Friday, August 31, 2007

Stourport Carnival

So Stourport Carnival tomorrow, barring the unforeseen I'll be there snapping away. My aim is to try and get everyone present in at least one photograph clearly; so for those participating they'll be at least one record if they want it (and can find it). Hopefully a gig and half of storage space will suffice, along with three sets of batteries. I'm debating whether I'll need more storage there's a definitely lack of supplies in Stourport I'm hoping WH Smith or Woolworths will meet any emergency needs.

Last week's Shuttle had a preview and a full page spread showing the route and detailing the events taking place on the field, I don't recall any mention of the actual date other then "Saturday" so anybody new in town that showed up on the 26th will hopefully now know when it is.

A better and more recent article from the Shuttle asks that money not be thrown onto the floats, no doubt that old bugbear Health and Safety raising it's head. It's also worth noting the throwaway line regarding the Riverside Meadow that "Entry is free over both days" well done.

In the same article I note a sarcy comment about the bunting... oh wait that'll be my sarcy comment. Everyone bring their hands together and applaud Worcestershire County Council for granting a scaffolding licence for the old Jobcentre situated at the crossroads of the main processional route, thus narrowing down the only decent bit of pavement there is to stand on and providing an exciting new obstruction for people.

Signs have been up on the main roads detailing their closure from 12:00-15:00, although making the dates and times a little larger would have been my preference. Seriously you're trying to inform to car drivers who are heading towards these at 30-odd mph so why choose letter sizes that are better suited towards pedestrians? 'Saturday 1st September ROAD CLOSING 12:00-15:00 due to Carnival' how difficult is that, they managed something like it for the actual road works that have been going on.

Anyway I'll definitely get to the illuminated river parade and the fireworks which I missed last year, so more fun with night photography.

Update? A skip lorry on the York Street corner of High Street looking like it wanted to do a drop-off; hmm no Skip licence though. Heh the Excel spreadsheet is fun though.

Ponderings and annoyances

A car turns into a junction then pulls up on the side of the road blocking the lane, a guy gets out and opens the bonnet and peers inside; hey it happens and it's not as if we can predict when and where. But what if I told you that just in front of this car was an empty lay-by?

A car with a re-jigged numberplate with the letters and numbers squashed to make a word. I can guess what it was supposed to be, but my first pass was JERK.

A perfectly formed child-sized bare footprint in the dust of the rear-windscreen of a 4x4 hatchback?

Two older couples trying to cross the road outside the factory shop and looking aggrieved when not once, but twice the traffic out of town was halted and a car stopped directly across where they wanted to cross thus blocking their way. Did I mention that they were trying to cross between two parked cars? Did I mention that one of the vehicles was a van on the flow side? Did I mention that at both times the other lane had continuously free-flowing traffic? Finally did I mention the pedestrian crossing situated just to the other side of the aforementioned van?

The name of Nissan's new car which I keep wanting to call a QashQow.

Oil of Olay's endorsement by a "Celebrity Beauty Editor". What is a celebrity beauty editor; a beauty editor that's a celebrity or a editor of celebrity beauty? Most likely the latter, but what a narrow field and besides what's the difference between celebrity beauty and non-celebrity beauty? I'm guessing the money, but what picture does that paint for the advert - 'Hi celebrities can afford much more expensive things then you the unwashed masses, but they still use this product; and it's nothing to do with the fact they get a truck-load delivered free just so we can say they use it'

The Kellogg's short infomercial this morning featuring Philippa Forrester promoting the properties of eating breakfast that avoided any mention of the company, ignoring the splash at the end or the carefully placed cereals on the counter she walks past. This is then followed by a Kellogg's Corn Flakes advert, a Kellogg's Special K Sustain advert, a Kellogg's Coco Pops Creations advert, a Kellogg's Special K advert, then finally a Kellogg's Frosties advert - subtle.

Interviews with some of the actors in Heroes on various channels, 08:30, 08:45, 10:00... hey - work! Some of us can't hang around all morning. Anyone suggesting recording these should realise that these times are approximate and I'm not going to record an hour of each channel in order to catch what will probably be a five-minute interview half of which will be taken up with clips from the show. it's simply not worth the hassle.

Additional - The substitution of the word small for young "When I was small I wanted to be a fireman", "Oh was there a height requirement?"

As an aside to Mike I wrote these down while I was still thinking about them, then lost the piece of paper. So that might be worth bearing in mind when you work out your system ;-)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hello Autumn?

Tupperware sky, light drizzle and the smell of burning organic products (my neighbour having a bonfire, wood with some leaves by the smell). This is my weather and I love it; in fact if it wasn't for the sexual connotation I'd say it turned me on - all dials to 11, all switches flipped, turbines to power.

Tim and Brian were sharing thoughts on Moon/night photography over on p.o.t. and some of it must have stuck enough for me to notice the bright shiny sphere in the sky. So no tripod and no remote shutter and trying to take long exposures - heh.

More fun in that I only had one clear vantage point; down on the ground and I've got a street-light in shot, go to the room with some space for me to work and I've got tree. So only one option for me and laughingly only one angle to use crammed into a corner.

One makeshift tripod to raise the camera, otherwise known as a stack of books, and a folded magazine to create the angle. Damn window wouldn't open wide enough to clear the shot so the first few I had to take through it resulting in a reflection. Well at least one came out okay I think.

Doing this I discover the need for a remote shutter, press the button and you move the camera. On a makeshift system that resulted in the camera occasionally sliding off the magazine, which isn't good; at the least the camera would shake slightly resulting in blurs for a long exposure. Ah a solution presented itself - the self-timer. Set to two seconds I could press the button, it would settle back into position then open the shutter. By this time the Moon had started to move behind the trees and I realised that I could now have the window open so a few more shots.

Not as good a camera as either Tim's or Brian's, but I don't think they're that bad.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Smoking causes what now?

Well we're used to the Smoking Kills, apparently we're now going to get Smoking causes fatal lung cancer. Now I've kind of let the first one go, after all everyone who smokes dies, but then again everyone who drinks dies, everyone who lives dies - Life Kills.

So why the bee in my bonnet? Because I have a problem with "causes". To demonstrate here's another little statistic - the bald men have more testosterone in their system then others. So high levels of testosterone causes baldness? Well possibly, first you have to look at the opposite - baldness causes high testosterone levels? Shave someone's head and measure their levels - no increase so nope.

Maybe it's not the high levels maybe it's simply linked to something else? Again testable, percentage of bald men with high levels vs percentage of bald men without high levels, then percentage of bald men with high levels vs percentage of hirsute men with high levels.

You can see it's complicated.

So let's go back to the "Smoking causes fatal lung cancer" while looking at the tests we did for baldness.

This is difficult, you can look at the ASH website or the Cancer Research UK site for hard statistics and find nothing except links to other publications which are normally only abstracts (if online at all). There are some figures though so let's have a look.

For 2002 there were 37,700 new cases of lung cancer. Only 1 in 100 are people under 40, the majority are over 60. That's interesting if smoking does cause fatal lung cancer it seems to be a delayed response possibly cumulative. So if our hypothesis is correct we'd expect the number of lung cancer sufferers to be smokers. Well Cancer Research states

Around 90% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by tobacco smoking
But that's cart before horse and will you look at that I can't find a single statistic on their site that explicitly shows the percentage of smokers with lung cancer.

So here's another hypothesis - the risk of lung cancer simply increases with age. If those 1 in 100 under 40's are all smokers (or the majority) then we might have a causal link, otherwise we need the numbers for the 90 in 100 broken down for smokers and non-smokers; nope not going to get that. Okay let's assume that the majority are smokers, does that give us a link? Well no, now we have to do a comparison between overall numbers of smokers and non-smokers of that age. Well the chart links to a 404 so I'm having to estimate.

Looking at 40 year olds and assuming they started at age 18 then around 1980 around 40% of the adult population was smoking. Looking at 60 year olds around 1970 we get about 50%. So if smoking causes lung cancer and assuming that the same percentage of 60 year olds to 40 year olds started at age 18 and continued smoking up to 2002 then we'd expect about a 10 % difference between the numbers of lung cancer sufferers of those ages. (yes lots of assumptions I'm afraid)

Per 10,000 for 40 year olds around 6.6; 60 year olds - about 138. Ouch that's a big difference.

But what about that 1950's report where they compared 1,300 smokers vs 1,300 non-smokers, the smokers had an increase in lung cancer rates that's pretty conclusive isn't it? Well sure, but now ask why were these people smoking. Were they under stress, in situations that might cause them to want to smoke? You could say that people who smoked also drank alcohol, maybe it's the combination that causes problems?

Okay I'm not saying there is no link between smoking and lung cancer what I'm trying to show is that it's more complicated then the simple slogan on the side of a packet. Smoking causes fatal lung cancer? Smoking may increase the chances of fatal lung cancer in later life; not as punchy though.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bank holiday resolution

So my resolve in 'don't drive through Stourport on a Bank Holiday afternoon' apparently paid off. I've heard how all the Riverside car-parks were filled up causing joy to spread through the town's roads. Hmm let's see Bank holiday weekend, a show on the Riverside Meadow, and the first (predicted) decent good weather in a while. I'd be guessing at a few visitors.

Some uploaded photos to my friend Flickr. At last I managed some shots of the two-tone cycle lane running along the dual-carriageway, to be honest you'd have to be a pedant to see the different in colour
See hardly noticeable unless you're close up.

Some shots of the patchwork job on the The Spinney, some horsies, and a great shot of a dragonfly which as you might expect I didn't take as all mine come out blurred - bastard ;-)

On the online link front Dan's posted a review on Ghost in the Shell: SAC, Orphi's trying to get MathML to work, and I don't know if Mike's going to post those pictures of his baby son on his site though they make me want to have a kid (almost).

Another lost reader for the Daily Express

So my father has finally got sick of the Daily Express. I know it's 'silly season', but a fortnight of split front pages between Diana and Madeline have, after many years as a loyal reader, driven him to look elsewhere.

It's been long in coming, the Express has been shifting tack and sailing close to Daily Mail waters so much so that it became a regular feature on Mail Watch in June 2005. Anyway I get asked what else he can read. The Mail is bargepole territory and The Sun and The Mirror flaming bargepoles, so as an answer I quickly go for The Guardian, The Independent and The Observer.

Apparently the verdict was "They're a bit wordy aren't they" and it's true if you've been with the Express for some time the change in presentation can be a bit daunting, but content-wise they should act like a breath of fresh-air.

Anyway I thought he'd like The Guardian as they seem to happily refer to the Conservative party as "Tories", a term you'd rarely hear the actual party use as it was an insult dating back to the 17th Century and meant Irish Bandits or Irish bog dweller, but the cry was "There's a lot to it isn't there" referring to its multi-part nature.

I think he's going to try for The Observer today as he couldn't get one tomorrow I'm sure at some point I'll find out what he thinks of that.

Continuing the Orange saga

For those joining in the middle of this story in the beginning was this, which led to this. Now we continue with

We have checked the sender code user of 85233 and can confirm that they are a known download company.

It confirms on our systems, that the only way to receive alerts from this company, are to initiated from the handset by sending a text to the advertised shortcode.

I trust the above information is useful.
Huh? Yes I know they're a download company they told me (eventually) who they were. Check out that second paragraph, now does that mean that I won't get charged for texts unless I send one back, or that I would only be getting these messages because I've 'opted-in' to something?

Back goes another questioning email.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Perhaps why all government IT projects fail.

A variety of threads pulling to one source the previously mentioned letter and an article in the Shuttle; all link to the transport hub of WCC. The hub page itself isn't too bad barring some of the worcester-centric nature of where they're linking to.

Also a little heavy on the bureaucratic form filling - how do you report a problem with traffic lights, click on the lights? Nope that's an application form to put some up. go to the home and you can see clear links to report a problem with street lights; or highways, which includes non-electrical signs; but nothing else.

Anyway on to the report a pothole page. Oo a definition of a pothole.

Potholes or edge failure 200mm diameter x 40 mm deep
For me that's a handspan and thumb deep So what about long gouges can I report them using this form, how about subsidence of existing potholes? In other words can I report pothole precursors so they can be fixed before they actually might cause a problem?

Onto the report form, which seems to take an age to finish loading despite the page appearing fully rendered. Where to start hmm how about the address
eshop? I'm not buying anything and what's with all those displayed parameters have you not heard of session parameters; oh and I'm not in Malvern nor am I logged in

Purely in the spirit of research I reversed the logic which had the startling effect of apparently altering nothing. I also switched the "Register" address to 0 or 2 which took me to a login timeout page.

The "Login" address which passes on the same parameters, which again appear to do nothing when changed, tells me that the service requires me to log in and provides me with the fields to do so... yes that would be why I'd pressed the log in button; there's nothing like a standardised page to lift the spirits.

Anyway back to the pothole report form, but hey it's not - it's a Defect Report form. So maybe I can report potential problems, oh goody. Hmm the default locality is Worcester City so what's with the passed Malvern parameter?

Section 4
Please do not complete this section - after you submit your report to the Highways Dept this will be used to provide status updates. You will need to login to be able to view these.
...they're using fields you have access to for status details? Oh dear; oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Local bits and bobs

A good dose of fresh air last night and this afternoon left me thinking of the sea-side, well we always have the water and the seagulls, but in this case it was the heady aroma of horse/donkey dung, amazing the associations our brains make.

Work opposite OGL continues, I really do need to get down there for some photos before they actually erect something. I had planned for another look at Millfields on Saturday so hopefully I'll swing by.

I should have mentioned the scaffolding now in place around the old Jobcentre that went up last week and now there's now a shiny banner too; Premier Homes I think.
[Update 24/8 Premier Scaffolding]
Might just be working on the flats rather then the potential restaurant at the moment.

The squared York Street pothole seems to be holding up so far, the quick-fill jobbies on Areley Common, Dunley Road and Worcester Road are starting to sink though.

The work on Wilden Lane may be having an affect on businesses on the wrong side of the divide from the Industrial Estate, with rumours that some might just shut down for the remaining time. The distances involved are hardly daunting, yet I suppose it shows the reliance on cars these days that it can make such a difference.

Enemies of Reason Part 2

or as it could have been subtitled "Shooting fish in a barrel". Joy's to be had in watching someone explaining DNA to an evolutionary biologist oh and 'fixing his DNA by closing their eyes taking a deep breath and waving there hands languidly towards them. Wow scrap the millions of pounds in research all it takes is an effort of will.

Listening to a qualified GP explaining that perhaps chakras are black holes contained within our bodies. So how did they get there, do animals possess them too, why don't they expand and eat us? Meh.

And finally finding out that the NHS is funding a homoeopathy unit, which has got to be the biggest crock in ever. The theory itself is based on like cures like, that's not too bad if you consider inoculations take the form of infecting you with a weak or mild strain of the thing you're trying to prevent; except it's not quite that - they're talking symptoms over cause.

If a substance causes diarrhoea then taking a weak dose can cure it. Right so arsenic in large doses is fatal so in small doses it's an immortality drug? I don't think so. On the other hand it might be true for some substances and that's where proper tests come into play - nope we won't be having any of those thank you very much.

It gets better though, as you require a weak dose of the substance it's best to dilute it except this is where things get more odd. Homoeopathy states that the more a substance is diluted the more effective it is, in fact they dilute it so much that often no trace of the original substance is contained within the solution. so this cures you how? Oh that's obvious water (the dilution agent) has a memory, it remembers that it once had the active substance in it and that affects its structure.

So why bother paying for a solution to be made up when you could simply drink some water out of a tap, chances are that at some point it's come into contact with every possible substance on the homoeopaths list of cures and thus will retain that memory of contact. Is it somehow more effective if you create the water from its constituent parts add substance and dilute?

A joke I came across somewhere had a scientist looking at a homoeopathic remedy for headaches 'For normal headaches take one teaspoon, for severe headaches take two' he pointed out that according to the theory shouldn't he be taking less if it's more severe.

Anyway the NHS is funding this nonsense based on zero scientific evidence, oh no wait the doctor in charge said they had carried out tests; then said they hadn't. "But you just said you had test results?" "Well we did some tests and they did show some effectiveness in patients" "and the control group?" "We didn't have one". Okay so not a test then, good to see our money being spent in such a careful manner.

As I said at the beginning fish in a barrel.

The ony problem I have is Dawkins' conviction that science is the best way of doing things; I can't argue pure and proper science works; except it's carried out by people and people make mistakes or have their own biases.

Peer-review is supposed to act as a damper, but even then you have a problem in herd or majority behaviour. After all in order to act as a peer reviewer you have to know the subject, and if you're reviewing a paper it might be considered only human that you subject a paper that contradicts your own learnings to a higher degree of scrutiny then one that confirms everything you know.

The same goes for the initial research of an area, which could become subject to what I call the "EU referendum law" you keep doing it over and over again in various ways until you get the result you want. Get a group of scientists that don't give you the results you fire them or cut their budget; then fund a new group. You ever want to be hired or to continue to receive funding again you soon learn to produce the required results and as I hope I've shown in previous entries with statistics that can be really easy to do.

Dawkins himself mentions the autism and MMR jab scare, which when looked at closely turned out to be incorrect; but most of us don't have the scientific background to do that - we have to take it on 'faith' that all the procedures and tests have been done before the information is made public.

As a result it correct and proper to negatively criticise these beliefs and teachings, but a degree of scepticism has to be reserved for scientific research too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Millfield's Estate action?

Jim's passed me the newsletter from the Mitton Independent Health Concern councillors regarding the appalling road conditions of the estate (photos). The short description of he view from the WCC is that due to the very bad workmanship and costs it might be at least three years away from an adoptable standard that is if it ever achieves it at all. If it doesn't meet that quality it'll remain private.

So to my mind the question is was planning permission granted with the expectation that the roads would be built to adoptable standards, or was only the SRR section mentioned? Of course I've mentioned that the island on the SRR was supposed to be level with Mill Road is it? So why weren't remarks made then about the workmanship?

Anyway in the face of the apparent disinterest on the part of WFDC and WCC the IHC suggest the formation of a Residents Association and/or Neighbourhood Watch Scheme(?) Perhaps a part of that could be having a word with the emergency services and asking how they feel about attending/patrolling an entire housing estate made up of roads like this? The next is that if the roads remain private who will be expected to pay for repairs and was this possibility mentioned in the deeds of the new home owners?

So far no sign of an equivalent Conservative newsletter from the remaining two Mitton Ward councillors, but an eye is being kept out for them.

Someone isn't listening

You may recall the unwanted text messages on my phone and my subsequent email to Orange; well I got a reply.

Thank you for your mail regarding your Orange phone.

We can confirm that a third party provides the text information service you have set up. You can cancel this service by sending the command STOP by text message back to the code used to access the service which is usually a 5 digit code at the end of the message, or showing as the sender. If you require further assistance, please reply with the code and subject of the messages. Please note, it can take up to 48 hours for the text messages to cancel.

Text messages received from third parties cannot be cancelled by Orange however, if you experience difficulties when attempting to cancel the message, please contact us by phone or email and we will be happy to advise you of the contact details for the Company, provided that it is an approved third party supplier.

We trust the above information is of assistance.
Check that first sentence again "service you have set up" No, no I didn't. Next thank you for telling me how to cancel it, that's more then they did on their first go around. For more info text them back with the subject? Now just to point out I've entered a few competitions via text message and they all state that it'll cost X+normal text rate and they've been 5-digit codes too, so my question was how much is this going to cost me? Finally look at the get-out clause "provided that it is an approved third party supplier" Well that's what I asked, are they an approved third-party?

I'll try again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gone chilly

Stepped out of the house, then stepped back in to get a jumper. Hey I thought we were supposed to be worrying about global warming ;-) At least it isn't actually raining...yet. Of course nothing as bad as Hurricane Dean, though I am curious as to why GMTV did an entire feature on it then featured it on the weather report. I don't think it's going to affect our weather, anyone flying out there is likely to be aware of it, anyone actually there should definitely be aware of it, and if there's somebody you know who's out there then there's hardly anything you can do to help. The sole point I could see was 'Oo some big strange weather system we can talk about instead of sun, cloud, rain'.

Someone did ask me if these patterns were getting stronger, more commonplace, or simply being reported on more. Piqued my curiosity so I'm going to have a look for any data. First search popped up a report from NOAA which predicts an above-normal season. I'll continue looking for historical data.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Returning to my favourite game.

A slight delay while I shifted 200-odd bricks up the drive meant I was just in time to get behind the cherry-picker when it parked on the bridge leading into town. Not much of a problem as the queue from the crossing lights was starting to reach it. I managed to overtake and squeeze in, the car behind had to stay put. Lights changed and we moved forward about four car-lengths, two cars edging round before the previously held-up traffic charged through. Then the lights changed again and we shunted another couple of lengths. Green - another few lengths, red. Green, shuffle, red. Green and I managed to get past. It's that wonderful combination of 'Well we want people to use it so it must be reactive to them' and 'We need to keep it on red for a longer period of time to give everyone time to get across' that results in the green, red, shuffle in town whenever two or more are gathered. Seriously I've seen people come out of the Factory Shop (just offset from the lights) when the beeps stop, and manage to walk across the road before it even switches to amber.

On the good news front it looks like the hole in front of Sandy Lane has been filled in, the traffic lights and furniture are still there though of course.

Totally unbiased article

A one-page story in Friday's Diana Daily Express caught my eye "Extremist yobs hijack airport demo in plot to cause mayhem" phew that's a long banner.

Gangs of anarchists plotting...The extremists... the thugs
So what have these extreme yobbish anarchist thugs done? Um turned up at the protest - hanging's too good for them.

"If we frustrate them then they will go for confrontation because they are anti-state" said Commander Jo Kaye, um yes they're anarchists although why that would automatically lead to confrontation is beyond me - 'We can't let these democrats in, as soon as we tried to do something they'll call for a vote'

Anyway it gets funny as this article was obviously written for those with a poor retentive memory or who can't put two apparently disparate pieces of information together.

Paragraph 2: "among the hundreds of law-abiding protesters"
Paragraph 13 "policing the illegally-occupied site"

Okay tell me how these law-abiding protesters are illegally occupying a site?

Now apparently they were planning on causing Heathrow problems by dressing up as passengers and infiltrating the terminals; now I'll go with Frankie Boyle's take on this from "Mock the Week" in which he suggested the best way to cause disruption at Heathrow was to actually book a flight and try to catch it.

On a similar note Obsolete: Anarchy in the UK?


First off unwanted text messages one a day.

FreeMsg - To access your downloads reply to 85233 with the word OK. Thank you.
Who are you, and what is this download?
FreeMsg> Txt YES to 85233 and get a free download! Plus get up to 9 more super cool downloads each week when u join. Over 35,000 available! To optout send STOP.
Again who are you, I don't want to join, and how much will it cost to send you a STOP?
FreeMsg>Don't lose yr FREE download! Text YES to 85233 and grab it now, plus up to 9 more super cool downloads each week when you join. To optout send STOP
FreeMsg> Free download waiting. Don't lose it, text YES to 85233 to get it now, plus up to 9 more downloads each week when u join. To optout send STOP to 85233
Thank you half past bloody seven on a Saturday morning.
FreeMsg>FREE download waiting! Last chance to grab it. Text YES to 85233 to join & get login details for To optout reply STOP
Thank you half past bloody seven on a Sunday morning. though at least you've deigned to tell me who you are this time

I think a quick chat to Orange is in order, that is if I can find my way through their automated system to the right section. Nope got to go through email
Re: Third Party Texts.

For the last week I have been receiving texts from 82533 one a day as follows:

[quoted messages as above]

Please note that until the last one came thorough at 07:30 on Sunday morning I had no idea who these were from, what this 'download' was, or how much this service would cost. It wasn't until the second text that it even deigned to inform me how I could opt-out, although again without informing me how much this reply might cost.

Is this the sort of standards you expect from your third-party partners?
So it's wait and see time.

Now I've got 285 unread messages in my email account, the last time I got this many in such a short period of time was when someone was spoofing my address and lo large numbers of message undelivereds. <sigh>

Finally something puzzling LauraDoraNoraFlora on Flickr has blocked me. I only found out when I went to thank her for her brief testimonial and found she was no longer listed as a contact. Thinking there was a screw-up on the site I went to re-add her to find she had blocked me. I really can't think why. Anyway this appears to be the only way I can say thank-you so um thanks.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Financial Armageddon

And down came the stock prices, so as I've been asked a few times as to what's going on here's a simple explanation -

The disparity between income and house prices in the USA

There that was easy wasn't it. Okay I'll expound; it's to do with a market called sub-prime, essentially lending money to people (primarily for mortgages) who aren't expected to be able to pay it back. Sounds stupid doesn't it, who'd lend money with the expectation of not getting it back? Well to compensate the lender charges more interest, so these people who are cash-strapped get charged more - bravo.

The premise goes that enough people will pay back the loan plus interest to compensate for those that default, the return being higher then if you'd lent money to people who you know will pay it back, but who do so at a lower rate of interest. High-return, but high risk.

In order to spread the risk, the loan/debt is split up and 'sold-on' to other institutions. They get the returns, with a smaller part of the risk. In theory if there are a lot of defaulters it'll be spread around a lot of companies and institutions and not cause a problem. If you get a cluster in one lender it might cause them trouble, but should have a negligible affect elsewhere; that's the theory. Unfortunately if you get a lot of defaulters in each lender things take a tumble. Rather then just one part of a sold-on debt crashing you get lots from different areas all failing.

People get antsy, money gets pulled and liquidity falls, to compensate the big banks have been throwing money into the pit to keep things stable.

Now we get some banks who borrow money from the big banks to use in their loans rather then use the assets of their savers, except there's less money available from those sources now. So now they get into trouble and people get antsy again.

It will stabilise, it will start to climb again; but some questions will be asked and hopefully some lessons learnt.

Just some quick local stuff

Okay first off as Don said Wilden Lane appears to be closed, well they have a sign up on the island saying as much and telling people to follow the diversions. Hmm didn't spot which exit you were supposed to take, but there was a Diverted Traffic sign on the Worcester Road just before the roadworks and the three-way set of traffic lights.

[Update the exact phrase on the sign at the island at the Gilgal exit is-

with a Diversion Ends sign at the Worcester Road exit of the island directing traffic up Hartlebury Road]

This was a surprise read in the Shuttle, wasn't me who wrote, but sounded like someone I know - wasn't them though. Everything I've been saying about the pothole situation for the past who knows how long features.

For those with time on their hands why not help with the restoration of the Stourport Basin and visit the open day on Sunday, the article doesn't mention you have to a minimum of 16 so take that into consideration first. Much more info in the PDF Volunteer Info Pack including time-scales etc. Photographer sounds tempting.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wrong words

Reading words used outside their original context can at times irk me.

"Utopia" is one of them, we all know what it means; telling someone that the island you holidayed on was 'utopian' means it was perfect. Well no it doesn't - 'Utopian' might because the word was used by Sir Thomas More in 1516 as the name of a perfect island. For his intended readership this would have made perfect sense "A perfect island with a perfect legal, political and social system! What's it called? Utopia, oh how very droll". U- (or ou-) from the Greek meaning not or no and -topia meaning place. Where is this perfect island - no place.

So for atheists Heaven is utopian, but then again so is Hell. To describe a bad place you use dystopia, to describe a good place you should use eutopia. I say should because as a word it seems to have been deemed obsolete, presumably because everyone uses utopia instead.

One other word is "anarchy" and for much the same reason. "It was anarchy on the streets" in other words a lawless mob smashing everything up. An- without, -archy rulers (authority), without rulers. Sometimes transcribed as without leaders this isn't correct, it's quite possible to have an anarchist leader - the difference lies in the power structure. No-one has power or authority over another. Think of it as a night out with friends no one has the power to say "We're doing this and you will be doing that" it's a collective agreement and yet amazingly it rarely involves pulling the golden arches of the local McDonald's and smashing in their windows.

Finally "proof". So many things have been proved and that's the final word on that subject - it means tested. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" the test of the pudding is in the eating. When something is asserted as being proven as correct all it means is that it's been tested, a later test (or one done by someone actually qualified to do it) might show that assertion to be wrong.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More roads needed

How could I not link to this Road Fix article from the New Statesman.

Ah objectivity what's the best way of achieving it - assign arbitrary monetary values to things. so what's this piece of land worth? Well if you were able to build houses on it then £X, if you knew it was going to be needed to build a road on then £Y, on its own - nothing! And that's the kicker land by itself has no monetary value, it only gains a value once we the people decide to do something with it that can be sold, rented, or charged for. So how do you assign a monetary value to something like a site of scientific interest? Perhaps you can look at the locality - if nearby houses have greater resale value due to their proximity to the site that'd be a value, does it bring in people who spend money in shops and B&Bs. That's a start, but what about those sites that are far from the madding crowd, how far do you spread the net until you hit a house or business?

A lot of people visit these areas because they're relaxing, so how do you assign a monetary value to that? Increase in productivity due to less stress; 1 hour at the site equals 1 more productive hour at work? Multiple the time by the average wage and produce a figure, but what if average wage increases, what if it decreases; does the site lose value?

The difficult lies in the measurement medium - money. Monetary values change all the time, your house has increased in value 80% since you bought it despite nothing being done to it, fuel prices go up and down. Build the road this year and it'll cost £X, build it next and it'll be £Y; have the plans changed in the meantime nope just the costs.

So let's do something strange, how about pretending we have infinite money. If we have an infinite amount of money then all this value assigning is pointless. We now need a finite value, so how about time itself? Time is non-reusable you can't say "Wow that last half-hour was pointless can I have that time back please" it's gone never to be seen again.

Amount of time by people spent on this site, minus the amount of time saved by people using the road, minus the amount of time lost by people delayed by roadworks while building the road, plus the amount of time people spent on complaining about the road, minus the amount of time spent complaining they need a road.

Needs work, but it's got to be a better system then assigning meaningless values to everything.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enemies of Reason

I'll start with the joy in getting hits back from Flickr as well as fun comments. In case you missed Don's comment Wilden Lane is out from the 17th to the 3rd, I expect it to be open for access to frontages. Oh and look out for the three-way traffic light system on the Worcester Road opposite Sandy Lane as well as the slalom down the estate.

[Forgot to mention the little fact that the 200yd marker correctly shows the left hand lane closed and the right one open, but the 100yd marker reverses that assessment; just slack.]

GMTV this morning "Let's talk about dreams" BBC "Let's talk about dreams" what have I missed a conference or something? GMTV took the proper route of getting a dream therapist in, the BBC took the wishy washy 'science' approach of getting a GP in, oh and a hypnotherapist "For recurring nightmares hypnotherapy is a good solution" he said, wow what a surprising statement from a hypnotherapist. Fortunately the good doctor had the most talk time and made a lot of sense, unlike GMTV's therapist "Dreams of falling indicate a feeling of being out of control" yeah or you've just been watching "The world's greatest stunts".

Speaking of superstitious nonsense Channel 4 had Richard Dawkins taking on the psychics, dowsers and astrologers and what a joy to behold as they all back-peddled and made excuses rationalised their failures. I swear one 'psychic' couldn't seem to start a sentence without prefacing it with "I feel...". Yeah someone says "I think" and you can argue logically; if they start with "I feel" or "I believe" then you'd be hitting out at them personally and we're all much too polite to do that.

Of course all this has a knock-on effect, sure have your own personal beliefs, just be prepared to back them up with facts. No matter how you may swear that copper burns red it still burns green and writing "I feel/believe this" won't get you a pass in a science course so don't do one, stick to the 'soft' sciences instead.

"Trees have an underlying tree-ness"
"and rocks a Rock-ness?"

So does a table have a table-ness? What if you sit on a table does that increase its chair-ness or are we talking about natural processes only? Take a block of marble and carve David out of it and does that mean it's lost its marble-ness? Does oil still have it's plankton-ness, we seem to be in the realm of homoeopathy here.

The guy doing the "-ness" insists its not an imposition on an object, of course it is. Describe the exact point that a pebble becomes a rock becomes a boulder. Look at a lump of coal (carbon) and a diamond (carbon) and compare with a tree (carbon) or an animal (carbon). Take all the elements and mix them up in different ratios and declare that this is therefore different to that. If you want to talk about "-ness" shouldn't we be looking at carbon-ness or oxygen-ness, perhaps proton-ness or even quark-ness?

Nah stick to the parochial human viewpoint and talk about rocks and trees; much easier.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Why children are clueless?

With a title like "Why children are clueless" I had to read the full article in Saturday's edition of the Express, except it doesn't answer that question it instead shows how little children know about history; well maybe. Here's how they presented the results:

Only 62 per cent of those questioned in 20 didn't know...Almost a third of those questioned didn't know...13 per cent knew...10 per cent were not aware...eight per cent didn't know...97 per cent knew...Almost one in 10 didn't know... another 14 per cent didn't know.
So mixing three different measuring systems and also switching between the number of know's and don't know's - that's a good way of putting across your point in the most efficient manner.

Let's try that again shall we

62% got the first question correct;
95% got the second question right;
66%+ got the third question;
13% the forth question;
90% for the fifth;
92% the sixth;
97% the seventh;
90%+ the eighth, and;
86% the last

Rearrange and we get 97%, 95%, 92%, 90%+, 90%, 86%, 66%+, 62% and 13%. Now call me picky but other then that 13% (Where did the Romans come from?) we're above 50% for the duration. In fact we know that at least 97% answered at least one question correctly, 92% two, 84% three, 74% four, 64% five, and we only drop to the half-way point with 50% for six. Again those are the minimums. In other words at least 50% answered at least six questions correctly out of nine.

Now we'd expect a standard power-law graph for the number of questions correctly answered and hey that's pretty much what we get. So what are they on about? The only way this would be a problem would if the questions were so simple you'd expect the 8-16 year olds to be able to answer every single one correctly.

So here you go try for yourself the percentages of correct answers follow the question.
  1. What were the two main countries involved in the Second World War? (62%)

    1. Spain,
    2. Germany,
    3. Great Britain,
    4. Africa

  2. Who is Margaret Thatcher? [No swearing please] (95%)

    1. Former Queen of England,
    2. A TV Presenter,
    3. The UK's first female Prime Minister,
    4. A singer

  3. How many wives did Henry VIII have? (66%+)

    1. 3,
    2. 4,
    3. 6,
    4. 8

  4. Where did the Romans come from? (13%)

    1. Ireland,
    2. Italy,
    3. Africa,
    4. Spain

  5. Where did the Vikings come from? (90%)

    1. Scandinavia,
    2. France,
    3. Spain,
    4. Africa

  6. Who built the pyramids? (92%)

    1. The Ancient Greeks,
    2. The Romans,
    3. The Egyptians,
    4. The Vikings

  7. What was the Great Plague? (97%)

    1. A rock band,
    2. A disease spread by rats that left thousands dead,
    3. A play by William Shakespeare,
    4. A war during Tudor Times

  8. Who is Anne Frank? (90%+) [Surely "Who was..."]

    1. A pop star,
    2. A Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis,
    3. A queen,
    4. An explorer

  9. What year did Elizabeth II become Queen? (86%)

    1. 1932,
    2. 1952,
    3. 1972,
    4. 1992
And the answers are
  1. b and c,
  2. c, [although you'll be forgiven for thinking 'a']
  3. c, [or 'b' if you don't agree with the second divorce or 'd' 1 if you don't agree with the first divorce]
  4. b, [unless like me you thing the answer is 'e' Rome]
  5. a,
  6. c, [aliens not allowed]
  7. b, [although it would be a good name for a band]
  8. b,
  9. b
So how did you do?

Out shopping

A fine weekend so my planned quick shopping expedition was on; I was on the prowl for CDs DVDs etc. which are all available at cheaper rates online, but monkey-brain wanted to pick things up and turn them around; so a trip to Merry Hell, sorry - Hill.

I swung by Wilden, which I'd been avoiding, just to see what was going on and wow workmen on a Saturday. Routed my way around Kiddy and headed for Stourbridge, (yes there are other, better ways I just prefer this route - it's scenic and tends to be quiet at the times I head off) passed The Crown (Hi Mick), bumped my way through Norton (I don't think it's been resurfaced in 10 years) and onto the main ringroad. Took my normal exit and joined the queue...? Ah a sign further up telling me that there were roadworks and I should expect delays, well gee thanks you couldn't have told me this before I'd committed to this exit. I'd have taken the next one, or looped and taken the one before if I'd known.

Anyway into Hell and parked in the multi-storey in the shade. Grabbed some books from Waterstones, and Games Workshop. Some clothes from M&S including a new hat. Virgin had nothing I was interested in, and HMV was closed for refurbishment - damn! Had to remember WH Smith was now on the ground floor only; you walk past the magazines on your left, the bookcases on the right; keep going in to the children's section then sharp left into the equivalent of an alcove where DVDs, CDs, Video Games, etc are kept. If this were a chemists it would be where the men's products would be kept. Anyway nothing there to tempt me.

A wander and into Hotel Chocolat ooo slabs of chocolate, ribbon packets filled with yummyness, small packets, big boxes. How much?! £4.25 for a small bag, £2.75 for six truffles - be strong; resist. So I walked out head held high... and about £20 lighter and with an urge to get everything into a refrigerator before it melted. <sigh>

Sunday was another nice day, so I headed out to Hartlebury Common (at last) to get some pictures; blue skies, fluffy white clouds followed by black clouds and spittles of rain tcch! Pictures to be uploaded as per.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Must protect - nothing

And so I joined the unmoving queue of traffic in Worcester Road thought "Sod this" and turned around. Down the A449 to Ombersley where I turned off... and joined the queue. This one at least was moving, but what could be the cause? As I got to the Holt Fleet bridge a set of traffic lights hove into view. A set of dumb traffic lights on what appeared to be a simple timer. When I finally got to them I could see what they were cordoning off - nothing. I could see no signs of roadworks of any description (admittedly I was concentrating on where I was going) certainly nothing overt that would require this section to be barricaded off. But it was causing a mile-long tailback through to Ombersley and a queue on the other side of oo at least three cars.

I do wonder what caused the hold-up on Worcester Road, normally it would be something in the town trailing down York Street, Lion Hill, Mitton Street before impacting on the island. I don't know I would guess at yet another delivery at Ye Olde Crown Inn; certainly on Wednesday night the delivery van was parked in front of it with half of itself blocking the route out of town forcing traffic into the other lane I see no reason to suspect that it wouldn't happen again. Glad I filled up the car at lunch time though.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Heroes - 1st series interim review

Just to show that the BBC can field good SF we get Heroes, of course they had to import it from the US. In case the first half of that opening sentence wasn't a give-away I like this show, I like this show a lot. Odd when you consider all the hype that went on, how could it live up to all that expectation - easily.

I'd read lots of other reviews and they too all said this was a great show, but they'd also warn that it "took some getting into to" and that you "should stick with it". After watching the first episode (then the second straight after) I wondered what the hell they were talking about then it hit me.

Firstly other then the cheerleader there's no overt use of powers, for the fully paid up members of the 'Instant Gratification' club this would result in "Boring! When's [person] going to do something?"

Secondly the number of main characters themselves. No 'group of six all living together in an apartment they obviously couldn't afford' show this, oh no we're talking about a dozen players here in different locations; heck at one point even different countries. With the episode cutting back and forth between them all you need to keep each person's immediate history straight in your head. What was this person doing before you switched to another, then another, then another before coming back? In other words you have to think and you have to watch this show in order to understand what is going on.

This could have backfired if it was difficult to keep the characters distinct, but the writers and casters have done well here, you wouldn't mistake the stripper for the cheerleader, the two brothers also have completely different personalities - all the cast are individually identifiable.

With the cutting back and forth there's no time to get tired or bored with what's happening, you get to see what you need to see, hear what you need to hear and then whoosh off to another location. Again something that could have fallen over if it weren't for the fact that you want to know what's going on, you want to hear what's being said, you want to try and piece it all together.

That leads me to the last moreish moment of the show - the cliffhanger. Ah so beloved of almost every series Dr Who, Flash Gordon, Batman how will our heroes escape. Nope not one of those types of cliffhanger where you know they're going to get out of their predicament. So the "You mean Sharron's not my daughter" beloved of soaps? No this isn't an inconsequential single plot thread that could easily be ditched with no-one ever the wiser. No these are cliffhangers that are integral to the plot, that lead to more questions, that make you want to watch the next episode just to find out what happens and right now not next week dammit. Bastards ;-)

Hyperdrive - 2nd series review

So the second series of Hyperdrive is currently showing on BBC2. I watched the first series on the grounds that it was by Nick Frost and was SF related and can't remember a thing about it. Bear in mind that you're reading the entry of someone who happily quotes Red Dwarf, Babylon 5, Buffy, etc. with ease so that's a telling statement in its own right. But hey that was the first outing and we all know that a show can take some time to bed in, the second time around is generally better.

It isn't. First off Nick Frost does not make a good lead. When he's with Simon Pegg he's great, but on his own at the front he's not so hot. This isn't a put-down consider films with Morgan Freeman as the star compared to the ones where he's the support and judge which are better; some people just make for natural supporting actors. With a crew of six (like Star Trek ignore all the others walking around in the background) you'd hope each had their own individual characteristics, but they're so wishy washy with only Teal and York getting any sort of screen-time to develop their characters.

A good plot and writing can overcome even this hurdle and it's a shame Hyperdrive doesn't have even this, the jokes are unfunny and are delivered with little sense of timing that renders them flat. Plot-wise it seems to be whatever the writers thought was good at the time, single strands with little continuity or any reason to really care about what's happening with unfunny 'in-jokes' about other programmes.

There is however one small ray of sunshine in the character of York, played by Kevin Eldon, who manages to elevate every scene he's in. With a taciturn character he doesn't get the flat monologues of the others, but sharp pithy statements that had me smiling and occasionally chucking. A fantastic supporting role left sadly with no-one worthy to support.

Worrying that a 20 year old series of Red Dwarf, which probably had half the staff and budget, is still more enjoyable to watch then this.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The missing

So more news on Madeleine in that they may have found blood in her room. So hold on this has been going on since May 3rd and they've just found this. What the hell have the Portuguese police doing for all this time? The get-out appears to be that the blood was cleaned up. Now forgive me, but if you're in the middle of kidnapping a child are you going to get out the cleaning rags if they get cut, even if (and I hope not) she was killed you don't want to hang around. Unless that is ransom was on the agenda, but no-one has heard anything on that score; so what gives?

On the subject of missing people Natasha Coombs (found 10/08/07 deceased) has become a feature in the national media, just as Huang Ming (status unknown) in March and Suzanne Adams (found 25/3/09 deceased) in May. Ah silly me no they didn't they're not photogenic 7-year old's so ignore them, but Samantha Osborn (status unknown) a cute 15-year old should have surely, she went missing a month before Madeleine, do you remember reading about her? Who's deciding which missing person gets to be highlighted?

Perhaps one of the newspapers will create a Missing Persons column; say just 10 photos, names and locations with the latest disappearance at the top? Has one already and I've just missed it?

I doubt it, without a column of text it's hardly going to sell papers and would take up valuable advertising space.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Business as usual.

"Hi I represent BT it's about your Business Broadband package"
"We're going to upgrade you to 8Mbits and reduce the charge"
"Okay, but we're already on the 8Mbits package or at least 5-6 which is all we can get, but the price reduction sounds good"
"Oh well all you have to do is agree to stay with BT for another 12 months"
"Well we're likely to anyway, but if we're signing up for another 12 months I'll need to see the contract"
"It hasn't changed since last time"
"Well I could do with a copy anyway"
"We can send it out with the confirmation letter"
"No you can't because I'm not confirming anything without seeing the contract first"
"But it'll be with the confirmation letter"
"But I can't confirm anything without seeing the contract first"
[We went round this cycle a few times]
"Oh well we haven't got it here"
"Well can you get someone to send a copy?"
"Uh, I'll get back to you"

Ah professionalism.

A vacant property needs its supply switching over to the Landlord's package, the current supplier sends in their details "As you don't have a contract with us you're now on a deemed contract, you can however sign up for this yearly contract at the following rates..." Um well firstly you don't get a fixed term contract on a vacant building, because we may have to break it at any time; and as for your rates 65p/day standing charge plus electricity use I almost choked. So I called our standard supplier; slightly higher electricity rates, but no standing charge. now seeing as it's empty and the amount of electricity used will be negligible which would you go for?

Trouble is the time it's going to take to switch. From the vacating date until the new supplier takes over we're on a deemed contract and I know how much fun that is. Somehow we're supposed to predict when tenants leave, fine for those in a long term contract, not so fine for the short-termers or the fly-by-nights (this was a short-termer) all the lovely laws about utilities take none of this into account and give the suppliers free rein to do whatever they like. Essentially the supplier can pull down your trousers, roll you over a barrel, and paddle your arse while OfGem and EnergyWatch look on and say "Yes they can do that" the laws have been written to protect them.

Oh and a note about spam, all the Alliance and Leicester emails begging me for my password details (which I don't have not having an account) have now been replaced with Royal Bank of Scotland emails begging me for my password details (which I also don't have again not having an account). I doubt anyone reading this is silly enough to believe them, but there's the warning anyway. Looks like a server in Hong Kong that's doing the asking.

Hit those housholders one more time.

Once again we see an attack on households - people are throwing too much rubbish away so we'll give them smaller bins. Now previously I've had a go at the whiners; if you can't fit all your rubbish in the bin you're generating too much rubbish, but this is ridiculous.

So if you're reducing the amount of waste we can get rid of I'm assuming you'll be increasing the amount and range of recyclables you're picking up? Nope.

A delightful exchange on the BBC this morning where one women complained that her council wouldn't pick up her bags of recycling, the spokesman gave a masterful reply which insinuated that the bags weren't filled with recyclables or perhaps not the right sort of recyclables and that they hoped to educate people on this issue. In other words a non-answer. They want you to decrease the amount of waste while at the same time failing to pick up the recyclables or collecting everything that could possibly be recycled because they don't cover that particular material.

So the onus is placed squarely back onto householders, sort out all your rubbish. Put only that which the council will recycle into the correct bins then take the other stuff to your local recycling centre. Uh-huh so will the council provide bins for us to store this extra waste or do they expect us to visit the centre every day? How are they expecting people to get there? Hauling bags down the street? Nah just fill the car and drive down, wait a sec aren't we supposed to be using the cars less; what about those who rely on public transport do we want them clambering aboard with bags of refuse?

So smaller bins, fortnightly or alternate collections hmm do you think we're going to see more fly-tipping?

This all appears to be a knee-jerk reaction on a par with charging per weight with little appreciation of the knock-on effects.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Traffic blues

I've just had a phone call warning me about the traffic. My father got stuck in Mitton Street, Couldn't get down Moorhall Lane and so headed up to Bewdley. The switchback is closed again.

More detouring later he got to Redhouse Road just as the red Suzuki Alto that was in front of him on Mitton Street came past.

Even if they've removed the lights at 5pm there's still the back-log to file through. I'll see how far it extends up Worcester Road, otherwise it looks a trip around the Holts.

[Update: Yup and a pleasant run it was to]

Oh and I see the sun is shining so all those nice people trapped in their unmoving metal boxes should be having lots of fun.

So that's what they're up to on the bridge

So there we have it folks; two way traffic by Friday. So all the (so called) intelligent lights have been taken away and we've got the basic pattern.

"I've just spoken to the site contractors and they've suggested modifying the timings of the signals."
What a good idea, will they be monitoring them throughout the day or will they be weighted towards the Areley side in the evening when all the traffic is coming through the town?

Update: 14:10 Yep two shiny strips on the incoming side at 1pm became two dull strips at 2pm. I note with amusement that the lights have been placed damn close to where their intelligent brothers used to sit.

As per the article and the Worcestershire site it was known that two-way traffic wouldn't resume until the 10th. Now it was deemed necessary to have the intelligent lights on the bridge before the surfacing, so what makes this week different to all the previous ones? Who took the lights away and why?

Silly me they're temporary lights not semi-fixed ones, so they'll go up then come down at some point relatively quickly... then go back up again. Setting up the intelligent ones would entail skilled operators and take too much time.

So my guess, looking at the time, is that they'll take down the lights for the evening and open the bridge to two-way traffic, then repeat the work tomorrow for the other side. That's if they can allow traffic over their nice new work and if they've got any sense.

Conflicting laws?

A half-page story in the Express about a hotelier putting up the new non-smoking signs at the entrance to his Grade II listed building as required by law. He gets a letter warning him that he hasn't got planning permission to put these signs up and may be fined.

A council spokesman stated that if he applied he "might" get permission.

So what if he doesn't? What if it's not granted?

The signs come down and he gets fined for not putting up the no-smoking warnings on his main entrance as he is obliged to do.


Fun weekend.

Amish time over the shed is up! It took about the amount of time I thought it would, an hour, except I didn't allow for some other bits and pieces. Firstly the continuation of creating the base that extends from the middle one of the three planters; birdbaths, planters easy to mix them up one contains water the other flowers, well in this case grass.

So moving some 2ft by 4ft inch thick concrete slabs slowly up the garden, then levelling them off took some time. Then getting everything out of the shed, taking it apart, lying it at the bottom of the garden, then erecting it at the top, then putting everything back in the shed. That including taking things out of the other shed (which is due for demolition) and hauling it up the garden too.

All the time the dark clouds were gathering and looking like rain, did keep the sun off us though which was nice.

Best bit was when we found the bolt on the door wouldn't slide across, it had to be removed and put back where it originally was when we'd first dismantled it. So I'm tidying and hauling when my father discovers this

"Do you need the drill?" I ask
"Okay I'll put it back in the toolbox and reel in the extension cord"

back down to the bottom of the garden and I put the drill in the base of the toolbox (in case it rained) unplugged the extension and slowly started to reel it up

"Oh I might need that"
"What for?"
"I mind need the drill"


So down my dad comes and starts looking for a drill bit in the toolbox; takes them up to the new shed. Asks if the power is on... it will be. Then he heads back down to pick up the drill.

"Umm why don't you take the toolbox with you seeing as it's going back in the shed anyway?"
"Umm yeah"

So he takes the drill out of the box, closes it, puts in on top of the box covering the handle, then cradles the box in his arms and walks slowly up the garden making sure the drill doesn't slide off the top... I later spot that he's taken out the tray insert and left it behind.

This is the genetic legacy I have to fight against every day ;-)

So all done I decide to head into town to see how they're doing with the bridge. They've laid the pavement and about half the bridge (of the bit they'd dug up). I'd say it was quiet, but it seems all the mopeds and motorcycles were using the opportunity to make loud noises and speeding along the open bridge. The workmen did nothing, they were all sitting in their cars when I went over (and were when I came back several hours later)

Down the steps past the paddling pool to the putting green which no longer resembles a lake, but is now pretty much ruined for the year. Standing amongst all the people taking photos and I was suddenly attacked by a skinhead.

Said skinhead being about three feet tall and answering to the name Bratus Minor sporting a haircut, my uncle and aunt had come down for the afternoon the amusements for Minor being better here then in Tenbury and Bratus Major being away on a Scout thing (He'd have wanted to stay at the fairground)

Minor headed onto the spider web while I chatted to his parents, I was surprised they hadn't called to let me know they were in my neck-of the-woods when I realised I'd left my phone on silent while shed-building. No they hadn't called, but others had; I'd deal with them later. For now Minor had got about two-thirds of the way up the web and wasn't going any further

"Going any higher?" I asked
"No" came the reply
"He doesn't like heights" said his father
"You don't like heights. Fair enough"

I pulled out my camera and focussed on him and hey he goes up another rung, then another until he's standing at the top.

"'Doesn't like heights!' You just need the right motivation"

Of course now he'd done it once he was up and down it with no fear.

Crazy golf next, the Playland one. The sun came out a couple of times, and then disappeared to my delight (too damn hot with no shade). We all managed at least one hole-in-one and all managed to hit the ball out of the boundary. We weren't counting strokes...

"So that's 169 for [Minor] and 3 for me" I say
"Nooo" he said "I got 49 and you got 200"
"I got 42" I reply
"I got 3, no I got 1... 1 plus zero"


Onto the obstacle walk, he fell off and we all said he had to start again (no moaning about that he was having fun) he started catching up to some of the slower kids and getting a little pushy.

"Slow down" I say "I'll use my Jedi mind powers to stop you"
"You don't have any powers"
"I do so"
"Don't" he says as he steps from one point to another and misses his step landing on the ground
"You've got to start again" says his father
"No [Flip] made me fall off with his powers"

Heh, don't mock my powers :-D

Off to the sweet shop with many comments about how nice it was without any traffic and how they should do this every weekend. [Heh Jim's just said exactly the same thing]

Anyway decision time...

"I don't want any sweets I want an ice-cream"
"They do ice-creams too, do you want some sweets or an ice-cream"
"I love this kid"

Time up they headed back to the car I headed home and caught up on the phone calls. Easier said then done as the mopeds et al were still making a racket. Long chat with Andrew, turned the corner and my signal died. Went to call again and found my credit at next to nothing... damn, sorry mate.

Sunday morning, check on the bridge. All down, well at least the sticky stuff, no road-markings and they'd parked all the big vehicles on the patch of grass between Areley Common and Dunley Road. That's going to leave gouges when they leave. So why not use the Riverside car-park temporarily? It is after all a tad closer..

Quick trip to the Co-op and I'm sure I've been in since the revamp, but hey the doors are wider you can get two trolleys through at a time, and they've filled in the gutter that ran along the edge of it. Still haven't put any benches in the inset on the side, but something is better then nothing.

Anyway the bridge reopened at about 5pm last night, and was still open this morning.

[Update: 10:22 lights back on the bridge, they've dug it up again]
[Update: 12:10 They've taken out a section next to the pavement]

Traffic light at the top of Sandy Lane out again though <sigh>

[Update: 12:10 Now working apparently]

Friday, August 03, 2007

On the third day of August...

...Stourport gave to me -
Three white delivery vans,
Two parked buses,
and some bloke who wanted to use the cash machine.

Getting your priorities straight

Got the Shuttle yesterday, which makes a change, front-page shouts "Pregnant and living in her car" is it wrong for my first thought to be "Lucky her she could be living on the street"? Reading the story gets better as apparently she left the Community housing she had to move in with her mother, moved out of that to move in with her former boyfriend (and father of the child), moved out of there to um her car. Perhaps the headline should have been "Pregnant women makes self homeless" or "Let's hope stupidity skips a generation".

In the interests of informing the local community the Shuttle has also told those who might have missed the signs about the forthcoming bridge closure and subsequent reopening. A two inch square at the bottom of the page, next to the fold, on page 32. Oh and still no word on where traffic is being diverted to so something to look forward to.

Apparently we drink to much abroad (and at home as well) the advice being given to those youngsters going abroad is to know your limits and reduce your alcohol intake... ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha...ha ha ha oh sorry that's a good one. I mean it's not as if the alcohol problem we've got hasn't been commented on since the 14th Century we should easily be able to solve it in just one generation by asking nicely... .... sorry more laughing.

"How long did it take us to put the shed up last time?" asked my father.
"Took several hours didn't it?"
"I don't think so two at the most, more like one; though that was with three people"
"So you don't think we can put it up with just the two of us?"
"Well we've got the hedge to lean it up against this time, it was just holding three walls up at the same time that was the problem"
"Hmmm, well we've got to get the base down first"
"You mean next to the middle one of the two bird-baths?"
...stony silence...
"So we'll put that down first, take the shed apart and see how far we get" he continues.

Of course last time the shed was taken down by him and my uncle (I'm surprised it didn't collapse as they did it) and had been sitting there for at least ten years. So everything had settled, screws placed under tension etc. Taking it apart then trying to put it back up again meant finding that the screw holes didn't quite line up again, hence the need for three people. Should be easier this time. All good fun.

"I won't be around dinnertime" says my mother with regard to shed building "so I won't be cooking for you"
"Okay. Dad and I will sort something; I'll take him out"
"But I won't be back until 2 o'clock"
"Ookay so you sort yourself out and dad and I will get something"
"But I won't be back until 2 o'clock"
"And how does this stop us getting something for ourselves?"
"Well it doesn't, but I won't be there"


See everything planned with military precision. We know where we're starting, we know where we want to finish, it's just everything in between that's flexible.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ah the joy

So the traffic light at the top of Sandy Lane is now working, but still nothing on either of the exits at the staggered junction halfway down. Oh and they've extended a bit of the work across both lanes. No they haven't closed the road, it's opposite Barracks Road so you drive across the entrance/exit there. Well you do provided there are no vehicles legitimately trying to leave that road and are parked on their mark waiting to turn, playing spot the car and guess the priority.

[Update from WCC who tell me it's our friends Balfour Beatty doing the work, but the traffic lights are handled by a completely different company. Wow a surprise there. Any hoo all should be well by this evening, but now they've been flagged a couple of times, any more funny business and they'll get a visit]

Oh and highly tempted to run over the workmen as they held a conversation in the middle of the open lane then slowly wandered away with their backs to me.

Oh and no water (except for the stuff running out of the nice new hole they've dug in the road). We were warned, well the card said they'd be possible interruptions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Yep last week, but the guy who dropped it off last Monday said it was really for this week Shocked the guys working across the way when I went to warn them last week as they only had what was written on the card to go by and were already filling up kettles. Well one day without I'll count us lucky.

Oh and I haven't mentioned that my favourite hole in York Street has been dug out and square filled, still doesn't look like it's been sealed though so we'll see how long it lasts.

Real joy in that Suzie's found herself a new home. Don't forget us now you're moving so far away ;-)

Some small disadvantage

"So what's happening with the bridge?"
"According to the weekly report a shut-down from the leisure centre up to York Street"
"No I meant... woah Bridge Street is being closed too?"
"According to the report"
"Bloody hell!"

That seems to be the favourite epithet when I get asked.

"and Wilden Lane"
"Severn Trent, until 3rd September"

That results in an unprintable response.

"Landslide, still closed as far as I know"

More unprintable's.

You see most people on the Areley side were hoping to use the switchback to Bewdley to get past the Bridge. If that's out then the next option is Holt Fleet, which was closed several times during the past flood and is travelling several miles in the wrong direction before during a wide turn onto the A449 and that can get really busy at peak-times.

From the other side a lot of people use Wilden to bypass the choke points entering Kidderminster off the main drag and the A449. A lock-down on the bridge is likely to create a tailback down this route.

I'll be walking down; that is when I'm not moving a shed.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Traffic light joy

Ah what joy 15 minutes to get through Worcester Road, should be easier what with the three-way traffic lights at the Wilden Road junction trickling 'right-of-way' traffic at us. Ah but I forgot about the fact the sun is shining. No I'm not being sarcastic, the droves have descended on the Stourport Riverside and they're showing their usual disdain for such quaint concepts as roads.

You wish to cross here madam, by all means thread your way through the one lane of queuing traffic and thrust your pushchair out into the moving stream that is the other lane until someone stops for you.

Park here sir, of course do make sure you block up the entire lane next to the Black Star and prevent anybody from clearing the bridge, don't worry nobody around to move you on take as long as you like.

Add in a pedestrian crossing going off every minute (for those who have the patience to use it) and joy is to be had by all.

Thoughts of piss-ups and breweries come to mind.

On another delightful note, Sandy Lane on the industrial estate has had one lane closed for the majority of its length. Fun when you consider the staggered junction halfway along it that has zero ability to tell which light is red and which green. Not that it matters what with the traffic lights not actually working anyway.

Temporary fault? Well the lights were originally past the junction and migrated up last night so the lack of warning about a uncontrolled junction is vaguely forgiveable and they were working at the time. This morning still no warnings and the lights weren't working, This afternoon, still no warnings and still not working.

I aimed at Wyre Forest District Council, over-the-road went for Severn Trent Water. I got a promise of a Highways Agency look-see and the fact it sounded like a "farce", she got a promise that someone would go and sort it out. We'll wait and see.

To quote over-the-road "I'm surprised no-one else has rung up"... and that's why the world needs people like us ;-)

Question time!

"I need your brain" said my mother
"But it keeps my head nicely balanced" I replied
"Ha ha, I've a couple of puzzle questions I need help with"
"The answers are all numbers"
"So one of the questions was 'blind mice' so the answer was three"
"Yes" I said slowly
"Three being a number"
"So all the answers are numbers" she repeated

[For those thinking I'm being extraordinarily patient this is 'Symptom of speaking to my Nan who has mild dementia - repeat everything in many different ways until you're sure it's sunk in. As such I let it roll]

"Uh-huh and these other questions"
"Well we've got 'Guys named Moe?'"
"Um Five?"
"Five?" she queried "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure"
"Okay and 'Acre wood?'"
"Hundred" I replied instantly then sang "Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh"
"Winnie the Pooh, Hundred Acre wood. It's out of Winnie the Pooh"
"Oh... that seems big for a wood"
"So that's five and one hundred, yep they're on the list"
"List?" I ask
"Yeah you get the questions and match them to the answers"
"And the numbers you had left?"
"Five, fourteen, fifteen and a hundred"

It's the thought of my mother going 'Fourteen guys named Moe, fifteen-acre wood' that makes me smile. Anyway that's not the point try this instead -

"I need your brain for a sec'"
"Well I charge by the minute"
"Ha ha, I can't get the answer to this question"
"Okay and the question is?"
"Um [suggestion]"
"... no that won't fit"
I sigh "... how many letters?"
"... No it's got to start with [letter]"
At this point I close my eyes take a deep breath and count to ten.

How difficult is it to start with [question] it's [number] long and has [letters] in it?

Next up my father.

"Seeing as the bridge is closed on Saturday I could do with a hand moving the shed"
"But we need to extend the base first"
"The base?"
"Yeah up the top of the garden next to the two bird-baths"
"Oh yeah okay"
"We'll need to take it out a bit from the middle one"
"The middle one?"
"Yeah the middle bird-bath"
"The middle one of the two?"
"Yeah the one in the middle"
At this point a voice in the background calls out "The one on the right"
Thank you mom.

Just to clarify the garden is a long strip with a path splitting it about a third of the way from the left. The base extends across the top of the right strip with two bird-baths placed equidistantly on it. If you judge it by the middle of the garden as a whole then the left one is in the middle, judged by the strip neither are.

"You need to take the next turning on the right"
"The right?"
"Yeah this one" says my father pointing to the left-hand turn.