Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cohabitants (and a splash of adverts)

So cohabitants could get the same rights as married couples. Hmm on the face of it that seems reasonable except define cohabitants. Ah well if they've had a child that's easy actually the phrase here is "shared" a child, so the child might not actually be the genetic offspring of one of the couple? Besides isn't that simply an extension of the system that led to the CSA, and we all know how well that's been handled.

Worse yet we get "lived together for more than two years" so define lived together, two students sharing a flat are classed as cohabitants? Shall we add the need for sexual relations, how will that affect same-sex couples, how can it be proved anyway "No we never had sex" "You liar" "Well prove it".

Ah not to panic these rules won't apply to all cohabitants just some... which some? Drop the airy-fairy call for rights and show me some concrete definitions and examples that won't just add yet another layer of red-tape and lawyer celebration-parties.

"Are you married?"
"Yes here's our marriage certificate"

"Are you cohabitants?"
"Um depends"


Advert time - Special K "it's called special for a reason" yeah you thought it sounded good on a cereal.

Coinstar - "Converts your coins into cash" Ohmygod ohmygod when did coins stop being legal currency aah aah I need to change it into notes quick!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stourport photos

Saturday was a run-around leaving little time for photos, I did manage to get out Sunday morning. Flush with my fully-charged recyclable batteries I got about two shots before they conked out.

One purchase of some el-cheapo's later I popped into the Sweet Jar for some purchases and a chat. Seems the owner's not too happy with our friends at the Shuttle, he does a lot of stuff for charity and he's got a bike run going on next week-end. Sent the details over to the Shuttle, told them he was trying to get people involved in this local event and got bugger all back from them. He's had the same sort of response for all the other good works he's been doing. No doubt if he was based in Kiddy he'd have got a column or even if he was in Bewdley

[Update 6 August: Woo-hoo they got the story, too late to get into print though Page 3 I did only get the paper on the 3rd though]

We chatted about the bridge closure, reminisced over the state of the roads ("It never used to be this bad"), and the floods etc. then I took my leave and did a quick circuit of the main town. I wanted some shots of parts of York Street before it became a fully fledged pot-hole extravaganza, then a shot of the new work in Mitton Street and at least one shot of the difference between the old refilling and the new patching.

Then a wander to the basin to say hello to the ducks and the swans before grabbing some shots of the skate-park (before the new batteries died) and heading back.

Meant to get out to Hartlebury Common, but time she passes to quickly.

Primeval - belated review.

It's been sitting on my PVR for months now and I've only just found enough time to get through the series (all six episodes). I didn't want to comment until I'd seen it all because I wanted to see if it could possibly get any worse in later episodes... it did. It's dire, seriously barge poles at the ready. Unlike Hot Fuzz which took the Big Book of Clichés and made them funny, Primeval doesn't see the joke. Try the cast for one.

The lead character is a professor of Archaeology. He's Scottish, therefore dour, and his main two expressions are 'I'm constipated' and 'Someone's just kicked me in the crotch'. His wife disappeared under strange circumstances eight years ago; could it be connected to the recent events he's investigated; well could it?

Next is his lab assistant who's good at tracking and surprising familiar with firearms, he tends to look out over the middle distance and assume a blank Zen-like state, either that or he's been sucking on the tranquilliser darts.

Then we have one of the Dour Scot's students, his main task is to make all the mistakes and do all the stupid things that Dour Scot and Zen Master can't be seen to do. We know he's quirky, as he wears a hat, and geeky in that he likes science-fiction and plays on a games console. He's also in possession of an alien laptop (in that we never see it switched on or off or plugged into any form of power supply) on which is a complete database of extinct creatures complete with colour photographs (no doubt taken by the aliens). He alternates between 'Really scared' and 'gormless smile'.

Lizard girl's up next, who proves that despite having a slightly intellectual nerdy profession you can still have a wardrobe full of midriff revealing tops. She switches between 'I'm being serious' to 'Dropped jaw surprise/shock/amazement'. I'd also love to know how she can afford that apartment on a zoo keeper's salary.

The government's represented by a male superior who's more interested in the big picture and can seem quite callous, and the female underling who goes out on the field exercises and tries to counteract her superior's callousness (even writing this is making me ill)

Finally we get the Special Forces who you can identify by them all wearing black (regardless of the surroundings) and carrying guns. Watching them perform I wouldn't trust them to Operation Child's Lost Teddy Bear.

I've missed out Dour Scot's wife, Helen, on the grounds that she seems to be the only one with any acting ability and decent lines.

Of course we can't just have a programme based on Science Fiction, oh no we've got to mix in some personal stuff. So Dour Scot and Ministry Women are becoming attracted to each other, Student Boy fancies Lizard Girl who fancies Zen Master; Ministry Man fancies himself and no doubt the Special Forces fancy each other.

To appeal to the typical male audience let's create multiple situations where Lizard Girl (Hannah Spearritt) wanders around in her underwear. Might have worked on me except for the warring emotions of nausea at recognising the ploy for what it was and the desire to feed her a decent meal. Ministry Women (Lucy Brown) looked more alluring in a business suit and Helen (Juliet Aubrey) was a fox in her survival togs.

As you can see I haven't even got to the plot yet and it's looking hopeless. The plot is simple - holes in time leading to the 'land of the dinosaurs' some of whom are coming through and making a mess of modern-day Britain, let's try to keep it all quiet. The difficulty was it was trying to be deadly serious and then making obvious amateur mistakes, and that combination really pushes my buttons the wrong way.

Events: 'The anomaly has appeared in the sky here, therefore it must be in the sky in the past too.' Umm why?
Likewise 'The anomaly is in the water in the past, therefore must appear in water here' err.
It's a hole in time, don't bother getting in physicists to examine it, nope use the Special Forces kit and let Student Boy handle things, after all he's got a laptop. Besides who better to be the lead team in this event then two archaeologists, an archaeology student and a zoo keeper?

Dialogue: "That's just a conjecture" "Yes, but I'm right" geearggh!

Procedure: 'We've no idea what's on the other side of the anomaly except something dangerous has come through it, therefore we'll send Dour Scot and the head of the Special Forces team over to have a wander around.' Shout if you get eaten.

'We need to keep this quiet, so barge into that estate and march up that block of flats all dressed in black brandishing automatic weaponry and all in full view of that bunch of kids who are playing football' Yeah hi newsdesk?

Bad characters, bad dialogue, meh special effects (the anomaly was pretty) ragged plot, and little grounding in reality despite the attempt.

Perhaps the worrying thing was that the last episode wasn't too bad (at least compared to the previous five), but it did end on a cliffhanger that might mean a second season was in the offing... noooooo!

Friday, July 27, 2007

WEEE scream

Some of the regulations came into affect on July 1st prompting some magazines and articles to discuss exactly what's going on, these have then attracted more discussions on exactly what the articles have got wrong, and then more discussions on what those first discussions got wrong.

It's not surprising really as I said myself it's not exactly the most easy of documents to read. Right first things first I am not a lawyer etc. this is my interpretation of this document so don't be quoting me in no legal proceedings got that.

Stripped down to what we need to know it's really quite simple, there are two factions - providers and consumers (my terms), these split into two themselves to what the document refers to as producers and distributors, and private households and non-private households.

From a consumer side all handling of WEEE is free, the financial burden is met by the providers as per Part 3 sections 8 and 9, and Part 5 section 31 (why is it split up like this?)

The difference is as follows - The distributor is obligated to pick up the financial cost of collecting WEEE provided they're supplying equivalent EEE, but only for private households.

The producer is obligated to pick up the financial cost of collecting WEEE provided they're supplying equivalent EEE, or if the WEEE has been marketed as EEE in the UK on or after 13th August 2005 but only for non-private households.

If you don't fall into that category then it's your responsibility and cost to have it disposed of.

That's it end of story; hardly difficult now was it?

Potholes take um 42? Skate-park

Well the Areley Common/Dunley Road ones are holding up so far; the York Street concavity has been topped up yet again, but we're getting some nasty wear further up; the square cut hole opposite Harold Davies drive is stable, but the leading cut to the square has collapsed by several inches [update - now patched]; and the patchwork done at the entrance to Worcester Road from the island has all fallen out again (cyclists beware). Bridge Street is its usual bumpy self, fascinating to listen to trailers and long vehicles going up it, but hopefully that will be sorted out next weekend when they resurface the road... ah or perhaps it won't if they're just doing the bridge? I'm sure they'll be more information in the Shuttle when they get around to reporting it.

So why are these holes constantly appearing, are we getting more or heavier traffic? Perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that none of these patches appear to be sealed. I could probably lift most of the work out with a small blunt instrument, so think what rain does when it seeps underneath.

On a plus note recall the jauntily angled service cover on Mitton Street that I'd commented on during my conversation regarding the mismatched brickwork in High Street. Well marks were made around it and I now note a new square slab has been placed apparently fixing the potential problem.

Just a quickie (and in response to Don) it's been pointed out to me in the Shuttle that the official opening of the skate-park has been postponed until pfft sometime. So the ceremony was supposed to be on the 20th and the Shuttle report it on the 26th under the headline "'I've never known us so busy’ - firefighter" tum te tum.


But first a literal translation of a pictorial joke - Two men standing at a bar waist-deep in water. One turns to the other and says "I feel sorry for all those smokers; it must be cold outside"

Right the Lancet has/will published a report that takes the result of 35 studies into account regarding cannabis. The results being reported and interpreted by GMTV and the BBC news this morning.

Smoking just one joint doubles your risk of having a psychotic episode later in life to over 40%! So taking that as read the default possibility of having a psychotic episode is 20%? That's 1 in 5 people, could be true but seems a little high to me. Ah but check the fine print "vulnerable people".

So that's people who already have an above average chance of a psychotic episode are more likely to have one if they smoke cannabis and the chances increase the more they smoke. Okay what's the percentage of the population deemed vulnerable? Not reported.

Then we turn to the BBC who posts a figure of 41% (over 40%), but states this as an increase of not to. Now an increase of 41% isn't doubling the risk, so we're either dealing with two different figures or someone's got something wrong.

If in doubt turn to the written word and the BBC report in full Ah yes here we are - the two figures are separate. Cannabis users are 40% more likely then non-users to have a problem, no wait the most frequent users have twice the risk of non-users. What? So one puff increases the risk by 40%, but lots increase it by 100%? Ah look closely:

Cannabis users are 40% more likely than non-users to suffer a psychotic illness... the most frequent users of cannabis have twice the risk of non-users of developing psychotic symptoms...
my emphasis. Yep two different things. So again what are the base figures we're working with? What a surprise not mentioned. Is this important; well yes.

Imagine the average risk of developing a psychotic illness was 1% an increase of 40% results in (not 41%) 1.4%; For that 'twice the risk' for symptoms 1% becomes 2%. So if you were told that doing something increased the risk by 0.4% or 1% would you say "Oo no that's become way too risky now"?

Now if the base was 50% then we're looking at 70% and 100% respectively, now that's a jump that might give you pause. How do you know we're more in the 1% range then the 50% range
The authors said the risk to any individual of getting schizophrenia remained low overall...
Wait there's another damaging statistic
"...estimated it could be a factor in 14% of psychotic problems among young adults in the UK."
Okay that is something to look at (as a comparison it's about the same percentage as ascribed to drink-related road deaths) except it's an estimate. You can't split the world into two and watch the same person with and without cannabis in fact
"Their prediction that 14% of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years."
and that's taking into account the increase in strength of such drugs over the years.

Hold on though wasn't there a Commons report in February that stated it wasn't a sufficient cause oh yes I mentioned it myself. Now of course science is about re-examining data and theory so just because an earlier report said it wasn't that bad doesn't mean we should take the later report as wrong (or right), but it does pose the question about why they differ.

Finally just to prove that the authors really are trying to look at the entire situation
"It is possible that the people who use cannabis might have other characteristics that themselves increase risk of psychotic illness."
In other words maybe only crazy people smoke cannabis. ;-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A bit of local stuff, and the government raises its sleepy head

Spotted another bridge closure sign placed on the newly dented wall of the bridge, only just saw it mind as there was a delivery van parked in front of it.

I forgot to mention the amusement that is the lamppost painting, they're now that nice shade of blue to match the bridge ironwork, well they are up to the height you can reach with a brush. Above that it's the dull blue/grey. Now someone's obviously put up the hanging baskets and they're above the paint line so um... are they just employing really tall people to put the baskets up? Okay being serious it's no doubt down to good old Health & Safety, You can't use a ladder due to the fall on the other side, and you can't get a cherry picker in because of all the traffic. No doubt it'll be finished next weekend when it's closed.

Laura Dora (almost wrote Lora as is Lorem Ipsum) has added an after of the flooded lock which shows just how quickly the water disappears.

Looks like the weather pattern has set in - rain, a couple of days of bright blue skies, rain. We know it's the jet stream, which in itself is influenced by sea temperature, that's shifted South. We're getting Iceland's weather and Italy et al are getting ours.

Da Boss is having fun with BT broadband at his holiday home, it was supposed to be activated on the 16th, but there was a problem with the order and it was shunted to the 24th. That failed to materialise, problems with the line or problems with the filters or problems with invading space aliens I don't know and apparently neither did they. Trouble is all their engineers are running around Gloucester and Tewkesbury so it can't be looked into. Probably be sorted out the day after he's left to come back.

Away from the local news the government has finally cottoned on to the fact that the queues and crowds at airport terminals caused by the security restrictions might in themselves become terrorist targets. They want processing speeded up. I don't know whether to be worried over the fact that I spotted this ages ago or the fact that the government has only just done so themselves and then only because of the Glasgow attack (the equivalent of the idea dancing naked in front of you)

Let's face it with all the planes going out the chances of you being on one at the same time as a bomb are small, with any form of security in place then the chance is reduced even more so. Bombing the terminal you can hit all the people who would have been on the plane, plus those who would be on other planes, plus ground staff you wouldn't normally touch; and as terminals comprise only a small number (compared to planes) the risks of you being in a bombed terminal are that much greater.

So what's the solution? Well except speeding up processing (which could be done if they ditched the movie-plot scenarios) we might just to have to accept there's nothing else that can be done. Long term the solution is to create a culture/society where this sort of thing just simply does not happen and wouldn't even occur to anyone to try; don't hold your breath though.

Back to the floods and I hear one council is still sitting on money set aside for flood relief victims due to the lack of claimants. Ah yes I know this story well - a) allocate money for disaster relief; b) make sure no-one knows about it; c) if someone does manage to discover it make them fill in forms 971a, b, and c in triplicate attaching photos of the area before, during, and after the event in question all witnessed by a local notary; d) wonder why they've still got all that money.

Speaking of funds I'm sure we're all aware of the EU Solidarity Fund to which we need to submit our request within 10 weeks of the first damage, no doubt the government is getting all the paperwork together and will submit it sometime in November. Oops sorry apparently they're on the case; worth noting that apparently our previous two requests for other disasters were turned down.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


and there went the power. Hmm they're digging up the road nearby <sigh> not exactly the first time this has happened. I have a wander to check on the other buildings, yep out too. Joke with some of the guys

"What are you going to do about this" they ask
"I'll see about fixing it" I reply with a big grin
"You know if we can't get this door down you're going to have to guard it until the power comes back on" one says "My wife's expecting me back"; heh there's an over-ride just a PITA to use.

I wander back and dig out eON's number and get a recorded message telling me that an overhead power cable's out affecting Crossway Green, Hartlebury and surrounding areas; fixing estimate - 7pm.

I put the phone down and all the power comes back on, another wander across
"Hey you've got some clout in that office ain't you"
"Told you I'd fix it"

Seeing as it's an overhead little worry that it'll blip off again, seems to be the underground's that they pull apart again just as you get back to work.

Say yes to nuclear power - it's what we need.

I came across this article in the online edition of the New Statesman about nuclear power. Look it's easy to understand - the current setup of burning oil, coal, and gas produces nasty greenhouse gases; nuclear doesn't produce any so we should turn to that instead. A good old latch onto the green agenda to push something that certainly isn't policy

As a bonus the waste that is produced can be used as a fertiliser for crops with the added benefits that the glow from the fields will reduce acccidents on unlit streets (and reduce the need for street lighting) and reduce the need for pesticides as crops mutate to defend themselves. On the downside it will put crop-picker on the list of high-risk jobs.

Okay joking aside why the push for nuclear over solar/wind/water power? Well the first argument is power, that's wattage not political or business (ha!), one station can produce more power then the equivalent non-nuclear alternatives for less apparent cost. The downside to being able to produce so much power is that you can produce that much power; fine if spread out over a day, not so good if released in one second.

Oh but that won't happen; we'll have all sorts of safeguards, procedures, and lucky heather sprinkled all over the place. Sorry, but when it comes down to it you're dealing with people and we make mistakes; even the programs that control the system are written by people and are susceptible to the same situation. After all who'd have thought that if you ran the system in test mode and then had a real emergency you couldn't do anything until the simulation was complete; who'd have guessed that if this pipe was open at the same as the system doing that it would spill the coolant; who'd have predicted that a burnt out warning light combined with a bit of shoddy (undercutting builders) containment work would cause so much damage... all hypothetical situations, but you get the point.

You're dealing with something that can go bang and produces toxic waste even when it's working correctly, and you want to build more of them?

Second argument is a little more sophisticated - research. If we build more nuclear plants not only can we experiment in terms of efficiency, but perhaps hit upon that holy grail of fusion. Okay give me a reason why we should look to make nuclear plants more efficient that excludes building solar/wind/water plants... nope. Okay show me the connection between fission plants and fusion plants... hmm nope. Bye-bye.

Third argument is power output, yes I know that's the first argument, but go with me here. We can produce more power now with nuclear then we can with the 'other' sustainable sources that's without the efficiency gains we might achieve. Sure in 20-50 years time with backing we might get the equivalent out of the same cost of a solar/wind/water plant, but we need to build now to accommodate future energy needs.

Okay future energy needs, what's that going to be then? Take a look at the world at the moment the push isn't to increase our energy usage it's to decrease it. Partly down to cost, but mostly convenience. Who wants their mobile phone to conk out in the middle of a call, or their laptop to shutdown while you're writing that important document. Battery life and power have increased enormously, but that's little use if what they're powering drains them all in a matter of seconds.

For the mobile power market every tiny scrap of energy use is measured and evaluated, is it necessary? Can it be reduced? In the beginning this technology came at a premium, but it's filtering down into the non-mobile market too. Why make different circuit boards for laptops and desktops, are they performing different functions? Don't static sites want to reduce energy costs too?

All this may suggest that instead of an increase in usage in the future we may actually use less power then we do now despite having more gadgets.

Let's look at this clearly. If given the choice how many people would choose a nuclear reactor over a wind-farm? Look at a map of this country in full, what do you see - an island. Coastal waters and tides, coastal winds we could surround our island in these generators, sure one nuclear generator produces more power then one wind farm, but more then ten; more then a hundred? The efficiencies that could be learned as they were being built, the strain they would take off our need for oil and gas.

No no silly me let's go the nuclear course, much better for us all really.

Floody bits and bobs

Getting the local stuff out of the way first signs have gone up telling us that Stourport Bridge will be closed from 00:01 Saturday until 06:00 Monday. The one sign is positioned facing York Street, so no-one who uses New Street will see it, and on the other side of the bridge it's bisected by a lamp-post so only fully legible from one angle. While on the bridge I note they've almost finished putting up the metal kerbing along the non-pavement side. Hmm the pavement seems wider plus its metal kerbing, and now more on the other side has this narrowed the lanes?

Right first a plea to the media if I hear one more allusion to "Water, water everywhere" I'll scream. Every single bloody reporter on every single bloody channel has done it so far; all spouted as if it's the wittiest thing ever.

So onto Bewdley and the news that somebody have tried to steal the flood defences causing guards to be placed along it. So important was this news that a camera crew was dispatched to ask questions.

"So how much are they worth as scrap?"
"Not as much as they're worth as flood barriers [well what's the market for flood barriers? You know I don't think that's what the thieves were interested in] and certainly not as much as they're worth to the people of the town [because we all know thieves have a social conscience]"

"How long are they going to be up for?"
"Until we take them down"

It was at this point I was praying for a lightning strike. Well they were close to a big patch of water and metal barriers so we can but hope.

Back to Upton-upon-Severn (or as the BBC local news captioned it Upton-in-Severn) and the news that the unplaced barriers didn't get there due to being stuck in traffic. Who'd have thought they'd be so much traffic on the roads at this time?

They were being transported as there wasn't a site large enough at the town to store them; they weren't placed earlier due to a) disruption caused by closing the main street to fix them and b) they need to be assembled by specialists. What the hell are they - origami puzzles? These are angled barriers so in theory a deckchair like support base with slots to fit in the sheets. And while I'm at it why are these sheets made out of aluminium (with it's high scrap value); could they be made from something else? Hmm let's see we're on the river, we make boats... would fibre-glass be a good substitute?

Disruption? Yeah much better to get flooded then have the street shut for an hour.

[Additional - I was reminded of the answer given by Baroness Young on the reason for the stopping of dredging the rivers "It'd just mean the water was moved along faster to other areas" um yeah kind of the point]

Some of the smaller villages around Tewkesbury and Gloucester feel like they've been forgotten, while the cities get supplies of water they've had nothing; tcch it's your own fault for not laying on transport for the media. Get some camera crews in and you'll have bottled water before you can say public relations.

Oh but Severn Trent have laid on water bowsers (or blue-things as one guy called them) with "Drinking Water only" written on the side "You can use it as is for flushing toilets etc." said a spokesman. Sorry what does it say on the side again? "But it'll need boiling before you can drink it" yeah I'll dig out a camping stove or just hold a candle under a saucepan, some of these areas have no power you know.

On brighter news Oxford is getting worse with the flood waters arriving a day late; not brighter news you say. Well for some it may be as a reporter stood in front of a deserted street and told the country that most of the houses were now empty - I'm off to get my looting bag.

Finally to harp on adverts we now have Michael Winner conversing with 'real e-sure customers' as opposed to all those fake ones in the previous adverts. It's good to see advertisers stamping out this problem with some pro-active messages.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Crowing George

Via a typo I ended up on the official Whitehouse site and my eye was caught by the phrase Strong U.S. Economy hmm okay well the pound stands at about two dollars at the moment if that type of relationship holds for other countries then in theory it should be cheaper for the USA to create its own products rather then import, thus increasing jobs, and create more export opportunities leading to yet more jobs.

Job Creation Continues - More Than 8.2 Million Jobs Created Since August 2003

And now my hackles are raised. President Bush has been in office since January 2001, his second term started January 2004; so why measure from August 2003?
On July 6, 2007, The Bureau Of Labor Statistics Released New Jobs Figures – 132,000 Jobs Created In June. Since August 2003, more than 8.2 million jobs have been created, with more than 2 million jobs created over the twelve months ending in June. Our economy has now added jobs for 46 straight months, and the unemployment rate remains low at 4.5 percent.
Ah the Bureau of Labor Statistics I love these guys nice, easy to find information. So let's delve.

Well the August 2003 reference is easy - that month was a loss of 42,000 jobs and who wants to include that. Well you would if the previous months more then made up for it... they don't. In fact if you went back any further you'd always end up with a loss; the first positive figure since 2001 is in June 2003 followed by another in July totalling 33,000 add August and you've got a loss. So hey start just after August; well no let's start in January 2001 instead. From then until June (included the preliminary data) Bush has created 5.554 million jobs; not to be sneezed at so why the lack of cheerleading? Clinton in his two terms created 23.066 million jobs, to put that into context that great Republican god Reagan created 15.935 million. Compared to those two Bush is um minuscule.

Oh but I hear the cries of 9/11, and yes indeed it is true that following those tragic events US companies held their flag high and sacked large numbers of staff to prove their patriotism. Down 255,000 in September, 330,000 in October, and 308,000 in November except the third greatest loss for that year was 295,000 in April. In fact for that entire year there was only one gain of 80,000 in February.The year was down by 1.763 million jobs, 700,000 of which occurred prior to September. Oops.

So what about that unemployment rate, indeed it does stand at 4.5% though in 1999 at the same time it stood at 4.3%; in fact in December 2000 it stood at 3.9%. What's going on? In Clinton's first term he inherited an unemployment rate of 7.4% by the end of his first term it was down to 5.4% at the end of his second 3.4%. So Bush started at 3.4% rose to 5.4% and is only now coming back down to 4.5% (9/11 whiners see above).

Going through these you start to notice a trend starting in January 1949 through to June 2007 there has been 93.46 million jobs created, 54.192 million under Democrat Presidents (who only account for 6 out of the 15½ terms)

With the unemployment rate I ran a simple trend line, taking into account the 48 months of one term into account what should the unemployment rate be at the end of the next term. From 1949 onwards if there was a Democrat in office the actual figure would be lower then the projected figure, for a Republican greater except once in the second term for Reagan when he managed to bow out at 5.3% over a projection (from his own previous term) of 8.6%. However it's a little mitigated by the fact that during his terms unemployment rose to its highest rate of 10.8% (for those curious the lowest since 1949 is 2.5% which occurred during the first year of the first term of Dwight Eisenhower (R) so there you go)

Again except for Reagan every Republican President since 1949 has ended their term with an unemployment rate higher then when the started. Conversely every Democrat in that period has ended with it lower.

Make of all that what you will.


More talk of flooding I'm afraid. The news is so severe that the BBC actually postponed Super Vets in order to broadcast a special programme - woah! Obviously problems with Gloucester and Tewkesbury, still fun in Worcester, Evesham, etc., but not to bad in Stourport at the moment.

Always fun to listen to the London broadcasters. Ah yes Tewkesbury sitting on the Severn and A-von; A-von where's that Germany? Oh you mean the A-vun ;-)

News last night that they might have some flooding on the Thames; as this affects London expect defences to be in place well before any problems arise.

A situation that wasn't found at Upton-upon Severn where there were mutterings about the barriers or to be more precise the lack of barriers. Apparently due to the high scrap value of them they were being kept about 30-40 miles away from the site... great. But who cares, apparently even if they were in place the water would have topped them anyway. Er but we're talking volume of water here not depth, surely it would have stopped or hindered the fast flow of the water and kept a good deal out?

Speaking of volume and depth, the forecasters keep talking about 100mm or 4 inches of rain falling. Okay how do you measure that? To put it into a non-scientific context fill a mug with an inch of water then tip it into a washing-up bowl or bucket. Do you have an inch depth of water in that? Diameter(or area) of the collecting instrument makes a difference, so what is that? Let's look at that font of all wisdom Wikipedia shall we. Well it's collected in a cylinder, as I expected, and the diameter of that cylinder (or reference cylinder for scaling purposes) is... um? Thank goodness for the Met Office which shows them using a 5 inch diameter collection funnel.

So now we know, better yet from the Remex site

25mm or 1 inch of rainfall produces:
1. Per Square yard- 4.7 gallons of water (21.37 litres)
2. Per Acre - 22,651 gallons (102,971 litres) of water weighing 102.7 tonnes
3. Per Hectare - 55,971 gallons (254,441 litres) of water weighing 253.7 tonnes
4. Per Square Mile-14.5 million gallons of water

and we got 4 inches <whistles> Nice to know that the water companies are channeling storing and processing that water for use in later months when it might get dry; I mean they'd have to be fools just to flush it out into the rivers and sea then try to claw it back later with desalination plants... oh wait.

In conjunction with Suzie's flood photos I've taken some after shots of the skate-park, you can see how high the water rose by the tide mark on the London Gap. The water has obviously yet to drain out of the bowl and it's interesting to note the puddle that's formed in front of the ramp, suggesting it's not quite as level as one would hope.

As you can see not only do we now possess our own lake, but a new moat too. I would like to point out that the river did not, I repeat did not, do this. The extent of the mud on the path is quite clear as to how far the water got, as borne out by Suzie's photos. This is a combination of the rain and the water table.

As mentioned Jim's got some more photos with their shiny new camera, which he's going to pass on probably tomorrow.

While on the prowl I've also got some pictures around St Bartholomew's that sits on top of the bank at Areley Kings

Traffic is deathly quiet in the mornings at the moment, but seems to make up for it in the evenings, what the hell was going on last night? We were just sat twiddling our thumbs. Yet again (again) I'd like to point out the joy that is the York Street entrance and make clear that there are no Give Way signs at either entrance despite the lack of lane markings and the damn stupid car-parking bays that quite bluntly should not bloody be there. Okay got that? I swear the only reason they've not repainted the lane markings is that it would highlight that very problem and force some action to be taken.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows review (no spoliers)

In deference to p.o.t. readers and unlike a certain newspaper that decided to tell everyone exactly what happened in the first few chapters and a brief round-up of the later parts I'm not going to spoil it for anyone just discuss things in general.

Imagine speeding along the countryside, great views to your left and right, then you hit a queue and the only thing you can see are two large hedges on either side. You edge forward slowly and occasionally get the odd view over a gate, before settling down between the hedges again. Finally the queue passes and you're whistling past all that great scenery again.

That's the "Deathly Hallows". Important events covered by a single sentence spin past you so fast that I actually had to go back a couple of pages just to check I'd read what I thought I'd read. Then it all turns to sludge, it'd be like a novelization of "Die Hard" where all the fights take up a paragraph, but a whole chapter is devoted to connecting the computer to the vault and another for crawling through the vents.

Bits that would be nice to expand on are zipped past, attitudes do a U-turn in a blink of an eye, and at times you're left thinking 'well why do that?'

All the hints and strangeness do get resolved eventually, but still I was left with an odd hollow feeling as with a murder mystery where the detective uncovers the guilty party for reasons there were no way the reader could know about. A little cheated.

But hey as I say it does explain things so needs to be read for completeness sake, but I'll echo several media sources in wishing Rowling had a firmer editor.

Rain rain go away

and preferably come back some time later. I was listening to Hereford and Worcester FM's traffic report, normally two to five minutes long we were averaging fifteen to twenty. This road is closed, that road is closed; my favourite comment was "There are Road Closed signs up at [road] please believe them" [Additional - I forgot to mention that apparently Woverley was cut off completely]

Tav has added Belbroughton's new river. The switchback was closed (big surprise), Bewdley Bridge was supposedly closed for an hour ("but don't stop that from shopping there" announced a cheery news reader), Dunley Road was closed forcing traffic through the village, and Areley Lane is still closed. It looks like Baldwin and Mill Road are back open, Jim on the new estate said they'd been warned they might have to move, but it really only affected those houses at the bottom; they've got some pictures I'll check back to see if they're doing anything with them.

[Update Suzie's got some shots of the flooding on her Flickr Page]

All-in-all it's been a fun time for the District/County/Country, and the government still says it might build new houses on flood plains as "the need outweighs the risk" oh and they need affordable housing... hmm a link there perhaps? Yep stuff all the poor people onto the flood plain; serves them right for not being able to afford decent houses.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I can see clearly now the rain has gone

Well actually I can't. I don't think it's stopped raining since the lightning and thunder last night. Looking out the window I wouldn't be able to reach my car if it were parked in its normal place, if I had my car back that is. I'm just getting a lift in now to pick it up and had to advise him not to drive down to the end to turn around as normal due to the new river that's been created. I wonder how the skate-park event went off :-)

Remember Communism

It's been a while since I visited the spoof whitehouse.org site, but I loved this on the Victims of Communism. flicking through to the non-spoof NPO was also a laugh.

I love speed-reading stuff first, I enjoy the way my brain filters certain information "Communism's unknown victims will be [consigned] to history and remembered forever" Huh what, oh wait "Communism's unknown victims will be consecrated to history and remembered forever" that sentence makes more sense, but I think my first take was more accurate.

Oh and of course everyone knows that "without the United States, the struggle for human freedom and liberty would have been lost." Oh my aching sides, because we all know how America has been at the forefront of ensuring these things in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Discussion of the victims and crimes of communism, featuring presentations by former political prisoners
That's nice; were there slides?

Okay who's willing to bet that in 50-100 years time (when the species might have grown up a bit) America will plant a Victims of Capitalism statue next to the other one? They can feature discussions involving political prisoners from countries where the democratically elected leaders were overthrown and a dictatorship installed on the backing of the Western Powers.

Talks by villagers who had their homes bulldozed and their forests clear-cut so the West could get soft toilet paper. Exhibitions featuring dams and power stations built in areas that didn't need them, couldn't use them, and then had to clean up all the mess they caused.

Children of the time could reminisce over how they and their parents were kicked out of their homes for not paying their utility bills after the system was privatised and the prices increased by 300%.

On the plinth they could etch the number of preventable deaths that occurred in Africa due to the lack of cheap medicine.

Ah yes remember Communism - how evil it was (is).


Driving last night I found it harder and harder to switch gears. I got home and pulled up the drive got out opened the garage, got back in and found I couldn't get into first gear. Not ' a grinding of teeth' a flat could not get into gear. In the end I had to turn off the engine clamber into the driver well and physically tug the clutch cable while slamming into first. Engine on and creep forward followed by a struggle to throw it into neutral and then pushing the car manually into the garage.

Problem. How do I get the car to the repair station. Well problem sort of solved. I went down this morning and found it could get into gear. I got ready quickly, phoned the garage, groaned at the news that the road next to the Red Lion at Holt Heath was closed diverting through... Stourport (great!).

Driving along and it was getting more and more difficult to change gears so I stayed in first for most of the way, idiot f***ing drivers leaving great f***ing gaps and basically forgetting how to drive 'Oo look it's raining, better turn into a moron' Finally managed to pull the car in before the engine stalled.

So let's see how long it takes to fix.

Oh and as you might expect perfect weather for the official opening of the skate-park. How many inches of rain expected?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stourport Bridge, and floods

First up local news regarding the bridge. The word has come down that it'll be shutting on the 3rd August (Friday) and will continue to be over the weekend. That's shut down both ways. We knew it was coming and we knew it had to be over a weekend, but it's still going to be fun. Hopefully we won't get hit by anything that shuts down Bewdley or Holt Fleet or if so that the work will be postponed.

More flash flooding that I caught on the national news. The bits I latched on to were "We're next to the sea so it should have just drained into that", "The need for adequate drainage" and "New estate". Note these comments weren't from anyone official. Firstly come on government or water board or environmental agency let's have someone stand up and say "We need to take a closer look at how we handle drainage in this country". I know this is unusual weather, but saying that doesn't just blanket over what's been happening with a shrug; let's be honest at least around here the drainage can barely cope with the average downpour let alone several in succession.

Oh and is it just me or does their seem a prevalence for this sort of thing on new estates?

Oops missed this. On a final note I see more thoughts on airport security and its inconsistencies hey look I'm on a roll. GMTV had an airport security expert who pointed out the one piece of carry-on luggage was nonsensical, but then reminded viewers about the limits on liquids and how they have to be wrapped up in a clear plastic bag; why is that again? Nope don't bother explaining we all know the reason; it's those nasty terrorists and their liquid explosives. Have they caught anyone trying to smuggle liquid explosives in any form onto a plane yet? Ah see that just proves the security is working; by the way I've got this great stone for sale - repels tigers. Well do you see any tigers around at the moment?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pothole quickie

I noted yesterday that they'd repaired the series of holes along the Areley Common Dunley Road junction. Well I say repaired I mean filled-in, part of the original surface sits like a tiny island surrounded by dark tar. Shame they didn't get chance to go around to York Street where the eternal hole needs topping up again, nor to the Worcester Road island where the holes need patching again already.

There's got to be some reason for this - actual repair vs patching every month. Cost, time, disruption?

C is for Cold, Tenbury, single mums, and some other bits.

So now we get a paper saying Vitamin C has no effect on catching a cold; expect a rebuttal from another paper soon (one that is of course in no way connected to the large pharmaceutical companies that sell this stuff) Once that happens perhaps some of the companies could try suing the researchers for loss of earnings?

Poor old Tenbury Wells with yet another flash flood, this time taking a wall down. Although that may be considered a good thing. I've seen two shop owners both commenting on the fact that once the wall broke all the water disappeared into the brook. Okay so why wasn't the water doing that before; blame it on the drainage.

Thames Water want to build a desalination plant on the estuary in order to help alleviate the water shortages we've been having; here's a thought - directed drainage and more reservoirs.

Oh and a wonderful new initiative to get single mothers back to work once their kid(s) hit 12. Okay firstly they are working, and they're being paid by the government to do so (does that make them civil servants :-P). Secondly I can see this backfiring "Hmm my first child is 10, better start working on having another kid before they stop my benefits' Thirdly employers aren't exactly queuing up to take on staff that may ned to vanish at short notice because little Suzy's got a problem.

Is this some sort of back-handed attempt to reproduce the 'family' concept? Single mothers find yourself a bloke and he can go out to work? Interesting to note that only single mothers are mentioned, does this initiative not apply to single fathers?

According to my stats I've had zero visitors for some while - odd. All my fault. When I updated the template I forget to re-add in the tracking code, interesting that adding Google's own produced an XML fault. I think they need telling that you need HTML comments around bare code. Also goes to show how often I bother to check the referrals

Oh and I'm typing this is Notepad as the Compose in Firefox still runs like a tortoise due to the fantastic unturnoffable AutoSave function.

Idle thoughts - is the Werther's Original advert showing someone breaking the law? The one with the father and son in the car, they stop at a crossing and the son passes his father a sweet which he unwraps. Engine running, both hands off the wheel, and not concentrating - Driving without due care and attention?

Got to look at some of the old photos my dad had been sorting out, found one of my Nan where I didn't recognise her due to the fact she didn't look like she was sucking a lemon. Also a nice one of the two young reprobates (that's me and my cousin), which I'll see if I can borrow and scan.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wall, Cadbury's, airport security, and a young and happy me.

So coming past the other night I spot a gouge and it's corresponding chunk of brickwork taken out of the protruding wall on the bridge next to the Crown, yep the one I mentioned could do with a reflector back in November.

I see Cadbury's have been fined £1m for letting salmonella into their food. Apparently they changed the testing procedure from a zero-tolerance to an "allowable tolerance". Best snippet came from the local BBC news where the reporter quoted the judge as explaining that 'although the change wasn't initiated for monetary reasons the welcome savings it would have afforded meant it was not as thoroughly examined as it might have been' - yeah make of that what you will.

Apparently the contamination caused a child to be admitted to hospital, some serious problems in adults including causing one to loose a stone in weight… anyone else thinking of introducing this as a new weight-loss diet?

As it’s holiday time GMTV decided to give the standard lecture sorry warning about tanning and sun cream etc. this was just after the advert for fake tan that demonstrated how having a tan was a sexy and attractive thing. I was already confused by the caption when I switched on that proclaimed it was the 27th of July.

In the same vein the BBC went to Birmingham Airport to ask if people were aware of the security restrictions still in place, the answer was – sort of. Large quantities of liquids are still banned, and they still need to be stuck in a clear plastic bag. The shock was that at least lighters are now banned, not because you can set fire to things with them, but because they contain liquid – brilliant. Oh and you can’t drop off people in front of the terminal, unless you’re at Heathrow in which case you can. Good to know these things are being dealt with in a consistent manner.

Of course we all know why liquids are banned, it’s those damn terrorists plotting to use liquid explosives to blow up planes. Yep that’s a real threat. It’s interesting when you look into how all the experts agree that liquid explosives tend to be volatile (so you risk setting it off just by walking to the airport), You don’t need much to cause a problem (so the limit isn’t really useful) and besides why are you concentrating on just liquids?

So to put it bluntly it’s still bollocks, it means that it looks like security is doing something, and gets you to buy all your liquid purchases from the airport shops. You want to blow up a plane and you're determined enough to do so and posses some vague glimmer of intelligence then none of these 'security' restrictions will hinder you.

My father decided to have a week off, take my mother out to do some fun things. So apparently yesterday he got “Well I’m doing this all morning” then “Hey we need to go to [so-and-so] to sort out some financial issues”. So there went Monday and today he got “Well I’ve an appointment this morning and then we can try [so-and-so]’s again as they weren’t there yesterday” – heh no doubt tomorrow it’ll be belting it down.

Anyway this means that yesterday morning he spent a lot of time going through the old photo albums – “We’ve got lots of shots of you when you were young all happy and smiley… what happened?” Gee thanks, the answer is that as soon as I was old enough to say no and dodge out from under the camera’s gaze I did so.

Monday, July 16, 2007

So the skate-park's not officially open then?

Apparently not if this story from the Shuttle is correct. 11am on Friday hmm yeah no that's a pretty good time considering the holidays are on. So if we start from the digging on 16th April and the opening is on the 20th July we get a total of 95 days, if you want to play nice and subtract the weekends and holidays - 67 days for this.

As I was saying to someone on Saturday "Everyone is sitting on the small strip of grass between the path and the park because if you sat on the large expanse next to the bridge you wouldn't see anything" and as I noted here don't go too far over the ramp.

"Local skateboarders have designed the skate park and, therefore, it will provide for their needs."
Really? I was under the impression that they'd chosen from two designs drawn up by the same company; a little different from designing it themselves.
A skating event is being organised by the council during the summer. Youngsters will be able to watch demonstrations and get tips from one of the country's top skaters.
Excellent then afterwards they can splash about in the paddling pool. It will be interesting to see what the professionals have to say about the overall layout.

Friday the thirteenth

I'm not superstitious, I don't throw salt, cross my fingers or care about black cats. I don't walk under ladders, but that's due to an aversion of having things dropped on my head. I also don't appeal to the nature spirits by 'touching wood'. So the events on Friday were a complete coincidence.

So there I am driving along quite happily on Friday afternoon, slightly bemused by the greater then average amount of traffic, when I go to change gear and hear what can only be described as "Twong". My clutch pedal now sits slackly on the floor. "Oh not again" I manage to pull in off the road and call the AA.

Turns out to be my trunnion, or cable fastener as I would think of it. The pin has snapped at the pedal end. After much taking out of engine parts the AA guy fixes a temporary one in place. Downside is that the gear disengage is now on the floor and the bite is about a millimetre above that, makes for a jumpy ride.

I'd called my garage and told them I'd bring it in, but they didn't have a part to hand and that combined with the great long queues forming suggested home again, home again jiggity jig.

So Friday evening got a little screwed up. Saturday morning bright and early I took it down, then walked back. I had thought about going to the Steam Rally, but knowing how the universe delights in screwing with me I'm sure I'd pay to enter then get a call telling me my car was ready.

In the end it wasn't until nearly close of play in the afternoon that they call. I walked down, got slightly waylayed in a quick conversation on the way, then finally picked it up. Now I returned home by car the same route I'd walked and it took just a couple of minutes less time; relief road why do we need one of those?

Late morning on Sunday which was annoying as my mother had mentioned that she might want a lift home from somewhere; she'd call in. I rushed out to sort out some bits and bobs I'd missed on Saturday, got back looked at the time and thought "Well if I start getting some food ready now I'll just get a call in the middle of it all". Now I know my mum I'll mention it'll be a little time in picking her up because I'm doing something and she'll wonder why I'd started something in the first place knowing that she'd call.

Time approached and no call, time hit and no call. Her mobile wasn't on "Overrun" I think. Time passes and "You called me?" "Yes do you want this lift?" "Oh no your father managed to pick me up" "Oh thanks I've been sitting here like a lemon waiting" "Oh well I only said I might need a lift" <groan>

Friday, July 13, 2007

Free market and consumer choice - well one out of two's not bad

So I read that they want to prevent the labelling of meat and produce from cloned animals. Oops no sorry that's meat and produce from cloned animals should not require any special labelling. If consumers are that concerned then other producers will start to label their products accordingly.

Anyone else experiencing deja vu - GM foods, hormone injected beef? Last time this happened a company sued a distributor for labelling their own produce as GM-Free, arguing that as no special labelling requirements existed anti-labelling discriminated from other (i.e. their) produce.

Amusingly that's the tack taken here, if food is labelled as coming from cloned animals consumers will "instinctively reject it". Uh-huh so um why are you producing it? If the only way you can get people to eat it is by lying, oops omitting information then where is the incentive in producing it? Who is demanding the need for cloned food? I don't recall seeing protesters outside stores bearing placards with "We want cloned meat" or chanting "When do we want it? Now!"

Let's not stop here though. We've had a fuss kicked up by the government's traffic light scheme for foods, but only due to the fact that Tesco want to use their own system. Except why a system at all? Yesterday I showed how flakey some of these 'unhealthy' tags were isn't being forced to display this information a form of discrimination? If presented with two otherwise identical foods one of which was deemed high in salt the other low, wouldn't the consumer 'instinctively' reject the high salt one? Ditch the traffic light system, hey ditch the nutritional information altogether.

What about ingredients lists, wouldn't someone who was allergic to nuts 'instinctively' reject a product that contained them and favour one that didn't. Isn't that a bias?

Origin information! Shouldn't we prevent foods (and indeed all products) from displaying a mark of origin? Couldn't that be deemed an artificial barrier to foreign products, wouldn't a consumer be more likely to pick a home-produced item over an otherwise identical foreign one?

I'm exaggerating of course; well sort of. The point being is that labelling provides the information required by the consumer to make a decision about what to purchase and sadly in this legalistic nightmare saying that something doesn't require labelling can be construed as labelling regarding this subject is not allowed at all. Unless it is specifically pointed out that other producers can label their products as clone-free (provided they are) that's the tack that may be taken.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tax the fatties.

So they now want to tax unhealthy foods. Okay define unhealthy. High in sugar, high in fat, high in salt? High compared to what? I've already mentioned the joke that was Stilton having to be marked high in salt. Yeah I just sit down and eat a whole block of that.

But why do we need to tax these foods anyway? Weight and health issues. People eat these foods and get unhealthy and overweight. Okay now define healthy and overweight. Being able to do X push-ups, run Y metres? Weighing a certain proportion more then your height. Texas gives a good definition

Overweight refers to increased body weight in relation to height, when compared to some standard of acceptable or desirable weight.
Some standard?
Desirable weight standards are derived in a number of ways:
  • By using a mathematical formula known as Body Mass Index (BMI), which represents weight levels associated with the lowest overall risk to health. Desirable BMI levels may vary with age.
  • By using actual heights and weights measured and collected on people who are representative of the U.S. population by the National Center for Health Statistics. Other desirable weight tables have been created by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, based on their client populations.
Except just previous to that it states that BMI for athletes may register them as overweight due to increased muscle mass. What about the second point? Well all that does is collect data on the population it doesn't actually tell you what is or isn't a desirable weight somebody has to decide that based on um... er... eeny meeny miny mo? Ah but insurance tables, those are fine aren't they?
One look at the charts will make it obvious that there simply is no consensus as to what "ideal body weight" should be. In reality, it is actually different for every individual and is dependent on health, body fat content and distribution, musculature, age, activity, metabolism, and a host of other factors that are not simple to measure accurately.
So here we have one standard that may not be applicable to you another 'standard' that, well, isn't and a bunch of tables that don't give a consensus opinion.

Oops we have a problem; not to worry let's look at health.

You know those exercise weights, the ones you clamp around your waist and legs; people who weight more then you do those exercises all the time just by moving around. So wouldn't that make them fitter? Their muscles have to move that weight, their bones have to support it, and their heart has to pump that blood around. If it wasn't doing that they'd be unable to move.

Ah but it's that fat building up, all that cholesterol; want to know about that read this. So fat isn't necessarily bad, in fact we need it just as we need salt and sugar; in fact a deficiency could be worse then an excess. To paraphrase a character in "Fat" by Rob Grant -
"Those workers will secrete about 25g of salt, the RDA is 6g. So if they were forced to stick to the RDA they'd start to have health problems and could die."
We know this! We see it every year during the London Marathon; the runners have to replenish the liquids and minerals they sweat. Want to bet they're getting more then their RDA?

So let's see what we've got here - a tax on foods that have been defined as unhealthy due to the fact they contain substances that in excess may cause health problems such as increased weight which in fact may not be unhealthy (and for which we have no overall definition of anyway) or other health problems for which these substances may not in fact be the sole cause or major contributor towards.

Hell I'm convinced.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shock and horror

So I read that train fares are liable to go up after the government decision to slash subsidies. That's appalling news... the government still subsidises the train companies. The entire point of privatisation was to stop government funding; businesses could innovate, acquire funding, and compete; thus providing a better service for the public. Now where was I reading something about some company's profits equalling that of the subsidises received?

Due to a pension deficit Bank of England employees may only be able to retire at 65 and only receive a pension in relation to the average of their entire working wages. Poor souls of course they still don't have to contribute towards the pension fund itself and for those parachuted into the top spots that 'average wage' isn't going to be a big deal.

Apparently we have a bit of a housing crisis on our hands - no really? So more limits on buy-to-let as recommended in the NHPUA report nope the answer is to build new and cheaper houses. Um cheaper? So instead of 6x annual wage they'll be 5x instead? Hey that would be cheaper. Being debated today and the big question will be where they'll be built... I'm sure there are plenty of undeveloped flood plains left around the country.

A council has decided to reserve some spaces in a car-park for older people, that's exactly what it says on the sign shown on TV this morning. Older people? Well I'm older then my cousins so presumably I can park there. Or do they mean older then average? Well average age in the UK is just under 39; damn not quite there yet.

Amazingly I've got the photos of the completed(?) skate-park up on Flickr. I was also invited to post some pictures to the Making Cycling Dangerous pool. Not many pictures as yet but I think Dan H might be interested in taking a look.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scratching my head

So we're often told that the UK holds the top spot in number of teenage pregnancies; so what's the question on GMTV this morning... Are morning-after pills too easy to get hold off?

See 11-year olds' are getting them without their parents knowledge and this is obviously bad...um. So now I address these parents - think back when you first had sex did you go to your parents and tell them? Would you wanted them to know? How do you think they would have reacted? Perhaps you're under the strange impression that if these pills weren't available you're daughter wouldn't be having sex... take a look at that first sentence again.

Here's the choice - prevent sex (good luck); maintain our uncoveted top spot in the pregnancy chart; or let whoever wants to get access to these pills.

It's not perfect; it may not be a long term solution, but it may just work at the moment.

One shiny new laptop (not mine) with Vista Ultimate and Windows Defender is blocking some start-up programs. They're fine to run so how do I stop this from constantly popping up on every boot - remove the offenders from the start-up menu. Um no I want them to start just without the warnings. Tough. Oh and 19 updates of which only 17 could get installed as it needed a reboot; then the last 2 could install.

Perhaps the latest version of Defender will help - update says nothing to update. I check the version, I check the version available online and they're not the same. So there's an update then? Nope. Er?

I take a look at the gadgets. Click here for feed update - okay.... Nothing. Oops silly me not on the internet and um not subscribed to any feeds either. So why did it ask to update? So one BBC news feed later and um the gadget is stuck. Options and cancel and it updates oookay.

Gee is Linux gaining market-share I can't think why.

As for the laptop itself it's from Rock, I've got the optional built-in web camera so I click on the icon marked WebCam nothing. Check the manual...ah I have to press Fn+F10 to power-up the camera, okay nice security feature but give it an icon on the keyboard? Same with Bluetooth Fn+F12

The sound's a bit tinny- manual... Ah I can change it using the driver control panel which hasn't been installed it's just the default Microsoft one. Installation was fine one reboot later and the CD-burning software now complains about a conflict <sigh> Vista recommends I visit a certain page which provides me with a patch (so well done Vista)

Oops installing a cable driver causes a blue screen, then Vista won't start. No problem I'll use a System Restore Point; there are none! Fortunately Vista coaxes back to life I check why no points have been created and find it set to recover a disk that's not installed - bravo Rock.

Outlook 2002 keeps asking for a password every time it starts apparently because it's using a feature that Microsoft no longer support; come on 2002 isn't that old a piece of software there are only two more later ones.

Well it's not mine and the basics work so that's it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Bye-bye Fopp, and a cycle path oddity.

Fopp was all shuttered-up last Saturday and all shuttered this Saturday. As this is the Roland hill my thoughts first turned to the Café Pacifico rent increase fun. Except it's not - RIP Fopp the title says it all. So Kidderminster is back down to WH Smith and Woolworths for its music and video needs. I was going to say quirky music and video needs except of course neither of those two stores do quirky. Damn! And they're gone not because they're not making a profit, but because they can't get the investment. Major major suckage. Well the store's all done out, perhaps we're get an HMV or a Virgin expressing an interest.

This took a few passes to process, I'm talking about the cycle lane from Kidderminster to Stourport along the main duel-carriageway.

First pass - They've split it into two, why are they using tactile paving? Is it for pedestrians?
Second pass - They've made a right mess of that it's not even straight.
Third pass - That's not tactile paving.

It's easy enough to do - you're digging up a cycle path laid out in a dark maroon colour and you refill and pave it in what appears to be salmon pink. I mean the colours are so close to identical you'd hardly notice it, especially when driving past at 40mph...

I wanted to get some shots on Sunday, but time flew away from me. Seriously though who the hell did this? Who signed off on it? We're not talking about a subtle change such as the paving in High Street we're talking bold stripes. It's completely different, it's not even close and, better yet due to the work done, it's not even confined to a straight path. It meanders along, cuts across, and juts out at odd square angles.

On the third pass, I paid more attention as I went along and was a bit surprised when I got to the end at St Johns Road. The maroon top coating appeared to be worn and peeling away (I need to get a closer inspection) in a similar fashion to High Street. I found this a touch worrying; this is a cycle path. Unlike High Street which has a high number of heavy motor vehicles travelling along it this path should experience only bicycles and pedestrians. So how could the surface be wearing away?

Now I recall that Jim said he might take a look and try out his new camera, he didn't even know there was a cycle path there. Well he is new to the area and it isn't exactly well sign-posted. What seems to shock people is that there's a pedestrian path too, there's a grass verge between it and the cycle path then another verge and then the road. Never ever cleared so everyone walks on the cycle path, which as I say isn't well posted as such so that might confuse cyclists into believing it to be a regular pedestrian path.

Margaret Hill, bits and bobs, skate-park, and new houses

Let's start with some good news three-year-old Margaret Hill has been returned home. I attribute this to the non-stop media coverage, top story on all the TV channels, her picture on the front-page of every paper, leaflets, and of course celebrities coming forward to help the cause. Oops sorry no that's Madeleine, easy mistake to make they look so alike.

"Unhealty appetites" said the GMTV tagline, you'd think they'd get a system with a spell-checker. Amazingly the number of pupils taking school dinners has dropped since the introduction of an all 'healthy' menu <gasp> could it be they don't like the food? Uptake however is higher on younger pupils perhaps as they haven't been raised on the other stuff.

The British Grand Prix claimed their extra security was "Successful". Searches of people and extra CCTV cameras were initiated after the bombing incidents. So successful? They caught some people sneaking bombs in then - no. So this extra security foiled an attempted or planned incident - no? Um so they managed to search people and get the extra cameras working - yes. Congratulations you've hired a company that managed to do its job, something that should definitely be crowed over.

Adverts - Some driver for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 racing is promoting the fact that Abbey is part of the Santander Group - ookay want to see if you can pack any more names into that advert?

Dove have re-engineered their advert (read shortened) and guess which bit they've cut out... yep "My boyfriend nicks mine". Nice!

Completely unbiased phone-in question from the Daily Express

"Should the cowardly looters and cowboy builders be jailed?"
Um well looting is illegal, and poor building work may well be a civil matter, so what are you asking again? Of course we shouldn't ask "Should insurance companies be allowed to increase the premiums on the houses that were flooded?" or "Should reputable builders be able to charge twice as much as they would normally due to the high demand they're in?" Free market kiddo; suck it up.

It appears the new skate-park in Stourport is open. I had wondered when Suzie had mentioned taking her son to it, but yes the gates were open and the mud covered in grass tiles (photos uploading as per) although I believe that last phase only occurred on Friday. It was being used and the grass tiles are already falling off.

I only got the shuttle on Friday so had no time to visit the British Legion to see the new housing development then, as per usual it was also being held on Saturday. Amazingly up until 5pm! So I managed to pop along. Poor signing pointed to an open door blocked by a stack of chairs next to an apparently closed door while the main entrance had no signs to direct you internally. A standard three panel exhibition board with three posters on it Tav has a version of the main plot here I have a photo of it complete with key.

Okay no prices as yet although some of it's going to be sustainable housing "So what price is sustainable?" - "I don't know" As you might expect concerns about the road structure were high on the list. It appears that Arab Investments have taken over the building of the Discovery Road bridge (one less carrot for Tesco to dangle), but they're also talking about making Lichfield Street one-way - "But which way?" - "We don't know yet"

Talk was directed about the schools and hospital, to put it bluntly have we the infrastructure to cope with yet another housing estate? "That's a council matter". What about the roads leading into the estate "That's a council matter" - "Well yeah, but they're more likely to listen to you then us if you say 'If we do this then that will be a problem' they're more likely to fix 'that'" - "Hmmm"

The one guy was very knowledgeable, I threw a few things at him which he caught with ease and even spotted my deliberate 'common knowledge' mistake and corrected it - so bravo.

As for the plans themselves - not bad. The buildings are old-style brick, the layout looks reasonable, and they say they're going to do some "massive civil engineering" works to bring the drainage and sewerage up to scratch. I'm still not convinced about the traffic levels, and a projection view would have been nice as well as the plan.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Last minute plans

"It'll only take half-an-hour"
"Uh-huh" That means it'll take an hour.
-hour and a half later-
"I thought it'd only take an hour"

So one bed, two wardrobes, one chest of drawers, an oven, and five trips over the bridge in Friday afternoon traffic and we're done.

Having shifted the wooden stuff and just about to start back for the oven I stop and sniff the air "Water", "You can smell water?", "Uh-huh it's about to rain", "Figures now we're going to shift something electrical". Fortunately it started as we left and finished when we arrived, which also goes to show how bloody long it took to get back over the bridge.

Oven in the other car and the chest of drawers squeezed into the back of my teeny one, I'm sitting like a little old man hunched forward peering through the windscreen as if I'm Mr Magoo. I can't sit back because my knees would interfere with the steering wheel and I realise I can't see the instrumentation on my dash so I've no idea what speed I'm doing. Not a problem as we're not moving anyway the town's jammed up and we're all doing our arthritic snail impression.

Finally finish, unload, uncrick my back and get something to bloody eat. Oh no we couldn't have done this in the wee hours tomorrow <sigh>

Lousy night, a lousy advert, and the Simpsons

So stuck in a queue watching my petrol gauge and wondering if my low-fuel light had bust. Of course it's raining and everyone seems to have forgotten how to drive. Sure drive a bit slower, leave a longer gap; but don't get overtaken by snails or leave a strip long enough for a 747 to land in.

Anyway the light flickered so I know it's working and how much I've got left; plenty to get to a station a bit later.

Keeping an eye out for a phone call I get one I'm not expecting -

"We've got the transport sorted out to pick up the stuff, but we could do with a hand loading it"
"Tomorrow" bear in mind this is eight o'clock at night
"Ookay what time?
"Can you get an hour off after lunch"
"Or before lunch... or it might be during lunch we're not quite sure yet"
"I can let you know about eleven tomorrow"

Wonderful, thanks for that level of notice.

Then cleaning my glasses the right nose support splits in two, luckily they're still wearable, and I've got a spare pair; so that's another job for Saturday on the list.

Caught the latest advert from Curry's where they're making a big fuss about how they'll delivery, install, and remove and recycle your old white goods for free. Wow so Curry's are doing what every smaller retailer has down since time immemorial, but they'll also be picking up and recycling your old goods too. How nice and it's not even as if they're obliged by law to do that. I'm debating whether to contact the ASA about misleading customers into believing this is some sort of special service.

So Channel 4 have come full circle and we're back to showing first season Simpsons at 6pm weekdays. Except on Sunday we get two 'new' episodes starting at 3:50pm. So we appear to be cycling seasons 1-8 on weekdays, but are being shown season 14 on Sundays. Okay that makes so much sense.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Roads, fires and blockages

So we had a fire in Kidderminster on Sunday which caused a problem for Tav getting to the Glades reading about the route and thinking about it he's correct. With the Coventry Street end of Bromsgrove Street closed you have zero legal access to the Glades, the open car-park, the Youth Centre, delivery to the back of some of the stores; all closed off.

So what you might think, one-way systems exist everywhere. Except Bromsgrove Street isn't one-way it's two-way. The two-way system is essentially capped at either end by Coventry Street and the Glades, but you can turn left out of the Glades onto Prospect Hill which joins Bromsgrove Street and that's one-way.

Again so what that's effectively the same thing, well take a look at the map and see what else gets closed off. Despite the fact you can get around any blockage by entering from the other side of town that entire section of road system is cut off due to the one-way system.

As happens this led to a discussion about how the town is split, you can't get from the Weavers Wharf/Bull Ring side to the Tesco/New Street side by car except by looping around the whole town. Fine if like me you tend to pick things up piecemeal; lousy for bulk shoppers or combination bulk shoppers/browsers.

After the fire (Monday) the usual people were called in to do the boarding-up. They came, started, and almost finished when a fire engine pulled up. Now this isn't the old police joke of turning up 24-hours late to a call, oh no, they'd come to put out a fire in the building. Yep it was on fire again, so all the boarding had to come back down to allow access to the fire-crew. Anyone know the Health and Safety stance on the boarding up of buildings on fire? So either this was a separate fire that got started or a hot-spot reignited. Now in the case of the former how did it start and in the case of the latter who released the building originally?

On the subject of blockages, driving through Bridge Street I came to a halt next tot he pedestrian crossing. The gap between the car in front and the end of the crossing wasn't large enough for me to fit without straddling it, so I stopped before it. The car moved and the gap became large enough, I moved forward; the car behind me also moves forward right behind me. The lights change and the people can't cross as the car behind me is blocking the crossing. They edge round as the lights beep, we all move forward about two cars and the lights behind me change again (have I mentioned that the timing is seriously frigged on these things)

Take two - I heading for a right-hand turn into a junction that has its own slip-road. There's a low van waiting at the junction to turn right. Nothing coming at me so normally I'd slow down and let him cross in front of me, except I've a van behind me so he wouldn't have time to pull out. As I'm pulling across him to turn, two people and a dog decide to cross the road behind him, his side to mine.

Now I can't complete my turn because the pedestrians are on the road (oh and the van that would have stopped him pulling out decided to follow me), but where have they gone? I pull forward a touch and see them standing hidden behind this low van waiting for me to turn, except they're standing behind the van and the damn dog is on its leash a third of the way across the lane I want.

I look at them, they look at me, not a thought of the dog seems to cross their minds and he even waves me across. So I pull a wide right and manage to get past the dog.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll be saying it again - I just don't get some people.

Oh and an update from Jim on his car stereo turns out the reason it wasn't playing MP3 CDs was because it doesn't play MP3 CDs. The sticker saying it did was put on by default at the factory. So a round of applause there.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Translation, and degrees of harshness.

So stuck behind a lorry I spy a logo comprising of a laurel wreath with the phrase "In estor in people", which of course I tried to translate from the Latin... Be upon the people? Odd phrase, at which point it clicked that "people" isn't Latin and a "v" had been scrubbed out.

Flicking through the news I spot that President Bush has commuted the sentence of Libby Lewis. For those who don't recall Lewis was sentenced to 30 months in jail, a $250,000 fine and 2 years supervised release for perjury. Bush has kicked out the 30 months jail time. Now while the 30 months may seem excessive for a perjury case it must be recalled what the case was regarding. This wasn't a "I was driving the vehicle your honour and not the Vice-President when it was speeding" oh no this was lying to the FBI and a grand jury regarding a national security matter.

This was impeding the functions of government in its duties of watching itself. So Bush sends the message that this is alright and that it's fine to lie (perhaps also cheat and steal) provided you do so on behalf of those in power.

Contrast this with the latest from Prime Minister Brown who has limited the power of the Attorney General to direct prosecutors in individual cases, so the AG can no longer decide whether there were to be charges in a case like the cash-for-honours affair. In other words she wouldn't have any (or as much) say over any case brought against fellow members of her own government.

NHS Crackdown, Kiddy CCTV and a new companion for the Doctor

So seven out of eight of the terror suspects had links to the NHS, well we know what to do don't we? We need to come down hard on this obvious terrorist organisation, initiate bank checks to stop their funding and break up this insidious terror network. They're so blatant they even list themselves in the phone book, which should give the intelligence services a big helping hand in the ensuing crackdown.

Expect mass raids on hospitals and surgeries across the country and the confiscation of scalpels, oxygen cylinders and other nefarious devices soon.

I was going to mention this yesterday, but didn't get around to it. Kidderminster got a mention on Crimewatch with them showing some CCTV footage of a suspected purse snatcher. Now compare the still shot from the Crimewatch site to the one on the Shuttle site. The Crimewatch shot could be anyone and what a useless pose - out of proportion and indistinguishable; the Shuttle's on the other hand is far better.

And it is with sad news that the BBC has confirmed that Catherine Tate is to be the Doctor's new companion. Sorry I just didn't like her character in the Runaway Bride and she's just too well known a figure; we'll all be waiting for her to pop out an "Am I bovvered". Bring back Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan) instead.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rattling the cage

So once again the Register goes out of its way to put out stupidity and out-and-out scaremongering.

So the 'bomb' in London couldn't have detonated, and as we know the Glasgow incident was a car on fire and an occupant attempting to do the same. Loss of life possible, but hardly a 9/11 or 7/7.

And yet security gets increased. Forgive me, but I don't think anyone is going to try anything while there are police walking around with guns and itchy trigger fingers; no they'll wait until the security level decreases and they all leave. So we should be operating at this level all the time? Of course we can't - it costs too much.

Meanwhile we're still being forced into checking liquids in clear containers on flights and relinquishing anything as dangerous as knitting needles and pool cues when the chances of these being used in anything that could be considered dangerous is virtually nil (again the hijackers didn't take over using screwdrivers, they used plastic knives and box cutters) while matches and lighters are fine and dandy.

Oh and don't forget to take off your shoes, oh yes knowing that's a requirement I'm sure to hide my explosive in them and not hide it under a turban, a burkha or some other item of clothing I'm not going to be asked to remove.

I'm also sure every member of staff has been through a rigorous screening and are subject to the same security checks as the passengers. Place your bets?

No stop asking questions just be scared; the bogeyman is out to get YOU!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Time goes by.

It's Bratus Major's 11th birthday, he's currently into Doctor Who and a watch I'd bought him a couple of birthday's back has bust. Lightbulbs flash - a Doctor Who watch! Start with the monkey way; Woolworths - none, Argos - none. Ditch the physical go for the mental and the granddaddy of them all; Amazon - seven. Only three being available Time to head for the source; BBC - one. One! Okay back to Amazon

An interchangeable head version, where I can guarantee that at least one of the faces will disappear a hour after unwrapping, and look at the heads pathetic; a triangular Dalek one, which isn't the flashest of items; and a Talking Dalek version which I think is a little childish for an 11 year old.

Am I the only one who can see this for the missed opportunity it is? Anyway I got him a Tardis money box and a Sonic Screwdriver set for my parents.

Speaking of the Doctor we reach the season finale and what a waste of time that was. Deus ex machina, a by-the-way that was so tacked on as to be insulting, and an ending which had me echoing the Doctor's "What?" though I added "The Tardis doesn't work that way".

14:20 and 92.3, 14:29 and 92.6 so three-tenths of a mile in nine minutes or a whopping 2mph over the bridge into town on Saturday. Yee ha! This morning was a bit better although 'Those pretty yellow lights on the side of your car aren't optional extras'. Yep stopped for two cars going straight on at the island from York Street who promptly turned left. Then this afternoon we all got jammed when someone wanted to turn right and couldn't through the queue; my opposite number had a gap in front of her you could have parked a double-decker in, but wasn't inclined to move until her lights went green. Oh and yet another 'Walk past the crossing points at the end of Vale Road then try to run across three lanes' nice one lady seeing as you were going from lane one to three and I was doing the same you almost ended up squished.

I really don't get these people I really don't.

Onto the bombings or attempted bombings anyway, the news this morning seemed pretty coherent. None of the suspects were Asian or Muslim except two were Asian and they think it's Al-Qaeda related. One was Iranian or Jordanian, or possibly Lebanese. GMTV had two reporters in Glasgow, three in London and one is Staffordshire. Nobody seemed to have anyone in Liverpool - makes sense a remote van sent there would have its wheels gone before it stopped moving. I'm joking, I'm joking.

So seeing as all these attempts involved cars, the police are keeping them away from the boarding areas and trickling pedestrians into the airport. Of course this means large crowds of people forming outside the airports just ripe to be taken out by a lone suicide bomber.

So a new Prime Minister who happens to be Scottish and two car-bombs and an attempt on Glasgow airport - coincidence?