Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Millfields Estate - result?

My informant being absent for a while both he and I have just received a data burst of the latest goings-on at the Millfields Residents Association. The story so far is that of the three builders of the site two have been in discussion with the council and handed over plans and one hasn't. Action was called for and a picket of their latest building site planned. Due to excellent press release sent out by one of the members this event got picked up by Radio Five Live who invited the Chairman to an interview.

Obviously Five Live also contacted the building firm involved because not long after he received a call inviting them to a meeting provided he cancelled the interview and the forthcoming picket. Without getting into details the interview was called off, but the picket was still on schedule pending any definite action on behalf of the firm.

The meeting was apparently held recently so hopefully I'll find out what happened at some near date.

Television odds and ends

Most amusing quote of the day so far came from Annabel Croft on GMTV regarding last night's match between Murray and Wawrinka which went to five sets as "Wawrinka was playing [Murray] at his own game" makes sense I'm sure the match would have over much quicker if Wawrinka thought he was playing cricket. Word of advice sports metaphors rarely work when described sports.

Also caught an old Milky Way advert featuring two cartoon cars red and blue with red guzzling away before coming a cropper trying to leap a ravine. Okay might just be me but have they changed one of the lines? Blue eats the fluffy cloud covered in chocolate representing a Milky Way to "Because it tastes just right" [from memory] whereas I'm sure it used to be the catchphrase of "Won't spoil his app-e-tite" Anyone agree?

Also the scale of professionalism gets better. Annabel was cut off mid-sentence; Kate was left with an obvious unscheduled pause in her 7am introduction presumably expecting a cut-away and on the BBC between an OB and studio shift we were presented with a still image of Michael Jackson for no apparent reason. Oh and last night on the 6 o'clock news George turned to the camera such that the big board was behind him which showed the Wimbledon graphic as he discussed Gordon Brown and the latest parliamentary session. The mistake was quickly realised, but instead of replacing the graphic they switched to the standard head-on shot. After that piece we returned to exactly the same shot... oo deja vu.

Again I might just be picky here, but don't these sorts of glitches seem to be occurring more often?

Oh and good advert time I caught the Oasis drink Rubberduckzilla advert, happened to be with my parents at the time. Their reaction was "What the hell was that"; mine - "That was bloody brilliant".


Parts of the UK are bracing themselves after warnings of a heatwave were announced. Residents thanked the Met Office for the warning saying "Gee if they hadn't have warned me I wouldn't have realised that it was hot". There are however some criticisms of the four stage heatwave alert procedure which starts at Planning then moves through to Alert, Heatwave and Emergency. Some believe that the Met Office should be using the Mexican International Standard which would replace our current phases with Cold, Cool, Brisk and Normal.

When faced with these critics a Met Office Spokesman stated that "the UK simply doesn't cope well with weather. None of our cities or infrastructure were built to take into consideration large amounts of sunlight". He then added "or for that matter wind, rain, sleet, or snow. All our alert procedures are based on the premise that not much is likely to happen, which is why to outside eyes they may seem a little exaggerated."

BBC moves tennis

In a bid to alienate the few defenders of BBC management a decision was made to once again dick about with the schedules. At first things seemed fine the tennis finished at 6pm on BBC1 and switched to BBC2 to last until 8pm. Things started to go awry at 7pm when an announcement was made that in contrast to the schedule the tennis would switch back to BBC2 and BBC1 shows would be switched to BBC2 there then followed a sound as if someone had stuck out their tongue and blown very hard.

In an attempt to defend their decision a BBC spokesman explained the situation "What most people don't realise is that when you watch the television you're drawing power from the antennas. As this particular match was expected to draw a large audience the decision was made to switch it to the channel best equipped to handle this load" Looking at the dropped jaws of the press the spokesman seemed to get exasperated "Look it's simple the people in charge of BBC1 went to universities such as Oxford or Cambridge while those in charge at BBC2 went to Hull or Birmingham; we simply couldn't allow those oiks to swan around boasting about having higher ratings than us now could we?"

When asked how he thought the viewers might feel about this the spokesman queried "Who?"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pedestrians rule the roads

Yes the sun is out and thus more pedestrians who seem to think that roads are just wider pavements. I had one couple with child and pushchair waiting to cross the two (or is it one?) lanes of York Street having exited through Parkes Passage pushing through the current queue of cars instead of using the drop-kerbs provided a little further up. One couple standing next to the crossing further down trying to cross while a young couple stood on the very corner giving no indication if they were trying to cross York Street or High Street.

There was one mother and daughter pair standing in the road outside the Swan because of a car blocking the view, gee here's a thought use the crossing that's just a little further up from you. Ah hell I'm being silly, if a couple won't use it and they're standing next to it, and I see another women walk past the crossing and then stop to cross the road how can I expect you to walk that far?

Then turning the blind corner I'm forced to brake to allow an elderly gentleman to continue crossing and then another gentleman crosses in front of me (using the drop-down kerbs), but I'm forced to slow down anyway as a girl skids to a halt as she tries to run across two, or possible three lanes at a time. I gesticulate and roar "Just wander across the road why don't you" to which the young gentleman to whom I was not addressing the remark returned with the pithy "Fuck Off".

Oh yes and of course three cars parked up in High Street, but only one opposite the bus-stop so well done there.

Michael Jackson alive?

Reports from literally no fans today insist that the singer is not dead. One avid fan who trailed the ambulance to the hospital stated "I was there when the announced his death, but just before that I saw someone coming out the back of the hospital wearing a surgical mask. I think that says all it has to".

Another stated that Jackson had gone to live with Elvis, one that a flashing spacecraft came to collect him from his residence, while another claimed that a "man with some sort of flute" turned up on Jackson's doorstep and invited him to a land of fun, laughter and lots of young children "and who wouldn't agree to that" said the greasy middle-aged man shiftily eyeing up a sobbing pre-pubescent fan.

These rumours struck chaos into a recent award ceremony where hundreds of stars who wouldn't have been caught dead within 10ft of the star when living had turned up to proclaim how much they adored him now he was dead. "S***!", exclaimed one star upon hearing the rumour. "Are you sure? Damn I only dedicated this award to him because I knew it would make all the papers."

Other reports state that Jackson's three children are now living with Michael's parents and everyone at this blog is certain that they'll be treated as well and in the same manner as Michael was as a child.

Robin Hood - 27th June

A call on Sunday "Have you recorded Robin Hood last night? Our box hasn't recorded it."
I haven't been watching it , but it is on the series link so should have recorded. I check and no listing.

I visit the BBC website and check their schedule and there it is at the right time of 18:45 on BBC1. That's odd. So I hit the 'net.

Ah seems we're not the only ones wondering what happened. It seems the BBC moved it from 18:45 to 19:00; hmm but my box is smart enough to realise that and stay active until it receives the correct identifier and starts recording. So what when wrong?

Oh yes they'd moved it to 19:00 and switched it to BBC2. Now I've already complained about not sending the correct information through, but yeesh there's little any recorder can do if the channel is changed.

Just to clarify the sheer dumbness of this act the episode they moved was the second of a two-parter, and was the last in the series. No seriously who thought this would be a good idea?

Ah it would be these people. Gods it's like living in the dark ages - oo BBC1 is the premier channel so we have to stick the sports on that even if we know they might overrun and despite the fact we know that everyone expects the news at 18:00 etc. For gods' sake just stick these things on BBC2 where there is nothing on at specific times that people expect.

Complain here. [I have]

Worth hundreds - 20p shortage?

Experts are worried that today will see a shortage in the general use of the 20p coin following a report broadcast by the BBC. Large numbers of bleary-eyed people were shocked to alertness this morning when BBC Breakfast asked if your 20p coin could be worth "hundreds". This was then followed by a mass outcry of "I don't care about the Jacksons tell me about how I might get money" as it switched to the same story everyone else have been covering.

A professor of Fiscal Studies at Stourport University stated "By teasing viewers without giving details large numbers of workers will attempt not to use a 20p coin until they've find out for themselves what this is all about. This could lead to a mass shortage and cause financial chaos as I predicted in my book 'What no 20's?'"

A spokesman from the Treasury attempted to calm such speculation with the reminder that the majority usage of the coin was by the unemployed and that they "all watch GMTV" and thus would not know anything about this.

[For those actually interested they gave a small amount of detail half-an-hour later, although I worked it out by rewinding and pausing on the shot of one of these 20p coins. Looks like the Mint have stamped some with the new shield design on one face and the old design for the Queen's head. As they had to move the year stamp to the Queen's side to accommodate the shield design this means they're undated.]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

Newspapers around the world went into mourning today at the news that Michael Jackson The King of Pop had died on Thursday. "Why oh why oh why did he have to die yesterday" wailed one newspaper editor "Why couldn't it have been at the beginning of the week? We could have sold papers all week and now we're going to have to try to sustain interest in this over the weekend".

A psychiatrist examining the reaction of newspapers stated "I don't think they truly grasp the consequences of this event. For so long the newspapers have relied on Wacko Jacko stories to plug the gaps when copy is needed. I think when they realise the scale of this loss they're going to need some serious counselling... my rates are quite reasonable"

In an effort to stave off such mass depression Madonna announced that she would take up the slack by adopting five more children and forcing them to wear carnival masks in public while babbling about Kabbbala. When told this one editor simply wept "It just won't be the same".

That XBox360

Remembered to call Bratus Pater about which XBox360 model he's buying.

"It's um the Arcade [Major] picked it out because I think it was the cheapest. I ordered it last night"
"Damn. Er you do know it won't play the old XBox games because it needs a hard drive"
"Doesn't it come with one? I thought it did"
"No it comes with a 256Mb memory stick"
"I think you're right, so which games can't he play?"
"The old Xbox ones or any of the new ones that require a hard-drive which isn't many"
"Hmm that's annoying"
"Yeah I thought it might be what with the old previous games being much cheaper"
"I'll have to think about that"

"Is he expecting to go online with it?"
"Ah you do know that none of them come with wireless built-in, your router's downstairs isn't it"
"Yeah, oh wait I'm getting a wireless entertainment bundle with it"
"Is that just an extra controller and maybe a headphone though?"
"I don't know let me look.... can't find it"

"Okay does he want to play with his friends online?"
"Yeah we know there's a subscription something like £4 a month"
"£40 a year so yeah. Might want to have a look at your order you can probably get the 60Gb version for a little more and it'll save buying a hard-drive later"
"It says it's been packed up, but there's a number to call I'll try them"


"I can't cancel as it's been dispatched. The guy said none of them come with wireless built-in but I can get an accessory for £60 to do that"
"£40 from Amazon"
"Oh. And he recommended a hard-drive as Microsoft like to update the menu system and want to put in on a hard-drive he said I could probably pick up a second-hand 20Gb from eBay for £30 or so"
"About £40 new from Amazon, or Play I can't recall"
"Oh. The network connection is Ethernet isn't it?"
"I think so I'd be surprised if it isn't"
"Well it's no really hardship to run a cable up to his bedroom"
"Mmm what's your wireless signal like upstairs?"
"Not good"
"Yeah might be for the best"
"I think we might look at getting a hard-drive for him later it looks like they just slot on"
"Yeah they want to tempt you with the cheap basic package then get you to buy the extra bits later. Of course you have to buy the Microsoft-own hard drives"
"Oh yeah, wouldn't expect different"
"Of course this is a long-distance transaction so you have however long it is to change your mind"
"Yeah I'm looking at their returns policy at the moment"

Gods you've got to love my uncle. Anyway it's Gamestation he's getting it from and looking at their returns policy he can pop into Kiddy tomorrow and return it for a full refund and probably pick up the 60Gb while he's there if he decides to... hmm it's £40 more for a bundle that doesn't include the Tennis game, damn that's dumb! Wow looking at a bunch of sites the bundles for the Arcade version are much more attractive then for the 60Gb or even the Elite. Gosh you don't think this is as a result of direct competition with Sony's Playstation 3 do you? A case of "Oo look we're much cheaper then them with lots more extras"?

Of course this is all speculation, the reality is likely to be that he'll stick with what he's bought because that's what he's got and it's too much hassle to change. Then he'll find a second-hand drive at a car-boot or something. Oh and no he didn't ask which motherboard type it used.

More vehicular behaviour

Last night a car pulled out of Santa Maria Way the driver with a mobile phone clamped to his left ear. Stayed that way all down Worcester Road to the island and still there when he turned left at the island, then I lost sight of him. That would be B5 DAP, a silver Mercedes; you've got a Merc get a hands-free kit.

The same night the car in front almost lost control on the bridge. He obviously realised that some pedestrians were friends of his and wanted to acknowledge their presence. The car slowed down and then jerked to the left almost running into the metal tank-busting kerbs before an arm was stuck out the window to wave. R232 W.ish? Italic font and I was more concerned with what they were doing then reading the plate.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lidl report

So a trip to Lidl about 7pm where my mother picked up 6 bottles of white and 4 small bottles of white and 15 associated bars of chocolate, which she got a £5 off with some coupon from the Express. She's running a tombola or as Word insisted a Tom Bola when my father made up the notices "But it didn't like it and suggested that" as I'm sure you're aware tombola isn't split or hypenated as it comes from the same source as tumble it's not derived from Tom's Bola or whatever.

Anyway mum wasn't as agitated as normal, perhaps because to distract her we played the tha-dump game on the way (and on the way back too); like the best games it's simple in theory but requires finesse to perfect.

Essentially it's an attempt to predict potholes, bumps, dips etc. i.e. when the car goes tha-dump. The person who calls tha-dump closest to when the car goes tha-dump gets that point. Obviously works better on oft-travelled roads, and while shotgun gets an advantage it still varies depending on the speed and sometimes placement of a car.

Playing this reminded me of the depression in York Street that I discovered on Monday - where the hell did that come from? It's as if a section of the ground underneath the road has just disappeared; it's a true dimple rather than a crack or tear as if the road has been sucked down at that point. It's quite deep too, at least feels that way if you run over it and of course it's right at a point you're likely to run over it. How long has it been since they resurfaced it? Not that long.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Somehow I've been press-ganged into taking my mother to the Lidl tonight so I've just looked up what time it closes 20:00 or 8pm in real terms. As previously mentioned I enjoy taking her out, but this is likely to be a drag as she doesn't like Lidl.

This isn't 'grubbing with the poor people' snobbery she doesn't like the store it just feels wrong to her as does the local Tesco. Ah so that's where I get that from.

Yep me too. Some places just vibe wrongly. I never got on with the old Kwik Save, the Tesco in Stourport is subtly wrong and the one in Kidderminster just clenches my brain. The newly laid-out Co-op is better, but still has a Stourport Tesco ring of wrongness for me which is the same as both the Sainsbury's and M&S in Merry Hill, but not the ones in Kidderminster which I like. The Morrisons is okay and heh you know I don't think I've been to the Netto just in the wrong place.

I can't comment on the Asda in Merry Hill because that entire section of the mall freezes my brain. Seriously it's like walking through a door going from the new part to the old part - my brain just goes cold and starts screaming that something ain't right.

I could say it's high ceilings, but I have no problem in warehouses, B&Q etc. and some of the weird 'uns have normal height ceilings. Just some places don't feel quite right.

That NIX photo frame

More fiddling with the frame. Turns out it doesn't want to read standard EXIF rotational information so all the portrait shots aren't automatically rotated when the frame is positioned landscaped. Even worse if you then turn the frame to view such photos the built-in accelerometer detects the change and turns the frame into portrait mode and rotates the photos.

So a quick delve into the menu and I can see thumbnails of all the photo., I pick one that requires rotating and call up the options. There's a rotate but it's grayed out and non-selectable; that's useful. I play the slideshow and try to access the options again. Ah it needs to be paused before they'll appear, and yay rotate is now selectable. I 'down' to it and press play to select then play to rotate, then um how do I stop? The back button seems to work and the menu button too. Great.

So I page through the photos and rotate them. Then after a short time when I come to two in a row I go back instead of forwards and... it's not rotated. Yup unless I'm doing something wrong it's not saving the rotational information with the photo.

So I plugged it into my laptop and tried to rotate them there; damn that's slow. I ended up grabbing the portraits shunting them to my laptop, rotating them, them shunting them back. Now it's displaying them with no problem, but yeesh. Ah well at least I know now and can accommodate this 'quirk' in the future.

Oh and the battery lasts for about 3 hours with a 9 hour charge. So given how it's going to be used that's fine.

Expel Labour from schools

Story from The Guardian via Liberal Conspiracy.

In a shocking statement the NASUWT, a union of teachers unable to form a pronounceable acronym, called for the banning of Labour members from the teaching profession. "Would you be comfortable knowing your child was being taught by a Labourist?", asked a spokesperson. "Pushing their views on a Euro-state, the removal of our currency, the dilution of power, and private finance initiatives. Seriously would you want these types of people taking a part in your child's education. Who knows the damage they might cause."

A good advert for...?

Another TV advert has been popping up recently for thinkbox.tv - stereotypical psychiatrist's room with a patient lying on the couch who starts spouting -

Just one Cornetto give it to me.
Oo nuts oh hazelnuts oo Cadbury's take them and they cover them in... mild green fairy liquid.
Tell them about the honey mummy.
My name? It's J R Hartley.
I'm a secret lemonade drinker.
Whaaahh Bodyform, bodyform for you.
Acrington Stanley!

Oh dear so:

Delicious ice-cream from Italy, mumble, mum mum-ber-le give me Cornetto from Walls Ice creaaaaam.
Cadbury's is pretty much complete and obvious.
I can still make my mum laugh by substituting the word head for face in - Now hands that do dishes can be as soft as your face with...
Sugar Puffs and we were never supposed to ask why he was calling that bloke "mummy".
I can't remember what Wassup was advertising, some brand of beer I think - heh. [it's Budweiser after a search]
Yellow Pages with Fly fishing by JR Hartley so popular they actually published it.
I'm a secret lemonade drinker. R Whites, R Whites. I've been trying to give it up but it's one of those nights. R Whites, R Whites. R Whites lemona-a-ade I'm a secret lemonade drinker. R Whites, R Whites R Whites R Whites. R Whites lemonade?
Bodyform obviously.

and a favourite:

Milk urggh.
My mum says if I don't drink lot's of milk, when I grow up I'll only be good enough to play for Acrington Stanley.
Acrington Stanley; who are they?
Exactly. Nah get off
Give me some
Get off.

Sigh all from memory gods I'm sad ;-) Anyway the most telling thing I think about an advert promoting television advertising is how old the adverts they are using to illustrate the point. But as I've said how many good adverts are there about at the moment?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

XBox360 examination

As mentioned Bratus Major is supposed to be getting an XBox360 for his birthday, this is due to the price difference to the PS3 and the fact that all his friends have one.

So needing a present for his birthday I held my nose and dived into XBoxland ;-)

Now the price difference was stated to be £150, as the PS3 is around £300 that means they're probably looking at the cheapest version the XBox 360 Arcade for £137 of Amazon with Sega Superstar Tennis which was mentioned as well.

Now something interesting arises here, as Major wants to be able to go online and the router is downstairs this means he needs the Wireless Adaptor for £42. If he actually wants to play against his friends he'll also need Gold membership at £40 per year. If he wants to download demos etc he's also likely to need a hard-drive and the cheapest at 20Gb will cost around £37.

So £137+£42+£40+£37=£256 still cheaper than the PS3, but with 60Gb less memory and no high-definition disc player. Hmmm if they bought the next one up which comes with a 20Gb hard drive it'll cost £147 add in the accessories to make it £229 make it the 60Gb for a total of £242 or the Elite which would total £297... wait that's about the same price as a PS3.

Hmm I think I'd better have a quick word with Bratus Pater to check which version he's going for. For a tenner more the 20Gb looks much better value than the Arcade edition despite not being bundled with the tennis game. Although looking at the XBox site the 20Gb version isn't listed suggesting it's now obsolete and using the older less reliable chipsets.

New Speaker

Caught a bit of the election last night where one reporter stated that the MPs were voting for the person they wanted as Speaker, hmm shouldn't they be voting for who we want as Speaker? I mean the MPs want someone who's going to appear that they're doing something while at the same time not rocking the boat and asking pointed questions such as "Why are the refreshments in the House of Commons subsidised by the taxpayer at the same time that MPs can claim £400 of food receipt-free each month?" or "Why do we have a smoking room when we've banned them for everyone else?".

Anyway John Bercow won and I caught the end of an item on BBC Breakfast with someone called Nicki (I think) who said that he might relax some of the arcane traditions such as not being able to refer to another member by their name or by using the pronoun "you". Seriously where do they dig these people up from - there's a bloody good reason that you can't refer to another member in this way and it's an attempt to maintain a civilised level of discourse rather than tit for tat ad hominem attacks. If you restrict certain 'natural' phrases in a conversation it forces the speakers to think about what they are saying rather than just spit out "You're an arse!"

Anyway I could guess the same person who put them on the sofa was behind captioning the American female emergency worker at the train crash as "Paul Murphy North Lincolnshire".

No wonder the online community is turning to blogs; they're becoming one of the only places to find informed discourse.

Bit of traffic this morning

Actually a bit last night too, of course that's all caused by all the traffic trying to turn left from Worcester Road into Worcester Road. Yep that's right in ye olden days it was a turn with Hartlebury Road as the off-shoot. Then some bright spark realised that with all the traffic coming down Worcester Road none of the Hartlebury traffic could get out so they built an island which made sense at the time. Now of course everyone uses it as a Kidderminster by-pass which means a lot more traffic coming down it and making a mockery of it's original purpose to help the poor few cars out.

Speaking of Kidderminster by-pass that is what happened this morning with the unceasing stream of traffic from the lights having right-of-way into Gilgal. Oh no silly me it's a merger system where one stream of traffic flows gently round a bend and down a slope into the lane that 90% of them want to remain in whereas the other stream has to battle up-hill and over the hummock and round the sharp bend in order to stay in a lane they don't want to remain in. How on Earth could I confuse that with a Right of Way?

Wasn't helped by the pharmaceutical van parked on the right in High Street - oh no there I go again must have been an illusion as we all know that not only is there no parking at that time, but there's no loading there either and our ever-present traffic wardens are scrupulous in such things. Saying that I noticed a car behind me not parking behind it and not bumping up onto the pavement while not being next to a right angled bend. Nor did I watch someone park in a disabled bay, watch them not leap from their car, and decidedly did not stride across the road to the cash point machine. Damn my eyes must be playing tricks on me.

Variable speeds

This one was from Saturday that I forgot to mention. Heading back from Kidderminster through the main streets I ended up behind a car travelling just below the speed limit of 30mph - fair enough. Up to the Railway bridge and we entered a 40mph - still travelling at around 30mph - okay maybe he missed the sign. Approaching the first set of stupidly placed traffic lights and into a national speed limit (60mph) still 30ish over and approaching the next set of lights on green and I'm about to indicate and overtake when the car behind me just pulls out and speeds past; I indicate and follow.

We both overtake several cars and hit the end together and slow down back to 30mph. Through into Gilgal and I indicate and switch lanes, the car in front just switches lanes. Through into Mitton Street and I indicate and switch lanes the car in front just switches. Then I hear a car roar and this little car speeds past the pair of us, indicates and pulls over into the other lane, then speeds down Lion Hill and indicates and pulls into the moving queue of traffic.

Yep it's the same car that we had been following before - R202 MAB. Perhaps they could explain why when travelling on low-traffic, straightish, wide rides you should travel at 30mph, but on bending, narrow, high-traffic ones speed is the best policy?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Not one we have ever really celebrated, along with many others we don't, but this year I picked up a 7" digital photo frame for him. Came on Saturday and I managed to open it and look at it Sunday morning. Came with a remote control and a standard mini-B USB cable... so where do I plug it in? Turns out they hadn't punched out the cover for the USB cover. Damn, do I send it back or try to punch it myself? A sharp knife later and some minor cosmetic damage and I had a USB connection. The computer just treats it as a storage device so you just shunt photos across as normal.

However the palaver in trying to find a digital photo frame with a built-in battery was incredible; he likes taking photos and likes showing them around so having a mains cable trailing around wasn't an option. With this he can pull the plug and show them around for a goodly time before it needs a charge.

So he was happy with it, apparently he plugged it in last night and then watched it go blank - he'd switched on the wrong socket so the battery had died; hah!


Not one for the Torygraph, but I did pick it up Saturday for the unredacted version of MPs expenses; of course it was no such thing merely a concise summary for each MP; naughty! Anyway the best bit was the inside-front advert from Schweppes as reprinted here one I haven't spotted before.

I read the news bit and the supplements too oh the columns, you can almost picture the writers in their faux farmhouse kitchens oh yes of course I use these genuine expensive whatevers rather then cheapo ones while relaxing at my villa. Not so much the fact that they have these things just the constant equivalent of name-dropping a slightly more subtle version of Mrs Buck-et.

Anyway probably the last time I'll buy that (or possibly any) newspaper.


So family time on Saturday followed by babysitting the Bratii. I managed to keep them out of the way of the family by showing them that the normal human brain has difficulty counting above 6. Demonstrated by asking them to count various high and low figure objects around the room, there are two screws, three panels, four panels, two vases etc. Minor thought this silly until I asked him if he'd counted each of the vases "One, two?" he answered no, so I asked him how he knew there was two of them this caused an Oo moment.

Major impressed me by equating this 'instinctive' knowledge by how we raise out arms you just "Do it" I added how easy it is for us to walk and pointed out how difficult it has been to teach robots how to do the same.

In a continued effort to explain why it's important to understand how and why your brain works I explained why the human eye is wired backwards, the blind spot caused by this and tried to demonstrate saccadic masking with a mirror. Abit much for Minor, but Major seemed interested and called for Minor to stop interupting me.

Bratus Minor seemed interested in my Earth globe, he likes spinning it around and seeing the different minerals, but this time he was reading the countries. An aside to Major had him laughing because after reviewing the globe Minor attests that there's "at least 10 countries" on the planet. "I challenged him to name 10, then 5, then 1 - "America" [sigh] "Technically America is a continent not a country. I'd have thought you'd could have started with the country you live in" "I like America" came the response.

This prompted a game of find the country and we went through Egypt, Japan, Germany "I know that - it's in the sea" New Zealand and several others. Major was still laughing at this until I shut him up by asking him to name 10 countries that hadn't already been named. "England, Wales, Scotland..." "Nope I won't accept that I will accept United Kingdom as one though".

Minor rushed back to the globe to find some more while Major struggled "France, umm Iran" long pause "I thought you'd get the other one" I said. He looked puzzled. "Ends in a q" piped in his father. More puzzlement "Iraq" I said. "Oh... Afghanistan" nice train of thought there. I rattled of a couple more and he added Turkey after I'd mentioned Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. By this time the two had 8 apiece though Major complained that Minor was cheating by using the globe. "I'm just impressed he can read it" I countered. The contest wasn't aided as this time the entire family was joining in. "It's easier for you" cried Major."Why?" I asked, he didn't respond.

Anyway they both managed to get their 10, but I asked Major for one more and he stalked over to my globe and spun it "Madrid!" Oh dear. Having fun we carried on in this vein for a while working our way past Europe down into Africa and the South America. "Does Gibraltar class as a country?", "Hawaii is a state" etc.

Exhausting that Minor told me he was excited as he was inheriting Major's PS2. The reason for this is that he's getting an XBox360 for his birthday; I joked that he wouldn't be able to borrow my games, but I don't begrudge his choice as that's what his friends have got. He'd have liked a PS3, but recognised the fact that it's £150 more so out of range; though he did wistfully mention his friend who had both.

[Heh he also went into a lecture about all the things that the Xbox can do that the PS3 can't and asked for one thing the PS3 does that the XBox doesn't "Keeps working" I replied" much laughter as he admitted one of his friend's had red-ringed and that he would get frustrated and throw things at it every time it crashed]

Anyway he's very fond of Prototype which he'd tried out on his friend's XBox, but again recognised he wouldn't be allowed it as it's classified 18. To rub salt into the wound I told him InFamous was better and only a 16 (some of which he's allowed) but it's a PS3 exclusive. We then loaded up an Infamous save game so he could blast things to his delight and enjoyment.
Constant calls of "You can do that in Prototype". "Shame you can't just run up walls like you can in Prototype" etc.

Then loaded up a Hero save for Minor who wanted to be a goodie. Sadly he discovered that he could heal the accident-prone citizens and thus went on a healing rampage denying Major his next turn.

So in the middle of this spree I pointed out that "You can jump over that wall you know" he promptly jumped straight over into into the sea and died "But you probably shouldn't" I continued. Much laughter from both of them though Minor insisted he was trying to jump onto the wall not over it. Amusingly on his next go he proved better at Major at climbing and impress me twice - firstly by jumping from one rail to the other in the middle of a grind and secondly by managing to jump onto the train on the other track and clambering up to the roof just a few seconds before the other one hurtled past. We were all impressed by that feat of good timing.

Shutting down and plugging in "Kung Fu Panda" to watch, unfortunately Minor had seen it at the cinema and prompted the pair of us to calls of "Shut-up" when he decided to inform us what was about to happen.

Film over I realised my mother wanted a photo of the pair of them together so I fetched my camera and returned to find Minor in tears as Major had hit him. I lost my temper did a lot of swearing at Major then to take Minor's mind of things took him through a mission in InFamous before showing them the demo of Overlord II "yes this will be available on the XBox and the first game is at the moment" which cheered Major up as we went seal-clubbing.

Minor had forgotten his tears so I lined them up for some shots. Should have got the tripod down, but stuck with the flash instead making things a bit too bright. Some fun shots with Major looking goofy, Minor looking the wrong way and both Major and Minor with their eyes half-shut and Minor with a drunk grin on his face.

Then moments of chaos as they were picked up and left in peace I headed for the bottles of al-ki-hol and the 40% vodka I keep for these very occasions ;-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

These films are now classified 18

In a move calculated to remove any sense of proportion from the minds of our children Liverpool council have reclassified every B& W war movie ever made with an 18 certificate due to the prevalence of smoking contained within them.

A batty spokesperson from a government lobbying firm pretending to be an independent charity defended this barmy notion with "Not only do these films show people smoking, but do so in a way that shows they enjoy it and find it a pleasant social experience. The consequences of this on young malleable minds is unimaginable" On discussions regarding child-safe cuts of the movies they then added that "of course they can keep in the bits about carpet bombing cities and denigrating the Germans, just take out the mind-warping scenes involving smoking"

Also up for the reclassification are Disney's "Mary Poppins" and "Alice in Wonderland" both of which the spokesperson spat venom over "Can you believe that they allowed one of the main characters not only to smoke a pipe, but to sing about how much he enjoyed it? It's disgusting. As as for that caterpillar in Alice. I sat my 5 year-old son in front of the film and played that scene over and over again in slow motion and asked him 'Do you want to smoke now?' each time until he burst into tears and cried, I think that shows the power that this sort of filth can have on a young impressionable mind".

A spokesperson for the fictitious "under-18" organisation made a statement that normally they "wouldn't be caught dead watching this old s***" but that since the reclassification it's become a "badge of honour" to have snuck into a re-screening of "In Which We Serve".


Caught a bit on both news channels about the extra money being applied to flood defences thanks to this new report about how much climate change will affect things.

Oh yes all that flooding we had and are likely to see is all about climate change. Nothing to do with building on flood plains with inadequate drainage, nothing to do with the natural erosion of our coastlines; nope all due to climate change.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Growing Business magazine

[Note I couldn't even spell Business heh]

The latest June 2009 copy of Growing Business magazine just landed on the desk. Front cover headings include "Advertising in a Slump" and The Art of Negotiation"...hmm:

"So you want me to advertise with you at a time that the majority of businesses are cutting back... dance advertising boy, dance."There you go both subjects in one fell swoop.

Inside front advert "Higher performance shouldn't waste your energy" yeah I get spam with that sort of heading.

Peugeot Fleet have a two page spread of a desert with some camels and a car snuck in the line because their "record-breaking 308 goes a long, long way to reducing running costs" apparently it has an average fuel consumption of 90.7mpg impressive and fuel economy of below 130g/km for CO2 emissions. Hmm the small print under the photo tells me the official figures (so those after aren't official?) the combined mpg is 41.5-62.7 with the highest figure being the Extra Urban (presumably when you're stuck in a queue) at 53.2- 74.34 mpg; which makes me wonder where the 90.7 mpg figure came from. CO2 is 120-180 g/km which makes that 130 quoted a little towards the limit of those figures.

"If I ruled the world we'd all get a little bit more for our money. Actually we'd get a lot more." How exactly would that be Mr Vodafone? Ah that'd be through your fixed price plan where all calls are free. Small print is tucked up the top of the page next to the binding oh look those unlimited free calls are "subject to a fair use policy" oh and of course there's a minimum term contract that doesn't tell us what the minimum is.

Editor's Letter that I would read if the chiselled good looks displayed in the artsy B&W photo of said editor didn't want to make me punch him repeatedly.

Flicking through. Oo "Coors acquires Cobra in £14m pre-pack" was that a special offer at the supermarket?

Advert-"How Royal Mail helped Silver Cross thrive" never heard of them - oh apparently Royal Mail helped them "develop and distribute 'The Little Book of Silver Cross', a key part of their marketing strategy" bet you didn't know the Royal Mail were business consultants too.

The Oli Barret Column about following up networking contacts. I'd be more ready to listen to his advice except regarding hundreds of coloured balls (funfair pit style) he'd acquired "[...] I considered using them to conduct a social experiment. Perhaps I would write an email address on each ball and scatter them around the city?" yeah I wish you had done at, what, £50 a time for littering I would have enjoyed seeing that.

Advert - Renault "Our range of sub 140 g/km models can meet everyone's expectations." What everyone's? Gosh I bet Tom would like that Megane Coupé so stylish, and "Safia might feel more comfortable in a Laguna Hatch" sorry are saying Safia's fat? "Mr Khan needs the new Scénic. His wife is pregnant again" oh so it's Tom and Safia but it's Mr Khan - power to the people. "enough to meet the needs of every Tom, Dick or Harriet" or Tom, Safia, or Mr Khan presumably. Combined mpg is 28.2-64.2 mpg with emissions of 117-248 g/km ouchie kind of a big spread there.

Advert - Volvo "Is your fleet getting enough smiles per gallon?" Anyone noticing a theme here? Oo fuel consumption of "up to 57.6mpg" yeah we all know about 'up to' thank you very much. Combined is 72.4- 47.1 mpg so getting worse? Anyway why not 'up to' 72.4? Emissions 104-159 g/km better than Renault then?

Column from David Soskin about what the UK requires to produce it's own Google. Less regulation and less tax oh and a quintupling of our population and 37x increase in our area to turn us into the USA pffut yeah right less regulation and lower taxes never going to happen.

Advert- Brother "Now with A4 double-sided printing" oh dear they think that deserves a faux fold down page corner to recommend their A3 multi-function printer? Oo it does have "one touch wireless set-up" wow they can break WPA security keys?

Advert - Department for Innovation, Universities & skills. No sorry I'm not going to even look I'm gob-smacked that such a department even exists.

Feature on Tim Smit he of The Eden Project which I'll read later at my leisure.

Feature "White sells" so this'd be the BNP then? No it's about white-label goods.

The rest of the magazine excites little comment.

MPs expenses published

At long last Parliament is starting to embrace the digital age and is publishing the documentation regarding MPs expenses. Of course there are complaints that some information has been redacted, but our very own Dr Richard Taylor MP has already published some of his documentation allowing for a direct comparison of the removed information.

The redacted version can be seen here and the full version here. The list of MPs can be seen here.

According to the list information has been redacted

to remove information which could cause serious security issues and breach the privacy of the MP, their staff and other third parties
So I would expect addresses, NI and tax codes to be removed as well as account numbers, phone numbers and signatures. For the most part that's what we get. They are also removing the "For Office Use Only" information too which is interesting it's not a privacy issue and could it be considered a security risk? After all knowing that a claim for BT has an "Allow or A/c Code" of 514510 and an "Exp/Cat5" of 614500 only makes sense if you know what the codes represent or even what "Exp/Cat5" means. What is interesting is how the expenses can be claimed.

Looking at Dr Taylor's claims and moving to page 5 we see three claims for the same business "Banner Business Supplies" the supporting documentation on page 11 however is simply a statement there is no information provided as to exactly what was purchased and its relevance to Dr Taylor's work as an MP.

I ma not criticising Dr Taylor I'm criticising the system, if it allows statements to be treated as invoices then MPs can avoid demonstrating exactly what they have bought simply by doing what was done here and submit the statement.

Okay so what about the house flipping? Nope you can't see that from these reports because the addresses have been redacted.

Checking out Douglas Hogg MP (he of the moat cleaning) and we can see statements being submitted here to we also get some credit card reciepts with pretty much zero information including the amount - what are they for? Who knows. Also something interesting shows up on the ACA list in that the invoices for the IEP are duplicated here at times. Also that every month the ACA claim is exactly £2050 for... well I'm not sure as it appears that it groups together Hotel stays, Mortgage payments, or rent, food and possibly utilities. Now call me crazy but I would consider at least two of those to be variables month on month. Having exactly the same claim each time denotes a level of control I would find quite worrying.

Ah well at least it's a start and well overdue. Anyway for something that hasn't hit the news it may be well worth reading through the Register of MPs interests.

Recent entries from Call me Dave include a pair of tickets to the Conservatives Black and White Party paid for by Prince Rupert Loewenstein (tcch you'd have thought he'd have paid for it himself), a decorative sterling silver sasket from Lord and Lady Harris and a fountain-pen and half-suite cufflinks and studs from His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain.

Golden Bruun on the other hand has registered... nothing. Ah no-one loves him [sniffle] nah I'm being disingenous here as gifts to him as Prime Minster are probably classed as gifts to the country/office.

For recent stuff only the final leg of the tripod Cleggy got some pro bono communications consultancy from Electric Airwaves Limited, London. Interesting as he also had some communications consultancy paid for by a Mr Tim Ward both for 2008 and both registered January 2009. So was that two sets of consultancy one paid for one free, or one set of consultancy paid for by someone else or partly paid-for? Just curious.

Oh and Our Richard didn't have anything to register.

Don't miss Part 2 at the end which details those MPs who employ family members.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Greenhouse etymology?

It crops up occasionally - I get asked "Why is it called a greenhouse when it's not green?"

Looking up the basic dictionaries gives us the useful information that the word greenhouse is derived from the combination of the word green with the word house, oh gee thanks for that.

Now the obvious answer is that it's a house that you keep green things in, therefore a green's house; I can also point out that the word green shares a kinship with the word grow so it could be grow house.

Trouble is the first such examples were called giardini botanici botanical gardens or orangeries so where did greenhouse first appear and why?

The answer is - I've no idea. It's possible that the OED has a full listing of first use etc. but the online concise version doesn't and it appears no one has reprinted any record elsewhere.

So why greenhouse and not hothouse (which is used) or sunhouse or growhouse (after all we have growbags)?

Anyone know?

Compare and contrast news

An unusual opportunity arose on the breakfast news this morning both Breakfast and GMTV did a piece on the funding to tackle under-aged drinking. GMTV had a reporter out on the street and did an interview with the widow of someone killed by drunken 'yobs'; Breakfast had two community workers being interviewed on the sofa.

Apparently the incidence of under-age drinking increases during the Summer holiday, gee who'd have thunk it. Police can use the discriminatory powers to move on groups, yes discriminatory because they specifically target a select group of people based on a single term (age) the heading in the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 being:

Dispersal of groups and removal of persons under 16 to their place of residence
Imagine the outcry if it had been "Dispersal of groups and removal of ethnic minorities to their place of residence". And no it's not just a separate specialist section of the dispersal part; under Part 4 "Dispersal of groups etc." it's the only section that actually details dispersal.

Anyway the police like it; except it turns out that when they escort these young people home they find no parents because they're out drinking too (supposition there) and this was uttered in disgusted tones by the GMTV reporter - yep if your under-16 is out with friends you are now expected to remain at home. So that'd be no you can't leave them alone, no you can't take them to the pub, and no you can't send them out while you go to the pub - congratulations you're a new parent welcome to 16 years of effectual prison.

Finally the police seem to enjoy confiscating alcohol, powers granted to them under the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act 1997 do I even need to point out what would happen if that "Young Persons" was changed to something else?

What is still truly amusing is that despite all this it is still not illegal for an under-18 to drink alcohol. Surely instead of these piecemeal laws a simple ban would be more logical? Yeah except that would affect the middle-upper classes who are quite happy giving their children alcohol as part of a meal etc. as well as all those sodden riff-raff on the streets and we can't have that can we.

At this point I'd like to sincerely applaud the council powers that allow them to set areas in which public drinking of alcohol is prohibited. This can be used to target specific areas and applies to anyone while allowing drinking in private or in designated beer gardens etc. keeps the drinking contained and as an effect helps prevents under-age drinking.

Of course the true solution would be remove the age-limit on the purchase of alcohol. Stupid that you can be a wage-earner (and tax-payer) at 16 yet be unable to spend that money on legally-available goods (or vote for that matter).

But nope alcohol is eeevil, eeevil I tells ya and we must protect our innocent little cherubs from it's devilishly seductive charms. The assumption is that removing the limit will see the lower-classes plying their children with booze, that said children will be out all night on the piss (as if those likely to aren't already), that they'd hurt themselves or others and other consquences (all of which also applies to over-18's).

So we're never going to have a rational debate on this and we'll see more of our money and more laws being introduced to tackle this 'problem'. Yay?

Monday, June 15, 2009

VidZone on the PS3

At last something more exciting that Home. VidZone is a free teeny download that adds an icon to your music menu and takes you to a online catalogue where you can stream music videos to your PS3.

Playing full screen I had no stuttering and no buffering - they just played. You can browse the catalogue and create your own savable playlists. Rewind, fast forward, skip, and pause with no problem. Whatever they're using as a transport mechanism - it's good.

So problems - we have a few. But then again, not too few to mention. The initial loading is slow, considering that technically the display itself should be contained within the initial 23Mb download I have to wonder what exactly it's doing. It's not syncing music feeds as after the information-less Vista-style loading bar we get the same bar with 'syncing music feeds' below it.

First view is the Home page which offers a featured set of playlists - current chart, 80's, that sort of thing. First problem arises when you realise there's no tutorial as to how to start until you notice the blurry 'Press 0 for menu" at the bottom; SD screens not thought of here. Second problem is that the featured playlists come as a package so press X and the entire playlist is added to your Now Playing. What you can't do is switch down to the playlist and add in only the few that caught your eye. As a result the first thing I do is press O and head into the menu structure.

You now have the option of looking at the current chart in a way that allows you to pick them individually, look at your playlists, look at your Now Playing playlist, change a few options and Search.

Obviously Search is a good place to start. It's split between searching by video (by which they mean title) artist, or genre. Okay Major Problem selecting anything other than Artist pretty much locked my Playstation while it downloaded the list. Most odd as in theory these should be the same lists just in a different index to Artist which appeared as if by magic. I can't even state that it's due to the number that are displayed for the default 'beginning with A' as I had about 500 odd in one and 623 for Artist.

Searching uses a scroll through the letters approach - you start on A and press down for B and up for 9 (or 0 I can't recall; annoyingly space appears after Z rather than before A) then across to repeat with the next letter. As the Playstation has a built in on-screen keyboard a question might arise as to why you need to labouriously scroll through this way, but it's down to the instant index. Pause after entering a letter and the list will update to match the search terms. This is nice as it also allows you to just browse through a list and spot names you might not have thought of. At least you could if the back steps worked properly.

Scroll down the list for someone and spot someone else select them then add a video and go back and you're thrown back to the top of the search list rather than where you last were. Means having to scroll all the way back through to get to your last position. Yeah seems petty, but it discourages browsing and rewards direct searches and I have an innate dislike to anything that limits free roaming.

Second problem... okay more a niggle. When it's loading up the tracks from your search you get a chasing dot circle with loading - fine. Except when your search turns up nothing you get the same chasing dot circle with no results found. Again with an SD TV and heck even with a HD what attracts the eye is the I'm doing something chasing dot circle. If you've no results it's not doing anything. Lost track of waiting for results before spotting it was the no results rather than loading info.

Third problem arises when you add a track to your playlist it's a simple press of the X button and a little CD disc appears next to it. Except it's not a toggle, change your mind and press X again won't remove it from the list, worse it'll add it again. To remove it you have to press Triangle to access a sub menu then scroll down to delete, then acknowledge that you want to delete it, then acknowledge the acknowledgement that it's been deleted, then back out the menu. Just Not Good.

So ignoring those problems let's say you've searched through and added a load of videos to your Now Playing playlist and you think "Hey to save me doing this again I'll save it". So you go to Playlists and create a new one. Excellent except it's empty. No you don't get asked if you want to create a playlist based on your Now Playing, no you don't get asked if you want to add the Now Playing to the playlist. Instead you have to go back to Now Playing and using the Triangle button enter the sub menu, select Add to Playlist, select the Playlist, acknowledge the addition, back out the menu and repeat for every single track there. If there's another way of doing it I haven't spotted it and remember no tutorial, no manual.

Last problem is with the advertising. This is a free service so I certainly don't begrudge either the menu adverts or the ones that appear at the bottom of the screen when playing in full-screen mode. Where the problem lies is if you accidentally click on the advert. Everything goes black - panic? No see it's closing down VidZone and taking you either to the Internet Browser or the direct purchase screen of the Playstation Store. What this means is that you have to exit that then restart VidZone, sit through the loading screen, then realise your temporary Now Playing list has been blanked. Come on people basic rules of anything that if an action closes a programme that is doing something you ask first. Managed to do it twice and the last time caused me to utter "Sod this" and go and do something else.

Okay it's free, the videos stream damn well and there's a reasonable selection although why some aren't present is no doubt due to licensing arrangements. But the interface needs some serious changes done to it and the loading time needs to be reduced before I'll be firing it up again to use for entertainment.

Okay I'm slightly lying it's got Kasabian's "Fire" and "L.S.F." as well as No Doubt's "It's my Life" and Nirvana's "Smell's like Teen Spirit" and just for those I'll be back on; where's "Bohemian Rhapsody" though?

A bit of real life

I've been eschewing the morning news recently in favour of The Batman cartoon on ITV4 they seem to be looping the third or fourth season. On Thursday we got episode 1 on Friday episode 2 and on Monday episode 1 of Galactic Football - pfft it's for kids what do they care that you pull an entire season off air at the start they're not going to notice.

Getting up early on Saturday, for reasons that I'll explain later, I caught Batman The Brave and the Bold on ITV. Oh dear, it's like Scooby Doo meets the Batman (and yes that film does exist) I ended up watching it just to see if it could get any worse - it did. Imagine the same sort of scripting that brought us "bulletproof soles of our shoes" coupled with cheap animation and 'hilarious' visual gags from Eel O'Brian's Plastic Man. Not good.

Anyway the reason I was up early was that I was taking my mother shopping. I enjoy this for three reasons - one I get to spend time with my mother without my father (I appreciate it the other way around too) and two that I can prod her into buying things she wouldn't normally.

See they've never been 'well-off' and as such mum has always traded off quality and price, now they have more cash to spare that, admittedly worthwhile, attribute has stuck especially when around my father who reinforces it. As a result she always complains that when she goes shopping with me she always spends more than normal.

The third reason is due to the second one - she doesn't enjoy shopping. Shopping for anything is viewed as a chore, whereas I really enjoy it. So I'm also trying to encourage her to have fun just to wander around and paw the merchandise. It's taken a few years but she's getting better.

Another amusement is that when driving her she's just like me in pointing out the potholes, the stupidly placed covers, the poor layout of the roads and the other traffic failing to indicate. Heading through the main thoroughfares of Kidderminster gave ample opportunity - vehicles gently drifting into other lanes on the dual-carriageway or on the island approaches; me having to slow down and pull in to the left lane on the dual-carriageway exit because of the car blocking the second lane who then pulled into the slip to turn right without indicating. The car that tried to cut me up at Sainsbury's by not only using the left-hand lane to turn right, but then proceeded further right to get to the petrol station. Admittedly it's difficult to blame anyone here due to the complete lack of markings - right-hand turn lane 1 to the Retail Park right-hand turn lane 2 to... the Retail Park; very helpful.

While shopping and looking at books she asked if I had any thoughts for Bratus Major's upcoming birthday, nope difficult to know what he's into at the moment it changes so rapidly. Never mind perhaps I could get some ideas next Saturday when I'm looking after them for the evening. Say what? Yup apparently I'm baby-sitting next Saturday and having a family lunch beforehand. Hadn't Bratus Parentis asked me? Nope. Oh. It'll be fun when I tell them at lunch I'm going out for the evening - I'll cancel now I know.

On the downside The Artist was back in hospital on Friday. Coming back from work on the bus he contacted his wife with his location who said she was catching the same bus at a later point. Much waiting and no bus. He'd had a seizure and the bus was obviously delayed waiting for an ambulance.

This is a problem as such a fit results in a removal of driving privileges for a year and he's only just got them back.

First impressions was the cause that he'd hadn't been taking his tablets - I vowed to twonk him across the back of the head next time I saw him.

Second impressions that he'd forgotten to take his tablets just for that day and complications had arisen due to a bug. Twonking halted; if this is the case he won't lose driving privileges.

Third impressions that he hadn't been taking his tablets because he'd run out and hadn't bothered picking up his repeat prescription. Twonking back on.

A most definitely slap coming as they're expecting a additional little sister for Devil Child and this means relying on the ambulance service which wasn't much use last time.

On a personal note I've almost picked up my first Platinum Trophy for the PS3 which is awarded when you gain every other trophy. I'm just two off - Casey Jones and Evil to the Core. No idea how I haven't gained the former - down 25 enemies while riding the train and as for the second I don't know if playing evil or just hard downgrades the experience points, but I'm about 3000 points short. Having finished the game I can still pick up the later with the few remaining enemies about, but the latter will prove much more difficult. Might need another play through.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Flame

The two first episodes were shown last night on BBC2 (and BBC HD apparently) with a title that stupid how could I resist not watching?

To summarise this is a spoof of the recent Robin Hood series with some Conanesque fantasy elements thrown into the mix.

The lands are ruled by an Emperor (read King John) and this particular section by Chancellor Dongalor (The Sheriff of Nottingham). The titular Krod (Robin) leads a band of rebels against the Sheriff sorry Chancellor comprising of pagan Aneka (Marian), orcish Loquasto (Little John or Much), and Zezelryck (Will Scarlett? Ah hell you get the gist).

This being a spoof Krod isn't too bright and is a little vain; Aneka is Krod's girlfriend and views copulation as a valid means of interaction; Loquasto is a bit slow and keeps shooting Robi... Krod with a crosbow bolt; and Zezelryck is a fast-talking magician of the Chris Rock variety who never performs any type of magic.

Now I'm not a fan of Matt Lucas but his depiction of Chancellor Dongalor is pretty much perfect; a little more nasty would have veered towards Alan Rickman/Keith Allen territory, a little more silly would head into Men in Tights. A nice example of the style is when one of his advisers speaks up about his treasonous words and Dongalor stabs the guy next to him. After realising his mistake he turns to his chief of staff "Weren't we going to have names carved into the backs of these chairs"

It was enjoyable, no really laugh out loud moments, but no real buttock-clenching cringing ones either. The trouble I had with it was that it was a total spoof which meant that you could pretty much predict the next thing by assuming the opposite of what a 'serious' show would do and some of the action was highly telegraphed.

Ah well it might settle in after a series and at the very least you can just watch India de Beaufort parading around in very little clothing.

Road rant

Just me spouting.

So yesterday morning I saw an adult with a three-wheeled buggy and child and two young kids on bikes coming from Mitton Gardens. Instead of standing in the middle of that road to cross Vale Road like so many others they turned and headed past the car-park towards Lion Hill.

I mentally applauded them for wanting to use the crossing point rather than risk three lanes of death. Then I took back my applause as they headed to the kerb and popped the buggy down into the middle of the third lane queue before peering around it to see if they could cross the other two lanes. Halfway across one of the kids decided that trying to ride her bike across wasn't a good idea and so stopped to dismount. After managing to cross they then turned and continued down the road towards Lion Hill. Okay I don't want to introduce the penalty of jaywalking, but could someone please slap some common sense into people like this?

In York Street I came to a skidding halt. I wasn't travelling fast and didn't skid far it was more to do with the angle my car was at. See I'd moved into the left hand-lane (assuming there is one) once clear of the parking bays and then had to pull back out to overtake the car parked behind the bus stop (on the double yellow lines) while trying to avoid the three cars parked opposite that same bus-stop (on double yellow no parking and single yellow no loading lines oh and one on zig-zags) the middle one of which was jutting out trying to pull back out into traffic.

At this point we came to an abrupt halt because someone ahead of us was trying to cross into New Street and foolishly believed that as this was an island they had right-of-way over traffic from Bridge Street. This was soon contradicted by the vehicle coming up Bridge Street who assumed that as they weren't indicated they were turning left as that is what everyone else does.

This morning I had a passenger and she complained about the state of the roads particularly around the access points. As I pointed out it would be difficult to put them someone more stupid if it had been intended that way - "Say now we've already going to break up the integrity of the road surface let's put the cover somewhere that all those heavy vehicles can run over it." On one short road I counted four covers all of which where about a foot away from the kerb and thus lined up perfectly with my tyre. Likewise the number of similar points that have congregated makes me wonder why just one couldn't have been placed.

Oh and just a reminder that those pretty zig-zag lines next to the crossing in High Street don't mean please park here. Yep one boxy truck parked 'upstream' of the crossing meaning someone peering out from behind it to see if the traffic was clear. Also not helped by the delivery truck parked on the corner on those double yellow no-parking single yellow no-loading lines.

Just out of curiosity for any local readers (hah) have you ever seen a traffic warden before 9am and after 5pm? You know when the majority of traffic tries to flow through the town at the same point in time and it would be really handy if the roads were kept as clear as they're meant to be?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Swine Flu take 5

Again with GMTV, but this time they have an actual official from WHO on the line and the first question is whether the WHO are going to upgrade Swine Flu to pandemic. The reply - There's going to be a meeting to see if if merits an increase to phase 6 and that the WHO don't like using the word pandemic as people don't understand what it means in the WHO context.

Uh-huh so no correction that this is in fact currently a pandemic?

Once again this is the official WHO phase chart ignore the fact it's filed under avian influenza (bird flu) the phase stages are identical. Note that phases 5 and 6 are clumped together as pandemic. Sigh okay in the descriptions it does call Phase 6 the "Pandemic phase" and stage 5 that a "pandemic is imminent" but if that's the case why does the chart have "Phases 5-6 / Pandemic" written on it?

The CDC lists the WHO phases with 6 being pandemic and 5 as the highest level of pandemic alert.

However the WHO's own phase document (currently broken Google html cache here) doesn't differentiate between the actions of phases 5 and 6.

So it's no wonder that the WHO don't want to bandy around words like pandemic it seems they can't even communicate accurately what they even mean by it.

Anyway I'll stick to my guns Phase 5 is a pandemic, Phase 6 is just bigger.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Left-wing, Right-wing? I'll take a leg.

What with the fuss over the BNP party DK argues that they weren't, as everyone decries, a Right-wing party they were in fact a Left-wing one.

This isn't a direct response to that (he's smart enough to understand), but does excite enough anger for me to want to shout Stop It! No seriously just stop with this right-wing, left wing crap; there's no such thing.

Take Person A, Person A believes in capital punishment and a free health service. But one is a right-wing belief and the other a left-wing one; they're contradictory. No they're not - what's the connection between punishment and health? There isn't one they're only contradictory because the two notions have been commonly associated with opposing systems.

Okay what the hell is it with this species that we just have to classify everything, label it and assign it to its 'correct' place? Okay rhetorical question, but at least let's recognise the primitivism of the concept.

There are no left-wing policies there are no right-wing policies they're simplified tools used to band people into groups so you can deal with them as a whole and are concepts that have been eagerly seized upon by both the politicians themselves and the media to stunt your thought processes. Because once you apply a label to something you don't have to think about it any more.

So are there any truly opposing states of mind; how about anarchy and statism? In the former no-one has control over what you can do, in the latter the state (or someone) has completely control. But even there 'contradictions' can arise. What if you believe that the state should have no control over the markets, but that the state should have a monopoly over the judicial system? Fine a contradiction only arises if you think that the market should be both free and completely controlled by the state.

So examine your politics and for each 'topic' ask Do I think the state (or someone) alone should be in control of this or do I think no-one should be in control then mark your point and you can say that you're inclined towards the anarchist/statist standards.

So Person A - capital punishment set by the state - statist. Free health service - statist; add in free market economics - anarchist. No contradictions it's perfectly possible to be anarchist on one-topic and statist on another.

Driving behaviour

I don't understand how some people drive. Yeah I go on about indicating, but heck even I've forgotten at times because someone's distracted me just before I've got to the junction. But this is about fundamental driving behaviour.

Sod official stopping distances and braking distances I drive at a distance such that if the vehicle in front decides to perform a manoeuvre I normally don't have to do anything drastic. Yes I may slacken the accelerator slightly, but by and large they're out of my way by the time I get to them.

I watch as cars in front rapidly accelerate up to join a convoy of cars then have to come to a halt when one decides to leave and then start-up and try to accelerate away again by which time I've caught up with them without once altering my speed. The number of people who overtake me when I'm doing the speed limit [ish cough] whom I then catch up with not much further up is stupid.

I mean sure you're on a big open stretch of road like a motorway with little traffic (so not a motorway then) then hey go for it. But on a normal road with lots of traffic shifting about what's the point? It's basically unsafe.

Okay hypocritical to complain about this and complain about people leaving three-car lengths in a slow-moving queue? No, distance depends on speed (and weight) and anyone who doesn't understand that definitely shouldn't be driving.

If you're a driver ask yourself this - If on a normal road the car in front starts to indicate that they're turning left at the junction 200ft away what do you have to do? If you've answered nothing well done.

Swine Flu take 4

GMTV this morning and the startling news that the WHO is going to classify the Swine Flu outbreak as a pandemic. The new girl Emma Crosby asked a talking head what a pandemic is and his answer was that it was a worldwide outbreak although in this case it means more than two countries. Emma then stated that this had been out of the news for a while and forgotten.

Yeah obviously forgotten by the researchers on the story because as I (and they and everyone else) stated in April the alert had increased to Level 5 which is a pandemic. So um the WHO are reclassifying this pandemic as a... pandemic? Well yes they're thinking about increasing the alert level from 5 to 6 the differences between which I've already stated.

Ah but who cares about the nitty gritty when it attracts viewers IT'S (still) A PANDEMIC. Panic, panic; until we forget about it again.

Monday, June 08, 2009

West Midlands Election Results

Unsurprising really Labour losses and Conservative gains, what was a shock was the degree. Conservatives gained 13 seats with Labour losing 14. So for our County Council the Conservatives remain in control with 42 out of 57 seats.

So now they're in control, sorry still in control I expect to see the Stourport Relief Road coming up in the agenda shortly as promised hahahahhahah!

Average turnout was about 37%, with Conservatives polling an average of 42%. So they're in control with the consent of about 18% of the entire electorate, can't beat democracy can you?

The two seats for Stourport were resoundingly taken by the ICHC with 2396 (21%), 2231 (20%) votes versus the two closest runners-up at 1894 (17%) and 1764 (16%). As someone mentioned I'm also betting that nice new estate on Millfields had a lot to do with that.

A wake-up call occurred in Withall, and St George's and St Oswald's where Labour didn't poll as many votes as the BNP. Nor did they poll as many as the Green Party in Harvington, Claines Bowbrook, Riverside, St Peter's, Warndon, or Redditch South - Ouch. Yep because not voting for your local Labour party member has sent a message to the national party oh yes indeedy [sigh].

A Sky reporter was interviewing national party figures about the results and as they kept on about a result for their party and sending a message and how it's their policies my father kept injecting that the national policies of any of the parties bare only a scant resemblence to the local ones; or as he put it more bluntly "It's got bugger all to do with national politics" well as least it shouldn't have.

Full results from the Shuttle are here.

The European result was a little more balanced with both Conservative and Labour losing a seat appiece to UKIP and Lib-Dem this means a tie of two between Cons and UKIP and a tie of one between Lab and Lib-Dem, but as if that makes a jot of difference.


We had a spot of rain on Saturday, in fact it didn't stop and carried on through to Sunday morning. Good for the garden, but bad for the roads. Once again our roads prove unable to cope with rain. As always a river from Areley Common flowed down the entrance to Hermitage Way, as is becoming usual the left-hand lane of the newly-laid Dunley Road approaching Areley Lane was slick with surface water.

Just as the left-hand lane of the dual-carriageway heading both into and out of Stourport were so heavy with surface water that it was safer to drive on the, relatively, dry right-hand lane. With approaches to the Birchen Coppice lights being heavily puddled along the edges as to the approach into Kidderminster.

And finally again as usual the point just before the ambulance station was a pond you could have sailed model boats on.

Now of course you can fire of the standard excuse that this was extreme weather, but point one it isn't and point two this happens for everything baring a light shower. This is England, we wouldn't expect roads to melt in Australia or freeze in Canada; yet a rain turns our roads into slick danger zones.

As an addendum this isn't just roads, the rain shows up all the flaws in design at car-parks. The lowered kerbs at crossing points amass water and whoever designed the overhangs on the Crossley Retail park obviously didn't envision some the stores extending their entrances out beneath them foricing pedestrians out into the rain to either enter or walk around them.

And one last shout to Hackney Carriage No 75 overtaking me in the left-hand lane down The Ringway towards the bus station. I was doing a nip under 40mph (max speed 40mph) and he happily went past me before pulling over into the right-hand lane. Not sanguine with anyone doing that in the best of conditions, but with all that rain?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Still here

"Okay if I have Friday afternoon off to help with some gardening?"
"Sure no problem we've got someone coming in the morning to do [some bank thing]? Once that's done you might as well bugger off"

Said [bank thing] started early and finished at 10, but DaBoss booked a visit from the accountant as well and he's decided to stay to sort some extra things out. DaBoss vanished an age ago and the accountant has been packing up to leave for the last half-hour despite re-appearing with queries, invoice in hand and wanting to use the photocopier.

Knowing my luck I'll get out just as it belts down with rain.

Yay accountant has just left as I was typing. Messa out of here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Needless information

The water bill for the business arrived this morning along with Issue 9 of "Source" Severn Trent's newsletter, hmm how much of our bill is going towards the creation of this? More to the point why do we even have this?

I can understand a company producing a newsletter about how great it is and how great its products are if there was a chance that you could get those same products somewhere else. Oddly enough water is a regional monopoly; I can't specify I want Anglian Water coming through my pipes and for them to process my sewerage. So what purpose does a newsletter serve?

Title page and "In this issue" we're told about what to do if you have difficulty paying, how to reduce your water bill, and how to pay your water bill; anyone spotting a theme here? We also find out that "Your tap water tickles expert tastebuds" no I think that would be your tap water, strictly speaking it's not ours until we pay for it. Oh and we can win a year's free pass for two at the Sea Life Centre; what you couldn't splash out (no pun intended) on a family pass?

Page 2- How to contact us and how to report a leak; otherwise known as how to pay us and how to have your roads dug up for a week then re-dug up a week later to fix something they broke while fixing the first problem.

Page 3 - Independent charity The Green Thing does a blind taste test of tap water. Supposedly this is a green thing to encourage us to drink tap water and not bottled water that has to be shipped in etc. A quick search shows that this was called the Drink Tap event. This featured Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens.

Now watch carefully - this is from Severn Trent Water's own site and lists the top ten tasting waters which corresponds exactly to the list printed in the newsletter. This is from the BBC news site. Note from the SWT site that the water is described as "beautifully pure" "clean taste and very fresh" quotes both used in the newsletter. Now on the BBC site the quotes are "clean taste", "very fresh" and "beautifully pure".

I think we can draw the conclusion that they're talking about the same event. So the date of the BBC story - 31 July 2008. So a new drink taste test has been held the judges have run out of quotes, or SWT are using old quotes for a new test, or SWT are presenting a year old taste test as something new. Gee I just don't know which one rings true.

Page 4 - "You can get help with water bills" Yeah you can spread the cost, or have a water meter fitted; we wants our money. Oh okay there's also the Trust Fund if you're in serious difficulty.

Page 5 - "WaterSure" yes I'm sure that's water, oh not that?

WaterSure is a special scheme for customers with a meter who use large amounts of water due to a medical condition or a low income
Why would having a low income cause me to use large amounts of water? Oh you mean metered customers with a medical condition or a low income who use large amounts of water; why didn't you say that?

Page 6 & 7 - "Investing for your future" what have you turned into a bank? A financial services agency? Oh you're telling us that the average 83p per day you receive isn't just pure profit "it's all about investing" A nice big pie chart shows 64p goes to maintenance and improvement as well as day-to-day running costs. Shall I point out that they've split maintenance and improvement into water network and waste water network to create four pie slices which still appear to add up to less than 50% of that 64p - nah.

But what about that remaining 19p? 3p goes on tax, 8p to the shareholders and 8p on interest for borrowings. Borrowings? "For every £2 of profit [wait I didn't see profit in that pie chart], we invest £3 in the business. Where, you might ask [I certainly do], does this extra miney come from? Put simply, the extra funds come from borrowing."

So rather than charge us directly you're putting it on the never-never. Oh but that's okay as SWT "is regraded as having a good credit rating by the banks" and those banks never change their minds go off the deep-end and try to claw in every debt owing to them do they?

We then get a half page of all the wonderful things SWT have done on 83p a day... they should write a book. Chapter one - How to create good works on only 83p a day. First task acquire over 3 million people willing to pay you 83p per day. I think it'd be a best-seller.

Page 8 - "Get online in 2009" yeah you Luddites, oh you mean visit the SWT site gosh there's so much I can do there I can - pay my bill, give them a reading, change my address or apply for a meter. Hell yeah that's going on my daily favourites list.

Page 9 - "Education Services" Obviously important as it's crammed into the top third of the page above the competition. Apparently they have over 20,000 visitors per year at their education centres ... and the number of those being children forced to go on a school trip? "offers a choice of either half or full day of activities to schools and colleges" Thought so.

Competition time chose two names for these baby turtles, names judged as a pair so if they love the one but hate the other you lose. Winners get a VIP tour, get to feed giant turtles (presumably not feeding themselves to the turtles), an overnight hotel stay, wall plaque (ooooh) and a year's free pass for two people. So is this VIP tour for two people only, what do you do with the kids, do you need to pay extra for them at the centre and hotel, do they get to feed the turtles, do you get to feed them to the turtles?

Just to add insult to injury we then get a coupon for "Kids go free" which is actually untrue as "This offer is valid for one free child admission when accompanied by a full paying adult" so that's Kid goes free.

Page 10 - "From sink to sewer" the biography of a SWT executive? No? Shame that could have been an interesting read. It's about not pouring fat down the sink as it clogs everything up, except it's not just fats it's "fats, oils and greases (FOG)." most people don't know this "but FOG quickly soldifies when it hits the cool walls of the sewer" oh god I'm having trouble not laughing. Anyway get your free Fat Trap by calling a number or visiting their site. Tcch couldn't they have called it a FOG Trap [snigger].

Page 11 - "Make savings all year round!" Well I wasn't sure, but that exclamation point's sold me. Split between the seasons so Spring:

"Collect April showers in a water butt [but just the April showers mind, none of that dirty, dirty May shower water] then use the water for your garden in the coming months." Damn that must be a lot of showers in April.

"Asparagus, broad beans and carrots are all in season. Prepare your vegetables in a bowl of water rather than under a running tap." Um okay I'm lost the first sentence relates to the second how exactly?


"Summer's arrived [yeah as if] A sprinkler can use up to 20 litres of water a minute - why not use a watering can to water your garden plants?" Because it takes forever, I have to take multiple trips back and forth from my water butt and the can seems to get heavier and heavier each time; what are you stupid?

"Older toilet cisterns can use over nine litres of water every flush. Use a save-a-flush device and you'll save one litre each flush" woah a whole one litre; I guess it can add up,but a whole litre!


"Back to school [um I don't think so] and lots of uniforms to wash! [Hey that's supposed to be a private kink] Do you have a water efficient washing machine to do the job? Remember; only switch it on when full, that way you'll save water and money on your energy bill!" But don't most modern machines sense load and adjust automatically?

"23 per cent of the average energy bill is used for heating water to bathe and shower. Why not try having a shorter water efficient shower" Because I'm quite tall and don't think I'd fit under a shorter shower, water efficient or not.


"Merry Christmas [and there goes the Jews, the Muslims, the atheists...] Make sure you keep your pipes warm this Christmas [despite the colder months normally being after this time] as frozen pipes can lead to bursts. And replace worn washers on dripping taps; a leaky tap can waste up to 30 litres of water a day." But remember only to replace those washers during the Winter.

Advert time - 190litre water butt, aerated showerhead, save-a-flush, hand-pump pressure washer; no prices!

Page 12 -"Our service standards" Yes folks it's dense text time - yippee everyone's favourite part to read.

Page 13, 14 & 15 - "Your questions answered" More text though in the style of Dear Abby - Dear Abby "How can I find a plumber?" or a good women? Dear Abby "How do I know if a Severn Trent Water visitor is genuine?" or are they just leading me on? Then again Dear Abby, "Who can I talk to about your services?" "What services do you offer to customers with individual needs?" and do you charge extra for whips and chains? Oh gods talk about context one of the next ones is "Will you safeguard my details?" oh I shouldn't laugh.

Final page - "A day out with a difference" yes you to can visit one of SWTs visitor sites, didn't we do that already, oh wait that was education centres. These sound more fun with a Stomp the bacteria experience.

So what was the point of that newsletter, other than to amuse me (and hopefully you) - beat's me it's not as if I can stop using them because they've printed that they use the funds to burn down orphanages and kick puppies.

Election day

Yes folks it's time to vote for people you don't know so they can pass laws you don't care about until they turn around and bite you in the arse.

Two votes on the green County election ballot paper and one on the yellow MEP ballot paper.

Headed in to my local polling station at 8:45 and fought my way through the thronging crowds to take my place in a queue so long it stretched out the station and down two streets... okay really, other than the officials, I was the only one there.

So perhaps it was a bit early, with some of the kids off school people can have a lie-in; I'll sure it'll pick up later. After all our ancestors fought and died to provide us with the opportunity to vote, for (nearly) universal suffrage it's not as if the people of this country are going to insult them by not voting are they?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Election leaflets - Rebuttals

Interesting stuff going on in the local county election leaflets. I dealt briefly with the Conservative one, but what's interesting is the responses from both Labour and Independent Health Concern regarding claims by the Conservatives.

As mentioned and repeated by Labour the Conservatives are all for the Relief Road that's why they've done nothing about it while in local power. The IHC points out that the new lights for Raven Street claimed as an achievement for the Cons were always part of the overall plan and that the bridge was repaired out of necessity rather than benevolence.

Not pointing fingers directly at the Cons, but it seems 'our accomplishments' envelop 'things that occurred while we were present' regardless of who initiated them, championed them or voted for them.

Anyway have fun tomorrow and remember even if you don't want to vote for any of the parties, you should still go to vote and simply spoil your ballot paper or post it as blank. If you don't you'll just get lumped into the apathetic crowd and give the government an excuse (as if it needed one) to 'encourage' you to vote by either making it easier (text-voting while drunk) or mandatory (failure to vote results in a fine).

InFamous review

Executive summary time - Assassin's Creed with electricity and The Suffering's karma system. Hmm perhaps too complicated for executive's?

InFamous is a third-person free-roamer from Sucker Punch the makers of the excellent Sly Raccoon. Despite my initial summary this can really be seen as a realistic shoot-em-up version of the Sly Raccoon trilogy but enhanced. As with Assassin's Creed your character, Cole, can climb pretty much anything and as larger groups of enemies tend to appear at the street level heading to the rooftops is a wise-choice.

The plot is delivered through the game itself and I don't want to spoil too much, but it's very well-handled. Someone's been learning lessons and the installation process runs concurrently with the tutorial section so other than a slight load pause at the beginning to get enough data to run the game you're thrown straight into it from the very menu screen itself - A nice camera view of a perfectly normal busy city with a "Press Start" overlay, do what it says and... well you'll see for yourself woah!

So as mentioned you play Cole and you come around from unconciousness as apparently the only survivor at ground zero of an explosion wondering what happened. This is the basic tutorial showing you how to look around and move, then how to jump and how you grab onto objects. As you get a bit further a couple of weird things happen around electricity generators. Get out to the police cordon and... things go awry. Saved by your friend Zeke you crash out at his place and via static animated (static cutouts that are moved) cartoon cutscenes reminiscent of God of War you're shown learning about your new powers and how the city has been quarantined off and left pretty much to fend for itself.

Back to the game and the tutorial continues and you learn how to target and shoot electricity bolts when a TV broadcast from a 'hacker' informs you of a supply drop in the park, worth going for a look-see. The TV is a subtle touch here as later on more broadcasts appear which you can ignore or stay to watch and they all enhance the plot in small ways. So well-integrated are they that they caused me to swear when one news item gave credit for my actions to the army - cheeky bar-stewards.

Anyway on to the suply drop and you discover you can survive a four storey drop off a building and how to blast objects out the way as you help Zeke pick up a gun. Oh and in a passing remark you learn why you can't use a gun or a car, you fry or explode them.

You also discover you're not truly invulnerable as you're suddenly left weak after all the practice zapping. However draining electricity up from a power source heals you and also tops up a meter used for special abilities.

Following Zeke to the supply drop you find it stuck on a sculpture, time to test out those climbing skills. Free the crate and the people swarm in and you're presented with a Karma moment.

Karma moments freeze the action and turn to your inner voice, in this case do you zap the people and keep the supplies for yourself and your friends or let them help themselves. Back to the game and the choice of action is yours as are the karmic rewards.

As I said it's a bit like The Suffering - inner voice, and good or bad actions. Do the good thing and people will like you, do the bad and they'll flee or attack you. However like the Suffering there's a flaw and this is in how your powers develop. You can buy extra abilities for your powers using XP gained from performing tasks, but it's split between the two sides, buy all the good ones and then turn to evil and you'll be unable to use those additions, likewise from the other side. That means picking a path and sticking to it, so no changing your mind half-way through.

You can just happily bop along the city smacking down the baddies and helping the city-folk, but there are set missions to accomplish and the come in three flavours - Story, Neutral and Karmic. Story ones obviously progress the story and, as well as dishing out XP, unlock more story missions and certain events, such as restoring power to an area of a city. Neutral events and Karmic ones also give out XP but also flush out the enemy from that area leaving you relatively free to roam without getting shot at. Karmic missions come in pairs one for each side and performing the one locks out the other as well as giving you a Karma boost in whichever direction.

Events are relatively diverse. Escort these prisoners to jail, protect these demonstrators, clear a building of surveillance devices, restore satellite links, rescue hostages, etc. How you go about these tasks is up to you. Precision shots to take out the kidnappers, just lob electric grenades in, or Thunder Drop down into the middle of them. Also nice is that you can abandon any mission before completion and it takes you straight back to the mission start point where you can ignore or restart it. No backtracking required.

As part of the game you get a 2D top-down mini-map and a radar. The radar takes the form of an electrical pulse from your head that highlights power sources you can drain, enemies, Blast Shards and Dead-Drops. In a nice touch the pulse truly does emanate from you and dissipates leaving the map blank once more except for enemies that are, or have been, shooting at you. Move fast enough and you keep up with the limits of the pulse until it fades out and you can even see on screen the delay between a near-by pinged item and a far-off one as they become highlighted.

Okay I mentioned Blast Shards and Dead-Drops. Blast Shards are remnants of the explosion and if you collect enough they add an extra 'battery' to your power meter; dead-drops are voice recordings that add to the plot. You don't have to collect them, but you'll pretty much want to which is the way such collection quests should work.

Handling death is done well as you simply can't die you can only fall unconscious and then wake up either at Zeke's place or at the nearest clinic (if you've unlocked one). Might seem annoying throwing you to a different part of the city, but it works as part of the story line by not making death a game-stopper while making it worth your while not to get 'killed'.

Finally on this part I have to make a special point about starting the game mid-play. No menu screen - no cut's and barely any loading. You put the disc in, it kicks through the title screens and there you are waking up just as if you'd been 'killed'.

Combat works well and as you can use either hand you can switch viewpoints, very handy when you're in the middle of climbing a pole, hanging off the side of a building, or crouched behind cover. Yes there's a cover system and not only can you shoot from the middle of a climb, but you can keep yourself in cover while you do so, advanced stuff here folks.

Your electrical powers also come with some simple stuff, you can heal someone with a quick jolt (very common as all the residents seem to have a heart-attack tripping over a kerb-stone), restrain someone by chaining them to the ground, or suck the life-energy out of them.

Of course you can have some fun with this.

On the technical side the graphics are okay, if not spectacular as with FarCry2 move faster than than the game can keep up with and you'll start getting pop-in. Likewise clipping bugs mean your feet can fall through certain surfaces (but it hasn't crashed the game or taken me out the world map yet) and I did have one enemy shooting at me through a sheet of metal because the tip of the barrel of his gun had clipped outside it.

Some things that look climbable aren't and the climbing mechanic can be inconsistent when it sucks you in towards a climbable item but makes you bang your head on an electricity pylon conductor when you try to jump to the top of the pole instead of moving you around it to perch on the top. Likewise some uneven surfaces force you to jump 'off' them to the next one.

The suck-in also grates when a Blast-Shard is positioned between two climbable items - jump to it and get sucked over while missing the point of your jump. It's not game-breaking as it doesn't happen enough to really annoy, but it does highlight a certain slap-dash approach to level design.

The controls are fluid and work, even if at times you feel like you're playing an extended Quick-time event - jab the X button continuously to climb. Targeting is surprising precise and you've only yourself to blame if you don't hit what you're aiming at, the only failure is that there's a dead-zone between your hands - target someone heading into this area with your right hand, switch and you still can't hit them with your left hand.

Okay gameplay glitches, or annoyances. Scripted events caused mes ome cursing. Case in point in protecting a medical drop. I headed to the rooftops for a couple of reasons, advantage of height and a couple of power cables I could grind across and restore my health and batteries. Knocked out the first wave and here comes the second and control is removed from me to present a scripted event of the second wave coming in. No problem except now I'm standing like a lemon back on the ground. Did that to me twice in that event forcing me to scramble back to the rooftops- not a happy bunny.

Some might complain about the chainlink fences, but within the game world it makes sense in that you can't shoot through them (except for the Thunder Hammer) or climb them and to be honest I found them to be no problem at all.

Other than that it ran fine, and if I had to present an even more concise summary it would be one word - seamless.