Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Welcome to Stourport Signs

Noticed on Sunday that the Dunley Road one now sported a "Thank you for visiting Stourport On Severn" sign on its back and the Worcester Road one too features the same. [sigh] It would be churlish of me to point out that this adieu is of course on the wrong side of the road, after all I do really like these new signs.

Hmm nagging thought now - does the front have Stourport-on-Severn and the rear Stourport On Severn. It wouldn't surprise me from parsing the roadworks sheet as apparently we're in Stourport-on-Severn, Stourport on Severn, Stourport, and Stour port in a variety of mixed-cases; not to mention Mitton or Areley Kings (not seen a Lickhill oddly enough).

Monday, September 29, 2008

A packed weekend

Well that was fun! Early on Saturday the entire local familial tribe headed down to Sudeley Castle, for some reason Bratii Pater has a bee in his bonnet about doing family things and getting the Bratii interested in history etc. As Sudeley had a medieval tourney staged this seemed an ideal opportunity.

For those who recall the weather on Saturday morning the word fog probably springs to mind and the M5 carried warnings to that effect for most of the journey down. As such we had dressed for typical English weather - I myself was wearing a heavy pair of trousers, a medium coat, and a light shirt this was fortunate as upon arrival the sun burned away all the fog leaving a faultless sky (for those non-English who despair at our fashion sense these changes in weather may act towards some explanation).

We endured only one minor hiccup as we headed in as for some reason my uncle (whom we were following) decided to ignore the big sign pointing us to the castle and instead follow a track to Winchcombe directly. As this was most pointedly not the direction the local authority wished us to travel no further indicators were present and only some fortunate guesswork based on direction got us back onto the main route.

Having parked we headed for the shops to enter the grounds (£7.20 for adults) into the grounds we followed the short garden route through to the Tithe Barn and Carp pond where we greeted by a huge dragonfly who teasingly would hold still for photographs until you achieved a zoomed focus lock at which point it would flit away.

For reasons unknown to me we then headed back and around to the pheasantry where we admired the plumage of those birds bold enough to be seen, then around to the Queen's Garden at which point the rest of the family made it clear that they were, in fact, looking for the first medieval event.

"It was to the right of where we started", I pointed out (we having turned left)
"Well why didn't you say something?", my mother asked
"Because a) nobody asked and b) nobody said that's where they wanted to go"
"So how do we get there?"
"Through the door there", I pointed.

To which we then duly headed. To understand the next part a short description of the Queen's Garden is necessary. Imagine a square aligned to the cardinal points bordered by hedges sitting in a larger grassed square, place this at level one. Now picture an embankment running along the southern edge at level two and a second embankment running along the western edge at level three. We have entered at the south-east and at the point this conversation takes place are at the south-west point; the door we require is to the north-west.

The Bratii Famile have chunked down the embankment from level 2 to level 1, I am lagging behind slightly and turn to see my parents gingerly stepping down this short but steep slope. I head past and take the concealed stairs to level three and start to walk along it when I'm hailed.

"What are you doing up there?"
"Walking to the end. I don't know why you went down the slope"
"How did you get up there?"
"I took the steps"
"What steps?"
"There were some steps behind those urns"
"Well why didn't you say something?"
"Because you were halfway down before I noticed what you were doing"
"Well how are you going to get down?"
"I'll use the steps at the other end"
"What steps?"

At which point I could only shrug. No steps were visible from our location or when we'd walked along, the steps aren't marked on the map and there was neither anyone coming towards me or in front of me to give any indication that such existed; I just knew there were steps - go figure.

Down the steps at the end I go and we head towards "Battle!" or at least the field in which it's being held. Watching our step we head for the ladies archery that was just about to start. Quite enjoyable too until the end when the knights in the next field starting setting up and shouting at the crowd at which point three-quarters of the audience tramped off to that field. I stayed as I thought it rude to leave the ladies hanging, Bratus Major stayed with me. Once that was done we headed over to the main field for the jousting.

Sad to say that it had been set-up to present to the crowd coming from the house (the direction we would have taken had anyone said anything) except the knights were housed in the four corners so they needed cheering sections along every edge. As such you can imagine the situation in that when 'our' knight competed we couldn't see much. The compèring also lacked as the young lady doing so would refer to the knights by name and/or title, but neglect to inform us as to their heraldry. So from our end the knight in red would joust against the knight in green

Nevertheless it was all fun until the last battle which took place on foot in the corner furthest away from us.

Food, glorious food then onto the exhibitions proper within the castle. The layout needed some work we headed through the main door and onto the first set of exhibits which were bits, stirrups, coins etc. dug up by Emma.

"Am I missing something here?" I address to Bratii Pater

He reads the text "Um?"

"Who's Emma?" I ask.
"Ah, yes good point"

From later information we assume it to be Emma Dent. Anyway we head through towards the steps and a sign pointing outside to the spiral staircase... we take the stairs. Nothing exciting, but we do make a note that the current floor level dissects a door arch indicating the ceiling was originally much higher. Onward and upward to the main room with clothing and fabric from Henry VIII. i point out how short the models are and we see the exit to the spiral staircase that we should have used "No Entry" (except in emergency). Heading further in I take a photograph of a handwritten page of "On the Origin of Species" and then continue to a room detailing General Gordon.

Back out and down the way we came and this time we head outside to the spiral staircase which warns us that there are 26 steep stairs. This is next to a sign positioned by the door we just exited informing us that it's a no entry. So anyone following the signs and thinking "I'm not going up that spiral" should technically walk all the way around to the front of the building to enter again... sod that.

Onto the Knot Garden which I managed to take a nice photo of once a group had stopped fannying around - through the arch and out of sight, camera up just as they come back into view and stand in the arch, repeat until bored. In a stroke of good fortune we lost Bratus Major, but sadly found him again and headed back to the front following the smell of the barbecue.

"Please pay iside" was the instruction written on a piece of cardboard propped up by the door to the Coffee Shop. I guessed this referred to the barbecue as no exchange of money was taking place so we headed 'iside' and joined what was hopefully the correct queue of two formed.

This isn't just a hot-dog this is a open-farmed pork sausage in a bun, this isn't just a burger it's an Aberdeen Angus burger in a bun. Anyway I and Major bought hot-dogs got our tickets and headed back outside to queue there now. The sign had blown down so I got Major to put it back up for them and he did so without complaint (or thanks). A large group in front of us was missing a member who turned up and fancied something off the BBQ, the guy running it said she could pay them rather then go inside and wait in the queue, then got confused and she ended up inside anyway.

Anyway the hot-dog was nice, shame the mustard was the wrong type and the chilli was a bit 'large flakey', but it filled a hole before we set out for the foot battle.

Capitalising on our error from last time we set ourselves up where we knew the fighting was going to take place, sadly this meant that the position of features ran us, knights, sun; not good.

The fighting was fun, obviously choreographed so I won't spoil anything, but really fun. What gave it a true medieval edge was the family (families?) next to us with around three or four children aged between around 5 to 8 who shimmied up the fence to cling onto the standards. Once the fighting had started and I'd told them who we were routing for (due to our position) the battle was encouraged by cries of "Hit 'im", "Cut 'im" "Whack 'im" "Cut 'is 'ead off" and "Cut 'is bollocks off" all highly appropriate for the re-creation.

That done we headed over to the play area which featured its own castle of which Minor had been itching to see. Okay sad to say the play castle was way cooler then the real one. The main fort had a corridor running along the outer edge with various egresses to the outside. A stair opposite the main open entrance led to the battlements and ran around the fort and up into a covered fortification over the door. From the battlements there were two three-storey towers at the rear connected at the tops . Back down to the battlements you could head outside the fort to two more towers connected by walkways above each other and leading down and away to the outside. That's not to mention the slide and zip-line at the rear of the fort. As I said - way cool nd difficult to drag them off it.

In fact the only thing missing was a maze, which was a shame as they had a large space next to the fort for one, ah well.

Back out and onto the gift shop where a plethora of choice fused Minor's brain, I picked up some mustard and a bookmark. Then home again, home again.

We set off around 10, got there around 11 and left around 4 and a fun time was had by all.

Sunday was taken up by a large excursion to dinner at Cadmore Lodge, the bruschetta with cured ham was most fine, as was the turkey with bacon and sausage roll, the Lemon and Lime cheesecake however was a little bland not enough of either lemon or lime. Pleasant things were also said about the baked flat mushroom and the strawberry baskets. I've been here several times and the menus do shift around, and I've yet to disappoint to any major degree by anything I've chosen.

Well as you can tell I had no chance to take pictures of Buftons or the scaffolding outside the old Outback club, ah well.

Friday, September 26, 2008

3 car crash

For those travelling through Stourport and wondering what the heck is going on see the subject above.

There's been a major crash just around the corner from The Rough on Betty Dawes Hill as you leave town. Unknown injuries.

As a result there's a Police barrier just past Areley Lane and the turn off from Dunley Road to the Walshes.

All traffic from Stourport heading down Dunley Road is being redirected up Areley Lane, including the two trailer lorry I was following. For non-locals the clue should be in the name - Lane. The phrase 'single-lane traffic' does not do this justice.

All traffic coming into Stourport is being left to head up Areley Common, which is kind of nuts.

Okay obviously traffic coming through Stourport is being slowed down leaving Bridge Street queued (not helped by the car parked outside the pot shop), this feeds into York Street, Mitton Street, Worcester Street, Hartlebury Road and Minster Road. Once again we see how one incident grinds the entire town to a halt.

On the name of things

With the mild concussion caused by separating the Stour Bridge from the Stourport Bridge, I thought it best to set down some form of guidelines I can follow.

By far the simplest method of identification is to use the official designation as in the A449 or B4193, however problems arise simply due to length; the A451 for example runs from Great Witley, through Stourport, Kidderminster and ends in Stourbridge.

Another method would be using the street names. This too can be troublesome if I refer to Worcester Road do I mean the A4025 or the A449, can it be confused with Worcester Street; what about New Street and New Road?

What happens when you want to talk about a particular section of a road? Strictly speaking the small island just over the Stour in Stourport is the Worcester Road island, though again which Worcester Road. In this case the island in question is known informally as the Parson's Chain island due to the proximity of the company in question. Except they're no longer there and the island is now sponsored by OGL.

Thus hassle. I think the basic creed is too assume I'm talking about Stourport and using commonalities from Stourport unless I specifically say otherwise or it's clear from context that I'm not. Likewise I'll try to use the modern terminology lest any 'youngsters' query where this non-existent company's island is. If confusion is possible I'll try to be clear where I'm talking about.

So we have Worcester Road; Worcester Road, Kiddy, OGL Island, Mitre Oak island, Stourport Bridge, Stour Bridge, Millfields Bridge, etc.

Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for those who have to go inspect roads ;-) Still wish they'd reach a consensus on what to call Stourport for the reports though.

Never a good sign

Approaching work I see two of of our neighbours standing outside the front door looking up at the side of the building. "Uh-oh", I think. "This can't be good". Not as bad as it seems, one of the delivery/pick-up drivers managed to lightly swipe the side of the building pulling off and shattering the downpipe as well as taking a small chunk out of the brickwork. It wasn't even a really long lorry and or even constrained by parked vehicles.

The good side to this is that obviously we know who's done it, they've admitted to it, and we have all their paperwork; it could have been worse. Several years ago a turning lorry managed to catch one of our workers vehicles on their tails and pushed it sideways across into another car (mine as it happens) and then drove off without realising. Fortunately I was upstairs near a window and watched it happen and got down and out before he'd gone too far.

In this instance I was impressed by the pattern of tire marks on the road. I've seen tires being scraped sideways, but a straight line a sharp blip turning into an inward curve is quite impressive. One set was almost circular.

[Additional- The boss has just arrived, he's side-swiped a parked lorry and dented both his nearside doors. Completely his fault and has done nothing to the lorry. Hmm just seems to the day for it today]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Good old BT

Phone rings I deliver the standard spiel to no response, "Hello", sound appears, "Hello?" I ask again.
"Hello" the response comes
"Hello" I reply once more just in case.
"This is BT I'm calling as a follow-up to an email we sent you about [unintelligible]"
"About what?"
"About [unintelligible] so you can upload your contacts and [mutter] on the internet; for people to find you"
"Um no I don't think we'd be interested"
"Oh. Can I have your email address"
"Your electronic mail address?"
"No you can't have it"
click brrrrrr. Ookay then.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Minster Road lights

As Don has pointed out in comments there's been work going on at the traffic lights at Minster Road. For the most part this hasn't had a great affect on me, or for that matter the system as a whole as they've been carried out this work one lane at a time and always started and finished between the peak morning and evening traffic.

Well they're still only working between the peaks, but they now appear to have blocked off two lanes. The up lane from Vale Road has the right hand/straight blocked off and it appears that the cross point for the downstream traffic from Minster Road has been blocked. Presumably this means that the upstream traffic is reduced to one lane while the downstream traffic is shunted to one side to flow around the obstruction and use the blocked upstream lane. If this is the case then I'm unsure as to the problem. Nevertheless again it appears that their own traffic lights have been set-up acting in a simple cyclic pattern and the result is a queue backing down Vale Road (and no doubt Minster Road too) and into High Street, York Street, and Bridge Street. Factor in that we're still being used as a 'shortcut' by traffic coming from Hartlebury to avoid the Worcester Road bridge works and fun ensues.

For a future note I was stuck in the left hand lane of Mitton Street because of the queue in the right-hand lane as a car couldn't get past a lorry. Later in a twist I noted as I headed for Vale Road I saw that this time it was a van in the left-hand lane who couldn't overtake the right-hand queue. The reason for the note - this is the road where they want to widen the pavements by narrowing the road.

Oh and no these works don't feature on the weekly or quarterly roadworks reports, nor the lane closures or road closures report, but there's a heap of carriage resurfacing work that's supposed to have started now and running into next year being done um in lot's of places around Stourport (65 road names). Oh yeah and Central Networks are going to be working around Mitton next year. The lights they have up are listed on the traffic signals report:

Junc Minster Road Worcester Road Stourport 16/09/08 19/09/08
So they were taken down 4 days ago? Seriously these roadworks have been going on for some time now so why don't they feature in any of the reports? What's the point of even publishing them?

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed PS3 review

Well it's Star Wars isn't it so no matter what I say slavering fan-boys will lap it up, even more so as it provides an authorised canonised description of the events between films 3 and 4. The basic plot is that the archetypal heavy breather himself is not happy being the Emperor's monkey boy and thus secretly takes on an apprentice so that together they can topple him and take over blah, blah, blah. If you want a story read a book; speaking of which not one to miss out on the opportunity to make more money here you go.

The game itself is a standard third person affair with movement and camera controlled by the left and right sticks respectively and actions and powers controlled by the buttons and triggers, yep that's right 'powers'. You get some for free; you can jump and double jump, you can get a small directional boost and of course you can use a lightsaber. Things like Force Grab, Push etc. cost a portion of your 'force' bar which replenishes over time.

It's the use of these powers that supposedly drive the game, you don't tackle that group of Stormtroopers you pick up that rock and throw it at them, except it actually gets kind of weary after a bit in no small part due to the dodgy camera and autolock on.

Ah yes the camera and autolock-on all part of the same annoying package. It should be easy - the object or person you can manipulate is the one that the camera is directed at, should you wish to move around and stay focussed on the same thing you can manually lock on using R1. Seasoned veterans should instantly spot the problem - there's no way to change your focus except by moving the camera. When you're not moving this isn't too much of a problem, but I've lost count of the number of times I've jumped into the air to reach an enemy and electrocuted the rock they were standing next to.

Again not too much of a problem if the camera didn't at time decide to move around by itself, of course you should be locked onto the enemy if you're moving, but the point is that you should be able to run a ring around them, grab up that explosive device and fling it at them. Instead you let go of your lock and the camera swings around so you're not looking at that explosive device you were set to grab.

[Update: My error the initial targeting is based on the direction your character is facing which is just as bad]

To compensate the game features an intelligent targeting system in that if you pick up something and fling it in roughly the right direction the game will assume that you're aiming at the enemy. This causes two problems, the first is that it now becomes possible to stand well out of range of the clueless enemy and kill them at a distance; the other is that the 'intelligence' can be a bit frustrating at times aiming your flung object not at the looming AT-ST or Tie Fighter, but at the trooper far behind them you didn't even see or at an innocuous tower that's not even anywhere near the direction you were aiming for.

Then we get the inconsistent ground. Yes it makes sense that objects get in the way and impede your progress, but that's no help when the camera's zoomed out so far you can barely see where you are let alone what's in your way. I've got stuck on rocks, I've been caught in an (almost) infinite fall loop between a vine and wall, I've been frustrated jumping to something that looks flat but is in fact a slippery slope, I've been forced back by invisible walls; it's not fun.

Another source of frustration are knock-down's. Due to the poor camera I've been trapped against a wall with a Rancor, he stomps, I fall down, I pick myself up just in time to get swiped by his claws and fall down again, repeat until dead. In fact I got knocked down during a cut-scene when I had no control over my character - I kill the last bad-guy and the camera runs off and I find myself arbitrarily moved to watch a big door open and a horde of enemies come out two of whom instantly shoot at me. Camera and control is returned just in time for me to be hit and knocked off my perch.

All this means that at times you can feel you're playing against the game and not with it, it breaks the immersion and even more so when you factor in Quick Time Events.

Once certain enemies reach a low point in their health up pops the QTE press these keys as they appear to do something spectacular. Okay I'll make my position clear QTEs are the work of the devil, they can be done reasonably well in games such as God of War but for the most part you don't get to see the spectacular moves you're pulling off because you're focussed on watching the screen for timed cues. Someone should send every game designer considering QTEs the paper on the basketball match and the gorilla.

What pulls the game up is the quality of the graphics, well it should except for the glitches. I've found myself floating 6 inches above the ground, I've had my feet embedded in the ground. Texture pop-up is almost as bad as Half-Life 2 with pipes that suddenly sprout nodules as you approach and entire Imperial forts can vanish if you stand in the wrong place. At least everything is consistent in that if you change your costume all the cut-scenes feature it,well except for all the important pre-rendered ones of course where you've obviously nipped off to get changed back.

At least the AI is good, you don't get enemies mindlessly firing away at the wall you're hiding behind, or if they do it's to provide covering fire for their colleagues who are flanking you and not simply standing still as soon as they spot you to fire. You don't get enemies blowing themselves or their comrades up with grenades, you don't see enemies getting stuck on railings or shooting at such when they're standing in front of them. You don't see smaller enemies stuck behind larger ones, you don't see enemies confined to a room which you can freely enter and exit. You don't see enemies commit suicide by stepping off tall ledges, and when facing two mutually hostile groups they don't instantly break off hostilities to gang up on you.

Oh wait I'm talking about SW:TFU yes you do see everything I've described above; quite a number of times.

Okay for all that, for all it's glitches and frustrations the game itself is fun to play, there's enough hidden objects for completists and the powers allow you to play sections in entirely different ways and therein lies the sad part of it; the core of the game is fun, but it's just not finished. The best way for me to describe the entire game is to use an in-game example - the bonus mission in "Take down the Star Destroyer" is "Default Text"; sums it up perfectly.

[Additional - It appears the "Default Text" is a major bug which results in that mission's and all subsequent missions failing to record your score. You still get the rewards for completing the tasks, you just don't what the tasks are or your progression. For XBox360 owners this means they can't get the Achievements that come from completion. The cause of the bug is unknown, but my money is on changing costumes]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making the law up

From Dizzy via The Devil's Kitchen we hear the tale of a councillor stopped by police for taking pictures of the station. As this is a subject a bit too close to my own comfort I thought I'd take a look at it.

Now presumably we're looking at section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which deals with Stop and Searches I make this assumption as from Dizzy we get that the officer "demanded identification under the Terrorism Act".

What does s44 say about stop and searches. Well officers are allowed to do so only with authorisation which applies to specific areas and has been created as such by a senior officer. Nothing in the entire s44-47 requires any form of identification to be presented.

Now I'm taking this from the statute law website which requires updates from 2007 and 2008 so if this has been amended well there you go (except I very much doubt it as even the Terrorism Act 2006 didn't touch this). It also may well be that this is allowed but under one of the crime acts, the difference being that generally you need grounds for suspicion with those and you don't with the Terrorism Acts.

To my mind this is once again a case of people applying laws and rules without knowing what said laws and rules actually are. Such commentators as Dizzy and DK may rail against how the law via Parliament is removing our freedom, but it seems in at least some cases the law isn't at fault; it's just the people acting on it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yet more coding fun

Not that I frequent the Sun website much, okay at all, but I followed a link from Obsolete over on septicisle and read the story, or tried too as the page kept jumping as it loaded.

Firing up the visual element inspector I'm shocked to discover that they're actually using the 'right' sort of coding - it's all div elements (which some might consider highly appropriate) and it's XHTML transitional so all is serene.

That is until you open up the code itself and see all the embedded javascript lurking around. At least the CSS class names are descriptive "padding-bottom-5" and "red-dotted-line" so easy to use until you want to change "red-dotted-line" to "red-solid-line" at which point you need to change the page generation code rather then just the css page which was one of the benefits of why you're supposed to be doing it that way.

So a hint of the embedded javascript

var bDisableRightClick=true; //whether to disable right click or not. True will disable the right click and false will enable it.
//Cma user can change the copyright messgae which will be displayed on right click on images.
Sweet! L33t users to be found here. From their javascript sol.js here's how they calculate the date to display
dServerDate = new Date();
var nDay;
var nDate;
var nMonth;
var nFullYear;
function fCreateDate(){
var sDate = '';
nDay = dServerDate.getUTCDay();
nMonth = dServerDate.getUTCMonth();
nDate = dServerDate.getUTCDate();
nFullYear = dServerDate.getUTCFullYear();
case 0:
sDate += 'Sunday';
case 1:
sDate += 'Monday';
case 2:
sDate += 'Tuesday';
case 3:
sDate += 'Wednesday';
case 4:
sDate += 'Thursday';
case 5:
sDate += 'Friday';
case 6:
sDate += 'Saturday';
sDate += ', ';
case 0:
sDate += 'January';
case 1:
sDate += 'February';
case 2:
sDate += 'March';
case 3:
sDate += 'April';
case 4:
sDate += 'May';
case 5:
sDate += 'June';
case 6:
sDate += 'July';
case 7:
sDate += 'August';
case 8:
sDate += 'September';
case 9:
sDate += 'October';
case 10:
sDate += 'November';
case 11:
sDate += 'December';
sDate += ' ';
sDate += nDate + ', ' + nFullYear;
document.getElementById('masthead-date').innerHTML = sDate;
Following that even for non-coders shouldn't be too difficult if I explain that getUTCDate and getUTCMonth return a number and that "+=" means take that variable and add this to it. See it's easy...
function fCreateDate(){
dServerDate = new Date();
DayName=new Array("Sunday", "Monday", "Tuesday", "Wednesday", "Thursday", "Friday", "Saturday");
MonthName=new Array("January", "February", "March", "April", "May", "June", "July", "August", "September", "October", "November", "December");
document.getElementById('masthead-date').innerHTML =
DayName[dServerDate.getUTCDay()]+", "+MonthName[dServerDate.getUTCMonth()]+" "+dServerDate.getUTCDate()+", "+dServerDate.getUTCFullYear();
Yep really easy. So with this quality in mind I gave up my attempt to discover the original problem.

The economic plan

The American government has worked out ways to deal with this and future economic uncertainties. With this news confidence was restored and share prices started to rise. Big surprise there, let me explain.

The main 'outs' for this used to be as follows:

  1. The company in question took a loan from another company,
  2. The company took a loan from the Bank of England or Federal Reserve,
  3. The company was taken over by another, or
  4. The company was shut-down
Well as we know option 4 is considered unacceptable; option 1 ain't gonna happen anytime soon; which just leaves us with options 2 and 3. Except 2 seems to cause a run on the company and 3 may create a super company with too much influence. Oh dear.

Never mind the government has come up with two new methods
  1. Invest in the company, or
  2. Take on the bad debt themselves
Why the jubilation? Well look closely at the difference, previously money was loaned this meant it was expected to be paid back with interest. If the company went pfut the money was still owed to the government. However investing means that we give you money and if you make a profit we want our share; if the company goes pfut then so does the money. Likewise with bad debts, they're bad because the company doesn't expect them to be paid so the government will buy them from the company and try to get the money themselves (no doubt with as much success)

What this boils down to is the government saying 'Continue taking the same high-risk high-gain ventures that got everyone into this mess because now we'll take the burden of the risk off your hands' Share prices started to rise again? Wow I'm so shocked.

Oh and of course for 'we' and 'government' read 'us' and 'taxpayers'.

Weather fun

The weather forecast is that there's a band of high pressure sitting on us. The only thing I can say is that something's moving; I've a crick in my neck and my head feels like someone's sitting on it. Trouble is all that signifies is change, so it may be this high pressure moving in... or moving out. Either way it's not a gradual change, it dropped on me this morning like a ton of bricks, so whichever way it's going it's moving relatively fast.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The revamped Buftons

In an additional to this having sat next to it for a minute while waiting in Bridge Street (Minster Road lights roadworks still ongoing; what are they doing there?) I can confirm that the door frame has been added along with a door :-) The windows are now glazed and all the framework has been or is the process of being painted/varnished. The outer brickwork has been plastered up and at least one window has a room behind it 4-6 feet deep. Doesn't appear much for two months work, but then I'm betting they had to clear a load out from behind the windows.

Executive Wages

Just for fun

Lehman Brothers CEO Richard S. Fuld, Jr. has a base wage (not counting stock options) of $750,000. In 2004 he received a bonus of $10.25m, in 2005 $14.5m, in 2006 6.25m, but boo hoo in 2007 he didn't get any bonus at all. Total earnings listed here for 4 years $34m

AIG outgoing CEO Martin J. Sullivan (retired June 2008) had a base wage in 2004 of $774,963 and received a bonus of $830,000. In 2005 a wage of $963,462 and a bonus of $6,786,875. 2006 saw a wage of $1m and a bonus of $10.125m. And finally in 2007 a wage of $1m, but a drop in bonus to only $3.625m. Total earnings for 4 years $21,480,300.

Oh yes all this is really gonna hit them hard.

and for even more fun some CEO I'll call R.S. in 2007 received a combined remuneration of around $720,000 (about £400k)

And there goes HBOS

After the allegations of short selling and the wild fluctuations in share price it appears that unlike Northern Rock HBOS will be bought by Lloyds TSB - 'how marvellous', cry the marketeers. 'Once again the market comes through to pick up the slack just as it should have done for Northern Rock if the nannying government hadn't stuck their oar in'.

Okay here are my thoughts on this - we find ourselves in the position that we can't let any bank fail because it's all a house of cards. Northern Rock was of course nationalised, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over, AIG had a fat chunk of cash from the Federal Reserve, Lehman Brothers are looking to be bought by Barclays, and now this. So why is this, could it be a combination that banks are all tied to one another and they're getting bigger?

Case in point right now the government has had to overrule competition law in this country to allow Lloyds to acquire HBOS. Heck I'm not even using their full names here - HBOS is a combination of the Halifax and Bank of Scotland and it's Lloyds TSB. Actually no let's do this in a more full matter.

Halifax plc bought Clerical Medical then bought Birmingham Midshires, and started up Intelligent Finance.

The Bank of Scotland merged with the Union Bank of Scotland, bought what is now known as Capital Bank before finally merging with the Halifax.

As HBOS they also handle the insurance for Sainsbury's (as well as their banking), the AA, Shelia's Wheels, and esure.

Lloyds bought the Cheltenham and Gloucester, merged with the Trustees Saving Bank, and then bought Scottish Widows and Black Horse.

So dealing with just the UK we're going to have one bank that comprises all that lot.

With the other banks Barclays are looking at the Lehman Brothers, which doesn't affect us directly, but they also bought out the Woolwich. The Alliance and Leicester are set to be bought by Santander who already own Abbey. HSBC of course acquired the Midland Bank. The NatWest (itself a merger of the National Provincial and Westminster banks who then merged with the Legal and General) is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland and handle Churchill, and Direct Line; and also deal with Tesco's, MINT and, the One account.

And I'm not even looking at their international affairs. Why are they so large, to make money silly (or should that be silly money?). The larger they are they more efficiencies they can find, we've already talk about the number of job losses in this recent merger after all you don't need two Lloyds TSHBOS's on the same High Street. Also the larger they are the more money they get in and the more they can invest and borrow. It all makes sense and everyone's happy, well until they get greedy and things start to go wrong.

At this point I'd like to point out that the likelihoods of any of those in the top tiers of the bank who made or authorised the decisions that led to any collapse being affected in any way range from slim to nought. If the government allows the bank to fail then anyone with £32k or less have their money protected, said money coming from the FSA (FSCS to be precise) this money is derived from levys placed on the banks who, of course, acquire this money in fees from their customer; so the money to pay you back comes from your pocket. On the other hand the government can bail them out with loans from the Bank of England, said money being drawn from, well us again. Of course it is a loan so it needs to be paid back with interest, said interest being acquired from the customers of the bank.

To put it bluntly the money to pay you back if the bank collapses comes from you, the money to stop the bank collapsing comes from you. At no point does anyone seem to ask the directors of said bank to repay those big fat bonuses or a portion of their wages. For them it's a no-risk situation and that's exactly the same position that all these short-termist stockbrokers who are de facto running the economy of this (and pretty much every) country.

What can we do about it? Pretty much nothing without tearing the entire system apart and nothing that isn't already being done or hasn't already been proposed by the government. Trouble is this is a long time coming, if you plot the values for the Dow Jones from the 1920's you get this:
Now it may be just me but things seem to have got a bit silly from the 80's onwards. This may be one heck of a long bubble, but it doesn't make it any less of one and we know what happens to bubbles.

Littering 2

I started this off as a comment on the WFA in response to Keep Vague Paranoia Tidy but it became a bit too long so rather then inflict it on Tav...

I was sitting behind a bus with the advert 'Bin don't Sin' telling me I should bin my gum lest I face an £80 fine. Of course I never drop gum; I reserve that honour for cans, fast-food wrappers etc.. I can understand the attempt to target specific items, but it runs the risk of disconnecting the £80 fine with littering in general.

Having heard/read something about bins from the the National Trust I found this:

"There are no litter bins in the valley as it has been proved in the past that they cause more litter from overflowing [...] people would add to overflowing bins or even bring their rubbish to empty out here [...] There is an assumption that responsible visitors will take home their own litter."
Call me daft, but a) why would people travel their to dump small amounts of rubbish and b) if the bins are overflowing at peak times don't you think you should provide more?

They even state that it's an assumption that "responsible visitors" would remove their litter with them. I guess it's also an assumption that such visitors also provide some means in which to store such items, or that the purchase point provided such. To take this in a wider context I find it sad to say that ain't gonna happen.

I've mentioned previously the women and child who elected to cross three lanes of busy traffic rather then walk in the direction they were heading for anyway and either cross one lane then two (which you're not supposed to do, but everyone does) or cross one lane, one lane and then two/two/one using pedestrian crossings.

I'd like measuring to be done on the ratio of people using the crossing in York Street compared to those who just try to cross corner-to-corner, and yes I too am guilty of doing that when there's no traffic I don't stand there when it's busy, I walk up to the crossing.

Okay I'm not trying to turn this into a pedestrians are morons entry I'm trying to connect the same mindset. If people are willing to take the risk of being run over simply to avoid walking a few extra yards and waiting at a crossing you've a snowball's chance that they'll try to hunt down a bin for their rubbish. The important question is "If people can access a bin would they use it?" In other words is this some general malaise whereby people just drop their rubbish because it's easier then walking to the obvious bin, or is it that they can't find a bin (or at least one they can use)?

Back to the National Trust quote "people would add to overflowing bins" okay with a council perspective they have an obligation to keep bins clear, applying a reality check unless they can fit them with remote sensors there's no way to tell if a bin is empty or full. However again it's the mindset I noticed - The bins are provided for my rubbish, if they're full I'll still try to cram in my rubbish because that's what they are there for. The notion that if the bin is full then perhaps you should try to find another or heck even just take your rubbish back with you seems to be absent.

So possible answers: A review of the location and number of bins; ensuring PCSO's etc. hand out fixed penalty notices for littering; and, although some don't like it, the CCTV cameras with speakers to tell people off. It has to be driven home that littering is not the norm and is not acceptable.

Oh yes and as I've already discussed scrapping every plan to charge people by the amount of waste they produce, no-one's going to take litter home if that comes to fruition.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


In a fit of prescience in a thread over on p.o.t. I acknowledged Invisible's remark that the current credit crunch had a lot to do with the mindset of those involved, to be specific it was all to do with confidence.

So now AIG has been bailed out by the Federal Reserve and why? Well as the BBC put it "the banks didn't want to take the risk" which you have to admit is quite funny when you consider the reasons we're in this mess.

Like the Bank of England the Federal Reserve acts as a lender of last resort, and sadly as with here its intervention is likely to cause "The company is falling" chicken cries. In this instance of course they're apparently right as AIG was about to file for bankruptcy and collapse in one big mess.

The trouble is that it is still likely to collapse, but hopefully will be doing so in a more orderly fashion and be able to parcel out its obligations with a lack of frenzy, or at least that's what it should be doing. Cynical old me I'm guessing the first item on the board's agenda is the awarding of bonuses to the board for the prevention of AIG's bankruptcy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Shell garage

Following reports that they were selling everything off at the Shell garage in Vale Road I can confirm that there's a big sign in the window reading "No Unleaded". One at the entrance would have been more useful, but nevertheless it seems that preparations are under way for the new sheltered accommodation to be built. You know, the one with fewer car-parking spaces then apartments when visitors would be expected to use the free Vale Park car-park; the subject that prodded talk of building a pedestrian crossing between the two.

[Update - the "No Unleaded" sign was joined by another yesterday "Now Closed"]

Oh a similar subject I hung my head in disgust this morning watching two cyclists, a young women and child, on foot next to said car-park trying to cross all three lanes. The disgust was prompted by the fact that having done so they then hopped onto their bikes and road along the pavement up towards Minster Road where all the road crossings are situated. I swear at times I despair for our species.

I love automated emails

Bought something from eBay last night and I get the flurry of emails that normally follow.

At 07:17 PM I get one from the seller thanking me for the payment
At 07:20 PM I get one from eBay telling me I've won the item
At 07:20 PM another arrives from the seller sending me an invoice of how much I have to pay
At 07:21 PM the last one from PayPal with a receipt.

I just found it amusing.


A very non-news story, but still interesting to show how some people think. The current fashion extravaganza is held in four cities sequentially New York, London, Milan, Paris. However New York wants to extend its show by two days and as there's a snowball's chance that Milan or Paris would cut down on their times that leaves poor old London down two days. With only a four day show the fear is that people will simply skip it and travel directly to Milan.

Cue talk of how either they wouldn't allow this to happen or how they'd manage to squeeze everything in and how an emergency fashion summit had been called.

Not once did anyone say "Well as New York is first why not just start the whole thing two days earlier; that way everyone else still starts at the same time and New York gets its two extra days". Oh no can't do that everyone knows the start date is engraved on stone.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You're fat

So patrols of nurses roaming the streets pointing out that you're fat, wonderful. Hardly surprising though this seems to be the standard escalation pattern of every main-stream political party.

First off you identify a 'problem', having done so you voluntarily ask people to solve it for themselves usually via an expensive leaflet or advertising campaign; in this instance by asking people to get screened by their GP.
Then said party asks amazed that people in general don't have time to take time off or pay money to do something that may or may not affect them (also GP's surgery motto "If you're not ill now then just stay in our waiting room") and acknowledge this by "making it easier" for you to solve your 'problem' by coming to you, or bothering you in the street.
Again said party gasps in amazement that the majority response to such intrusion is "[beep] off" and therefore as a reluctant and final resort have to make such solutions mandatory with the imposition of fines.

Of course anybody with even an ounce of common-sense would be re-evaluating the 'problem' that started this off in the first place at every phase, but since when did that ever apply to our lord and masters? After in in this case getting people fitter now puts less of a strain on our ailing NHS so therefore it makes sense to swamp GPs with routine check-ups and pull nurses from hospitals to wander the streets... um?

On a personal note I too share the incredulity of DK over the 32 inch jibe; I recently went up to a size 36 and I doubt anyone would consider me a case for diabetes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fun with computers

So I'm configuring a laptop with Vista Home Premium on it. Connect to the wireless network, oh look there it is and it's a Security enabled one too. Nope you can't connect because you haven't added in the necessary security details. Oh no don't bother asking me if I want to do so now, just come back with a flat refusal and make me dig around on my own to find out how to add them in.

Anyway connected and downloading updates. Shut down and install 1 of 23 (After all this is at least a week old). Restart and oh now it has to configure the updates - Stage 1 of 3: 0%.

... 0%
... 0%
... 0%
... 0%
... 0%
... 33%

Um excuse me what happened to 1- 32%, what the **** is the point of having a percentage to show if you don't bother with it.

Stage 2 blips through then "Shutting down" Eh what? Everything goes black except for a couple of lights. I wait and then just as I reach for the power button it restarts. Yeah that's called "Restarting" and not "Shutting Down".

Oh look now it's got to Stage 3 of configuration - gah!

Ah now what's been pre-installed - Onion? Ah well open it up and oo a EULA oookay oddly enough I'm not going to accept it when I don't know what the hell the programme does. (Taking a look it appears to be a IM client)

Oh joy it also comes with the Acer security programme that adds three annoying icons to the main bar of every Explorer window. I go to the Acer Security Management programme to remove them, but first it wants me to accept a EULA for installing it. Fortunately on closer inspection it appears to be just a toolbar so a right-click and untick solves that.

Okay I'm an IT guy I can get around these things, but this is Home Vista if I'm getting annoyed what would the average newbie be like?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A sigh of relief

Well we're all still here, the world hasn't ended (or at least if it did it rebooted very quickly) so we can all breathe a sigh of relief, the media can stop mangling the physics, and CERN staff can stop pretending to be rap artists.

If we're really lucky none of the media have bothered to look behind the short synopsis they were all given and realise that all that happened was that they switched on the Large Hadron Collider and ran some test streams in one direction then the other. The actual collisions that has everyone (i.e. the media and people with high school knowledge of physics) worried won't occur until the 10th October.

As I explained to a worried woman yesterday - "Think of it as a reverse nuclear bomb. Instead of releasing energy from matter, they're trying to get matter from energy." Surprisingly this helped.

Likewise pointing out the amount of energy being used is the equivalent of that being used by 14 flying mosquitoes (7 TeV for each stream) helped someone else. For another comparison the energy used is that produced by the fission of 70,000 atoms of U-235 or approximately 0.[17 noughts]2 grams of U-235 while The Little Boy bomb converted 0.6g about a 20 quadrillion degree of difference.

But hey let's say I'm wrong and the world does end in the middle of October... the drinks will be on me ;-)

Oh and because it's rattling in my head from the Ciaphus Cain novels:

When in deadly danger
When beset by doubt
Run in little circles
Wave your arms and shout.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A remote name and shame

While watching Central Tonight last night they had a report on the problem's being faced by farmers with all this rain. Although obviously something to be concerned about my attention was sparked by the introduction showing the amount of rain that had fallen.

To be precise it was the shot of a Land Rover type vehicle towing a trailer heading through deep water on a busy road.

Point 1: The car had no licence plate on the trailer - "Trailers are required to have legal number plates manufactured by a licensed number plate manufacturer."

Point 2: The vehicle threw up enough water spray to reach the roof of the car driving past him, the vehicles following produced enough spray to reach the tops of the tyres. IOW driving too fast.

Point 3: His licence plate was visible for a second and I thought "That's not right" - VB2 UAY (to be precise VB2 new line UAY) and you can't have that it'd be VB02 UAY. Maybe I read it wrong perhaps it was V82 UAY, so I rewound and played it again definitely seems a straight line on the '8' to me.

Ssss I've tried to confirm this with the catch-up on the web it only works properly with IE and the pausing is bloody useless the direct link to the news story is here if it's bloody running, there's an advert first and the bit I'm talking about is at 10:35; and I can't capture the image.

Anyway you can see the trailer and you can see the spray so that's still two things at fault.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A new welcome to Stourport

Starting late yesterday morning and finished by the afternoon Stourport gained a nice brick welcome sign on the Worcester Road. It appears to bel the same white sign as before, but now with "www.stourporttown.co.uk" beneath it and "A Fairtrade town" beneath that.

Gotta say it looks nice and professional, perhaps they could get the same guys to replace the metal staircase next to the Bridge Inn?

With added photo

Large Hadron Collider

Imagine a safety company crashing cars into a wall. Now imagine a group who are worried that doing so will encourage car crashes with the media explaining that they're just testing how strong the wall is. Now you know how I feel when GMTV did an in-depth report into the Large Hadron Collider.

The Big Bang, Origins of the Universe, Radiation to Cure Cancer, were phrases used extensively. They dragged on a physicist to explain that it wasn't going to cause the end of the world/universe although the only thing he did really explain correctly is that these collisions happen all the time the only difference here is that we're initiating them at a point we can watch what happens.

So despite this in-depth report not once was it mentioned that the main purpose for this machine is to locate the Higgs boson, which would help plug some gaps in the Standard Model (how physicists think particles are arranged), explain mass, and possibly help produce the Grand Unified Theory, you know unimportant things like that which aren't easy to produce whizzy graphics of.

A failed driving test

A slow news day on GMTV meant a report into how a girl taking her test for the third time was failed for splashing a pedestrian and not stopping to apologise "if you can believe it" says Ben "I can" replies Fiona with the tone of voice suggesting 'how petty'.

Yeah I can believe it too it's called driving without due care and attention, either she didn't see the puddle, didn't see the pedestrian, or just didn't care. Make your own mind up with what she says

"I was driving down [road] and went through a puddle splashing a pedestrian, I didn't think anything of it for the ten minutes it took to get back to the test centre"

Yep that's right she splashed a pedestrian and "didn't think anything of it" because, as we all know, pedestrians are the lowest form of life on our streets.

[Update 10/9 - Wow a really slow news day this featured as the last story on the ITV national news. They dug out the Highway Code to ascertain why she'd been failed and could only come up with the 'show consideration' rule. Look either she didn't see the puddle in time, she didn't see the pedestrian in time, or just didn't care about either. Amusingly her defence about not avoiding the puddle was that swerving out the way might have caused an accident. Well yes if there was another car in the oncoming lane, and if there was then you just slow down. If you have to screech to a slowdown then you weren't paying attention and it's still in every case 'driving without due care and attention'; sheesh!

Apparently the instructor actually failed her because they classed the splashing as an 'accident' and thus she should have stopped to give her details]

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Carnival

Okay the confession - I missed both days. I knew I'd miss Sunday, but Saturday just got screwy; I had last minute guests, I didn't have my camera, rumours were floating that it had been cancelled, and it was still p'ing it down so apologies to anyone who expected me there snapping away.

[Update 10/9 - Apparently the rumours were semi-correct with a large chunk of the carnival being cancelled. We're now looking at a Carnival Market Day on the 20th held at the Amusement car-park... provided it's still not flooded I presume]

Saturday, September 06, 2008

An Olympian contrast

The broadcast schedule for the BBC on the first Monday (11th August) after the Olympics opening ceremony -

6.00AM - 9.00AM Olympics Breakfast (BBC1)
9.00AM - 12.00PM Olympics 2008 (BBC1)
12.00PM - 12.45PM Olympics 2008 (BBC2)
12.45PM - 5.15PM Olympics 2008 (BBC1)
5.15PM - 6.00PM Olympics 2008 (BBC2)
7.00PM - 8.00PM Olympics 2008: Games Today (BBC1)
1.20AM - 6.00AM Olympics 2008 (BBC1)

The broadcast schedule for the BBC on the first Monday (8th September) after the Paralympics opening ceremony -

7.00PM-8.00PM Paralympics 2008: Games Today (BBC2)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My Shiny New Car

Yes as previously related my nice new Hyundai i10 Comfort was ready for pick-up on Monday. My appointment was at 10am, but due to people actually being ready on time and packed I ended up there at 9am.

Okay this being me things didn't go as smoothly as possible. I really don't want to go into specifics, but let's just say I ended up driving back to Stourport from Worcester, on to Kidderminster, back to Stourport and then back to Worcester; before driving back home in my new car at around 12pm.

Reading the manual and the 'first 600 miles' - keep it between the 1 and 3 markers on the revs dial, check; don't stay at a constant speed, check rather easy to do around here; don't let it idle for more then 3 minutes, hmm okay I'll have to watch that. So a plea to local drivers - if you're stuck in a queue and the driver of the 58 reg Hyundai behind you appears to be revving their engine slightly; they aren't impatient, they have to ;-)

The next wonderful thing is the engine smell, apparently the manufacturer in their infinite wisdom puts some wax on the engine block which needs to be burned off. As far as I know this wax serves no other purpose then to make the engine look shiny - great.

As mentioned the boot definitely seems smaller then my previous one, but the test will come Friday when I pick up the delinquents I dropped off yesterday.

Anyway it's done the trip from Worcester and I've just done a quick run from Kidderminster and back; tomorrow or Thursday I'll give it a run up to Merry Hell and see how it goes.