Friday, November 28, 2008

Playstation Home

Ooo just had an invite to the Home Open Beta, code to be redeemed by the 1st. I'm not sure if I really should get excited I'm betting this has gone out to practically anyone who has both a Playstation account and has bought something from them.

[Update - 01/12: Well I signed up and read the user agreement and it's Fight Club rules so that's that]


We needed a couple of MicroSD cards and duly ordered them online and had them delivered this morning (in a suspiciously warm package). The cards came with the almost obligatory two adaptors and thus took up 42mm x 32mm x 1mm. With their own packaging they were 101mm x 114 mm x 5mm.

The box they both came in measured 295mm x 249mm x 85mm.


Not only the BBC this morning, but our own Kidderminster Chronicle have caught on to the potential epidemic that has hit this country. In the Chronicle we are urged to ensure we get both doses of the MMR jab and on the BBC Breakfast show we're told that the potential epidemic is being caused by children not getting both jabs.

Yep it's all due to those lazy parents not getting their kids to the clinics... nothing to do with the full media blitz attacking the MMR jab, nothing to do with headlines such as "MMR causes Autism" nope nothing to do with that at all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Vale Road strikes again

A wonderful new sign telling us that the road will be shut from the 29th until the 1st, presumably they mean just the weekend and aren't including the Monday as that will be serious fun.

[Additional - there are some times I didn't notice before 20-00 - 01:00 so perhaps not so bad unless it's 20:00 on the 29th until 01:00 on the 1st]

[06:00 not 01:00 sorry]

I can't criticise the timing the weekend is, as is often the case, the right time to do this. I will be interested in the diversion. Can't imagine the traffic being sent down Vernon Road it'll have to go all the way down Lickhill then all the way back again along the Bewdley Road, except for all the locals who will indeed be using Vernon Road.

Sony FW21L

Yep the new computer arrived around 11am a Sony FW21L. Plugged in the battery, powered it up, and watched it do it's Vista'ing thing as it set up. Then watched it pick up 29 updates and want to install them and reboot.

Removed the trial edition of Office 2007 to install the companies licensed versions of 2000 - meh it does what we want, but you can't install it with another version 'installed'. Opera and Firefox followed and installed as I restored some local data from the backup.

Swore once again at Microsoft's blatent stupidity when it comes to connecting to a secure wireless network - "I can't connect" no of course you can't you haven't asked me for the security key you stupid operating system.

Also more swearing at trying to remember how to connect to an XP shared printer - create a local port then edit it to \\hostname\printer and despite the automated wizard insisting it can't connect this works like a charm.

Nice ergonomics although the power lead connector is on the wrong side for me (always something), although the keyboard isn't really larger it just feels like it is due to some nice spacing between the keys. I think I'm going to miss a numpad and I am already missing a scroll wheel so a mini mouse is in order.

Weight is alright, especially compared to DaBoss's high performance machine, but I wouldn't want to lug it around much. Sticky label on the rest claims it's Full HD 1080, which gave me a laugh considering the screen resolution is 1600x900.

Haven't tested the Blu-ray player yet, but have run a couple of online movies to try out the sound, a little tinny but without any real bass on a laptop that's what I'd expect.

It's also darn quiet. It's been on continously for around four hours and the fan kicks in on occasion with barely a jolt.

The indicator lights hmm I'm sure some would like them next to the screen so they catch see them and these are sit on the front lip where you can't. I prefer that no blinking lights to distract me and if I do want to check on things I can just lean back slightly.

Ports are arranged logically - modem, network, d-sub video, HDMI, and FireWire on the left; three USBs and the disc drawer on the right.

You can turn all the wireless off using a switch on the front which in turn sits next to the MagicGate and SD slots.

Okay major bad points are the documentation. You get a full listing of what to do when things go wrong, but what you don't get is any written explanation as to how to use some of the extra settings such as the built-in video camera. It should be part of the installed documentation, but I couldn't find anything. I ended up using the All Programs to delve through what was installed until I came across ArcSoft WebCam software which is now showing my ugly mug on the screen - yay? Worrying there doesn't seem to be any to turn it off manually.

Ah well it's nice to use, isn't getting overly warm and is'nt wrecking my eyes so that's a good thing :-)

Apples to oranges

Yep it's good old GMTV again reporting on Terry Pratchett's petition regarding Alzheimer's and the disgracefully woeful sum being invested in research.

From the reporter we learn that there are 700,000 sufferers, but only 3% of medical funding is spent on them. I'm pretty angry about that too 700,000 out of a population of 60,975,000 is only 1.15% - they're getting more then twice the amount they should be. Oh wait sorry am I supposed to be angry about how little they're getting? Well I would be if you told me how 700,000 compare to the ill population or how the 3% compares to the funding of other diseases; but hey you're busy people and I can't expect that sort of information.

Wait though here's Fiona to the rescue telling us that cancer is funded to the tune of £289 per person while Alzheimer's only gets £11 per person.

Ooookay comparing the funding for cancer in its entirity against one specific disease - nice. How much does lung cancer get or bowel cancer?

Of course this wouldn't be personal would it Fiona?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A lesson in percentages

Subsequent to GMTV's inability to calculate VAT I found someone still struggling here's the conversation which I'll follow with what is hopefully some simple explanations

"How do you calculate VAT? Say I had something that I bought for £100 how do I do it?"
"If you want the base price divide by 1.175"
"About £85. Now how do I work out what it would be if it was 15%?"
"Um divide by 1.15, but what are you trying to do?"
"£87. So there's only £2 difference"
"What are you trying to do?
"Work out the price of something when the VAT is 15%"
"Well you've got to start with the base price that doesn't change so divide by 1.175"
"Then multiply by 1.15"
"So that's how much it will be at 15%"

Explanation time

"per cent" means divide by 100 so 15% can be written as 15/100. So to determine what 15% of something is you multiply it by 15/100 that is you can multiply by 15 then divide by 100 or divide by 100 then multiply by 15 it doesn't matter which.

So 100% of something just means 100/100 which you should spot is just 1 so to determine what 100% of something is you just multiply it by 1 - duh!

So now for the tricky part taking something and adding 15% to it. I'll go through it step by step-

First off we want to find 15% of our amount which we'll call x so as above that's

15x /100 or x/100 * 15, but the former is easier to write.

Now we want to add it on to 100% of the amount x, so that's

100x/100 + 15x/100

Now when you have the same denominator (the bit below the line) you can simply add the numerator (the bit above the line) to reach


So we can just multiply by 115 then divide by 100 or 115/100; as with the 100/100 equals 1 we can rewrite this as a decimal 1.15.

For 17.5% that's 17.5/100 or 0.175 to add it to the whole 1 it makes 1.175.

That works in reverse too so for something you've bought at £9.99 inc VAT@17.5% you can work out what the original price would be by simply dividing by 1.175. To find out what it would be with VAT@15% take your new figure and multiply by 1.15.

That's for adding on percentages that already exist. How do you subtract with say an item at £24.99 with 22% off; what's the price?

Well it's just as you've already done just with a minus figure. Take the full amount and subtract the percentage

100x/100 - 22x/100 or 78/100x

78/100 is the same as 0.78 so simply take the £24.99 and multiply it by 0.78 to get £19.49.

Important note

What happens if you take 22% from £24.99 to get £19.49 then add 22% back on? You get £23.78. Why haven't we got the full £24.99 back? Because we're adding on 22% of £19.49 and not 22% of £24.99. Unless we know that £19.49 is the reduced price and how much it was reduced by we can't get back to the original amount.

Extra Credit

If we do know that £19.49 represents a 22% reduction then we can use the above formula to realise that this price is 78% of the original (remember that's what per cent means and lookee there at the 78/100 we used). So to get back to the original price we can invert it, that is instead of multiplying by 78 and dividing by 100 we can multiply by 100 then divide by 78.

100x/78 or 100*19.49 / 78

Result: £24.99.

Extra Extra Credit

So that's all fine and dandy but what if you've got your £24.99 and want to work out just the VAT@17.5%? Simple - work out the base price (divide by 1.175) and then get the VAT (multiply by 0.175)

24.99/1.175 * 0.175

Result: £3.72

The two most important things to remember are that per cent simply means divide by 100 and that if you subtract or add 15% to something you can't simply add or subtract 15% to get back where you started from.

Vale Road

Sent to the Shuttle:

I hope, like me, every Stourport resident has been enjoying the new game "Guess the Lane" currently being hosted on Vale Road. For those yet to enjoy this quiz it's really simple to play - as you approach the road from Stourport you'll see a road sign telling you that some of the lanes in Vale Road are closed; then you'll see another sign telling you that some (perhaps different) lanes are closed. It's time to 'Guess the Lane', which lane will you chose? Do you trust the signs, or play a hunch it's all up to you; changes daily, fun for all the family.

[Additional - Just for those who want to play at home. The first sign tells you that lanes 1 & 3 are closed, the next two opposing signs tell you that only lane 3 is closed. Which lane do you use?

For those who answered lane 2 - congratulations you've just hit a load of cones; the answer is lane 1 as both of the others are blocked.]

[Update - Woohoo!]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shopping fo HD

When of course I should be shopping for a new computer, or to be precise a laptop, same sites in some cases so meh. Anyway doing so has pinged a memory so:

I'd poked my head quickly into Currys and Comet on Saturday specifically to see the Panasonic 32LZD85 (damn my brain for just knowing that model number). Currys just had the 80, but Comet had the 85 in all its shiny glory.

Okay maybe not as it was being fed from an aerial connection (not even component, it's the equivalent of filling an F1 car with the same stuff you use for your lawnmower). I had a play with the remote - easy enough and the menu was well-laid out. Turned the overscan on and off and on to see the difference and I seriously recommend everyone do this just to see how much of the picture you can lose - it can be scary. Then I started poking around the back of it and as if by magic a store assistant appeared asking if I was okay.

"Well I like the overscan, but your source is off - see the white line at the top; now if you could run an HD source it could be better"
"It is HD"
"No it's running through the aerial, is there any way I can see it with an HD source?"
"Oh um no you can't have it with an HD source"
"You mean you haven't got a portable Blu-ray player you can hook up"
"Um the 42" and those on the back wall have HD sources"
"Well yeah but none of these [I wave at the majority on the floor area] do. Don't you find it odd that you're selling HD televisions - that people are wandering around comparing the pictures and that's not what they're going to be seeing?"
"Most people aren't connecting up to HD sources"
"... okay, it's supposed to have an SD card slot I can't seem to find it"
"I don't think the 32" has one just the 37""
"That's Odd, the spec from Panasonic says it has one"
"Nope can't see one"
"Ah well. See I was looking for two, if I could have seen it in HD and checked for SD I'd probably have taken them now"

Then I turned and left. I mean seriously, as Orphi's said too, they don't know and don't seem to want to know, but they've just lost a sale for £1,500.

Computer go pffft

My work computer that is. Was misbehaving this morning, then we had the power off for 20 minutes and it refused to POST. Then it finally got to boot and then rebooted itself. It'll boot into Safe mode and Safe mode with Networking (just without the networking) so it's a weird software fault or a hardware error. Either way it's about time I had a new one so time to do some shopping - only debate is whether to go for Vista or try to stick with XP.

Back-ups are okay - and in theory I can yank the HD and plug it into one of those USB cases just annoying - then again it is at least 8 years old.

VAT calculations

Good old GMTV again you can almost guarantee they'll get things wrong. This morning it was the possibility of a VAT reduction - what would that mean for us?

'Well here's a CD that cost me £9.99', said the reporter. 'If VAT was 15% I'd save 24p'

She repeated this for a toy at £12 a would-be saving of 30p and some perfume/gubbins set at £45 a would-be saving of £1.12 - woo!


£9.99 is the price of the CD including the 17.5% VAT so the base price is (£9.99/117.5)*100 or about £8.50, VAT being £1.49, if we add 15% to the base price we get VAT of £1.28 a saving of... 21p. How about the others?

Price of £12 - saving of 26p not 30p, price of £45 - saving of 96p not £1.12. What have they done - the same thing so many seem to do nowadays. You take the price you've paid and work out 17.5% of that then work out 15% and compare the two. The result being:

£9.99 saving of 24p
£12 saving of 30p
£45 saving of £1.12

Using simple figures let's see why that happens. I take an item with a base price of £1.00 and add 10% to it making it £1.10 (100/100*10) I then reduce it by 10% which makes it 99p (110/100*10); a penny cheaper then my base price. With a £10 item the price becomes £11 reduce and it becomes £9.90; 10p cheaper. In other words you cannot simply add and subtract percentages and return to where you started from and if you do the bigger the price the more it seems to get cheaper by.

This is what happens when you get art major's doing mathematics.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A chorus of horms

On the Dunley Road just heading into town towards the bridge, now you know me I get annoyed but I rarely vent it in this fashion and I was tempted to join in.

I was about fourth back in line so our convoy had just gone through though I couldn't see the tail of it. We all sat and waited for three minutes and then a group of cars sans convoy vehicle appeared, then the convoy vehicle trundled up with a string of cars and parked off to one side.

The cars came through and then we got a gap tum te tum. Then some more cars came through then another gap tum te twiddle. Then some more cars and a minor gap and then some more cars then a gap. Halfway through this gap somebody vented via horn which invoked others. Then some more cars came through and we got another gap... more horns.

Then more cars and a bus who couldn't pull in to the bus stop because the workmen has illegally parked their vehicles in the way. Then a gap with horn motif. Then more cars then a gap and then finally joy of joys the convoy vehicle did a 180° and led us to the chosen land. Well as far as Harold Davies Drive that is where we all ground to a halt to let a bunch of the work trucks reverse about.

15 minutes... 15 frigging minutes we were sat there.

Oh and icing on the cake they'd closed down two lanes of Vale Road again (it was one lane this morning) and the silly #@&% in front decided that everyone coming up Mitton Street had right-of way despite the fact that she was staying in that friggin' lane all the way up to the lights. Someone tried to overtake in the middle lane before pulling back into their position behind me because you can't see the closed lane from the first lane (due to other vehicles) and you can't trust the damn signs to be accurate.

Government gibberish

I've just opened a letter from HM Revenue & Customs (and yes I still want to say and write HM Customs and Revenue) I had to read one of the paragraphs a few times.

Under Government proposals you will have to send online your 2009-10 Employer Annual Return, due 19 May 2010 NEW
Now maybe it's just me, but yes each word made sense and as a combination the meaning is fathomable but try saying it out loud and see how weird you think it is.

I also think they're pushing electronic filing a bit in 2 sides of A4 and 10 shortish paragraphs the word "online" appears 18 times
Before you can file online you need to register with us. Our dedicated team of online filing recruiters [...] can give you all the help you may need to send your forms online.
Hmm do you think this is something to do with being online?

Three Kings

Three Kings parade tonight followed by the switching on of the lights. Surprising amount of coverage in this week's Shuttle with an entire four (ish) wrap-around with details and attractions and adverts... oh wait silly me that's the Kidderminster switch-on tomorrow. Details of the Stourport event gets two pages starting at page 30 most of which are adverts.

I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to make it to either this year, which is a shame, I've just got a load of stuff going on that takes a higher priority then freezing my nadgers off to watch some twinkling lights and sing some hymns before being flipped upside-down to shake loose my wallet at the 'fair'. If the Bratii or Devil Child were around I'd make the time, but distance constrains them.

How did it end up like that?

Standard Friday so I'm giving the office a quick vacuuming after pulling out the shredder bucket, we've acquired a Dyson DC04 and I needed to use the hose attachment to get in and sweep up the remaining overflow shreds. Like many (all?) uprights nowadays it has a built-in hose attachment - the hose runs up the back of the cleaner and like a spine the extension wand fits into it and keeps it rigid while in upright mode and incorporates the handle to manoeuvre it around.

So lacking an manual I did the logical thing - flicked the green catch that releases the wand and hose and then went to pull the wand out; it stopped. "That's odd", I thought. I then spotted another green catch which when pushed allowed the wand to part from the hose. Spinning it around I flicked up the green tube cover at the handle end and tried to fit it to the hose - no go. I looked for other clasps, catches, or other accessories that would allow it to bond all with no success. So why wasn't it working...

Here's why

Yep that's right you're not supposed to detach the wand from the hose unless you want to use the hose directly. You're supposed to hold the junction of hose and wand and wave the handle around along with any attachment you want fixed to the tube cover.

Presumably highly trained engineers working with numerous focus groups have discovered that people don't want the hassle of separating two parts and rejoining them the other way around despite the fact that using it the correct way really screws with the centre of gravity due to the high disparity of weight between the tube and the handle and that the handle section is much larger than the tube, which means you can't fit it down those narrow cracks that you um got the hose out for in the first place.

Ah well what would I know there I am trying to hold the thing by its handle, how positively quaint of me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going to church

As an anarchistic atheist it's interesting to visit a church particularly a Roman Catholic one though sadly in this case it was for a funeral.

While of course my thoughts should have been on the deceased (not not with the deceased) and with the family I couldn't help but critique the actual service. They do like hierarchy don't they? Worked their way up to the bishops, then saints, Mary, Jesus, and finally God; it's their own petty little bureaucracy. Then of course we get the "all glory is yours" etc. which stuck in the throat, then a little point from the priest about how we should think of the family in their time of mourning as with the family of Lazarus - um do you mean Lazarus the beggar (of Luke) who we're told now feasts at the table of Abraham or Lazarus of Bethany (from John) who came back; either way I'm not sure the comparison stands.

We got some short stuff (guff) about the symbology of bread, wine and the altar, hmm yeah sorry but I know the history behind this and it's not all peace and love you want to get back to the good old days slap a fatted calf down on it and slit its throat that's what it's all about.

Then finally we get the reason we're referred to as a 'flock' - sit for this, stand for this, sit down again, stand, now kneel all so polite that I expected at one point to be asked 'would you kindly'.

Anyway the eulogy was the best bit even though it got interrupted twice by an incoming message tone from the mobile of a member of the congregation, which sadly almost seems to have become de rigueur these days.

Oh and the fact that the Vale Road closings had switched back to two lanes made it so much easier to pull the procession out; silver linings.

Economic excuses

Chatting with someone and they mentioned the company they work for keep sending out messages about how this crunch isn't affecting them, how they've made more profits then ever before, then fired half the work-force.

Stupid point #1: They're now getting agency staff in to do their jobs.
Stupid point #2: At least one of the laid-off workers received a standard compensation package was then told that the position that they'd been removed from was vacant at another branch and that they was a cinch for the job if they applied. So in effect they've paid him to transfer to another branch.

Dunley Road

For those wondering what the hell is going on with Stourport the answer is simple - Dunley Road is currently down to one lane; can't say we didn't have any warning oh wait yes we can. Fortunately it's a manned control point with Stop and Go signs, unfortunately it stretches from just past Areley Common all the way to the bridge.

I came to a halt in a side junction and Groove is in the heart started, this song is 3:45 long; by the time any of us (by which I mean the entire queue in Dunley Road started moving) we had reached 3:33... of the next song. So what was the problem?

A delivery van for the new Drinker's World had parked quite correctly opposite the bays in Bridge Street, you know the ones that anyone coming from the bridge have to overtake in order to progress. So we had cars stopped alongside the lorry quite legitimately in their own lane stopping any of the larger vehicles (like buses) from getting past the cars parked in these bays.

Once you'd got past Bridge Street it was clear sailing - Vale Road has only one lane closed and York Street is open with both - it's just that no-body can get past Bridge Street.

Knock-on effects what knock-on effects?

[Update - Apparently they're also working further up in the Village near the Londis not that a single lane there will make an inch of difference. On the plus side though the workers on Dunley Road (and when they were doing York Street) are cracking on and the bridge side control point has already moved down for vehicles to switch to the 'mind the ironworks' lane. Seeing as they are progressing so well it makes one wonder why they decided to start work during the morning rush-hour?

Oh and as an aside those pretty yellow cones with the blue circle and red border with line motif aren't just to liven up the side of our streets; and no they don't mean "You can't park physically on a cone, but you can park between them"]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HD once more

What with the economy shrinkage, the credit crunch and Christmas fast approaching it appears some retailers are in full panic slash price mode and as such it is our patriotic duty to take advantage of this while it's going on. So to that end I've been finally musing on the purchase of a HD television and have been refreshing myself as to the nuances contained therein.

First up is the new kid on the block FreeSat, at the moment the number of receivers and built-in televisions can be counted without taking off your shoes and as such still remain relatively pricey. This is annoying as, for the moment, this is the only method to receive free HD broadcasts. The option for me is to pick up a FreeView TV then down the line pick up a separate FreeSat box.

Next is the prevalence of the FullHD logo, as I mentioned in the earlier article this appeared to be an enhanced specification to the HD Ready logo - I was wrong. FullHD has no official guidelines and simply indicates that a TV has 1080 lines; that's it. The official version is HD Ready 1080p which is indeed an enhanced version of the original. 'So what?' you may cry; well it can make a difference in four ways.

The first obvious point is the "p" in HD Ready 1080p, anything with this logo has to support full progressive scan FullHD only indicates it has 1080 lines.

Secondly it's the gorilla in the corner that is HDCP the copy protection system that prevents you ripping and selling broadcast material. The kicker is that for content that demands HDCP you won't be getting HD output you'll be getting the same scaled version you'd get if you'd hooked up with a SCART cable. HD Ready 1080p requires all HDMI connections support HDCP; FullHD... [shrug].

[Update 20/11 - Something I should have made clear is that plain old HD Ready logo'd televisions also have HDCP so a FullHD HDReady television will have HDCP, but it won't necessarily have the other features mentioned here]

The third catch is 24fps playback, as I'm sure I've mentioned due to frickin' weirdness film is shot at 24 frames per second, but television is set at 25fps (or 30fps for the USA) and when placed onto VHS and DVD it was set at one of those two speeds (and format), but for Blu-ray HD content films retain their native speed. So a player that can transmit 24fps hooked to a television that can display 24fps is obviously better then one having to faff with the speeds. HD Ready 1080p at the minimum has to support 1080p@24 (although it doesn't require 720@24); FullHD once again [shrug].

Finally something that most won't even realise a process known as overscan. To put it bluntly for ye olde CRT televisions part of the tube would be hidden under the casing so you wouldn't see the full broadcast picture. In theory this should be banished with both plasma and LCD televisions but it still crops up because some HD tuners don't filter out a flickering bar that runs across the top of digital broadcasts. So to remove the bar you enlarge the picture a little and lose some of the top and bottom, but to keep the same ratio you have to also lose some of the sides. HD Ready 1080p demands that 1080 signals can be displayed without overscan.

So after all that everyone should be on the look-out of "HD Ready 1080p" logo'd televisions. Are their any out there? Yes, just difficult to find as there are plenty of "HD Ready" televisions that do 1080p, but aren't "HD Ready 1080p". Look for the logo demand nothing less.

I before E

Catching Freshly Squeezed on Channel 4 this morning I saw Wyclef Jean's new video for "Let me touch your button" a filmic video with the music played on top and the film's dialogue shown in subtitles. At one point the host of a night-club introduces the last-ever performance of the mystery that is the Lady in Red that forms the goal of Wyclef. According to the subtitles she is apparently "the blood in your viens" High end video, top stars; how wierd [sic].

On an unrelated note Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe is back on BBC4 sometime around 10:40 IIRC, my stupid PVR didn't load up the EPG so I'll have to remember to set it tonight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

York Street

As mentioned in an update it's York Street that's being resurfaced - good. At the moment it's the entire right-hand lane and stretching around the corner into High Street. As such anyone wanting to turn right at this point has to do so using the mini-island. This of course works well after all that's what an island is for, however it does cause the traffic coming up Bridge Street to come to a halt not least of which is because a) it's difficult to see the indicators of oncoming vehicles when the roads are set at 90°, and b) vehicles turning left still aren't bloody indicating anyway.

Oh and they haven't closed or moved the bus stop either so when that's sitting there no-one can move. On the plus side they are cracking on with it, just have to see how long it can stand up to all those cars being parked on it.

Me being me I can't stop without mentioning the bizarre nature of what's going on sign-wise. Starting at the end of High Street you round into Vale Road with a sign warning you of closures in lanes 2 & 3 to find only lane 3 closed. Heading through Gilgal onto Worcester Road you get a diversion sign at the OGL island (turn right), 360° and back to Mitton Street noting the repeat of the sign for Vale Road and into Lion Hill and you get two end of roadwork signs (one for each lane), then approach York Street for another diversion sign and the notice of work.

What... the... hell?

[Update 18/11 - They reopened the right-hand side last night. You wouldn't choose to drive down it due to the raised ironwork, but had little choice as all the cars instantly started parking in all the bays down the left. This morning they've closed off the left hand lane.]

How to cook to the kids

Looking after the Bratii Sunday afternoon. The initial thought was they'd bring sandwiches, but I said "Hey I'll just do a simple stir-fry for them" which they thought wouldn't go down well with Major, "Tough", I said.

Anyway Thursday I get a call inquiring if indeed I can cook for them, I agree wholeheartedly. So come Sunday I instruct Minor as to the location of the tablecloth and mats - "Behind the chair, second drawer down" there is only one chair at this point and only one set of drawers. Comes the cry "I can't find them!" I instruct Major as to the location and the table is duly laid.Minor plonks himself down in a chair at the table "What are you doing?" I ask. "Waiting for dinner" he returns. "You don't get fed unless you help with the cooking" I joke. Still he gets down and we troop into the kitchen.

"Okay the thing to remember about stir-fry is that it doesn't take long to cook so you need to get things ready before you start. Wok" I flourish a wok (okay really a funny shaped sauce-pan) and put it to one side. "Bowls, turn the oven on to keep them warm, stick them in". "Chicken, oil, soy sauce, vegetables [pre-packed I'm afraid], and noodles"
Minor chimes in "Can I have it without the noodles?"
Major laughs "Have you ever had noodles?" he asks.
More laughter
"Well you've got a choice", I say "You can have noodles, noodles, or noodles"
Minor thinks about it "Hmm"
"Okay", I get out two chicken breasts. "You cut these up small, do your think they'll be enough there?"
"Hmm looks okay" muses Major
"Right I'll cut them up small. While that's happening the hob goes on high. That means it's really hot" I aside to Minor. "In goes some oil [a flavoured version with some garlic] in, not too much, and we wait until you can see some steam coming off it" I cut the chicken into small pieces.
"I can see something" cries Minor all excited
"Yep well done. Now in goes the chicken, back up this'll spit a bit"
"A bit" dead-pans Major [hey it wasn't that bad]
"See how it's changing colour? You just keep turning it like this. Okay do you want to add some soy sauce?"
Major takes the bottle "How much?"
"A few glugs, seeing as you don't like exotic things I'm not doing a sauce so the flavour's going to come from the soy"
He sprits barely a teaspoon in.
"A bit more like this" I take the bottle and glug some in, steam follows
"Woah" from the pair of them "It's all bubbly" says Major.
"Okay vegetables" stir those around. Pak choi, beansprouts, peppers, onion; a nice mix.
"Now noodles, you [Major] can stir this while I open the noodles"
He pushes the concoction carefully around the pan and still manages to lose some out the sides
"Try and get the stuff on the top to the bottom and then keep doing that"
He proceeds with a bit more enthusiasm and even keeps it all in.
"Okay in go the noodles" yeah I know straight-to wok noodles, but it's just a bit easier.
He stirs some more.
"Want me to take over?"
"Yes please"
More stirring. "Needs more soy sauce"
More stirring "Okay, I'll move that over now and get the bowls out. Watch it that [the hob] is still hot"
On go the oven gloves and out come the bowls.
"Those are hot?" says Major
"Yes" I reply and then take off the gloves and separate them bare-fingered to Major's amusement.
"Okay let's see how much you can eat"
I spoon out roughly equal portions with a little less for the kids. Pass it through to the table and hand them a fork. They dig in.
"This is much better then raw" pipes up Minor.
"You what?" queries Major.
"Doing it from raw".
"We always have it from raw, you just don't see it", Major laughs. "It's the soy sauce, really makes the chicken taste good. I'm eating all the chicken."
"I like the soy sauce"
"Do you like the noodles" I ask and get a nod in return "I don't want any noodles" I mimic and get a chagrined look from Minor and laughter from Major. "So you'd be happy to have this again?" more nods "Next time I'll do it with a sauce if that's okay with you [looks at Major]"
"What type of sauce?"
"A slightly spicy tomato?"
"Hmm sounds okay"
"Well I could do it with rice", blank look from Minor. "Or perhaps a curry instead, with some lime pickle and mango chutney?"
"Ummm better stick with the tomato"

And that was that, oh except Bratii Mater is now going to get a request for soy sauce whenever they do chicken and queries as to the location of their wok.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More roadworks

The signs are still up for Vale Road and yes the cones are still lined up on the pavement; this has gotten silly now.

[Update - Huzzah they've closed off lane 3 of Vale Road; means the signs are still misleading though and as an additional bit of fun Ringway are offloading vehicles on one of the Hartlebury Common carparks in Worcester Road]

[Update 17/11 - still only one lane closed]

On the good news (hah!) front a sign appeared at the end of Lion Hill yesterday afternoon warning drivers of roadworks starting on the 16th and lasting for 4 days. The reason I didn't add this yesterday was because the length of time this work will be carried out for was written in what appears to be biro on a piece of masking tape stuck to the sign and thus not easy to see if you weren't specifically looking out for it.

Now as I say this appears at the end of Lion Hill and thus it is completely unclear as to whether these works apply to York Street or Mart Lane; checking with the schedules would be helpful except for the fact that work is listed for both these roads for an entire period Sept08-Mar09. I'm guessing (hoping) that it's Mart Lane, which would make sense, but as I say it's unclear.

[Update 17/11 - It appears to be the one side of York Street or at least the High Street end, seeing as that is impassable due to the cars parking there, big deal]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Someone new

A company nearby has acquired a tech guy and as we're all friendly around here we were introduced and left to chat. It's always nice to get acquainted with others in the same line of work - having two separate, but overlapping pools of knowledge is handy.

So he asked about using PHP with MySQL, which I said he should have no trouble with just to watch out for SQL injection attacks, then we ended up talking about menu structures and the ubiquitous fault of IE6 not supporting pseudo-classes for anything other than anchors and I mentioned there was a js workaround I'd utilised for my suggested re-work of the Stourport Carnival site.

"Oh", says he. "I work on the Stourport Town site"
"I sent you an email offering the use of my photos", I replied.
"... FlipC" he said.

and at that point we talked about the faults of Stourport... [sigh] alright I talked about the faults of Stourport and he managed to interject at times, hey I didn't pick the title for this blog at random you know ;-).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Toll House wall 3

The plans have finally been made available online and show the existing wall structure as remaining; an attempt to justify this has been made in the supporting documentation thusly:

Rather than use the adjacent controlled crossing, some pedestrians used this frontage strip to then cross the road near to the bridge. The applicant considered that this created a possible hazard and on this basis constructed the low wall.
Note that it was the "applicant" who decided this not the council, and not the Highways Authority. Also note that the gap between the bridge wall and the frontage wall remains and that with the new 90° wall anyone using it is in a dead-end and must walk with their back to traffic along the edge of the road.

To put it another way when the front wall collapsed blocking the frontage people would still cross prior to the controlled crossing and walk along the wall in the road so putting a wall here is unlikely to change that behaviour, but simply removes the option of continuing safely.

Now some may find it odd that I'm advocating a position for people not to use a crossing, I'm not, however at times this road is visibly clear or vehicles are queued at the controlled crossing and as such I have no problem with people crossing the road in a careful manner. This wall simply forces those who do so at this point to walk in the road between wall and vehicles. My main point however is the gap between the bridge and Bridge Cottage that leads down to the river. Anyone coming up this, albeit steep non-paved route is now forced onto the road at the top through the gap.

An interesting point in the supporting documentation is that the frontage "formally contained a lean-to structure for the full building width" when was that exactly? I remember walking home from High School and using the frontage and that was at least 20 years ago.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vale Road

No hints this morning, but this afternoon signs were up at the entrances to Vale Road warning that lanes 2 and 3 were closed. There are indeed a long stretch of cones along one side of the road - all on the pavement.

Now I'm aware that the signs need to go up prior to cones being placed and that they need to stay there while they're being removed, but I would normally at least expect to see some workmen about in the process of doing one of these things.

Signs warning you about non-existent hazards can at times be as dangerous as the hazards themselves.

[Update - 13/11: Signs still up, cones still lining the pavement.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

A spot of rain

This morning's news was about the rain last night, last night? It started around noon yesterday and finished around noon today. The rumour-mill has it that the Holt Fleet bridge is closed as is the Switchback and Wilden Lane, which would explain the traffic this morning.

Fortunately it was still raining slightly hence cloudy otherwise we'd all be overtaken by snails as everyone is blinded by the combined glare of the sun and the road. As always it's nice to note exactly where the rain piles up; Worcester Road always gets puddles in exactly the same place so much so that I can almost navigate around them on autopilot; the entrance to Lidl was waterlogged and extended out to half the width of the first lane in Vale Road, and as always in the most ironic way the Severn Trent Pumping Station entrance was one giant puddle.

Likewise it always interests me to note the number of drains that coincide with dropped footways, not only a problem for wheeled appliances but when (not if) the drains can't cope the safe point that people are supposed to cross becomes a moat forcing them to unsafe points at a very time when visibility and stopping distances for vehicles are reduced.

What's even better is that due to the combination and wind, water, and Autumn the leaves have turned into a delightfully skiddy slush matting the kerbs along the roads.

Again checking for rose-tints in my glasses, but it was never this bad before was it?

The Toll House wall 2

As I mentioned at the end of the original "The Toll House wall" entry I was keeping my eyes open for the next set of planning permissions, well they popped up at about the same time as the Tesco turbine project, so why didn't I write about it then - because none of the documentation is available online; and still isn't.

I'll keep trying.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wind Turbine at Tesco

Tesco are going all green by wanting to install a wind turbine at their store in Kidderminster, nothing to do with wanting to save money and everything to do with the environment in that the turbine will "act as a landmark for the area and will encourage people to think about green-issues such as renewable energy, recycling and energy saving measures."*

I, like Mr Oliver, wonder why they don't deck the roof in solar panels. A cynical soul might suggest it was to do with the fact that solar panels tend to be more expensive and require greater maintenance, of course I'm not one of those so I'm sure it's more to do with the fact that they wouldn't be as visible and thus set such a good example to the area.

Now to be blunt I'm all for a wind turbine, I just have some minor queries. First up they're using an Italian Ropatec Double Vertical WindRotor (incidentally not featured anywhere on the manufacturer's website) and my first impression is urgh; it's blocky and horrible. To contrast here's a photo of the English QuietRevolution which looks more like a art piece then a turbine.

Next this is a 6kW wind turbine, but if you take a closer look they'll only be getting that sort of output with a wind-speed of 14m/s, the average for our area appears to be around 5m/s which from their graph would appear to produce less then 500W. I'd also like to take this time to point out that not one single piece of supporting documentation provided with this application supplies a wind-speed, average or singularly measured, for this site. One would think that in an application for a wind-turbine a measurement of wind-speed would be a pre-requisite.

So yet another blot on the landscape in the name of green, producing on average very little of use. So why?


Had a ticking-off from over the road at work, she was in front of me at Vale Road and waved a couple of times and I didn't respond. I followed her into work and got out.

"You miserable git", she laughed. "I waved twice and all I got was [puzzled look]"
"Car, red, wheel at each corner", I responded. "That's as far as my vehicle recognition skills go. All I could see in your rear-view mirror was your eyes and it wasn't until you turned the corner that I got a full face view in the side-mirror and by that time we had a car between us all the way in"
"I'd have thought you'd have recognised the number-plate as it's sat opposite you every day", she said.
"Car, red, wheel at each corner", I shrugged. I suppose it's part and parcel of my 'can't remember names' mind-workings.

In a similar way I got a call from The Artist last night, in a lousy service area, with a PS3 question. He'd just installed the latest update 2.52 and couldn't find his Sign On icon all he had was Account Management.

"That means you've signed in", I said. "It changes to that".
"Ah, cool", he said. "Birthday soon, 35 eh"
"Oh yeah, forgotten about that"

His too as we were only born a month apart. Damn I forgot to chastise him, he swore me to secrecy on a possible event a while ago and when I'd mentioned I'd spoken to him to my parents the first thing they asked was if I'd heard anything about 'this event' which they'd heard of from his parents - big fricking secret that was :-)

Anyway I walked him through some of the PSN offerings and recommended the Mirror's Edge Demo download before we got cut off. Looked up his 'score' later, seems he's still managing to buy games with zero trophies. Reminds me gotta get him to buy The Orange Box now the price has plummeted so we can go TF2ing together.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Finished BioShock

Without getting into spoilers I had some short time last night to complete the penultimate escort mission in BioShock before tangling with the Big Bad and ended up finishing the game; mildly disappointing.

Trouble was during the escort period the BB kept taunting me over the radio describing a course of action they'd taken so when it came to the finale I thought "Well I'm going to assume X therefore I'll load up with Y which will protect me" and it did.

So with the default difficulty setting and a full load-up it took less then 5 minutes to knock him down and I sailed through with over half my health kits still available and the majority of my ammo in hand; I'd had a harder time dealing with an insane artist and an enraged Big Daddy.

Ah well I still enjoyed the game and I'll return to it in Survivor mode post November patch and DLC and see how it pans out there; time to delve into Fallout 3 methinks.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The next US President

So Obama wins 349 to 163 and McCain concedes, except here's the weird thing - no official results has yet been released for any State.

That's right who wins what State is all based on projections by the media and even then in some cases they can't decide which way a State will fall. From Wikipedia 4 of the 51 States are without a projected decision, that's 44 votes undetermined. Sure not enough to tip McCain over Obama's 349, but take a look at the projections for Florida, Indiana, and Virginia all projected for Obama though only with less then a 4% disparity between the two main party votes.

If we take all the projected votes for McCain, add in the votes from undetermined States and then say that those projected for Obama with less then 4% difference switch then McCain still only gets 240 votes, which is still not enough to win.

Except once again these aren't real figures they're all projections based on some official releases from districts and exit polls; some may turn out to be complete rubbish. Sure it would require all of the above to all come to pass and then, say, have New York switch to McCain; but for the third time these aren't the final results so how can anyone have won?

Costcutter Advert

I notice they've changed the Costcutter advert addressing one of my concerns by cutting out the speech about not just being there for those last-minute things. However their everyday items are now - four cans of Stella Artois, 2 bottles of Coke, and a twelve-pack of Carling... well those should go well with the six-pack of crisps and the Pot Noodles.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Is there some sort of election going on?

I can't vote in today's election for an obvious reason and to be blunt I don't care too much who gets in; I have a preference, but once installed I doubt either will really act in a way any different from the other. However what is interesting is not the results of the vote, but how that vote is being carried out.

Electronic voting machines are the hot-topic of discussion, tales of vote-switching, reports on the ability to 'break' them, and clumsy interfaces that can leave a voter the impression they've voted when they haven't. But these are the waving hands, the misdirection that conceals methods that were used during the 2000 election and are still being used today.

Voters Unite is keeping a track of problems, some more serious then others, then are ongoing. The Colorado Independent has the tale of their Secretary of State still "purging" voters from the electoral rolls not only within 90 days of the vote, but of still doing so even after being taken to court for it.

In Florida (sigh) we discover that high-speed optical devices are reading creases as votes in absentee ballots thus kicking them out as overvotes.

In New Jersey some registrations that came in near the cut-off date don't appear on the electoral rolls, although some of the counties are printing supplemental books some are asking voters to cast provincial ballots. Best quote:

"They're all valid registrations, and their votes will be counted. But the numbers were so large, we didn't have time ... to get them into the poll books so they can vote in the machines."
I kind of thought that was the point of a deadline. Sure they had a lot of new voters which swamped the checking procedure, but any idiot could have predicted that.

Perhaps we could sell our system to the Americans - Utilising a flexible, mark-retentive material to be used in conjunction with a precision engineered graphite tube, with the votes being processed via high-security black-box containers to be counted using the latest in AI-driven optical-recognition hardware. Current configuration provides the capability to process over 27 million votes in approximately 8 hours, but is highly-scalable to allow for differing situations.


Anyway check through the Voters Unite site for more scariness and thank our system that for the majority we still use paper and pencil and have our votes counted by hand.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Look and Learn game developers

I succumbed to picking up Fallout 3 on Saturday, the figurine edition; just too weak-willed I suppose ;-). I joked with the girl in Game that it was annoying that you couldn't get the collector's edition with the figurine and she agreed, but replied that it was "a Game exclusive" which suggests she didn't quite get what I meant.

Anyway after swearing at myself in Bioshock for accidentally over-writing the Auto-Save again I decided to call it a night, but before I packed up I'd just stick the new game in so it could do its install and I'd be ready to play it straight away the next day.

Disc went in, game loaded and warned me about turning off the console while the hard-drive light (that I can't see as it's at floor level) is flashing and I sat through the opening movie giving the background to the game world.

The screen then turned white with some red stains splashing and I found myself in a hospital looking at a doctor in mask and gown. This was the first stage of character creation - sex, name, and future appearance. I played with the latter until I was satisfied then found myself as a toddler learning to walk and manipulate objects and finally using a points system to enhance my natural attributes.

Then age 10 I'm at my birthday party and learn how to use my PIP-boy information screen and how to shoot; 16 and I take an aptitude test and can pick three skills to enhance.

At 19 I'm woken up to find my father has headed out of the enclave and the Overseer is after me; I too escape out into the wilderness and find myself wandering about outside.

Yeah I found myself a lot further into the game then installing it, in fact you'll notice that at no time was my game interrupted except for the five second loads between some areas I didn't even bother to mention. Does Fallout 3 stream everything from the disc? I flicked back to the menu and found it had deposited 5Gb worth of data onto my hard-drive without me noticing.

That's right the data installation took place at the same time as the introduction. Every other PS3 game I've got that installs data makes you sit there and watch it churn before you can do anything; this one didn't and I'm loving it already just for that one fact.

More pedestrian action

I really am not specifically looking for this, but just this morning I came down Gilgal into Worcester Road and saw a women and child trying to cross the inflow and outflow roads of Mitton Street and Gilgal respectively. What caught my eye was that in crossing these two lanes simultaneously they'd be walking past the point of the splitter triangle at this junction; the one with the three uncontrolled crossing points that allow you to cross each lane singularly.

In other words ten feet to her left she could have crossed each lane separately and, as I've seen her before at other points on her journey, continued in exactly the same direction she would have been moving to anyway. Instead she's having to wait for both lanes to be clear then dragging her child with her across the road.

I don't get it, I honestly don't get it.