by the yellow jackets was simply information dissemination. Hmm.

Things are hotting up with the skate-park, the WFA has alerted me to Councillor Campion posting what is presumably the initial design. The geek in me shows with my first thoughts being "I wondered what they rendered that with" Something about the light says Rhino to me over AutoCAD , not that it matters. The viewing angle cuts off sight of the paddling pool and the riverboat building. The main arch under the bridge isn't delineated clearly nor the path that goes through it. Some dimensions can be made out, but no overall size is shown; so how much of the area it'll cover is only guessable by the arch work. Though that's suspect take a look here, the arches are different heights.

So it appears to be called Martins Way Skate Park, as I've mentioned on a WFA comment shouldn't it be Car-Park opposite Shipley's Skate Park?

Skate-park in red, Martins Way at the top, car-park on the other side of the bridge with an path continuing under the arch. You're an emergency vehicle, how would you get to the skate-park? Down Martins Way, through the barrier to the lower car-park, then along the path between Playland and the playground; or down to the car-park before heading on foot through the arch? Almost sounds like I'm advocating the site next to the pool, I'm not. Into the lower car-park and down the path next to Playland and you're at the site I've suggested.

As for the builders Tav's asking questions on some skater sites so it's a wait and see. There have been some comments that some of their work looks like pre-fab stuff and that perhaps it's a spin-off side-line from the companies main playground business. Not good so far.

Oh very late, but this alternative pay and display car-park sign has gone. So presumably it was only for the Christmas period when Raven Street car-park was being used?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Season of Mists

Ah Britain in the Spring. Yesterday was warm enough for me to switch the fan to blue, today my breath hung in the air. Mist lay on the streets as I left this morning, I pulled out of my house and joined the queue for the town. I had seen a couple of cars before me using a nearby road as a turning point to whistle back past me in an effort to cheat the line. Two cars ahead a Land-Rover wannabe did a turn in the road, bumped up the opposite kerb onto the pavement and over the grass. I decided to stay put.

We moved forward surprisingly quickly given the behaviour of some drivers, a couple of times cars couldn't pull out of one of the junctions to join the queue as some of its members had decided to leave a gap of a couple of car lengths between themselves. A dearth of traffic in both directions made up for that though. I wanted to turn right so I pulled over to the left; odd you might think, but it was either that or shudder my way over a set of potholes that had strung themselves across the junction entrance. Then it was just sitting, waiting.

Movement in the side-mirror alerted me to the bicycle. I was out from the pavement, but I could spare another couple of inches and edged over. An attractive women in a tight pair of trousers headed past before being stopped a few cars up by someone who seemed to want to get intimate with a drain. She edged past carefully.

At a certain point the traffic picks up, I nipped forward and the car gave a jolt as I went through something next to Areley Lane. I looked back to see, but a cold 4x4 had pulled out sharply behind me it's engine making a noise like a strangled car-alarm on helium. I spotted the Land-Rover wannabe 4 cars behind, those are the chances you take around here he could just as well have been 4 cars ahead.

Then we were moving the queue jumping forward like a jack-rabbit, out of first into second into third. Reaching the lights on the bridge the queue before me stalled stuck on the wrong side of the road. I declined to join them and waited at the lights. For my reward they turned red and the queue started forward. I eased the car back a little; I was on the right side of the road, but close to the edge and I'd seen only the other day the effect that had on a Londis van trying to squeeze its bulk through the narrow passage.

A motorbike slipped past and pulled in before me the engine racing, angry at being halted for such petty reasons. The cars flowed towards me on and on, slowing as they approached for no good reason. The lights changed with three cars still to cross, they passed quickly and the lights stayed green as I raced the bike over the bridge.

I fixed my eyes on the crossing in Bridge Street, it'll change it's bound to. The green light mocked my thoughts as I reached High Street and was reunited with my compatriots from before.

Looking right York Street was choked; ahead High Street was snarled, a security van and a delivery van on the right both parked next to the "No Loading 8:30-9:00", another further up was parked on the left. The car in front started to signal left at the end of High Street. Are you pulling-in to get to the bank, turning left down the passage, or just informing the world that you're turning left down this left-turn only lane? I kept my distance and they pulled into the passage. The York Street shuffle had worked it's way down Lion Hill and round to the close the end of High Street and stretch back down Mitton Road. With two lanes in Vale Road closed we should be moving at a fair clip, instead cars dutifully stopped as always to see if they could pull in to the right-most lane.

Gilgal was clear as a bell and I chased the end of the Mitton Street queue down Worcester Road up to to and around the island and then down to the car-sales where it petered out. As always clear sailing from that point on.

Monday, March 26, 2007

SAC 2, and PS3; and Go Tesco

Kidderminster's nice early on there's barely anyone around at 9am, it's as if you have the town to yourself. I browsed Fopp and spotted S.A.C.:2.2 and 2.3 at £7 each, yee ha! After watching SAC:2.2 I'm getting into the story much more then I did with SAC:1. Oh and I'm still listening to the title song (running through my head now), it's interesting then when I first heard it I thought "She doesn't sound Japanese, she sounds Russian" Yep Origa is Russian-born.

Casino Royale was released last Monday (Monday, Monday always a bloody Monday; are games released on a Monday, was the PS3 released on a Monday? That's a whole other rant though) the RRP for the 2-discer is apparently £22.99, although most stores seem to be doing it for around £14.99 though I did spot one at £13.97. Sainsbury's had it at £8.99, at that price I'll pick it up. Why the mention? Well it was interesting to note that the RRP of the new Playstation 3 is £425 and that's the price that everyone is selling it at around here. Oh my mistake some are doing it at £424.99 or £424.95 big whoop.

Now with any other product you can spot some variance in price from store-to-store so why not with the PS3? If there are few consoles and high demand you'd expect the price to be higher, lots of consoles and low demand and the price should go down. As a new product I expect the price to be 'fixed' around a set figure, but from looking around there seemed to be a fair number of boxes around for sale; only one store had a "Limited stock" sign, but they seemed to have plenty. Hardly reminiscent of the time when only pre-orders got a PS2. So stock on the shelves not selling, in theory the price should come down with the biggest holder cutting their profit margins to get the stuff of the shelves and turning at least some profit. Place your bets, but don't hold your breath.

The WFA has announced the application for the Tesco Outline planning permission has finally arrived here. Tavis and his commentators have made a number of points, I'll add some more. Haphazard as I'll comment as I go and try to pull it all together at the end.

I'll come back to the site plans and applications later. I'll start with the air quality assessment report (the first supporting document), they're using meteorological data from the Birmingham Airport site as

This is the nearest meteorological station, located approximately 45km northeast of Stourport.
Firstly nearest isn't necessarily most relevant and secondly aren't there stations in Worcester and Great Malvern?

Oops almost missed this; the big date at the start is November 2006, but the first draft of the final draft was in August 2005 and that's on the footer of all the pages. Nothing sinister about it, but at first glance it appears to be much more recent then it really is.

Page 25 has the Proposed Construction Mitigation Measures, which are fair enough if adhered to. The outcome is that using the predicted traffic patterns there's no great change in air quality. Next task is to find the predicted traffic patterns, as the report neglects to mention the source of these.

Bat and Otter Surveys, necessary due to the proximity of the river. Oo page 5
a new link and two new river crossings
my emphasis. Outcome no appreciable impact, provided "insensitive" lighting was avoided, rubbish entering the river was dealt with and as much vegetation was retained along the banks of the river. I wonder if they said the same for the Kidderminster branch?

Consultation Statement. Ah the first phase of the "community involvement exercise"
Hmm more details on the site 5,015 square metre supermarket (matches the application document) and space for 324 cars. The petrol station, the road bridge from Discovery Road, and a footbridge across the Stour (just the two?). Page 8 has a list of people they should contact, how nice Stourport Town Council makes it at number 4, right after Disability Action Wyre Forest, Highways Partnership Unit, and Worcestershire County Council.

Public consultation held on 12th, 13th and 14th of October 2006, that's Thursday 10-5, Friday 10-5 and Saturday 10-1. Otherwise known as work, work, and shopping. To advertise they sent letters to over 120 local residents (I'm too far away), adverts in the local press plus editorial (missed it, my fault) and in the existing Tesco (don't shop there).

Of the 166 people who returned filled-in questionnaires 40% were deemed favourable and 60% unfavourable with traffic concerns making up the majority of the latter. Examine a quote on Page 11 though which wants a supermarket, but is worried about traffic. Put that in the favourable pile?

Oh and this is only phase 1 page 12 states that
residents in the immediate vicinity of the site will be invited to take part in further discussions
hmm no more public meetings? Oh and they've got the advert they put in the paper, how the hell did I miss that?

Design and Access Statement Page 4 has the nugget about the Local Plan and about conserving the character of the area. Yee ha page 8
Given that the previous buildings that occupied the site were of a different form and appearance then the buildings to the West of Severn Road there is no need to expect the development of the application site to copy their style or materials.
In other words the site didn't match up to begin with so why should we bother. Page 11 the number of car-spaces is 290, and a road-bridge from Discovery Road to Severn Road (later construction?), a footbridge and a link-road over the Stour.

Still on page 11 (what a busy page) we're told that the store will provide a range of food, non-food goods and services. Oh and the existing store is stated as 'smaller'

Page 15 it states that Severn Road "is likely" to be connected to Worcester Road via the previously mentioned link-road. Oh and the preferred route into town is along Mitton Street for various reasons including the fact it's "reasonably wide", sorry which Mitton Street are they looking at? Oh and a new bus-stop in Severn Road. Hmm okay the bus drives from Mitton Street to Severn Road and comes out... um Discovery Road?

Much as I want to pull everything apart, they've not done too bad here. The quip about the previous site rankles, but they're trying I'll give them that.

Ecological Surveys much of a muchness with the Bat and Otter survey.

Environmental Assessment
followed by maps then check forms - medium-risk with respect to ground contamination. Up from the July issue which had a low to medium risk assessment. More maps, more check forms, photos. looks like we've got two environmental surveys here, one from July the other December.

Flood Risk Assessment parts 1 to 3. Low to medium risk. Car-park's back to 324. Road and bridge linking to Discovery Road and a footbridge and...? Nope no mention of the third here. Of interest is the 2nd part which has plans for the both road bridge and footbridge on pages 5 and 6

Noise Assessment. Assuming no evening work, the construction noise will be tolerable for the short term (clearing and prep estimated at six weeks). essentially although more traffic will be flowing in areas it doesn't already the report indicates no major difference in noise levels. One point was that to assess car-park noise they checked out the Tesco Winnal, Winchester, Hampshire. Um Kidderminster?

Planning Statement Ah confirms the two environmental studies. Page 4 makes much of planting along the edges of the supermarket, gee that sounds familiar. Hmm a lot of things that the local council are expected to take into consideration... oo page 8
5.12 Extension of the primary shopping area or town centre may be appropriate where a need for large developments has been identified which cannot be accommodated in the centre.
So has the need for a large development been identified? Page 13 a key aim of the Local Plan is the adequate provision of a range of shops. Ting Tesco is not a range of shops and the building of one may lead to the closure of a number of in-town stores. More joy the site is supposed to provide a mix of B1 and C3 although A1 and A3 may be acceptable. Tesco is an A1 proposal.

Page 19 5.64 states that they may try to make Mitton Street a more attractive pedestrian link from the site to the town centre, again are we talking about the same road here? Finally on page 21 it makes much that Tesco plans to use only 45% of the site, leaving the rest to residential or mixed-use development. Does anyone build a store next to a Tesco superstore, or in fact next to any major chain of superstore? Oh and it'll be good for the town centre increasing the town's status in the retail hierarchy, yeaaah right.

Retail Study Ah this'll be the 'need' for a new store. Wha.. woah hold on there fellow page 3
1.4 Stourport is currently underprovided for in terms of bulk food shopping floorspace[...]none of these is capable of providing an attractive bulk food-shopping environment.
You want to make statements like that be prepared to back them up with data. Yawn a rehash of the Planning Statement. Hmm page 15 "lacks a self-contained shopping centre"you mean other the market at the corner of Lombard Street/Lickhill Road and the one that used to be in Bridge Street. Hardly a rationale to build a superstore though. Page 23 mentions the Kidderminster Stores, retail area of 5,400 square metres compared to the proposed area of 2,403 it's more then twice the size, so from my previous estimates to size what's going on? As I said I'll look at the plans later. Spelling error page 24 "wherever" should be "whenever" I think.

Hmm I also note they point out the concessionary areas of the Kidderminster Sainsbury's and Stourport Co-op and don't mention those present in their store... oh wait they don't have any. Ah finally the need for a store - there are better ones outside Stourport so it needs one inside Stourport; brilliant.

Page 34 7.34 the previous store is likely to taken over by another food-retailer; with a large Tesco on the doorstep, yeah right I can see that happening. Hmm could be a cinema though.

Speculation that the drop in retention in town is based on the Kidderminster Tesco with no reference to either the entire Crossby Estate nor Weavers Wharf. Fiddle the reasoning and you could come to the conclusion that the site should be developed along the lines of Weaver Wharf, with a mix of large and smaller stores in an attractive setting. Though that could prove even more disastrous for the town centre.

I find it ironic that they echo my point that the Co-op will suffer some trade division but the greatest competition is their own Kidderminster Store, oh and lesser impacts on Lidl and 'Kwiksave' oops no more Kwiksave.

Basically it comes down to the fact that for bulk-purchase Stourport is under-provided for compared to areas surrounding it. Instead of people heading out of town let's keep them here instead. It's seductive, but flawed. They talk of bulk purchasing, anyone think that's not going to done by car? I don't see people popping into Tesco for bulk purchases then wandering into town, assuming Tesco allow you to use their car-park this way. Sure some may walk to Tesco from the non-town side, but why should they continue on?

Four part Traffic impact assessment Oh love page 3 that the report
should not be relied upon by any third-party
Neat. Ah page 13 Link road from Severn Road to the proposed Stourport Relief Road, and the link to Worcester Road via Discovery Way. Page 15 it's nice to get some accurate figures regarding the roads in Stourport - Mitton Street varies in width from 7.4m to 5.5m oh and a mention of how drivers treat the incoming junction with Worcester Road as a priority; gee could it be because it's a tight turn, the change in width, the corners, the cars parked in the left-hand lane? I don't know, it's a mystery to me.

Hah York Street has no road markings, but has sufficient width for merging. Yeah take out that first car-parking bay and theoretically you can. Oh and reconcile "Traffic is therefore restricted to one lane for the majority of York Street" with their first statement. Oh and the mini-roundabout is an accident cluster - tell me something I don't know.

High Street has lay-bys for buses and delivery vehicles... no it doesn't it has a bus-stop and car-parking bays. It has double yellow lines down both sides.. no it doesn't have these people actually visited this town? When?

Gilgal narrows from 5.5m to 4.35m, oh and they neglect to mention the same sort of queueing as per Mitton Street.

Heh Mitton Street pavements are 0.85m to 1.68m on the side the development is (Severn Road side) and 1.16m to 1.69m opposite. Is this is the wide-route alluded to by the Design and Access Statement for pedestrian access.

The nearest railway station is Hartlebury, it doesn't mention the limited service, but it does run hourly to Kidderminster and Worcester um during peak periods. Oh ans there's one at Kidderminster and Worcester too.

Uh-oh page 18 is missing, by the internal count that's pages 6,7, and 8. page 19 (9) starts in the middle of a sentence. Just to confirm I've downloaded it and tried it on a different computer with a different version of Reader, yep not there either.

Page 19 - you have to laugh they say that the introduction of the New Link Road will allow an alternate route to Worcester Road via Lichfield Street, in the same sentence they predict a maximum of 318 vehicles per hour down it. That's about 5 a minute on a single lane two-way street with a minimum width of 4.63m, note the maximum isn't given. A real traffic reliever that'll be.

Oh to keep a straight face, they've spotted the Mitton Street is narrow so the proposed pedestrian route is the northern side, which means... crossing Mitton Street and no you're not going to try and put a pedestrian crossing on a corner, bad doggy.

Although they correctly identify the High Street/Bridge Street/York Street/New Street junction as crucial their queue data's a joke. The assumption appears to be total information awareness on the part of drivers and zero parked cars. Count the number of times the left-hand side of Mitton Street is blocked opposite the Chinese or outside the Yard, count how many people turn left at the left/ahead York Street turn without indicating. Throw in a smorgasbord of pub and other delivery vans unloading and a bus stop that doesn't quite fit one bus, then run your pretty computer program for queue lengths.

Oh 320 cars now + 6 trolley bays. Page 26 - traffic lights on service road due to only having room for two trucks at a time. One by the "loading pay" the other in the service yard. Two trucks can wait on the service access road. So four trucks maximum at any one time. A fifth would block the customer entrance. I'm sure they'll arrange matters accordingly and won't e.g. park one on Severn Road for a bit.

The remaining documents are the queue analysis reports. As I suspected they deal specifically with the junctions in isolation, how much traffic can this junction sustain. The main report made the point that the traffic situation is a figure 8, so a hold up at a junction here, causes a feedback through the whole system.

Right finally the actual drawings and application form. First of all the application form kills off a rumour that Tesco already own the site, "Prospective Purchaser" is the box ticked. They're also unsure as to how to get rid of surface water "To be advised". The entire site will be 5,015 sq.m, but only 2,403 sq.m will be used. There are 5 spaces for this, the figure is next to the second space which is "office floor space" either they meant the third space "floor space for retail trading" or it's a total for all five types. Inquiring minds would like to know.

The site itself is listed at 4.5 hectares or 45,000 sq.m that leaves 39,985 unaccounted for. Also is that 4.5 hectares the 45% already mentioned of the whole site, or the entire area that Tesco want? I'm guessing the latter, which makes the 39k the car-park and surround.

Site plans now. So why does it look the same size as the Tesco in Kidderminster when it's half the size. Perhaps the overall size is the same, but more space for warehousing etc. This would jibe with a rumour that Tesco wanted to use the Stourport store as a central warehousing point. Or I'm only human and I've screwed up somewhere. Check the pictures and scale though.

The car-park appears, as usual, the standard f***-up. I've parked my car and want to get to the store, "No that's alright I don't need a footpath I'll walk along the car-park playing dodge the traffic with a trolley." I could say that the footpaths aren't visible except that a nice gap between two sets of bays is displayed filled with trees. Ah and trees at the entrances and exits "Why would I need a clear line of sight to pull out of a junction?"

The splitter triangle at the end of Severn Road is inspired, traffic already has difficulty getting out there let's make it harder. Oo they can build it nice and high and put some bushes on it too, make it look real purty.

I note some bright spark had put in a slip-way to turn right from Lichfield Street into the store. As I'm sure most people leaving will be turning right they now have three lanes to watch instead of two.

The building itself looks like your standard supermarket model, admittedly they've made it a two-tier affair to keep it low.

Summing up: We need a Tesco as apparently we'd currently undersupplied despite the predictions of the local plan that say we aren't or at least not as much as warrants a new superstore. We need an A1 building on this site despite the preference for B1 and C3 types, because it's the only place you can build one and we need one because as above. It doesn't matter that it's of the town centre as we need one see above and it's the only place to build one see above and you (the council) can't reject them for that reason Nah nah nah nah nah.

It'll provide good links to the town centre despite the pedestrian links being too narrow and it being unlikely anyone will drive back into town for some more shopping. It'll keep people shopping in Stourport and not Kidderminster despite the fact that might not be why people shop in Kidderminster and all the money will fly straight back to headquarters, and once we're done building we won't spend a penny more on this area.

Tesco will try and keep in character with the area, but won't really as a) they have their own design ethos towards maximising profit and b) you can't make them as the previous buildings weren't in character nah nah nah nah nah. Oh all right they'll keep the main building lower, and that's nothing to do with the cost of raising the entire area up to level.

The roads they provide will give some relief to the town though in specific only for Vale Road and Gilgal and that at the laughably high maximum 5 a minute rate down Lichfield Street. We do get part of the fabled Stourport Relief Road though, a small part, a cheap part, that also happens to benefit the store too. Damn that's some concession.

They'll be 324, 320, or 290 car-parking bays depending on which report you read, no discussion on whether they'll be trying the old barrier trick they attempted in Kidderminster.

Oh and more trees to be planted along the edge of the entire site, like they did in Kidderminster then. No mention of how they'll be keeping rubbish out of the river as requested in the ecological report, so a bit like the Kidderminster store again. Damn does this sound familiar?

Oh but you'll get two new bus stops, one right outside the store well actually you'll have to go through the car-park to get there, and one um pretty much right next to it on Severn Road opposite the new access road? Sorry who proposed a bus-stop opposite a junction? Hey they're both on the same sides of the road, where do you get off when you're coming back? Are they going to be just part of a giant loop?

So the reports are inconsistent, have been done over different time frames and make references to things that aren't there anymore. The TIA only deals with each junction in isolation when the system has to be viewed as an entirety and assume perfection on the part of driver and road. The store itself is an A1 which according to the Local Plan we don't need and the site itself is for B1 and C3 with A1 or A3 only as an if-we-must. No mention is made of how they'll deal with the findings of the ecological assessment or the environmental one. I know it's only a proposal for outline planning, but still all-in-all I'll sum it up as "C- needs more work, check your sources"

Friday, March 23, 2007

PS3, potholes, and drugs

Hmm for all the muttered shortages it's interesting to note that my boss who only pre-ordered his PS3 a couple of weeks ago has had it delivered this morning, ironic as he's away for the week skiing. Of course I could open it all up 'just to check' that everything's okay and I've no doubt that when he returns he'll express surprise that I haven't been playing with it. Sadly I've been burdened with a high moral conscience and the simple fact that it's not addressed to me prevents me from closer examination. I've gone as far as confirming what it is and that the main PS3 box is intact and that's it. Ah my conscience - annoying for me; a blessing for the world. Gods one of the directors has wandering in and said that as I'd be taking it home for safe keeping I should have a go with it and I'm still having a fight on my hands. Gah Sonic and Casino Royale have just turned up too.

Nice news for some gamers as the BBC reports that the first 100 UK buyers got a free 46-inch HD television, oops I should say the first 100 London buyers; ah London, UK it's all the same thing isn't it.

GMTV ran a tiny report on potholes, showing the sheared tyre of one family who'd driven over a cluster of some in Coventry. £58 million spent repairing potholes, not including London, with an eleven year backlog. Of course the point is they don't repair them they patch them. The tar then wears away; the fill, not being homogeneous to the rest of the road, washes out; and you're left with the same hole though occasionally larger.

Right assume all cars are Band D tax rated that's £140 per car (actually quite close to the mean). Assume a yearly drive of 20,000 miles (based on a 3 year/60,000 mile warranty), assume a standard 40mpg (based on me). Assume a fuel duty rate of 48.35p (from HMRC).

2,273 litres of fuel needed makes a total of £1,099 pounds per year, add the tax and that makes £1,239 per year per car (not even counting VAT). The DVLA give a figure of 26,208,000 for cars on the road. Multiply that up and you get £32,471,712,000. That's £32 billion a year from cars. I wonder how much of that is actually spent on things to do with vehicles?

A news story about drug classification might slip some by. A team of scientists suggests the outrageous notion that we classify drugs according to the 'harm' they do. Outrageous as it found tobacco and alcohol to be more harmful then some Class A drugs.

The article itself I can't find, I can only go by the summary presented by the MRC. It appears the definition of harm is comprised of three elements - Physical harm, dependence, and social harm. The first is pretty objective and should be easy to score - needle tracks, lower antibody counts etc. Dependence is not so easy as people differ in will-power, just compare those who try and succeed to stop smoking compared to those who don't; although you can examine how long it takes for the body to purge such drugs from its system. Social harm is a tad more difficult. By the nature of their definition illegal drugs may be deemed to promote more harm then legal ones. The only proper comparison would be to legalise or illegalise them all and then run the test. Though again, those drugs that increase violent tendencies, or cause hallucinations may be marked for this category.

Get a panel (of how many members?) to score for these then total them. The response to the report from the Government...

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: "We have no intention of reviewing the drug classification system. Our priority is harm reduction and to achieve this we focus on enforcement, education and treatment."
or to put it another way, 'Every time we try to declassify some drug the tabloids start screaming at us, so we've given up. We much prefer to do the quiet things the media tend to ignore' <sigh>

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sony's PS3 backwards compatibility

Well I've mentioned that Sony have pulled out the PS2 hardware chip for the European PS3 and weren't releasing the new software backwards compatibility database until the launch tomorrow. Well either someone goofed or they've had a change of heart because here it is.

Better format then the American version where you have to type in the name of the game you want to check, you can at least browse this lot. It would have been nice though to have the option to search too, but hey if it has to be one or the other I'll stick with the browser.

So to start with two PS1 games to check, Soul Reaver and Silent Hill. Soul Reaver - one block, noticeable issues, US version lists slow down and some pauses; hmm okay liveable. Silent Hill - two blocks, minor issues, US version states a tone is emitted when you shoot something; again liveable.

On to the PS2 games then while I'm on the S's I'll look at Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4. SH2 - one block, or two if you've the Director's Cut (I've both). US has "No major problems for this title.". SH4 - one block; Oh dear. US again has "No major problems for this title." Wait a second - SH2, SH4; what happened to SH3? It's not there, it's on the US site with the familiar blah, but not for Europe. That's not on.

How about the Ratchet and Clank series, the US again has the familiar blah, Europe on the other hand has none of them listed. Sorry run that by me again. None of the series is listed suggesting none will play on your shiny new PS3.

How about the Jak series? US no problems except for Jak X. Europe... well you might be able to play Jak3, but it's a one block game.

Okay forget it, R&C and Jak were the best platforming/racing/whatever series on the PS2 and they might not work on the PS3; Silent Hill 3 is arguably the finest the series produced and that's not listed either.

Of course Sony are "looking to the future" why would you want to play your dull old PS1 and 2 games on the PS3? I don't know how about taking a look at the PS3's launch line-up. Okay "Resistance: Fall of Man" check, Enchanted Arms might have been a possibility except for this. 24 out of 100 no thanks. Oh but I'd definitely get um er no actually that'd be it. Okay that's just me, a driving nut would love what's on offer (that's my cousin sorted then). Where's the R&C equivalent, the Silent Hill, the RPG's (Enchanted Arms being ignored)? For me it's a limp line-up and people like me are soon going to popping in PS2 discs and finding they don't work.

Despite the forthcoming Oblivion and R&C I'm still not going to buy, still going to wait.

Petty things, S.A.C. 2nd Gig, laughing, and a bit of traffic

So the Budget went as planned, and yes the top rate vehicle tax band increased from £210 to £300 to be followed by another increase to £400 in 2008. Big woop.

Little things that annoy, I pop on to Gamespot every so often just to see what's new. Today's front page was surprisingly free of PS3 hype seeing as it comes out to tomorrow (I can hardly wait, oh wait yes I can), but what caught my eye was at the bottom "God of War II Game Guide". Okay a game guide; for those having trouble with a particular area or for those who just can't find that last piece of whatever got smashed into exactly 99 pieces they're great. God of War II gets released in Europe on 13th April. So presumably this guide is for people playing import copies as it got released on 13th March in the good old US of A. Of course that doesn't explain why the US release of the official guide was on 7th March. It seems this always happens the guide to the game is released a week or two before the actual game, why would anyone buy it?

Manga and animé time, I've got Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Man/Machine Interface, I've got the two films Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. I've got all 7 volumes of GitS: Stand Alone Complex, so I'm a fan, but I've only just picked up the first S.A.C. 2nd Gig. The reason for that is mostly down to price, four 25 minutes episodes at £20 when I can pick up eleven 45min episodes of CSI for £35. Okay it does come with a second duplicate disc with a better soundtrack, but that's still 10p per minute compared to 7p and that for what is essentially the same episodes. However now the 7-disc box-set has been released the original 2-disc'ers have dropped in price so I picked up the first at Fopp in Kiddy for a tenner.

One of the problems I had with GitS: S.A.C.: 1 was the opening theme tune "Inner Universe"; it was nice the first time, okay the second, and just got annoying after that. Coupled with the poor track breaking meant you couldn't just skip over it to get to the story. So I approached GitS:2nd Gig with some small trepidation. Ah different theme tune "Rise", okay that's better, much better. Four episodes and I listened to it all the way through with no desire to skip it. As for the series itself - darker then series 1 so far, yet still totally strange at times.

Oh just as minor trivia the English actress who does the voice for Major Kusanagi in GitS (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) sang the lyrics for the excellent "You're Not Here" for the video game Silent Hill 3 as also featured in the movie.

I needed a laugh so I put on "Jack-Jack Attack" a five minute short that came as an extra on the 2-disc edition of "The Incredibles".

"Is this the Parr Residence?"
"Yes! I'm Kari - the babysitter!"
Okay I'm trying not to laugh as I type. Looking at the quote it's not funny, put the visuals to it and... gods I've got a tears in my eyes.
"Good. House"
"Good. Campfire"
Dies Irae
Oh I've got to stop there before my sides split.

Traffic was getting bad this morning. Work on the bridge still continues, amusingly (or not) in exactly the same place as where they started last October, the pavement work in Lion Hill seems to have finished, and now instead they're doing something on Vale Road. As a result lanes 2 and 3 are closed morning until evening. This means that anyone coming from Mitton Street is now forced into lane 1 rather then picking from 2 or 3; and, joy of joys, traffic from Lickhill Road (High Street) have right of way over the entire lot. In theory this means the traffic in town should be clearer as they're no longer waiting to cross lane 2 to get to lane 3; in theory. In practice cars are still waiting as they're unsure of what's going on, cars from Mitton Street, so used to having their own way, are continuing at stupid speeds up to Vale Road and feedback from Gilgal is still blocking one lane, but this time it's the only lane available. It's all good fun.

It would also be helpful if, as promised, there were frequent patrols to stop all the illegal parking, Oh and can we have a lane-divider in York Street please, pretty please with sugar on top; someone seems to have had a spree with yellow paint can you give them a can of white too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Joined up printing

After uploading a bunch of photos to Flickr I was reminded that I could do with some more photo paper, normal hand-held size paper. Now I'm sure I mentioned printing a borderless photo and it cropping the edge, fortunately it cropped something I wasn't bothered with. However it got me to thinking - can I pick up some photo paper that would allow borderless printing without cropping?

For those of a non-technical bent I'll explain the problem. The Maximum size of photo my Canon Powershot A620 will take is 3072 x 2304 pixels that's a ratio of 1.3 (3072/2304) almost all the photo paper is 10x15cm (4x6")that's a ratio of 1.5 (15/10). So that leaves me with two choices -

Either I accept a border on the sides or I crop it. Borders don't look so good and at this ratio cropping means I lose a whopping 11% of the picture.

So what to do? Well for something of a similar size I can turn to A6 10.5x14.8cm. That gives me a ratio of 1.4 (close to the square root of 2). That would a smaller border or a loss of only 5.4%, half that of the 'photo-sized' paper. But I'm still losing something. I could head for the photo size 6R, but at 15.2x20.3cm it's a trifle too large. So I must turn to the transitional paper sizes PA6 in particular at 10.5x14cm is perfect.

R6 (yellow) contains 6x4" (cyan), contains C6 (orange), contains PA6 (magenta)

So can you buy PA6 photo paper? Seeing as it's an Epson printer I'll try them first.

Not counting the rolls, which I'd have to cut by hand, I'm left with a choice of one a 1.4 ratio similar to A6, but 13x18cm still too big.

I've used Canon paper so let's try them. Okay firstly they don't want to just see their paper, they want you to pick which printer you using first. I can understand that, just annoying for me. Right... hmm cross-referencing with Amazon there's a 6x4 listed as A6, sounds petty but half a centimetre can mean that Uncle Bob is chopped off the group photo, nope can't tell. Carry on to 13x18cm again. I note they do an 10x18cm which is nice to know.

HP next. 10x15, 10x15, yawn, oo 10x30cm, 13x18, A4, A3. That'd be a no then.

Kodak, same again. Lexmark? Even less choice. Google also shows nothing

I give up, you'd think that people who make photo printers that can feed directly from cameras would produce paper that matched the ratio of the photos those same cameras actually took.

Budget, gas-guzzlers, and photos of Clee Hills, SVR etc.

Ah so it's the Budget today, the television was full of talking heads about what the Chancellor is expected to do. Rise in tax on cigarettes and alcohol, rise in vehicle tax, more money for families etc. Everyone was debating whether he should tax 'gas-guzzlers', people who drive 4x4's for no good reason, how he should stop concentrating of families and look at pensioners.

Okay stop. Check the first sentence the word you're looking at is "expected", until it's delivered we don't know what he might do. There are two reasons for debate 1- when you have a ability to alter a decision about to be made, and 2- when you can alter a decision that has been made.

"You know I was going to increase vehicle tax , but after the points raised on GMTV this morning I've changed my mind. Can we re-write the entire budget?"

Don't think so. Of course news has to be topical, little point having people talking about how the Chancellor should do this or do that a month or two before the Budget; who cares? Still it's amusing watching people get hot under the collar about a topic they can only speculate about and have no chance of altering. Oh and no doubt claim victory for after the fact.

Saying that though the big point that no-one seems to be highlighting is that this huge tax increase isn't for 'gas-guzzlers', that would be an increase in fuel duty, nor 4x4's, that'd be a bit too specific; it's an increase for higher polluting cars. Those that emit over 225 g/km of CO2 and it only affects those cars that were registered last April. Before anyone whines that they've just bought a new car the vehicle tax band G (225+) was introduced in last year's Budget. All he may be doing is increasing the cost for that band. For those with much older cars the Co2 bands still only apply to vehicles registered after 1 March 2001, their bills are still based on engine cubic capacity and that's unlikely to change.

The long and short of it is, people should look at the emission rating of for their new purchase, if it's in the G band don't buy it. Manufacturers of higher polluting cars will quickly make them cleaner if people stop buying them; and that's the point of the new band and the possible increase in cost.

Well I said I'd post photos and I'm just this moment uploaded to my Flickr account the ones my parents took from Clee Hill, the Severn Valley Railway ones should be next (yep just uploading now), followed by some from around town. Hopefully this afternoon or tomorrow I'll post the ones from Tenbury.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Maternity care

Poor standards in maternity care popped up in the news. Now normally I don't relate personal details regarding others however this story made their local paper and was fed to a national (only a page 13 4inch type of thing) so it's all public and I've mentioned it elsewhere so...

Just over a year ago my cousin and his wife were expecting their, and her, first child. She was overdue by a couple of weeks when she thought she was going into labour; my cousin duly grabbed the bags, they piled into the car and drove to the hospital. It's some distance and takes about an hour. They got there, the nurses or doctors looked at her and said "Nope not yet, go back home". They drove back, got into the house and she promptly started to go into labour. One emergency phone call later and the ambulance was on it's way and local mid-wives alerted. The mid-wives arrived first, they were local and the one ambulance that served that area was elsewhere so they'd had to call in the other district's.

The good news is everything went fine although the horns were a big shock.

So to reiterate; a hour's travel time to the hospital, a first-time mother, and an overdue baby. They sent them home! As far as I know they received no form of apology from the hospital.

The NHS - when it's good it's very good, when it's bad it's horrid.

Monday, March 19, 2007

And I thought the WFDC planning site was bad, sweet shop, cleaning things up.

A friend wanted to look up some details on his home, he resides in the Malvern Hills district. So I visited the Malvern Hills Planning page, which I commented was much easier to find then the corresponding Wyre Forest one. I expected good things though I'd heard how the planning site had been praised. Reality was a bit of a let-down though.

Clicking on Search Planning Applications, I was given the standard type in details I'd come to expect. Unlike the WFDC site you could choose the type of application you were searching for and not have to hit the correct enter key or visit a different search page. However one small problem marred the experience, nowhere to type an address in. I don't know the planning references. Ah well trying anyway we entered his address into the Alternative Reference field and hit the enter key. Up popped a window with a calendar in it. You have to click the search button. Supposedly this is a Bobby site, and yet I can't tab down to the search button. It sticks on the calendar, because you haven't entered a search term.

Clicking on search produced no results. Let's try the Property search. Typed in the address name and got nothing. Typed in the postcode and hey look there it is. Click to view details or click to view map? Details seemed the obvious choice. Hmm no links to planning here. back a page and try map. Nope doesn't work in Firefox... doesn't work in Opera... ah what a surprise works in IE. There's the property. Now to click on info, click on the property and... it tries to open a new window, which is blocked.

Unblocking and I get a window, no address bar; no icons; no maximise/minimise. I resize it to see all the details, click to the next page and it resizes back (Do you remember the Print key-combination?). Click on one of the planning documents and it opens in the parent page and closes the pop-up. Great now let's look at the next one... um back to the map? Yep and repeat the process.

You want to see how it should be done visit South Hams planning site A minor cosmetic error in Firefox when viewing plans, but neat and simple. Look and learn people.

I did pop in to the sweet shop on Saturday morning, heh so many old-time sweets. I picked up some jelly beans (not old-time, but I'm a jelly bean freak and these are the decent high gelatin chewy type) and some apple bon-bons. Apple bon-bons! Haven't seen those in ages. I took a couple of pictures I'll post, along with a lot of others, later this week.

Tidying things up I came across an old board game 221b Baker Street from information gathered it appears to be the 1981 second edition version with the 40 case-cards. I'd wondered where that had got to. A more intelligent game then Cluedo, you had to visit areas and solve the clues. Unlike so many games though it required extraneous knowledge as the clues could be crossword-like in their nature. Fine for adults, not so hot for a 10-year old. Anyway now I'm 20+ years older might be time for a revival. Still way too much to tidy I'm not sure what I'll come across next. Oh I've got some wall plates, I'll post the pictures later this week, farm scenes, country scenes etc. thought about sticking them on eBay. Nobody I know wants them, but I don't if anybody reading here would be interesting, only looking for a few quid each and if you're local it'll save P&P.

Friday, March 16, 2007

By-elections, it's market time, ban Heinz, and fortnightly - rubbish.

After the sad death of Cllr. Mike Oborski a by-election is being held on April 12th. Why am I mentioning it? Because there's district elections being held on 3rd May. One intelligent chap asks about the cost of holding two elections, but if they don't hold the election that ward will not have a representative for an entire three weeks! Their views won't be heard and the whole place will spiral into chaos. As my father pointed out "It would be interesting to find out who asked for this".

The Focus on Stourport article in the Shuttle had a big announcement - a new weekly market (yay about time) in Raven Street (yay a good location) on Tuesday (hmm) between 9.30 and 4.30 (ah). <waves hand> Just like to point! Not all of us can just pop into town for some shopping; any reason it couldn't be held on a Saturday or Sunday?

Well we knew it was happening the last bottle of HP sauce to be made in the UK rolled off the line. They've moved to the Netherlands after the Aston site was deemed non-viable. So one assumes that they'll no longer be displaying Westminster Palace on the label. More on the story at Brown Sauce

"Oh woe is me" cry the populace "They want to switch to a fortnightly pick-up for normal refuse" Cue images of bags left piled on the street and complaints about hygiene. Okay here's the deal if you can't fit all your rubbish in the bin, if you have to leave bags out - you're producing too much rubbish. Sorry it's really that simple change your damn lifestyle; if you're still producing all that stuff then take it to the tip yourself you lazy bugger. Stop whining on about how difficult this is making life for you.

"Hygiene!" they cry. Put the damn lid on tightly or better yet two words - composting bin. "We haven't got a garden" fair point but you probably know someone who has and if you petitioned your council maybe you can get them to pick it all up, just like they did in the war, and sent elsewhere. I'm sure you make a big fuss over organic foods well help grow them.

"You've got to clean the bottles!". Oh yes you've got to clean the bottles you poor thing, I know someone who complained about this "I've got a dishwasher, I'd be wasting water if I put them in there 'cos they don't fit in with the dishes" You've got a bloody sink! All you've got to do is rinse them out, they get cleaned properly at the recycling site. Gods the fact he only even considered the dish-washer made me despair.

"We've got infants, those nappies take up space" Oh right in ye olden days before disposables infants just used to lie naked "We haven't got the time to wash up towelling" Otherwise known as they're smelly and yuck lumpy and we can't just bung them straight into the washing machine like the lazy sods we are we'd much prefer to just dump them in a bin.

Councils need to take an active role too; the talented, intelligent, and beautiful Susanna Reid made the point that there are some recyclables the councils don't take. A particular bug-bear of mine is that thicker cardboard isn't collected here, the type that comes through the post for mail-order, the type that Amazon use. I get rid of it properly, but how many would just stuff it in the main bin? Some councils don't even seem to be providing a proper sturdy main bin to put rubbish in, no wonder you're complaining if you have to pack everything in black bin-bags. That's a fault with the council though not the process.

Really though is this the state the country's come to? If it's not instantly easy and convenient we don't want to know. I'm waiting for someone to suggest that we just do what we used to and bung everything in the one bin and make the council sort it out. Why stop there, it's so much of a hassle walking to the bin to put things in I should just be able to drop it on the floor and the council can come along every day and clean my place up.

I'm just fed-up with the whining, you want something to whine about how about the councils cut the collection all together and make you take your own rubbish to the tip. They'd sense the apoplexy from Mars.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Council Tax

I've just had the council tax bill through the door along with the pretty leaflet that explains where the money goes. It's jam-packed with information, of the type normally handed out to the public; that is pre-processed. I can't blame them for publishing things that way, there's certainly a lot there, it would just be nice if I get drill-down a bit further.

A case in point, it gives me the amount of council tax for each of the bands A-H payable for each area then later gives me complete totals. Me being me I'd like to know how many houses fall into each band for each area. Likewise as an example it uses a Band D house to show how the tax is split. It produces a yearly total of £1,361.16. A figure that doesn't appear within the Band D group, nor as an average of those displayed, so where did it come from.

Later it shows the precept for each parish and again uses a Band D property. For Stourport £19.53 has been levied. Now is that a fixed amount regardless of band, is it a fixed percentage, or an arbitrary amount? It doesn't say.

Getting back to the houses we have a boon, the Valuation Office Agency (which I've always thought of as a redundant term, why not go the whole hog and call yourselves the Valuation Office Agency Executive?) have all the details available on their website. Just locate the authority(district) and voilà. Well almost; firstly you can't get details for the entire district, you have to enter a town; secondly some sets hold other sets. In other words pulling up all the details for Ribbesford gives you Ribbesford, but searching Bewdley gives you Bewdley and Ribbesford too. Not too much of a problem, just annoying. Also the VOA doesn't share the same geography as the district. "Churchill & Blakedown" are separated (a minor thing), but there's no such location as "Upper Arley" and you can't separate Kidderminster into "Kidderminster" and "Kidderminster Foreign" at least not without a hell of a lot of work.

Anyhoo I had a crack anyway.

BandKidderminsterBewdleyBroomeChaddersley CorbettCookley


(Update: after much fiddling these damn tables still don't display correctly. Oh they're fine in preview and compose, but as soon as you publish pfft!)

So for those with the band figures you should be able to work out how much each area brings in.

Plotting each band as a percentage of the area produces the following pretty graph

For those unfamiliar with this type of graph treat it as a contour map. Start on the left and walk along the line for the area you want.

So for Kidderminster we start on a hill (A) with a gentle stroll down to sea-level (H). For Broome we start at sea-level (A) walk along for a bit, start up a slope (D) then really have struggle as we clamber up a peak (G) before another mad scramble down the side (H).

Would be really fun to plot every A-H band per house on Google Earth, colour-code them and assign height values for them. A true hierarchy of the country, do you live in a valley or up on a hill?

Confession under torture

So the mastermind behind 9/11 has confessed. He's also admitted responsibility for the World Trade Center bombing and some bombings in Bali and Kenya. He instigated the failed shoe-bomber attack, plus the plans to attack other key sites.

There are some questions over whether these confessions were as a result of torture, a question brought into sharp focus by a document revealing some extra confessions previous blacked out.

In this document Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses to being the cause of Hurricane Katrina; of planting operatives in Arthur Anderson to falsely 'cook' American companies books, to having implemented 'New' Coke; to planting pretzels in strategic areas around the President's office; and to convincing Britney she'd look great bald. He also admits to training a crack force of stealth operatives whose only task was to break into American homes and move the owner's car-keys.

Apparently as an afterthought he also asked that 278 cases of armed robbery and 579 burglaries also be taken into account, clearing the Washington's police back-log of unsolved crimes in a single stroke.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Out-of-hours, BT, and trains

So the deal was give up £6k a year and you can stop having to deal with out-of-hours patients, gee let me think.Hey what a surprise a lot of GPs took the option and a report out today states that the only people to benefit were the GPs. What a surprise. Was this yet another move to push people towards private health care? You can't get hold of a NHS GP, why not go private and get a 24hr number to our staff instead. We'll send someone round and just add it to your monthly bill.

I've always delighted in the assumptions with a GPs surgery, I'm ill; nauseous, diarrheatic, and dizzy. Please make your way to the surgery. How?

BT want to start charging extra for people who pay with cash or cheque and not by Direct Debit; admin charges they say, people who pay this way are more likely not to pay or are late payers. No, bad doggie! Your pricing structure should have taken all that into account and thus you should be rewarding customers who pay by DD due to the lower costs. Why should we be paying because you didn't get it right in the first place?

On a final note the government is paying for an extra 1,000 train carriages to be phased in by 2014. They'll be leased to the train companies for an estimated £130m a year. I couldn't see anything about how much they'll cost to be built though.

So let's take a look at that. 1,000 carriages over 7 years at £130m a year; well no it won't be £130m a year they're not going to instantly get 1,000 new carriages by the end of the year. So we could be talking £130k per carriage per year, assume a steady creation of them and that's 142 a year for seven years

142 - £18.46m
284 - £36.92m
426 - £55.38m
568 - £73.84m
710 - £92.30m
852 - £110.76m
994 - £129.22m

So what at first appears as £910m for seven years could be only £516.88m.

That's not my true concern though. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the whole point of privatising the rail system to stop government (i.e. us the taxpayer) having to pay for it? Ah you might say they're getting money back by leasing the carriages. True if we knew how much they cost to build, but yet again it has to be asked - who's taking the risk here? Who's investing the money? It's not the companies (who are supposed to) once again it's the government.

In a true privatised system one of the franchises will start to make 1,000 carriages, use those that come out and lease the excess to other franchises. The risk is all theirs, if they produce to many and can't lease them out, they'll either be sitting in sidings de-valuing, or costing money being pulled about the area.

But it's the government making them, which just goes to prove yet again that we simply don't have a true privatised system. The government invests the cash, takes the risk, and the company (shareholders and directors) profit. Stop fannying around, either let the companies take the risk or re-nationalise the system.

Of course if we'd wanted to privatise things properly, we'd have scrapped all the franchises and awarded the national contract to one company (as per the National Lottery) and made them re-bid every few years. With failure meaning a transfer of stock to the new managing company, a company will either do everything to make it work; or bleed it dry and run away. Appoint a decent watchdog with sharp teeth and I hope we'll get the former outcome.

Oh no can't do that we wouldn't get competition <spits> If I wanted to get to Birmingham on Saturday there are apparently two different companies I could travel with; Central Trains and Chiltern Railways, First Great Western apparently doesn't. Yet if I pick any of the the three sites they all return exactly the same data, that's because they're all powered by "The Train Line" site.

Now this is fine if you need to leave at a specific time, but what if time's not to much of an issue and you just want the cheapest company? So how much would it cost? I've no idea it won't give you any prices unless you register. Fortunately BugMeNot had a login to hand.

08:06 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
08:13 Chiltern Railways £4.90 Cheap Day return
08:36 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
09:03 Chiltern Railways £4.90 Cheap Day return
09:16 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
09:26 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
09:36 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
09:56 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
10:06 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return
10:26 Central Trains £4.90 Cheap Day return

Wow that makes so much difference. Price has no meaning it's just a question of time. But that's the weekend, rush-hour Monday must be different surely. So to get in by 9am

07:18 Central Trains £6.50 Standard Day return
07:30 Chiltern Railways £6.50 Standard Day return
07:37 Central Trains £6.50 Standard Day return
07:53 Central Trains £6.50 Standard Day return
08:10 Chiltern Railways £6.50 Standard Day return

Remind me what the point of competition was again? Silly me the price has been reduced to its lowest point by the two companies competing against each other, that must be it...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Badly in need of a hyphen.

An email came through from a friend with a list of company names and their accompanying websites. Some I've seen before, but a couple are new to me.

"Who Represents" find the agent for a celebrity at, perhaps a special treat for your child's party.

"Experts Exchange" message board/knowledge base for computer users at Because in some matters you want an expert.

Don't be fooled by imitators get just the right pen at "Pen Island" visit I'm after something slim and retractable please.

Troubles getting you down? Find a local therapist at I'm sure there are plenty in your area.

When you think of Italian power generation think, Keeping things charged up.

Looking for plants in New South Wales? Visit the Mole Station Native Nursery at Tell a friend about us.

Find God at the "Cumming First Methodist Church", God can help with all of life's problems.

What is the "Speed of Art" I don't know and after clicking on I still don't

Now I say use a hyphen, I never used to though. When picking names I'd always advise against it. "It's X hyphen Y dot com" would invariably produce "What's a hyphen?"; say "dash" and people still got confused, say "minus" and they'd query it. Even if you managed to explain what it was they'd then have to find it on the keyboard. Now however it seems that people are giving up typing URLs directly into the address bar, they've either got them saved as a Favo(u)rite or more commonly just type the company name into Google or Yahoo!. The down-side to hyphens have pretty much gone away now.

Transparent info boards

Tavis over on the WFA has mentioned information boards for any proposed trail and got a tad excited about it. Use transparent boards to point out features on a building. It's a great idea, and in theory will work; except for one or two small drawbacks. Using my Crown House pictures from Flickr I knocked up a quick simulation POV-Ray. the building is 15mx25m, the camera is 32m away from it. The information board is .5m square and 1.5m from the camera.

At a height of 1.8m looking straight ahead.
Everything looks fine. Now how about at a height of 1.7m looking at the same point as before.

Damn, this is with a difference of only 10cm. I can't rotate the board to bring the roof in line without moving the floor up. Even lowering the board starts to cause problems and I'd hate to be the engineer who worked on that board.

I'm not dis'ing the idea, it'll work provided you're standing at the one point it works at, that means you need the something like two small crosses on either side of the glass which you line up and a stand-here cross on the pavement. I'm afraid I think a simple photo would turn out to be easier.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fun-packed weekend

A crick in my neck running down to my shoulders, aching jaw, and the knowledge of blood running through my head - it was major change in air-pressure time. It also makes me, well, like a bear with a sore head; so I tend to remove myself from civilised company as much as possible. Of course the universe delights in making a mess of all our plans.

My parents wanted a lift to Bewdley, they'd asked last week and I'd said yes. There was a show on at the Severn Valley Railway, parking's a pain so I always try to give them a lift. I thrust my camera at them with the admonition "Lots of photos" They'd borrowed it last week when they popped over to Clee Hill, I'd said the same thing then. "We took about twenty" they'd said on their return, I checked the camera "You've taken about 40". "We haven't have we!". This time they managed around 60 with some good shots of the trains; I'll upload them at some point. Before anyone says I know 1 good photo is better then 100 rubbish ones, but with 100 photos you've got a better chance of finding one good one. Without the limitations of film you can afford to take rubbish shots at zero cost.

While concious I did some quick shopping and succumbed to the temptation that is Okami. I've been very good and waiting for things to drop in price, but when I heard that as a reward for producing such a fantastic game Capcom had folded the team back into the main company, I decided to buy it at full price - I always try to reward greatness.

I then slumped back at home, not in the mood for reading and finding myself with time on my hands I decided to treat myself to Sapphire and Steel. Damn that show is good. Oh sure the special effects aren't up to today's standards, but a small amount of tweaking and you could re-air it today no problem. It's amazing what you notice, lack of music for starters; you get the odd piece, but mostly when people aren't talking it's just silence. Oh and it's still scary in places.

Sunday the aches had started to fade, which was good as it was my aunt's birthday party (or specifically my aunt-in-law, is there such a term?) held at the Rose and Crown at Burford, very nice. Bratus Minor(4) and Bratus Major(9) behaved themselves despite the fact they were given something of the adult's menu, just smaller portions, as opposed to chicken-parts nuggets of the kid's menu. We then went back to their place.

Playing hide-and-seek with the kids, they raced outside to hide while I stayed in the warm and counted. Reaching the limit I immediately didn't sprang up and instead reached for the newspaper. After a short time had passed I got up looked at the window and waved to Bratus Major who was standing in a tree wearing his bright red coat. Entering the garden I waved to Bratus Minor who had come out of hiding wondering where everyone was. Hey it saves me time. ;-)

Bratus Major insisted he had a super-duper hiding place and I was duly dispatched to count again. This time I came out on 100 and it did take a lot to find him. It was a very good hiding place, though it did cost him some gashes from the holly.

My turn to hide. I insisted they wait in the house while I hid. I walked to the back door, opened and closed it noisily, and then side-stepped into the bathroom (Hey nobody had specified where you could hide) the pair rushed past me outside, I counted to ten, peeked out and returned to the living room; at which point all the occupants burst out laughing. I sat down and continued my read of the paper. Their father (my uncle) watched and reported their progression out of the window. Bratus Major was getting sulky and looking at places I couldn't even fit into. He stomped back down the garden towards his father at the window "He's inside" I heard, I looked up and waved to him.

There then followed stampings on the stairs, a slammed door, and music being turned on at high volume. Bratus Minor appeared "There you are!" he said. "Where you looking for someone?"I asked. "Yes you". "Oh" I replied "I've been at here all the time".

Okay some might say cruel, but hey the universe can be like that. I hadn't broken any rules and next time they'll specify to hide in the garden or check the house too. I look upon it as providing them with vital life experiences.

Bratus Major cooled off eventually and came downstairs and favoured me with a big grin. I knew he'd see the funny side after the initial sulking had worn off and we ended up playing a three-person game of Top Trumps, which I resoundingly lost.

Suzie's pointed out the lane closure in Lion Hill while they re-do the pavements, it appears to be a weekday daytime thing only. The better news is that looking at all the markings they'll be doing the other side too at some point, now that will be fun.

Saw a few yellow-jackets on Bridge Street milling around the boarded-up old market last week; not sure what they're up to. I've put out some feelers amongst some people I'll see if anything comes back.

Oh and I keep meaning to visit the new sweet shop in Bridge Street. Just haven't found the time.

On a boring note I spotted a design I hadn't seen before on a pound coin, appears to be a triumphal arch, coin's dated 2006. Looking through my change I found nine designs, my uncle had another two bringing the total to eleven. As a totally geeky thing it has, of course, already been noted on Wikipedia. Ah it was an Egyptian Arch. Hmm fourteen in total, I haven't seen a 2007 bridge, I don't have a 1988 crown over shield and I've got either the 2004 or 2005 bridge. I hadn't realised there were also so many Two pound coin designs either. Rugby, radio, DNA, and the 60th anniversary of WW2 I've held, but I haven't seen any of the others. The same goes for 50p designs too. I'm always surprised that so many people just don't notice these designs.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Suddenly everyone has the same idea :-)

It appears to be some sort of societal thing, someone has a great idea for something called a telephone and it turns out three others have also had the same idea.

Tav over at the WFA mentions a possible tourist trail. I had similar thoughts for Hartlebury Common. The trouble is there's a lot of markers denoting a trail through the Common, but unless you go with the intent of walking it when you stumble across one you have no idea at what point you are on the route, how long the route is, or even what you're supposed to be looking at. I even went so far to sketching out a template for the new markers (according to the time-stamp on 11 Jan 07) It ended up nowhere when I realised that each marker would have to be made individually rather then a simple batch stamped out and thus would simply cost a lot more money then the current set.

It did however set of another train of thought regarding the Public Realm Design Guide for Stourport pages 71 and 72 (a big joke being that several of the buildings they mention no longer exist) combined with the findings that more people need to be drawn into the town away from the riverside. "Nobody", I thought "Is going to start a walk unless they know roughly what they'll be seeing, how long it'll take, and the conditions of the walk" Likewise the assumption, as with Hartlebury Common, is that people will start at the start and already know what they're doing. That assumption needs to be killed dead. That may have worked in ye olden days when families would turn up with an itinerary of things to do, now you have to go with the flow. Grab their attention at every point of the trail, let them know up front what they'll be doing, and provide as much information as possible at every point. Of course that means money too; I must admit with the bridge, skate-park etc. it slipped my mind until Tav popped up with it.

Now his site gets a lot more attention then mine, so yay go for it. We could do with a set-up in all three of the major towns It's a shame that for Kidderminster to get to some of the churches involves ugly underpasses and busy roads (though it might incent some spending) Link them up and you can start on the church trail, then hop onto the canal trail then meet up back at the church trail before returning to where you started.

I'm not overly fond of the 'paint a line' technique. Although paint has a much longer life in pedestrian situations it still gets patchy, and attempting to remove it if things need changing tends to leave a ghost impression behind. Coloured bricks might be better, however in both cases I think people would be too busy looking down and not around; and, as with cars, crowds start to obscure things. Signposts may be better provided they're made visible from a distance, the current dark red colour of Kidderminster would be of no use. They have the advantage that they can contain more information; a "Church Trail 1 mile walk 4/10" is easily fitted along with an information board. The second advantage is that signposts already exist in many areas of all three towns and that it fits in with existing path signing techniques.

Points of interest between directional indicators could be displayed with visible information boards either on a wall or fitted to a bollard or such. I'm not suggesting anything technical (though interactive boards would be fun) simply a printed sheet under glass would suffice.

The main point again is you can't expect people to wander around with a tourist information booklet, you have to tell them there and then what they're looking at and what they will be looking at. It also must must be a loop that if possible doesn't just lead them back down the same route, but on the other side of the same pavement. "We've been here before, are we going the right way?"

Hmm okay for Kidderminster a very short route

Town Hall, down Weavers Wharf over the bridge, down to the canal, back into Weavers Wharf, along the shop frontage, hmm I wouldn't go down Pitts Lane as it's butt-ugly so cross over at the zebra, behind Crown House, over the pelican, need a zebra here to get to Baxter's church, along to the New Meeting House, on to the Lloyds building and then back to the Town Hall along the shops.

By no means ideal, but it would show off both old and new and hopefully distract from Crown House.