Thursday, July 31, 2008

DVD prices

I've already mentioned in an earlier entry how interesting it is to watch the price of some films drop like stones, to that end I browsed though Amazon's Bargain section.

"Shaun of the Dead" - £2.98! The entire first season of "The Tudors" - £9.98 that's ten episodes worth, 514 minutes. 14 Hitchcock films for £24.98.

There's 625 results and although some aren't exactly bargains compared to others, £37.98 down from £49.99 (-24%) for "The Vicar of Dibley" compared to £16.98 down from £49.99 (-66%) for "Deadwood" season 3, and with season 1 at £15.48 (-69%); but that's why it's up to 70% off.

Well worth a browse especially given the bricks and mortar shops are often still selling them at full price, but be careful there's some sneakiness "Daywatch" at £4.98 or "Nightwatch"+"Daywatch" at £5.97, single disc of "Hot Fuzz" for £4.98 or the double-disc for £7.97? If you spot something it's worth tapping it into the search just to see what else is available.

LOL first row of the first page of the television DVDs under £5 - Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine, Tipping the Velvet, Fireman Sam; hmm spot the incongruous entry.

Video Games are bad!

Witnessed the most blatant attack on video games this morning perpetrated by John Stapleton of GMTV.

First off we get a report talking about the Manhunt 'copycat' killing in 2004 and the GTA 'copycat' killing in 2007. Oh wow they can only find two semi-linked cases in four years - we've obviously an epidemic on our hands here.

They mentioned Metal Gear Solid (16+) and Grand Theft Auto (18) without, you know, mentioning the age certification.

Then we get good old John haranguing an ELSPA representative-
"My son plays GTA..."
That would be your 20+ year old son would it John? Wow fancy him playing an 18 certificate game
"would you allow an 11/12 year-old play GTA?"
That would be the 18 certificate game, the one with a film-style 18 on the front, back and spine?
"You have a game where you shoot police officers, that glamourises shooting police officers; should such games even exist?"
Oo I can sum this up in one question - Should a 11/12 year old be allowed to watch "Reservoir Dogs"? Oh but wait that would be opening up the whole violence on screen can o' worms and some might ask questions about depictions of sex and violence on such television channels as um this very one broadcasting GMTV.

Here's the deal, as has been pointed out many a time, somebody of the age shown on the video game has to purchase it in order to give it to someone who is under that age. If you as a parent pick up a blatantly labelled 18-certificate game and let your 12 year-old play it then you should be as shocked and surprised by its content as if you'd done the same thing with a similar film. Why doesn't the media seem to get that?

Because games are for kiddy-winks. Despite the fact that the average gamer age is mid-20's,

[Update - as per Dan's comment this might be a misleading statistic. As I hope I've made clear in previous entries if such 'facts' are given without a source, even by myself, they should be taken with a large pinch of salt]

despite the fact that the younger reporters are all playing these games; mention video-games and the media instantly revert to "Won't someone think of the children" mode.

It's yet another absolving of responsibility with the tautology that 'anything I buy that I think is suitable for my children, should be suitable for my children' From the media point of view it is not the responsibility of adults to examine the things they buy for their children, it is up to the producers to ensure that everything is suitable for them.

Amazingly for once the government's got this right and are concentrating on a unified classification system, it's the media who are running around hysterically.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Important letter

Just came through the door from HM Revenue and Customs with

Open immediately
Important changes to tax codes

Yes that's right they've changed the personal allowance that got screwed up when they dropped the 10p tax band, it goes up by 60 (£600) as of 7 September 2008.

Wooh I'm glad I opened that letter immediately otherwise a month down the line I'd have been completely caught out.

Oh and it was sent by 2nd class and is "printed on material from sustainable forests". Um I thought all forests were sustainable provided you didn't chop out two-thirds of it?

A pictorial depiction of buying my new car

Not a happy bunny!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And the rain came down

The rain last night was a complete relief not only did it clear my aches and pains (still some left so the weather's still on the move), but it returned Bridge Street's pavements to their original brightness... no I'm kidding off course, they still look like something a bird left behind.

On the plus side though the rain did fade a bit of the dirty black tire marks that were all over our 'gateway' feature as you left the bridge. Dirty marks, there who could possible have foreseen that, who could possibly have mentioned in an email to the council prior to the refurb that putting a light colour there might not be the best of ideas? Gee I've no idea -

I also note nothing is said about the material to used in the laying of this feature. With the heavy traffic load anything ‘flimsy’ will soon be worn away, and anything too light in colour will become a mess of tyre marks. Something sturdy and mark-resistant will be required. [Me to the council, May 29 2007]
On another point -
matches the blue and gold motif of the refurbished bridge ironwork. [ibid]
So that would be black and gold bins and black posts with black and gold signs, yeah that blends in so well with the blue and gold as chosen by the public for the bridge ironwork.

On an apologetic note I did also ask for more signage, I just didn't expect them to use fat-bottomed posts.

Monday, July 28, 2008


The current warm weather working up a sweat when strenuously not moving or doing anything I gave in and suffered through my backlog of three Bonekickers episodes from BBC1.

The premise is simple - rip-off Primeval; just remove the dinosaurs and time-holes and replace them with archaeological artefacts and historical conspiracies. Sadly they kept the shoot at odd angles and the whizzy speed-up slow-downs as well as the dire dialogue "Just use your archaeological imagination." - what? Likewise does anyone believe that a second-year student doesn't know how to pronounce the name of the warrior queen of the Iceni (Boudica not Boadicea) while amusingly her older colleagues keep getting the name of the tribe wrong (E-ken-e not I-see-ni)?

Also just like Primeval where every episode alluded to the lead character' s missing wife, Bonekickers constantly mentions the lead character's mother who had some sort of breakdown, oh and some special sword which may have caused it. Watching the third episode I kept thinking "So when are they going to mention the sword?" and as I approached the end "Oh wow they've cleverly left out mentioning the sword this time" that was until it was shoe-horned in at the last moment.

They've even kept a similar roster of characters - older guy, young guy; older women, younger women; conservative, reckless; eager-too-please, world-weary - just mixed and matched the traits to the actors. At least they've kept the young lady in her clothes, but Julie Graham as the lead does seem to like her tight jeans (no objections at least she's not a stick like Spearitt) and scoop tops.

So overall implausible, badly written, badly directed, well-acted (for what they're having to work with). Trouble is it's like popcorn - it may taste just like cardboard drizzled with butter, but that doesn't stop you cramming it in and as such I'm still going to be watching the rest of the series; if only to discover whether this bloody sword is really supposed to be Excalibur or not.

Now we know where we're going

Our wonderful new fingerposts have acquired fingers, I've yet to get a close-up of these on the grounds that it's bloody hot out there (bloody hot in 'here' too), but there is definitely one sign on the controversial Coopers Lane post pointing across the street to the "Historic Canal Basins".

So of course those heading up town will notice the sign and instantly make for the pelican crossing further up... hahahaha yeah as if. They'll just stand next to the sign like lemons and try to cross there just like they do already, but this time with more justification.

I would suggest bringing the crossing down, but that would kill the trade at the top of Bridge Street on the canal side even more. Perhaps we could hang a sign from the post - "Please use the crossing [arrow]"?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Suspend your internet connection.

This has finally breached the media membrane although the web's been whittering on about it for ages now - if your internet provider suspects that you're downloading illegal stuff they might suspend your account.

Now everyone online seems to have pounced on the word "suspect" and given it a pounding along the lines of 'how dare they cut of your service for something they think you may have done' then the talk of how it might not be you doing this, which given the track record of some companies record-keeping isn't entirely unjustified, and how someone might be using your connection without your knowledge or using a shared connection etc. etc.

Okay stop - they're a business providing you with a service that you are paying for. You are not entitled to an internet connection, when you signed up with them you agreed to their terms and conditions which I have very little doubt contained a clause along the lines of 'Given X days notice we can disconnect you from our service for any reason we want'.

They get it wrong and disconnect you for something you haven't done - take your business elsewhere; it's not as if you still have to pay them. If you can't switch because they've told everyone you're a illegal downloader then you sue them for defamation or complain to the Data Protection Agency for breach of confidentiality.

My annoyance is over the GMTV report that a) talked about this as if it's only children doing it; b) that the only thing being transferred illegally is music; and c) parroted the record industry's quote of losing £X billion pounds in lost revenue. Rubbish, rubbish, and more rubbish.

Never the media

Quote of the morning from GMTV psychologist Emma Kenny discussing the fake death dad and how their sons cope with all the negative press

"[...] they'll have to pick through the facts that are the truth and the um media speculation."
It was the um of course that attracted my attention because we all know how that sentence is supposed to end.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stour Bridge hole

So this hole was first dug on the 17th of November it was patched on the 22nd and sunk again the following day. I have a record of a report I sent on the 11th December and the hole was redone on the 14th.

I note in March that it's become a sharp-edged depression. This is then seriously topped up to make a bump and now it's back down into a depression again.

Another report via the whub - entered my email address and password and got rejected before recalling that I used the other log in page that asks for user name and password [sigh]

To recap:

Dug on the 17th November
Patched on the 22nd November
Patched on the 14th December
Patched around March
Now requires filling in again.

Perhaps it's all a scheme to keep the repair crew off the dole?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Relative prices - a maths question

A multi-pack of 6x200g yoghurt pots normally costs £2.96, but has been specially reduced by 50p. An individual 200g pot of yoghurt normally costs 54p, but is on a special 'Buy one get one free' offer.

Roughly what percentage of shoppers at this store will still pick up the multi-pack being under the impression it must be cheaper?

Okay for those without the mathematics gene prior to the special offers the multi-pack comes in at a snip over 49p each, with the offer they're 41p each exactly. So with the individual pots at 54p the multi-pack is cheaper; except they're BOGOF. Six individual pots costs £3.24, with the offer half are free so it comes to £1.62.

So the in this instance the multi-pack, which offers you limited choice of flavours, costs 84p more then buying the yoghurt pots separately. How many people are going to spot that?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vale road leak

Two days of traffic lights at OGL and yet the leak in Vale Road was fixed without me even noticing. Next up is the depression on the Stour Bridge which hopefully will be done in the same manner.

Then, of course, there's road repair that needs doing in High Street, York Street, Vale Road, Minster Road, Wilden Lane...

Friday, July 18, 2008


What with curfews and 'spiralling' knife crime I keep hearing the phrase anti-social again and again, yet I've yet to hear anyone truly define it.

So first stop is the Home Office where I find an entire page dedicated to anti-social behaviour and the first sentence -

Anti-social behaviour is any activity that impacts on other people in a negative way.
Stop and think about that for a moment - "any activity"?

We get more on the specific What is ASB link
Anti-social behaviour (ASB) includes a variety of behaviour covering a whole complex of selfish and unacceptable activity that can blight the quality of community life.
Ah that's better, if wishy-washy, let's combine the two parts into - 'Anti-social behaviour is any selfish and unacceptable activity that negatively impacts the quality of people or community life'; marvellous. Of course this requires a definition of selfish and unacceptable (and community).

Selfish is easy in this context - actions that benefit only the person committing the act; unacceptable however is a tad more tricky the closest I can think of in context is 'not conforming to standard social practices' except that in itself is almost a definition of "anti-social" and thus we start tying ourselves in knots.

It's also interesting to note that in both instances the quotes refer to the plural "community" and "people" are we to infer that if something only affects one person it cannot be deemed anti-social?

So we have a problem with this definition so let's step back and look at the phrase anti-social itself.

It means in this context acting against society. So trying to blow up railway stations bomb motorways or the means of government would be anti-social, but although I'm sure that some would like to include 'youths' hanging around on street corners in this group I can't do it. So we need another tighter definition so let's try 'acting against established society'.

Trouble again, this defines anti-social as acting against the status quo, and still includes the previous lot also with this definition both Martin Luther King Jr. and Oliver Cromwell would be defined as anti-social for going against the established order of segregation and divine right of kings respectively; oops.

So as you can tell I'm having trouble with this. To fit how the phrase is being used my best definition is 'anyone performing an action that would be deemed disagreeable to a majority of people given the context in which it is performed'. Sadly that still covers the thieves, murderers, bombers etc. so - 'anyone performing a non-criminal action that would be deemed disagreeable to a majority of people given the context in which it is performed'.

Pathetic, in order not to lump the litterers with the terrorists I've had to invoke the non-criminal part which just highlights the meaningless of it... you're doing something we don't like, but it's not a criminal offence, but we still want to stop you doing it so um here you go we'll call you "anti-social"; perfect.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Morning traffic

So our temporary lights were still up last night, but in a stroke of genius someone had been posted during the evening rush-hour to switch them manually; as such my trip took about the same amount of time as it usually did.

This morning, however, I joined the queue on the bridge. We moved forward at a snail's pace and I mentally tossed a coin. It came down heads so I headed down Raven Street, New Street, and then Moorhall Lane. Turning right into Lickhill Road I joined the queue there.

Moving forward at slightly more then a snail's pace I turned left into Vernon Road and hit the junction to Worcester Street, at which point I stopped.

I watched four complete cycles of the traffic lights at the Worcester Street/Minster Road junction and didn't move an inch. This wasn't because no-one in the queue in front of me would let me in, they didn't move either. Seriously no exaggeration for these four cycles the top of the queue let out two cars which were instantly replaced by two others being let out from a side road. Further down the queue nobody moved - at all.

I gave up turned right into Lombard Street, joined the queue there. Moved forward into High Street, joined the queue. Moved into Vale Road, joined the queue. Got into Gilgal, joined the queue. Finally got to the OGL island and through the lights and away.

Worcester Road who had just been let out before us had three cars at the lights, not even queued they were just starting to form a queue.

Here's the kicker - the lights appeared to be on manual control. Yep this was the state we were in when we had someone at the switch favouring the town side.

Now as I've said this leak needed to be fixed and I could understand why they weren't doing it, but for god's sake a little forward notice would have been appreciated; they just dumped this lot down on Wednesday morning and expected everyone to work around it.

Oh yeah and what kills me is the fact that prior to them digging up the road last time we didn't have a leak here.

[Update - Just talked to someone who's just come in and the traffic's not as bad, but there still appears to be no-one working on site not even the guy I saw previously (who might have been working for Lux)]

{Update 2 - So 9am no-one on site (bar Lux man), 11am no-one on site, 1pm no-one on site, 2pm no-one on site; good to see STW taking this disruption to normal traffic flow seriously]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yet more traffic lights

Flicking through the letters page online at the Shuttle yesterday I spotted this missive regarding all the work going on in the area.

It was with some small amusement that I then discovered that work at the traffic lights had been reinstated and this morning traffic lights are going up at the OGL island again.

Checking the roadworks weekly report, the quarterly report and the monthly application for traffic lights leaves me none the wiser as to who is working here, which suggests it's an 'emergency' utility repair job. I'll find out later when I'm sitting in a queue.

[Update - Great Googlymoogly it looks like they're fixing the leak; highly amusing as it appears we have just acquired a new one in Vale Road just at the turn into the Mitton car-park]

Doing my favourite thing and quoting myself - "So when will it all end? Probably never."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gotta love Gilgal

So I'm following a box van up Vale Road and we reach the bottleneck that is Gilgal. Amazingly the left-hand lane of Gilgal is in motion (the right-hand side being clear as usual) and he indicates to change lanes (to the left) and continues into our right-hand lane alongside a silver car.

I note that the silver car is being followed by a dark car and then a gap being eroded by a coach. I also indicate left and pull into our right-hand lane slowly so as to slot in behind the dark car, who in turn is now indicating right; so we dosey doe. The coach switches lanes behind me too.

Meanwhile the box van is still in the right-hand lane, but has stopped indicating either he's changed his mind or the right-hand bend we've just travelled through has switched them off automatically. He's also getting very close to the diving line, but with the narrowness of the road that's normal. Well normal until he broaches the line and starts getting very close to the silver car in front of me.

I drop back a little we're not travelling very fast, but I can see how this is going and want to give myself some more breathing space.

The box van, still not indicating, cuts straight in front of the silver car causing him to brake and sound his horn; the box van driver is unrepentant and finishes his manoeuvre almost taking off the front of the silver car. I release my breath and then inhale again sharply as the coach passes me on the right just as we reach the station; a long rigid coach at the narrowest point of the road, on the inside of a curve. I almost thought I was going to lose a wing mirror.

Hey I know let's build a Tesco at the other end of this section and then make that road as narrow as the one I'm describing above - top hole idea!

Monday, July 14, 2008

IndyMac, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac

So FreddieMac and Fannie Mae watch their shares plummet causing a run on the IndyMac bank that in turn has forced it to be taken over by the regulators.

Gee who could have predicted that after the Northern Rock etc. debacle the next domino to start to topple would the guarantors of the mortgages.. oh wait

We are also waiting for the next big shockwave in the sales of guarantees as companies heavily invested in the sub-prime market were underwriting said guarantees.
nope came completely out the blue.

So the important question how does this affect us? Well the FTSE dropped like a stone, all the banks are really going to want to build their nest-eggs up even more and sit on them so we'll have less money greasing through the system, and we may see the dollar dip and that'll cause an increase in oil prices.

We've had analysts telling us we've switch from a bull to a bear market with much money-babble about the difference. In simple terms it's easy to explain - if you have more buyers then sellers it's a bull market; if you have more seller then buyers it's a bear market. In other words if you have more buyers then you can name your own price; take it or leave it, plenty of other people around, snap it up now. If you have more sellers then you're going to have problems offloading your shares; make me a better offer, I can get it cheaper off someone else.

So shares are dropping, for anyone who has a share-invested pension plan coming to maturity this is not good news. Companies are going to start cutting down and be unable to get loans. People will start saving rather then buying and the money will be pulled off the High Street.

All in all not good.

What's the time?

On Friday I spotted that my watch was a couple of minutes out from when I set it on Thursday, nothing major I just reset it and made a mental note to get the battery changed sometime in the near future.

Saturday I forgot about my watch, did a bunch of things as previously mentioned and found my watch was about 45 minutes out. One good swear later I switched it for another, set the time and date and switched it on.

An hour later I glance at the time and find I'm an hour late. Ah-hah I forgot to turn it on; nope the battery's gone in that one too. So I dig out a third watch, set it, turn it on, and check it's working which it is hurrah!

This morning I found I hadn't set my alarm properly so I'm running 15 minutes late. My watch seems fine until I see it's ten minutes slow, I add on the time and then note half-an-hour later it's five minutes fast.

Fortunately I've found one that actually works, but as a result I'm feeling a little temporally fuddled today.

The Flow Festival aftermath

Yes it's official the universe hates me. I missed the procession on Friday due to some over-running business; I did get to see the fireworks though... from a great distance, which as it was light didn't mean much.

Saturday I was out from 9am until around 2pm when I finally staggered home I managed to scrounge something to eat and left around 3pm I think (more on that confusion in a shorter entry later) and headed out into the rain down to the basin.

Heh a minor celebrity moment when I passed Katie on the bridge, but I wasn't 100% sure it was her; just 90% so I forwent introducing myself.

Down to the basin with the music getting louder, I reach that side of the basin just as they stop and pack up - neat. Up to the Tontine where it promptly bucketed it down and then down to another set of singers. Over to the Devil's Tale boat where I and and others took a lot of photos then around half four (possibly) we were all asked to clear the site so they could set up for that night's performance.

Sadly I had yet more plans and thus couldn't make it to that evening's performance.

Sunday was yet more running around, highly annoying as it looked a lot more pleasant and yet more running around in the evening I also knew about and thus didn't make that evening's performance either.

So I got some rain strewn photos I haven't even had chance to look at which will be uploaded if any of them are any good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Flow Festival

Okay first a pointer to the official site for our Flow Festival. The Festival itself starts tomorrow at 10am until 5pm for the whole weekend with The Devil's Tale being performed from 6pm til 7pm, but we have the procession tonight at 8.30pm heading across the bridge up through town and then back down to the basin. The universe permitting I'll be there to watch and also be there over the weekend too. So if you see a guy with a pony-tail in a beige jacket snapping away say hello :-)

Good timing as we also have the Vintage Steam Rally on at the same time. Sadly I wouldn't say it was easy walking distance between the two, but one event might draw people to the other. The only downside is that it's paid admission.

On another piece of good timing the death-trap stairs are still blocked off and apparently this is because they're no longer there! Perhaps someone's finally decided these tatty slippery metal stairs aren't befitting our shiny refitted bridge and are putting in some proper brick ones? Hey maybe someone will even get some gold paint out and paint round the... what d'ya call them... the jutting out bits of the lampposts to give them some added definition. Anyway we have a precession going over the bridge and a bunch of stuff going on at the basin, I expect the riverside stuff will be open for business and we've lost a set of steps; nice!

That dratted sign post

So at the end of June we had a letter in the Shuttle about that sign post sitting in the middle of the pavement on Bridge Street, Stourport and I see in this week's paper we have a news item response except I can't find it on-line.

[Update - And as it wasn't published on-line until 10:20 today I think that's a good reason why I couldn't find it - tada!]

The gist of the article was 'We measured everything and it was all in accordance to the guidelines, but we'll have another look at it as someone's complained" Common sense anyone? Imagine that the lamppost, steps and post were cars now tell me that 'because there's enough distance between them for a vehicle to get through' that the positioning is A-OK. I'll willing to bet that the position was determined by reference to a map rather than someone looking at it and getting someone to pretend to be a post.

This also highlights the importance of complaining, yes I know we'll all English and thus are more inclined to tut and put up with it; but in this instance we have to remember this is the council spending our money and if they've ballsed it up we have to let them know.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stourport shennagians take two

The death-trap steps are still closed off and the tops of scaffolding protruded above the wall. I couldn't see the spiral steps, but the Areley side steps were also blocked off with a van parked next to them; more work on the bridge perhaps?

On a previous topic I've just had a word with one of the council departments and they'll have a look at that wall on the Toll House. It has just been blocked off at the end and as there are no doors along the house wall it's a meaningless dead-end.

On a more interesting note something's going on at Bufton's market (the old, old indoor market) in that the boards covering the window holes have come down. If some type of renovation is going on there that'll really help the appearance of down-town Stourport.

I don't know if someone's playing with the crossing lights in Bridge Street, but driving out of Stourport it went red, beep, stop beep, yellow, green; all in a matter of seconds (coming round the corner as it went red I barely came to a halt before it changed). On the other hand coming back into Stourport we had red, beep, stop beep for a count of 10 potatoes, yellow, green. Just one pedestrian crossing each time with only a bit of extra traffic approaching the town exit in the second case.

Widening the field and we get metal thefts as mentioned on the Shuttle. I know as a fact there have been multiple thefts on the estate including flashing from a row of buildings and only this week two manhole covers; I also have it on good authority that someone tried to nick some exterior metal from our new M&Co in town the one with the CCTV camera sitting outside it.

Kidderminster Shuttle revamp - The Saga Continues

Huzzah they've finally enabled commenting on the blogs, you know those items that people are most likely to comment on. Of course those of us in the know have been able to comment since the revamp, but it's nice that the little people can have their say now too :-).

They've also stopped using the mini-thumbnail images of the bloggers as the main images on the front page so no more blurry jagged images; although they haven't updated the profile pages yet.

Sadly you still cannot see how many comments an entry has until you load it and as users still don't have the ability to track replies that's a bit of a pain.

You now can't get to the blog index page 'correctly' except via the front page as they've removed if from the "Local Info" section; oh and you still can't go beyond the third page of the news (2) except by manually upping the counter to 10 then continuing in 10 increments.

As I say in a comment I'm giving Lydia the benefit of the doubt over my erased comment. For those curious as to what Tav is referring to I took up Lydia's 'challenge' of

£3070 for six months of 7 hours a week!! You do the math!
and did the math. The result that was for fees, rent, and books she being charged around £40 per hour which I compared to the hourly rate of calling out a computer technician at being at least £50 per hour and therefore could hardly be deemed extortionate.

I then mentioned that she'd spelled accommodation incorrectly four times in three different ways, as well as university, medicine, and extortionate as well as using a your in place of a you're; ironic as she's taking a degree in English. Doubly ironic when done in an article asking exactly where all this tuition money is going. To indicate that this wasn't a personal attack I made sure that I twice made mention that these sort's of errors are easy to do when typing and that I've done it many a time myself. I just found it amusing.

Who are you if you believed the spam

If I believed the spam that gets through the filters I'm an impotent sex-maniacal Russian American gambler currently living in France. Though at least they got the fact I'm male and hetero correct.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stourport shennagians

An almost accident on the way from work last night, not me the cars opposite. A car had stopped to turn right into Power Station Road (next to the Rose and Crown) the car behind stopped fine, but the car behind him came to a halt in a plume of smoke (and the car behind her stopped easily). This is a 30mph zone, but just past the junction it switches to 50mph so, of course, everyone accelerates.

This morning I noted that the death-trap stairs are still closed off and that the theodolite is still at the Bridge Street end of Raven Street. It's also spawned off two others, one at the top of Bridge Street, next to the new map, and one opposite Raven Street outside the Factory Shop. I'm now guessing this is all Basin Link stuff. Ah now they're measuring down New Street.

The work going on at the old Surgery has me scratching my head. They've replaced the old wall that had fallen to bits that ran along Bridge Street, but they've blocked off one end of it. Now as far as I know it's always been possible to walk up the side of the bridge from the riverside and walk along the edge of the Toll House between it and the old wall (until it fell over). Now, however, they've just left the gap directly facing Bridge Street so anyone coming up from the riverside by this means will have to walk with their back to traffic in the road along this new wall.

This seems odd to say the least, so I looked up the plans and the drawings particularly the North West elevation. Now call me thick, but I can't see a wall here. It does show up on the South West side elevation, but as an open path. Hmm I'll triple check before I call anyone.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wyre Forest District Council website

So having visited the website in a pointless search for information I spot a few things.

Here's my first target "From 30th June to 25th July any person interested may inspect the council's accounts for the year ended 31st March 2008.". That is any person who can get to Duke House "on any working day between 9.30am and 4.00pm". Welcome to the 19th Century.

On the "What's on" front we get an advert for the Kidderminster Arts Festival being held between the 16th and 30th of August, hmm fair enough it's not as if anything else is happening earlier.

You could always check out the rest of the news if the link didn't point to a local computer

I'm sorry I'm just fed-up of thinking "Hey I wonder what's going on with X" and then crashing to a halt because the most logically place for me to find out just squirrels the information away. I mean just look at the search page you can't constrain the search by date and the results give no form of synopsis as to how the search term is referred.

Searching for "raven street" gives me "Taxi Ranks" on the second page why? Because the default search is for raven OR street with higher placements for those documents that contain both; try searching for "raven street" with the quotes and the previous 189 results drops to 4.

Now are you seriously telling me that the phrase "raven street" doesn't occur more then 4 times on the whole website including all the linked pdf documents of agendas and meetings. Nope of course not and that's because pdf files etc. aren't indexed. Yep as I've said before, the best way to search this website is by using Google, how sad is that?

Lest anyone think I'm picking on WFDC the Worcestershire Hub is almost as bad, difficult to navigate and splitting information across not just different pages but different sections. Slow to update and as I type currently off-line.

Both of them need to have a look at the Stourport town site. It's not perfect but then again, other than me, what is?

Men in yellow jackets

First things first though if I'd expressed disapproval of the cars mentioned in my footnote here I'd be eating my own words; fortunately I didn't. Yep I've just recreated that little scenario playing the second car. The beeps had stopped, there was no-one crossing, and the car in front of me moved off, so I followed. I was just on the crossing when I twigged my opposite number hadn't moved and glanced up to see a steady green figure on the side of the light. I'll say it again these lights are now more dangerous.

Okay onto the men in yellow, we had two guys manhandling a piece of wire fencing across the bridge step entrance to the Riverside Meadows, that's the death-trap stairs rather then the spiral ones. We also have a theodolite sitting on the Bridge Street end of Raven Street and two guys at the other end with other surveyor-type equipment.

I'm trying to think what would be going on here and I'm stumped. It might be the continuation of the pavement across the mouth of Raven Street, but that would be insane seeing as they've just laid down the textile paving slabs. Of course there's always the Wyre Forest District Council site that'll keep me informed as to work going on in Stouport... oh I crack me up sometimes.

Chinese Cooking Made Easy

As seen on BBC2 last night.

[Update - It was Chinese Food Made Easy]

It was surprisingly good for the most part, she only used one unexplained cooking term - reduce - and of the more esoteric ingredients offered alternatives that are easily available. Likewise she didn't assume everyone has a garlic press, pepper grinder , or gold-plated pip remover.

She did seem a bit enamoured of her own cooking pulling 'yummy' faces when she tried her own food, which I found a bit pointless as I'd hardly expect her to spit it out. Then she shattered my enjoyment

"On your way home from work if you're thinking about getting a takeaway why not get fresh ingredients yourself?"
Oo oo I think I know the answer to this. Is it - "Because all the shops that sell fresh ingredients are closed by the time I leave work"?

[Update - Damn, actual quote
"Next time you're on your way home and you want to pick yourself up a Chinese takeaway why don't you pick up some fresh ingredients to cook with instead"
I still think my point is valid though]

Okay the supermarkets are still open, but that's about it. It's not as if I can do as she does and pop into a greengrocer in the middle of the day and pick up stuff on the way home.

She did have some good tips though so I'll be watching the next episode on Monday.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Throw out your food - Take 2

A follow on from my original entry about food waste as Brown over in Japan is urging us to cut our food waste. Here's the story from the Guardian.

the UK throws away an annual 4.1m tonnes of edible goods
Wow because WRAP was talking about 6.7m tonnes, and the BBC was talking about 3.3m tonnes, makes one really trust these figures.

Anyway the whole point is that food costs more and it's not his fault, that lower-income families are spending a greater percentage of their income on food and it's not his fault (oh wait a sec, yes it is)
The poorest 10% of UK households spent 15 % of their outgoings on food in 2005-06, while the richest 10% spent just 7%.
Um duh, hold on where's my stats sheet. The median annual gross wage of the bottom 10% of all full and part-time workers in 2007 was £6,192, the top 10% £42,902. So the bottom 10% spend ~£929 and the top 10% ~£3,003 a year. Oh yeah percentages are really useful in this instance.
[the UK throws away] the equivalent of £420 for every home.
Yeah somehow I don't think those bottom 10% are throwing away nearly half their food purchases do you?
[food prices] have risen significantly - due to a combination of poor harvests, higher costs for energy used in agriculture and transport, diversion of some commodities to biofuel, and a long-term rise in demand for grain to feed a growing global population.
Poor harvests - blame the screwy weather (nothing to do with us, well maybe, or maybe not); higher costs for energy - done that; biofuel - yep that's got to be the biggest ironic twist; rise in demand - those damned Chinese thinking they can eat like Westerners, who do they think they are?

So the solution being proposed is an "international body to oversee food security" just what we need another bloody committee. Who's betting that is this body comes into being food quotas will be the next step.

Okay fair cop our food prices have been damn cheap and we've got spoiled by them, but the prices have shot up not because of any market readjustment but because of greed and 'panic'. Like water and energy, food is a necessity and it's all been placed in the hands of companies whose sole function is to make money.

Unlike energy the supply really has gone down while demand has increased so who can be shocked that the price increases; the laissez-faire marketers state that the increase in prices will lead to more people entering the food market because there's profit to be made now. Yep start tearing down those rainforests we need more growing area there's profit to be made.

Here's an interesting stat from an American department - each citizen requires 1.2 acres to provide the standard amount of food they consume. So for the UK population of 60m we need ~295,000 km² to live at that level. Land area of the UK - ~242,000 km². Self-sufficiency advocates take note.

[To contrast the US needs ~1.5m km² and has a land area of ~9m km². China needs 6.4m km² and has a land area of 9.3m km²]

Reading the road

Sunday in Kidderminster showed up the idiots in cars. Workmen were tiding up the median strip that runs between the two lane roads joining up the islands and as such had coned off the outside lanes closest to them.

Now I was heading over to Crossley which along the Ringway is a straight, straight, straight, third lane for right; and as such I tend to stay in lane 2 all the way through. On my first straight at the Comberton Hill island I'm in lane 1 and come out straight into lane 1 and am instantly cut-up by a car who found they couldn't use lane 2.

Now you know me I'm a generous soul who thinks the best of everyone, this car might have come from Comberton Hill and not known the lane was closed. Except they hadn't, they'd come from lane 2 right next to me. Again being generous I have to assume that the driver didn't see the large yellow signs at the island entrance, despite the fact that the road leading to it is perfectly straight; and that they didn't notice that the road they would be heading for was coned off, despite the fact that the approach road slopes down and the exit road slopes upwards so is perfectly visible to anyone looking straight ahead.

I had the same coming back up St Mary's Ringway - two lanes and a big sign telling me lane 2 would be closing in 300 yards, 200 yards, 100 yards, closed. Traffic barely started queuing until the point it closed and yet traffic was still blarting up the second lane and then trying to force themselves into the queue. I had one force their way in behind me then try to overtake me in the second lane on the island only to 'suddenly' find that the second lane was closed there too.

Oh and no neither drivers felt the need to indicate no doubt 'cos they were going straight on weren't they [sigh].

I see the same lack of foresight in queues when drivers who can't see ahead because of a larger vehicle are 'startled' when the traffic starts moving. I, behind them, on the other hand am in gear waiting to move; why? Because I'm watching the queue in the reflection of the big shop windows and can see the cars in front of the large vehicle moving off.

On the other hand some of the road setups practically invite accidents and cutting up. The traffic lights on Minster Road; two lanes in, two lanes out except it's still a 30mph zone, it's enforced by a speed camera and oh look the second lane merges with the first with only painted road signs to warn you. The result is cars racing past the lane 1 queue at the lights, slamming their brakes on at the speed camera and then trying to cut back into the first lane.

At least in that case they have some room to manoeuvre, take the lights at the other end of Minster Road at Oldington. This is even worse as it's a 70mph zone with two lanes at the lights that almost immediately merge into one without warning. I've seen cars whistling past a moving queue that's already reached the merge point and accelerating down the middle of the road at even greater speeds to reach the head of the queue.

Oh and yes I still see cars coming into Stourport by that road switching to lane 2 and then back to lane 1 because of the signs telling them (falsely) that lane 1 is coming to an end. Again not good at 70mph approaching the point that the two lanes do actually merge (into lane 1 mind) and hit a 30mph zone (with countdown warnings on the approach). You should see the brake lights come on at this point.

[sigh] and a quarter of the time those who do blart past hold up all the traffic almost instantly by trying to turn right into Windermere Way.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A little trip

Headed down to a local (but out of the way) satellite office to lay on hands for the computers. Some security settings were causing hassles and one wonderful programme insisted on being installed as an Administrator, but created its start-up links on a per-user basis and only for the Administrator instead of in the shared menu as it was told.

Directions were amusing as I worked through them on Google Maps
"Take this road here" says the boss then turn here.
"Or I could just continue to this highly distinctive turn and continue down the A roads" I showed
"Yeah, but it's quicker this way"
"But knowing this wonderful country so well I doubt it's even signposted so I'm likely to miss it or take the wrong route"
"Go whichever way you like then"

So I did and I was right the road in question isn't signposted. Narrow lanes, refuse vans, and horse riders; all good fun. At least it was paved.

Heading back I got to a junction and spotted a useful signpost, which I followed. Heading along I realised this isn't the way I'd come, kept following the signs and yes came out at that road I'd scorned on the way in. Mileage was certainly less, but the trip was slightly longer due to the number of times I had to turn against the traffic compared to what I'd have to have done retracing my steps. Shorter isn't always quicker.

Back to the office and dropped some mail out back.

"Saw those posts in the Shuttle"
Yep those finger posts, or more accurately that post.
I mentioned the photo wasn't exactly up to scratch and we got onto various other things including the icing sugar pavements before departing.

Over the road to drop off some misdirected mail and
"What's going on with these posts?" I'm asked
"You been reading the Shuttle?"
"No, what are they for?"
"Oh they're finger posts"
[quizzical look]
I mime pointing in various directions "They just haven't put up the signs yet"
"That one is going to be a right pain"
"Yeah it wouldn't have been so bad if it was straight up and down, but it's flared at the bottom; someone's going to trip over that."

Much discussion followed.

So two locals within ten minutes essentially saying "Who the hell put that there?"

On the same topic as trips and tripping, I now turn to rambling. In this instance the comment thread on the WFA regarding the Red Cross donation which has over 60 comments at last count. To summarise again (and I'm taking a risk here) part of the money donated for helping with the floods was set to be used to help with a play area not affected by the floods until someone asked why, at which point it was withdrawn.

Now the whole 60+ comments is essentially all about who asked whom and who gave (or didn't give) permission to whom and what was said. About 40 posts in I get fed-up and point out that all this could be settled by posting the documentation between the two parties involved. I repeat this three times and anyone in a position to have this documentation keeps repeating the mantra 'They said we could, and now they said we can't' without offering any proof oh and subtle legal threats against their 'accusers'. If this was a typical internet spat I wouldn't much care, but those of the mantra are our local councillors.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Television repeats

So I'm guessing that CITV has only the one series of "Justice League" given that they've ended the three part episode of "The Savage Time" (23, 24, and 25) and have just shown the three-parter "Secret Origins" 1, 2, and 3. As I'm late to the party and missed these total selfishness means I don't mind until they hit the ones I've already seen. At which point I'll moan that they aren't showing the second series or the thirty-nine episodes of the follow-on show.

Hey it's better then the news and quite frankly has a more mature plot then a lot of prime-time programming; besides it's got a proper taciturn, brooding Batman.

On the same note I see Channel 4 are doing their thing with "The Simpsons" again. We got five episodes of season 15 (out of twenty-one) before stepping back slightly to watch the entirety of season 14 skipping "C.E. D'oh", "'Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky" and "Three Gays of the Condo" of course ('Damn it these are cartoons they're for kids we can't show these at 6pm') before jumping back to watching season 8 (again I recall some odd gaps) and hey look now we're starting at season 13.

I'll just give the simplified episode numbers in the order they're being shown - 1307, 1306, 1308, 1310, 1314, 1313. Okay so the order within the season doesn't mean much, but we seem to have jumped five episodes here; not to mention four seasons; why? Channel 4 made such a big fuss over getting the rights to broadcast "The Simpsons" from BBC2, trumpeting how they'll be showing brand-new content, and now they're doing exactly the same thing the bloody BBC did and flicking aimlessly between seasons and skipping episodes.

So with "Reaper", "The Big Bang Theory", and "Terminator:SCC" long off the air and both "Doctor Who" and "Heroes" coming to an end there truly does seem to be less and less of anything worth watching on TV (and this season of "Heroes" wasn't exactly ablaze). I'll take a look at this "Bonekickers", which I guess is replacing Who's slot, but from the trailers it does look scarily set in the "Primeval" mould. [sigh] At least there's always Channel 4's "Despatches". Now which book shall I start today?

Knife crime

Yep another media frenzy on knife victims, I'm sure the publicity surrounding this particular event has nothing to do with the fact that the victim had a semi-famous sister who would draw more semi-famous people in to be photographed, quoted and used to sell more papers.

Jacqui Smith MP took the tough option by appearing on the GMTV sofa this morning and, scary though this may be, she actually talked more sense then presenter Ben whom I'll deal with in a minute.

So things she said included the fact that knife crime has decreased, and this is true given the current statistics, which has been acknowledged to be not reliable; and that the majority of 'young people' don't go around carrying knives.

On the annoying side she said that knife carriers were now more then three times as likely to end up in court. At this point Ben earned his big bucks by complaining that this didn't guarantee a prison sentence. Yep you heard that correctly - GMTV presenter advocates government lays down yet more mandatory sentencing by taking yet more power from the courts. Perhaps we should do away with courts altogether and have send everyone up before the MP; heck that's pretty much how we used to do it.

So imagine all this hysteria ends up along those lines - now read this true story :

A guy walks home from walk with a set of flat carrying pouches across his back when he's stopped by a police officer.
"What's in the pouches?" the policeman asks
"Knives" replies the guy
"What! You can't walk down the street carrying a bunch of knives!" exclaims the policeman
"I'm a chef" states the guy
"Doesn't matter" replies the policeman
"Look I'm just coming back from work and I'm not leaving them in the restaurant. They're my livelihood and they're expensive"

Fortunately nothing came of this, but this is the point - are the police going to be arresting chefs, fishers, carpenters, electricians, heck Boy Scouts for carrying knives? With this wonderful new 'more likely to end up in court' will we see more money spent on time-wasting court appearances in order to bolster arrest statistics and to satisfy the baying media hounds who will have already forgotten this and moved on to the next juicy story?

Back to Jacqui and the measures taken to 'educate' the young she said that carrying knives doesn't make you safe, makes you more likely to get hurt or hurt someone else and that they will get caught. Once again my slapping hand is poised both for politician and presenter for not grabbing that and ramming home the question "But why do some people carry knives in the first place?" - because it makes them feel safer perhaps as per the very first point Jacqui is advocating against.

Why would that be? Hmm perhaps the old rebellion against authority; perhaps that 'the young' feel persecuted by the police (at the instigation of adults); perhaps because of that they feel they have no-one to turn to if something should happen, take the latest incident where the Ben Kinsella called his friend on the mobile for help while being chased, it has yet to be mentioned that he himself called the police first or even after.

Perhaps because they're bored and thus form social groupings that it turn, thanks to our species delightful territoriality streak, automatically opposes other such social groups and thus requires defence against them. That, of course, has nothing to do with the disconnection in geography whereby each estate has its own established borders with its own local shops and play areas.

Again it's a minority that can sweep in the unconnected majority, but once again in both politics and media we see the easy attack on the symptom and not the difficult attack on the cause.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Just Stourport things

I was a little concerned driving back through town last night, York Street had a big maintenance wagon loaded with signs parked on it including traffic light notices. Of course as has been promised we're not getting any more disruptions at Bridge Street oh no indeedy these disruptions will in fact be on the corner of New Street and um Bridge Street. Central Networks 30/6 to 3/7. Checking through the list it also appears Severn Trent will have some lights up in Wilden Lane just for 3/7. I found these of course using the weekly Excel spreadsheet that Worcester County Council provide, their 'live' web search didn't bring up anything of use.

A minor delay coming through town this morning. A bus had parked quite inconsiderately in the High Street bus-stop; as I've mentioned multiple times the buses don't fit and thus jut out into the main road. Hey that doesn't matter we've still got one and three-quarters of a lane left... except another bus had turned up and had to park behind the bus-stop. Hey that doesn't matter we've still got one lane left... at which point the eye is drawn to the large delivery wagon parked opposite the bus-stop. You know parked at 8:40am across those No Loading stripes next to the notice telling them there's no loading between 8:00am and 9:00am.

Now of course the bus not in the bus-stop can't get past the one in the bus-stop (because it juts out) and no other traffic can get between the gap of the road-parked bus and the delivery van; so we all have to wait until either the bus-stop bus or the delivery van moves because the powers that be couldn't even build a bloody bus-stop properly and of course none of these vaunted traffic wardens are in sight.

Ah well it did give me time to admire the new directional signs that have been mounted on the finger posts... no I tell a lie none of them have any signs yet. I did get to admire the foreshadowing of the broken tar spreading across the icing sugar pavement on the corner of New Street and Bridge Street - you know, where they've got the road works.

[sigh] The water puddle at the OGL island is still there, and yet again I can understand why they don't want to disrupt traffic again at this busy junction while other work is going on, just grates that of all the work that this company has done in the town so much is sub-par (They're the ones who put in the jutting up plate in Mitton Street after they'd dug it up for the second time to fix a leak, they're also the ones who put down the mismatched bricks in High Street)

Now for an amendment, the tire tracks that now surround the lane leading to Thomas Vale may be caused by the road surface itself, in this hot weather there's a distinct smell that I last remember from the bridge resurfacing. I also note that cars turning into the lane are solving the narrowness problem by driving over the new pavement. I expect to hear a call for tank buster kerbs to be fitted rather than a call to discover whoever approved this width in the first place.