Monday, April 30, 2007

Stourport refurbishment.,and lovely lovely data

Well my contact failed to email me the plans, however that's been usurped by their posting on the District Council site. Well maybe. There's a 5-page summary leaflet which as you might expect keeps it simple and <shock horror> they've given an email address. The actual plans themselves are oddly only 3 pages long and the next document is 12 pages of modified photos for the work next to the bridge. None of which totals 82 pages.

Let's take a look shall we. First off we have the big alterations. An extension of the pavement across Raven Street.

By drawing the paving material across the highway at this point, it gives pedestrians a clearer right of way, and creates a better impression to the user when the side street is closed off on market days"
Okay firstly "right of way" it's a road, oddly enough on roads cars have right of way (unless a pedestrian has started to cross). How many accidents are going to be caused by people trying to turn into Raven Street and coming to a screeching halt when someone just blindly steps in front of them? Secondly the "better impression" on market day, this assumes the market is now nailed to Raven Street and won't be moved regardless of a better site becoming available in the future, perhaps one that doesn't require the take-over of a car-park and the closing of the street. Nice to leave your options closed.

Next we have the delightful repaving outside the two pubs labelled a "Gateway feature"
By creating a feature in the roadway using the coloured asphalt creates an entrance to the town.
Yep good idea I like it, I suppose it'll be maintained so it doesn't all wear away due to the heavy traffic otherwise it'll look terrible. Wait there's more -
Pedestrian paved vehicular areas across both side-streets creates a hierarchy in the area favouring pedestrains[sic]
Well Coopers Lane is already pretty much like that and Engine Lane doesn't get used that much really so hmm okay...
and creating a comfortable environment to cross in.
That's crossing the two side streets right? Oops check the plans...
offer a space for pedestrians to cross the road
No! Bad doggy, people should be crossing under the bridge or at the pelican crossing. They should not be encouraged to stand outside the pub or next to the entrance of the bridge trying to play dodge the traffic.

Paving options up next, a herringbone pattern is suggested with some colours mentioned. Oo oo here's a silly thought why don't we match it up to the paving already in place in High Street, wow that's not even mentioned. Litter bins, meh I'll go with the classic cylinder, better then the lumps on the Riverside. Perhaps add some special paving to enhance the historical nature of Stourport? Yep I'll go with that - canal boat carvings in some larger slabs and the like. Signage? A big yes with it actually pointing to things being helpful. Lighting. Good idea eco-friendly would be nice, and those olde-worlde lamps look great, but seem to give off bugger-all light.

Oh I've missed off the Information Board that's being placed, apparently without a single speck of irony, outside the closed, boarded-up job centre.

Anything missing, well yes not a peep about the CCTV cameras one of which is going to be in Bridge Street nor the eye-sore that's the old boarded-up market.

Okay match the pavement bottom to top, Bridge Street to High Street, we're trying to draw people into the town remember. Shift the 'town entrance' onto the bridge, make it obvious this is not a crossing point, accentuate the paving towards the crossing and make it bleedin' obvious to people parking by the amusement arcade that there's also a crossing point behind them under the bridge. Highlight Coopers Lane not as 'road to walk across', but as 'road to walk down' this is after all one of the main access points to the Riverside for wheelchairs, pushchairs etc. and is much nicer then either of the deathtrap staircases that appear to be the only way down from the town.

Bins you've got covered, many small over a few large ones, we're not exactly flush with pavement space. Bigger ones at the entrance to Coopers lane and one either side of the crossing would be nice. Something nice could be done with the block paving outside of both pubs, they might even contribute towards it. The information point sadly does need to be outside the old job centre it having the largest pavement area, outside the old post office would have been even better had it been grabbed and turned into a museum/exhibition centre; it's still the wrong area unless we can push people up into the town they're not going to see it. Tav's mentioned the trail thing, but that would involve other parts of the town, and no doubt outside the remit of this refurbishment plan.

Not truly a part on the Bridge Street plan yet playing a role we have a Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report on the same page, which went out for a five week consultation between Monday 19th March 2007 and Monday 23rd April 2007 and "The responses will be considered in the production of the full SA Report" 29 pages of which you can skip the first 11. The rest is vaguely interesting and gives the loose framework of what has to be done for the entire district, but quite rightly doesn't go into specifics. Appendix A simply lists policies, plans etc. that have to be considered for the district, Stourport gets mentioned with regard to transport and concentrating non-domestic buildings into the town centre.

Appendix B is the whopper at 74 pages packed with statistics for the district (yum!). Page 15 gave me a chuckle; look at the map, look at the red dots, then read the last sentence of the paragraph underneath it. The table on page 16/17 gave me pause for thought. Supposedly it gives the level of open space available for each area except there's no measurement system.

For example Stouport has a population of 19,713 and a provision of Allotments of 3.72. 3.72 what? You might think it's a percentage i.e. of the total open area 3.72% is allotments, except the total is 218.47. Percentage of the district? Nope Bewdley hits a 292.52 for Natural Open spaces alone. So what hectares, acres, hides? I'm guessing hectares, but I shouldn't be guessing at all.

Okay I'll skip reporting about the rest of the data for now, suffice to say this appendix makes more interesting reading then the actual report.

Chocolate or not?

Not content with the Europeans trying to reclassify our offerings as not-chocolate, the US seems to want to follow suit in the other direction with their own modifications.

What struck a chord was the desire to use vegetable oil (fat) and whey powder... don't they already do that here?

So I had a popped over the Cadbury's UK website for a list of just what goes into a bar of Dairy Milk- oops no list of ingredients there. I'll pick up a bar instead.

UK- Milk, Sugar, Cocoa mass, Cocoa butter, Vegetable fat, Emulsifiers (E442, E476), Flavourings

Hey look vegetable fat, how about elsewhere? I appealed for information.

South Africa - Sugar, Milk solids, Cocoa mass, Cocoa butter, Vegetable fat, Emulsifiers (soya), flavourants.

More vegetable fat and hey sugar's moved up a place (thanks Gail)

Australia - Full Cream Milk, Sugar, Milk Solids, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, 476), Flavours.

This is from Cadbury's own Australian site and hey look no vegetable fat, why's that?

Compound chocolate is made instead with vegetable oils, and doesn't have the same fine qualities as real chocolate.
Uh-huh, so it's okay to palm this stuff on others though?

Sabrina (USA) got me a list for Dove Rich Dark Chocolate bites - Semisweet chocolate (sugar, chocolate processed with alkali, chocolate, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors). "Sugar processed with alkali" threw me until Ross pointed me to Wikipedia which says
Processing cocoa with alkali destroys most of the flavonoids... which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties.
Nice, and take a look at that third ingredient "chocolate" wow this chocolate bar contains um chocolate? I'd have accepted chocolate liqueur, which is a name that can be given to processed cocoa beans, but just "chocolate". Oh and no vegetable fat that I can see, so bonus there

Some weren't a surprise Nestle's bars had vegetable fat in them, Green & Blacks didn't. The biggest shock to me was Lindt, their "Excellence" bars were fine, but their Milk chocolate "Lindor" offering... I may be going mad here but I swear the first two ingredients were Sugar and Vegetable fat followed by cocoa butter. And no you can't confirm this on their website.

Personally I gave up on Cadbury's years ago and Nestle even before that, but even taking account varying food laws amongst countries why do they think they can get away with foisting this cheaper lower quality chocolate on this or any other nation. Stand up people and demand proper real chocolate. Boycott Cadbury's own range (yes I know they own Green & Blacks) disregard Nestle, you don't even have to spend a fortune to satisfy your cravings - Sainsbury's own brand is cheaper and contains no vegetable fat, what a surprise it's produced in Belgium.

I still want to know more so add your country, chocolate and ingredients to the comments here. No account necessary to comment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Drugs, alcohol, Indoor Market, and Stourport plans

So a new insidious drug is sweeping the clubs, Nitrous Oxide otherwise known as Laughing Gas. Yep it's only been in use since 1790's as a 'party drug' and has come and gone ever since. It's dangerous, we know this because a man in a shirt with an authoritative voice told us so on the news. "People taking it can become giddy and fall over and hurt themselves" So totally unlike alcohol then? "It can cause them to lose conciousness" So still totally unlike alcohol then? "Inhaling directly can cause your throat to freeze and you'll die of suffocation" So just like inhaling any pressurised gas directly then?

Wait there's more. Following exhaustive research on what appeared to be a MySpace page the reporter turned up someone who's suffered permanent eye problems from inhaling this gas. Okay that's nasty, inhale one balloon and suffer eye damage! Oh wait it wasn't one balloon. Two? Four? Ten?! Nope, forty in one day. Okay take forty of anything during one day and I'd expect you to suffer.

Am I condoning what is an illegal practice? No, but there's a lot more nastier drugs out there and hey some of them are even legal.

Speaking of legal drugs, Alcohol Concern are pushing for a ban on drinking alcohol for the under-15s. As it stands the law proscribes under-18s from buying alcohol, but not from drinking it. At first glance Alcohol Concern's argument seems logical; how stupid to stop them getting hold of it, but not stopping them from drinking it. Except they're not looking to ban drinking on the streets out of the supervision of adults, they want a total ban. That means giving your kid a glass of wine with a meal will be illegal. It'll stop binge drinking by preventing them from getting a taste of alcohol early, they say.

They've got proof this will work, they're employing that scientifically enforceable test known as 'Common Sense'. Oookay, I'll employ my own 'Common Sense'. So living in a society where it's deemed a rite of passage to be able to go and get hammered legally upon turning 18 is suddenly going to change because they've been denied alcohol at an early age. Uh-huh. Watching adults drinking something you're not allowed to have will diminish the desire for you to sample it at the nearest opportunity. Yeah right.

So they're pushing for a law that's completely unenforceable except in public, and taking yet another responsibility from the parents. The Continent must be looking on at this in amazement.

So after commenting on the lack of coverage in the Shuttle about the closure of the Indoor Market imagine my surprise when I read the paper yesterday and discover a story about it. Have I wronged the Shuttle? Check the date on the story - 26th. So only six days behind the Express and Star and two days behind Central Tonight. Ah the local paper, bringing you the local news after you've probably already heard about it.

I'm still awaiting a copy of the plans mentioned here. If you've been looking at the comments from my previous entry you'll see Tav mentions the old Stourport Pride plans dating back to July last year and which have already been open to public comment since. Talking to my source though he informs me that the plans we're talking about have 82 pages, the July plans have 106. So we're definitely talking about some changes here if not different plans. If I don't get them by end of play today I'll see if I can poke my head into the Civic Centre or library tomorrow and see if they're available for viewing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reporting not parroting - Earth-type planet..

Oh wow they've discovered a possible earth-type planet and the newscasters are getting all excited. Normally I wouldn't even bother to comment, it's 20+ light years away, start talking Europa and I'd be interested. However it's the news reports that are getting to me. The main ITV news did a delightful job of getting it all screwy. First they get excited about it then they tell us why - "Others [planets] found have been too gassy, like Jupiter; others too cold or too hot... this one is in the 'Goldilocks region' as astronomers put it" Heck even the BBC parrot that line.

Okay too gassy, too hot, or too cold for what? Life? Well life as we think of it perhaps, nothing stopping some other type of life form developing. So the statement needs a little modification -

"Others found have been too gassy, like Jupiter; others too cold or too hot for life as we know it"

Except it hasn't been that long since biologists were convinced that life couldn't exist in the Antarctic or next to undersea lava flumes 'Too cold, too hot" Yet not only was life found it was flourishing. So modifications need to be made to that statement again -

"Others found have been too gassy, like Jupiter; others too cold or too hot for life like us to have evolved"

Yet the Earth wasn't always like this, it used to be hotter, used to be colder too at times. So life could be still in the process of evolving on these planets. Modifying time again -

"Others found have been too gassy, like Jupiter; others too cold or too hot for us to live there"

But that's like saying we can't live in the Antarctic or visit the Moon; too cold and no atmosphere. But we've done both, we've transferred our own living conditions to these places. So once again -

"Others found have been too gassy, like Jupiter; others too cold or too hot for us to live there unaided"

And what does that tell us about the possibility of life developing on these 'unsuitable' planets? Absolutely nothing.

To paraphrase from the Science of the Discworld III. Four prominent astronomers gave a lecture on "Life out there". A biologist, Jack Cohen, was in the audience and asked "How would you feel if four biologists got up to give a lecture concerning the black hole at the centre of our galaxy?"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So just after commenting on the town plans, I bump into someone who promises to get hold of them for me in digital form. Apparently they should be on view at the Civic Centre and Duke House - ah the march of progress continues abated.

My source didn't express surprise that they weren't available on-line, but did seem surprised that nothing about them in any form could be found, being under the impression that links to various initiatives were on the District Council site; perhaps another case of left hand - right hand.

I also gleaned some interesting info about the skate-park, the semi-mysterious Stourport Forward group looked into a skate-park for Stourport 4 years ago, and did all the grunt work location-wise. Lickhill and the Walshes are out for the territoriality reasons I've already mentioned. The Leisure Centre car-park is out, not (just) because of the needed change in designation; but because it was a requirement of the original planning permission for the Centre. Change it and they'll be breaching the planning regs.

So why not the other bit of riverside, well visibility was one thing mentioned, apparently there's a camera going up at the top of Bridge Street that will be able to see it, though I wonder how well it'll do in the dark at that sort of distance. Mentioned was the fact that the site I proposed is used for the extra toilets when the carnival is down, though I deem that barely a reason. Another was that it was short-listed as the site for the Farmer's Market, which was a good reason before it was nailed down to Raven Street prior to building work actually starting.

So it appears the pool site was chosen not necessarily for it's outstanding qualifications, but perhaps more due to complications with the other sites available. Wonderful!

As for the design two have been mentioned and the one going ahead is the one the kids picked themselves. Although that seems fair without seeing what they had to choose from it might be a case of picking to eat either the honeyed locust or the plain one.

I still have difficulty with a design that has a ramp and a grind bar aimed at the only entrance path.

Stourport on "Central Tonight", plus a town revamp

One of these news stories I knew and yet completely failed to mention. The indoor market on the corner of Lombard Street and Lickhill Road is closing. The nice and friendly West Mids Co-op who own the building have given the merchants a 7-day notice to quit. Last night 24/04/07 Central Tonight actually featured this story and sent a camera crew down. normally I'd point to their News site and mark when it appears, but as is typical the episode they're advertising as Tuesday's is in fact a duplicate of Monday's. All the others work fine and perhaps it'll be sorted by tomorrow and you can see for yourself.

Anyway to cut it short, the Co-op have extended the period to 28-days and they're sold it to a clothing merchant, which will 'boost the town centre'. Well we could do with a clothes shop we've only got the two in Bridge Street, the one in York Street, the two in High Street, plus the charity shops. Oh and the one in Lombard Street I believe, we're certainly starved here.

I was curious as to where they picked up the story from, I'd got it word-of-mouth had I missed it in the Shuttle? So a trawl through their online stories, an internal search, and finally a a Google search and I found it here Oops no that's the Express and Star.

A revamped Stourport is on the cards according to the Shuttle even has a nice photo of Councillor Stephen Clee holding up some plans. Residents are invited to "address their views" by writing in to the WFDC at Duke House, so no email then? Hmm it would be more helpful if we could comment on the plans already drawn up. So a link to these plans features where exactly? Ah silly me it'll be on the Wyre Forest DC site hmm not on the front page, the latest news? Here we go "Community invited to have a say on Kidderminster Town Centre" Oh wait maybe not. How about out official website nope can't see anything about it there either.

Back to Google and "Stourport plan" pulls this out of its hat. Not what I'm looking for, but certainly interesting, Chapter 4 in particular. Otherwise nope no sign of these plans. Are they going to get a public airing prior to them being acted on, or are we talking a skate-park level of hunting needed here?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Flickr, a quick traffic report., and Salcey Forest

So I added in the skate-park works pictures along with a few others to the end of the Stourport Set in Flickr. While at it I thought about this new 'collection' thing I could do. So I added in two collections, Stourport and Kidderminster, and dragged appropriate sets across. It still needs a good sort out when I get time (ha!). What bugged me though was that these new collections didn't show up on the front page, not even an indication that such existing. Not to worry a new feature means I can change the layout

Choose between 18 small or 5 medium sized photos, and decide if you'd like sets, or collections, or neither in the right hand column.
so which option is missing there? Yep "or both". I can choose sets, collections or neither, but not both. So I'll do a big tidy-up and split the current Stouport set into basin, river, riverside etc. and then bung them into the Stouport collection; then switch to collection view only.

Someone's obviously been having words as a couple of yellow jackets this morning were taking an inordinate amount of interest in the lights on the bridge and fiddling with the control box next to the Dunley Road crossing. Experienced cynicism tells me expect the weighting to fall on the Dunley Road side now and the town to gridlock in the evenings.

This shouldn't be difficult as I've said time and time again, weight it for Dunley Road in the morning 8:00-9:00 and Bridge Street in the evening 5:00-6:00, otherwise let it do its own thing.

Oh and the light got fixed too.

Invisible has tidied up (a bit) his photos of Salcey Forest no thumbnails (yet :-) ) the links allow you to jump every ten photos, but it's worth starting with 001 and clicking through; some nice shots are to be found.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Skate-park, potholes, traffic, sorry water, and Thief.

So I finally managed to pop down to the site of our wonderful new skate-park on Sunday morning to take some pictures (uploading shortly). Working off what seems to be the only design we have there's a concrete slab under the 'bowl' and three slabs before it corresponding to the Quarter-Pipe, London Gap, and the Ramp. With a stick poking out the ramp slab presumably leaving space for a drainage hole.

As per normal taking pictures attracts attention, though a number of people were already looking at the site with interest and/or puzzlement as I approached. "Skate-park" I noted to one couple who had stopped to look "Yes we know. Isn't it a stupid place to put it". Turns out this couple had written letters asking about it, complaining about it perhaps even before my first mention of it back in November. They'd even talked to their local councillor, whom I won't name at this time, whose basic attitude was "It's been decided" so tough. They thought the best place for it was the same site as proposed by some of the Town Council, behind the leisure centre. I pointed out there was no way this was going to happen as it's a overspill car-park. "So how many times have you seen cars parked in it?" I was asked. "Never", I replied, "But sadly that's not the point".

Having taken a couple more pictures I wandered up to the Sweet Shop with a shopping list and mentioned the skate-park works "I don't know why they're putting it there, it's a stupid place for it". We got to other matters including the potholes and I was asked "What about the pothole van?", "?", "They had a van all painted up to go around looking for potholes, have you ever seen it?" So open question to all in Wyre Forest - Have you seen the pothole van?

Continuing the topic he mentions a friend with a spinal injury who has to essentially hold himself rigid as he crosses from Bridge Street into High Street, ah but there's no point in fixing it they'll be digging it all up soon; um soonish, well at some point in time, definitely this year, probably.

In that spirit I also took some pictures of the wear-and-tear occurring to the only lane open on the bridge, the edge of the road (which are never too well-paved anyway) is falling away and we've still got the double-gouge as you enter/exit. Combine that with the barricades on the one side narrowing the lane and what a surprise traffic slows down a tad as it goes over it. I also caught a long distance snap of the incoming-town traffic backed up to the town lights, by the time it had cleared only four cars managed to get through before their lights switched back; that's a plus it's normally none.

Speaking of which, traffic this morning was horrendous. One of the pair of lights coming into town was out (and had been since at least Saturday) and as this was the one with the monitoring camera on it I don't know if this was what was causing the problems. Anyway the huge distance of about one mile from Dunley Road, next to the turn off for Rectory Lane, into High Street took about 26 minutes. Anything causing the hold-up? No, nothing. Once you got past the bridge it was plain sailing.

Tourists, tourists we want lots and lots of tourists, just um don't come by car.

Scottish Water have had a leak and discharged about 1,000 l/s of screened sewerage into the Firth of Forth a total according to the Guardian of 170,000 tonnes. After finding the main pump unfixable they've installed two temporary ones. the Environmental Agency has sprung into action to clear up the mess, oh wait no they haven't they've posted up warning signs. Ah not to worry it's being diluted by the tide and will all be swept out into the North Sea where it'll become 'Somebody else's problem' and hopefully all break-down in a couple of days consuming oxygen and killing the marine life. Oh and Scottish Water have said they're really really sorry. So that's all okay then.

Getting a prompt from Darren on POVRay caused me to return to the game Thief (Gold version), having the original causes some fun with XP, run as Administrator, forcing it to install etc. Having come back to it after an absence I ran through the training exercise and promptly watched the game crash. It was trying to play a video and for some reason the game processes the entire path of the directory rather then a relative one. Not good when it can only handle 80 characters and I was 1 over. Re-installing was quicker then fiddling with the registry, at least it gave me an understandable error message.

Despite its age it's still a damn good game, not one for the less-then-patient though. You can spend an amazing amount of time just watching the guard patterns. It also must, must, be played in the dark; not just for atmosphere, but simply so you can see. There are times I ready a fire arrow, not to shoot someone, but simply to see where I'm going. Excellent fun creeping around in the dark (having doused the torches) slipping past the guards and picking up loot as you go.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Flash ah ahhh

the bane of every one of us. Some might recall the fun I had with Jaguars XK8 Flash site resulting in a rapid shut down of Opera. Well using the same slightly underpowered machine I happened to flit over to Sony's UK home page using Firefox; slow-down, disk churn later, and another startled look at the swap-file I killed it. Rather foolishly I wondered if this was a Firefox glitch and so fired it up under Opera, system crash. Wheeling over to a higher computer I pulled up the page-file size and started Firefox then headed to Sony.

Starting size was 479Mb, opening Firefox with a default of Yahoo! UK upped that to 499Mb after it had finished loading the Sony site it stood at 671Mb. Yep just to display the UK homepage WindowsXP needed to allocate another 172Mb of memory. I've loaded up amazon, gametrailers and various other sites and not peaked above 520Mb.

An Inconvenient Truth, salt, measuring beach rubbish, and people

So I turned up at the Village Hall just before 8 o'clock to see Al Gore's film. The car-park was full. "Wow" I thought "It's going to be packed". Nope turns out there were two other meetings going on, in total there were about twenty of us. I had a quick chat with Nigel Knowles from Worcestershire County Council. "Picture in the paper" I said and we talked about how you'd have thought they'd have checked they could replace the slabs before digging them up; I mentioned the pavements in High Street and then joked about how if there are roadworks in Bewdley it makes the front page, if there are road-works in Kidderminster it makes the front page, but roadworks in Stourport... page 5 if you're lucky.

Okay the film was... interesting. One-sided to an enormous degree, and happy to gloss over certain things that might have been made clearer. I'll give an example. Sunlight, we're told, hits the earth and warms it up. Some of that heat radiates back into space, but some is trapped in the atmosphere. With all the pollutants in the atmosphere it gets thicker and more of the heat is trapped. Uh okay, but if the atmosphere is getting 'thicker' wouldn't that lessen the amount of sunlight getting through in the first place. Now I know the answer to that, but it would have been nice to clear that point up.

He also talks a lot about ice-ages, taking ice-core samples and measuring carbon dioxide and oxygen isotopes we can chart carbon dioxide levels and temperature for a period extending back 650,000 years. Gore produces a nice graph points to the temperature dips calling them ice-ages and then points to the rises between them. Critics use this to show that it's cyclical, he tells us. He then shows where we are now. Whoosh that's a big jump upwards.

Okay first off we're in an ice-age now you can tell that by looking at the poles - hey they're covered in ice. What he's talking about is glacials; at the moment we're in an inter-glacial, that is the ice-sheet has retreated to the poles. Secondly why can they only go back 650,000 years. There was a particularly bad ice between 850 and 630,000,000 years ago which may have extended as far as the equator. So what was the temperature like between 630,000,000 and 650,000 years ago? Could it have been hot, could it in fact been as hot as it's getting now?

Next up we're told that carbon dioxide levels are going up as we're destroying the forests, a nice green issue to latch onto; except earlier when discussing the annual up-down pattern of carbon dioxide emissions Gore likens it to the Earth "taking a breath" With the North tilted towards the Sun the levels go down, when tilted away the levels go up. So by killing the forests we're stopping them from doing their thing during the Summer, but we're also stopping them doing their thing during the Winter- a net result of zero.

By the end of the film we're told what we can do to cut down on emissions how if we do this, this, and this we'll get back down to 1970 levels. So will that solve the problem, will that prevent the rise in temperatures, um don't know that's never explicitly stated.

The best part I found of the whole film was talking about fuel efficiency of vehicles, up comes a graph plotting their increase in mpg (nice to see the UK so high) and in comes the USA down the bottom. Attempts to increase fuel efficiency were being lobbied against by the motor industry as against the economic interest. So these companies can only sell their cars in America as they're not up to the standards of other countries, whereas foreign manufacturers can sell their cars anywhere including the USA; economically who' s in the better position?

Okay I've drawn up a few points some of which can be answered by a bit of research, the trouble is you've got to do that research. For a film that's trying to get people to act now, Gore leaves way too many holes in his arguments to be exploited by those against his views preaching to people who won't do the research.

It's salt again and adverts have been cropping up about us eating too much salt. Haven't we done this before not many years ago? If I recall correctly it completely backfired and experts had to tell us that we were now not eating enough salt. Look out for them to return again later this year with the same message.

Our beaches have twice as much rubbish as they did ten years ago as reported on both the BBC and GMTV. Ben Shephard couldn't understand why people left their rubbish behind "Pack it up and take it home" or um put it in the rubbish bins? Anyway on average we're looking at "two pieces of litter per metre" parroted word-for word by both broadcasts. 2 per metre isn't so bad. Take a beach 1km long and 100m wide split it into metre strips along the 100m and that's only 200 pieces of litter. Oh I suppose you could split it along the 1km in which case you're talking about 2,000 pieces which isn't so good. You don't suppose they meant two pieces per square metre do you, using a measurement of area rather then length?

People are strange. Stuck in a queue this morning in High Street I watched an elderly couple standing not too far from the pedestrian crossing waiting to cross. Others were already waiting by the crossing yet this pair chose to stand where they did, making a few abortive attempts to cross when the traffic slowed. The lights went red and they dashed across both one-way lanes. between the one-lane of traffic (and fortunately not getting hit by any vehicles travelling up to the lights in the other lane). I then watched with cynical amusement as upon reaching the other side of the road they they walked up to and past this very same crossing falling in behind those who'd taken the safer route. I don't get it, I really really don't get it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tricky little game

Now I've finally finished it at 2h32m here's a little flash adventure game link posted by Warp of POVRay. Don't fret that it's in Japanese, no knowledge of the language is needed. However I will post some instructions and tips as it has been frustrating at times

The aim of the game is to collect all 40 items (the square picture icons) and to make all the tools contained in the 'make book' (which you'll bump into when you play the game)

The controls are simple - use the cursor (arrow keys) to move the character around, if you found or made a tool it'll appear at the bottom of your screen. If you're near an object which you think you can use a tool with use the mouse to click on that tool.

Remember: You cannot die! So feel free to try anything or walk anywhere you like.

Hints in some small semblance of order (don't read them if you don't have to):

  1. The map button will only work once you've picked up the map item

  2. Scour rooms thoroughly.

  3. Just because nothing appears to have happened doesn't mean nothing actually has happened.

  4. The key that opens the silver doors also opens the gold chests.

  5. The magnet only works at a distance.

  6. If you chose to turn of the sound (the music can get annoying) turn it back on when you enter the big stone head.

  7. Some tools can have an effect on many different things.

  8. You're not the only thing that can travel through the portals.

There we go that shouldn't prove that much of a spoiler - have fun.

Annoying, and Yeek

I've mentioned previously how my family were waiting for a phone call regarding my grandmother from a department that hadn't been notified they were supposed to do so, it gets better.

Money being what it is we're trying to get funding to have her put in care, the relevant forms were filled out in January and returned. Now we had to find a vacancy, then notify the department who would then look through the forms of those applying and determine who was most eligible. Of course if we'd gone self-funding we wouldn't need to bother and she'd go straight in.

A vacancy came up, we made a phone call, we waited; and waited. Another phone call to check on the forms they'd been "passed on" and out of their hands. More waiting, another phone call "There's nothing on the system" What! Turns out her savings were just over the limit for funding so she'd been filed as self-funding. Nobody had seen fit to mention this. Remember self-funding equals an instant in. Oh and she wouldn't have got in anyway as they'd filled their quota at the beginning of the week.

The recommendation was that she went self-funding until her money dropped below the limit at which point you could apply for funding again. Of course if she didn't get it you'd be continuing to pay or she'd have to leave.

So we all started on this track...until we get another call. Apparently some of her savings didn't count so she was back below the limit. The stress this is all causing is beyond my description.

A quick yeek - a tale told of someone pulling out of a garage on Vale Road and turning right, it's a three-lane one-way street (turn left only) and yes there are signs opposite the exits pointing the correct way. Oddly I didn't spot one opposite the church. anyway this happens every so often, someone turns right on Vale Road, right on Lion Hill or tries to go straight over from New Street into York Street. The road setup doesn't help because at one time or another all of these roads were two-way.

Didn't get down to the riverside last night due to protracted discussions about "Annoying" I'll nip down tonight.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech, Tesco, and the Jaguar XK8

If you've picked up a paper, turned on the television or listened to the radio then you'll have heard about the shooting at Virginia Tech. 32 dead plus the gunman. Of course what has been constantly popping up is Virginia's soft gun laws, and that old stand-by the "right to bear arms". As usual it's a common reaction to such terrible incidents - "Why did this happen" with it's attendant "Could it have been stopped?" and the nasty "Who's to blame?". Talk has been made about why the police didn't lock-down the campus after the first incident - they thought it was a one-off; people were already heading to classes; and, perhaps most importantly and something no-one seems to have pointed out, we're talking about a campus of 26,000 students. That's a larger number then live in my town, want to try and lock-down Stourport?

So as I say the Second Amendment gets quoted a lot at these times, except it doesn't. All you hear is a short snippet from the full text so here it is in its entirety:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Read the first sentence again "well regulated militia" is what you should be picking up on; how are soft gun control laws aiding towards a well regulated militia? If needed can the federal government send out a missive to these militias calling them to action? No, half the time they've no idea who they are.

Arguments against point to other countries who have more gun owners and yet have less gun-crime citing the old "It's not guns that kill people, it's people" except of course handguns have only one true design in mind.

It appears to be a two-fold thing the simplistic "Shoot first and ask questions later" attitude that manifests itself quite clearly in the current White House administration, combined with the ease of obtaining weaponry to carry out these urges.

Can I offer a simple answer that'll make it all go away? No, and beware anybody who says they can regardless of the side they're on.

So Tesco have announced profits of £2.65bn bringing down more accusations of monopolisation. Taking to a guy from Tescopoly on the BBC Declan made the intelligent point that people are choosing to shop at Tesco, they're the ones leaving the local shops to flock there. The response was the easy "Well they're not in possession of the full picture" in reply to which Declan went down in my estimation by saying "So the people are being duped and are stupid?" No, big difference between duped and stupid.

How do Tesco achieve these low-prices, by paying less to the producers and forcing them to aggregate into larger groups cutting down on individuality. Someone else pointed out that it's possible to compete by being innovative, citing a store that had become a large delicatessen and offering services that Tesco don't. Sorry that's not competition except in the greater sense of 'where money is spent', in which case every store is in 'competition' with um well everyone. They found that the only way to succeed was to offer something that Tesco didn't.

The Monopoly Commission is waking up to the fact that just because a store only has a 31% take of the market doesn't mean it's not a monopoly. Let's take a look using the figures from the BBC.

Food/Grocery - 31%
Clothes - 10% (second largest)
Chart CDs/DVDs - 25%

and I don't have the percentages for electrical goods and financial services, but let's deal with this. Because Tesco sell CDs and DVDs they're in competition with the likes of HMV and Virgin, but most importantly neither of those sell groceries or clothes. So looking at it that way we can say Tesco are 31/10/25 whereas HMV might be 0/0/33 and Virgin 0/0/33 (plucking figures from the air).

So altogether looking at all three sectors as one Tesco have 66/300 or 22% whereas HMV and Virgin might only have 11% each.

Next thing to look at is the variety of stores. Oh their Metro's don't sell clothes and electrical goods, doesn't matter they're not small stores they're extensions of the larger one. I may seem to be pointing out the obvious, but occasionally it needs to be done. The Metro stores aren't buying in goods just for that store to stock; the goods are being bought for every Express, Metro, and Extra store and we all know about the advantages of bulk buying. A single local grocer despite being the same size or even larger then the local Metro can only buy in for that one shop. A level playing field is not possible in those circumstances.

Finally is the way these stores are dotted around. GMTV pointed to a colossal Tesco Extra on the outskirts of a town, then mentioned they wanted to put a Metro in the town centre. So as per above the smaller shop can undercut all the prices of it's local same sized competitors without risk all costs being absorbed by the bulk of the chain.

Welcome to Tescoville.

An odd one this, someone was looking at the Jaguar XK8 and navigated through the official site to a Flash page that allowed you to change the colour, wheels etc. Default was a Coupe, he changed it to Convertible and clicked the next step button to pick a colour. Clicked on a colour and "0% loading" stuck. "It's Opera!" he said. <sigh> "Try it in IE" exactly the same. I switched to another computer (less high-powered as it turns out) and tried the same. Stuck - with disc-churning.

I pulled up the computer diagnostics, gasped, and rapidly shut down Opera. Normal allocated memory/swapfile size/swapfile in use is about 200Mb/160Mb/0MB with the later rising to about 60Mb when doing something strenuous. The figures I saw - 500Mb/300Mb/120Mb and rising rapidly. So that's two different computers with two different browsers each getting stuck at the same point.

Giving up with that and perhaps unwisely he headed for the XKR site. Exactly the same layout, except a) it worked and b) all the headings were in a slightly different order. Consistency people?

Is anyone at Jaguar actually bothering to look at these things?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shameful x2, and a green-fingered question.

I succumbed to the dark side, I consulted a game guide for <sob> Lego Star Wars II. Yep the game designed for 3 year-old's and upwards. Well it was driving me mad; I could see one of the optional collectibles, I could see a duct leading to it, and I'd found the start duct. All I needed was a 'small' character to crawl through it. None available in Story mode, but selectable in Free Play. I chose a Jawa (which I'd used for duct-work before), stood in front of it and hit the correct key - nothing; I switched to an Ewok - nothing. I tried shooting the duct entrance, light-saber'ing it, 'force'-ing it, throwing a grenade at it, and in final desperation using the electric spark droid deactivator on it. All nothing. Hence the resort to a guide; their solution - "Use a small character". Thanks, thanks a lot.

Driving over the bridge I noted the influx of vehicles on the main riverside meadow, presumably for the circus? Talking to someone I know had crossed on foot I asked if she's seen it. "You mean where they're digging?", "?", "Next to the pool where they've put the concrete slabs down for the skate-park"

Hold on a second, as far as I know the town council still doesn't think it should be there, there's been little public consultation about where it goes, and we've only heard of one design for it; and they're putting the slabs down! Can we see the alternative designs from all the other companies that have been contacted please.

Seeing as my knowledge of that which is green cannot by any means be called extensive, does anyone know the name of this flowering bush according to Invisible/Orchid who took the picture it has a bitter scent. I'm looking to you Suzie ;-)

A quiet weekend

I had some business to take care of later on Saturday so as I had to go into Kidderminster for something else I left early at around 9:20am; leave earlier and you catch the work traffic, leave later and you catch everyone who's just woken up. I headed into Stourport and joined the queue to get over the bridge, very unusual - traffic is normally non-existent at this time. Headed into Kidderminster and joined the queues there too. Damn strange. Didn't seem to be any reason for it, so I'll just put it down to one of those things.

Regular readers (if I have any) may recall my delightful wait in traffic on Friday; according to someone I know they had a problem with the lights and had to get someone to direct traffic. As there is no line of sight between the two ends this leads to fun. Okay here's a ponderable - think about a set of traffic lights near you that you use a lot, a permanent set not temporary. Thinking about them? Good, now think about the number of times they've gone on the blink. If they're like the ones around here you're probably having to stretch a bit. Now think about the number of times I've talked about the bridge lights failing to work. So what gives? These are supposed to be intelligent traffic lights on a par with permanent ones. Now if the ones on, say, Minster Road worked as well as the ones on the bridge I think they'd be high-level talks going on.

Oh and they seemed to be well-screwed up this morning too. Good thing they hadn't set the cones out on Vale Road yet. Notice: Guy with "Painting Contractor" written on his back heading up to the bridge with a "Building Construction" chap. When was the painting supposed to start?

From a leaflet I note that the Labour Party are showing Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Areley Kings Village Hall at 8pm on Thursday 19th, free admission. Film is an hour and a half long, but as this is a political thing might be some speechifying before and/or after.

Staying on the political front, the WFA posted the results of the St Chad's by-election with a Liberal win and Labour coming last. I recall some comments about a lack of campaigning on the Labour front, discussing this with people who will remain anonymous apparently Labour didn't really contest the seat realising they had pretty much zero chance of winning; and if you look at the 50% win for the Liberal followed by the 31.8% for the Conservatives it wasn't the daftest choice to make.

Rule 1 of sales talk never listen to what you say. From

"Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephones - DECT. If you've heard people mention DECT that's what it means. I'll break that down - Digitally Enhanced; that means it's wireless"
pause - no that'd be the cordless bit of Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telephones.
"It's wireless because everything is sent digitally"
Wow so digital=wireless I never knew that and I suspect it came as a big shock to anybody who actually knows what they're talking about.

Smacking - hah reading in the paper about a Conservative politician blogger whose name I can't recall, she advocates option "b" of my four choices on how to deal with tantrums. Leave them to it they'll get tired oh and when they've finished give them a hug. I would make a sarcastic remark about being a typical Conservative and not thinking about anyone else around them, but I'm not that type of guy.

I'll end on a Calvin and Hobbes strip. Normally I'd post a link, but this is an old one and the official site doesn't go back that far so with all copyright etc belonging to Bill Watterson and Universal Press Syndicate -

Panel 1: question- "Mr Jones lives 50 miles away from you. You both leave home at 5.00 and drive toward each other."

Panel 2: question contd - "Mr Jones drives at 35mph and you drive at 40mph. At what time will you pass Mr Jones on the road?"

Panel 3: Calvin's answer- "Given the traffic around here at 5.00, who knows?"

Panel 4: Calvin - "I always catch these trick questions"

Friday, April 13, 2007

No I'm not that bored - waste your own time.

Throwing paper has never been so um fun? Needs Flash to run.

Vale Road, plus much swearing.

As Popeye would say "I can'ts stands no more". Just why is it necessary to close down two of the three lanes in Vale Road for the footpath work? They shut down the entire length when working on one patch at the top and only now are they starting to move downwards. They've blocked one lane so they've got somewhere to put the heavy machinery and blocked the second for pedestrians to walk on.

It was vaguely understandable when they did it for the other side, with all the residential area around it, but what's on the current side? A couple of garages, a caff for truckers and a supermarket. You want to get to the supermarket from the top of Vale Road you cross at the lights and then cross at the splitter. Easy peasy There are two crossing points on Vale Road top and bottom and for those who'd complain they can't cross from Mitton Gardens - you're not supposed to cross the bloody road there, it's three bloody lanes for f**** sake.

In the name of all that's unholy what the f*** was that all about . I got onto Worcester Road at about 1pm, 50 minutes later I got over the bridge in Stourport. Crash, accident? No police, no ambulance, no fire engines, and traffic coming the other way seemed unaffected. Nothing causing it except the people in the town using the bridge street pedestrian crossing with a higher level of traffic due to it being a Friday lunchtime (I can confirm this as the only cause by coming back the same way and hey look there was the queue again in the other lane - Worcester Road up to Cook's)

Okay I've done this before, but it's worth reiterating. The crossing lights go red, the cars coming into town stop and start queuing. The queue reaches back to the lights on the bridge. The town side changes from red to green. Nobody can get past. Crossing lights change to green (yes it is too bloody long) and the traffic starts moving. The gap reaches the bridge lights just as they turn back to red. Another set of traffic comes over into town and the crossing lights change to red.

Using a map, a red marker, and Roger's Swearing dictionary show exactly how this f***'s up the town when you get a lot of people in the town during oo I don't know a bloody Easter holiday.

Blocked the left side of Bridge Street, blocked the left side of York Street(which automatically blocks the right hand side due to the illegally parked cars there*), blocked left side of New Street and all of Moorhall Lane (from what I could see and Moorhall Lane being in practice one lane wide), blocked left side of Mitton Street, blocked left-side Worcester Road, and blocked left-side of Hartlebury Road. Oh the right hand-side was crystal clear with traffic flowing normally when it could get past everyone else.

Now you can't remove the Bridge Street crossing, but you can set the timer to how it was before it was bloody changed. We need a slightly shorter crossing time, and a longer period between changes just like it used to be At least until the roadworks are sorted out.

2.5miles in 50 minutes and worse yet that can be considered almost normal, if it were a Bank Holiday Weekend in the middle of the day with no roadworks at all. Relief Road nah why would we need one of those?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Big number - small number; and the worlds local bank.

Ah a morning dose of statistics from GMTV. "...wholesale prices increased by I think 130%, but consumer prices only went up by 15% for the same period" Talking about gas prices and why despite wholesale prices dropping by half, consumers have seen no benefit. Andrew Castle falling for the ploy responded with "So they lost money!". "Well quite obviously they have to absorb some loss" A master a work note the lack of a definitive yes answer. Why not? Watch carefully, nothing up my sleeves and my hands never leave my wrists.

Plucking figures from thin air let's assume that the wholesale price of gas is 1p per unit and that after processing etc. the consumer pays 10p per unit. 1p+130%=2.3p an increase of 1.3p, 10p+15%=11.5p an increase of 1.5p. But but it's a big number and a small number the big number is always larger increase then the small one. Not when it's percentages, you need the starting figure too, and oh look those weren't mentioned by the nice man.

So my favourite bank has decided that counter service for their branch in Poole will be free only for those with £50k in their account, a £200k mortgage, or £100k mortgage with a £75k annual income. Poor people will have to pay £20 per year for the same privilege or stick to using the ATMs. Scarily understandable after all the staff have to be paid and it's really those with large debts or fat accounts that are paying for them, they're subsidising the poor folk. Unfortunately handled in a blatantly stupid fashion though and I wonder how long it will take for someone to sue them for discrimination.

Addendum - a minor sniffle is causing poor nights and nightmares. Oddly different though, normally they're what I call "scuttling things" creatures scuttling around the walls and hiding in the shadows vanishing in the light (another reason I keep a torch next to the bed) so I 'wake' up grab the light and shine it where it was before really waking up, feeling foolish, and going back to sleep.

The last few nights and last night in particular though it's been "shifting worlds" which is a new one to me. Basically there's a world just 'behind' this one and it's trying to come 'forward'. The manifestation is twinkling (not the twinkle in an eye, twinkle of a star; this is cold and malevolent) lights behind a normal object, such as a shelf of books or a wardrobe, where the normal object is becoming slowly transparent. Again it's banishable by light. Like the scuttling things it all makes sense when it happens, but it's a little creepy. Maybe I'm being contacted :-P

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

People type the funniest things

I've been going over the stats for the month as recorded by for this blog. Other then noting that 99% of the search engine referrals come from google, it's amusing to see what people are searching for that points them here.

Some are obvious "tesco stourport" and "smoking laws outside" all point to various entries I've made, but I don't appear on the first page so people must be digging. "gmtv potholes" and "lambeth car crush" all make sense not least because when I wrote about them nothing else relevant existed on the web.

Some however are amusing. "calenderize" I have to love I'd have expected "diarize" too though, someone must be using it for it to get looked for. "dunlop tyres advert venus in furs" has to be classed as odd but expected. Worrying that my entry about Virtual Earth would show up higher then the actual show's site I referenced ""gadget show "google earth alternative" but there you go.

However so far my all time favourite has to go to "nspcc smacking retailers". Now I know there are times when we all feel like giving shop staff a good smack but I've yet to hear of it becoming policy for the NSPCC.

Using Google Analytics over histats so I can weed out my own visits from the creation page I had 178 visitors with 350 odd page views split about 50/50 between new and returns. Well compared to the high-profilers that's kinda pathetic, however as I'm writing this for mainly for me and it deals almost solely with local matters and my pothole fetish that's actually kinda alright.

Strangeness Abounds

The other night I caught a bit of a cookery show on TV; "Coming up [someone] looks for cockles and [something else]" advert break perhaps? Except their TV was on BBC2. Yep midway through a half-hour programme they interrupted themselves to tell you what they were doing later. Straight afterwards someone was indeed looking for cockles. Has our attention span got so short that... oo shiny thing.

Speaking of BBC2 I note they committed professional suicide last night by pitting Horizon: Moon for Sale vs the last episode of Life on Mars on BBC1. I haven't been watching the series, but like soaps you pick up so much of it by osmosis. Sadly I was going out last night, luckily I've a twin tuner so I set it that morning to record both. Plans had already been made so I was unable to attend the Planning Meeting last night even if I had spotted the reminder email from Tav in time (totally my fault he gave plenty of notice - thanks for the thought) and if I'd have been able to get to it on time anyway (6pm start in Kidderminster).

Checking papers I note a couple of interesting stories, mostly interesting for the tone taken. The first was about a misplaced speed bump. Imagine a normal road with two lanes, place a small pedestrian crossing slab between them and have the two lanes flow around it like a boulder in a stream. Now between these two lanes next to the slab put a speed bump. That's what the photo showed - how insane, a speed-bump that's not even in a lane.

The locals thought it daft, the council spokesperson couldn't give an instant reason for its location; yep it's a waste of money and yet another example of stupid things that happen. Except if you read the article carefully and use that spongy mass between your ears it makes sense why it's there. Because what the photo doesn't show you is that there are in fact three speed bumps in a line, one either side of the 'stupid' one.

Now imagine two lanes that split creating, in effect, a third lane between them. Now put a speed-bump in each lane and only in each lane. Show with diagrams the path vehicles will now take. Yep they'll both try to use the imaginary third lane to avoid the bump not only taking them close to the pedestrian slab, but possibly into each other. How can you stop that - put another bump between them.

'It might confuse people at night' said one saft individual uh-huh and that lit bollard on the slab won't deter them in the slightest. I despair.

Next up was the story about the 5-year old vandals who'd committed the heinous crime of drawing a hopscotch grid on public property using chalk. The paper reported that "Police turned up armed with CS gas". Overreaction or what? Well no, they'd had a report of 'criminal damage' which this wasn't and I believe the pepper type sprays are standard issue so it would be like reporting that the police 'turned up in uniform driving a police car'. What was more worrying to me was this wasn't a random stop by the police on patrol, someone had called them out. What does that say about our society where someone sees children playing or doing something they think hey shouldn't and calls the police rather then risk doing something about it themselves.

If you want overreaction the tale of the 8 police cars and 20 police officers turning up to detain one 'hoodie' would fit the bill much better.

I'm still swearing at some Nokia software. Someone has two unconnected computers, one at home the other at work, with their contacts on both. Now using their PDA with Microsoft Mobile and Active Sync and one specific list of contacts if they add something in on the office computer and sync, then go home and sync it appears their too (and vice versa)

Now if they use their Nokia with its software and another list of contacts (due to Nokia not retaining all the information and then screwing it up). Add something to the office, sync and it appears on the Nokia, go home, sync, and nothing. So it gets added manually to the contacts. At which point, because it's new it gets added back to the Nokia again. Then it shows up twice on the other computer.

That's assuming that it syncs at all - yes XP says you're connected, but it can't sync. One restart of the phone later and hey look all is good. Except when you take the phone off the cable before pressing OK on it at which point the software sometimes thinks it's still connected and you have to manually sync when you connect it back up.

It's confusing and annoying, but the jist is that it seems Nokia haven't envisioned their phones being synced with more then one computer or for that matter got their software to work correctly. Microsoft have got something right that works the way it should!

Now if that isn't a strange thing to say I don't know what is.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A relaxing weekend

Four days of doing almost bugger all. Some sorting out and tidying up. I made good on my promise to have a flick through my old Warhammer stuff, I'm missing the Middenheim map and all the handouts for "Death on the Reik". Not that surprising, the latter came in a poor cardboard box rather then as a book and everything always used to fall out. The former's disappearance is odd though. Ah well being of a nature I'd prefer to be named squirrel-like I know they're around somewhere, but it's an itch I'm not in a position to scratch yet.

All my Cthulhu stuff seems intact, some interesting factual articles on 1920's America, Australia etc.

Heading out I spotted a two-disc edition of "Superman Returns" in Fopp for £9.99 odd as the ones at the front of the store were listed at £20; I didn't mention anything and that's what I paid so no complaints from me. No more S.A.C:2 beyond ch3; I might have to order the remaining ones depending on price. Sainsbury's had "Night at the Museum" for £9.99 too for one week only while stocks last. They seem to be doing this quite a bit (as they did for Casino Royale); I suppose if it's a choice between selling 10 at £20 or 20 at £10 you've got less taking up storage space.

A visit to my aunt and uncle's; my cousin, his wife and their devil child ;-) also being there. I'm barely through the door when I get called to the computer. As usual the problem lies with the Sky broadband router, it's lost the internet connection again. Second box they've had and Sky blame BT and BT blame Sky for all the problems. A quick demo of Google Earth, MS Virtual Earth (which seemed to have some minor difficulty with IE7) and a permanent link to later I notice some faults on shutting down. Uninstalled Google Desktop, Google Screensavers, and Google Something Else which were all installed by mistake and the error she go bye-bye.

Devil-child is getting very vocal and is having a good crawl and pulling up on things to stand upright; still not standing on her own quite yet though I'm sure she soon will be.

Despite my cousin's ravings and plonking a deposit down for the PS3 he decided not to get one. First words were "Well they're everywhere", he jokes about those buying one (or two) with the sole purpose of flogging them on eBay at inflated prices. As I've mentioned he's into racing games, but the only one to catch his eye is "Motorstorm", "Ridge Racer 7"(?) got a "Meh" and the F1 game was castigated as a bad port. He's actually contemplating an Xbox 360 and having sold off his old PS2 and games has no baggage to keep him in the Sony fold. I personally feel that Sony have been a bit too reliant on the baggage and fan-boys. "Home" is a step in the right direction, but they need a wider variety of games to appeal to the masses.

I'm still saying the only reason I'd get one is for "Oblivion" and even then not until they've got the backwards compatibility sorted out. Oh and maybe "Bioshock"

I decided to skip a trip to Tenbury for their car-boot sale, my parents went and mentioned how busy it was and how many stalls there were compared to the last time they went. It's all very nice, but the trouble is where it's held there's no shelter; it's all open space with no trees. Even the kids playground adjoining it has only one bench and nothing in the shade. It's all great if you're only spending a short amount of time there, lousy if you want to have a leisurely mooch with a hot sun in a clear blue sky above you.

Oh speaking of the PlayStation 2 I spent a fair chunk of time on "Okami" (almost finished - I think), "Max Payne 2" (not as good as the first both plot-wise and technically) and "Lego Star Wars 2" which was being offered cheap at Game. Now that game is fun and highly recommended. Designed for kids and shortish if you just play straight through as an adult, its joy lies in all the extra little things you can do - collect X amount of 'money', collect all the parts to a vehicle, find the special power and cheat bricks, replay the entire 3 episodes using different characters such as Yoda or Darth Vader. It's easy enough on the brain and reflexes for the 3+ age range, but can become quite difficult if you try and truly complete it and there are one or two sneaky little puzzles that even had me scratching my head for a few seconds. Better then the first one and that's very high praise indeed.

A matter of degree

I note that the NSPCC is shoving its oar in again; apparently we want retailers to impose a no-smacking ban in their stores. Brilliant. There's no need for smacking so lets stop it now. As with so much today I note the omission of a certain detail - let's pretend you're in one of these no-smacking stores with a child 2 years of age. He spots something on a shelf he wants, which you've walked past. He starts screaming and throwing a tantrum. What do you do?

a) Go back and get it - what a good life lesson, scream hard enough and you'll get what you want.
b) Ignore him he'll get tired - so now you're carting a screaming kid around the store, getting embarrassed and getting dirty looks from other shoppers
c) Threaten him with punishment - not going to work unless it's a big punishment "Can't go to the birthday party" type big. Kids this age have short-term memories in both directions.
d) Discuss logically the advantages and disadvantages of getting this product, feel free to reference Socrates and Plato - yes I'm joking.

Pain is an easy lesson to learn and it normally works. So long as it's a one-off, so long as it's not repeated frequently and so long as it isn't too hard.

So why are the NSPCC on the case? Who's complaining about parents smacking their children? Sure there's a difference between smack for being naughty and a smack because daddy's getting fed-up with your behaviour, but you can't paint over that with such a broad brush.

Once again another attempt is made to remove decision-making from people individually and apply it to a society, the trouble is that removes the need to feel responsible for events too.

With that note I'll talk about the forthcoming ban on smoking in enclosed places coming into force in July. It's a ****-up, no really it is. I'll carry on the theme in that it removes a decision from people. Now I don't smoke, but I was brought(dragged)-up in places that had lots of people who did so it's something I'm used to.

So here's the deal - you visit a place where they smoke, you don't like it you leave. Enough people leave, the place makes less money and the owners will voluntarily make it a no-smoking area; no law required. If it makes money then the people in there obviously don't mind so you're only truly inconveniencing them.

So onto one of the major ****-ups. As per the law by default enclosed places will be no-smoking, and yet owners of such places will need, of their own accord, to put up signs telling people this. Failure to do so constitutes an offence and is punishable with fines. Perhaps I should also put up a sign telling people that they can't ride their motorbikes/cycles/mopeds in here as well. 'No naked people allowed', 'No guns", "No snakes" hey it just says no dogs. These are all the things we take for granted, they're the ground state, the default. So why, if you should be assuming that this enclosed area you're heading for is no-smoking, should you need to put up no-smoking signs?

Finally I don't object to smoking in enclosed areas, I object to smoking in non-enclosed areas. Watch people smoke, in an enclosed area if they're sitting down the cigarette (or whatever) is kept on the table, standing up at a bar it's on the bar. Standing up elsewhere it's hanging down by their side, but if they're doing this the area is normally busy and people react differently, they move out of the way. Compare that to people smoking outside, standing still in groups they're like those standing up indoors, but they expect you to go around them. If they're moving then the cigarette (if not in their mouth) is in a hand hanging by their side.

Take a young child and stand them next to an adult. Where does the hand of the adult reach on to on the child, about head height. Now have lots of adults smoking outdoors and send in children who have a habit of not looking where they're going. Between the chances of catching something from the inhalation of second-hand smoke or blinding a kid, why are we concentrating so much on the former?

Before anyone takes umbrage, I know it takes a while and prolonged contact to set fire to something with a cigarette, and you'd have to be really unlucky to happen to catch one in the eye; but as risks go it's got to be comparable to second-hand smoke inhalation. Yet not a peep from the anti-smoking brigade or the government.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Too damn tired.

Lousy night's sleep for many reasons sadly none of them being naughty. So other then yawning symptoms include swearing. "With many people planning n going on holiday have you thought about the environmental cost" - Who gives a ****. "G4 are splitting up" Who the **** are G4, are who gives a ****. I turned off just as they started singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" I thought there was a law against that "Any performers other then Queen singing Bohemian Rhapsody will be forced to put on drag and push vacuum cleaners around for no less time then one year"

I also stop being able to spell, my first stab at the title was "Too damn tidy" which isn't even close.

Almost got hit in the car twice, once doing a 360 at Millfield Road/Street/whatever island, yes I was indicating a right turn. A van opposite me didn't stop. At least she realised her mistake and looked very chagrined when I stopped on the island. Luckily I saw in advance the speed she was doing and made the right assumption.

The second time was on the Worcester Road when someone pulled out in front of me. No I wasn't speeding.

Oh and two ambulances screamed past me close to Sandy Lane.

Traffic was lousy last night though for a very good reason - absolutely **** all. I joined a queue in Worcester Road and took 15 minutes to get to the island another 15 minutes took me to York Street and after that it was pretty much plain sailing. This weekend promises joy particular with the procession of witnesses through the town scheduled for um 10, 11?

Someone missed recording the Great Global Scandal and wanted to see it. I'd still got it on my PVR so one laptop, one USB flash drive, and one USB cable later I transferred it across. Old laptop with USB1.bloody1. Just under 2GB to transfer started just before 2pm finished about 4am (I woke up again and checked it)

Can't check it works as it's MPEG-2 and apparently the codec is copyrighted - give us money. Running it through a software DVD player I get no sound and a broken picture, but he'll be trying it on a PS3 so <shrugs> it'll either work or it doesn't.

Chris Danks over on WFA makes comments about the town council meeting as does Tav who has a detailed report on the bridge.

Chris mentions the size of the proposed Tesco, which I've already mentioned is seemingly contradicted by the physical evidence. The answer I posted there I'll abbreviate here - Looks like they're only considering retail space not building space. Just thought, someone reminded me about the Tesco advert for Tesco Director whatever the hell it's called delivering furniture and whatnot. Could it be that they want to use the Stouport site as a base of operations for that?

Tan Lane School as a site for Tesco hmm let's see. Yes if you wanted to keep the existing building size it would, with some squeezing, fit into that plot. The car-park could be kept, or the existing building demolished and turned into a car-park. I'm assuming that they won't knock down the building until after the other's built in order to make an easy transition (and not lose any money) otherwise knock down the existing building and turn the Tan Lane site into the car park... no too much traffic down Tan Lane have the car entrance/exit on Lombard Street. Even so the car-park will be about half the size of the proposed one in order to maintain the building size.

That could work, but it would mean some concessions on the part of Tesco regarding size. The basic problem is the existing structures. I can't see Tesco going X months without a store so the existing one will be kept at least until the new one is operational, they could try and buy the properties on Tan Lane, but would they be allowed to remove them even if they succeeded? It's tight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Google Earth beater?

Somebody who saw the Gadget Show on channel 5 pointed me to Microsoft's answer to Google Earth "Microsoft Virtual Earth" I hit 3D and allowed Firefox to install the software and was prepared to be wowed.

First of unlike GE (Google Earth), Microsoft's 3D version sits inside your browser, this leads to some interesting problems, the main one being you've no idea if it's finished loading. The status bar shows Lat/Lon/Alt with occasionally Loading [X]%, but has it finished it seems to be very quick if it has.

Control is by either mouse or keyboard, a compass in the bottom left comes in three levels - arrows to move around with an inner circle to rotate and what looks like a curved volume control to tilt. Very slick and Google should take note of it.

Just like GE, msVE has 3D buildings dotted around, for slower connections/computers you can alter the setting between No Buildings, Low Detail Buildings, and High Detail Buildings. Here lies problem two. Zoom in on an area and then change these settings and you're reset to the default start position. The best bet is to pick High Detail regardless of your computer as this then gives you two "Ctrl+" toggles for No Buildings and Low Detail Buildings - rather pointless.

The map itself is smooth, but the layers appear in jerks and combined with the first problem means you're never quite sure if that's all you're getting.

Details for the maps themselves were hmm about as good as GE's offerings, but I noted that they'd seriously got some road names wrong. This might change as apparently they're taking hi-def shots from different angles; so we'll have to wait and see

The biggest problem comes with it's biggest feature - 3D buildings. To test it I headed over to Las Vegas something is always going to show up there and I wasn't disappointed

That's pretty, damn pretty, tear your eyes from the delights of the buildings closest to you and check out the horizon. Yet more buildings protruding on the landscape in the distance.

Let's check out London, Westminster Palace a must surely?

Oops nothing in sight, but wait let's get closer.

What the hell just happened, two buildings on my left and the Eye on my right just appeared. Not a loading problem zoom back out and they disappear. Rotate around and they appear and reappear as you get close.

So is it all to do with height? The two buildings when not present register an altitude of 64ft, when present this jumps to 174ft. The 02 (Millennium) Dome is much more persistent and yet only has altitudes of 53ft and 176ft. Zoom out and I can still see the Dome but the other buildings vanish. Size perhaps? I don't know but I can't see any settings to change it and it's damn annoying when you compare it to the LV view.

So far verdict is - load it up, have a play, and keep an eye on it; but stick to Google Earth for the time being.

Left hand - right hand

I try and avoid certain family matters getting mentioned, but I do need to vent/release some tension so here we go. My grandmother is suffering from a minor case of dementia which is getting worse. She's not forgetting to get dressed or anything, but short-term memory has all but vanished and long-term is fading. This has been going up for 5-6 months at least. My mother is being driven slowly insane by the phone-calls which have been getting more frequent.

"I'm bored I haven't seen anyone all week!"
"I was there this morning, [my aunt] was there yesterday and you went to [nursing home] the day before that."
"I don't remember any of that, anyway I've got nothing to do"
"What about that jigsaw"
"What jigsaw?"
"The one we were doing this morning"
"Were you here this morning?"

Followed 10 minutes later by exactly the same conversation. My mother popped out for a couple of hours and came back to 10 missed calls.

Well you get the drift. The other calls are about wanting to go home, made from the house she's lived in for the past 25+ years.

Well my mother had been getting all this before Christmas, now my aunt is getting the same level of calls and it's driving her to distraction too, especially as her husband works shifts.

Often she'll call my mother, then 5 minutes later call my aunt, then call my mother with no recollection of any calls she's just made.

So we've been trying to get her into a nursing home. Started the work in January as to how it was going to be financed. Talked to the relevant departments and waited... and waited. Turns out the relevant department was waiting for Social Services to sort things out, but nobody had bothered to tell them. Many phone calls later we finally discover this at the end of February. Middle of March and we're getting a social worker... beginning of this month we get a social worker assigned who is now off on holiday for a couple of weeks.

So all this might have been sorted out two months ago.

Events preceding this with my other, now deceased, grandmother haven't helped; the term frayed nerves fits quite well.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Apples to oranges - Rip off Britain

Flicking through the news I note that beloved Sony are dropping the US price tag on their PSP from $199.99 to $169.99 with no mention of a comparable drop in the European price (UK - £150). Cue tons of moaning about rip-off Britain, see $199.99 should only be about £100 and $169.99... well that's a snip under £87. We're paying nearly twice as much!

We get this so much, newspapers send reporters out to stock up on food, perfume, wine and electrical gadgets; comes back and rave about the savings they've made and how we're all being dealt a bad hand price-wise.

Gah you can't compare prices like that. The median weekly wage in the UK is about £450, for the US it's $670. Oh my gods the US are earning less then us at £321.

Now let's try that again. The PSP in the US compared to US wages (199.99/670)*100 is about 30%, for the UK (150/450)*100 or about 33%. Wow what a huge difference, the Americans are paying about a third of their weekly wage for one and we in the UK are paying... um about a third too.

How about the PS3, which I've been happy to slag off, UK price £425, US price (according to Which) $650 including NY sales tax. Let's run the figures -

UK (425/450)*100=94%
US (650/670)*100=97%

Um relatively speaking the US are paying more for the console then we are, though not by much. Oops!

Next time you see anyone complaining about how much we spend here compared to abroad, ask yourself "Are they just using the latest currency conversion, or are they comparing what we really spend?"

Now the important bit's out the way back to the drivel

Looks like they've finished doing the pavement up the right-hand side of Vale Road (hooray) and are now starting on the left-hand side (boo). Barriers were out at the Lickhill exit narrowing down the road, as yet unknown as to whether they'll try to shut down the left-hand lane entirely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the timing of this; okay so the bridge refurbishment was supposed to be in its final stages, but still it's Easter Week. Now I'm all for doing work during the school holidays when there's less traffic about, but not this close to a Bank Holiday weekend. Is repaving really that high a priority.

[Update]They've closed lanes 1 and 2 just next to the Lickhill exit. Everyone has to get into lane 3, basically the opposite of what they'd done before

Speaking of which I had a laugh on Saturday driving in Kidderminster down The Ringway, they've resurfaced the road (about time too), but have yet to paint markings on it. Drove all the way down it towards the exit and about 100 yards from where I joined the island there was the "No Road Markings" sign; thanks I'd noticed.

Oo and a couple of nasty potholes in Stourport have been tagged in white, so they might get filled in. I also noted that one of the bridge ones had also been filled in, the two long rut ones on the town side are still there though. Ah well what's the point they'll be resurfacing that in a week or two, or three; or a month, or two.

In the news this morning were the couple who came back from holiday to find their car had been crushed. From what I saw they went on holiday, the car got broken into that night and the police turned up. The car was legally parked, had an up-to-date tax disc, and was outside the registered owner's home; so they quite rightly left it. Lambeth council on the other hand saw it as a crime magnet, towed it away, then crushed it. The couple only found this out on returning after paying the £400 release fee.

Okay word to the wise - people are taking longer holidays. It's difficult to respond to a demand to pay a fine within 14 days when the period runs out the day you return. Tow the car? Perhaps. Crush it? Um no.

As per usual expect nothing to be done about this type of thing until an MP has their car crushed while they're on holiday.

Also in the news. In a new initiative mothers-to-be will be given named mid-wives; about time too there's nothing more disconcerting then to ask the name of the person about to deliver your child and be told "I don't have a name I have a number. I am Number 2" checks list "You are patient Number 6". Sorry, but I couldn't resist.

Stourport Town Council Meeting

Sent out feelers and had some tugs back yesterday night, talk about last minute. The meeting isn't at 7pm it's at 6.30pm; no Tesco representative will be present, it might get mentioned that's all. Instead the meeting is apparently going to be dealing with the bridge refurbishment and yet more tales of construction woe.

Asking about whose job it was to keep the internet details for the council up-to-date some fingers were pointed at Tim Ellis of the Stourport Forum; how true that it I don't know.

Well 6.30pm; 7pm was going to be a push 6.30's pretty much impossible under normal circumstances for me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

It's Easter time

As evidenced by the throngs of people in town. Traffic was atrocious, perhaps the two cars parked opposite each other at the top of Bridge Street helped that. Silly me they can't be there, they'd have been moved on by the crack troop of traffic wardens patrolling the town in order to keep the traffic moving. Must of been figments of my imagination.

Anyway the hordes were basically treating Bridge Street as a pedestrianised area - see a shop; cross the road. Difficult to blame them when the lane leaving town is unmoving, just step between the cars - and get hit by the free-flowing traffic entering the town. Well free-flowing until someone decides to use the pedestrian crossing. I've said it before I'll say it again, put the bloody settings back to the way they were a few years ago just until the bridge is back to full operation. I'm not kidding coming back into town I got past the bridge lights and the pedestrian ones had changed three time before I reached them.

I was surprised to get through though, heading to the bridge no cars ahead of me "They'll switch to red just as I get there" I thought, they didn't and I met up with the tail-end of the queue just before the point that the other queue starts (meaning if their light turns green they can't get past) that's down to the first change in the pedestrian lights. I got through that point with a small sigh of relief and was surprised to note more cars coming over to join me. Got off the bridge and stopped (lights again) and still traffic was coming over the bridge, moved up to Raven Street and stopped (guess) and still traffic was following me. By the time I got up to High Street it still hadn't changed. In the meantime people were walking across the road whenever the traffic was halted.

Not to worry it'll all soon be over Oo they're running one of their famous polls

"...but what would you prefer – short-term major disruption with all the work done in one stint or the current long-term minor disruption?"
Define major disruption for me and I'll let you know.

Point being the schools are out and the traffic is getting bad, now come the Bank Holiday weekend Stourport traffic tends to grind to a halt normally with this lot going on... ah well what do I care I've some books in the attic I can look through and I still haven't finished Okami.

All quiet; well an accident, a bit on the PS3, and some more digging in the attic.

An accident happened opposite the house on Sunday, someone drove round a corner to fast and clipped a car that shouldn't have been parked there, ambulance car turned up, followed by a fire engine, followed by the police. Basically everyone's to blame. One of the stupidities is that the house(s) to which the parked car(s) belong want to park them on their own front gardens, but don't have road access and have been denied permission to put any in. The only other place they can park is a lot further up the street in a special 'car-park' type area which funnily enough is used by the people who live next to it. Even more stupidity is evident in that just before where these cars park is a bus-stop, which is in an even more dangerous position.

Reports back on the PS3 declared "It's complicated". Casino Royale on Blu-Ray is in 2.4:1 and, of course, displays with black bars top and bottom on a widescreen television. Results in yet another explanation as to the fact there are three 'standards' "Well that's stupid" I can't agree more.

Sonic the Hedgehog was described as "odd". "You'd get bits where they were talking, then they'd stop and you'd have to read the bubbles" Yep otherwise known as 'el-cheapo productions'. Record major bits of dialogue for each language, then leave the rest as type; difficult to blame on storage constraints nowadays. The sparsity of launch titles was highlighted when the owner was looking for some other games suitability for his young-ish children. The wide choice of racing or sport was up for offer. I thought they might like Marvel Ultimate Alliance, though it might be a bit too violent for them.

Another little spate of rummaging through the attic. Linking through Wikipedia on a completely unrelated manner led me to "Slaves to Darkness" I knew I'd never owned "The Lost and the Damned", but I did have the first one; but had I sold it?

It was all a bit of a mess at the time; I'd won some sort of free/money-off voucher, I don't recall which now, the joke was that it expired before the book was even published. Games Workshop said they'd still honour it though and so I waited... and waited. It was a good book when it finally came out a little heavy on the miniatures-rules side though. Two years later the next one came out and by that time I was heavy into "Call of Cthulhu" instead.

Anyway back to the attic. I located the box and started going through it. Yep there was "Slaves to Darkness". I checked through the others -

A 1986 first edition of the Rulebook
The entire "The Enemy Within" campaign with the first two collected in one, the original boxed "Death on the Reik" and the separate "Power behind the Throne" (the best campaign ever) and "City of the White Wolf" (damn fine read on it's own). "Empire in Flames" was a last gasp by the company and it showed, the binding was terrible and pages would fall out. That part of the campaign itself was much the same.
Couldn't find my 40k rulebook so it must have been that I sold.
A few (20+?) old copies of White Dwarf with rule variants and campaigns.

and a lot of Cthulhu books, I'd forgotten I had so many; some so old they no longer even feature on the Chaosium website. Luckily you can always thank the fans for a complete database of them, 1989-1991 sounds about right.

Happy memories of CoC - one suicide, one investigator ripped to shreds by creatures, one in traction after being thrown through a window, and one digested alive; and that was only the second time playing - they were a lot more cautious after that.

Ah nostalgia. If I get time I'll drag them out and flick through them, just to refresh my memory of their contents.

One tiny addendum. The Royal Mail have put the prices for stamps up again, I'm sure you've all heard about it - very well advertised... yeah right. I popped on to their site to get them to send me the latest poster and was filling out my address for them when I realised what I was doing. I was filling out my address on the Royal Mail site... the Royal Mail who allow postcode and address searches and who it appears were forcing me to type out my full address for them. Joined-up thinking at its peak.