Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mitton Park Residents' Meeting

So another Mitton Park Residents' Association Meeting last Friday with apparently a few more people attending then previously, for reasons I'll get back to.

The amusement I suppressed from mentioning in an earlier entry was to do with the play area. This has been set as to be sited behind the cottages next to the river and marsh; which may be considered hardly ideal a fact brought up by the meeting of high muck-a-mucks. One of them suggested this patch of ground at the end of Millfield Road next to the Leapgate Line.

"But that's where you want to run the by-pass through. What happens when that starts to be done?"
"Then we'll move it to the original site."

Yes folks this is the critical thinking you can expect from our leaders - build a play area at great expense in a different area in the full knowledge that at some point in the future you'll be moving it over to the originally designated site.

It seems the play-area was the main bone of contention that was being chewed on by all these extra people who all suddenly wanted to pay their dues and become members.

It seems the area had been covered with some flora deemed dangerous/hazardous so the site was cleared and a membrane put down. Now what I've been told was that someone who lives close by has used a JCB to clear their site and in the process has a) torn some of the membrane and more importantly b) knocked down some conservation order trees.

Not that anyone cares that they may have had a conservation order on them, more along the lines that now the trees are no longer there the proposed play area will become the dominant view for the houses sited next to it.

Mention was also made about how close to the Marsh it was; oo let's site it somewhere else.. any suggestions? It was also asked by the council if it required parking places, a categorical no from the Chairman as ratified by the association; although apparently some newbie couldn't get that through their thick head and kept objecting to having parking places there. Again a point to make is that this is designed as a local play area for local children (League of Gentlemen aside) so what would be the need for parking and why would anyone even ask?

Another newbie had been asking around local estate agents and has been told that the state of the roads means the properties are around £20k less then they should be. Yes if you'd attended any of the other meetings you'd know this was being worked on.

No-one seemed to know much about the apparent slide of the gardens down a slope although the interesting question was raised about who was responsible. The builder is for 5 years, except no-one knows when that started, after that though has been left in the air.

The topic of ownership/responsibility brings two further points of interest. The first regards the tipping at the end of Millfield Road 'Could we have some barriers please?' 'Well who owns the land?' Ummm. Remember this is where they wanted to put the play-area until it needed to be moved so was a doubly dumb thought.

The second point regards part of Timber Lane and the high possibility that the Highways Agency still owns the land. This would be the land now covered by houses and gardens.

So much of this would have been dealt with and cleared up if there had been a County Enforcement officer on site (as there should have been) except they were ill and as a result nothing was done and they simply 'got on with it'.

Interesting - the planning officer for Wyre Forest goes on maternity and they get in a consultant firm for the interim, County Councils Enforcement officer goes ill and... nothing. Wow I'm actually being impressed by our District Council in comparison to our County one; hardly a taxing standard though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Console Wars - Built to last.

Ah the console wars, for those who don't know it the battle is still raging on with the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3 and the Wii. The Wii has sold more, the 360 has better games, and the PS3 um looks really nice. All that though is superficial compared to the really big question - what happens when something goes wrong?

This entry was prompted by a set of coincidences one of which was this link from the Guardian Games Blog about the real reason behind the failure rate of this console.

It seems easy to believe - in order to get the jump on a rival a company discards quality in the vain hope that it can be all sorted out later; a little like a cavalry charge into the enemy followed by thick fighting hoping the infantry turns up to bail them out. The most interesting point I found was the answer to the question

Q: How many times does an Xbox 360 unit have to be sent in and repaired before they will replace it with a completely new unit?
You don't they get rotated the one you get back isn't necessarily the one you sent in. Results in a nice turnaround, but as one commenter asks 'Can't wait for someone to send in a new HDMI version and get an old one in return'.

Next up is the Nintendo Wii, this part was prompted by my boss who bought two before Christmas and found one of them failed to accept a disc. It took him until last week to manage to get in touch with Nintendo who, as it was still under warranty, are sending out a Freepost address sticker and asking him to stick it in a box for return. He's intelligently going to add on proof of postage and insurance which will come out of his own pocket.

Finally we get to the Sony Playstation 3 which had bubble mixture spilled over it which got into the disc tray. This caused the system not to work... at least for a while. After contacting Sony the same day he was asked to boot it up to check and was surprised to find it worked. Two days later while playing a DVD it failed. He talked to Sony the next morning, out of warranty, damn. How much to fix? Well the easiest thing to do is we can send you out a new one for £200 and pick up the old one.

The next day a courier arrived with a big box, unsealed it, took out a new identical version PS3 and put the defunct one back in the box for return.

So what can I say? Microsoft Xbox360 - Apparently a poor manufacturing process leading to a high failure rate; Nintendo Wii - difficult to get hold of in every way; Sony Playstation 3 - robust enough to withstand accidental spillage for a time, easy to get hold of and quick to respond (admittedly when money exchanged hands)

I think I picked the right horse.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stourport Tesco and the District Local Plan.

A scribbled note got passed along to me about the council plans on the old Carpets of Worth site. As you may (or may not) know I've been banging on about the District Local Plan as adopted in 2004 that stated quite clearly

i) provide for a mix of land uses to include B1 business and C3 residential. Other uses including retail (A1 and A3) may be acceptable, subject to the provisions of the Retail Strategy and the policies of the retail section of this Plan;
This note however tells me I'm wrong, that the Local Plan was superseded in November 2006 by the Local Development Framework. Now a copy of that can be found here well actually it can't. You may take a look at the site and think "Well surely it's the Local Development Scheme" nope that just tells you what the scheme is and shows what makes it up without giving any links. One of the DPD's perhaps such as the "Core Strategy Issues and Options Paper"? Heh page 25 "Weaver's Wharf" told you I was right :-P Anyway nope nothing in there. "Core Strategy Initial Sustainability Appraisal Report" - nope. "Core Strategy Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report" - nope. "Initial Topic Papers and Stakeholder Meetings" the STC2 is mentioned as an issue; that's it.

Silly me it'll be under "Publications" and what a nice list we have including the Local Adopted Plan a snip at only £40.50 or free online. The Planning Obligations SPD at 101 pages is still well worth a read although you can ignore the first 20-odd pages. The Planning Obligations SPD- Sustainability Appraisal - Main Document is also worth a look-see just for the chance to see the Wyre Forest District Council Logo in a format other then a blown-up thumbnail.

The Bridge Street Basins Link Development Brief is also there for those interested except some of the pages have been uploaded incorrectly and can't be viewed (page5_SPD, page11_SPD etc).

Okay so how about the Adopted Design Quality SPG? STC2 is mentioned on page 14 in the graphic on the right
Adopted Local District Plan policies relevant to Mixed Uses
"Mixed Uses" For uses in many ways? Ah it gets used on page 93 "promote mix of uses within town centres" Just sounds wrong to me.

Bingo page 103 STC2 "developed in greater detail in within the Development Brief for Severn Road" I now have a search term.

Ta-da oh adopted 2001 that's after the Local Plan in 2004
5.4 Retail (A1)
Section 2.3 (a) provides the strategic context for retail provision in Stourport-on-Severn through a brief analysis of Wyre Forest District Retail and Commercial Leisure study. In line with the recommendations of that study, land is identified in the very north of the brief area as a possible site for a foodstore.
I'll repeat that - "possible", and I'll repeat the point that this is dated 2001 and is therefore superseded by the 2004 document. Okay back to the Framework.

Wyre Forest Retail Update - Main Report has a bombshell on page 4
Proposals: The Carpets of Worth site is earmarked for a foodstore and a Supplementary Planning Document for Bridge Street has been adopted earmarking proposals for a significant mixed use development linking the historic canal basins and the shopping street (Local Plan Policy STC.4).
Woah sorry when was that earmarked? This document is April 2007 so it can't be referring to the Development Brief for Severn Road, it's not made explicit in the Local Plan, and I note they don't refer to it as Local Plan Policy STC.2. So where the hell did that come from?

Interesting titbit number two
Changes to the planning system at national level will see the two-tier system of District Local Plans and County Structure Plans replaced by Local Development Frameworks (LDF's). However, in the meantime the Adopted Local Plan continues to provide the detailed basis for considering development proposals in the District. The policies of the Local Plan are intended to be saved until at least Autumn 2008 when they will be replaced in one of the new Development Plan Documents
So the Local Plan is still being used and that clearly states that the site may be considered for A1 use, I don't consider that to be "earmarked for a foodstore".
There is currently an application for a new supermarket on the former Bond Worth carpet factory site in Stouport. The planning application has gone to appeal so no decision has yet been made
Oh make up your mind is it Carpets of Worth or Bond Worth can't you be consistent in just one document? Oh and that's it for that document, just contradicting itself with no references.

Must all be in the Appendices... nope, just stats and maps.

Okay that's enough here's the deal. The online version of the Adopted District Local Plan mentions that anything that's been superseded by other things will have a grey background. The land usage designation of the CoW site is not greyed. The Wyre Forest Retail Update - Main Report states that the District Local Plan is still extant until "at least" Autumn 2008 . No other document I can find explicitly sets aside any part of the site for A1 development, but only lists it as a "possible" consideration.

So to summarise the Carpets of Worth site is set aside for C3 and B1 development with an option on A1 or A3; as I've been saying since day one.

If anyone can point to a superseding document please do so and if possible explain why this isn't highlighted in the Local Plan as a change and why none of the high muck-a-mucks reading the WFA has corrected me.

The Wit of England

Following a dirty white van yesterday (not that I can point any fingers). Now there's something about such a combination that attracts people to write on them and this was no exception.

Disdaining the impertinent "Clean Me" or the more pleading "Please Clean Me", the author had decided to go with the more charming "Also in White", which mildly impressed. Much more impressive would have been "Also Available in White" not only for the creative use of minimal space, but for being able to spell "available" without mucking it up.

However what attracted me to the rear of this vehicle was the additional scrawl in the smaller space on the other door, which must have been placed after the previous statement, the highly topical "Cleaned by the NHS"... wonderful.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ripping CDs

Someone's discovered a new toy in their car - a USB port connecting to the speakers. He couldn't connect his Sony Walkman to it as it's all in ATRAC format (I could use it as a pure storage device for MP3s but then they won't work on the player itself thus doubling up) so he picked up an 8Gb stick. I'm in the process of ripping all his CDs using iTunes into MP3s.

iTunes itself is pretty good at this, pop in the CD it connects to Gracenote to pull the track list for you. Some small annoyances with Gracenote itself - Cliff Richard and the Shadows by Summer Holiday types mean having to edit things around, but it's not as bad as having to enter all the information yourself. Album Names can be annoying "Now 68 - [Disc 1]" appears after "Now 68 - (Disc 2)" because round brackets have precedence over square ones. Pick one style and stick with it.

More annoying is being asked if the CD is "Inspirations by Robbie Williams" or "Inspirations by Robbie Williams" is there a difference in the track list? I can't see until I pick one.

The second problem with iTunes is dragging and dropping ripped tracks onto the stick; despite the fact that you can return to the iTunes program you can't do anything with it such as eject the (now ripped) CD for the next one. Manually ejecting the CD and popping in the next while the copy is still going means iTunes not noticing you've switched discs. Likewise right-clicking on a blank album graphic and Get Album Artwork will try to find artwork for the album that is highlighted, which may not be the one you're clicking. Silly little things like that.

Anyway ripping CDs that have been rolling around a car floor is a fun experience, most went through well. It choked after the second track on "Piece by Piece" by "Katie Melua" which I can sympathise with. Couldn't handle "Anastasia" either. "The Beautiful South" had a nasty crack so I didn't even try it which led to looking for it on the iTunes store. Despite my warnings he bought it and it transferred to the stick in Protected m4a format. Of course it wouldn't play, so he's trying to get his money back.

[Update - If you go into purchase history you can select "Report a problem" this then puts the words "Report a problem" next to the purchased tracks, then you click "Done"; except you don't. You're supposed to then click those appearing phrases to progress to the next screen to tell them what the problem is. This is not mentioned at all on that screen. So poor user-design from Apple!

Probing deeper into support it tells me that all sales are full and final, once you've clicked "buy" that's it. I think the Distance Selling Regulations that provides a 7-day cooling off period for all contracts may have something to say about that.]

This led to a long discussion on the fighting over DRM that he was completely unaware of up until this point "But I'm doing this with CDs so why can't I do with these from the store?"
"Because with the CDs it was a down to trust that you wouldn't make and distribute multiple copies or even let someone play the CD while you listened to them as MP3s. Now they don't have to trust you; they can stop you at source"
"They can't do that"
"Sure they can it's their music; you're essentially paying them a one-time fee for leasing it. You'll be surprised what you don't actually own"

Anyway just approaching 1300 songs with 3.5 days of play.

Favourite thing heard regarding ripping music. He's got a high-end speaker system from.. well you can probably guess; anyway you can play music and store it into the system. The drawback is you need to be listening to the music at the same time; with the obvious drawback that you can only record in real-time. The reason for this said the technical guy is that you get better quality doing it that way. What? What the? What the f***?

Suddenly all those years of odd program failures make sense - when I installed them the disc was playing to quickly and it wasn't reading the all of the data.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Home Economics and The Strawberry Shortcake Collection.

Once again we get the push for cooking to be taught in school as the same prerequisite as Maths and English, once again is the cry to build teaching kitchens, once again are the calls for more staff to be trained for this task, and once again in a few months time it'll be shelved as too expensive with too few staff to teach and with little interest from the pupils. Then we can't start the ball rolling all over again with another government/cabinet/PM.

Of course cooking is not biased and should be taught to both boys and girls, to that end we have "The Strawberry Shortcake Collection" a fortnightly magazine easily spotted in eye-catching pink. The advert on TV features a young girl poring through the magazine before cutting to a kitchen where three young girls cut pastry while a young women in the background looks on in amazement. "Have fun with your friends playing and cooking" says the voice over before concluding with "Learn to cook just like mum".

Now the advert's been changed to remove both voiceovers. It may be that someone pointed out how sexist they were, it may be that supposedly for this generation being taught how to "cook just like mum" would entail them simply printing out various microwave instruction books; but I'm guessing both lines have been cut to make the advert shorter and thus cheaper to air.

Seriously though how the hell did this even get to the publishing stage. Next from the publishers "Sprinters Monthly" with a voiceover saying that you can "Learn to sprint just like a black man" found at every good newsagents sitting on the shelf next to "KKK Quarterly" and "A Women's Place is in the Kitchen".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The tide is high

Some quick photos from lunchtime of the rising Severn in Stourport, starting with this one at the Riverside Meadows and then running around to the Riverside amusements. Still on bloody postcard setting for Auto so 1600*1200 instead of 3072*2304, damn.

Say Yes to Tesco in Stourport revisited.

Tav's comment here deserves a longer response then can be easily crammed into another comment (and besides it gives me another Tesco Stouport hit in Google :-P)

Point 1 - a full range of foodstuffs. As Tav differentiates having more of something doesn't mean having a wider range. Selling every available flavour of Walkers crisps does you no good if you want to buy Seabrook instead. In theory supermarkets can take a risk with a new product as they have the financial clout to subsume any loss. Smaller stores can't take the financial hit if they're wrong and so stick to the conservative staples.

That was the case prior to the rise of supermarkets and many point to supermarkets introducing many people in the UK to a wide variety of different foodstuff; except I don't think this is the case. I think the stocking of shelves with pasta and curry etc. is more to do with immigration; people moving to the UK and wanting to cook their indigenous meals not being able to find ingredients and, in some cases, starting a business to sell such to people in the same position they were in. The supermarkets just noticed this, as well as the rise in take-aways, and just moved into the market with little to no risk.

The next problem with range supermarket vs small store lies in bulk buying. For the supermarkets it's only worth buying in goods if they can be distributed and sold throughout the chain. If the Midlands like a product, but the rest of the country doesn't; then it's removed from the shelves. The only time this might not happen is if the demand (and price) is large enough to cover the removal of the bulk-buying/shipping economies of scale. A smaller store on the other hand don't have that to worry about, they can buy in one crate of product X because they now they have a market for it.

So as Tav points out if the local store goes then so does product X because it's not worth the chain buying it in for the handful of customers who want it.

This, however, doesn't explicitly answer the point that the butchers can function if they continue their specialising behaviour. They can continue this until the supermarkets believe that such specialities can be marketed to a wider base and jump onto the wagon. They can still find and specialise, highly ironic as it's the supermarkets that are supposed to be the source of this boom, but will still be indirectly competing with the supermarkets. Huh? Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time a women asked a specialist firm to make something for her, she needed a specialist as the product she required didn't match the standard template sizes what with it being around two inches larger. Making this product would obviously take dedicated materials and labour and the final price was around £200. The standard mass-produced item was on sale for around £100. The women blew-up complained that they were trying to rip her off by charging £100 for two extra inches.

Point 2 - traffic. Again Tav is correct residential traffic tends towards the tidal, which is no doubt what we'll see with the new houses being built on CoW; retail traffic tends to be constant (in lower concentrations) with the added joy of delivery vans shuttling back and forth. If any of the objectors took the time to look at the plans they would see that the area we're talking about simple isn't set-up to handle a constant stream; to be honest I don't think it's set up to handle the tidal residential stream either, just think about trying to get into the third lane on Vale Road in a morning with a rush of traffic heading round the one-way system.

This leads to point 3 - the vinegar works etc. I won't reiterate what Tav or the report states I will simply ask that the differences between a Carpet Factory and Vinegar Works, and any form of retail outlet be considered. That is unless there really were people knocking on the doors asking to buy a bottle of vinegar.

Finally point 4 - "...people will come into town and shop" which ties to one of my original answers regarding the 'I buy locally then go into Kiddy'. Tesco will be a one-stop shop (except for the odd speciality) and if you think that any major fraction of the money spent there will re-circulate around Stourport well I'd love to live in your world.

River's up

Nigel over on the WFA has some photos of Worcester 'under Severn' I noted last night and this morning that the Basin in Stourport has of course flooded into the car-park and in fact has reached the bridge path and into the flood arches. On the other side the Severn has risen to cover the Riverside path, which is what happened before. The Stour is also well up and I noted it not to far from covering the bank next to Severn Glazing.

All this of course has nothing, I repeat nothing, to do with the barriers put up in various places preventing the river from flowing into its natural flood plain and shunting all the water downstream to us.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Say Yes to Tesco in Stourport

Like Fox News the Shuttle has tried to be fair and balanced by published some letters from people who approve of a new Tesco store in Stourport. Unlike Fox News (and the Shuttle) I'm going to take these comments and show that the writers are morons whom agreeing with will only lead us closer to godless homosexual socialism; well no I'm not actually.

Okay so the first letter points out that Tesco won't be competing with other "local shopkeepers". Amusing to hear a consumer wanting a store because there isn't and won't be any competition for it; that's normally the business argument. In a sense he is correct in that we don't have any grocers or fishmongers in town, we do have grocers out of town though, but using this as an argument is the equivalent of saying we need a dry dock for boats in town so we might as well build one that can handle the QE2. In this case site size really does matter.

His next argument is that Tesco are proposing considerable improvements to the town structure then fails to tell us what they are. Other then renovating the CoW site the only additions are the extension of Discovery Road and a bridge over the Stour, which a) are all scheduled as work to be done by the council at some point and b) as some have pointed out may in fact be handled by the land agent and not Tesco themselves. In the meantime Tesco will be leaving yet another building in town vacant.

Next letter who kind of makes the point themselves

Having shopped locally for years - butchers, pet shop, greens - I then proceed to Kidderminster to do my main shopping in order to gain access to the stores' full range of foodstuffs and look forward to the day when my grocery needs can be wholly inclusive in Stourport.
So would you still visit the local "butchers, pet shop, greens" then go to Tesco, or would you go to Tesco first find they do everything you want and then leave?

And finally this letter with which I agree. There's nothing worse then the equivalent of summer home people coming down and then whining that the town is changing and how it should all stay the same as when they first turned up.

So as to my credentials - well I've lived here for 20+ years, my father for 40+ years, my grandfather (who worked at the power station) for 70+ years, his father (a house builder who constructed some of the houses in the town) for 70+ years; well in all totality I can trace my family back to when a Kidderminster gent married a Mitton lass back in 1790-odd. Heading back through her line and well we've been here in Stourport before it was Stourport. hope that sets things straight.

I'm not against progress, I'm not against change. I'm for the Basin Link, I'm for the redevelopment of the CoW site; just not for siting retail businesses there.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Go for the parents again.

Yep it's GMTV time and our host David Cameron. It's a complex matter that requires multiple strategies he said. Less paperwork for the police, sorting out problems at school and with parents. Bringing back National Service is not the answer

Bloody hell, that actually makes some kind of sense, who are you and what have you done with the leader of the Conservative Party?

Ah I spoke too soon - Clamp down on under-18s buying alcohol using the laws already in place. Yeah hate to burst your bubble but the deterrent's enough to stop retailers doing this already so the under-18s simply get the over-18s to buy it for them in an indirect transaction, which is a right pain to prove and prosecute. The over-18s can simply cite worry that they'd be beaten up if they didn't do it.

Not National Service, but some sort of boot-camp. Get the kids out of their homes and mixing with others from a different background. Brilliant - away-day youth centres in other words. Here's how that'll work, you'll get two groups appearing - one will join in everything with fun and vague enthusiasm; the other group will tell you to "Sod Off". Now which of these two groups do you think really needs to be at this camp?

So the group tells you to perform anatomically infeasible actions on yourself, what do you do? Deny them dinner - nope can't do that. Haul them out of bed - nope can't do that. Deny them privileges - yep you can do that, but what privileges can you suspend that they won't end up doing anyway and you can't kick them out. Make them do the washing-up you'll just end up with a lot of accidentally broken crockery. If you do try to enforce any of these pointless restrictions they'll just leave and hitch a ride back home, unless you're locking them in - which you can't do.

Don't worry Kate's got the solution asking what you should do if you get a group loitering outside your house drinking you don't go out to tell them off "It's an impossible situation" chimes Ben. "Yeah, but the situation needs something to be done"

She's right - we need someone who can do something about this. We could empower a group of civilians to act on our behalf that we could contact when one of these situations occurred. We could give them powers to be able to move or even detain people. And we could call them um The Enforcers, no wait how about The Police; hmm catchy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Just a quickie, a letter from the Land Registry oddly enough about some land. When registering some land some time ago it turns out that in their infinite wisdom they'd included a sliver that a) didn't belong to us and b) we didn't ask to be registered to us; both of which were things that they themselves point out. Now the rightful owners are trying to get that sliver re-registered under their own names, but we're the ones listed as owning it so despite knowing both "a" and "b" we get a notice asking if we have any objections.

So far so ruled by green cloth, the best bit is in the accompanying letter that tells us objections need to be in before noon on 25 January 2007, fortunately the explanatory notes remove the time-travel requirements necessary to lodge a complaint and puts the date at 5 February 2008.

Obviously a typo, except of course even if they'd got the year correct in the letter it still wouldn't match up with the other one.

Go for the parents

Parents should take responsibility for their children is the tearful statement of one recent widow in the news. Except of course legally they already should and the vicious young thugs convicted of murdering her husband were all over 16 and thus not 'children'.

Much bemoaning from the text-ins and emails, talking about how they didn't do this when they were kids; oddly though from the generation who installed such worthwhile values in the current generation that we're um complaining about. Bring back National Service cry the closet and outed Tories; great idea instead of a bored and feckless youth on our streets we can have a bored and feckless military trained youth on our streets instead.

Talks about the police not doing enough, which is just wrong; they're filling those forms as fast as they can damnit!

Much talk over the fact that one of the killers was just bailed for an assault (I assume they mean Common Assault rather then just threatening someone) ignoring the numbers who are bailed for assault and don't go on to murder someone.

So what can be done? I don't know.

We need more police on the streets rather then whistling past in cars, but with the size of estates and general urban sprawl the numbers required to do the job properly probably exceed the current numbers (oh and think of the rise in taxes). Cut out the red-tape so they can do their job; that is until you realise you need the red-tape at times especially when some innocent gets shot in the head.

Create youth centres to organise them off street corners, except they'd be vandilised within a week by those not using them.

Tighten up the drinking laws to make it illegal for under-18s to even drink alcohol, and thus add to a nation that already sees drinking as a right-of-passage adult experience unlike the Continent.

Break up loitering groups, breaking down their social skills further and causing them to switch more and more to virtual groups which creates its own problems.

Teach respect for adults, while at the same time teaching them to question the status quo?

Ah well and so we come back to the parents, perhaps prospective parents should apply for a child licence, take a test (other then the practical), be trained on the correct way to raise a child. Except we can't do either for reasons of liberty and the fact that there doesn't appear to be a One True Way of raising a child.

So I just don't know.

Mitton Park Residents' meeting

A short one now the leaflets have gone out. A meeting for the Mitton Park Resident's Association next Friday with a report from Fred about his meeting with councillors. Without spoiling things it sounded like 'fun' with one giant bombshell into the mindset of how all this works that caused me to emit one huge laugh.

I've also been told about the houses that lost the bottom half of their gardens down the (allegedly) unsupported bank - yeesh. Next thing you know they'll be finding old mine workings underneath it all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fuel bills going up.

It probably goes something like this

At the start of the year 2000 the electricity generating companies (I'll call them EGCs) negotiate with the fuel providers for fuel for 2001. The price is set at £2/unit. The EGCs need to pay that now so for the year 2000 they need to charge £2+.

In 2001 the negotiations start afresh for 2002 and the price goes up to £3/unit; again the EGCs therefore need to charge £3+ for 2001.

In 2002 the prices go down to £2/unit for 2003. The EGCs don't reduce the price they charge on the grounds that the fuel being used in 2002 was bought in 2001 when it cost £3/unit

In 2003 the price returns to £3/unit. The EGCs continue to charge £3+ because they're having to pay for the fuel now.

Do you see the trick folks?

Substitute electricity supplier and EGC respectively and you've got the same thing at a closer level to the consumer; beautiful isn't it. Don't worry we've got the watchdogs to stamp on this using the laws set by our government that were pretty much written the EGCs and suppliers; yay?

Before anyone picks holes in this a) No I don't know that's how it's really done, but I've heard the equivalent of both excuses used by the same company on TV; and b) that bit about who wrote the laws came from a conversation with the actual watchdogs themselves (who at the lower levels are mightily frustrated)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Search terms

Ah search term time. In some cases I hope I have provided information, in others I doubt I had what they were looking for. Not to fear FlipC is here.

"2007 + annoying + tele" and "annoying television" - yes it was.
"artie ziff sweet dreams" - 'I am watching you through a camera'.
"bbc breakfast "wet hair" colds" - complete rubbish.
"ben shepherd replaces andrew castle" - no he hasn't.
"blizzard of obscenity" - um.
"blue tomatoes" - welcome fellow Fanglemorkian
"bmi of johnny wilkinson" about 28... fatty, fat, fat.
"bush and use of apostrophes" - woah there he's still got to master basic English.
"can't switch to pistol in hl2" - Remember you can't switch to a weapon that has no ammunition.
"causes of climate change" - just you, that's right it's all your fault.
"cement how mad" - yes it is.
"colour for beginners cmyk and rgb" - differ in whether the colour is caused by reflective light (such as print on a paper) or emittive light (on a television or monitor)
"cadbury 'not chocolate'" and related - Unless it's Australian because Cadbury's Australia don't skimp on chocolate; they save the skimping for the UK.
"85233 boltblue" and "stop to 85233" and "text cost to 85233" and "why is my son getting texts from 85233" - It's nothing to do with us as your provider, you must have signed up for it (even though you didn't).
"curry weee" - yes they are taking it, a bit like the current O2 advert where you can sign up and keep your number wow, how kind of them. It only took ombudsmen, watchdogs and the government a few years to force telcos to allow number portability (after years of being told it wasn't possible); so it's nice that O2 will let you do this.
"downside of smartcycle" - it gets tiring apparently.
"dvb t2" and others - yep the fantastic acronym that means your new digital television will stop getting freeview after about 2012.
"fearne cotton foot and ankle tattoo" - yes she's a wild child, but if you're looking to get a tattoo you can do better.
"fiona phillips screen caps" - whatever floats your boat and at least you don't get any audio.
"flashearth" - or you could just visit their site which is
"funniest things typed" - why thank you.
"getting straight 2 with stonie" - um
"hannah spearritt underwear images" - seriously how old is she - 10?
"has the eggheads ended?" - well Dermot's defected and they seem to be showing repeats so...
"+hell +buildings +'google earth'" - I don't think they've got that far, though I think they're processing the heaven images as we speak.
"highway code parking on paths" - bad highway code it shouldn't park on paths.
"housing price crash" - panic, panic now.
"inconvenient truth rubbish" - just mostly, shame he didn't go all green when he was vice-president and actually wielded some sort of power.
"'is a supermarket a class a1 business'" - yes.
"jak 3 ps3 compatibility" - should be fine you could check on the UK Sony site if it wasn't so SHIT, so try the US one here. Remember to choose the "80Gb" option first.
"jericho-ps3" - boring demo, I'm not buying it.
"kidnapping for fun companies" - Can be found next to 'Kidnapping for Dummies' and 'How to Get (rid of) a Celeb's body'.
"lui bai chang" - a nice man who just wants you to help him in defrauding his government. Just send him your bank details you can trust him as much as you can trust anyone trying to defraud his government and can't get your name correct..
"+middenheim +map -ashes" - still haven't found my copy yet damnit!
"no smacking signs" - just because you see a sign you don't like doesn't mean you can hit it.
"older women from the currys advert" - probably Karen Admiraal.
"orange box ps3 theme music" - it's the Episode 2 theme a soundtrack list is here
"pic of someone going mad" - sorry depends on context.
"playstation 3 80gb list unplayable games" - oh no that would be too easy you have to go here instead.
"possible earth type planet" - the only ones that'll have life according to the non-biology degree holding astrophysicists
"putting your address on your website" - not a good idea.
"romanians" - related to the Vulcans, oh wait that's Romulans.
"silent hill ps3 compatibility" - they all work now - YES! Except for some small faults.
"somerfield vs co-op" - there's only one way to find out; FIGHT!
"soul reaver 2 ps3 compatibility" - I've had no problems so far.
"susannah reid caps" - three kids; wow.
"the gadget show helicopters" - and all the others yep they're the "picoz sky challenger battle pack" do a search for those to find the best deal.
"thermonuclear warheads and nailclippers" - don't take either on to a plane, should be fine on a cruise ship though.
"tickled by police" - no that's 'tasered by police'.
"utopia by thomas more discusion" - Greek meaning 'no place'; satire.
"what is tesco supermarket" - A family friendly company bringing back the traditions of the small corner-shop despite the narrow-mindset of the luddites who for some reason object to having a bohemothic structure parked just outside their town sucking the lifeforce from it like a lamprey.
"what's it called when you use the wrong word?" - So many choices you can have 'Freudian slip' where you say what you think, a 'Spoonerism' where you switch word parts around, or the most common 'a mistake'.
"women in shampoo adverts" - don't they always have such long hair, have you ever seen a women in a shampoo advert with short hair?

Drains can't cope.

Watching one of the morning news programmes and up popped someone standing on a road, ankle-deep in water, and talking about the rain. 'The drains haven't been able to cope' she said (or words to that effect) and I laughed like a loon - when have the drains ever coped with the rain? Unless we're talking about a light shower over in seconds puddles instantly form everywhere and just stay there.

Driving down Vale Road I could see two drains set about a car length apart, the fact I could see them should tell me they're working except for the big puddle that had formed between them. Rivers of surface water running down the roads, and huge puddles forming at every pedestrian crossing point because that's where the drains have been placed and the roads (and paths) designed to carry the water to.

I was giving my mother a lift into town and she looked at all this and said "You know I'm sure they used to go around dredging the drains every so often and I haven't seen anyone doing that in ages" So does anyone know the score on that? Is it all taking place under our feet with robo-moles scurrying though the drainage system cleaning it out, or does whoever did it before simply not bother now?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Asda car-park policy, but really car-parks in general

So Asda are field testing/rolling-out/contemplating tougher action on applying fines for people without families using the family bays in their car-parks. The BBC reporter asked if they could do this and the Asda spokesman replied that the company enforcing the fines were DVLA etc accredited. Dumb question it's their car-park and they can set it out however they want, if they find that black people spend more then white people then Asda could set up Black-Only spaces next to the store entrance. Ummm, it's at this point you have to step back and take a look at this entire policy.

For the disabled it makes sense. More space is required to get out of the vehicle, remove any equipment, and then get into the store. So wider bays closer to the entrance. Exactly the same applies to families, except possibly for the need to be close to the store. So these two groups need these extra considerations, except why are these extra considerations at all; what about everyone else? The elderly may need to open the door to the full extent to lever themselves out, as might the overweight; they'd also like to be closer to the entrance. What about people with wonking huge SUVs, people trying to get shopping into the back seat because the boot is full, do none of these people matter?

Well to be blunt no. There's a finite amount of space and so to maximise the number of cars that can park you need to minimise the width of the bays and pretty much anything that prevents cars parking.

Before I continue I want to make it clear this isn't some personal rant. I've got a small car (but perfectly formed) which fits neatly into these spaces and I'm thin (but perfectly formed) so I don't need to open my door to the full extent. I do however not always use my car directly next to the stores I enter and so at times may be considered a pedestrian.

I've mentioned before on occasion how much car-park designs annoy the hell out of me, time to dissect them a bit more picking on the local Crossley Retail Park for starters. In the picture below the main retail car-park is the red/beige area on the right, with Sainsbury's in grey on the left. For those who want to browse around the previous link is to FlashEarth and all subsequent links should open in the same window or tab (may not automatically switch to it though).
This should have been easy, it's a new site so you're not restricted by what was there before you can design it the right way... yeah okay. Looking at this you'll notice the lack of any form of pedestrian access, no wait there are in fact three zebra crossings on this car-park see them in a row at the top end of the estate. Who are these for? The only time I've ever used them is when I've been taking photos, the only people I've seen using them are walking to their cars which are parked next to them.

Let's try something a little more obvious, walking from town and trying to get to Curry's which is the very first main building on the estate, should be easy. Take a look...
So coming in from the bottom right you cross the first lane to the divider, then the second to the retail park. You then turn left and head through the no-parking car bay and find yourself in the middle of the car-park road. You now have to work to the right around the bush behind all the parked cars until you get to that yellow section of pavement. Of course what you're supposed to do is ignore that car-bay and continue along the pavement to your left until you get to the crossing point there then cross the two lanes to get to the yellow pavement and walk along the side of the building. Except there is no crossing point there, no alteration in the main pavement to indicate it as such.

I'm being silly of course, you ignore that and walk up the pavement on your right by the side of the car-park until you get to the zebra crossings, you remember those don't you the ones at the top of the estate. Duh I'm still being silly you simply walk up until you get to the next car entrance and use that...
Note the lack of pavement leading into the car-park, note that unless you cross the road you'll be walking with your back to the traffic, see the bushes preventing you from even trying to walk on that section. Discover with joy that once you reach the end of this road section you can't simply continue across the road, but have to walk around all the cars parked in front of you until you finally reach the safety of another pavement. Those people using the links might notice the pedestrian crossing across the road, make a note that this too leads into a no-parking car-bay and straight back into the car-park.

But hey that's all pedestrian this and pedestrian that, who cares they got no money it's the cars we're interested in. Well take a look at the first picture again, do you see any safe way for anyone parking here to get to the stores except for the three zebra crossings at the very top?

At least Sainsbury's provide a pedestrianised walkway in their car-park. Well one anyway.
Great if you park in either of the two rows that bracket it, sucks if you don't or can't. No dedicated no-parking car-bays here so you can either squeeze past the cars or the trolley parks. Or you can just walk along the road until you get to the end and then still walk on the road past the bushes they've planted to make it look all pretty and obscure the driver's view of the road. Or you can just do what everyone else does and just walk up the middle of the road until you get to the store.

Okay I've diverged from the beginning of this entry, but not by that much really. Although some people are getting the extra space and nearness to the store, despite that even these special bays can be filled and those people too will find themselves trying to open doors and scurry along roads, kids in tow, until they reach the safety of the pavement.

Next time you park your car in a car-park and step out look around you. How easy is it for you to get to a pavement or other pedestrian only area?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Loving our water board

Got to love the efficiency of our water board in trying to replace our meters; I love them so much I had to send them an email telling them this.

Dear [Name withheld]

Thank you for your letter dated 7/1/08 (received 11/1/08) regarding your request for an appointment letter dated 2/1/08 (received 7/1/08). I am surprised that you have been unable to contact us by telephone as we have been available during normal working hours (9am-5.30pm) and for those odd times no-one has been in the office we have a perfectly functional answering machine; on which no messages have been left.

We have however seen one of your engineers working at the site our water meter is located (which along with all the units in this section are not located in the premises, but in the road) and indeed he managed to contact us on his mobile, albeit unintentionally, to mutter something about our meter having been replaced.

On our end of the contacting business we have been attempting without success to contact either of the two numbers listed with only an engaged tone to greet us, and thus resorted to email, which incidentally you don't include on your letter dated 7/1/08.

As to the rest of your letter what charges would you be talking about? How could you attempt to "reinstate" normal recovery action when as far as we are concerned no recovery action (normal or otherwise) has ever been instated against an account we know nothing about.

To reiterate the main points:

1) Sending a 'complaining' letter 5 days after the original, when it can take 2 days to be received and another 2 of those days occur on a weekend, is not a good idea;
2) The 'complaining' letter should, at the least, duplicate all the contact information contained in the original letter;
3) Provide contact numbers that aren't permanently engaged;
4) The water meter is not on the premises as has been pointed out to every engineer that comes to check/read the meter; so no appointment to access the premises is required;
5) Please don't attempt to threaten someone about collecting "outstanding charges" on an account they may know nothing about for something they haven't asked for; and finally
6) Locate a dictionary and look up the meaning of "reinstate"

Yours sincerely

[Name withheld]

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

US Party Primaries

It's a beautiful morning in the state of Nowhere, USA and you wake up on voting day, today you get to vote in your party's election for the person you think should represent you for the presidential election. Switching on the television you change to the news channel which is hosting full coverage of the event. What's this though the two top contenders of your party are neck and neck. Your state's decision is going to be the clincher - will this affect your vote?


It's a beautiful morning in the state of Nowhere, USA and you wake up on voting day, today you get to vote in your party's election for the person you think should represent you for the presidential election. Switching on the television you change to the news channel which is hosting full coverage of the event. What's this though one of the contenders is so far in the lead that no matter how your state votes they're going to win. Your state's decision doesn't even matter - will this affect your vote?


It's a beautiful morning in the state of Nowhere, USA and you wake up on voting day, today you get to vote in your party's election for the person you think should represent you for the presidential election. Switching on the television you change to the news channel which is hosting full coverage of the event. What's this though the state of Somewhere has voted in a landslide for A.E. Mouse. Are you going to go along with their decision - will this affect your vote?

Sounds silly, but this is pretty much how I think of the Party Primaries currently being held in America. Iowa votes for Barack Obama, New Hampshire votes for Hilary Clinton. Now did New Hampshire vote that way because of Iowa? There's no way of knowing.

The main purpose of a secret ballot was to prevent bribery and intimidation, but it also had the effect of allowing the voter freedom to chose who they thought was the best candidate and not be influenced directly by their peers; but this makes a mockery of that. Why are the results displayed, would anyone hold a presidential election in the same manner? to be blunt the states that hold the elections to last might not have a real say at all, or might find themselves in the position of holding all the aces. How will this affect the nominees' canvassing of the state? There's no way of knowing.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Welfare - three strikes and you're out

Another policy flung out from the Conservatives and defended on the sofa of GMTV by David Cameron. Nothing to do with them being the soft option, they just have better refreshments in their Green Room then the BBC and they probably asked first too. On that note I'm betting David was hoping to be interviewed by Fiona, as I doubt she has any real interest or knowledge in the subject and thus the 'interview' would turn into a discussion about her, her family, her job, and what government position she could expect to be offered if the Conservative party returned to power; unfortunately he got Ben Shephard instead.

Okay he's no Paxman, but at least he was asking the questions that received answers Paxman would have jumped on and torn to tiny shreds rather then allowing David to use the interview as a Party Political Broadcast, so he showing some promise.

So the policy itself is quite simple, for those who have been on welfare for some period of time (I believe two years was mentioned) if they refuse to take a reasonable job offered to them they lose one month of benefit, turn down a second job and lose 3 months, turn down a third and lose three years.

"So what do you mean by reasonable" asked Ben
Much waffling about individual needs, skills, etc. before David admitted that no definition of reasonable had been written down.
"But aren't these jobs offered going to be mostly low-wage?" asked Ben
"I don't think that's correct" responded David
"Aren't most of the jobs available unskilled?"
"I don't think that's true"
followed by waffling on immigrants coming over here and taking jobs "and good for them too" [heretic] so there must be such jobs available.
"But we're still talking mostly unskilled over skilled jobs"
"No I don't think that's true"

To back up all these claims David produced a detailed set of figures produced by the government showing the number of jobs available and those that had been categorised into skilled and unskilled... well no he didn't. Instead he related a story about how he'd toured some industrial estates in his constituency of West Oxfordshire and talked to some working Poles and Romanians who told him how happy they were; so case closed.

Seriously what's wrong with the Conservative party? Okay that could be a long answer, but this is just pathetic - a case of copying something that's been implemented in parts of the USA without bothering to check any of the figures. Oh but it might get a headline in the newspaper and some votes from people who think we should bring back the workhouse, who probably would vote Conservative anyway. Is this what Opposition politics has become to throw out speculative policies into the wild and see which ones stick, before reeling them back in to see if they can be made to work?

Perhaps this policy could also be applied to council housing? If you turn down a reasonable house offered to you for sale then you get kicked out for a month etc. There's plenty of good, cheap housing around for anyone who wants it, well at least there probably is if you're leader of the Conservative party and on a politicians wages.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ah the joy of shopping

Especially when you're not shopping for anything in particular. A book in WH Smith called "How to Get a Celeb's body" made me contemplate going up to the desk and asking if they had the companion novel "How to Get Rid of a Celeb's body" you know tricks with acid, what shovel to use, decent burial spots - I know very poor taste, but that's how my brain ticks.

Looking at PS3 games I note that despite the six stores competing in that area they've all got pretty much the same prices, which in some cases were higher then Woolworth's in Stourport; so much for January Sales. Likewise the forth season of Blake's Seven is still at around £50, which is where it started at. Spotted the five-disc tin set for Blade Runner at £22, seeing as the two-disc was £17 and I wanted it (only had it on VHS) that was a nice pick-up. A couple of books (alright six) in Waterstones, annoyingly I didn't spot that the only remaining copy of one had a torn corner off the cover and the spine was giving way; fixed the spine and the corner's not a problem so I'm not complaining it's only the second time this has happened to me ever I've just got to check more carefully in future.

Poked my head into a for a laugh and was amazed that they actually had HD televisions hooked up to an HD source and a majority thereof. Watched one sales guy hook up a Blu-Ray player they were trying to flog to an LCD screen (they were also trying to flog) and stick in "Happy Feet"; woah that was some bad movement stutter. I don't know if it was the TV, the film, or the player; slow moving objects no problem, but the intro where the camera pans down over the ice did my head in. When it dropped onto the slow-moving main character it was fine, so long as you didn't look at all the dancing penguins in the background as the camera panned around her/him - bleh.

I noted that the Virgin Megastore had turned into exactly the same shop with a different name that was so memorable I can't even recall it. This reminded me that the Fopp in the Roland Hill centre is now another similar store with another name I can't recall. To clarify that - a store whose name I can't recall reminded me of another store whose name I can't recall in that they may be the same company; everyone clear now?

Games Workshop is still there and say what you like about the stereotypical nerdy maladjusts most people think are into this type of thing, the staff are among the friendliest and most helpful you'll ever meet. Proves the adage that a person doing a job they like will do it well.

On the topic of getting things right the newly revamped HMV (now free of that sawdust smell) has managed to balls-up its payment desk setup. Previously it was simply - a snaking cordoned off queue led to the left of the main payments desk. When a till became free you walked past the other customers to get to it, when your transaction was complete you walked out to the right where the doors where. The only time it didn't work was when you got someone blocking the entire width of the walkway with a buggy.

Now they've separated out the queues for each till and set some shelves between each point, so now not only do you get into the 'slow' queue, but your exit point is back past that same queue then cutting across all the other queues to get back out. "Your previous queueing system was much better" I said, just received a smile in return. Ah well if you don't say anything you just get "well no one's complained"

Got back, just missing the hail storm apparently, and parked in town to grab something from Subway. Damn the town was quiet, I needn't have parked at the first space at the end of York Street I could have pretty much parked anywhere along it. Of course you don't know that and can't see until you've past it all. Ah well I ended up with a foot-long Italian BMT and very nice it was too.

Friday, January 04, 2008

'Twas the season

As a throwaway line in my last entry I mentioned that the family had decided not to do the present thing over Christmas (except for the kids), personally this has been my wish and philosophy for at least the last 10 years possibly even longer.

"It's the time of giving and receiving, so go out there and shop" say the businesses
"It's the thought that counts" say the people who give you a £2 book token for a store 100 miles away from you, and a hand-knitted bright red and green bobble hat.
"It's the time for families to get together" say the transport companies as they announce major new works starting over the period.

My problem has always been with the never really considered first part of these sentiments "It's the time".
"So what you're saying is we should give our nearest and dearest presents and spend time with them?"
"Yes that's right"
"And then neglect them for the rest of the year?"
"Um no"
"So what makes this 'time' special"
"Well everyone else is doing it"

and that's about it. Buy someone a £100 camera in June because you saw it and thought they'd like it, but get them nothing at Christmas and you're a miserly humbug. So I'm supposed to buy something now, but wait to give it to because that's what everyone else does?

Same with birthdays I mean if I lived in a war-torn/famine-stricken/disease-ridden place then surviving a year is a big deal, but "Congratulations you've managed to live another year in this cosseted society we call England probably through no real effort on your part. So here, on a day you had no say in determining, is a present for you" rings a little hollow to me. Sure 18, 21, 60-whatever the retirement age is now are a cause of celebration, but that's more a legal nicety that means you can vote, stand for Parliament, or retire to stack shelves at the supermarket.

Maybe it's me? I just don't get the whole 'On this day you will get a present for someone' mandatory society option; why do I need a special day or time to buy someone a gift? The answer, quite simply, is that I don't.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hi Honey I'm home

Yeah I'm back, muchos time with with family and friends. The Bratii are still annoying. Who's eaten Minor's Maltesers - Major; where have half the sweets gone from Mum and Dad's tin - Major; who practically ripped Minor's new book out of his hands so he could read it - Major; say are you noticing a theme here? Devil Child approaching the age of two is loving the sound of her own voice and is happily babbling away to all and sundry, and due to the repeated use by the nursery is calling her milk bottle a 'bot-bot' much to the annoyance of her mother who is trying to get her to say milk or bottle. Seriously people we're trying to teach the kid to talk, how does blathering on about moo-moos, baa-baas, woof-woofs, and bot-bots help?

Not drinking has the downside of being the default designated driver, but the upside is that I demand all my drinks are paid for by the people I'm ferrying around; well have you seen the cost of petrol?

Managed second and third place in a couple of rounds of skittles, which is about right. I'm not a regular in this crowd and basically turning up once a year at the behest of someone else just to scoop the two top prizes does not a popular person make so I keep a good eye on the scores; besides the prizes are normally bottles of wine.

Dank and dismal weather has also prompted some stay-at-home gaming so I'm going through Half Life 2 again, a bit of heavy Oblivion-time and I picked up TimeShift cheap which I'm glad about (the cheap bit that is). Full reviews on the first and last to follow.

Dad decided to put up a shelf over the washing stuff now they've got their first tumble-dryer in place. "I measured it three times" he told me "and it was 190cm long". Default lengths being 183cm or 240cm he had to buy the longer and have the place cut it down for him. Getting it home he found it was too long. One more measure later and it turned out the gap was 183cm long. <sigh>

Some post-Christmas shopping resulted in a combined 10" screen+DVD player for my father so he doesn't have to keep annoying my mum by turning off something she's in the middle of watching when she's left the room in order to stick one of his railway films on. Materially though that's been about it, the kids all got stuff of course, but we adults decided simply to enjoy one another's company. Worst Christmas Ever! :-)

On a local note the scaffolding came down of the bridge just before Christmas and someone said that it looks like some of the ironwork hasn't gone back up; heading down there and comparing with Don's close-up of Stourport Bridge taken in 2006 I can't see a difference. I'll upload my photo later.