Friday, January 30, 2009


A shout-out to the black saloon car at 17:30 coming out of Baldwin Road last night. Turned right into the Total garage and roared through there, I'm not exaggerating the noise and fast-movement are what caught my attention in the first place, he got stuck coming out into Gilgal; sat on my arse up Mitton Street and then roared past myself and the car in front of me on Lion Hill to turn into York Street.

Travelling fast? He overtook us half-way down Lion Hill and by the time we'd turned the corner he was turning into Bridge Street from York Street. By the time we got to York Street (and we were doing just under 30mph) he was on the brow of the bridge. Measuring the distances he'd have to have been travelling at approximately twice our speed, that is 60mph, through the town.

As per usual never a copper around when you want one; though saying that I bet if there was s/he wouldn't have going that fast anyway.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Link

The observant will note a new link on the page for Jamie Shaw's Labour Blog. While normally I'd refrain from out and out political links the difference here is a) It's the only political blog for my locality, and b) it generally gets at least one update a week (bias alert I do know Jamie, but I hope the length of time it's taken to link him indicates I'm not doing it for that reason).

There is of course also Fran's Liberal Blog which updates almost as much as me ;-) which I'd recommend to anyone in Kidderminster; and though it does deal with wider Wyre Forest matters and branches out on occasion to national and international events, it rarely touches on mine own selfish interests so it doesn't get perma-linked; besides I can usual rely on the WFA to point out anything of interest ;-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stourport signage

Just some observations. First off I'd mentioned to someone just this past weekend that they still hadn't repainted the double yellow lines down the re-laid stretch of Dunley Road, lo and behold shiny yellow lines are now in place.

On the same stretch I note heading from town that the signs warning about the staggered junction and bend (IIRC) have been twisted around their pole. In the same way the finger post in Bridge Street (yes that finger post) has had it's pointers twisted around making moot the required placement for said pole.

Yet again I have to point out the four signs on the Minster Road dual carriageway coming into Stourport that warn me of the non-existent disappearance of the left-land lane, seriously how in the hell did these get placed and how in the hell have they remained?

Personal Responsibilty

In his robotic books the late great Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics, for those not familiar with them they are quoted as being

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Those seem fair and reasonable, however a spin off series by Roger MacBride starting with "Caliban" examined these in a greater social context. The novels he wrote points out the main problem with the First Law - the "inaction" clause. This meant a robot had to protect a human being against potential harm, but how does a robot determine that? Simply put it doesn't - want to go skiiing in a robot society sure you can but you'll need one robot on either side to ensure you don't fall and break a leg, one in front to stop you from hitting anything and another behind to make sure you don't fall badly; want to do some cooking hmm you could burn yourself on the hob, and those are very sharp knives. Better in both cases just to not bother or let robots take care of it.

These were written in 1993, but they could be seen as a prediction of the line the present government is taking. Orphi summed it up in a comment when he said "there are rules to keep people from putting other people in unecessary danger." and that's the point of the rules - to stop you from doing something to other people that might cause them harm or distress. Except how do you judge harm or distress? We're all individuals so what might be considered distressful to one person might be fine to another, heck even the same person might find the same thing distressful or not at different times so how to judge?

Well like the robots the government's answer seems to be not to bother at all and simply judge everything as being potentially harmful etc. and like the robots the inaction clause is kicking in so as to prevent harm to ourselves. So we're raising a generation who is expected to look to the government for answers to everything they do - don't smoke; don't do drugs; don't drink; don't loiter on street corners, heck don't even go out at night; don't bother working. We'll tell you want to do and how to do it, leave it all to us.

Is it any wonder that some are simply accepting this rule while others react violently to it, is it any wonder that it seems we're losing our own sense of personal responsibility while at the same time expecting everything to be handed on a plate to us?

Time to stop messing around with under-age drinking, smoking bans, and food police and get back to what the laws, government and police are supposed to be all about - protecting person A from the actions of person B.


It's cropped up in various places - the lack of people indicating in cars, why though? I really don't get it and I'm getting fed-up of it all. I'm fed-up of entering Vale Road from the town and pulling out to overtake a slower vehicle as I move into the third lane (indicating of course as I'm changing lanes) only to find I'm being cut-up by that car who has also decided they want to be in that lane. I'm fed-up of people coming down into Gilgal, Mitton Street or Lion Hill and veering across the lanes. I'm fed-up of overtaking slow traffic stopped at the Birchen Coppice lights in Minster Road only to have a car pull out in front of me and force me to an abrupt slow-down.

I'm fed-up waiting to enter an island only to have the cars I've been waiting for taking my exit; I'm fed-up of thinking I can enter the island only to find the car that appeared to be taking my exit is in fact continuing into my path; I'm fed-up of cars in the right-hand lane of an island exiting onto a dual carriageway into the left-hand lane when I'm trying to turn left into it.

To put it succintly I'm simply fed-up of it all and I want to know why this seems to be becoming more and more prevalent on our roads?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Advertising as a sign of recession?

I don't know but over the weekend every advert-break featured AutoGlass - with what was pointed out to me as the contradictory message that to replace a new windscreen would cost you your excess and impact your no-claims bonus, but calling out for a repair will be covered by your insurance and won't. Um really and the difference between the two is?

Anyway the army has a new couple of adverts out playing with Titles such as Leadership or some such and throwing up virtual screens showing the rewards of being in the army such as camaraderie and helping kids play football; oddly they don't show the scenes of you with your leg blown off because the kid you were playing football with was wearing an explosive shirt - funny thing that. Oh and they're also advertising in gaming magazines using a 'game art' box that looks like something that would have produced in the 80's and then still been laughed at for looking cheap and tacky.

Speaking of the army I looked at the RAF advert in a new light, you know the one starts off by looking at a radar screen and then various utensils fly up into the air to form a fighter jet; yep so true - The RAF picking the pockets of hospitals, businesses...

Oh and Glade have heard my cries over not providing an off button for their air-freshener by... still not providing an off button. Oh no this time it's motion-sensitive - better, but I think an off button would be a cheaper option.

Still Fallout 3

Yep now going it through it for the second time, not just for the missed trophies at the beginning, but because it's just so immersive to play.

This time around I've got the hang of a few things and have upped the difficulty from the default to Very Hard. Noticeable changes are that I've a lot less ammunition spare and I'm using medicine more. Enemies are tough so I'm sneaking a lot more and using a lot more grenades and setting mines at ambush points.

To make life even harder for myself I'm trying to max out all thirteen skills, that is reach 100% in each. Last time I played I maxed out a few, but was still finding items that would increase that and therefore had obviously wasted them and my allocation of skill points. This time will be different - for complicated reasons to do with some special enhancing items the result is that no skill should be enhanced past 37%. That means if I have a base skill of 17% and tag it at the start to raise it by 15% then find a +10% item making 42% I should only add 5 points to that skill to increase its base to 37% while having it read 47%.

This means a) keeping track of every enhancement made to skills; and b) although I'm a Jack-of-all-Trades until I find every scattered item most of my skills are below 50% which makes the game even harder. Fortunately there are items which grant temporary boosts when worn or imbibed which helps push some skills past 50% 9a neccesary for some things); in any case it's certainly making the game both more tense and a lot slower, which is a good thing,

Stourport shops

One of the nice things about being driven rather than driving (a disadvantage of not drinking) is that you get to look around at what's going on. To this end I confirmed that the Hollybush in Mitton Street is boarded-up and that the Sweet Jar in Bridge Street has a "Sweet Shop for Sale" sign in the door. I say confirmed as I'd been told about this before, but hadn't had chance to confirm them despite the reliable nature of the sources.

The Holly bush is a surprise, but the rumour has it that it's the same cause as the Rose and Crown in Shrawley -

"Hi run this pub and get a special introductory offer"
"The offer's run out we're doubling your rent and putting a premium on your barrelage... oh you're leaving. Hi run this pub and get a..."

As for the Sweet Jar, well as the owner's said many a time he's on the wrong side of the road; indeed the driver I was with remarked "What sweet shop?" as I made a passing remark and then "Oh yeah" as he had to be reminded of its existence.

Anyway this drive also took us to the Crossley Retail Park in Kidderminster with someone who didn't drive there. As such I was full of helpful advice such as "You might want to get into the right-hand lane as you approach this island" and "You need to get into the right-hand lane on this stretch then when it splits in two get into the left-hand part". Coming out he decided to turn right "Stay in the middle lane" I told him.
"But the right-hand-turn is the other lane" he replied "this is a straight on"
"It's also a right-turn further along and after you turn right you'll want to go straight at the island and that means being in the left-hand lane"
"How the hell would I know that?"

Yes my point exactly for the whole trip. His point was that the entire estate was in the wrong place and shouldn't exist if it wasn't for the Health Concern lot.

Travelling along the Bewdley Road he cursed the state of the road "And that's why I go the other way" I told him. He also cursed the state of the Stour bridge in Stourport which really is getting much worse. However he praised the refurbished building on the bridge asking "Why can't they get them to do up the rest of Stourport?"

Anyhoo we've lost Woolworths, it looks like we may lose the Sweet Jar, if Tesco builds the Co-op says it might close, we're probably losing Lloyds Garage, and I've lost count of the number of charity shops - is there any reason to shop in Stourport anymore, will there be in the future?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The True Cost of Cheap Food

A Channel 4 'documentary' last night I use the quotes as you can tell where this is going just by the title - the shock twist was, wait for it, cheaper food such as bargain sausages contain less meat compared to their more expansive cousins; stop the presses!

In one such case a scientist found only 40% protein in a sausage, removed all the connective tissue etc. and replaced it with meat and made it 54% protein at an estimated cost of 0.7p per sausage. Polling the public produced mixed results of those able to tell the difference, but seemed to produce a 100% Yes result when asked "Do you think the supermarkets should take a hit on their profits to make a better sausage", likewise when asked if the supermarkets should give away their food for free to the needy and should the supermarkets provide a valet service and personal shopper for free the answers were also a resounding yes.

Okay I made up those last two questions but seriously duh who wouldn't want the supermarkets to pay the price and not us? Here's the deal if you want more meat in your um meat then you're goign to have to pay for it. If Market A produces a cheapo sausage at Xp and Market B produces a better sausage at Yp and more people buy B's sausage then A will try to produce a B type sausage at X price to get those customers. Okay flaw in the argument is the assumption that people have enough money to be able to choose between A and B, but again if no-one buys B's sausages they'll have to either drop the price or the quality (or both).

This programme's only use was to tell us the difference between the cheap and expensive brands by measuring contents not shown on the packets and even then it was a case of 'more antioxidents in the expensive tomatoes which is better' 'Ah and antioxidents are good for you' 'Yes'. Do I need to go into the contrary health advisories to tell you to be careful of flat statements like that?

So if that was the only use of the programme the only startling thing was the two families of four they'd roped in as an experiment (buy only budget range and don't buy from supermarkets) were trying to reduce their grovery bills to around £95 a week. Reduce! What the hell were they spending before?

Car assumptions

To the person in Worcester Road, Stourport at around quarter to six last night, reg no VO04 something with U and V or Y. The person trying to get your attention last night wasn't commenting on your driving skills, but was trying to let you know your brake lights were faulty in that they were constantly illuminated. As such the hand gestures you made towards him were quite unwarranted.

For future reference if someone tries to catch your attention and isn't making obscene gestures in your direction chances are they're trying to let you know about something important.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bad Internet Bad

Yes once again out of a population of X million one 15-year old girl made contact with a 40+ year old man and the cry is heard "Something must be done". In a particularly clueless moment the new GMTV presenter asked a copper if computer manufacturers and ISPs should do more and he agreed (although he also said it's really down to the parents).

So what more could they do? Perhaps install parental controls into their software or provide guidance for parents - they already do.

From the talk of the copper about abuse buttons on sites he seems to be suggesting that ISPs should piggy-back traffic to insert such, or that perhaps browser writers should include them as default (presumably with every regional variant). Of course this will also have to apply to IM software, forums etc. To put it another way those discussing such measures have little idea what they're talking about.

So just out of curiosity exactly when did parents abdicate their responsibilities to their children? If a parent let their kid roam around in the streets, towns, and cities all night would their be a call that it should be the police doing something to prevent it... oh wait yes there was.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Acrobat 8 and A4

Okay this is really annoying, my Vista laptop came with a copy of Adobe Acrobat 8.0 Standard which is surprisingly nice except I've now run across a basic assumption that is causing problems. The assumption is that I'm American and as such use English (USA) and Letter sized paper. This came up using the create PDf from scanner function all the A4 scans had their ends chopped off; I check the settings and see that duh it was set to Letter, I duly set it to the only viable option A4LETTER; still scanning as a Letter. I check the settings (and incidentally crash Vista twice accessing the General page) and change the New Document to A4; I check the PDF printer and change the default to A4. I check the scanner software and confirm it's set to A4.

It still scans in at Letter.

I check the Distiller program and think I've found the problem - the measurements correspond to Letter format. I change them, it prompts me to save these settings to a file; I do so and reload. Oh look the settings aren't there for me to pick - ah I'll Add Settings, select the file and "Unable to create file" it's trying to dump it in an non-existent Administrator folder.

I run as Administrator, still can't save, I add the folder structure and file manually, still can't see it or save it.

So is there a workaround? Yes when you want to create from Scan instead of Hide Native Interface you have to show it instead. This means I click Scan, it opens up the Canoscan interface I have to hit scan again, watch it work, watch it disappear, and select 'Add another page' hit scan and watch it open again - repeat until annoyed. (Apparently there's another method to be able to select A4 rather than A4LETTER , but it involves a Registry Edit and the details are for XP and apparently don't look to stable either)

Seriously it's not as if A4 is some wacky English only size it's used throughout Europe, but hey why am I surprised everyone's American!

Rubbish Tax

Watching GMTV this morning I did a little jig during the report on the pay-as-you-go bin tax. Turns out thescheme in Norfolk was deemed a failure for two reasons - firstly the technology was inaccurate, though technology can be fixed so not that big a deal; secondly neighbours were dumping rubbish in each others bins to avoid excess payment. Digging through Google also found this story that states

During the two years it ran, there was a 250 per cent increase in fly tipping in the area
So why the jig? Well in May 2007 I said
This'll lead to fly-tipping cry the nay-sayers, no it'll lead to padlocks as people dump their waste in their neighbours bins and get them to pay for it. In other words the plan's unworkable.
Turns out it led to both and I was still right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

World Celebration Day

Yay no more Bush, Obama enters the White House - Hamas will declare Israel 'okay to stay where they are'; Iran will cancel their nuclear ambitions; Iraqis will finally find those garlands of flowers our troops were promised; the Pope will declare contraception a good idea after all; Nigeria's economy will be renewed as will the rest of the world's; and all will be rainbows and cute little puppies.

Well that's the way some people seem to be thinking judging by the party atmosphere.

Of course there is a down-side - comedians and satirists will be mourning the loss of Dubya, unable to poke any form of fun at Obama in case they're seen as racist they're pinning their hopes on Joe Biden continuing his trend of sticking his foot in his mouth every so often.

For those oligarchs feeling threatened by the new power don't worry - donations to any of the Clinton funds will be more than welcome not that you'll receive any special favours for such oh no sirree.

Avé! Bossa nova! Similis bossa seneca.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some more traffic stuff

The signs declaring the road up to Areley Common have been moved aside for the weekend and have yet to be put back up, so has it all been finished thre days early?

Fun this afternoon in Vale Road with the left-hand lane being closed at the top; as everyone still has one whole other lane to use I've no idea why this was causing so much commotion unless they'd pre-empted the traffic lights. Nevertheless traffic was blocked all down the middle lane and inconsiderates from the third lane were blocking the cross for those wanting to use the third lane. Thank-you so very much.

A few shocks to find the right-hand side of York Street clear I think this is the first time I've seen the double yellow lines in their full glory, and probably the last time too. Of course I couldn't take advantage of it having cars beside me in the 'left' lane and a cyclist in my lane restricting my speed (no Dan I'm not blaming the cyclist he had every right to be there) just funny the way things turn out.

As a coincidence while having a clear-out I discovered a long-lost leaflet from our lords and masters detailing the changes in law with connection road markings. On of these points was that double yellow lines no longer require a sign stating "At no time" this is now implied by the presence of the lines themselves, which makes sense otherwise they'd just be one line. Anyhoo for those (you know who you are) who are spreading the 'news' that you can park down the right-hand side there with impunity because of the lack of signs... well I'd say you stood a good chance of being fined although that would imply an enforcement officer being present; I think I saw one last week.

I'm sure I've also mentioned my amusement that as you head down Bridge Street towards the bridge there are double yellow lines on your side until you get to the parking-bays opposite (yes those bays) at which point it becomes a single yellow line. Hmm narrow road possibly made narrower - clever.

Oh and I'm sure I'm not the only one eyeing the depression that has formed just before the pedestrian crossing in High Street; that's become a noticeable thump.

Not traffic but my thoughts on a foot-high wall along the edge of the Engine Basin were justified again by the outflux of water over the sides.

As a late note it was with both amusement and disgust that some time ago the right hand side of Mitton Street was blocked for water work just past the entrance junction and that traffic from Worcester Road was still stopping to let the traffic from Gilgal through.

Damn you Computers

Because we've been acquiring laptops over desktop computers we've just bought a single wireless router which I configured with ease. So we've wireless Vista laptops and one XP desktop that acts as the printer server.

Do you think any of the laptops could print? Of course not. Nothing had changed IP-wise, but none of the Vista laptops could login to the XP computer. Other way around - oh no problem XP was happy to login to Vista shares.

Much fiddling with settings, much browsing of the web, much tearing of hair - when suddenly the printer burps and pumps out the document that had showed up the problem. The only thing I can think of is that the router had done a big refresh and suddenly 'found' the XP machine. I'd love to take credit, but it just happened.

Friday, January 16, 2009

MPs expenses - status quo prevails

So after the big fuss over the John Lewis list, the hiring of family members and all the myriad ways MPs spend our money on themselves with little or no oversight big changes were promised. Said changes have now been whispered under the deafening barrage of Heathrow and they amount to... pretty much nothing. The report can be found here the changes needed start on page 35 (39 by count) they've renamed some items for clarity and set a few new limits.

Will we get to find out what is being bought - nope; so will we know if even these pathetic new rules are being kept - nope.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Phil Collins

In a comment to a blog entry on the Kidderminster Shuttle I mentioned I was currently listening to Genesis' "Jesus He knows me" which prompted a reply that by admitting to this I'd lost all credibility. Of course I was unaware I even possessed any credibility to lose so in an effort to defend myself... ah hell no I'm not the song makes me laugh just check out some of the lyrics:

"I believe in the family.
With my ever loving wife beside me;
But she don't know about my girlfriend,
Or the man I met last night."

"Won't find me practising what I'm preaching.
Won't find me making no sacrifice.
But I can get you a pocketful of miracles;
If you promise to be good, try to be nice.
God will take good care of you;
Just do as I say, don't do as I do."

"There'll be no doubt in your mind;
You'll believe everything I'm saying.
If you wanna get closer to him;
Get on your knees and start paying."

Of course I know this doesn't apply to everyone involved in religion, but the simple fact is that you have to question any system that can lead to this type of abuse from its leaders. Except of course you can't because it's a religion and you're not allowed to do that - unless it's a cult of course (cult being defined as religion that a) hasn't been around for over 300 years, or b) has less then an arbitrary number of followers) in which case you can happily persecute them and question how stupid someone has to be to believe in invisible entities while following the edicts of a single 'leader' as law.

Dyslexia myth?

I actually spotted this story from my multiple news feeds yesterday, but of course the television media are always a day behind the print.

I'll gloss over GMTV's attempt to deal with this by simply stating long-winded personal account - one paragraph science response - long-winded more personal account - end.

One of the rebuttals to Graham Stringer is that dyslexia has been proved to exist, hmm I had a quick Google around and the proofs seem to be based on brain activity as revealed by functional MRI scans. To keep things simple those able to read use a portion of their front brain and several others areas spreading towards the back. Those diagnosed as 'dyslexic' only use the front brain area and use a lot more of it.

This is of course not proof of the existence of dyslexia as the study then went on to examine pre-readers brain activity and monitor them as they learnt. Pre-readers show the same frontal activity as 'dyslexics' and activity then extends outwards as they progressed.

So am I saying dyslexia doesn't exit? Nope, I'm saying (just like the Duram professor did in his short reply on GMTV) it's more complicated than that.

I think what the message that Graham was trying to put forward (and mangled) is that dyslexia is becoming a panacea for any child that seems to be having any form of difficulty in the same way any child with social difficulties seems to acquire the autistic or ADHD label. How many of these children diagnosed as dyslexic have been given MRI scans? As such how can you differentiate between those children who truly have a abnormally wired brain, those who just can't be bothered, and those who are being let down by teachers or teaching methods.

It's easy just to slap a pre-printed label on a child regardless of whether it fits exactly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Israel and Palestine

To be blunt and heartless I'm not paying much attention to this - A bombs B who had bombed A who had bombed B gets to the point where you want to just slap everyone involved. It would be easy to start moaning about the creation of Israel, but as DT points out "We are where we are." so that's where we've got to start with.

However, despite this conflict having started first, this reminds me of Georgia and Ossetia with a similar solution to the one I proposed then. First we need a little basic recap and geography lesson.

Palestine currently forms two major parts of the area - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip these are currently geographically separated by Israel with the West Bank forming the larger of the two areas. We have two 'governments' the PNA who are elected and the PLO who are appointed from the PNA. In 2006 Hamas were majority elected to the PNA, due to the fact they refused to recognise the right of Israel to exist countries cut off aid payments.

In 2007 to resolve tensions the PLO and PNA agreed the PNA would form a unity government that would feature not only members of Hamas but their rivals Fatah. This lasted only a few months when Hamas fought Fatah and took over the Gaza Strip.

The PLO dissolved the unity government and created a new one. The result is essentially two rival governments the Hamas (democratically elected) that controls Gaza and the Fatah (non-democratic and possibly illegal under current law) that controls the West Bank. Countries being countries most recognise the Fatah (West Bank) as being the legitimate authority.

Now all this has got complicated by Hamas (Gaza) lobbing over rockets into Israel and Israel retaliating. This shouldn't be complicated - it should be treated as a civil war between Gaza and the West Bank. Despite the provocation Israel should not have got involved and should have complained to the recognised Fatah government that one of its territories was attacking them and demand they do something about it before complaining to the UN.

The Fatah government then could appeal to the UN (they currently have observer status) for aid in putting down this insurrection and UN troops move in from Israel (UN member) and Turkey (UN member) to remove the Hamas government and instate the Fatah government.

This is what the UN was created for in the first place.

Ah well the trouble is this has all got mixed in with the overall peace process etc. and thus got ten times more complicated as everyone tries to solve the whole shebang with one sweeping resolution. Ain't going to happen.

More advert small print

Yes yet another advert blaring out something with great fanfare and hiding the niggling little details in small print. Nothing new except for the length of the print which was about 4 lines long [Update - 3 lines long]. Turns out you can get 3 nights free at a hotel and 4 days free at EuroDisney - yay! [Update - 4 nights free, 7 days at DisneyWorld] Until you read the small print that this only applies between certain dates for a certain number of people who book at the hotel for a certain length of time and buy a multi-day pass for the park.

Yes I'm vague on the details here because despite the advert showing a family discovering this great offer on the internet the EuroDisney site doesn't seem to feature it. I'll try to catch the ad on my PVR so I can dissect it thoroughly next time.

[Update - Okay I did also check the Disney Florida before in case I'd got it wrong and nothing appeared there, turns out it's except it's not that either; okay I'm confused. Using Google I find this site which looks nothing like the one even my faulty memory could match from the advert]

Screen ratios

I was recently asked "So now I've got my widescreen television how come I'm still getting black bars top and bottom on some of my movies?" the answer is "Because they're pains in the fundament"

Okay the normal SD aspect ratio is 4:3 and widescreen is 16:9; for those not mathematically inclined that means for ever 3 units (centimetres, inches, metres, light years) of height there are 4 units of width, or 9 units high and 16 wide for widescreen (no they're not the same as can easily be shown by taken a 4:3 and enlarging it three times to provide a screen 12x9)

If you take a look at the details of any DVDs you'll see the screen ratio - for older TV series this will be 4:3 (or full-screen) some will say 16:9 (widescreen) but others will have 1.85:1 or 2.40:1. to understand what this means compared to 'standard' formats we need to place these on a comparative footing by making them all n:1 so:

4:3 = 1.33:1
16:9 = 1.77:1

So with these formats for every unit of height we need 1.33 or 1.77 units of width in order to display the whole picture. With a widescreen 1080 television we have 1080 pixels (units) of height which means we need 1920 pixels (units) of width in order to display a 16:9 film (1080 multiplied by 1.77 with rounding). With a 1.85:1 movie on the same television if we use the full 1080 height we need 1998 pixels wide, except we only have 1920. A choice has to be made - use the full height and lose 39 pixels from each side, or display the full width and waste 21 pixels top and bottom. For 2.40:1 films this is taken to the extreme where you either lose 336 from each side or waste 140 pixels top and bottom.

This means in percentage terms watching a 2.40:1 film on a widescreen television with full width wastes just over 25% of your screen real estate which is why those bars seem so obvious.

Once everyone's bought a widescreen television and the manufacturers need a new gimmick expect to see 2592x1080 and 1728x720 televisions for sale for full screen display of 2.40:1 films. Actually scrap that the next televisions will be Ultra High Definition with 7680x4320 which is, yes, still a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The name's Bond

Possibly due to both the panic sales and the fact they're being re-released on Blu-ray I've been slowly acquiring the James Bond movies at a cheap price and even more slowly watching them.

It's quite interesting to watch them in order - the Dr. No opening sequence being the most jarring from expectations going straight from barrel shot to a title sequence with a load of dots. This was altered to the barrel shot - teaser - opening credits in the second film From Russia with Love and although this did feature a song by that name it was played over the end credits. Goldfinger started the trend of a opening sung song, but it wasn't until the forgettable Thunderball that we got the expanding transition from barrel circle to opening scene.

You Only Live Twice was the first film to finish without advertising the next simply stating that "James Bond will return". The first 5 minutes of On Her Majesty's Secret Service left me with the impression that this was the worst Bond movie ever, but I came to enjoy it mostly for the excellent music score rather then the acting or dialogue. It's also noteworthy that this film obviously stars Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) but also Purdey (Joanna Lumley) who gets one line and no name (credited as English in a group of girls). I didn't recognise her until she opened her mouth - unmistakable voice.

Live and Let Die was just fun and "introducing Jane Seymour" as well as Roger Moore. The Man with the Golden Gun was another good theme tune and of course had both Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize, as well as the protracted camera crew shot in the displaced dressing room mirror. Wasn't so fond of The Spy Who Loved Me except again for a good theme tune, with the only noteworthy thing being that according to the end credits the next fillm is For Your Eyes Only - the next film turning out to be Moonraker (currently the only one I don't have) due to the success of Star Wars.

Without seeing the previous one For Your Eyes Only currently marks the poorest Bond for me, a ludicrous opening sequence, protracted skiing, and simply a lousy plot and script. The only noteworthy item being the starring of Topol fresh from Flash Gordon in which he starred alongside Timothy Dalton.

Ah well Octopussy next perhaps a new low,

[Additional - yep a new low. Stars Maud Adams who 'died' in Golden Gun and starts with 009 dressed as a clown sopping wet from a fall in a river and with a knife in his back somehow penetrating the British Embassy in East Germany during a party (presumably a time of heightened security) to drop a fake Fabergé egg on the floor before expiring. 'We have no leads' claims a new M; really 009 often dresses as a clown then? Yeesh here's a thought were there any circuses in the area? Would have cut out half the movie if they'd thought of that.

The final straw was when Bond switched the fake egg for the real egg at an auction (in a sleight of hand that should have had everyone shouting oi!") and had Q plant a tracker/microphone on it before allowing it to be 'stolen' from him. Later when both are in the hands of the baddies the BigBad destroys the fake that's been causing problems and in the debris the t/m is found. Um wasn't that in the real one?

Sole redeeming feature - Q using a hot-air balloon to knock out a baddie that had the drop on a bevy of beauties, getting fussed over by them and exclaiming "We don't have time for this... well perhaps later" Way to go Q.

Next film listed as From a View to a Kill, of which they obviously dropped the 'From']

then up to the giddy heights of View to a Kill. Okay maybe it's not that good, but it stars Christopher Walken and thus is elevated by his glow. The grittier Dalton's, the slightly smoother and gadget-laden Brosnan's then the solid Daniel Craig. By which time I'm sure the latest wil be out on DVD.

Friday, January 09, 2009

PS3 how to revert to to SD output

A call from The Artist who was just about to leave for his exhibition (such excellent timing) about problems he's having with his PS3, ever since it came back home with him it hasn't been working.

I thought about this for a second and reminded him that he'd set it up to output through the HDMI cable at his father's over Xmas. Did he now have an HD TV at home? No he didn't.

One quick Google later reveals this; worth remembering. You'd think as the HDMI cable is auto-sensing (in that it knows if you've plugged it into a 720 or 1080 i/p screen) the console would be intelligent enough to realise when it didn't get any feedback to revert to standard output perhaps with a warning screen in case there's a problem with the cable or TV - nah.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


DaBoss has a new toy a co-built B&O Samsung mobile phone/music player and yes of course muggins here has to set it up. When I saw a picture of it my initial statement was "It's an upside-down iPod" and my opinion hasn't changed now it's in my hands. Anyhoo onto setup, switch it on and you get a little tutorial which is skipable (if you know how). The little booklet accompanying it claims that the phone is "based on an intuitive user interface" which should put a chill down the spine of any IT professional as this translates to 'We're not going to tell you how to do anything, so look it up in the 200-page plus CD guide'.

It's not bad, but not intuitve I had to set the time twice... sigh here you go - you use the wheel to scroll to the time setting, then press the middle OK button then use the wheel to advance or retard the hour setting. Now given it's a wheel how do you progress to setting the minutes? Well like an idiot I pressed right on the wheel, which tried to take me out of the setting, of course I should have pressed OK to advance then OK to set then right to move on. The Getting Started Guide has nothing on this at all.

But hey that's okay time to hook it up to the PC and it uses Bluetooth yay take that iPhone. Samsung's PC Studio disc goes in whirs like a mad thing and pops up an annoying flash interface plus music you can't turn off until the whooshy dialogue appears. English and Install... Yes I accept terms and conditions... BSOD Vista crashes.

Restart "hmm one-off glitch?", I muse. Install... BSOD crash. Check the disc again yes Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. I go online to see if anyone else has the same trouble. Big surprise yes, turns out Samsung and Vista aren't seeing eye-to-eye but if you install it using compatability mode it'll be fine.

Change settings, install, yay! it's got further this time... 'installing drivers this may take a few minutes' yeah right normally blips past in seconds. I waited... I got the post, I opened the post, I sorted the post, and then it finally finished.

Now it's running LiveUpdate and picking up 301 updates I kid thee not, all individual files so it's blipping through, but sheesh.

Oh and for anyone wondering why I didn't check online first for a later version I did, but the Serenata isn't supported on the Samsung site, this software isn't on the B&O site, and the only time I could find a copy of Studio it offered me two different files for Vista without an explanation as to the difference.

Oh Huzzah it's finished and applied the updates and didn't even need a reboot I can now finally start the programme... wow that's shit no really I mean it here look for yourselves.
Oh and it's a fixed size box so no I can't stretch it wider. Oh gods all the other dialogue boxes are the same, I may have to set visual themes to off for every damn mini-programme. I mean it works just damn difficult to see as some of the boxes run off the window edge and the scroll bars are about a pixel-wide.

Oh and though it'll sync the contacts etc. via Bluetooth to get music onto it you need to hook it up via its (propitiatory of course) USB cable and despite being described in the guide as a Mass Storage Device it needs its own driver... which doesn't seem to work in Vista.

Stourport stuff

Traffic was unpleasant this morning, with the apparent cause simply being some excess traffic from Kidderminster. We really do need either a cross-hatch or better timing or both at the Minster Road lights.

As I've not mentioned them yet the newly laid roads seem to holding up well for the time being, but we've gained a pothole on the OGL island on the right-turn coming from Gilgal. I don't recall any precursor signs it's poof as if by magic a pothole appeared.

I think I mentioned that the new brick welcome sign on the Dunley Road had lost its rear goodbye, but I've also noticed that the same has occurred to the one on the Worcester Road so perhaps my comment that these were a bit pointless has reached someone's ears. Either that or the first one just fell off or got nicked and someone removed the other for consistency's sake.

[Update - 9/1: Just to make me look stupid the one on Worcester Road is back up]

I'm debating whether to write to the council about the possibility of getting some arrows added at the end of York Street on the other side of the pedestrian crossing. At the same time I might mention painting a lane divider down the street too, but as I've mentioned several times doing so would highlight the merging problem at the other end with the new parking bays so I won't hold my breath on that.

I could also be pedantic and point out that for the majority of traffic coming from Lion Hill they should be staying in the (non-existent) right-hand lane therefore both sets of directional signs are on the wrong side of the road.

While I'm at it I could also point out the lack of notice of lane merging at Minster Road and the Minster Road/Stourport Road lights. With traffic powering up from Vale Road the only indication that the road switches from two lanes to one is a painted arrow; hardly a hardship at an enforced 30mph, but the nasty one is at the lights at the other end which is a deregulated dual-carriageway that switches to a single lane after a set of traffic lights. Traffic powering past a queue here may find they suddenly have to merge at 70mph into much slower moving traffic. I say may I've seen cars having to either slam on their brakes or continue up the 'middle' hatched lane. I find this doubly ironic as, I've previously mentioned, signs into Stourport warning of a non-existent lane merge/close have been put up starting here.

Then again perhaps it's best to do it one at time so as not to overwhelm them ;-)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Stating the obvious

From the Guardian we get the Spanish version of the atheist bus. So what's the big news? Well apparently it's being branded "an attack on all religions"; well duh. So presumably notices telling me that Jesus Saves etc is an attack on atheism, well yeah but those are okay as who wants to defend those hell-bound godless heathens?

Heh a nasty thought tells me that this reaction would be exactly the same if the advertisement was "Join the Wiccans".

In other news the head of MI5 goes off message with Terror Threat Falls before someone activated the chip in his head to make him spout "There is a seedbed of networks of extremism in the UK from where attacks could come.". That's right folks we've done our job of defending you and you're much safer now except you're not. So stay afraid, give us more funding and stop questioning those emergency extra powers that allow us to cart you off without notice if you so much as sneeze funny.

Soup anyone?

GMTV once again demonstrates it's firm grasp on reality by offering soup to railway travellers at Bristol station. Obviously they can't do this at any London station as they'd be competing with all the concession stands, which places this firmly in the position of 'stunt' to my mind; but hey that's what TV does.

So anyway in theory it's not a bad idea except of course this is GMTV so it has to go wrong. First off the soup itself - a "spicy fruit vegetable"

For the love of Fanglemork you offer tomato, sheesh anyone would think the only reason for this fancy soup was to have a celebrity chef (whom I've not heard of) show us how to make it.

Secondly they were serving it in small cups, okay until you realise that a) they have no lids and b) unless things have changed a lot of stations still don't have any litter bins.

So an unusual soup that has to be drunk there and then so it doesn't go cold or spill and so you can hand the cup back.

Oddly enough they didn't get many takers.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses

My parents bought some of these to offer as small prizes for a party over the New Year. The prominent name on the packaging is Mistletoe Kisses and there's even a picture of some mistletoe above the title.

Looking at the ingredients though these contain no mistletoe. I'm thinking of contacting Trading Standards, after all if they can go after Welsh Dragon Sausages and Hedgehog flavoured crisps this should be right up their street.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Last year's stats

Just for fun the period 1/1/08 - 31/12/08 (less a month when Analytics didn't work)

8,959 Visits "via 127 sources and mediums"
5,346 Unique visitors
12,607 Page views

Except for Google the biggest traffic source was Tav over at the WFA (1069) which is doubly amusing as the most used keyword search was "'wyre forest' agenda" followed by "sony fw21l", "mad ranter stourport", "stourport carnival" and "bridge street improvements stourport".

I won't forget to mention Orphi who garnered me 131 visits over the year or septicisle (Obsolete) who linked through with 123.

Pfft I didn't really care if I didn't get one when I started, so just over five thousand visitors isn't bad.

Council tax rise?

Latest story from the Shuttle reveals that our County Lords and Masters are thinking of increasing our tax by 3.5%; um why?

The Government has confirmed there is no change to the amount of grant being received for the coming financial year,
Oh so you're getting the same amount of money last year and you need more?
[...] with an increase of 4.2 per cent.
Ah so obviously you need even more. Now it's a well-worn truism that things cost more tomorrow then they did yesterday; unless it's a DVD, or an electronic gadget or come to think of it pretty much everything (except rail tickets and energy prices and we all not the score there).
"But that could mean cutting services that would be directly accessed by those who could feel the credit crunch most acutely."
Um why? If you're paying £X for ServiceA why has the cost of providing ServiceA increased. Energy bills I can understand, but the past few years haven't you been fitting all council buildings etc. with various energy saving schemes? Are staff asking for more money? Hard to claim that cost of living has gone up with every store running around cutting prices.

If this increase is just to keep us standing still I've some questions about where it's all going.

Good adverts?

I slag off some adverts, especially those who try to hide away the details of the spoken broad brush strokes in by-the-book sized displayed text, but some do make me chuckle. The current one is, oddly enough for Nice 'n' Easy Hair colouring.

The original advert was nothing special and vaguely irritating - while Bette Davis Eyes plays a women in a white cap and coat pauses outside a shoe-shop eyeing a pair of bright-red stilettos; the assistant gives her with a condescending look. The women whips off her cap to reveal long red hair. The shot then switches to her walking along hair bouncing in her new red shoes. There's also a bit of blurb about how 93% of [magazine] would recommend this product to their friends; text giving actual respondent numbers. So far so dull and vaguely patronising, then we get two variants which are much better. Both have the same visuals, but the blurb's changed.

In the currently aired version we get the same shot of the women looking in the window with "93% of ..." then the shot goes to the condescending arched eyebrow and "We're still working on the other 7%".

The better one which appears to have been pulled starts the same way, but ends with "The other 7% probably don't have any friends" - still makes me chuckle.

Another advert that gives me a chuckle is the 118 advert; for the most part just bad, but redeems itself with the one where they punch through into a barber's and the mohicaned BA Baracus child exclaims "Crazy Fools!" just a line you have to join in with if you're of a certain age ;-)

Wow of all the adverts on at the moment only two manage to grab my attention and my sense of humour. All the rest are dreary pap, patronising, pretentious, or all three (yes I'm looking at you Dolce&Gabbana perfume and aftershave) have I changed or have they?

Oh gods mentioning D&G has reminded me of that god-awful Chanel No. 5 ad with Nicole Kidman that they resurrected over Xmas, leave it dead I say.

Film warnings

Okay "contains violence" fair enough"; contains "moderate violence" hmm okay; contains "moderate fantasy violence" say what. Yes once again the age classification system isn't enough and we're having to be warned about every little thing that might offend us. So they've been doing this for a while why the post now - well it's the final straw isn't it for the latest Will Smith film Seven Pounds that according to the advert "Contains intense emotional scenes"; damn thanks for the warning there.

Next up 'contains acting'; please note not necessarily good acting.

More numerates

Spent yesterday with Bratii Familus and my parents, Bratii Minor was messing about with a four-legged stool flipping it and trying to turn it into a seat.

"Be careful with that, do you know how old it is?", asked my father.
"No", he replied.
"Well have a guess"
"10 years?"
"Nope, wrong way"
"100 years"
"That's a bit of a jump", says Bratus Pater. "What's halfway between the two?"
"Nope", says my father.
"Yes", agrees my father.
But he wasn't paying attention so I injected "Did you hear that? It's 45 years old"
"No it isn't" says my father.
"But you just said it was."
"No I was agreeing that 45 was halfway between 10 and 100."
"No it isn't/It's 55" comes simultaneously from both me and Bratus Pater.
"Of course it is - 100 minus 10 is 90 and half of 90 is 45."
"And add 10" adds Bratus Pater.
"Because it's halfway."
At this point both Bratus Major and my mother agree that halfway between 10 and 100 is 45 and an argument ensues.
"Woah, woah", I call. "What's halfway between 5 and 10?"
"7 and a half", replies Major instantly.
"And what's 10 minus 5?"
"And half of 5 is?
"2 and a half"
"So using the previous argument 2 and a half is halfway between 5 and 10"
"Ah... no"
"So what do you have to do"
"Add 5"
"So I was right then" pipes up Bratus Minor.
"Yes you were" I tell him.

Scary, very scary.

Oh and as it turns out the stool is approximately 44 years old [sigh]

GMTV's new look

Or 'how can we look even more like Sky?'

A furniture change, a greater use of logos, and a running ticker bar with the most important news. So what was the latest greatest news? Cheryl Cole has trouble with her weight, Mr Motivator is back, David Tennant is back to playing Hamlet, and John Travolta is "heartbroken" over the death of his son.

Well that was worth it.

Another Road Closure

Coming in to work this morning I note the road up to Areley Common is closed; no idea why. I could check the weekly report except that expired on the 28th December and neither the Quarterly nor Road Closures report lists it, so...?

[Update 7/1: The Road Closed sign has gained two yellow siblings. Do they give us more information about the closure? No don't be silly they just tell us that the Pub and Nursery are open for business as usual]

Friday, January 02, 2009

My precious DVR!

Woke up this morning to find my Humax 9200 freeview recorder was still humming. I'd set it to record the second series of the IT Crowd last night, but that finished around 1am. It's happened before and I know occasionally in this state it doesn't respond and ypou have to do a full power off.

One power off and power up and up popped the TV - for about 5 seconds and then the picture froze. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Leave it to 'cool off' repeat.

So I go online and some people have had similar problems in the past. Their recommendations were to do a full unplug power and aerial. Still froze, repeat but leaving the aerial out no problems I can access the menu system and everything without a hitch. I plug the aerial back in and it freezes. Damn!

I remove the aerial and delete the latest recordings in case they've corrupted something - nada.

I was just tempted to hit the FORMAT button and end it all, then a thought struck me - it's freezing as it tries to pick up the Electronic Programme Guide. Perhaps the listings are screwed?

Unplug the aerial - and reset to factory defaults wiping out the all the channel lists. Do a manual sweep to pick up Sutton Coldfield (manual as it bicks up Burlish (?) if I'm not careful) and lo everything was fine.

Damn I wish I'd had that thought before I'd started deleting programmes

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Well yes I suppose so, not as if this date has any true astronomical significance - now the solstices or equinoxes that's different.

Anyway this year's winter solstice holiday I spent with my mother's family which included Devil Child - under three and highly independent she wants to do everything herself. She's also a right little chatterbox and incredibly neat in that she would open a present at a time then go off to bin the wrapping paper before looking at the present and moving on to the next. Her father The Artist had brought his PS3 up with him to try out on his father's new 42" - amusingly the Sony TV wouldn't automatically recognise and switch to the Sony PS3's output signal, so we had to change it manually like primitives or something. It also had overscan so half the radar map on Call of Duty 5 couldn't be seen until I altered the settings with major trepidation from my uncle "This won't mess up anything else will it?"

I wold say the games are better in 1080p, but the biggest difference was simply the size of the screen - I suppose if I was playing on a non-1080 42" and switched I'd notice a difference, but meh.

Boxing day was with the other side of the family - the Bratii; with Minor pestering me to play on the PS3 pretty much from when they walked through the door. I taught them how to play poker instead.

A day of peace then Devil Child et al came over; got the Artist interested in Fallout 3 and Burnout Paradise; both he and his wife were quite taken by Little Big Planet.

More peace, but another couple of days and I'll have to go into work - I might want to shave first though.