Friday, June 29, 2007

Lovely day (for the time being)

Blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and a brightly shining sun; of course I'm stuck inside. Not that I matter much, mild photo-sensitivity, a feeling that someone's sitting on top of my head, and a serious urge to nap are all putting a damper on things. Even if I hadn't seen the forecasts I'd know the weather was heading for a big change.

Talking to Jim yesterday he mentioned going down to the skate-park on Wednesday where he saw some roller-skaters using it. Apparently there's a big sign on the gate up telling people it's not ready, but the fence surrounding it is barely waist-high - follow the logical chain of events. Anyway when was this thing supposed to be up and ready to roll anyway?

They're making a quick job of demolishing the old pub on Worcester Road, makes me glad I took a before shot a few Saturday's back.

Back to my favourite subject, the pothole in York Street's been filled (again et nauseum), as has the corner cut hole leading to the Bridge and town (about time). On the downside the Areley Common outlet into Dunley Road has compressed down again and as before to avoid jolting you need to swing around it to the left when turning right; and the top of Bridge Street is still like a funhouse ride.

Something I did note in passing were the paint markings highlighting the protruding cover in Mitton Street this was one of the items I'd mentioned on my High Street pavement 'campaign'
Might just be a coincidence I'd like to think not.

Toll Bar

So the residents of Toll Bar are still underwater and are looking to lay blame. "If the mayor lived there [pointing] do you think this water would be here?" They're asking why the water wasn't diverted to the golf course and farmer's fields which are lower then the town.

Well I could make a glib answer about the fact that both the fields and course are businesses and thus make money while housing doesn't, but I think it has more to do with liability.

Diverting the water into these areas would have been an active response, the insurers might try to claim that the water wouldn't have been there if not for the actions of the EA/council therefore they're responsible. This of course doesn't let anyone off the hook, barriers could have been built or arranged to halt or slow the spread, and if these fields etc had got flooded this would have been a passive action on the part of the EA/council. In other words it's the difference between "We directed the water there on purpose" and "The water just happened to flood there perhaps because of the barriers".

Baroness Young on GMTV this morning quite rightly pointed out both the legacy of building on flood plains and the state and planning of the drainage systems. Remember thanks to the joys of privatisation the drainage is owned and maintained by the district water company whose sole purpose now is to maximise profits. Keeping drains clear costs money, blocked drains doesn't unless the company is fined (hah!) or can be shown to be negligent. Any one else remember the rail disasters and how long that dragged out for?

As for building on flood plains blame the government putting pressure on local authorities to allow it. It's much cheaper to build on virgin ground then it is on brownfield sites, so in this supposed housing crisis if a building company says that they're either building where they want or not at all, what to do?

As for the road structure, point the money at motorways and building more motorways to better enable large companies to deliver their goods with greater ease (we've actually signed up to a European agreement to do this), funnily enough there's only so much money around so of course local roads suffer.

Ah well more rain forecast, so more flooding. Everyone in government will run around for a bit blaming everyone else and pledging that this won't happen again. Then, like as not, dump all the responsibility on local government and the EA and not give them any extra funding. Then we'll all forget about it until it happens again at which point we'll start the cycle all over again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

v1.8, and Stourport Market says goodbye

v1.8 and it looks like a screw-up at Sony's end they've finally put the full list up - 125 new, 72 deleted, 397 upgraded, 110 downgraded, and 54 reinstated giving a grand total of 2047 titles. Bravo. If you want to see what the list should look like visit this user-created website (thank-you SeesThroughAll on Eurogamer)

Well no Shuttle last week, which meant perusing the online version and will you look at that - Stourport's Farmers' Market is closing down. Damn I hate told you so's.

Honestly though let's split Stourport into three sections - Bridge Street, High Street, and Lombard Street. Where are the supermarkets - Lombard Street, where are the grocers, butchers, and bakers - High Street (and Lombard Street). Where do they put the market - halfway down Bridge Street.

What's in Bridge Street that'll bring shoppers down to it? Pubs, cafes, takeaways, and a couple of clothing stores. For anyone entering the town from the upper town it's too far to walk just to see if there's anything you want and anyone entering from the lower town will continue on to the top and only maybe pick something up on the way back. That's assuming they're walking and not heading straight for the Co-op, Lidl, or Tesco car-parks.

It'd be unfair to compare this to the Kidderminster version, Kiddy had a large pedestrianised area to install a market right in the town centre, but saying that; the Basin Development might prove a boon to a new market. A pedestrianised area with hopefully some coffee shops etc. to lure shoppers down to it combined with more stalls.

I find it amusing that the plan is to draw tourists further up the town when at the same time we could do with drawing shoppers further down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Water, Adverts, and Xena

And so we move from Tenbury to Worcester where the Severn has burst its banks. Traffic updates listed three roads out of commission, so mix that up with the city being under water and I’m glad I’m not heading that way.

Another advert doing my head in, yep it’s Dove again and its sexist Campaign for Real Beauty. Just like Activia they’re using “Real Women” too. I never knew the extent of the problem that advertisers had with fake women; I suppose it’s just desperation on the part of men to actually get some work in advertising. Interestingly one of the women drops a bombshell when she mentions that her boyfriend nicks her deodorant. I’m sure this has prompted Dove to investigate the male market <laughs> oh I crack myself up at times.

On the mentioning of men in adverts, try a count sometime. How many men do you see doing anything related to housework or personal grooming bar razors? Barry Scott (who doesn’t exist) doesn’t count as he’s never seen using the products he advertises. I can think of one laundry advert (the mud fight) and the Fairy adverts and that’s pretty much it. If it’s cleaning sinks or baths, spraying air freshener (and oh gods the Glade one’s back too) or doing laundry then it’s all women. Soap, shampoo, hair dye – all women. Cooking – women.

Gah that’s just brought up a hideous thought of that loan advert, the one with the Geordie women trying to get a loan while her family (off-camera) are yelling for information (where’s my keys, where’s my scooter) which she calmly answers while smugly telling the operator how busy she is.

While under the influence of brain-warping rays (aliens, CIA, scientologists, take your pick) I picked up Season One of Xena which has been out for a while, but as a multipart “Squeeze the money out of fans” deal. I wasn’t that much of a fan, but the whole season for less cost then one-part of a CSI season struck me as a good deal. Like Frasier and Cheers, Xena was a spin-off from Hercules and just like Frasier and Cheers I never got on with the parent.

Hercules (keep wanting to type Herakles) was simply too bland a character – I’ll use my gifts to help people, in the course of that I’ll marry have kids, still help people; then my wife and children will be murdered and I’ll dedicate myself to going out and using my talents to help people; yawn. As a character Xena had a much more interesting back-story and besides at the time I found Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor) cute.

[Update 1/9/10- "at the time" which suggests I don't now, which would be inaccurate]

Anyway most importantly the first season introduces Callisto played with manic glee by Hudson Leick; and a little worrying she is too. Tone, body language, facial expressions are all broadcasting Radio Free Insanity; fruitloops on all frequencies. Damn she’s fun to watch.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Playstation 3 v1.8 backwards compatibility

As I've mentioned the Playstation 3 got updated to version 1.8 without the backwards compatibility lists matching. Well I see that they've finally got around to updating the list and what a mess it is too.

The first thing to note is that the only PS2 games listed are the 3-star rated ones and not a lot of those. To recap v1.6 listed 1,782 titles; v1.7 added 259, removed 101, upgraded 234, and downgraded 103 for a grand total of 1,940 titles; v1.8 (as currently listed)adds 62, removes 1,101, upgrades 211, and downgrades 0 for a total of 901.

To put it another way according to the current list there are now less PS2 games compatible then when they started.

I hope this is a glitch on the list, showing as it does only 3-star games, except there were plenty of such titles beginning with say "C" and none of them are showing.

I'll keep an eye out for any developments, but this is nasty if accurate or indicative of a major screw-up at Sony Europe if not.

Water, smoking, and internet dating.

So the Teme has burst and Tenbury Wells got on the map with GMTV. Didn’t see anyone I knew, but it was a bit early. This made me wonder if I’d actual put up all the photos of Tenbury…that would be a no – damn; so much to do.

So anyone else expected a hosepipe ban to come into force for July? “Wrong type of rain” they’ll cry. “The ground’s too saturated and it’s just running off” been there commented on that.

We’ve also got the smoking ban coming into force shortly; reading through the legislation is a laugh. By default you can’t smoke in an enclosed public area, and yet the owners of said premises need to put up no smoking signs or be fined. Excuse me? By default you can’t smoke, so why do we need signs? Do all new cars have to come with a little sticker in the windscreen telling you not to use a non hands-free mobile phone while driving? Do many riders lead their horses into shops because the sign only indicates no dogs?

Someone says it’s for foreigners; expect I don’t see road signs every 100 yards reminding them to stay on the left and shouldn’t the signs be available in languages other then English?

We always say ignorance of the law is no excuse so why the need for signage and why the penalties for not displaying them?

A phrase I saw struck me “She didn’t want her mother to know we’d met over the internet” Is there still this social stigma over internet dating? Is it still felt that the only way to pair is through going out to social events and hoping that you meet someone who shares similar interests? Perhaps it’s seen as cheating, you write-up your details someone else writes up theirs; if they match you contact them. No awkward “What sort of music do you like?” no need for pick-up lines. Is it still “Hah you couldn’t find someone socially and had to turn to the net; what a loser”?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Mish Mash Week

So recharging done and I’m back. Whoop-de-doo.

I’ll start with last Sunday. For reasons I won’t get into I had to wake up early and attempted to aid my lack of coherent thought by switching on the BBC news. I was greeted by the sight of Susannah Reid wishing she had access to a time machine or, at least, a thesaurus.

Are we likely to see any significant price-cuts in any items of… significance?
She was, of course, talking to a representative of The Grocer about the Tesco vs. Asda ‘war’. You could actually hear her scanning the sentence ahead and trying to come up with another word or at least be able to switch the first to “major”. One of the responses she got was interesting to me about profit margins and where Tesco can squeeze cuts.
Food manufacturers work with an average of 8.5% profit, while Tesco work with less then 5% and other supermarkets less then 1%.
For such a short statement it’s packed. Start with food manufacturers not producers; I’ve dealt with the big number small number of percentages, unless it’s being used as a percentage of the whole it’s meaningless, then the fact that Tesco have a less then 5% margin compared to the others 1% margin. Unless the 5% is equal to the 1% (which means they’re paying more at cost) it just goes to show that they’ll charge whatever the market will bear. Finally to rewrite the headline “Two rival companies compete in free market” Woah hold the front page. Why is this news? Shouldn’t they be doing this all the time?

Anyway early on Sunday I find myself in Kiddy in need of some stocks that, ironically, I can only pick up at Sainsbury’s. If you’ve never hung out in a supermarket car-park before opening time I’d recommend it. I got there at half-nine and parked in the bay furthest from the supermarket. I had plenty of choices in the closer bay, but for some strange reason the trolley parks are roofed in for that section. As it was a nice sunny day I didn’t want to be sitting in either my car or under plastic, so I parked next to one of the open bars and sat like a kid swinging my feet from the bar.

Plenty of people sitting in cars, plenty of empty cars. Around quarter-to-ten more staff showed up and started parking in the main car-park. Now either they don’t have their own spaces, or it’s full. They all got out and headed towards the staff entrance on the side causing me to think of “Dawn of the Dead”. Interesting to watch the number walk past the others up to the doors and then look confused as to why they weren’t open. Then five minutes before opening the car-park starts to fill and a small crowd gathered at the doors.

I wandered up and sat on the bench outside, a masterpiece of design in that you can’t get comfortable on it (hence my swinging from the trolley park). It’s quite low, which causes me to either want to stretch forward to back. Forward gets uncomfortable, and it has no back-rest and a large gap between it and the glass front of the store.

Ten o’clock came and passed at which point the staff realised that the doors on the right had stuck. I waited until the crowd had passed then sauntered in at the back.

Ah Tuesday, it rained a bit. Not much, just enough for me to welcome a stray who found themselves stranded in Stourport. With a choice of four roads, one was too deeply flooded, another the embankment had collapsed, one he tried to ford and gave up when water started to come in through the doors, and the final option he didn’t try when he saw a 4x4 go through it with water rising above its wheels. I had a spare bed the decision was simple.

My father decided he wanted some pictures printed and chose Sunday afternoon as the best time to do it – no light cyan, no light magenta, no way of getting hold of any. One list and a “You want some prints, buy these first” and he’ll get some today I hope.

Reminds me that I still haven’t posted the Redstone Marsh pictures <sigh> I’ll look at it tomorrow.

I came across the LibraryThing book catalogue a while ago and always meant to take a closer look and this week I got a chance. While I could type in every book individually it does accept ISBN file input.

So all I needed was to make a list. I started with the tall-book shelves, collected comics and the like, which are stacked ‘normally’ that is horizontally-stacked spine outward. I’ve managed to do four shelves at 229 books so only another three of those shelves to go. Then the hardback shelves, vertically-stacked base outward; only seven of those. Then the paperback shelves, vertically-stacked spine outward double rowed; only seven of those as well. Oh and then the floor-stacked pile and the few in drawers. At this rate I’m sure to finish sometime this year <laughs>

Terrible night last night, I dreamt I was in some sort of supermarket aisle and someone was trying to run me over with some sort of spiked trolley. I threw something at them then scrambled to the other side trying to clamber on to a freezer compartment. Scrambling for a torch, which I knew wasn’t there, I pushed things out of the way to get to it. I couldn’t see it, perhaps as my eyes were closed, but I could feel it – something was wrong, the base had detached from the reflector and bulb. I had the base in my left hand and the reflector and bulb connection in my right, but the top was stuck to some rectangular block and the whole thing wouldn’t move very far.

I tried to snap the top from the block and woke up to find myself sitting at the base of my bed with my quilt wrapped around my legs leaning towards my dressing table with my electric toothbrush and charger in my hands. I was glad I hadn’t snapped the charger in half or pulled the cord out. I put it back leaned back onto my bed and leaned forward very quickly – reaching back I removed my hairbrush that I’d obviously swept aside towards the trolley maniac. Leaned back, leaned forward again to try and find my pillows that had obviously been the first things I’d aimed at the trolley maniac and were now lying on the floor. Leant back… slept.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Today I will mostly...

Sometimes I feel like that gardener character in the "Fast Show" - "This morning I will mostly be humming 'No Limits' by 2unlimited" this then segued into "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" thank you Fredrik and Darren for that.

So this afternoon I have mostly be humming "Carol of the Bells" which then turned into "The Internet is for Porn" I hate my brain at times. Anyway I've got a break coming up next week, just time to recharge my batteries, so things might go a bit quiet while I wallow in laziness.

Dark Skies

So I stepped out of work yesterday night to a dark sky, not actually raining just dark. I sauntered over to my car and stopped "I'll just check on a couple of things first" I thought. So one quick circuit later I headed back and the world turned white with a lightening flash. Then I heard it coming and started sprinting. Just made it to the car and was getting in as the rain came down.

Sounded like hail on the roof, lights on, wipers to full and visibility was still low. Avoided the normal puddle on Worcester Road and then got stopped in a queue outside the Old Rose and Crown. Watched as the oncoming traffic threw up a sheet of water over the length of the verge "That's unusual". Carried on and got stopped by the newly-formed pond at Minerva Point, no exaggeration cars driving through it sprayed a sheet as high as the van parked in the drive. Both sides at the bottom of the Stour bridge were filling in and passing the Rough I noted that the drain had turned into a three-plumed fountain.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - why isn't our road system designed to cope with this type of weather?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Slowdown in creation

So irony of ironies I'm using Internet Explorer 6 to write this, because in both Firefox and Opera it's so slow as to be scary. I normally use Firefox as for some reason Opera doesn't wrap the text correctly, but now it's even worse. You couldn't even type into the field. You'd click the cursor into it and start typing and nothing would appear; in the end I had to hold down the mouse button in the field and start typing at the same time. Only then did it 'stick'.

Maybe it's my setup, well I scotched that idea by trying it out on another computer and although quicker you could stil see the slowdown in both Opera and Firefox, again with Opera having the same non-stick problem.

Now on my dashboard I note that they've created a draft version of blogger and one of the alterations is the addition of video uploading. So I tried that version of create with exactly the same results - neat.

Might be a glitch I'll give it some time to correct itself before mentioning it on the group.

Grey Skies

Feels like twilight, dark skies and a mild orange glow illuminates the lashing rain. Drains clog and water pools on the road highlighting every flaw of the road planner's art. Visibility drops then clears as the wipers cut through the wrath.

And yet still they drive at 50mph, still they drive with no lights; speeding ghosts in the haze.

Advertising, Bully, advertising.

So as did the BBC morning news heavily promote "Dancing [whatever]" so too does GMTV pimp "Britain's Got Talent", which means 10 second ads every so often and a few minutes of a couple of acts. Still it could be worse it could be Big Brother they're pushing as they have done.

Okay this is annoying for some reason my CPU is maxing out as I type, doesn't do it when I edit a previously published entry just this unpublished one. So here I am typing away and watching as my words slowly appear on the screen as if transcribed there by a hunt-and-peck typist.

It's also completely blown my train-of-thought.

Ah Sony are still sticking to 1.70 on the backwards compatibility list despite 1.80 having been released on May 24th.

I've been recently playing the notorious Canis Canem Edit (Bully) and found it to be rather good. A few camera annoyances; clipping bug, the usual suspects. Nothing that really detracts from the game. I can see why Jack Thompson and Keith Vazwanted it banned; after all you can beat-up people and kiss boys - shocking.

A couple of annoyances so far. First up is the Shop Class, follow the on screen prompts to pass. Up pops an icon of a thumbstick with an "L" in it with a rotating arrow heading clockwise. "Ah" I think "I should rotate the left thumbstick clockwise" I do so and fail. Not to worry I get two more attempts at this time. Same icon, same action on my part - fail. Maybe I'll find out what I'm doing wrong next class.

Secondly is the clock. You're not allowed to be in the school after 7pm, so upon finishing a task and finding myself close to 'Trespassing' I headed out the door with little time to spare. Only to find that in the loading time between leaving the school and getting outside the time had elapsed and I was tagged anyway and had to scurry around outside avoiding the prefects until my trouble meter had elapsed.

And finally I had some prefect chasing me for something who wouldn't back off. My trouble meter was at zero I'd hide in lockers or bins out of his sight and he'd just run up to my hiding place and stay there. That propped a reload.

I note Asda are heavily advertising their milk now. 'Ah we only produce milk for Asda' says one of the dairy farmers. Nice bet you're not owned by Asda though, I'm sure that gives great weight to contract negotiations.

Tesco have got into the act too, with their local range; I bet it's hard to find local produce given that so many farms etc. have been bankrupted by um let's say economic hardship.

And Dove are still promoting their Campaign for Real Beauty which of course applies only to females and is not in any way contradicted by advertising self-tanning lotions too. Hmm 'Campaign for Real Handsomeness'? Doesn't have the same ring does it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chugging along

So I got up the photos of the Millfields estate, St Mary's, Leapgate, and the Riverside. I've still got Redstone Marsh and a few other odds and ends to go up, along with checking through some old non-uploaded ones for a photo of the old bus-stop for Don; phew!

For anybody who's been glued to this blog (yeah as if) I've just upgraded to the Blogger 2.0 templates and this wiped out my links and my current reading script. The script needed some minor alterations as Blogger are now enforcing XML, which is the right thing to do. Now if only they'd actually serve the pages as xml+xhtml too. So this meant multiple template changes as I fine-tuned everything and the occasional javascript pop-up to check on values. It seems to be working in Opera and Firefox and that's the main two I care about. Anyway for anyone who happened to visit and got some strange messages that's what was going on.

The tax-disc for my car runs out at the end of the month and, as I try to arrange these things in sync, so does my MOT. So I get a reminder for the tax, nothing for the MOT. It's all computerised now, all feeding into the DVLA database so why not a reminder? Silly me, the DVLA don't get the money for the MOT test, so it's no skin off their nose whether I forget or not.

I've been remiss in not posting earlier about the potential recycling plant they want to dump <chuckle> sorry, site in Norton. So attempts to put an incinerator in Kidderminster and now a recycling plant Norton, wow if they keep spiralling in at this rate, Worcestershire County Council might actually have to site one in Worcester.

Am I the only one spotting the pattern? Kidderminster is close to the M5 and a big A road leads in; except to have gotten to the site they proposed would've meant hitting the main traffic areas into smaller roads and driving through multiple residential areas. Norton on the other hand is right next to the M5 with a big A road leading up to it, but it appears that to get to the site would require driving down smaller roads close to residential areas... hmm sounds like Worcester would be an ideal candidate.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Six months on - the Companies Act

So I'm still getting business emails from registered companies that don't feature a geographic address, registration number and/or VAT number despite this becoming a requirement by law as I've already mentioned.

I commented on this as an afterthought to one of these companies and the response was essentially "Not heard about that"

Yep despite the massive advertising campaign with spots on TV, billboards and a blitz of leaflets... oh no wait a sec that was salt and getting your tax returns in on time. In the interests of greater information exchange between companies and consumers, the government has still failed to heed its own advice and actually publicise this.

To contradict this we still get the odd missive from our solicitor friends telling us the address and numbers need to be on every email and on every page of our website, which just goes to prove how clearly this amendment was written or at least how clearly it was read.

To clarify (and remembering I'm not a lawyer) the actual wording means that you need to attach this information to every business related email going out of the company and that it also needs to be available on your website. So sending an internal email to Clare in HR doesn't need to have it on, likewise sending the latest list of jokes to your mate Kevin from your work address doesn't (unless your company is in the joke business) and your website can just have the information listed on its contact us or equivalent page.

I haven't heard of anyone being prosecuted yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

A busy time

On occasion I invoke that great Chinese god Foo King, on Saturday it was his son Foo King Idiot. I was driving into Kidderminster along the dual-carriageway and got to the railway bridge. Now there's a junction on the left and some car-dealership/repair places and then another junction on the right.

I'm near the head of a stream of traffic and there's another stream of traffic coming towards us. The lead car approaching me signals right to turn into the junction and thus needs to cut across our lane. As I pass the junction this car passes me and stops, and thus causes the cars behind them to stop also. Now the car behind me who is has just crossed the junction also begins to indicate that he wants to turn right. Not right at the junction further up, no no; right at the car-site.

The car-site entrance that is now blocked by the cars stopped because of the original car that wants to turn right at the junction. The car that can't turn right into the junction because of the sudden stoppage of cars caused by the car that wants to turn right into the car-site. The car that can't turn right because... well you see the fun.

Looking back I think a car in the queue managed to squeeze past the one trying to turn into the junction and thus create a hole large enough for the other car to get through. easily avoided by the car-site car indicating in a timely fashion or better yet letting the other car turn into the junction first. He could see that the car wanted to turn, he could see the other cars blocking his entrance; but instead of taking pre-emptive action he just blindly carried on and stopped expecting someone else to sort it out.

On Sunday morning I had to go into Kiddy again and while there took some pictures of St Mary's (uploaded as per) and then on the way back to Stourport stopped off at Millfields Drive (Lane, Road, whatever) and took some more pictures of the terrible state of the roads and pavements (again as per). If this were a council road or pavements you'd have the HSE cordoning it all off.

The houses look great. Their drives, the pavings around them all looked fine; but the roads and pavements. Holes in roads - yeah well you get those though not often to this extent, but holes in pavements, unsurfaced, kerbstones not flush. As a (hopefully) temporary measure you could see that owners had used thin balks of wood to sit against the kerbstones so they could pull their cars onto the drives the current level being too high to so so. Walking along one pavement between houses that had actually been surfaced I reached its connection to the main pavement to discover a minor raised kerb and what appeared to be an almost surface level sheared off concrete post. If I were to go around with a set of trip-hazard stickers I'd need one of those big reel dispensers to cope. As an unadopted, private road-way and pavement it's not up to the council to fix, but as an open publicly accessible site they might want to send someone to look at it.

While there I also took the opportunity to have a wander along the Leapgate footpath that leads down to the canal; yes photos to be uploaded.

In the afternoon I wandered down to the riverside and noted that the skate-park was being used, by bikers; I'm also unsure whether it's been officially opened yet (the Keep Out signs vanished on my last photo trip). Nevertheless they seemed to be having fun, so that's good.

Heading back I diverted through Redstone Marsh, which brung back memories.

All-in-all a nice trek on a gloriously bloody hot Sunday.


So I've been watching the new Doctor Who's, they started off as a "Oo Doctor Who's back on" and have slowly degenerated to "Well there's not much else on in that genre". So what's the problem? Well the decision to have one story per episode over the long-standing tradition of one story per season means not only pressure to come up with about 13 new ideas per series, but also the need to cram that story into 45 minutes (or 90 for a two-parter). As a result the only character development we see is in the Doctor and companion, and they're always running. Every episode I feel someone is remonstrating with me to 'Keep Up'.

Next up is over-reliance on CGI, oh sure the old 'men in rubber suits' and wobbly sets are passée, but it did mean that the writers had to pull your attention from them with strong scripts and storylines; now it's can't think what to do blow something up, have a giant slathering creature running through a building.

Finally we come to the sonic screwdriver, which appears to have become the Swiss Army Knife of the Doctor, can't open a door - sonic screwdriver, can't lock a door - sonic screwdriver, need to detach welded plates - sonic screwdriver, distract Daleks - sonic... ah well you get the point.

So with the exception of the odd twinkle they've been pretty derivative - Doctor +1 arrive, something bad happens, they run around a lot, the Doctor pulls out his sonic screwdriver, the end.

Then we have "Blink", which pulls me apart. On one hand at last we've got a Doctor Who episode worthy of the franchise, on the other it just shows what they could have been doing from the start. Just an old abandoned house and a statue of a weeping angel, no massive explosions, no 'look-at-me' special-effects, no Doctor. Just a slow strongly written episode which brings back the hide-behind-the-sofa psychological scariness that Doctor Who was once famous for. Scares, humour, and a plot you can appreciate; forget your "Are you my mummy?"'s, disregard your "Burn with me"'s - just remember "Don't look away, don't blink. Blink and you're dead".

Oh and next week's episode was advertised with some big explosions and lots of running around <sigh>

Friday, June 08, 2007

Police reforms, PS v1.8 sort of, into the traffic, and Millfields.

Meant to get to this yesterday, but a large pile of work dropped from on high. New reforms are being mooted regarding suspects (presumably to match the stop and question stuff). They want to extend the 28-day holding period and be able to questions people after charge. Now hold on that's just being greedy. The point of wanting to extend the holding period is so you can question them further so why do you need the ability to question them after? That great big spook terrorism shows up. It's to stop terrorists. There are reasons why these restrictions are in place, it's to prevent abuse.

If you can hold someone for 29-days without charge why not 30 why not 40 why not a year stuck in limbo? If you can question someone after they've been charged what happens if during that time they admit to something else, can you charge them again; do you tack it onto the original charge. What if the original evidence wasn't enough to convict and you use evidence obtained by questioning after they've been charged? How easy to hold and charge someone then give them a script to read during 'questioning' to convict them once you discover that the original evidence isn't enough.

No these restrictions are in place for a good reason and it should take more then the mention of terrorism to throw them away.

Onward the PlayStation 3 now at version 1.8, that is unless you check the backwards compatibility list which still lists the latest update as v1.7. so no changes for previous games then?

Traffic yesterday was horrendous, but for good reason - a lorry parked just beyond the Stour bridge either loading or unloading something. Blocked off the entire road and required some of the crew to direct traffic around it. At 8:45 on a weekday morning! Clever, so very clever. Dropping someone off in town this morning also proved problematic, not least attempting to get into town. The normal cars parked outside Flamingo (I thought those bays were for shoppers Mr EBU) meant that the wider vehicles were facing their normal difficulties in getting past in half-a-lane while facing a queue of traffic trying to get over the bridge.

Two long buses in the bus-stop, well one splitting the lane and the bus-stop and the other parked behind; a laundry van, some delivery vans, and every parking bay in the High Street full-up (again so many people shopping at 8:45). Turning the corner to loop towards York Street, I had to swing into the wrong lane to avoid the hidden delivery van before getting onto Lion Hill. Of course all the bays in York Street were full, plus the no-parking along the right-hand lane.

I ended up parking across the exit to the basin developments, my passenger got out and of course a car pulled up along that road to get out. Polite enough not to honk I might add. I then trundled down the one-lane of the two-lane York Street; merged into High Street, sitting in the middle to get past all the cars and found Gilgal etc. mercifully clear.

So I'd promised to help my father shift some furniture near Millfields, sorted that out reasonably quickly and then had a chat with some of the neighbours. I mentioned where I worked and that elicited a response about the bridge and thus we got onto the topic of roads (I do have other topics of conversation honest). So this is all hearsay rumour etc. Originally Mill Road wasn't going to join up with the Millfields island, it was going to be a cul-de-sac until that was dismissed by needed provision for emergency vehicles (looking at the area this makes perfect sense). At the meeting held to discuss the development it was said that the island would be at the same level as Mill Road, does this look level to you? Finally the reason there's no sign posted to warn you about the upcoming junction on Hartlebury Road is that the road is not adopted. All good fun.

Making our farewells, my father asked if I'd been round the new estate - not for a while - so we went on a tour. The houses are very nice, the roads are atrocious; I'm not exaggerating. Unmarked speed-bumps, raised ironworks, square-cut holes in the road, and in one place a piece of the kerbstone had simply tumbled off and fallen into the road. No signs that anyone was actually doing any work on it. I'll see if I can get down there this weekend to take some shots.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

10 times the price, G8, and air-guitar.

So the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit set up by the government is warning that house prices might increase to 10 times you can read the full report on the NHPAU website oops no silly me that's for recruiting the full report is available um hold on... ah got you Affordability Report, nice that all the news sites linked to it <cough>

It's only 25 pages long and not a bad read. Some nice graphs that pretty much show what I said back in November - wages are static and house prices are soaring.

So a lot of people can't get onto the housing ladder. They can't live near where they work (as a side-effect this puts a burden on the traffic system). They need to borrow from friends and family to even put down a deposit before even getting to the mortgage. Money is ringfenced for loan repayments leaving less to be re-injected back into the economy (money from loans going back to banks to be paid out as loans to be paid to banks...). The economy slows, jobs are lost and some people now find themselves in serious trouble.

So what's the problem. Buy-to let mortgages have increased by 750% in 7 years from 44,000 to 330, 000. People who already own their own homes see owning another as an investment. While it could be felt that this opens a new renting arrangement it does take a property of the market and the new owners are still looking to make their money back, that's the mortgage plus.

Not enough new houses being built? Blame planning regulations; in fact -

The house building industry is keen to see targets for more houses to be built, and keen to see the relaxation of planning constraints that prevent this.
Yeah I bet they are. Here's a neat little quote about what the housing objectives should be -
A mix of housing, both market and affordable, particularly in terms of tenure and price, to support a wide variety of households in all areas, both urban and rural.
"Both market and affordable" what they can't be the same? Why should we have to artificially lower the price of a house to below its market value? If you build more houses, increase taxes on second homes (including buy-to-rents) then won't the market price start to decline in response?

Oops sorry my mistake as I said in November we don't want prices to fall; people would be stuck with mortgage repayments on a loan that's higher then the current value of their house and we know what happened last time and that was from a much shorter drop to the 'ground'. Nah better we massage the prices of a few homes for 'key' workers or trot out schemes like shared ownership that I've already discussed
. Maintain the status quo at all costs.

So the G8 got a quick mention this morning on both BBC and GMTV, as per usual it's a case of G7+1-who-wants-everyone-to-do-things-their-way; no prizes to guessing the identity of the 1. The protesters got almost an entire 5 seconds of coverage, with only one channel mentioning the German police using water cannons on these peacefully gathered demonstrators. Head over to Indymedia for their reports.

So again according to the BBC air-guitar has "burst onto the scene" and "gone international". Yep it's so new they're only holding both the 12th annual UK Championships and the 12th annual World Championships in Finland. Ah Webster's "burst" - to gain attention in the United States; "international" - something that occurs in Europe and the United States ;-)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Olympian sized stupidity.

So we've got the under-estimated budget for the works what else can we screw-up? I caught the 2012 Olympic logo yesterday on GMTV flashing faster then a pervert on speed, made me blink a couple of times. I didn't even see the 2012 until it was pointed out on a static version it just looked like a squiggle to me, or maybe that was just the after-images settling down.

Apparently the logo, oops sorry...

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible. It will work with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.
Yeah I'm kind of wondering how much money got ploughed into this without one single person holding up a hand and saying "Do you think we might have a problem with rapidly moving flashing images on a TV broadcast?" Oh that's alright it only affects a small number of people, who could just be induced to have a fit and die, nothing to worry about there.

Maybe when the Olympics are screened they could have put up an announcement telling people who might have problems just to close their eyes while they play it. Nah they've done the right thing and removed that four second clip, do you think the advertising agency or whoever will still get paid for it?

So on the official site we've got a full 3:55 advert. I was trying to work out exactly what it was supposed to be about and how it fitted in with the Olympics. Luckily the transcript has this to say
"The new 2012 brand film shows how people from all walks of life can be inspired to transform their lives and achieve their personal goals."
Which of course is what the Olympics is all about. Ignore the bribe allegations, the drug scandals no no it's all about inspiration. Yep and here we can see how one young girl was 'inspired'
When I was 14, I was 23 stone. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone saying something: bullying me or hitting me or spitting at me. I realised that that’s not a way for a 14-year-old to live.

I’ve lost eight stone. I’m also helping other kids with their weight problems. I work with a health magazine. It’s quite rewarding that I’ve done this for myself but I can also do it for other people.

And the government and society are trying to stop this type of inspiration from occurring; shame on them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

And still the media circle

Maddie's still missing. Yep it's a shame and I've done this before, but I need to do it again. I walked into the local branch of my bank and there she was on a poster, there she was on leaflets on the desk all pointing to the official site. There you'll find pictures, an online diary, and ways to donate to the campaign.

I headed into Merry Hill/Hell on Saturday and all the info boards had the same repeating message over it again all advertising the official site.

So nobody linking to the official missing children website no posters up for Maya Leila Mahmoud age 1 and missing since March, nothing for Ying Lee age 3 and missing since last September. Okay they weren't abducted (unless you count their parents), but do I need to link to 9 year-old's, 15-year old's? Nah too old, who cares? Their families do; their friends do; and, to the extent I can sympathise with them, I do.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Back to the parochial

The CCTV post in York Street has something on top of it now. Looks like a light, but it's difficult to tell. I'll have to get a shot. While in York Street the pot hole (yes the same one as before, and before, and...) is re-sinking. I'd love to be in a position to express surprise, but I can't.

The holes at the entrance to Worcester Road have been marked out in white, good news in that this suggests they'll be fixed soon, and that it makes them easier to see to steer around.

On Worcester Road the work continues apace outside Thomas Vale. The former pub, business link, training centre, whatever is coming down for a set of new houses to build there. Well according to the planning permission that's what's going there. On the other hand prior to the fencing going up around the site a couple of boards left in the car-park suggested it was going to become a car showroom on a par with Worcester Street Motors further up. Well suggestion is suggestion and planning is planning; so I'll have to go for houses.

Down to the bridge and the hole outside the Crown is becoming a liability. If the lights are on green and nothing's coming you can switch lanes to go around it. If the lights are red you can stop and creep over it. It's when the lights are green and there's still traffic in the other lane you get the problem. You can cut inside it, but the other part of that lane is none to smooth either and a twist will send you head first into the start of the brick parapet that runs along the bridge.

Good news/bad news on that score. Good news - they've started to pour concrete onto the bridge, a foreman was taking photos as I went past (no doubt due to the last debacle) so it's just a cause of paving over the top. Bad news is that means they've almost finished that section of the bridge which means they'll be moving on to the other parts.

So why's that bad news? Well if they're going to properly repave the rest of the bridge and the continuing road they'll need to strip it down first. To do that means they'll need to do it one lane at a time and require traffic control. The first part they'll be repaving is likely to be the area with the traffic sensors in place; and that means dumb traffic lights. Then again the intelligent ones haven't exactly been the epitome of good function.

Oh and on a minor humourous note, some time ago the signs stating completion by Spring 2007 began to sport a white-out sticker replacing Spring with Summer. As someone joked "It means they're back on schedule"

Almost a scoop, go go skate-park, options for a path, and what does this tell you about me.

So my last entry Bush gives a speech was going to include "Russia goes ballistic". I was going to add about the reports of Russia's new intercontinental missile, how this was supposed to aid nuclear deterrence and also get through missile shields; and how it got the equivalent of two column inches and 30 seconds on the BBC. I was going to point out how this was probably completely due to the current American administration's design to put anti-missile batteries in Western Europe. I was going to say all this, but the Bush speech took up more space then I'd intended and now events have run away from me and those reasons now made explicit. Ah well just proves you can't be too cynical.

They've concreted in the skate-park, must have done it last week, all the area that was grass between the features is now smooth concrete. Still a large amount of grass to the left of the bowl, which could have been better utilised. Still a bench next to a ramp; and they've laid a dark bitumen path. I hope that's an underlayer, though why they didn't lay concrete at the same time as they were doing the rest beats me. If it stays like that it'll make it a joy in the hot weather, I could smell the tar on Sunday under the sun's gaze. The fencing is still up, minus the warning notices, and the landscaping machinery is still there although that has been forced out of the fenced area onto the Riverside walk (what was that about "you can't have toddlers and users playing around large machinery"?)

Measuring it out the bowl is about 11m by 9m externally, given a metre edge that makes an internal measure of 9m by 7m and makes the flat area inside a lot less drastic (though a continuation of the slope would have been better) I have photos and as per they'll be uploaded as and when.

While down there I decided to duck under the arches, just to check out headroom etc. For those who missed the blurb I've wondered about added a second crossing point under the archway of the bridge to stop people crossing between the two pubs. Counting about six arches from the steps brings me to the arches next to the table and benches. I can walk under these from the Riverside only having to duck coming out at the fairground side and that due solely to the raised pavement. If the area was cut away and laid back it would make a single to double person width walkway. By no means as large as the riverside one, but it doesn't need to be and it would be no more inconvenient then anyone using the narrow spiral stair. Rain collecting in it might be a problem, but you simply don't use it in that instance in exactly the same way you don't use the Riverside walk when the river's flooded.

Still stock-checking and more rummaging in the loft. I'm still trying to locate the maps and handouts I'm missing from the WFRP stuff, but so far with no success (it's like an itch I can't scratch). Damn it was like an oven up there which curtailed my activities drastically.

Came across a lot of old toys, some Transformers loose in a box; scared me when I pulled one out and switched it from hovercraft to robot and back like I was 13 again.

Action Force bases both an original cardboard and plastic one both in their original boxes; the newer one had a list of other toys on the side and I spotted the Roboskull which I'm sure I used to own (It was a skull painted red with two 90° rotatable jets on the side and I loved it to bits), but couldn't spot.

Then I found my old MASK toys which I must have bought when I was about 12-14. To be precise I find the MASK boxes, the toys were inside neatly bundled in their original packaging with the original instruction sheets. I used to have Boulder Hill, don't now where that went I suspect it got sold along with the Roboskull <sigh> apparently those are hard to get hold of now.

An old wooden constructable fort with old style cowboys and indians, complete with a list in my terrible handwriting of how many and of each type there were.

Finally a few bags of matt-painted plastic soldiers, again with a hand-written list detailing quantities and types.

Talking to my parents about what I'd found, and thinking about how the Bratii seem to not bother about destruction, I asked if I was really that careful with my toys. The answer was yes; I'd have fun playing with them, but wouldn't smash them into each other and would stop others from doing so (smash your own toys if you want), then I'd put them away. I'd make sure I had all the bits that went with them and that said bits went back with the correct toy. What that says about me, well make your own mind up.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Bush gives a speech.

So the newspapers and TV are all going on about GWB uttering a few green platitudes, nobody seems to be looking at the rest of the speech. Read it for yourself on the Whitehouse site. Let's start with the fact he's addressing the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, what is that? According to their site they're

Americas voice for security, prosperity, & humanitarian values [& the correct use of apostrophes]
So is that America's security, America's prosperity & America's humanitarian values? Nope they look to increase the International Affairs Budget
These programs build markets for U.S. exports, provide for U.S. embassy personnel and security, and promote good governance practices that strengthen democracies. They also facilitate the formation of international coalitions, fund essential nonproliferation and anti-terrorism efforts, respond to global challenges such as hunger and illiteracy, and help people build a future of hope and opportunity.
So all good stuff, but why "Global Leadership"? I'll let George answer that
"It's rallying businesses and non-governmental organizations and faith-based and community and civic organizations across our country to advance a noble cause, ensuring that the United States leads the world in spreading hope and opportunity."
I'll play nice and assume the "noble cause" is spreading hope and opportunity and not that it should be the United States leading the world in doing so.
"When Americans see suffering and know that our country can help stop it, they expect our government to respond."
<cough>New Orleans, Bosnia.
"When America helps lift societies out of poverty we create new markets for goods and services, and new jobs for American workers. Prosperity abroad can be translated to jobs here at home. It's in our interest that we help improve the economies of nations around the world."
Yeah the thought that these societies might produce their own goods and services that they could sell to the US doesn't seem to get a mention. No wait
"Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires opening new opportunities for trade. Trade is the best way to help poor countries develop their economies and improve the lives of their people"
Uh-huh so encouraging them to produce goods to support their own populace first, to build-up their economies to a point where they can trade their surplus and use that money to feed back into the country - that's not the way to do it? Nope
"free trade is the best way to lift people out of poverty"
Ignore the fact that the Western world already has everything in place for trading, ignore the fact that they subsidise the hell out of everything to keep it cheap and not allow developing nations to do the same - free trade is the answer to the world's problems. Get these countries to grow high-value crops to sell to the West then use that money to buy the West's surplus of food that the developing country isn't growing themselves - money goes in, money comes back out.
"So the administration, my administration worked with G8 nations to ease the debt burden. We're not the first administration to figure this out. My predecessor did the same thing, because it's the right policy for the United States of America."
Was that an indirect compliment to Clinton?
"Since I took office, we have more than doubled U.S. development spending across the world -- from about $10 billion in 2000, to $23 billion in 2006"
Uh-huh subtract the contracts to Haliburton et al for Iraq and then give me a figure.
"The first four years of my administration, we doubled our assistance to Africa."
Yep from $1 to $2. Okay I jest, but no figures are mentioned.

President Bush mentions three goals - promoting democracy, promoting education (particularly for girls), and fighting disease. All good goals, no doubt they're pushing Saudi Arabia really hard on the first two and encouraging the big pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices for the latter.
"At the G8 summit, I'm going to urge our partners to join us in this unprecedented effort to fight these dreaded diseases. America is proud to take the lead. We expect others to join us, as well."
Excuse me? Taking the lead; join you? No don't think about that on to the green bits. You see in order to build up these free-trade economies it's going to take energy and so far that production of energy has been deemed to be um a bit messy.
"The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol [that we didn't ratify] expires in 2012 [long after I've left office]."
Perhaps I spoke to soon
"By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases."
Oh wait "long-term" that's still 'after I've left office'. As a sop the midterm goals will reflect each countries own mix of energy sources and future needs. So a country that burns a lot of coal and needs a lot of energy will um probably still exactly the same amount of coal, but will be a lower proportion of their overall energy use. Technology to the rescue.
"The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment. Over the past six years, my administration has spent, along with the Congress, more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology."
Wow that's nice, while you're at it can you give me tomorrow's winning lottery numbers too? Just because a lot of money has been spent doesn't mean you're getting any results.
"Last week, the Department of Energy announced that in 2006, our carbon emissions decreased by 1.3 percent while our economy grew by 3.3 percent."
Perfectly correct and quotable if you've read only the second page of the EIA document check page 8, milder winter, cooler summer = less A/C. Page 9 notes the switch to using natural gas over petroleum for energy generation. Also that 3.3% increase in the GDP is only true if you're chaining the GDP to 2000 dollars (which isn't mentioned), if you use the current dollar value the increase is 0.003%.

That's the percentage differences between each year's carbon emissions and between each year's GDP pegged to the current dollar. Not that bad a match, though even I'll admit that's a better GDP increase then I'd expect from the trend.

Okay enough stats
"If you are truly committed to helping the environment, nations need to get rid of their tariffs, need to get rid of those barriers that prevent new technologies from coming into their countries."
or should that be 'taking over their countries'. Just what tariffs are in place that prevent countries from using new technology? Nope don't give any concrete examples just assume they exist.
"We'll help the world's poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost, or in some case, no cost at all."
No sarcy comments here, that's a fine sentiment and I'll stop with that note.